Our boat as a home
It is cloudy today, which is at odds to the weather we ordered. As Terysa has asked me several times over the month to start writing this section, I have officially run out of excuses .
Several friends have asked about the transition from life in bricks and mortar, to life afloat: ” How do we cope?” being the commonest. So here are my thoughts and views, as well as a tour of our boat. It may also be a useful insight for people who are toying with the idea of living aboard, or for people who are struggling to convince their partners that it is a good idea.
I know that all my sailor friends view thing differently. One of my good friends is a real sailing purist (as well as a phenomenal sailor). He actively shuns modernity on boats and will just about tolerate a transistor radio and a fridge as a nod to comfort on board. He does however have a very comfortable house not twenty metres from where he moors his boat. So central heating and SKY television are not really that far away. This was never going to be my idea of fun.
I also had to sell this dream of mine to Terysa, who, while happy to sail at weekends and the occasional week away, would possibly balk at the prospect of a pared down life in the long term.
So we chose a boat that could cope with the toughest conditions and also that we could cope with as a long term home.
We used to live in a three bedroomed flat in a leafy part of London. We often commmented that 70% of our living space was never used. We had a garden that we used to dine in and socialise for about six months of the year (weather permitting), so during the summer months we used even less of the internal space. Two of our bedrooms were never used, apart from gym equipment and space for friends and family to visit.
When we finally moved out we crammed everything we had into a storage unit. It is amazing to see how compact your possessions look when they are stacked in an orderly fashion. We also had to give some thing away. However it was suprisingly little. A couple of boxes of books to charity and Terysa had to cull her extensive collection of clothing and shoes. Everything else we took with us.
So the boat. We have 2 cabins, a saloon, 2 bathrooms (or “heads” in nautical parlance) and a cockpit. These four areas make up our living space, and a little explanation of each will go a long way. I will also apologise to my friends and readers of a nautical bent, as some of this is ” bleeding obvious”. However I am using my most land loving friend as a yardstick for my explanations.
Let me start with the cabins or bedrooms. We have 2 . One at the front and another at the back (fore and aft). Some boats of similar size cram up to four cabins into the space. However we chose to have 2. Obviously bigger boats allow for more space and more cabins.
I think that the cabins were one of the greatest deciding factors when we chose this boat. We wanted a good sized double bed. It seems obvious if you have never stayed on a boat. However many boat make compromises regarding the cabins. Either the beds (or berths) are a strange shape, or more often than not one person ends up against a wall and needs to climb over the other to get out of bed. We wanted what is called an ” Island Berth”. It looks like a normal bed, and sleeps like a normal bed. It is also really comfortable. We have two settees inside the cabin as well as a seat.
We have lockers, drawers and a wardrobe as well as numerous areas under the bed and sofas for all (or most) of our clothes, bedding and alike. We also mounted a television against one of the walls (or bulkheads). Terysa at first indicated that this was outrageously decadent. However on dark winter mornings, it is lovely to hide under the duvet, coffee in hand and watch the news without getting up.
The fore cabin is similar. We have ample storage space for most of our things under the forecabin bed, including spare sails and other occasionally used bits and bobs.
Both cabins have numerous opening hatches and blinds to keep out the light and let fresh air in. We also have good quality fans above the bed to provide cool air when it gets too hot.
Finally, both cabins are en-suite. They have separate doors leading into the heads.
These are our bathrooms, or rather shower rooms. They both have toilets, hot water, sinks and showers, as well as cabinets for wash things and shampoos and other potions I dont understand. This may seem obvious, however my first boat had no hot water, a basic toilet and no sign of a shower. Both heads are possibly slightly more compact than your average bathroom (unless you live in Hong Kong), but functional, and provide no significant compromise to living on land.
This area is undoubtedly the most versatile within our home. It has 2 long settees which run the length of the boat, as well as a table in the middle which extends for eating. We have huge swathes of lockers, cupboards and bookshelves. Everything we need fits into these for easy acccess. The saloon also has our chart table, akin to a desk in a home. We use it for navigation while at sea, but it is a good area to sit and look out at the world when at anchor. It also has the controls and monitors fro our solar, wind and hydro power, our radios and our stereo. The boat is all made in cherry wood, and with the pictures on the wall and our books on display, it is as comfortable and homely as the flat we left.
We fitted a television and a blu-ray player and connected it all to a surround sound unit. We also shucked all our DVDs and blu-rays from their cases and brought them with us. Add to this an Apple TV unit, a hard disk with about 200 movies on and full internet access, and we have all of our home comforts with us.
The kitchen in any boat needs to be practical and useable, and at all times. Here we had to make some compromises from living on land, but these have been more than offset by the change in lifestyle.
When we left London , we gave up our dishwasher, double oven and (by conscious decision) our microwave. We now have a cooker, oven, sink and a fridge, as well as our beloved coffee machine with a biblical supply of capsules hidden away.
However, we have more time to cook, prepare, shop and eat.
Terysa and I have always enjoyed good food. Not necessarily hugely expensive Michelin star restaurants, but good quality produce, whether cooked at home or abroad. I don’t think that many people will argue with the statement that fruit and vegetables grown in the sun taste better.
Terysa for one would never eat tomatoes. Then we went to Greece, where they have taste, and are no simply insipid water bladdders. Now they form as staple part of our diet as potatoes do in Northern climes.
So our lack of a massive freezer, ice dispenser and a fridge that you could hide a body in just isn’t necessary. We tend to spend our days ashore going to local produce markets, taking time to choose produce that is local and very tasty. We no longer need to sit at the window waiting for the Ocado van to appear as we have far more free time.
I think that our mission statement when we decided to leave, if we had one would have been something sickly and saccharin like “always chasing the sun”. It’s why we don’t have one.
However there would be little point in sailing around the world if everyone of our days was like a rainy February morning in London. We hope that we will continue to move to warmer climes, following the seasons as we go.
For this reason our cockpit also had to be comfortable and useable.
As with all areas of our boat, the cockpit has multiple uses. When at anchor or port, or even when sailing, it is the area we tend to spend most time in. We have the steering positions at the very back of the boat. However forward of these is the cockpit itself. Like the saloon it has two teak benches. These will happily seat 6, although we have managed to cram 14 into the cockpit before. We have cushions and scatter cushions to allow lounging in multiple positions. We have a table in the centre of the cockpit which extends for meals, as well as multiple hand rails and grab points for when underway. Another set of good quality speakers allow us to listen to radio or music while underway .
We also have a bimini and sprayhood. These essentially are collapsible awnings that we can keep up or pack away at any point. The bimini is a Godsend when it’s hot. It keeps the sun off and allows a cool breeze to circulate. It also does a fair job of keeping the rain off when the skies open.
The spray hood much the same. It can be raised or dropped in a couple of minutes . This has more use when at sea as it does what it says on the tin; it keeps the spray off. In heavy weather we sit under it and it stops the wind, spray and rain from making the passage difficult. However as we tend to try and only sail when the weather is favourable, it is normally packed away unless necessary.
The decks and coachroof of the boat also give us the space to sunbathe, read or dose in multiple places.
All in all, the sacrifice we have had to make in the move from bricks and mortar to life afloat has been minimal. It is not for everyone, although for a couple a boat of this size is more than comparable to a 2 bedroomed flat.