Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Moving on Board

This month’s Raft-Up is about moving aboard – the good, the bad and the ugly!  Brett and I moved aboard about 3 years before we departed to go cruising – mostly to save money, but also to make sure our relationship could stand living together in a tight space.  For us, the process was sort of a 3-part thing – kind of the good/bad/ugly but in the exact reverse.
Since entering my adult life I have moved over 13 times in 25 years – so I am no stranger to packing up my life and moving to a new location.  But obviously this move was going to be little different than the others.  Let’s just refer to it as “the ugly phase”.
I was a little worried how the transition would go – so one day (after discussing square footage specs of the house we were putting up for sale with our realtor) I decided it would be fun to figure out what the actual living space on the boat is……..245 square feet!  Did I really need to know that number?  NO, I did NOT and it’s now burned into my brain!!!  I can honestly say that the selling and packing up of our house and moving onto the boat was easily one of the most STRESSFUL things I have EVER DONE. 
What made it so hard?  Well in our case we knew we didn’t want to sell everything, so we bought a container (yes – just like the ones you see on container ships!) to fill with all of the items we hoped to come back to someday.  It soon became obvious that we also would have more items than the boat could take in – so we would need a short-term storage space for transitioning between seasonal needs and such.  This meant that for every single little item we owned, we had to decide if the item was container worthy?  Or, was it something we may actually want/need on the boat?  If so, would it go to the boat or to short-term storage?  Or was the item unnecessary crap and thus a garage sale item?  Add to that we had to somehow organize which boxes were which so they all went to the right end location.  Being classic Americans we had accumulated an overwhelming amount of stuff over the years, so there were WAY too many decisions to make.  It was absolutely exhausting.
After slogging our way through that, we then entered “the bad phase” – the actual transition to living on the boat.  As part of this process we had to give up our cat (thankfully to the best home an owner could ask for), so saying goodbye to Cosmo was a tough part of the move.  In addition, the packing of the container (AKA the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle) took forever as you have to make sure things are secure so that when it travels, nothing gets destroyed.  Finally, we ended up being nomads for about 2 months while we completed some big projects on the boat – moving from place to place every couple weeks – which meant hauling all of our stuff to each location and living out of boxes.  While staying at my parents place the alarm went off while we were gone and the police thought they might have actually been robbed because we had all of our possessions in their main living areas and it looked like total chaos!  Crazy.
Not having a permanent place to lay your head is pretty stressful – but finally we wrap up the big projects and move onto the boat in August of 2009.  There was definitely a lot to learn.  The first couple of weeks Brett and I like to refer to as “learning the dance”.  Invariably, you always want to be exactly on the other side of where your partner is standing.  Because our boat is fairly narrow, we are left with two choices – either squeeze by (in a HIGHLY familiar manner) or to simply wait for your spouse to move out of the way.  We soon learned that having a sort of unspoken schedule of events in the morning helped keep the peace onboard.
Another big adjustment was the moisture issue.  You can’t meet another live-aboard in the northwest without eventually landing on the topic of how they keep their boat dry.  Two people living in a small space produce a LOT of moisture – we are composed of almost 60% water after all! We quickly learned that if we didn’t want it to rain inside, we were going to have to make a few changes until we got to the warmer climates.   Running a dehumidifier and insulating the entire boat above the water line made the biggest difference to cutting down moisture. 
So over time we finally entered “the good phase” – where you’ve figured out what items you REALLY need on board (and gotten rid of the stuff you were wrong about), where you’ve made the boat a home and have figured out how to live together peacefully within it.  That last bit is pretty important as we are now together 24 hours a day 7 days a week and I’m not sure how many marriages could handle that without a little practice! 
Most importantly, we worked through all the tough stuff so that we could get to the good part – the actual cruising!  And while the cruising life is mostly great there are still some pretty tough days.  But by building a strong foundation and knowing our boat as well as we know ourselves, we’re managing to stay in the “good phase” the majority of time.


  1. Moving on board before you start cruising is a BRILLIANT idea. We went through the worst of the ugly and the bad after we were on our way, when there was NO ESCAPE. There's still a bit of ugly and bad here and there (we're on the hard right now...) :) But we survived it.

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