The process of change

So it is official, after staying two nights in a hotel I can officially say, we haven’t quite settled into the boat yet. Let me explain. This isn’t bad, it’s good. Something has felt off but I couldn’t figure out what. Did this just feel weird living here because it’s a totally new lifestyle for us? Is this just some awkward adjustment period? Well, sort of.

It feels like we have been on one long camping trip. We have been making do. It has been reminiscent of the handful of times we’ve rented a house or cabin for a weekend. You know, like when there isn’t enough of anything to cook with really so you make some random contraption to strain the noodles (really hoping we aren’t the only ones that vacation this way). This is how we are living and two months is my breaking point.


We just got back from a little mini vacation. The girls stayed with their grandparents for two nights and Matt and I said in a hotel in Seattle. If you ever get the chance to stay at the Woodmark Hotel, take it. You won’t regret it. While there, it occurred to me how many things I miss since moving onto a boat. For instance:

• Being able to walk in the door of your house. We climb in and out of our little cubby door every day. I now realize that I took the doors on all of my past homes for granted.

• Having room to move around in the shower. I really miss that. Imagine showering in an old school telephone booth…every morning.

• Good lighting. Our boat is rather dark at night and I am tired of straining my eyes.

• Having all of my own things. We kept quite a few things on the boat from the previous owners. Mistake. It has made this boat not feel like ours. It feels like we are borrowing it.

• Being organized. The lack of space has caused major organizational issues. I like to be organized. It has made me feel unsettled.


All of this is fixable. It’s all part of the adventure. Changing anything is not one single event; rather it is a process over time. With focus, a desired goal can be reached. We want this to work, so it will, we just have to stay fluid in this change.

While we won’t be installing a door or larger shower anytime soon, we can reorganize, clean out and dress up this boat a little. It’s time to make this boat our home.




1. So we have mushrooms growing on the boat. Not on purpose. As you can see there is a clear water leaking issue. I am pretty sure it’s not good to have mushrooms growing inside. I don’t want to ask Google though; I know the news will be bad. We are knee deep in that interesting time when you move into a new space that isn’t brand new. The gloss of your new place starts to fade and…. you know, you start to find little things like five mushrooms or a closet with damp clothes. The true stories start to flow.


2. I am obsessed with the sky and changing weather. I never really knew that I was so into weather. There is something about the drama of the change that I enjoy. Almost every morning I start checking all of the windows at 6:30am to see what the morning light will bring. I have a zillion pictures of the same view only different light and weather. Perhaps I could make a coffee table book for weather nerds like myself, who like to look at the same view. Ha, sounds like a best seller.


3. Seeing as how the mushrooms are thriving, my garden starts are coming along nicely. After looking around I realized I actually have a lot of space for a garden. I am going to have to be careful where I put pots on the boat seeing as how it’s wood and I don’t want to deal with rot. Turns out I am really enjoying designing gardens too.


4. The girls have made themselves right at home in the marina. They chitchat with everyone. There are some dock repairs happening at the Port of Friday Harbor and there is a crane. Lyla has all sorts of questions about the project. As we were walking by one day, she stopped and looked at one of the guys and said “So how’s the project going?” in the very serious ‘I’m a Project Manager’ sort of way. He gave a vague answer and it’s probably better that he didn’t give details or she might start checking back in on progress.


5. The crockpot has been saving us lately. We finally made a full menu for the week and that has helped. It’s amazing what a little organization can do. Who knew you could crock pot spaghetti squash, it’s a thousand times easier than cooking it in the oven and the results are the same.


6. We are spending way more time interacting with each other on this boat. By being in such a small space we talk to each other more. There has been a considerable shift in the amount of quality conversation we have and it’s lovely. We also spend a lot more time laughing together, the simplicity of life has made us all lighten up a little bit. Don’t get me wrong though, not all moments are roses, if Sissy can’t find her keys, no one is happy.

