How to Live Happy and Healthy Aboard a Sailboat
If I hear one more time that summer is ending, I am going to punch someone. Seriously.
Well, not seriously. But I am not ready for summer to end. Because I don’t have kids, I count September as a part of summer. The weather is still just as warm and sunny, the only thing is that the sun sets a little earlier than it did in July. But I try not to notice that so much. I still drive around with the top down in my car. I still go diving, I still go sailing.
Speaking of sailing. Some of you might have seen my pictures on my Facebook page of my sailing vacation this summer. If you aren’t following me on Facebook, I recommend that you do. Click here. I post fun pictures, and engage in even funnier discussions on there.
Todd and I spend as much time as we can on the water in the summer time. We have a 41’ sailboat that we bought on the cheap and restored ourselves. Sabine, the sailboat, becomes home base for much of the summer. What’s great about having a sailboat is that we can sail it to other towns and stay aboard and commute to our jobs from where ever we end up moving to. What’s even greater about it is that our day to day lives start to feel like vacation—and this makes our day to day drudgery at work so much happier. Because we’re going home to the ocean at the end of the day.
In summers past we’ve spent a few weeks in Newport, or in Jamestown. This summer for the first time we moved the boat up to Providence, and commuted from there. Todd’s commute to Pawtucket was shortened drastically when we did that. And once this bout of rain passes we are going to move the boat back to Providence this week so we can enjoy the last gasps of summer.
Here are some tips that we’ve cultivated over the years to make living aboard healthier and happier. OK, so you all live somewhere—in a house, an apartment, a yurt, whatever. You have your fridge, your shower, your bed, your clothes, your TV all those creature comforts. We want our live aboard experience to not feel like camping. We have all of those things aboard Sabine, with the exception of the TV.
We have a proper bed, a down comforter and delicious feeling bed sheets, just like we do at home. We have a kitchen with a fridge, and a stove, and fresh water to wash our dishes. This is important. If living aboard is awkward and uncomfortable we’re not going to want to do it. But a few compromises need to be made.
One of the biggest differences between life aboard and life at home is that aboard we have tanks of water that we have to fill so that we have fresh water. The water from the tanks is not as abundant as it is from our well at our house. So we do have to conserve. We don’t just indiscriminately run the water in the shower. It’s wet your hair, turn off the water, shampoo your hair, then turn on the water to rinse. We turn off the water when scrubbing the plates and turn on long enough just to rinse.
Speaking of plates, disposable plates are bad for the environment. We don’t use them at our house and we also do not use disposables aboard. It makes it feel more like a home when you’re not using plastic forks and paper plates. We have unbreakable glasses, plates and silverware.
Yes, we do have a toilet. It’s amazing how many times I get asked this. Yes, we have one. Of course we have one. But it’s not connected to a septic tank buried in the ground like it is in our house. Also, we do not just pump our waste into the ocean, as that is illegal. We have a holding tank in which our bodily waste is stored. We do have to monitor the level in the tank, and when it gets to be just over half full we have to get it pumped out. There are pump out services at almost every marina. There is also a pump out boat that comes around that we have bought a subscription to, so that we have pre-paid pump outs that are super convenient whenever we want them. Not having to go ashore to use the facilities is also key to making your boat feel like a home.
At our house we watch way too much TV. Aboard we don’t have a connection to cable with the hundreds of channels to choose from. So we are pickier about what we watch aboard. Todd has a mobile hot spot that he sets up so we can get internet access. From our internet access we can stream Netflix and Hulu, or rent a movie from Google Play. I love that we spend less time zoning out in front of the TV. I spend more time reading and writing new books instead. Or we go ashore and poke around in the shops, cafes and restaurants. We’ll watch a movie for two hours instead of watching mindless crap for hours on end.
We have interior lights, but they run on batteries like the interior light in your car does. At our house, of course, we’re connected to the power grid. But aboard everything (the lights, the fridge, the pump for the water system) is all hooked into a bank of batteries. When we run the diesel engine, it charges the batteries with an alternator just like it does in our cars. But the thing about living aboard is that we are more in tune with going to bed when the sun sets and getting up when the sun rises. We want to conserve the power in the batteries, so we don’t leave lights on all over the boat either.
What about the dogs? I often get asked this. What about them? When we brought our dogs home to live with us we had to train them to not pee inside our house. The same deal applied when we bring our dogs to the boat. They can relieve themselves on the deck of the boat and we can hose it off (with a salt water pump) to easily clean up. Potter is still catching on to the idea of which way to lift his leg, and we have a 50-50 shot he’ll get it right. Sometimes he pees right off the side. But other times he’ll lift his leg near a porthole and pee into the boat. But having them aboard works well because they’re trained for it. They know where to sleep, they don’t jump off, they know where to eat, and when we want to go ashore without them we can leave them inside, just like we do when we’re at home. Just like housebreaking takes time, boat breaking takes time too.
There are some compromises to be made when living aboard. My closet aboard is way smaller than it is at home. So I focus on packing the basics that I can easily mix and match. We go ashore to do laundry, or bring it back to the house and do it there if that’s convenient. But overall living aboard a sailboat is easy, if you prepare for it and make it feel like home.
added on 09.19.16