Big News: I’m going to live on a sailboat. Full time. I’m giving up most of my possessions and trading it for a life on a boat, out on the bay or in a dock. For those who don’t care to read the lengthy explanation below, let me summarize why I’m making this change: freedom, romance, frugality, pride of ownership, it’s darn cool, and because I can.

It’s not a joke. I’ve already purchased the sailboat, a 1972 30 foot Islander MK II. She’s been on a successful sea trial and had a great survey. She’s my boat, and soon she’ll be my home.

My new home

How it began

My friend, Kym, invited me to her sailboat. I’ve only seen a few boats in my lifetime, having always been a horse and barn sort of girl, but I’ve always marveled at a boat’s clever use of space, coziness, and how cool it is to just be on a boat. Kym’s boat had the essentials: a stove, sink, settee, fold-away table, storage for food and utensils, a bed at the bow of the boat (called the v-berth), toilet, and more storage at the stern. I was impressed. And as I sat there with Kym, munching on cheese and crackers, I asked her, “Could you live here?”

Riley with Kym

The question I was really asking was, “Could I live here?” Riley, Dog With No Fear, was completely comfortable on the boat. He was ready to take an extended tour and see what was what, but later decided to chill out on Kym’s lap and enjoy the non-rainy weather. Riley has no concept of heights, danger, strangers, or bad people. The world according to Riley is a pretty sweet place. So he at least, would be down for living on a boat.

After visiting Kym, all I could think about was living on a boat. How awesome. Even if it’s not a good time to travel, don’t, just live on the water. It sounded so wonderful!

Small Boat = Less Stuff

I’ve fallen less in love with stuff each time I move. And every time I move and decide to get rid of more stuff, I feel better. Let me be clear: I am not against stuff. This post will not be an expose on materialism or consumerism, nor is it a referendum on traditional lifestyles. It’s been my experience that less is more. Getting rid of my belongings feels good to me.

What I need is a place to work, play, eat, relax, and sleep. After coming away from Kym’s boat, I sat down and thought about what it is I use, need and want. A boat has a dinette (dining area), settee (to sit or recline), galley (kitchen), v-berth (master bedroom), head (toilet). A boat has all the furniture and accommodations needed to be comfortable.

To work I require two things: a computer and an internet connection. That’s it. I own a laptop–I can take my work wherever I want. Because I use Clearwire for my internet, I can go anywhere within coverage area.

I no longer use a television. That’s not to say I don’t watch TV shows, I just don’t pipe them through a box. Netflix Instant and Hulu are my media entertainment providers. I don’t need a TV, DVD player, stereo, and all the wires and power that goes with them to watch my favorite shows.

I use a Kindle to read novels. I’m no longer collecting books. Books, though great, take up A LOT of space. A Kindle, however, is about the width of a pencil and weighs just a tad more.

To summarize, here is everything I will bring on the boat:

  • Riley, Dog with No Fear, and all his necessities (food and dishes)
  • MacBook Pro, mouse, power cord, etc.
  • Intous Tablet (for artwork)
  • Kindle for reading
  • iPhone for staying connected
  • Clothes for wearing
  • Cookware for preparing food
  • Food for consuming
  • A few books I’m unwilling to part with, mainly my Harry Potter collection, The Count of Monte Cristo, and a leather bound collection of Jack London’s entire works (a gift from my mom).

That’s it.

This means that all of my furniture, my couch, chairs, coffee table, desks, rug, shelves, etc. must go.

Tiny Space does not Equal a Tiny Life

sailboat haul out
Being Hauled Out

A boat is small. My boat is 30 feet long with a 10 foot beam (width). That does not equal 300 square feet, though. The entire cabin is about the size of a small bedroom without a closet. It’s tiny. But a small living space does not mean a small life.

Open up the companionway and walk into the cockpit and the entire horizon is your backyard. Seals and dolphins are the new squirrels. There are no buildings to block the view. Gulls herald in the morning. Unlike a house or apartment, a boat can be moved from one view to another, from one place to another. It is my goal to sail to the San Juans next summer, perhaps even to British Columbia. And my home would go with me.

If I want to spend most of my time in Poulsbo, no problem. If I want to spend the weekend in Seattle, easy-speasy. Kingston, why not? Port Townsend? For sure. Look at a map of the Puget Sound and even north of that, and you’ll see a ton of places to go without even touching the Pacific Ocean. When the wind fills the sails, and powers the boat forward, the feeling of pride and freedom increases ten fold.

