“You live on a boat?! How is that? Does it move all the time? How does the weather affect you? Where do you keep your stuff? Do you have electricity and water? How about cable and WiFi? How do you shower? What’s your kitchen like? Does your dog like living on a boat? What happens when you go sailing?”
Does it move all the time? No. When I am on the hard (on stilts) in dry dock I am perfectly still. (Joke!) Yes, I’m a boat … as long as I float, I move. All. The. Time.
We don’t notice it as we are accustomed to the small movements at the dock or in a quiet anchorage. Wind, boats passing and causing waves, and the simple tidal action all affect my motion. But when the wind picks up or we have rain, I can really get a-rocking at the berth. And when I’m off sailing, well, there’s all kinds of motion going on, naturally. Most guests are fine as long as they are outside and can see the horizon, but some get a bit nauseous when they go below. Many who spend a day sailing with us often find themselves “rocking” in the shower that evening or the next day because their bodies worked at getting accustomed to the motion and then they returned to land. Heidi has gotten “land sick” a few times; feeling nauseous when off the boat for more than a few days. But she recovers quick when she’s back onboard.
Because of the constant movement, liveaboards develop very strong core muscles. Walking, standing and even sitting and laying on a moving structure has the body continually adjusting to stay upright or in place. It’s second nature to Heidi and Aaron and they move about me effortlessly at the dock. But when we are at sea or at anchor, the movement means taking precautions. Our motto: one hand for yourself and one for the boat. That means always having a handhold nearby and knowing your surroundings so you don’t fall overboard if on deck or tossed around below decks.
When we are sailing offshore, Heidi and Aaron always wear lifejackets, even when they are below decks as they may have to go topside to assist the other at any given time. In the cockpit and most especially on deck, they wear tethers which connect metal rings on their lifejackets to me. In the cockpit, it’s to a metal hook. On deck, it’s to a lifeline or jackline (a line/rope that runs the length of my deck, attached at different points) to make it easy to move forward and aft without detaching. If they lose their footing, the tether keeps them on deck or hanging over the side a few feet, but not being tossed completely overboard and apart from me.
This is essential when one of them is alone at the helm while the other is sleeping. A boat makes quite a bit of noise moving through the water and a sleeping crewmember may not hear the person on watch fall overboard. If the boat is on auto-helm (driving itself to a dialed-in course), the boat would literally sail away from the person in the water without the crew having any knowledge for perhaps hours.
When we’re doing overnighters at sea, Heidi and Aaron will take turns sleeping in the aft quarter-berth, which has “walls” (the hull on port and the cockpit sides to starboard) on either side so they won’t roll out. Their master stateroom at the bow (front/pointy end) has the bunk on port (left) side, so unless they install a lee cloth (fabric stretched across the open side), they won’t be able to sleep there if the wind is coming from port or it’s bumpy. There are also lots of naps in the cockpit, tucked into the side that’s heeled close to the water.
My oven and Heidi’s vase have gimbals; both are on swivels that keep them upright, no matter how far over we are heeling (tipping). My stovetop also has “arms” that lock onto the pots on the burners to keep them from sliding, and hooks on either side so that Heidi can secure herself in to cook underway. Having a warm meal during cold night watches is nice; but when it is stormy they’ll primarily eat ready-made quick bites like protein bars and beef jerky. The gimbaled stove is perfect for preventing spills when a surprise wake rocks the boat at anchorage or Heidi is trying to cook a cake or casserole without it coming out lopsided.
Because of the constant motion, anything hung on the bulkheads (walls) must be permanently affixed so they don’t become projectiles. There isn’t a whole lot of space for artwork, etc., so Heidi and Aaron are choosy about what to adhere to the wood.
As Heidi was writing this, she glanced up to see the hanging fruit/veggie baskets in the galley swinging, although it didn’t seem like the boat was moving. Looking out my portlights she saw the boat next to her swaying at the dock and could hear the creak of the lines pulling. The motion is such an everyday way of life, that unless she tunes in closely to the movement and sounds, it doesn’t feel any different than living on land.
Which, again, reminds us that living on a boat isn’t for everyone! But for us, we’re looking forward to 351 days from now … cutting the docklines and getting used to life away from the berth!
Part III next week: How does the weather affect you?