waves Maki ng at home

Cou­ples turn to life on the open wa­ter

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - By Pe­dro Arrais

IC­TO­RIA, B.C. — Liv­ing on board a boat is the essence of liv­ing a sim­pler life. For some, it’s a chance to es­cape sub­ur­bia while still liv­ing next to the city. For oth­ers, it’s an op­por­tu­nity to re­al­ize a life­long dream of travel and ad­ven­ture, to live by wind and wits.

It starts with leav­ing be­hind items col­lected over the years to live in a space the size of a large walk-in closet. There’s a big dif­fer­ence be­tween peo­ple who live on float homes, which can be the size of a reg­u­lar house, and live-aboards on a boat. A seven-to nine-me­tre-long sail­boat is con­sid­ered spa­cious for one per­son, and a cou­ple would likely be found co­hab­it­ing on a 11-to 14-me­tre power or sail­boat.

It’s a life­style change, for sure, says Jan­ice Hay­ward, who lives aboard Ta Daa, a 15-me­tre sail­boat with her hus­band, Ron Har­ris, and Win­ston, their four-legged friend. “It’s not for ev­ery­one, but we both had a dream and a goal in mind.”

Part of that dream was to sail as much as they can. The cou­ple takes to the wa­ter al­most ev­ery other week­end, and more in the sum­mer.

Un­like float homes, which are flat­bot­tomed and not meant for open wa­ter, sail­boats al­low their oc­cu­pants to take their home with them as they travel.

It’s like lux­ury camp­ing, says Lynn Mac­far­lane. She and her hus­band, Doug, had tested the wa­ters for three years be­fore fi­nally buy­ing their first boat, a 12-me­tre Beneteau they have named Mi­ra­mar. The boat is like a mo­bile mo­tel room, trans­port­ing you to where you want to go.

Doug has just re­tired and Lynn fol­lows in June. The cou­ple is in the pro-

Vcess of mak­ing their boat their only home. Their 2,000-square-foot house is for sale, their chil­dren the re­cip­i­ents of most of the fur­ni­ture. They will store some trea­sured items and will host a gi­gan­tic garage sale for the rest. They plan to head south, then see where the wind takes them. While they will leave their Vic­to­ria home, they will al­ways be in good com­pany as they travel, since a live-aboard com­mu­nity ex­ists in al­most ev­ery port. Con­sist­ing of a cross-sec­tion of so­ci­ety, with cou­ples with young chil­dren, work­ing pro­fes­sion­als and re­tirees, live­aboards can be found in mari­nas that al­low long-term moor­age.

“It’s more of a com­mu­nity than any other com­mu­nity we have lived in,” says Hay­ward. De­spite their close quar­ters, she says there’s as much pri­vacy as one would find in a reg­u­lar neigh­bour­hood. Her neigh­bours agree. “We look out for each other, keep­ing an eye on things, says Bev­erly Smith, who lives aboard an 11-me­tre trawler with her hus­band. Af­ter all, we’re all in the same boat.”

She has been a liv­ing aboard her power boat since 1996 and the only thing she misses these days would be a bit more space for her craft­work. Com­pact spa­ces means less closet space for cloth­ing, smaller fridges mean buy­ing less per­ish­able food — the list goes on. Done right, down­siz­ing can be lib­er­at­ing. Most live-aboards see this as an op­por­tu­nity (and chal­lenge) to re­duce their worldly pos­ses­sions to just the bare es­sen­tials.

“It gave me an op­por­tu­nity to pare down,” says Smith, who just turned 65. “I got rid of a lot of stuff and I don’t miss it much.”

Own­ers of power boats, such as Smith’s, have more liv­ing space com­pared with sail­boats. They are wider and sit higher up on the wa­ter, tow­er­ing over their wind-pow­ered cousins.

Ameni­ties to make liv­ing aboard a boat while docked more com­fort­able usu­ally in­clude 30-amp elec­tric power, wa­ter, tele­phone, cable TV, Wi-Fi In­ter­net and a sewer pump at ev­ery slip. Boats might have a shower, but mari­nas of­fer shore-based wash­rooms, show­ers and laun­dro­mats, plus park­ing space.

The shore-based AC elec­tri­cal sys­tem can charge a boat’s DC bat­tery. The 30 amps of power is usu­ally enough to power a mi­crowave, toaster, cof­fee maker or elec­tric heater — but not nec­es­sar­ily all at the same time. Boaters be­come adept at un­plug­ging one ap­pli­ance be­fore plug­ging in an­other to pre­vent over­load­ing the cir­cuit breaker.

Most boat own­ers, at least in Vic­to­ria, live on board year-round. In the win­ter, they use oil-or propane-burn­ing space heaters, sup­ple­mented by elec­tric heaters.

But us­ing diesel, propane or solid fuel to heat re­quires at­ten­tion to en­sure ex­haust and fresh-air vents are frost­free and un­ob­structed. It’s also a good idea to keep the gal­ley hatch open when cook­ing with a propane stove. A smoke alarm, car­bon-monox­ide and propane de­tec­tor are es­sen­tial.

But not ev­ery­one is en­am­oured of spend­ing the rest of his or her life on a boat. Some spouses only agree to it be­cause it was a pas­sion for their part­ners. It’s not un­com­mon for boaters to move back on land af­ter a few years at sea, once they get the urge out of their sys­tem.

Yet some re­la­tion­ships are strength­ened by the ex­pe­ri­ence.

“It seems that be­ing phys­i­cally closer to­gether has brought us closer to­gether,” says Smith.

Bev­erly Smith lives aboard an 11-me­tre trawler with her hus­band.

Lynn in the din­ing room of the 12-me­tre Beneteau, which she likens to a mo­bile mo­tel room, top. Bot­tom, the kitchen sink be­comes a cut­ting board in the ef­fi­ciently

de­signed gal­ley of a boat.

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