Thursday, October 23, 2014

Raising boat kids

The view out our back door.

These are some of the responses I get when I tell people we live on our boat with two little kids:

"How do you do it?"
"You're such a trooper."
"You're a saint."
"You live on a...?"
"So...where does everyone sleep?"
"What do you do about toys?"

It is so hard to explain that my life is not much different from a landlubber's life. I have the words. I have 101 different ways to say that my life is similar to any stay-at-home-mom's, but it's hard to explain it. I say things like:

"It's like living in micro."
"We basically live in a small apartment, that floats."
"We have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, a dining room, a living room, and a back deck."
"It's no harder than living in a third floor walk-up in the city."
"You should see the pool."
"We have less stuff. We go outdoors a lot."
"The girls are little, they don't need big spaces."

Small girls play in small spaces.
This is the "kid space" - a corner of the main cabin that is designated as "kid only."
An impromptu reading nook, about 2 feet x 2 feet. Perfect for 2 small girls.

But even when people come over to the boat and see the space and the layout for themselves, they still shake their heads and say: "I don't know how you do it. I know that I never could."

Since I'm living out of the mainstream, I rarely walk into the mainstream - into someone's house or apartment - and shake my head and say: "I don't know how you do it. I know that I never could." (Which, don't get me wrong, is a totally understandable and fine thing to say. I absolutely don't take offense at all.) But what I want to say when I'm in a house is:

"Oh my word. There is a lot of stuff to clean."
"Wow. We'll have to buy a lot of furniture if we ever move ashore."
"What is in all these cabinets in the galley-I mean, kitchen?!"
"How long does it take to clean the whole house?" (Seriously, the idea of cleaning a whole house is daunting.)
"A full-size washer and dryer, steps away from the bedroom?!"
"How exactly do you start up a lawnmower?"

I drool over the counter space and the dishwasher. I love putting one girl down for a nap and not having to keep everyone else quiet so as not to wake her. I love watching the girls run around like crazy.

Living in a boat at a marina is a lot like living in a third story condo without an elevator. We have to schlep groceries from the car, down the dock, and up into the boat. I have to heave the stroller onto the boat. We have a great back deck, awesome views, and the option of going on vacation without packing a bag. We have all the amenities of living in a community with none of the work: trash, recycling, water, pool, clubhouse, barbecue areas. 

Four people living on a 36' boat. The girls have their own beds that no one else can go in without their permission; Hans and I work to give each other time and space alone. But, it's true. We are on top of each other, a lot. Sleep is difficult; it seems like someone is always waking someone else up. The girls fight over their toys, Hans never has a minute at home alone because we're always here, Matilda always seems to get her hands on things like markers and sunglasses and phones no matter how hard we try to keep that stuff away from her, the shower is tiny and only useful when I can't make it up to the marina, I wish the girls had bigger toys like a train set and an easel, I would love space in the galley to store a deep fryer and a food processor and a juicer. The small space means we have challenges and we have wants. But, overall, small isn't a bad thing. I embrace small.

Small space means: 
  • less stuff
  • less clutter
  • less things to buy (we have no room for throw pillows, decorative vases, end tables, or knick knacks)
  • more time outdoors (it's easy to get bored in a small space. The great outdoors is our living room.)
  • lots of emphasis on non-toy activities for the girls: art, music, dress-up, and imaginary play like cooking are big hits
We're outdoors, a lot. Hanging out by the inlet, watching boats.
You know, because we don't get enough of that at home.
We have challenges, yes. But I'll venture a guess that living in a big, or even medium-sized house has its own, different set of challenges.

Good living.


  1. Love this! I know I was amazed you lived on a boat because I came from a landlocked city...water in general is amazing to me!!! After seeing where you live, I definitely see the perks of living so close to nature. It's beautiful!

    1. Thanks Megan! Yes, the close to nature part is the best. It wasn't so great during winter in Philadelphia, but I'm enjoying these cool fall temps now. I have a feeling that winter won't be too rough. :)