Sailing is Romantic

under sail
Not my boat, just cool photo of a boat under sail.

When I decided to live on a sailboat, I didn’t know how to sail. You may think that sounds crazy, but I’d bet a lot of people look at something and decide to jump right in without knowing a gosh darn thing about it. Horses, for example, command romanticism in the same way: the wind in your hair, being powered by nature, pounding the ground, one with the animal, flying through the air. Horseback riding can be exhilarating.

I’ve done my research. I’ve learned a lot about sailing and about sailboats. There’s still a plethora of things to know, but that will come. I’ve read about boats, about living aboard, about sailing maneuvers, the sails, etc. Terms that sounded alien to me three months ago mean something to me now.

Doors Flew Open

There are times in all of our lives when bad things happen. If you look back, you can see where you went wrong. I’m not talking about huge accidents, or incurable diseases. I’m talking about closed doors versus open doors. Opportunities versus impossibilities. When you barge in where you shouldn’t, something worse happens. Conversely, there are times in our lives where nothing is forced and everything is easy. Doors open.

Holding up my boat. Camera added 30 pounds to my body.

Instead of doors slamming in my face, telling me to forget about it and keep living in my apartment, doors flew open. As soon as the idea to move on a sailboat hit me, everything became easy. I kept waiting for doors to close, but they never did. The biggest obstacle to owning a sailboat is having a place to keep it, but I found a place for it. I also have a place to keep my car. I applied for a boat loan (sure that this would be the end of the dream) and was approved. Kym introduced me to Ron, who knows just about everything about sailing and sailboats. He taught me how to sail. Then I found a boat and fell in love. She had everything I needed and was affordable. After Ron took a look at her, he gave the thumbs up: a good boat. I took her on a sea trial: she handled great. Then she was surveyed (examined for any damages, maintenance, and so forth), and passed. My lease for my apartment ended in June.

The loan closed on 7-7-11 without a hitch. Obviously this was meant to be. The whole process has been ridiculously smooth.

Frugal Living

I love saving money and watching it grow. Because a boat is small and cannot hold a lot of stuff, it’s a cheaper way to live. For the summer months I’ll be living on the hook, anchoring out in the bay. To do so is free. In winter I’ll have a slip, which will cost 25% of what I’m paying for rent. Because the boat is small, energy costs are low. Rather than heating 700 square feet, I’ll heat about 30 square feet. In the summer, when I’m out on the anchor, I’ll have to generate my own electricity (more on that later) and will be totally self-sufficient and energy independent.

The boat is almost forty years old, and therefore needs some TLC, just like an old house would. Making repairs and improvements to my boat is something I look forward to. I enjoy working on projects, and these projects would be improving my boat, my home, something I own. It will not belong to someone else, I will not be paying rent. I’m going to own where I live, and where I live will be a sailboat!

What I Need and How You can Help

Port side of the cabin. Yes, cushions will be changed.
Starboard side of the cabin. Map of Puget Sound to be applied to table surface!
Where the food’s made!

I’m going to sell as many of my possessions as possible to help the boat budget. Before winter, the boat needs some maintenance work, including being hauled out to have the bottom and topside painted. Because I’ll anchor out in the summer, I need a dinghy to get to and from the boat and land. Getting into the boat requires a ladder.

There are some things that can wait for winter, but since I’ll be living on this boat, I want the inside to look great. The cabin requires new paint, filling in some dings to counter surfaces, sanding and revarnishing the door to the forward cabin, slip covers for the hideously ugly cushions, a new surface for the dinette table (I’m thinking a map of Puget Sound), rug for the floor (will be cold on my feet in winter!), and other modifications. To store sails, I need to add a separating compartment to the port side lazerette, which is currently wide open to access the engine. Then I’ll need tupperware bins for my clothes, blankets, etc. to stow into the starboard quarter berth. To capitalize on space, I’ll use Space Bags.

Fun stuff I want: barometer, wall clock, mirrors to make the space seem larger, radar, new life vest (this is really a need, but it’s fun too), life vest for Riley, small iPod/iPhone powered speaker system.


My boat will need to power the following: my computer, VHF, charging my Kindle and iPhone, and that’s about it. When I’m anchored, I’ll have to draw power from the battery. There are a couple of ways to charge the battery, thus keeping the electricity going, one of which is solar paneling. Solar panels are expensive, so this is further down the list of things to buy for the boat. There are also wind turbines, which generate electricity and charge the battery with wind power. For our area, that makes more sense, as sunny days are few. Turbines, though, are also pricy. I’ll have to run the engine to charge the battery as well, and keep the engine nice and healthy. For now, a generator is a more likely and cost-effective option, until I can afford solar and wind power. The latter are preferable, as they do not require continual cost.

