Suitable live-aboard.

I first came across the term ‘suitable live-aboard’ in the classified section of a sailing magazine. I guessed that a boat suitable for living aboard would have space comparable to a small apartment together with a few creature comforts. Television, a fridge for the beer and a bathroom with at least a shower if not a small tub.

House_boat_backwaters-e1387915356611By contrast, an ‘unsuitable live-aboard’ would not enable standing up without bending over and you’d have to get used to warm ale and peeing it over the side.

I’ve since lived aboard a thirty-five foot Robert Perry designed cutter and learned that ‘suitable live-aboard’ has to be decided from within and in the wake of a harsh winter or two. More than that, it calls on the company you keep.

There are couples who would find a Carnival cruise ship too small to live-aboard happily and in harmony. And there are others who thrive on a hundred square feet tossed about in the eye of a hurricane and two thousand miles from the nearest Starbucks.

Many years ago, Robert Manry set out to cross the Atlantic in a thirteen-foot sailboat he called Tinkerbelle. It took three months, but he made it after narrowly avoiding collision with several freighters, being tossed overboard innumerable times and suffering hallucinations. Still, the low point in Manry’s perilous journey came within final sight of land and the realization that soon he would be able to stretch his legs and wander to the nearest pub without risk.

There are families whose core strength comes largely from years spent travelling the world and calling a weathered forty-foot ketch ‘home.’ At the same time, there are millionaires who’ve put hundred-foot ocean liners up for sale seeking more room, when what they really need is more agreeable companions.

I kayak a lot in the Gulf and San Juan Islands and love ghosting along marina slips and paddling out to see what and who is on the hook. Kayakers are non-threatening and likely to be invited aboard and I often am. It’s become clear to me that the perfect boat is the one that houses the perfect relationship. In fact, more often than not, the happy couple I share a glass of wine with is talking about ‘downsizing.’ They really don’t need all the space they have. They’re close and want to be closer.

The first boat I owned was an eighteen-foot, double-ended sloop with an ancient single-cylinder engine providing most of the ballast, together with a beam-to-beam berth and not much else. It was a suitable live-aboard for many fine weekends and remains one of my fondest memories although I’ve owned several larger boats since them.

By now I’m convinced that ‘suitable live-aboard’ has more to do with space we make for others than the space on our boats.

11 years ago

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