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Feng Shui Your Boat

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"Grace, you're not going to believe what just happened to me! Call me." This is a message I receive frequently in my feng shui (pronounced fung shway) practice. You can tell feng shui is working in your life when amazing coincidences show up out of the blue. On a particularly clear Florida morning I received a version of this message from an excited client who was experiencing a series of life changes and wanted to share her good news with the world. When I called her back she gave me the details, and I understood how astounded her friends and family were at her reversal of fortune. One of her biggest surprises came from her brother, who was so impressed, he wanted to know if I could feng shui his liveaboard boat.

"Of course you can feng shui a boat-you just don't follow the Compass School," I explained. We set the appointment, and while driving to Ft. Lauderdale for his consultation I couldn't help but remember my fifth-grade history lessons. I found myself thinking of the Old Spanish galleons and the carved female figureheads on the front, which were supposed to bring calm seas and good fortune. I wondered if feng shui was applied to boats even then-perhaps just called by another name.

That was several consultations ago, and I am happy to report success. I still don't know how it works, but I do know it works. Feng shui hit the mainland United States after President Nixon opened trade with China. If you have never heard of Oprah or Donald Trump and his deals or have been tucked away on a tropical island, it is possible you have never heard of feng shui.

Feng shui is usually referred to as the "ancient Chinese art of placement" and literally translates as "wind and water." Most people initially think this means the breeze and the liquid a boat floats upon. Actually, it is a metaphor. The water energy symbolizes all we understand from our physical world, our sciencebased education-all that we perceive through our logical senses. The wind energy symbolizes all that is beyond our threedimensional understanding and covers areas such as miracles or answered prayers. When working with feng shui, the wind energy and the water energy, we are dealing with all of the tools the universe has to offer to bring about change in a person's life. The most important lesson feng shui has taught me is that the only thing keeping people from having what they want is not knowing what they want.

Clients are frequently surprised by how personal a feng shui consultation is. Most people seem to expect a recitation of rules that apply to their furniture. But there is much more to feng shui than just moving material objects.

Most families have personal customs and traditions based on their history. One of the processes of a feng shui consultation is to explore how this is true for you.

The Blessing Of The Fleet

The blessing ceremony is an area I regard as very personal. If you follow a particular religion, I encourage you to contact your priest, rabbi or minister for a blessing ceremony. Most will provide this service upon request.

Although your fleet may consist of your trawler and your tender, you may still bless your fleet to bring prosperity and good fortune. Fleet blessing ceremonies have been around since man first bundled reeds together and hollowed out logs for flotation devices. Long ago, Chinese sailors painted eyes on the front of their ships, believing "she" had a soul or spirit and needed to see to find her way during the voyage. Europeans used figureheads to the same end. Another traditional ceremony is the breaking of a bottle of champagne at the initial launch of a vessel.

Before I perform any ceremonies on your boat, we have extended discussions to choose the blessings that resonate with your heart. If you think of yourself as more of a free spirit, you can make up your own, based on your expectation of potential results. You also can refer to merchant marine history books to find a ceremony that suits your needs, keeping in mind that a blessing ceremony is an integral part of wind energy.

What Can Feng Shui Do For You?

As I mentioned earlier, the only thing stopping you from having what you want is not knowing what you want. For many people, this is a difficult quandary. As a society, we have acquired so much so fast that we are in awe of all we do have. Knowing what we really want requires some effort and serious soul-searching. This process will be detailed later and is one you can revisit as frequently as you like.

Once you have figured out what you want, we can look around your living space or boat for an understanding of why you don't already have it. Then, we utilize the principles of feng shui to make the changes necessary to bring the desired results into your life.

The Schools Of Feng Shui

My hairdresser told me that he was walking down Las Olas Boulevard in Ft. Lauderdale recently and overheard a woman telling her husband that she wanted to have their boat feng shui'd. He vehemently declared that he was not going to the harbormaster to insist that their bow point north!