Time and Money

On the other side of the door is the v-berth; where Riley and I will sleep.

All of the maintenance, adding features, changing things to my liking, require time and/or money. Fortunately I’ll be selling all of my stuff, or as much as I can, to add to the boat budget. Since I’ll no longer have rent, I’ll be money ahead regardless of what I do for the boat in any given month. But that doesn’t mean I’m walking/sailing scot-free. You can help me. In the next few days I’ll be listing everything I think is sellable and selling it. If I have something you want, tell me, and I’ll sell it to you. If you think it’s something a friend of yours would want, tell me, and I’ll sell it to them.

Then there’s the stuff that can’t be sold, for whatever reason: an old radio, old books, etc. A lot of my stuff will be given away, either to Goodwill or to you. If you want it (whatever it is) pipe up and be heard, and I’ll give it to you.

Why Didn’t I say Anything Before

This is big news to everyone. I told a select few people about this decision as I was going through the process, five at most. I wanted to keep it sort of a secret for the following reasons:

  1. I wasn’t sure I was going to do it. It took about six weeks for me to go through the process, and I didn’t want people asking me: “So how’s that boat plan going?” and have to respond, “I decided not to do it.” Or, similarly, I didn’t want to say anything if I hit a roadblock and had to, pardon the analogy, abandon ship. It’s never fun to explain disappointment.
  2. Moving to a boat is a big decision, and I would be asked many questions. Announcing it this way spares me having to answer the same questions multiple times, therefore giving me more time to work and plan for my big move.
  3. It affects no one’s life but mine, so I wanted to be the one to think it through without anyone tossing in their opinion/advice/encouragement.
  4. There are two possible responses to “I’m going to live on a boat.” The first and most common is: “WOW! That’s so cool!” and requires little follow up. The second response is “A boat? It’s so small. I wouldn’t want to live on a boat, why do you? Have you thought about _____?” When I told people in California that I was moving to Washington, 95% of the responses I got went just like this: “You know it rains a lot there.” I figured something similar could happen with my boat announcement: “Well, you know a sailboat moves,” or “The ocean is dangerous, you know,” or “You’ll be giving up a lot, you know. Have you thought about that?” Those kinds of responses would only irritate me and require a snappy, possibly rude, comeback. 😉

Yes, I’ve thought about it all.

So, let’s go over what I’ll be “giving up,” because I know you’re thinking about it, and possibly wondering if I’ve considered everything. Just as I knew it rains in Seattle, I know a boat is small and the ocean is dangerous. So here it goes:

What I’m Giving Up

  1. Dishwasher, microwave, washer, dryer and other big appliances. I’m on a 30’ sailboat, I don’t have the room or the power to have such things. This means I’ll have to wash dishes by hand, cook real food with a pressurized alcohol powered oven and stove, and haul laundry into shore and put quarters into a machine. It also means I’ll have to be smart about what I cook and when I cook it. I’ll not have a refrigerator or freezer. I’ll have an icebox. No meat stored on my boat! All my food will be fresh.
  2. Hot water. Yep, you read that correctly, I won’t have hot water coming through my sinks. I’ll have 35 gallons of fresh water on board, but it won’t be heated. To wash dishes, I’ll boil water on the stove.
  3. Shower. This is a big one, so big that it’s become a joke, as in “Mom, I need to get off the phone so I can shower while I still can.” No shower on the boat. What does this mean? It means I shower on shore at the port’s showers, which are protected, secured, and clean. Bonus? I no longer have to clean the bathroom!
  4. Plumbing. My boat is outfitted with a LectraSan head, which means it treats the waste and essentially turns the turds into dirt. When I’m out sailing in the Sound, this dirt is pumped out of the boat. It’s safe, it’s “clean.” However, when I’m docked in the marina during winter, the dirt needs to be emptied out regularly at the port’s dumping station.
  5. Space. Every square inch of my space will be used effectively. There’s not going to be a lot of it, so I have to be wise about what comes onto the boat and what cannot. I’m in the process of de-papering my life: making all bills paperless, and looking into electronic billing for clients. I want to be done with paper. So don’t give me flyers or bulletins, as I’ll just toss-oh-lay them.
  6. An address. That’s right. No address. Neat, huh? What mail I receive will have to go to my PO Box, but I’m working out plans so that I get all my correspondence, bills, etc. via email.
  7. Rent. I’ll pay off my boat each month, but the boat is mine. Unlike rent, I’ll own where I live. In winter I’ll rent a slip, but I’m still well under what it costs to rent my apartment.
  8. High bills. Eventual energy independence, and small space living means low to zero electric bills, and low water bills. No cable TV, so no cable bill. Internet runs about $35/month.

