Easy Living in the San Juan Islands


Well we’ve made it six months on the boat.  I’m sure our congratulatory plaque is just being finished up.  I do have to say though; the living is easy these days.  Summer on a boat in the San Juan Islands is pretty beautiful and relaxed.  Life is simple which is allowing for way more time to do the things we love. 


Don’t get me wrong though, it hasn’t all been sunny days on the deck around here.  An old wood boat needs lots of work and I’d love to say *we* have been busy but really it’s been Matt.  He’s done an amazing job organizing what needs to be done in what order and he is always asking people what they recommend.  We have had a steep learning curve but that is also what we wanted.  The challenge of something new is what keeps the days interesting.      

It has been so fascinating to live smack dab in the middle of a tourist destination.  Literally.  Boat loads of tourists arrive every day.  Some days I start to believe I am on vacation too.  Everyone is so friendly, it’s always cocktail hour and ice cream seems to be the official food of the marina.  It’s glorious at times.  Some days though, I dream of fall when the island slows down a bit.  Fall makes this place feel like a secret again.

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I never could have pictured what summer would be like for our girls.  I didn’t know what to expect.  I knew what they wouldn’t have such as a yard or a quiet neighborhood to roam.  In all honesty, I was a little nervous as to whether we were robbing our children of a certain kind of childhood.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  This is where they belong.  They are masters at catching shrimp, their knowledge of boats is increasing rapidly, their playground is everywhere and socially they are growing leaps and bounds due to the insane number of people they talk with daily.  Lyla knows what dock has the best fishing (it’s totally G Dock) and Savannah has a solid handle on who has the fluffiest and nicest dogs.  It can be easy to want to recreate situations we had in childhood for our children but I can honestly say our girls are getting to draw the map for themselves.  This is all new to all of us.

girls shadow



As for the boat, it has everything we need.  We have plenty of space and it’s a solid home for us.  We got this specific boat because of the size and space not because we loved classic wood boats.  We quickly learned though it’s a wood boat enthusiasts’ dream.  I may never get used to people stopping by and just staring at our boat.  We have learned a lot this way though.  It seems our boat might be one of two of this kind ever made with a hardtop.  I guess it was too difficult to ship so they stopped making them.  I find this so fascinating and continue to look for more info on the history of this style of boat.  We are always looking for similar boats to ours and when we find them we are quick to go talk with the owners to learn as much as we can.


Matt has been hard at work patching all the spots where we think the leaks are coming from.  You need long stretches of dry warm weather to fix the spots so time is of the essence.  We can take as many guesses as possible this summer and then wait till the rains arrive and hope for the best.  I think we have a good handle on it though.  Matt also got one of the engines running and the other is not far behind.  We are in no hurry to take the boat out.  We see this as a long term process for us so we don’t want to rush.  Plus it’s our house- if something happens we really don’t have a lovely two-story to move into.  It’s our journey and it’s unfolding at the pace we need. 

Hands down this has been the scariest yet best decision we have ever made.  It has forced Matt and I to work together in new ways and allowed us to see our girls grow with us in this new experience.  We are going to be on the boat for a long while.  I often wonder why everyone isn’t living this way, but I also get it.  Taking a leap into the unknown is scary but let me tell you, it’s totally worth it.



These are the days…

The weather around here has been amazing which has meant spending about a million more minutes outside. We have been talking more about taking the boat out. We still have a few things to take care of but with this nice weather upon us, it has us getting a little antsy. I think it might be best if Matt takes the boat out first without me on it. I actually feel like I might be more of a problem than a help. I think we will both be happier with this decision. I will have a zillion questions and know that I would be telling Matt to watch out for everything. My two greatest worries are backing it out of our slip and getting the boat out of the marina. I also worry a touch about sinking. However, about two weeks ago a boat blew onto the rocks in the marina one night and sat that way all day. High tide came and the boat was wiggled free and from what I can tell is perfectly fine. That gave me a little better feeling; it made me realize I consider boats more fragile than they are (don’t get me wrong, I was worried all day about whether the owners would lose their boat- we all cheered when it floated to safety).

boat on rocks

We have been taking care of a few things around the boat. We had the zincs changed and are starting to patch up some leaks. A funny thing though, all these NEW leaks have appeared. It has become pretty humorous at this point; we are so proud once one leak is contained and then we literally turn around and find a brand new one. Here’s to hoping for longs stretches of warm sunny days. This boat needs to dry out a little.

Days on the docks are getting way more fun with the girls. We have been throwing crab pots in just to catch and release and have also been practicing fishing off the back of the boat. Both girls are pretty into fishing and crabbing and are so curious about all the new creatures we’ve come across. They have no fear of snapping crab claws and I’m pretty sure they would make homes for them and bring them in if we let them.


Popeye, the infamous harbor seal has been stopping by the boat almost nightly and usually otters are playing while we eat dinner. It is such a neat thing to see but trying to get a two and four year old to focus on dinner with that show happening is tough competition.


I have been getting up super early and taking walks with our dog. It has been so nice to watch the sun rise and town is empty plus the flowers are amazing right now. That time is quickly becoming one of my favorite things about my day.


Lyla wants to eat the seaweed we have found. I know you can eat seaweed and might do a little research on how to dry our own. There are a ton of varieties and it is a great source of potassium, I just want to make sure we eat the right thing. It’s usually not a good idea to start snacking on every little thing you find.


I finished the website for my new business, Island Grocery Grabber. I am ready for business. I’m so interested to see where it goes and I’m excited to grow it into something useful for island residents and visitors. I am working on my marketing plan right now so folks can find me.

We found a sandy beach on the island and it’s our new hangout. I’m trying to let the girls play more on their own and have space to explore. Being on the boat has caused us to spend way more time playing and talking with one another. It’s a small space for four people to swirl around. Let’s just say we are getting pretty good at sharing. So beaches have become my answer. I get to have a few minutes of quiet in my favorite environment and the girls have wide open space to use their imaginations. So far, it’s working out.


The Beauty of Simple

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We purchased this boat with the intention of saving money for three to five years to buy land on San Juan Island. We wanted five acres and a tiny house so that we could essentially homestead on the island. We underestimated how much we would enjoy living on a boat. I think we might be in this boat for the long haul.

Each time we stay overnight somewhere other than our boat, I miss being on the boat more and more. What I miss most is the closeness to the out of doors that we feel each day. When we stay in a house or hotel I have no idea what the sunrise or sunset looks like, how the stars were that night or what stage the moon is in. Even for one night, I miss it. I miss the fresh air. I miss feeling the boat move with the change of weather. I also miss that cozy feeling of our family hanging out in our small space.

Now when we talk about buying land, it’s more about starting a family farm to work on, but not live on. We talk about using the land to provide for our family but having our home on our boat. There is something so beautiful and unique about living on the water. I didn’t know how much it would influence our family when we made this choice. I didn’t know the profound impact it would have in relation to who we inherently are and the beauty in simplicity it has unlocked.

I know this journey has only begun. Hell, we haven’t even left the dock yet. Ha! In time, in time. With each new change in life, we grow a little more individually and as a family and this adventure is proving to be no different. It would be so easy to find negative things with how we are living, but why? Focusing on the positive of this experience has allowed us to have clarity on where we are headed and all of the beauty this path in life has in store.

I am grateful each day that the choices we have made in life have lead us to the opportunities we have. I truly believe that my eyes have only been opened up to this gratefulness because of the change we have made in our lifestyle. Simplicity has given me a sense of place and it has provided such a feeling of comfort. I am also only beginning to understand the true gift we are unintentionally giving our children and so eager to see what this next season of spring brings.

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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.