Living aboard, cruising and working too

We always get a kick out of the reactions that we get when we tell people we live on a boat.  A boat, really?  You mean a houseboat.  A floating home, like Sleepless in Seattle, right?  Oh is this a cost-saving strategy since the price of homes in Seattle is so high?  So just temporarily, right?  I mean, you must be between homes?


Drinks in the cockpit – a nightly activity after work


Once they realize that yes indeed we do actually live on a boat, the questions continue… so do you go up and take showers in the buildings in the marina parking lot?  How can your dog live on a boat?  Aren’t you cold?  How will you make it through the winter?  Don’t you feel like you live in a storage yard?  Can you actually cook on that boat?  How do you and your husband possibly manage to live in such a small space together?  How many “bedrooms and bathrooms” does your boat have? But your house was so gorgeous… why would you ever do this (accompanied by a sigh).


A gorgeous morning at home – new snow on the Olympic Mountains


This all comes from one group of people – those firmly rooted on dirt who work to buy a house, spend all of their time and dollars on said house and can’t imagine that we have this crazy plan to head out around the world.  And that’s totally ok – we all like different things.

Another group of people immediately imagine blue tarps. dirty decks, many, many, many plants, a variety of items cluttering the dock next to the boat, old lady grocery carts and a smelly, sinking, leaking vessel.  In other words:  LIVEABOARDS.  Yep.


Kevin engaging in a true liveaboard activity.  Building our “lawn.”



Our lawn.  No mowing required.


The next set of people say things like: that is so cool, you must feel incredibly connected to nature.  You’ve inspired me to figure out what my dream is and take steps toward it.  You are the most interesting person in this room.  How did your husband convince you to do this?  (Note: Kevin tells people we live in a gated waterfront community.)


A view of the crew of Adventuress, a historic tall ship that docks at the very end of our dock in the summers.


And then we talk to the full-time cruisers and we feel immense…jealousy.  We aren’t yet able to leave and cruise on a full-time basis.  We are…. WORKING.  Argh!

In talking about all of the conversations we’ve had about the fact that we live on a boat, we thought we’d write up a little story about what it is actually like – to live on a boat and to cruise some of the time, and work a lot of the time.  So here it goes.

We bought Red Rover a bit early in our plan, but the time seemed right to sell our house and to downsize our life, all with the ultimate goal of “untying the lines” in mind.  We probably would have waited another 5 years, but all of the pieces in the puzzle just came together.  It’s a compromise solution.  We have the dream boat, we get to take some terrific cruises, both of significant distances as well as short weekend trips where we just take our house out for a ride.  Sometimes we simply go to Bainbridge Island for lunch.   At the same time we spend a lot of time commuting to work and gazing at our Nordhavn calendars in our offices thinking…if only we could just go NOW!


Working from hoat.


So what’s it like?

It’s great!

We live in a cluster of three liveaboard boats at the end of the dock and we love our neighbors.  We probably got to know them a lot faster than if we pulled into a driveway and went inside each night.  Darren and Lisa and their kids Kelton and Keeley live on their 65 foot boat, Anomalous about 24 inches away from us.  We hang out in our respective cockpits and laugh, appreciate the sunsets, share a glass of bourbon across the fenders, and more.  When there was a boat fire in the marina, it was Lisa who woke us up and we stood together wrapped in blankets and worriedly watched the fireboats, fire engines and police boats show up at 1 am.  Darren shares his salmon that he catches in the evenings, and he even was one of our crew members to Alaska this past summer.  Many of Red Rover’s electronics that were replaced this past spring now live on Anomalous – neighborly re-use.  🙂  Brad, Sheena and their small son Remy live on the 54 foot steel ketch, Impossible, just across the dock from us.  Zoe plays fetch on the dock with Remy, and we all enjoy the laughter of a small child in our neighborhood.  In the summer months we love watching Brad hop on his paddle board for a watery commute to work.  All of us leave during the day to go to our professional careers and come home to our dock neighborhood at night.


Impossible coming back into dock.



Anomalous heading out to the San Juans.



Marina fire – a scary night.


Shilshole Bay Marina has the largest liveaboard community on the west coast.  There are P-patches, a liveaboard organization, impromptu events for kid get-togethers, planned events for the whole community, a nearby dog park, a beach and a long walking trail that connects us to the retail core of Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood.  A school bus picks up kiddos each morning.


A fun event posted by marina liveaboard kids.  Love this.



Zoe posing in front of the marina building.