Tiny Space = Tiny Toys

This past weekend we took the ferry to the mainland to do some grocery shopping and to get a toaster oven. I never thought I would be so excited to purchase such a simple appliance however it holds the promise of baked chicken and perhaps a pizza or two. Additionally, we make our own raw food for Charlie dog and he was starting to get some interesting meals so it was time to buy a few items in bulk for the pup.

As we were making our lists for things we needed to get, it started to dawn on us that we really couldn’t purchase that much because we didn’t have the room. A trip to Costco just didn’t make sense. Did we really need 87 fruit leathers on the boat? Where would we put all that toilet paper? Certainly not on the boat, the level of moisture would ruin it in no time. It appears when our Costco membership expires we won’t be renewing. This new lifestyle is causing us to make very conscious spending choices and ultimately saving ourselves a load of money. We are discovering we don’t need much day to day.

Living here on San Juan Island has its perks. Nothing is commercialized here. My kids have zero brand recognition. It’s lovely. They don’t know what a drive through is and they don’t have a special drink at Starbucks they must have. We don’t have television so there really is no way for them to know about all the marketing of brands to kids. A Barbie doll is something they saw once at the thrift store, but she had tattered hair and didn’t seem that interesting. They don’t know she has a castle or a convertible. That’s okay though, we don’t have the room. Barbie doesn’t need a castle; she really should downsize and be practical. Minimalist Barbie probably wouldn’t be a big hit at the holidays; she would have no extra accessories.

Before we left on our day trip, both girls asked if they could get a new toy off the island. We said yes, as there are very few times in a year we get them new things. We saved the trip to Target for last and the girls were buzzing with excitement. Once we got to the toy section, we each took one of the girls and started to wander the aisles. This is something we have NEVER done. It was fascinating. They didn’t want any of the toys. They all related to characters they didn’t know and nothing looked interesting to them. They each ended up with a tiny three dollar toy from some random bins and a small net to catch shrimp and kelp. They were happy as can be. The other intriguing part of the whole trip was the fact that they didn’t ask for anything. We didn’t see that coming. We were ready with all of our reasons why we couldn’t have everything they wanted. It seemed as though the simplicity of our current life has them wanting less. Lyla even mentioned that she could keep her tiny toy on the shelf next to her bed and it would fit perfect there. She knew she needed something small for her space.


As soon as we got home, Lyla was out on the dock swishing her new net into the water catching kelp. She was thrilled. Sissy used her new faux key chain to lock everything up on our dock and “drive” the boat. The simplicity of it all was so nice. They wanted things that related to our space, not just anything to have something. It was one of the first concrete examples I have seen in our kids relating to our lifestyle change and it was a refreshing.

The Job of Cooking

We had our first dinner on the top deck of our boat two nights ago and honestly someone should have come by to hand out an award. I thought we were never going to eat that night. Daylight savings has afforded us the extra light we have needed to enjoy the evenings a little more. Not to mention the sunny-all blue sky fifty degree days have made everything a little better. However, cooking on our boat has continued to plague us. It’s one of the only things that is still a mess.


As of late, our normal dinner situation has consisted of our girls sitting in camping chairs while using another chair for a table as Matt and I sit on the couch and eat. It’s messy; usually the littlest one tips over in her chair and dinner is always guaranteed to be everywhere. Once we accepted all these things, it became less hectic. Getting food to everyone has seriously been the hardest part.

I certainly don’t fancy myself to be an amazing chef but I love to cook and try new recipes. We try to eat mostly meat and fresh vegetables (local when we can) with very few grains, dairy, sugar or processed anything. We all just feel better when we eat this way. The trouble is though; it has been so easy to fall back into making tacos or eating spaghetti or similar items. They are the quick and easy meals that require no thought and then make us feel like crap.

Focusing on food is becoming a priority again for me. I am starting to feel more and more like we actually live on the boat and not like we are just visiting. This isn’t one long vacation. The acceptance of this reality has caused me to start to realize each piece of our day has to feel right. We can’t just make do; we have to make it work for us.


