As our one year anniversary of moving aboard is just around the corner, I wanted to step back a little and take an honest look at this new life and in which ways it has changed us, in which ways it has stood up to our hopes and in which ways it has let us down.
We moved aboard full time on mother’s day (May 8th) last year. It was a very hectic yet exciting week that concluded a monumental effort of packing boxes and getting rid of those last things we did not want to bring along. It was also a week of cleaning up the short term rental that had accommodated us in the gap after we sold our house.
The transition for the children was easy enough. This was in a big part, I think, thanks to the foresight we had to choose a rental a few streets from the marina so that their social and school lives would simply continue as normal. For them it was mostly the start of something new with exciting new spaces to make their own. For Sheree it was probably a bit more frightening as the reality of what we were doing hit her hard in those last weeks ashore and, quite understandably, the doubts crept in. For myself it was a feeling of accomplishment having finally transitioned from dreamer to doer.
The Current Situation
Today we are fully moved aboard and comfortable in our new home. We have worked out our most pressing issues through a gradual process of listing our annoyances in descending order and working through them as time and budget permits. The list is still many pages long, but at least for now, we have crossed off some pretty big items and have no urgent issues. So far:
- Marine toilets replaced with composting toilets.
- New smart inverter/charger and alternator to keep the batteries healthy.
- New (to us) dinghy to get around. It won’t be suitable for the big trip, but for now it does the job.
- Silly little camping fridge replaced with a large upright model similar to a household fridge. It even has a freezer section. Ice blocks for the piña coladas, yay!
- A range of new electronics installed so that we can confidently and safely make our way around local waters.
What is Easy and What is Hard?
Life aboard is certainly quite different to a house.
Most aspects are very enjoyable and I’m not just talking about the ability to drop the lines and go wherever we please whenever we please. It’s hard to put a finger on it, but I guess it’s kind of a feeling of always being on holidays, even at the end of a work day. After work, coming back to the boat and sitting on deck with the kids after dinner spotting satellites and teaching them about the stars feels special. It’s not that you need to be on a boat to do that with your kids, it’s just that it seems to happen on a boat when I don’t ever remember lying in the garden staring up at the stars with the kids for hours on end.
Our weekends are full of water activity even when Venilia stays in the pen, there is dinghy sailing, kayaking, swimming and dinghy rides across the estuary for a barbecue in the park. On rainy winter days stuck inside the boat, well we all spend more time doing things together rather than doing our own things in different corners of the same big house. The kids still speak fondly of the Legopalooza of winter 2016 when the entire saloon floor was awash in Lego and the whole family got busy building.
On the other hand, simple things we took for granted can be significantly more complicated. How do you do any sort of handy work that would normally require a workbench in a garage? How do you stay ahead with a busy family’s laundry when you only have a 2.5kg machine and no dryer? (Not complaining here; we consider ourselves very lucky to have enough space for a washing machine at all; this is not a given on a sailing boat). Late at night, how do you get a sleeping child from the car, along a jetty walkway, up on to the deck, down three ladders, through four small bulkhead openings and into bed without waking her up?
So in summary, no, life aboard is not as comfortable as it is in a house, but it is more enjoyable.
What Surprised Us?
The small space was a major concern for Sheree and I before moving aboard. We had many understandable fears that we would end up not liking each other from being so close all the time. The simple fact is that our fears were unfounded and we do not feel cramped at all. I do think that the clever layout of our boat has a lot to do with it since it affords every member of the family a space of their own. The master cabin is more like master quarters with a large cabin, dressing room and head well separated from the rest of the boat and providing all the privacy required. But even sitting in the saloon with the whole family, there is no feeling of a lack of space.
Another positive surprise is just how cozy the boat was over winter. Even with cold wind and rain howling outside, inside the boat is warm and comfortable. Summer was the same and we found that simply opening the right hatches to keep air flow going through the boat was all it took to keep it pleasant.
On the other hand, the big negative surprise of this venture is the effect of waves on our comfort. At over twenty meters length over all, Venilia is a big girl and there are only four pens in the entire marina that will accomodate her. Unfortunately, it just so happens that those four pens are also the most exposed to the prevailing wind and waves. In particular over spring, the constant bashing of waves against the side of the hull tested my sanity.
No regrets at all, from anyone. There are obviously bad days amongst the good ones, but once the storm has passed and the sun is back, we remember:
Hey, we live on a boat and before we know it, we’re going to cut the dock lines and let her take us wherever the wind blows.
We only wish that day would come tomorrow. The kids are growing up at an alarming rate. 😐
Mechanic, electrician, carpenter, plumber, upholsterer, rigger, author, painter, sailmaker, navigator, meteorologist and captain of the S.V. Venilia.