While there are several schools of feng shui, including the Form School, the Pyramid School, the Compass School and the Integrative School, to name a few, volumes have been written debating the advantages of each. They all are good schools and they all work. The important thing is to stay consistent with the school you choose.

I follow the Buddhist Tantric Black (BTB) Sect School. Instead of using a compass to find true north, the BTB School uses the Bagua (pronounced bah gwah) as the compass of the heart. To apply the Bagua to your boat, use the bow to define energetic north.

Remember, it is not about compass points; the compass was invented about 2,000 years ago, but feng shui has been practiced for 3,000 to 6,000 years, depending on whose research you read. (For a history of the BTB School, visit

There are several layers of feng shui. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on four: Symbols, the Cycle of Elements, the Bagua and Cures.


I always begin a feng shui consultation with a conversation to determine what you really want in life. Once we are clear on what you want, we start looking for symbols that mirror your roadblocks. Perhaps you'd like more respect, for example. If you frequently feel that people walk all over you, we would immediately look at where you keep your shoes. I would expect to see them stored over your head. If you have difficulty making decisions or choosing a direction, we might find your shoes stored with the toes pointed in different directions. We all have personal symbols in our environment. It is sometimes difficult to identify our own.

Would you like more intimacy in your relationship? Your bow stateroom is in your Relationship Area. Consider placing two animals that mate for life, such as swans, doves, geese, wolves or penguins, on the starboard side to symbolize the kind of energy you are looking for. Avoid symbols of anything that isn't about commitment, like rabbits or cats.

Not putting something in a certain place is just as important as putting another thing in that place. Just because you read a book indicating something is good feng shui doesn't mean it is good for you. Not all advice is good advice for all people. This is what makes feng shui personal.

Working with symbols is the first area where the process becomes personal. If you are single and like it that way, you might use a symbol of an independent cat to keep you from getting attached. If you store your shoes over your head and have a tendency to be domineering, you may want to leave the shoes there as a tool for balance. It may help keep you from running over other people. If an area of your life is working well for you, leave it alone. For example, do not put an energetic enhancement in place to bring about change in an area that is just fine the way it is.

Cycle Of Elements

The Chinese believe everything that exists on earth falls into one of five basic categories: fire, earth, water, metal and wood. We know from our Western education that these five elements work together in predictable ways.

The Bagua

The Bagua is the energetic floor plan of your boat. The Chinese believe that as the energy of the five elements enters a space, it disburses in a predictable pattern. This pattern is included in the Bagua.

As you view your boat from above, superimpose a tic-tac-toe grid over the floor plan. The center of the bow is in the Fame and Reputation Area. The center of the stern is in the Career Area. Applying the Bagua to multiple decks is a matter of superimposing it on the various levels. The center of the bottom defines the center of the boat, which is where you find the Health Area. Follow a vertical line up and you will identify the Health Area of every level. But not every level will have every area. On a trawler, the bow, bridge, saloon and aft deck are generally on the same level. This is the largest space and incorporates all areas of the Bagua. Belowdecks, the Bagua areas match those above. For example, if it is your Career Area on one deck, it is your Career Area on every deck. As you think about each area of the Bagua, think about how it applies to your life, what works well, what you would like to change and how you would like it to be.

Wisdom-The port aft area of your boat is the Wisdom Area, governing knowledge and self-cultivation. It is about taking care of yourself. Symbols used here are those representing things people want to know more about; that which they aspire to do, be or have. This area is governed by the element of earth. The shape representing earth is square. Have something weighing heavily on your mind? Look here to find a symbol of how it shows up in your life.

Career-Nestled in the center of your stern is your Career Area. Your Career energy isn't about how you make your living; it is about your purpose on earth. Why were you born? What do you want to accomplish while you're here? By activating the Career energy you become in touch with your true purpose for living. The element that governs the Career Area is water, the colors are blue and black. The Chinese believe the deeper and blacker the water, the greater the prosperity. The shape for water is wavy. Symbols for this area are those things found in the water, such as shells or fish. You never see a healthy fish very far from the water.

