Moving aboard your floating home

There is no “right” way to move aboard and go cruising: the books and blogs are full of different stories that reflect individual approaches and circumstances. Our story is based on a joint dream, years and thousands of miles in our starter cruising boat before buying Totem, delaying our move aboard until shortly before departure, and introducing our plans to most mostly to ourselves until a couple of months before we left.


We might have been a little busy re-configuring down below

By the time we cut the docklines, we had logged so much time in the Salish Sea between the two boats that our little family felt very much at home afloat. What we nearly missed, though, was making sure our boat really felt homey.

It took a little knock upside the head for me to realize how important this was, too. During the couple of years before we each left to go cruising, every now and again my friend Toast and I would duck our day to day responsibilities and sneak off to talk Boaty Stuff together. We were both counting down our timelines for embarking on the cruising life, and since I wasn’t terribly public about our plans, it was invaluable to have a friend to chew through whatever pre-departure questions or challenges loomed largest.  So we’d head for our favorite Thai hole-in-the-wall, and hash it out.

I remember talking over pad sie ew one afternoon about a recent experience she and Dr C had. They we joined another family of prospective cruisers on a daysail on their boat to talk about mutual plans to head south and frolic in warm water for a while. After a few hours together it was her assessment that they weren’t getting far. Cruising is a partnership, but it was clear that the partnership was not in accord on the game plan. The marker? A sterile boat that had all the charm and personalization of a band-aid.

It made me think: what effort was invested to make Totem into home? Our land-house was full of personalization- in the room colors, the artwork, the custom pieces or family that made it unique and special for our family. But Totem… Totem had none of these things.

She nailed something I hadn’t considered. Maybe it’s because Jamie and I both come to cruising from a racing background. Fitting out a cushy cruising boat was a bit of an adjustment! Some families, like the very interesting looking Anasazi crew, make stripped down racing boats work. More likely, though, it’s because we were so  focused on functional specs and adaptations. Jamie reconfigured the aft cabin berth (so our bed could accommodate snuggly little co-sleepers without getting too cramped). He rebuilt the portside seating, so we could fit five people comfortably without having to extend the table to the starboard side (which blocked all through traffic to the forward cabins). Somehow in the midst of all our improvements we were missing an essential element: you can’t make a boat into a home on practicalities alone. And the truth was, I simply hadn’t thought about it.

We found our way, of course. Some very personal artwork. One of our antique maps. Pretty fabric in cabins, new settee covers in the same color scheme.

decking the halls

We figured it out: familiar art, stockings from home, tinsel from Mexico

Of course, more things come over time- I love looking at the gorgeous nautilus shells we found in PNG, the triton we traded for, the pandanus mats on the cabin sole. You’ll add things over time: artwork from places you’ve visited- I love looking at Ceilydh’s collection in their main cabin.

With 20/20 hindsight, thank goodness for being prodded to remember the softer side of moving aboard, and thank goodness for Girlfriend Time.

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8 Responses to Moving aboard your floating home

  1. Windtraveler March 13, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

    Great post Behan, as usual. Feeling “homey” is so important…little touches can make all the difference. 🙂

    • Behan Gifford March 14, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

      thanks B.- it surely is important! somehow I needed to have it plastered in front of my face first…

  2. More Joy Everywhere March 13, 2013 at 11:04 pm #

    Underway and overwhelmed for more than a year… we’re past due for a little “prettifying.” Thanks for the spark.

    • Behan Gifford March 14, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

      OK, but I’d still like to know if Ean to come visit Totem and do a little consulting. We don’t have a good eye! thanks guys 😉

  3. Kyra and Rick March 13, 2013 at 11:39 pm #

    Loved your focus on this one Behan – for us, it’s always been about that homey feeling – our boat is old and worn but we have walls full of photos and art bits from friends and family, we painted our bulkheads yellow and blue, added funky fabrics. I even painted artwork on the locker doors in the galley and head (most of it was already painted blah. I needed to have a home to live this kind of life. It sounds like you ended up finding a nice balance.

    • Behan Gifford March 14, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

      Thanks Kyra- I can’t wait to see your boat someday!

  4. Mid-Life Cruising! March 14, 2013 at 3:53 am #

    Great post, and the pic above looks very much like a home! We haven’t moved aboard yet, but I’m already collecting pictures of friends and family for our boat, and plan on bringing the little pieces of home with us.

    • Behan Gifford March 14, 2013 at 5:41 pm #

      It’s an ongoing process, to be sure… but having stuff when you start sure helps. good luck with your plans!

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