Had a couple of interesting questions about living aboard from a friend today. Seemed like a good subject for a blog entry. So here goes.
Siempre Sabado is a 28′ boat. However, once you take out the engine compartment, the lazarette and the anchor locker, we only get to live in about 16-1/2′ of that space. 6′ is taken up by the bed and then there’s 3-1/2 feet that comprises the “hallway”. This is the area between the saloon (the main living space) and the bed. Our clothes locker is on one side and the bathroom (head) is opposite. The head is about the size of an airline bathroom. This leaves us an area of 7′ x 7′ to actually live in. And, since the galley takes up 2′ of that width, we are basically living in the settee and the floor adjacent to it, an area 5′ wide x 7′ long. A little bit smaller than a pickup bed. Granted, a lot of our storage is outside of those dimensions but some of it is inside (the refrigerator and two storage lockers are under our seats).
So, after living like this for a year, what’s it like?
From Steve’s perspective:
Well, first off, it doesn’t actually seem that small. The main adjustment that I’ve had to make is getting used to the fact that there is only room for one of us to be up and moving at a time. Since we’re both small, we can squeeze past each other but it’s better if one person sits down while the other is up and doing stuff. This is much less of a pain now than it was when we first moved aboard. I’m pretty used to it now.
The other down side is that, with so little stowage area, anything you want is usually behind and/or under at least a half dozen other things. Like, for instance, if I want to pull out my watermaker file, I have to move the ditty bag, two tool boxes, a file folder box (small), two plastic boxes about the size of shoe boxes, a couple bolts of fabric, and a few miscellaneous other items. All this stuff has to be put somewhere and the only “somewhere” there is, unless we want to schlep it all forward to the bed, is on the settee and/or the table. Consequently, once I pull the file out, unless I plan to put it back right away, all this
crap stuff needs to be put back so there’s someplace to sit. Then, later, after I’ve perused the files, I have to repeat the whole process to put them away. And the box holding these files is NOT the furthest item back in the quarter berth. As a matter of fact, it’s actually towards the front.
Over the course of the year we have managed to put most of the items that we want frequently closer to the front of the various storage areas. But there is no question but that I have had to learn to be more patient. In general, the storage issue is probably the most irksome thing to me about living in this small space. But, I’m continually getting more used to it. I’ve had to get more patient and I’ve also had to learn to not cut corners. The storage areas are small and packed. If I want something that’s in the back of one of the cupboards behind the settee cushions, I’ve learned that it just doesn’t pay to reach in and just root around. Everything will get dislodged and I’ll never get the door closed again without a total overhaul. The only way to do it is to just bite the bullet and carefully remove everything that’s between me and what I want. It can then be put back in a nice orderly manner so the door will close like it should.
Since there’s nowhere else to go, at least until we live where the weather is better, we have to be thinking about the other one all the time. If Lulu’s reading a book, I need to turn the radio off since it’s distracting. If I’m using the table to solder some connections on a light fixture, Lulu has to find something else to do besides the sewing that she had planned since the table is only big enough for one project at a time. And so on. We need to constantly be thinking about the other person since we now both occupy less space than either one of us occupied by ourselves before. But I think this is a good thing.
OK, so storage and moving around have taken some getting used to. But what do I like about living small?
It’s really kind of hard to say. I like the general feel of it. I like knowing that we’re leaving a much smaller environmental footprint than we used to. I like that lots of things are within reach. I like knowing that anything outside of the perimeter of our boat is not my responsibility (no lawn, no outbuildings, no septic tank, no cars, etc.). I like knowing that we’re pretty much self-contained. I like the fact that we’ve been able to adapt to such a huge change without getting cranky with each other. Makes me feel good about us. I like knowing that we’re living on a boat. That, if we don’t like things where we are, we can untie or up-anchor and move on, taking our home with us. I like having a pretty good handle on what all we own. I may not know exactly where it is at any given moment but I usually have at least a fair idea of whether or not we have it.
Expanding out to beyond the boat, I love not having a car. We get more exercise and don’t consider any walk beyond our capabilities. We often say that, given enough time, we could walk to Mexico if we had to. I like not having car expenses: gas, tires, insurance, repairs, maintenance items. And I really like not having the stress of driving. When the weather is really funky and the streets are crawling with tourists who don’t know their way around town, I love leaving the hassle of driving to the bus driver.
It’s all tied together, though. Would I like living this small if we both still had to get up and go to work every day? Maybe, maybe not. We would have to adjust our schedules so that only one of us at a time was up and getting ready for work. There’s just not enough room for us both to be up hustling around at the same time. But with our current (non)schedule, this is how most mornings go:
I get up anywhere between 7:00 and 9:00.
I pull the curtain which is sort of like closing the bedroom door although, being a curtain, it’s largely symbolic.
