Happy Liveaboard

It’s nearly nine pm, the sun has already set, and the sky is dusky pink fading into blue. Mount Rainier is still visible, but disappearing into dusk. Though a still day, the wind has picked up a little, rippling the water. Seagulls fly overhead, probably looking for a free meal, and the seals are heading in for the night, though they’ve been cruising around all day. They have cubs this time of year, small little fat baby seals the size of Riley with tiny heads and football shaped bodies. There’s a splash every now and then, but by the time I turn my head, I cannot see who caused it. Last night, late when it was dark, I heard so much splashing I came out to investigate to find dogfish, lots of them, circling and prowling in the night. The beam of my flashlight turned their dark eyes to a glowing green, and the tiny shark like fish looked menacing.

To sum up: this is so freaking cool.

In just over two months I turned a fantasy into a reality and am now living aboard a sailboat. The process has been smooth but stressful (in a good way). I spent most of my first day as an official liveaboard sorting and organizing everything on the boat. When that was done, I hit the bed and didn’t wake until nearly ten a.m. tired still, body weak. I spent the day relaxing, allowing my body to release its stress and catch up to the new life.

I had cereal for breakfast then hopped into the dinghy and headed to shore for a quick walk. On our way back to the dinghy, we stopped by Jonathan’s boat (a fellow liveaboard), who was pulled into dock for a few hours to refill his water tank and wash down his boat. It’s fun to see how other people have their boats set up for living aboard, and Jonathan inspired me to get rid of even more of my stuff (his 36 footer was expansive compared to my 30 footer, and he had so much less stuff than me!).

It was a lazy afternoon on the boat. I cooked up a turkey burger and made two extras for dinner, remembering only later that I do not have a microwave to heat them up. Oh well, I put them in some Snapware and stored them in my icebox. I ran the generator for a bit to charge up the batteries, and lounged in my dinette, which I converted into a couch.

A sheltie such as Riley prefers cold weather, and while 75 degrees is lovely by my standards, it was a bit hot for the boy. I took him off the boat in the early afternoon for a walk, and we casually strolled through the shady park so he could cool down. He met so many more people, who just love to come up and pet him. Riley has a bounce to his walk and always wears his happy face. But why not? He’s living the life of Riley.

We headed in for home around seven and I decided to use the extra turkey for a quesadilla. I turned on the kerosene stove and heated up two wheat and corn tortillas from Trader Joe’s, with some cheddar cheese and ground turkey inside. When done, I slapped them on a plate and enjoyed them out in the cockpit. Those tortillas grilled up are DELICIOUS!

No Microwave, No Coffee Machine=Goodness

Any electric appliance that creates heat sucks up a tremendous amount of energy. Look at the bottom of your coffee machine and you’ll see just how many watts of power it consumes. My tiny Mr. Coffee needs 600 watts, my toaster takes around 1,000 watts, and I cannot imagine how much a microwave consumes. Since I run on limited power, I do not have electronic appliances such as the ones listed above. But that hasn’t compromised my meals at all, it’s actually made them better.

I am a recent coffee convert, after years of saying snootily that “No, I don’t drink coffee.” Living here in the Pacific Northwest finally got to me, and I am now a happy coffee addict. So for my birthday, I asked for a French press, which I of course received. And thank goodness for that! I’m no longer a brewer, I’m a presser. Each morning I get up, warm up the stove by squirting just the right amount of alcohol on the burner, lighting it, then pumping up the pressurized stove. After the alcohol has burned off, I start up the kerosene and put on a pot of water. Then I grind my beans, using a grinder powered by a DC/AC inverter. When the pot whistles, it’s time to press those coarse beans. I have great coffee each morning and it’s so much fun to French press.

No microwave means I cannot heat up leftovers, so I have to make just the right amount of food. I’m learning that my icebox aboard is a bit too big and not insulated well enough to keep food cold and fresh for an extended period of time. Right now I’m trying to go through and eat everything I currently have before getting new groceries. So one night for dinner I had salad and rolls (actually quite yummy) and another night I had tasty quesadillas grilled up with some olive oil. Once I eliminate all of my cold stuffs, I’m going to add some insulation to the box which will naturally cut out some of the cubic footage, and make it much more efficient. One day it would be nice to add a Norcold refrigeration conversion, but that’s a bit costly for my meek budget at present. Every day I’ll need to plan what I want for dinner and buy fresh food. I’m falling in love with Trader Joe’s, so I’ll probably make a few trips there from time to time, but will mostly go to the local markets on my way home from kickboxing class.

Riley and I are establishing a morning routine. We get up, make coffee (which takes only a few minutes longer than brewing and with a much better cup of Joe, as expounded upon above), have some breakfast, run the LectraSan, then head into shore for Riley’s morning walk and our day.

No Sailing So Far

We’ve only lived aboard for a few days and I’m dying to take out the girl to go sailing. I’m a naturally impatient person, so this has been a struggle not being able to use the boat as it was built to be used. But it’s been a stressful–in a good way–process, and organizing everything and establishing routines is an important part of moving aboard a boat. Hopefully we’ll get the chance to take the girl out soon for a nice sail, so I can learn how to single-hand her.


  1. Chris August 6, 2011 at 8:35 am

    Congratulations on the being an official liveaboard! Can I say that there is a bit of jealousy mixed in with my admiration for your lifestyle change! 🙂 It sounds like a wonderful way to live!

    1. Courtney August 8, 2011 at 11:01 pm

      Hey, don’t be jealous, go for it! It’s a blast and I recommend it to the able and hearty!

  2. HollywoodME August 7, 2011 at 9:02 am

    I’m equally amazed and jealous of your experience already! Not a bit, but full outright jealousy.
    Do you leave Riley on board when you leave? My only fear of boating with my dog, Cali, is the boat sinking in the slip. I’m sure it doesn’t happen often, but it does. I even want to find out how to register her as a companion dog so she can come into stores with me and the like. She jumps on me and barks when I cough/sneeze, so maybe I can say she is my illness prevention dog? Stress relief pup? Is that bad?

    1. Courtney August 8, 2011 at 11:00 pm

      Riley goes everywhere with me, which isn’t so much of a change as before. Since I live in a cool climate area, he can sleep in the car (where he is right now as I enjoy my coffee and catch up on stuff). When I pull the boat into a slip, though, I think I’ll leave him on board. The boat is very new to him, and I don’t so much worry about the boat sinking as I do about Riley chewing through all my woodwork inside the cabin!

      Riley barks when I sneeze or cough too, but he barks all the time anyway. Dogs are stress relief, for sure. I love my buddy, and it sounds like Cali is a kindred spirit to my Riley boy.

  3. Mark September 5, 2011 at 10:16 am

    I came across your site via Sailnet, and I wanted to congratulate you on taking the liveaboard plunge. I’m probably a year behind you (if I can sell my home), and so your blog posts are a bit of an inspiration for me. No more excuses.

    Hopefully, next spring will find me running my web dev business from a boat, with my dog Ripley at my feet. 🙂

    I took my ASA courses in the San Juan Islands a few years ago. What an amazing place to find outside the companionway each morning! Best wishes for many happy adventures aboard Libby.

    1. Courtney September 8, 2011 at 8:02 pm

      Thanks Mark! And good luck to you and Ripley. The liveaboard life is amazing, I’m sure you’ll love it. A year goes by in a blink, so keep at it!