We do feel closer to nature and to the weather.  In fact, I don’t think I ever noticed which way the wind was coming from each day when we lived in our water view home.  Here, we note that the wind/storms come from the north in the summer and the south in the winter.  As such we dock the boat accordingly so as to enjoy the cockpit without wind.  We spend an enormous amount of time outside, year round.  Well not tonight as it is raining sideways.  Ick.


Zoe walks down the snowy dock.



Some of our other neighbors on the dock were by.


RAIN:  Speaking of rain, that is one of my only big issues with this boat.  Nordhavns are designed in PAE’s offices in Dana Point, California.  I think that they lose sight of the fact that many of us cruise/live on these boats in colder, wet climates.  There are many Nordhavns in Seattle.  Yet there is not a good solution for drying wet jackets, rain pants, etc. in this boat.


What to do with rainy jackets, rainy dog leashes and wet dog towels?


When we moved aboard we bought top-of-the-line Gortex jackets and rain pants, rain boats, winter fuzzy Crocs for nighttime dog walking, more down jackets than geese in the Northwest, a dog rain jacket and dog sweaters.  Yes, dog clothing for a Labrador Retriever.  The dog rain jacket reduces the amount of water that is shaken off of the black dog all over the teak interior of the boat.


Zoe in one of her jackets walking in the rain – it’s winter in Seattle.


THE DOG:  Zoe gave up her dog door and huge fenced back yard.  But she goes on lots of long walks with us (good for us and for her) and she loves swimming at our many weekend destinations.  Zoe is fascinated by the seals in the marina that we call “Aqua Puppers.”  She walks along the dock peering over the edge, looking for her seal friends.  In the past several months, she has a new seal acquaintance, a small teenage spotted seal that sleeps on a dinghy raft at night.  We see this cutie each morning as we walk up the dock to work.  Zoe used to bark at the seal but now they just stare at each other, tilting their heads in curiosity.


Zoe likes to sit on the upper deck and shake her toys at people who walk down the dock.



Hallo Aqua Pupper!  Whatchu doin?



Dog bed snuggled in between the master berth and the chest of drawers.


COOKING:  We have a Subzero fridge, a chest freezer, a full-sized GE profile oven, a 4-burner propane cooktop, a microwave, a trash compactor and a Bosch dishwasher (small, but it is there!) in our galley.  We cook as we normally have, perhaps with a few less tools as we did downsize the kitchen gear from the house. A boat smells fantastic with the scents of cooking roasts, pies, soups and chowders.  Mmm!


Mmm.  Kevin makes beef stew in the galley.



Chicken pot pie.  Much flour adorned the galley.


LAUNDRY:  We often get asked if we do laundry at a laundromat.  Nope.  See the story on our blog about the replacement of the full-size washer and dryer.

SHOWERS:  One of the things that we really wanted was a walk-in shower in the master bath.  That was not to be.  We have a gorgeous tub surrounded with marble complete with a shower.  We have never taken a soaking bath in that tub – not sure that it will fill with the water heater size, but it might!  I have to remind myself to step up and out with my blurry no-contacts vision in the morning, but it works.  I do miss my heated bathroom floors but they come back when the boat is running!  We have another full bathroom and a day head (powder room).

STORAGE:  This boat is just loaded with storage.  In fact, even after almost a year and a half of living on Red Rover, we keep discovering new drawers, storage areas and hidden pockets.  The best thing though is the basement.  Hidden under the “office” area in the bow is a full basement.  The watermaker lives down here as does the hot water heater and the bow thruster.  But other than that it has a glorious amount of space for tubs of extra stuff, luggage, wine and extra bottles of bar goodies.  We have to figure out a better organization system for the basement but we are delighted it exists! Closets are another story.  Our daughter Kirsten goes to college in Tennessee and is home during breaks.  When she isn’t here we take over all of her stateroom’s hanging closets.  And drawers, and basically all of the storage space in the forward stateroom.  All of our clothes fit but we did a huge downsizing of our closets before we moved onto the boat.  It’s likely time for another round.


Kirsten (right), her friend Badia and Kevin picking out oysters at Westcott Bay Oyster Farm on San Juan Island.  A little summer trip when Kirsten was home on break.


ENTERTAINING:  We went through a phase of large parties at our old house, which we designed and built to easily host a crowd.  So now we have small crowds.  Couples over for dinner, a day trip to the Harbor Pub on Bainbridge Island with friends, cocktails in the cockpit on a sunny summer afternoon.  And we do sometimes still have big crowds.  Kevin and I take all of our employees (from each of our companies) out for Seattle’s signature SeaFair event each summer to see the Blue Angels fly over Lake Washington.  So that’s around 30-35 people.  Everyone fits and it is a great time inclusive of swimming, floating, and general sunshine happiness.