I get dressed and get the kettle going for my coffee. Have a piece of fruit while I’m waiting for the water to boil.
Once the water is hot, I make a cup of joe and then drink it while quietly doing a crossword puzzle or reading.
Awhile later, Lulu gets up and makes the bed. As soon as she goes in the head, I transfer the backpacks and sleeping bag that spent the night on one of the settee seats to the bed where they’ll spend the day.
Lulu comes out and gets dressed, makes herself some coffee and a bowl of cereal and then sits down to eat while doing a crossword.
Then, I get up and make my breakfast. Now, just so we don’t seem too separated, here’s what’s going on with the coffee, etc. We use those single serving Melitta filters to make our coffee. It’s way fresher and there’s much less waste than making it by the pot. Consequently, I make a cup for me and later Lulu makes a cup for herself. As far as breakfast goes, Lulu likes cereal (granola or oatmeal). I prefer something that needs salt (last night’s leftovers, grits and eggs, or a breakfast burrito), so we each make our own breakfast. Once in awhile we’ll both have spuds and eggs or something but most of the time we each eat different breakfasts. And, since we don’t have to be anywhere, who cares how long it takes? We usually take turns doing the breakfast dishes.
The question was asked, “Who adjusted quicker, you (me) or Lulu?”. Hmmm. Good question. I don’t really know. I adjusted pretty darn quick but I also had a head start since I spent 5-day weeks living and working on the boat from April to mid-June while Lulu was still home and working. But Lulu seems to have adjusted okay so I don’t really know which, if either of us adjusted quicker.
Besides the limited space, a few of the other things that are much different living on the boat are:
-You have to foot-pump every drop of water you use (well, we do have a hose connected to the city water supply and we do use it for filling our water tanks and washing down the outside of the boat).
-We use shoreside bathroom and shower facilities whenever available. At South Beach, that means a 5-minute walk each way whenever you need to use the bathroom, although we use the on-board facilities at night.
-Generally, whatever comes aboard had to get here on one of our backs.
-No microwave for reheating food or making popcorn. We have to do both the old-fashioned way.
-Can’t run to the store if you forgot something. You have to make do with what you have. Of course, we were already used to this from living 13 miles from town.
But enough of me. I’m going to turn this over to Lulu and she’s going to tell things from her perspective without reading my part first.
From Lulu’s perspective:
Well, living in a small space is just dandy. Most of the time I don’t really think much about it being small. It does become an issue when it comes to moving around… one at a time is the only option. We both have learned to wait while the other one gets something from a locker or just needs to go from the aft end to the V-berth. Not really a big deal but it does take some practice.
I have learned just how few clothes I need. My clothes storage area is 2 shelves 18″x18″x18″ which also stores my extra fabric for sewing, some vitamins and prescriptions, and a few other items too and I never get to some of the clothes. I could get by with about 1/2 of what I have.
The clutter is what bothers me the most. I really like things to look and feel tidy and that just doesn’t happen with two people and all of their stuff on a 28 foot boat. Stephen made some stowage suggestions that have helped (read the “Tiding Up” entry), but I just have to make myself not notice the constant clutter and less than organized state of things. I’m pretty good at getting things to a point that I can live with and then not letting it bother me. I had many years of practice from always living in a fixer-upper house. You make it as pretty as you can and then learn to love it.
Another thing I miss is having room for guests. There just isn’t any room for anyone else. The only one who has actually slept aboard with us is Cody and she had to squeeze her little self in the long side of the settee. She didn’t complain, but I’m sure that she wasn’t too comfortable. It’s hard for me not to be able to accommodate friends and family.
What I like about living aboard is the slow pace that it makes us live at. This is also a result of being retired but things do take longer to accomplish with smaller space and fewer convenience items, not to mention no car…. we live a lot slower. Also speaking of the retired part, I love sleeping in in the morning and taking as long as I want to get going on whatever projects or chore I’m doing each day.
I like having such a small space to take care of. I still do lots of cleaning… everything gets wet and mildewy on a boat… but compared to a big house and yard it’s just a lot less to tend to.
I love that this little boat has such a sweet oven. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to make all of the different treats that I could in my big oven but so far bread, pizza, croissants, cookies and all of the normal meals that I have always made turn out just fine in this oven. Stephen did a great job of rebuilding the galley to fit in an oven and it has been so very much worth the effort.
I love the motion of the boat. Much of the time I don’t notice it anymore, but when the wind whips up and rocks us to sleep with a little rain pattering the decks it’s really very pleasant and cozy.
The adaptation prize has to go to Stephen… he had several months of living and working on the boat while I was still working. He had already established some answers as to how to deal with space constraints and was already pretty comfortable here before I moved aboard. I’m sure he had a bit of readjusting to do to when I encroached on his space and habits, but he didn’t let it show too much.