Common Questions Answered

What about Riley, your dog?

As covered at the start of this novella, Riley is Dog with No Fear (with the exception of fireworks, as I learned a few days ago). Riley is the happiest, most outgoing dog I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen some. He loves to go places, meet people, do stuff. He’ll be fine on a boat. I plan on walking him every day, as I already do, by putting him inside the dinghy for summer (doggie life vests have handles on the back) and rowing him to shore. In winter, when I’m docked, I’ll take him out like I do now. For his business needs, Riley will be trained to use a pad which I’ll keep on the foredeck, but I plan on letting him out on land for a walk/run session at least twice a day. When I need to go to kickboxing class, the store, or whatever, he can come along with me and stay in the car, if it’s cool enough.

What about your horse?

Dante hasn’t moved for years. He’s stayed with my parents through my past three moves, and will continue staying there for this one. His life will not change, and I plan on riding him still. Dante will be fine, loved, and cared for.

What about Christmas/Birthday presents?

My mom asked me this question, and I loved it. I don’t want to collect anything, but I’ll always need something for the boat. Clothes are welcome, but I’ll have to toss some old outfits to make room for the new. Since my boat is 1972, she’s old, and needs a lot of work to get her shipshape. By Christmas 2011, I’ll have a good list of things I’ll still need. And, if you don’t give a flying crap about getting me something for my boat, there’s always an Amazon gift card for Kindle books, or a Starbucks gift card for my caffeine problem.

How will you stay warm in winter?

Winter will be easier living (in theory) than summer, as I’ll be connected to shore power and will have plenty of electricity. Right now I’m considering two different heat sources: electric heat, or a diesel heater. If the first, I’ll just need a space heater and plug it in. Because I’m heating a smaller space than you are, I can get the boat pretty warm and toasty in no time. Also, this boat was used as a liveaboard boat for 30 years, so she’s already been insulated. I’ll be fine.

What about the rain?

Ah, here’s another way you can help. Boats often have what’s called a Splash Dodger over the companionway (entry) to keep water from entering the cabin. This is an expensive buy, and my boat does not have a dodger. Buy my furniture, my book, or even a website, to help me stay dry!

How will you sleep?

From what I’ve read and been told, sleeping on a boat is amazing. The rocking motion helps people sleep better, not worse. I plan on adding a couple inches of memory foam to my v-berth cushions to make it extra comfy cosy. If there is too much wind, I’ll abandon the v-berth and head into the salon. The dinette table drops down and forms a double berth (bed) and will be more comfortable in stronger waves/wind.

How will you cook?

The boat comes with a Shipmate alcohol stove and oven. It’s not electric. It’s a bit smaller, but it has everything I need: two burner stove and one oven. No microwave, so I’ll have to be smart and prepare just enough food, as I won’t be able to heat (or store) leftovers. The boat also has a propane BBQ.

Does the boat have a name?

Yes, but not for much longer. It’s not a name I want for my boat, so I will un-name the boat (this is quite a procedure), and, after she’s been repainted, christen her with a name of my choosing. I plan on making this a grand celebration and will invite friends and family for the occasion. I have told a few people the current name of the boat, and what I plan on renaming the boat, but I do not want to leave a record of either.

Why did you choose this boat?

Love. I looked at about seven or eight boats, but the others didn’t leave a mark on me. I traveled to Seattle to look at three and, though two of them were prettier inside and out, I felt nothing for them. A few other boats I saw felt cramped. This boat pulled at my heart. As soon as I saw her, even though she needs some care, a little voice in my heart said “Oh!” I’m happy sitting in the cockpit, I’m happy sitting in the cabin. I took lots of photos of her and enjoy being around her. She makes me happy. I want to care for her, and she will care for me. I said “Do you want to go see my girl?” to my parents before taking them to her. She’s mine, she picked me. She’s my girl. That may sound silly to you, but not to me.

