The other day my wife, Maria, and I hosted new friends at our home for lunch. They noticed a picture of Maria Elena, our Nordhavn 40 trawler. They were intrigued to learn that we had recently lived aboard (part time) for five years and that we both missed the lifestyle. Their initial response was typical of many people who learn about our “out of the norm living accommodations.” They made comments such as, “Wow, that must have been fun?” They wanted to better understand the pros and cons of living aboard and asked one question that forced me to try to summarize five years into one relatively short answer: “What is a typical day like living aboard?”
Not wanting to turn my answer into an hour-long lecture, I told them I would provide two answers. The first addressing what a typical mid-week day was like versus a weekend day since there can be significant differences. I also conditioned my responses as “typical days” since there are also those unusual days, like when a thunderstorm blows through with strong winds requiring you to run out into pouring rain to tighten the docklines and assist others (always fun)!
WEEKDAYS ON THE WATER
A typical weekday morning started with the alarm going off, reminding me that while I lay in bed in our warm, comfortable stateroom listening to seabirds sing, I still had a job to go to. The alarm sounding 90 minutes after it normally would at home reminded me that my commute was 15 miles, rather than the usual 100 miles. Going upstairs to the galley to brew coffee welcomed me with a breathtaking view. The reflection of boats on the water and the changing colors of the sky were like a living oil painting. The gentle sway of the boat reminded me that though we were tied to the dock, we were detached from everyday life.
After showering and dressing, I always took my coffee and our 10-year-old Chihuahua, Daisy, for a walk. We passed the boat cleaners and divers heading to work and the dockmaster making his rounds at the Sun Harbor Marina in San Diego, where Maria Elena was docked. There was always someone to talk to and I never felt totally alone. When we returned, I was awake and refreshed, ready to go to work. While I was at work, Maria planned her day, which often included shopping and exploring San Diego. I would be back by 5 p.m. for a jog and then I either took out my ultralight fishing gear and made a few casts while Maria prepared dinner, or performed some boat maintenance—a never-ending task.
There is little time to get bored when living on a boat. The physical exercise it took to maintain our boat helped us stay in great shape. Whether filling the freshwater tanks from the dockside hose, tightening the docklines, or polishing the railings, we were always using our muscles. While some would view these tasks as inconvenient, we viewed them as part of the experience and enjoyed them.
Some evenings, we ran to local stores and ate at nearby restaurants. But since we enjoy cooking, we usually favored onboard meals. In the winter we dined out more often to deal with the shorter days. In the summer, we barbequed and ate on the upper deck, enjoying the view of passing boats, or we dined in the pilothouse with its view of the San Diego skyline. Often, we took advantage of the longer summer days, anchoring in a nearby cove and having dinner before returning by sunset. After dinner, we went for walks before settling into the saloon for a little television before retiring. Another benefit of living in San Diego was the nightly fireworks display from nearby SeaWorld.
A typical weekend morning would start at the same time as a weekday morning. There was more activity on the docks, as people would arrive Friday evening after work. It was a little difficult to sleep in due to the activity surrounding the marina. People strolling along the docks, pushing carts, talking about the weather and who was going where, and the sound of boats starting up and heading out made it too exciting to sleep. On days we did not plan to take the boat out, we enjoyed our coffee in bed while watching TV. Afterward, we would clean the boat, cook, talk with others at the marina, run to the store, and prepare for marina-sponsored events. We did whatever we felt like doing since we were never on the clock.
When we cruised up the coast, we were gone by 6 a.m. and returned either late Sunday, or if my work schedule permitted, Monday or Tuesday. When we took the boat out for an afternoon bay cruise, we cast off by noon and soon anchored for dinner. This is one of the great things about living on a boat—you can set your own pace. On holidays, there were parties to attend and fireworks to watch. It was nice not having to worry about traffic or parking. Before we knew it, Sunday evening would arrive and most people would leave, restoring the tranquility that we so enjoyed. To summarize, weekends were whatever we wanted them to be.
Trawler Fest San Diego
After my description, our new friends wanted to learn more about this wonderful lifestyle. You, too, can get more information on living the dream aboard a trawler at PassageMaker’s Trawler Fest San Diego. Join Maria and I this November, where we’ll present a 90-minute talk on our experiences and our plans to build another trawler, which will serve as our new second home. We will be sharing pictures, stories, and a long list of "mistakes" that future liveaboards will find helpful. See you in November!