Putting up the Christmas lights!



Red Rover has to have red lights…
Our tiny Christmas tree.  A far cry from the 12-14 foot trees in the old house.


GOING TO WORK: Some days I go to work in full rain gear as I am drenched by the time I reach my car in the parking lot.  I then change into a more professional get-up at the office.  Kind of like a bike commuter.  Other days I walk down the dock in heels on my way to a meeting.  People heading out boating look at me oddly.

DOES THE BOAT MOVE?  Yes and no.  The boat weighs 130,000 lbs.  It takes a lot to make it move.  Tonight we’re having a small windstorm with 35 knot winds and we’re moving a bit.  But not a ton.  We like to sit in the pilothouse and watch the wind speeds.  Geeky, yep. Most of the time the boat is very still.  You would think you were in a building most days as it sits quietly in its slip.  Most people ask us if it rocks us to sleep.  Sadly no!


Zoe hoping that the boat indeed does not rock us to sleep.


ARE WE COLD?  Ha!  This boat has a serious heating system.  I could walk around in a bathing suit inside and still be hot sometimes.  And it heats up super fast.  It is not drafty – it is air and water tight – a serious little ship.  No whistling air, no cold drafts, nada.  In the summer when everyone was so hot in Seattle we had overnight guests who came to enjoy the cool water breezes and the frigid A/C inside.


Holiday lights at Shilshole.  Cold outside, warm inside.


THE HOLDING TANK:  We hate pumping out.  It’s gross.  We have a pump-out service that comes every Thursday.  The cost of this?  It’s just under $100/month.  Money well spent.

WASHING THE BOAT:  So we’re spoiled.  We have a gentleman that washes the boat each month and does a major wax once a year and a small wax touch-up half way through the year.  He does a great job and it is delightful to come home to a clean boat.  Speaking of a clean boat, we asked our house cleaners if they wanted to come clean the boat every now and then (about 2 times a month).  They figured it was worth a shot after a 15 year relationship with us, and now bring their stuff on down the dock and onto the boat. We would have missed them!

TV & INTERNET:  We aren’t really TV watchers.  Well, we watch football to be clear.  More specifically the Seahawks. GO HAWKS!  We don’t miss a game.  When we first moved aboard we had a Comcast Cable account where we attached a cable to the shore power pedestal on the dock.  We’d detach it when we left obviously.  We then found that we just weren’t watching enough TV (we did have the SEC Network then so we could watch UT).  Now we have a over-the-air HD antenna for TV to pick up local channels in HD.  That does the trick.  Otherwise we have a Pepwave branded hot spot that we use for WiFi with 2 sim card slots so we can change out service providers as we travel.  We also have an Iridium Go satellite hotspot but that’s not necessary sitting at the dock.


12th Man & Woman
Go Hawks!
Grandpa Darrel helps Zoe see the football game a bit more clearly.


WHAT DO WE DO IF WE DON’T WATCH TV?!?  Funny question that we are asked all of the time.  We enjoy evening cocktails in the cockpit when we get home.  We make dinner together.  We take our dog for long walks.  We listen to music and talk to each other.  We take our dinghy cruising with cocktails in hand and watch the sunset. We enjoy being on the water and being outside.  We read books, and I enjoy my hammock. And we take our house out for a cruise – a day, an evening, a weekend or 6 weeks to Alaska.


Saturday mornings in March.


All in all… It’s a dream.  A dream that will only get better when we take this boat and head out for a many year adventure.  In the meantime, we’ll enjoy our curious liveaboard status and our shorter but still amazing adventures on this absolutely incredible boat.




6 thoughts on “Living aboard, cruising and working too

  1. Outstanding! Thanks for sharing your story. It’s inspirational. What kind of jobs do you have that permit you to live the dream?

    1. Hi Bob – Alison and I each own our own companies. More recently this has allowed us a bit more freedom to do what we want outside of work but we still do head in to the office most of the time. We are looking forward to even less time in the offices so that we can extend our cruises!

  2. Nice post…
    I have set my retirement date! March 1, 2018. Yup, less than two months away. We figure we will be on the Silent Runner by Mid March for at least a month or two. Then it’s back to Utah to sell our home in Provo and re-locate to St. George, Utah, six hour drive to San Diego where the Silent Runner is Ported out of. But for us, winters in Mexico, Summers in the PNW. We hope to spend little time in our dirt home for at least the next five years.

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