Helpful People-Also found in the stern of your boat-starboard side-is the area governing Helpful People. This area is about luck. You may say the gods are watching over you, your guardian angel protects you or you just have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. A personal example of Helpful People energy working in my life happened at the Miami boat show this year. I was talking about feng shui and boats with someone who pointed me to the PMM booth. A two-minute conversation led to an unexpected call from Editor Bill Parlatore, who further discussed the possibility of an article for his magazine. The opportunity fell into place very easily. This area is finely tuned when life flows smoothly. The element that governs this area is metal. The shape is round, like the gold nuggets mined from the hills. You're looking for the colors found in metals, such as gold, silver, copper, bronze, etc.

Wealth And Prosperity-This area governs cash flow. We grew up with the cliché that money doesn't grow on trees. Guess again. We can capture the energy of a money tree and enjoy the prosperity it brings by incorporating elements and symbols in this area, which is located at the port side of the bow. The element is wood, which is considered anything that grows with roots. Wood is represented as a rectangular shape. As you gaze across the landscape and let your eyes pick out a tree, notice how its overall energetic shape is that of a rectangle.

Family-This area also is governed by the element of wood. This is the area where you explore the family tree. Genetic problems? Bickering patterns? Look to this area to begin the healing process. If children suddenly start to quarrel, look to this area for recent changes or recently stored clutter. You will find the Family Area on the port side of center.

Fame And Reputation-This area governs the activity of the eyes. How you see the world, how the world sees you and how you see yourself. The element is fire. Think of a freezeframe photo of a fire and you will see points. The colors of a fire are reds, oranges and yellows. People who suddenly find themselves the object of undeserved gossip might not immediately understand that it has to do with a water symbol they put in the bow stateroom (water puts out fire). A strong word of caution here: Fire is not a good thing on a boat. I encourage you to work closely with the cycle of elements if you need help in this area. Instead of adding more fire, how about adding wood? Wood feeds the fire energy and absorbs the water energy of this area.

Relationships-The marriage area. The element is earth, the very foundation that keeps us here, nurtures us and supports us. It enables us to sustain life. The shape is square. Symbols of things that mate for life, such as doves, wolves or swans, will bring in the desired energy here. Use the color of pink for love, blue for honesty and purple for loyalty. The Relationship Area is on the starboard side of the bow.

Children And Creativity-This metal area governs the creative flow of energy. It is not necessary for you to do your creating in this area. However, by enhancing this area you will find that your creative juices flow more freely when you are relaxing and planning. The shape for this area is round. The use of symbols here is more personal. Examine what represents creativity to you and discover a symbol you can place on the center of the starboard side. Health-Lastly, the most important area (the center of the boat) because it is the only area that touches all eight other areas and brings all into balance. It is an earth element, so its shape is square. Its color is yellow.


Feng shui works with the flow of chi, or energy. Chi is your life force. Einstein taught us that all matter is energy. All energy has a life force. Just because we may not understand it doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

A cure is a chi adjustment. You may have heard of lucky bamboo for example. When you place the bamboo in a particular spot to achieve a particular purpose, you are installing a cure. The ancient figurehead put in place to bring calm seas is a cure. Eyes painted on the front of a vessel is a cure. According to BTB, feng shui cures include sound, light, shape, color, symbols, elements and movement.

I briefly pointed out how Helpful People worked so well in my life when PMM found me. I also would like to share how smoothly it all continued to flow. We were at the end of the season in south Florida, and most of the boats were gone. This presented an initial challenge for the article, since I would need lots of boat photographs. A couple of phone calls led me to Anchor Yacht Sales, J.W. Yachts, Bollman Yachts and J. Woods Marine Group-four great brokerages whose staff chauffeured me from boat to boat while I photographed feng shui features, enhancements and cures.