When I was thinking of buying a house, I wanted one I could fix up and make my own, customize it to myself. This boat will give me that. She needs new paint inside and out, so I can do that, and give her the paint she deserves (she’s plain looking right now). Thankfully I’m a graphic designer, so I’m sure I’ll come up with something clever that suits her.

Working on the Boat

This summer I’ll be doing two things with the boat: learning to sail her single-handed, and making improvements. No one can help me with the former, but everyone can help with the latter. Not to worry, I will not rope you into helping with the boat. She’s my responsibility and I’ll take care of her myself. However, working on a sailboat is pretty cool, so if you’d like to come by and help, I won’t stop you. If you have a boat of your own, if you help me, I’ll help you.

Any other questions?

I am thrilled and excited beyond belief for my next and newest adventure! I’ll be moving onto my boat as soon as I can, no later than August 1.

Do you have any questions I did not answer? Have something you’d like to say? Please leave comments below (not on Facebook) so I can address them here.


UPDATE: As of Fall/winter of 2012 I moved off my sailboat. Read more about it here.


  1. Crystal G. July 11, 2011 at 4:37 am

    Courtney, this is sooooo stinkin’ exciting!! I can’t wait to hear more about this awesome adventure & maybe even catch up to you sometime for a tour of your boat! Yay for you!!

  2. Elisabeth July 11, 2011 at 4:43 am

    Courtney! This is so cool! Sorry for sounding like a 5th grader but I mean it – so cool! You are going to have an experience of a lifetime and so many incredible memories as well as stories. I love that you are able to do this and that you’re making it work. I’ve only sailed a handful of times but loved it! My uncle got me interested and if we didn’t live in a landlocked state with not even a lake for miles I would be all over Kirk to buy a sailboat. I almost convinced him when we lived in Texas. She was a sweet little number number named Teacup and believe me, the name fit!
    I wish you all the best and look forward to following your journey through your blog!
    Bon Voyage!

    1. Courtney July 11, 2011 at 6:29 pm

      Thanks for the child-like enthusiasm, Elisabeth! I’m super excited about this new adventure. I cannot wait to learn how to single-hand this baby and then take her cruising around Puget Sound. It’s going to be amazing, and I’ll be sure to post the highlights to my blog.

  3. Kym Mason July 11, 2011 at 5:11 am

    Courtney, I could read this over and over. I am so excited for you!! 🙂 You are one in a million. Live your adventure, my sailing friend! When we are old women we will talk of all that life can be, and has been, and then we will hoist our sails and head for the horizon. No regrets. No yearning left unfulfilled or untried. I’m very certain that at the end of our lives we will not say, “I wish I had played it safe.” Thank you for taking me along for the ride!

  4. Kathy Houret July 11, 2011 at 6:40 am

    Good for you! I wish you all the best.

  5. Beckie Alexander July 11, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    How exciting!! Beth posted your blog to Facebook, and well, I had to check it out! A joy to read and amazing that your are able to have this adventure of a lifetime! I too, have a small love affair with downsizing my life, drives my kids crazy! Have fun and love what decisions you make in life because its too short not too!

  6. dorene July 11, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Courtney, you are truly an inspiration to me and I’m sure others as well. Happy sailing!

  7. Angela July 12, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Two words – Friggin awesome. I so admire your tenacity. Congrats!

  8. Pingback: Dear Craig’s List Scammers | Courtney Kirchoff

  9. Jenny Sims July 20, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    Your friend, Kym, is right – you won’t be looking back wishing you had played it safe! Best of luck to you as you pursue your dreams!

  10. Angela July 20, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    Wow, I’m really happy for you! This takes me back ten years to when I first moved aboard out of necessity, jumping in head first and learning to sail later. For three years it was just me and my dog on my Cal 28. Later I met my boyfriend on the docks and started a new home on his 1971 Islander 30 Mk II. We still have “Cool” for racing and day sailing but have moved on to a larger live aboard boat. With thousands of sea miles behind me I’m now a sailing instructor and licensed captain and have never looked back.
    No telling what doors will continue to open for you and adventures you may have. I have no regrets and if I could do it all over again I certainly would. I wish you the best of luck.

    1. Courtney July 21, 2011 at 3:39 am

      That’s awesome, Angela! You’re an inspiration. Thanks for visiting my blog.

  11. Jenny Halteman August 5, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    I just stumbled across your blog. My husband and I have been living aboard for 4 1/2 years and we love the lifestyle! Congrats on making an awesome decision. You’ve found a lovely boat. We’re currently on an Ericson 35, but are in the works of moving onto a larger boat – we now have a (quickly) growing baby, and the Ericson was always a tad bit small for two of us and a dog.