We have a table on our top deck and seats for everyone. It’s quite nice really. I made a fabulous spinach/sausage/bean soup the other night and we trucked it up the ladder and to the table. Despite Sissy spitting most of it out “no like it” and another bowl being spilled, it was the nicest meal we have had in awhile. The sun was setting, harbor seals were out swimming and it was warm. Having a proper space to sit and enjoy almost feels like the motivation I have needed to pull our food situation together. I have found a few resources relating to cooking on a boat and their enthusiasm is contagious. I am trying to embrace the frugal/minimalist side of cooking and it almost feels like having another job. We’ll get it mastered, I have no doubt. It’s gonna take some time though, so if you are thinking of stopping by for fancy appetizers at sunset, you might want to either bring them yourself or come by in June.

Top ten signs we live on a boat

1. I now determine whether I am going to go grocery shopping on the tide. There are a series of ramps here at the marina that move up or down depending on the tide. So if it low tide the ramps are steep and this lady is not grocery shopping. When we were moving onto the boat I decided to start down a very steep ramp with a very full dock cart. Needless to say, had Matt not been right behind me, a good portion of our kitchen wares would have been on the sea floor. Lesson learned.

2. Taking a $3 shower would be AMAAAAZING! We have a shower on the boat but it’s small and the temperature can be a little temperamental. Sometimes using the marina showers is just easier. They cost money though. Six quarters gets you five minutes. Every minute after that is one quarter. Seriously, three dollar showers = eleven minutes of bliss. Might be worth it one day.

3. I would be the happiest person ever if we never received another tangible gift. I’m not an ungrateful person; we literally don’t have the room. We are slowly transitioning our thoughts to making gifts more about experiences and less about things.

4. I now scout out solar panel and wind turbine set-ups. It’s been interesting to see our power use. We really don’t use much, however with a little work, we could use even less.

5. When friends have us over we gauge whether they are the type that would think it’s weird if we ask to do laundry.

6. I’ve started to wonder how far my kids can walk into town with their life jackets on. There’s a point where it’s time to take them off. That location is still a little fuzzy to me.

7. I could not be more thrilled about the level of humidity on my boat. It has created the optimal growing environment for my herb garden.

8. ‘Checking on something’ in the boat usually means moving a lot of things around to open a hatch or get into the bottom of a closet. Every tank, motor and trap is hidden in the most random place. Nothing stays put away for long.

9. Walking the girls back to the boat in the pouring rain with groceries in paper bags all the while facing into a stiff wind still makes me feel pretty lucky. I will never take this experience for granted.

10. I’m pretty sure I was the only person hoping not to win the giant stuffed animal in the raffle I entered a few weeks ago. My eye was on winning as I filled out my little slips in the store and the error of my ways dawned on me moments later. Thankfully, I rarely win anything or we would have a five foot tall giraffe on our boat with us.

Spring on the boat


1. The spring rains have arrived. March can get a little rainy around here, but I have to tell you, despite the number of towels we need for all the leaks, being in our boat during a hard rain is glorious. The overwhelming sound of rain hitting the windows, the sway of the boat, the change in temperature which you can literally feel, the smell of salt air and rain and the ever changing sky- it all combines together perfectly.

2. We have a few tasks to complete this spring. Some more fun than others. I know there will be an ever growing and changing list of things we need to do, but that’s okay. These are the kinds of projects we like to do, that’s half the reason we have this boat. For the spring, we have the following things lined up:

– new toilet
– replacing the zincs- this basically has to do with counteracting galvanic corrosion on your boat using zinc. I only learned about this because it’s hugely important. It all happens on the bottom of your boat. Matt said he ‘know’s a guy who know’s a guy’… kidding, sort of. This will be taken care of soon.
– Filling in leaks.
– I am determined to have a garden somewhere on our boat. I’m going to be doing starts soon.
– Painting the living room- right now the room is this mustardy orange color that isn’t working for me. I found a much softer cream color which will brighten this whole place up.


