“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? How about fresh water? Do you have a real kitchen? How do you deal with waste? Are you connected to cable and WiFi? Does your dog like living on a boat? What happens when you go sailing?”
Back to our series of answers to the questions Heidi and Aaron get when people find out they live on a sailboat full-time.
How does the weather affect you? Living on a boat is living in tune with Mother Nature and Father Neptune. We all adore the dry, warm summer months because it means having the hatches and doors open to the air and light. Heidi, Aaron and Tiki spend lots of time having meals in the cockpit and laying in bean bags and the hammock on deck. In the winter, we mainly stay closed up and the only contact with the weather is the quarter mile walk Heidi and Aaron have from my berth to the parking lot. (Which is why we will be circumnavigating primarily to warm climates!)
Here’s Heidi to share a bit about living onboard in different seasons.
Quick edit: As I finished writing this today during our mini-vacay in Tahoe, a 3.6 earthquake hit the East Bay. Although not caused by weather per se, it is still experiencing one of Mother Nature’s phenomenon, so …
What does an earthquake feel like on a boat? As life-long Californians that have literally been rocked awake by earthquakes and experienced dozens in our homes throughout the Bay Area, neither of us are frightened when they occur. On land, we’d take cover under a table, but that’s not possible on our boat.
During our almost nine years of living aboard we’ve felt a handful at our berth. The last time I felt one I was sitting in the salon stitching a baby blanket. I felt a big “bump” … as if a whale had gently nudged Sonho’s bottom, then a shudder. I knew it wasn’t a wake of a passing boat, because no further rocking followed. The fruit basket swayed more than usual, but since most of our items are secured to the boat, nothing fell. When they have hit during the night, we slept right through them. And since we float, there is no worry about “structural damage” … we just go with the flow!
Now back to our regularly scheduled “You Live on a Boat?!” …
How do we stay warm? At the dock, we have regular electricity and use a small space heater in our salon and another in our stateroom, if needed. We also have an electric mattress pad. When we are away from the dock, we will use the installed heater in the salon. It is currently set for kerosene use and will be one of Aaron’s projects this year to switch over to propane, which is safer and also easier to refuel in foreign countries.
Since the galley (kitchen) is open to the salon, the stove warms up the boat quickly. We also have a small camping heater that uses the little green propane canisters. We use this in the cockpit when it’s chilly but not freezing and we want to enjoy dinner outside. Sonho is well insulated with cabinets against a good portion of her hull and when we are closed up, we stay cozy warm inside.
How do we stay cool? Obviously, opening hatches and doors brings in circulating air. We will also make wind scoops to catch the breeze. These are pieces of light cloth that are attached to the hatches and and the boat like a kite and direct the wind below decks. For the most part, we’ll spend a lot of our time in the water in warm climates when we are cruising.
What about rain? I hate rain. Really hate rain. Yes, I understand the necessity of it, but it truly makes living aboard a pain. Laundry and groceries are hauled in a wagon to and from our berth. Not so much fun in the rain. When we are circumnavigating, we’ll be using our dinghy, kayak and paddleboards to go ashore, making these trips even more challenging in inclement weather. But when we are cruising, we will be retired and can find weather windows to go ashore instead of having to leave for work and land obligations on a certain day and time.
I leak. Not because I am built poorly, but because I am a boat. My hull and deck flex with the movements and water gets in through hatches and portlights (windows that don’t open) and down my mast. Somedays I leak in one area and somedays in another. This means that Aaron and I are constantly on the hunt for leaks when it rains. We’re not talking water pouring into the boat; mainly small drips that a rag will absorb until the rain stops.
Does the wind make the boat move? Wind has the biggest effect on a sailboat, of course, especially at sea or at anchor, but also at the dock. Because of the tall mast, the wind catches the boat and makes it heel (tip) even at the dock. As the wind builds, it makes a noise in the rigging (the metal wires that hold the mast upright) that sounds like a constant “hummmm.”
If the halyards (wires that connect to the top of a sail and pull it up the mast) aren’t tightened down, they can slap against the metal mast and make an extremely annoying clanking sound. This is perhaps the greatest sin that a boater can commit: leaving slack halyards after a weekend of sailing. There are rumours that some boaters stop their neighbors’ repeated rude halyard clanking by letting the halyards loose to go up the mast. Which means that before the boat goes sailing again, someone has to be cranked up the mast to get it down. Chances are the halyards are tightened properly afterwards.
At berth in a marina, winds pull the docklines taut and then slack, making for a rocking motion that proves difficult to cook, move about below and sometimes sleep. I liken the movement to a horse tied in the stall before a bucking bronco event at a rodeo. My thought is that a boat prefers to be free upon the open water rather than tied down.
When at sea, the boat heels and slices through the water with a smooth motion. Crew gets used to moving about at an angle and sleeping on the side that is heeling closest to the water. Or, if on a downwind sail, the boat sails almost completely upright, with the wind coming from behind.
Weather is the biggest effect on life aboard. It is something that we simply react to at the marina and deal with … putting tarps up in the rainy season and sunshades in the summer. When we go cruising, it will determine when we leave and arrive in port. We will plan every change of port by weather forecasting; if the weather is good for the duration we plan to travel to our next destination, we go. If not, we stay. We will never, ever put our lives or our floating home at risk.
Mother Nature & Father Neptune … we give them the utmost respect always.
Vivo O Sonho … 337 days until we are Living the Dream!
Next: Part 4 – Where do you keep your stuff?