    Anyway, I look forward to reading more of your adventures on the boat.

  12. Pingback: From Land to Sea: Part Two | Courtney Kirchoff

  13. steve raes January 30, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    I also have an 1972 Islander 30 Mark 2. I have / am having done extensive work on Dionysus . I keep loosing messages and cannot send messages. I’ll try 1 more time

    1. Courtney January 31, 2012 at 10:20 am

      I’d love to see some photos of your restoration work for Dionysus. It’ll inspire me for Libby!

  14. Jay February 11, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    I’ve been living aboard my Westsail 32 for a year now and it feels good.

  15. Paul February 16, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Good for you Courtney! I am also an author and avid sailor. I am in the process of purchasing a 36′-40′ sloop, which I will live aboard forever. Like you, most of my worldly possesions will be left behind. With me will be my English Pointer, “Bella”, my lapt top, cell phone, my red motor scooter and some personal posessions. I will moor the boat in the harbor of Cassis, France on the French Riviera. I have a 10′ Zodiac to get me back and forth to the marina and my scooter (round trip 5 min.) Let’s try to keep in touch. You can use my Hotmail or


  16. Steve February 16, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    Hey Courtney,
    Really like your site, my wife and I are 27 and 28 and we are doing something similar to you down in Florida. We really enjoy reading your blog. We will be leaving the Tampa Bay area to travel the intracoastal in the next few weeks. We don’t have much content yet but if you like to read other blogs written by live-aboards then check us out.

  17. Chris Shelton March 25, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    Just happened to come across your site. I’m a retiring science teacher living in the middle of the country (Missouri) hoping to do a similar thing on a smaller boat with no home port involved. I hope your experience is going well! Did you make it through the winter as you had planned in your writing?

  18. Miles Helmick July 1, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Hi Courtney,

    Blog is a great read, great inspiration! Coming up on a year, it’d be neat to hear the differences between expectations and realities of living aboard. Costs and other things etc.

    Thanks for the ongoing inspiration!


  19. Dave S. July 20, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Liv’in my dream!
    I just read thru this. How absolutely kewl!
    It has, for several years, been my dream to live aboard a S/V, probably in Florida, when I retire. Yes, I love hot weather.
    I sail a Pearson30 in Wisconsin. It’s fun, has taught me a lot, but just wets my appetite for living that life style.
    I hope you truely enjoy it. I’m sure it has it’s frustrating moments but as far as I am concerned there is nothing in this world better than waking up on a sailboat to a beautiful sunrise and a new day.
    Good for you,

  20. nikki wynn August 22, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    So excited to see you doing this! We are thinking of doing the same and I can’t wait to see how the next several months unfold for you! I would love to chat some time if you are up for it. Check our website and shoot me an email if you are interested. We are land nomads now and would love to make a few friends in the water.

  21. Nancy Dee September 8, 2012 at 11:46 am

    I have lived aboard several boats, from a 50′ yacht complete with a bathtub to a 28.5 Bayliner. I’m now 53 years young and living aboard a 34′ sailboat with my very experienced sailing husband. We are in Southern California June-Oct then we return to our home in Florida with all the fixings. None of my FL friends understand how I could leave my beautiful country club home & live on a boat. My reply ” why would we live in a house when we could live on a boat?” Granted, it is only for 4 months a year, but as I write this, I am onboard and not missing a big house and all the “stuff” at all. Just a few tips: replace Tupperware containers for various size Ziplock bags. They get tossed instead of washed when used for food storage. I got 2X Ziplocks for clothes storage. Amazing how neat my clothes stay (and no wrinkles). Buy as many toiletries as possible in “travel” size. Not that much more expensive & saves space. Stay warmer in the winter by using humidity trappers that hang and convert humidity to captured water. Available Ace hardware, etc. Never buy anything at West Marine & expensive boat stores until you check out RV supplier. Establish an efficient sponge bath method on board for those rainy times you don’t want to go up to shower. On a boat, especially a smaller sailboat, there is bending, stooping, reaching, which doesn’t sound like much but as I get older, I’m convinced this keeps me very flexible. In fact, as I make up the berth every morning when I arise, I probably do more stretching in that 5-10 minutes than most older women do all day! I’m so happy for you, enjoy your adventure. PS: Our good friends live in Port Ludlow. They cruised down in Mexico for 5 years, so I learned a lot from them!