3. I sat up on the top deck of our boat the other night. We don’t spend much time up there currently because it’s cold but I needed 20 minutes to myself. Right now there are canvases on the back of our boat. We have never seen the boat with these off. I literally cannot wait to hang out on our deck this summer. It’ll be like getting a new boat all over again.

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4. We have a sweet dog, Charlie. He’s a nine year old lab and is as gentle as they come. He’s such a good sport and has always just seemed wise. Like he gets it. Getting Charlie on and off the boat is a little tricky though but we are all getting better. Charlie isn’t so worried anymore and we know when he needs help. The biggest adjustment is having to walk him again to use the bathroom, no more yard to play in. We’ve found plenty of fields for him to play in though, so I would say it working out pretty well for him.

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5. Those ‘snakes’ I found turned out to be ribbon worms. They have pinchers and aren’t that friendly but not nearly as scary as snakes. Good news is we haven’t seen them since that night so I’m hoping they are migratory and just stopped by on their way south or something.

Otters AND Snakes?

When my children go to sleep at night, we often talk about different things they can imagine to help them drift off to sleep. Entire imaginary worlds have been created in a very short time often leaving me wishing I could just lay down and drift off to sleep letting the beautiful dolphin world wash away my day. The innocence and depth of a four year olds imagination is magical.

Living on an island has its perks for the over zealous childhood imagination. When fears of lions and bears and monsters enter the conversation it’s so easy to say “Oh honey, those things don’t live on our island, we only have friendly creatures here.” That’s the truth. When we moved onto the boat it was even easier to distance ourselves from the “scary” land creatures. However, they were quickly replaced with the scary sea creatures…. the octopus that could climb the side boat or the jelly fish that could open windows. Admittedly, that’s some scary stuff. Thank goodness that stuff doesn’t happen….

Fast forward a few days, and Matt and I are talking. He casually says, “We are gonna have to make sure otters don’t get into our boat. I saw one with the longest body yesterday, it was HUGE!” Wait, what? Otters? Why would they be in our boat? Aren’t they nocturnal anyway? Does this mean you saw a rabid one? (I don’t even know if they can have rabies, I am just applying raccoon logic to them, since they are in the weasel family and that’s close enough, right?) This new little piece of information my husband shed light on was not music to my ears.


Turns out river otters are aplenty here in the marina and they love to make little homes on boat decks. Despite being called a river otter, they can apparently function quite well along coastal shorelines and can also wreck havoc a boat. Could you imagine if an otter ended up in our living room? I did for just a minute and realized it would take a while for me to recognize the hilarity of the situation. After plenty of research and conversation it sounds like our back deck is most likely where we would find them, not, say, the galley. Chances are my screaming will rid the boat of an otter should I find one, but I did discover that they can be aggressive, so hopefully we won’t have an “Otter Attack”. I will lose my mind. I haven’t really heard or read about that happening so hopefully it’s not one of those, “it’s only a matter of time” situations. Yikes! Bonus for the otters though, they are cute.

Then last night, Matt poked his head into the boat and said, “You should come out on the dock for a minute. I found something cool.” What should my wondering eyes see, but what looked like thirty or so bright orange snake/worms swimming around our neighbors slip. Matt shined the flashlight into the water and we just stood there staring, silent. Having taught Environmental Education for years, we both felt confident in our marine ecology knowledge. We did not know about these little fella’s though. Instantly, I saw my visions of taking a refreshing dip into the sea over. Why would I swim with snakes or worms or what ever they are? That is fodder for a good horror flick, not an afternoon of fun aboard the Wild Rose.

So, it’s back to the books I go to find out what these things are and whether they are seasonal or if they are going to bit my leg off should I take a dip. If you know, please tell me so that I can rest easy. I’d like to get back to dolphin village utopia as I drift off, but last night, all I could think about was snakes swimming under my bed, literally.