  22. Sherrie December 14, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    wow!!! I’m so excited to hear about all the experiences as I have been thinking of selling everything and moving to a boat for a few years now! I can’t believe you did it in a short time. I own 5 houses and am “stuck” in the middle of the midwest- until the economy turns around enough to get rid of my houses. After I sell them I will have money to buy a boat and start my dream! 🙂
    My husband has no interest in doing this so I actually will do it with or without him. That’s how serious I am!
    Please keep posting all the things to consider and all the great stories- it renews my energy just hearing about all of this!!
    Thanks for the sunshine in my rainy day!!!

  23. Tom B. December 29, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    You are truly an inspiring person! Over the last 40 years I have owned sailboats from a Sunfish to a Gloucester 22. Now at age 67 I have finally bought the boat of my dreams, a 1980 thirty foot Lippincott sailboat. Our boats sound quite similar although our boat will be used for cruising and not full time living aboard. The excitement of being aboard can only be understood by those of us who have the “fever”. As the old saying goes, may you have fair winds and following seas and I look forward to reading more about your adventures living aboard Libby.

  24. Craig February 1, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    I have a 1971 Islander 30 I have been fixing up. I plan to live aboard her, live on her a bit now. Really enjoy the boat. Craig..Olympia 🙂

    1. Courtney February 14, 2013 at 12:30 pm

      Islander 30s are so much fun to sail! Congratulations.

  25. Pat Patsplace April 1, 2013 at 12:45 am

    Hi Courtenay,
    Good luck with your Islander 30. Just finishing a survey on one for a couple here in the Powell River, BC. area and they just love theirs. Hope that you and Riley, Dog with No Fear have a great time. If you’re up Powell River way, give PR Marine Surveyors a call and I’ll buy you a coffee and a biscuit for Riley, Dog with No Fear.


  26. Tracy Rusch May 21, 2013 at 3:15 am

    Many thanks for your essay. I’ve been musing on taking the leap myself for a few years now. Your essay has given me some more food for thought and I may just do it!

    You are just my newest source of inspiration. I have good friends who have been encouraging me to consider the leap. They have lived on a sailboat for 30 years and raised two wonderful children there, both now in their twenties. I have other friends, actually more my family than my ‘blood’ relatives, who own and live on a lovely 52′ sailboat. I could live on that boat in a heart beat and I know that because I did for six weeks when we sailed from Maine to England in 2010. And the warm and friendly culture that seems to exist in a marina is yet another reason to abandon apartment living.

    So many thanks for your essay. You may have provided the last bit of encouragement needed for me to take the leap myself!

  27. mike May 22, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Hi Courtney
    I’ve been trying to convince my spouse to buy a sailboat. I want to sail around the world visiting everywhere I can. I get the feeling it’s going to just be me sailing it, once I get enough money saved up.

    Have you been on long trips on the boat? Is the Islander suitable for offshore?
    How much fresh water and diesel does your Islander hold?

    I hope it’s still going well for you and your fearless friend and that it only gets better.

    1. Courtney May 25, 2013 at 12:53 pm

      Hi Mike,
      Islanders are coastal cruisers, hence the “Islander” name. Libby might have been able to cruise the ocean but not comfortably. If it’ll just be you sailing off shore, you should look up Lin and Larry Parday, who advise to “Go Small and Go Now.” Plenty of little boats can be fine off shore cruisers. There’s a retired couple who sail the Pacific in a Vega 27. Over at, Theresa and Ben sailed the Atlantic on a NorSea 27 and a Bristol Channel Cutter 28. They’re now in search of a new boat for the both of them.

      I didn’t get a chance to take Libby on a longer cruise, but she would’ve been great for it. The water tank was about 20 gallons, and the fuel 30, which was more than enough. Islanders can go all the way up from here to Alaska. Most cruising conditions test the sailor, not the boat. She was a good, sturdy girl, a fantastic sailing vessel. Most people never venture out to the ocean and stay to the coast, and for that Islanders are perfect. Ocean, though might be tough. Islanders are light and fast, and for the ocean you want heavy and stout!

  28. Troy December 6, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    Hi, I just read your story. It’s really inspiring. I decided a couple of months ago that I want to live on a sailboat at least half the year in kind of the same crazy epiphany-like way. My wife and I are working on making it a reality, hopefully over the next year or so. It’s going to be our floating vacation home and then floating retirement home. Smart of you to do it young!
    Good luck to you and your boat.

  29. Connie Blocker December 19, 2013 at 5:54 am

    Hey Courtney,

    I am currently overseas in Afghanistan (5th tour) and am planning on buying a boat to live on when I get back to the states. I’m from Florida originally so my plan is to see if I can’t get stationed at one of the Army bases in Tampa. I thought about a sailboat but have decided on a motor boat instead. I have no clue how to sail (I think it’s awesome that you learned after you got your boat!). I will have alot of window shopping to do when I get back and am still thinking about the logistics of it all. I’d love to live on the hook but since I will be gone during the day for work for about the next 6 years I’m afraid to leave my boat out at sea for that long….is it safe from robbers (haha…..but seriously, is it?) I have a little Shitzu and her name is Chase. I will have to see what she thinks but I’ve had her on my friends small boat and she really loves it!! One other question I had for you is how lengthy was the process of name change for the boat? i was thinking it was as simple as painting over it 😉 I saw a boat the other day online and it’s name was G-Spot……uh…….no way!!! It got me thinking about the name I would choose. I’m still not sure but right now I have a couple of thoughts. It’s really tough to think of one, kinda like what imagine a parent goes through!! I just wanted to tell you that I really admire what you’ve done and thinks it awesome!! It’s been my dream to live on a boat since my first trip to the Florida Keys when i saw the ol’ fisherman and their boats out there living in the hook with their little dingy tied up. What a great life!!!! I love the ocean and swimming, traveling. scuba diving, fishing…all of it. I’ve heard from the nay-sayers and I’m still going to do it. What’s the worst that could happen? I don’t like it….move into an apartment again and now I own a boat- yay!!!! Thanks again for your article!!!! I love it!!


  30. Dilan January 8, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    The Ron that you talked to.. He doesn’t happen to be captain Ron barrow of S/V restless does he? He taught me to sail last year and is a great guy.

    If you are still in the sound perhaps me and my live a board S/V Capri will see you out there. Wouldn’t mind cruising together if we got the chance.

    Wishing you fair winds

    – Dilan

    1. Courtney January 31, 2014 at 2:40 pm

      No, the Ron I was speaking of no longer has a boat, he sails and teaches others.

  31. Nicki February 17, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    Hi Courtney,
    Me and my husband live in Utah and are planning to move to Washington next year to live on a sail boat. My husband became enamored in sailing and just jumped in on teaching himself in the last couple years. I still have a lot to learn and am excited for it. We have a small sailboat now we have sailed on the Great Salt Lake and trailered her to the San Juan’s last year which made us fall in love. I love your blog and find it so helpful in anticipating what we really need, not to mention that it keeps my dream of this lifestyle fueled. I wanted to ask what area you lived in as I am in love with your pics of the harbor seals and sea life. We didn’t see a lot of that in Seattle. Do you have any suggestions for marinas or cities that are more live-a-board friendly. We are pretty open. Thanks again for the inspiration.


  32. Rodney March 16, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    Great! Great! Great! I’m jealous! Good blog! Been also sailboat shopping! Am 62 now retired, time to live aboard…..not board!! Thanks! Great article! Good Luck!

  33. George June 25, 2014 at 8:52 am

    You are an inspiration to many and a life-style leader for the rest. I have been thinking about living aboard a sailboat for 10+ years and have moved closer to that goal every year since.
    I realized many years ago that I need very little to live comfortably and even less to live happily. I thought about living off grid in an inland cabin ever since I was 18 years old (way too many years to admit) but never made the leap. I have been looking for cabins and sailboats for the last five years or so but never found the one that “clicked” like yours did to you. I firmly believe that our destiny is tied to very special places like your boat, my cabin or boat, and the many, many other sites like the ones in your web site. I will keep close tabs on your progress and sincerely hope that we can meet up under sail one of these days. Don’t ever let anyone rain on your parade… are much too self-reliant and cool to let others dictate your future. We share the same dreams except that yours is in progress and mine is still in the dreaming stage. Hope to meet you soon!!!

  34. mitch October 7, 2014 at 8:34 pm

    Im doing the exact same life style change lander 32 in December Im staying local for now.

  35. Fred Engelage May 24, 2015 at 4:18 am

    Way to go. I have done the same thing, I bought a 30 ft Catalina and refurbished her, now she is ready to go, and I will live on her for … how long.
    I enjoy it and really you don’t need a lot of stuff. Short, it is a great life, actually I believe there is nothing better.