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.

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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.



Project: Get rid of our shit

We have never been huge ‘let’s go shopping all day’ consumers.  However, it seemed we always found something we needed every time we went to a store.  The kitchen gadget which made omelets better, the new lotion that would make me glow, the magic baby gizmo promising to solve all of our problems and the little toy that just had to be purchased (damn you Dollar Store).  We had those things.  More of those things than I thought.  It was easy to go to the store and justify the purchase.

When we started to talk about moving onto a boat, we quickly realized we couldn’t bring all our things with us.  We only had room for the things we actually used everyday.  Think about that for a minute.  If it wasn’t part of our daily or weekly routine we couldn’t bring it aboard.  It took some time for me to wrap my head around this concept.  The waffle maker couldn’t come.  It didn’t get used enough.  No more closets full of things.  I knew I wanted to simplify my life but it didn’t register just how simple we were going to get.

We knew we wanted a storage unit (10×10) to keep those items that we weren’t really ready to let go of.  We aren’t sure how long we are going to keep the storage unit.  We are slowly starting to realize we may not actually need anything in there really.  However this evolution of thought takes time and I admit I’m not ready to get rid of everything just yet. christmas.january.2014 060

For instance, I have collected a rather large supply of craft items.  However, rarely (okay, never) do I find myself crafting.  But I am ready just in case anyone needs fancy paper cut into tiny circles intricately arranged into crafty awesomeness.  I don’t need this stuff.  If by some miracle I find the project of my dreams, I can gather the supplies.  Odds are though; I won’t be making a single item in my Pinterest craft folder, ever.  I am coming to terms with this.

My husband likes to squirrel away tools and various nuts/bolts/trinkets/gadgets/pieces of wood just in case a project might come up.  They never do.  We have all the tools we need on the boat.  He is coming to terms with this.  (I must say though, we have literally been moving pieces of wood that he thought he needed for years.  I almost died when he told me he got rid of all of it.  ALL.OF.IT.  Progress people.)

These craft supplies/kids clothes/tools/wall art are the items our storage unit holds.  We have had to change our thinking.  We can no longer hold onto the items we might need someday.  Experience tells me we never use them.  We still have a long way to go, but I can tell you, we have made progress in leaps and bounds.

We took no less than seven truck loads of items to the local thrift store, three furniture drop off’s to a friends house, three truck loads to the dump and literally gave away every piece of baby stuff to a woman who wanted our crib.  I wasn’t looking to make money off of our items.  We got our use out of the stuff.  I just wanted it gone.  We laugh now that we can’t go to the thrift store on our tiny island for awhile because it’s probably just looks like our house set up differently.

Some of the hardest stuff for me to let go of were the items from my childhood.  I had three plastic totes full of trinkets and treasures from my youth.  Old trophies, pictures, journals, jewelry, notes from a crush, stuffed animals art projects and dare I even say, old corsages.  I feel like most people have ‘those boxes’ tucked away in the attic/basement/back closet and get them out once in a blue moon for a trip down memory lane.  I started to wonder why I was saving that stuff.  Getting rid of it, didn’t take away my memories, did it?  Even if I got rid of the trophy, I still won the science fair.  Maybe I thought I was going to show my girls one day and it was going to be magical and we were going to have this amazing mother/daughter moment where they would be fascinated with my stories of the ‘old days’.  In all reality I probably would have dragged the box out; they would have rifled through it and then said, “Cool Mom”.  And I would have moved those damn totes around for 20+ years for that?????  No thank you.

I did keep my journals which I have written in since the ripe age of five.  Those are gems.  I’m not sharing them with the girls though.  That’s my reading when I am old and crazy.  I also keep every photograph I found along the process of downsizing.  That’s it though.  The rest is gone and I feel so good with that decision.

Surprisingly enough, our girls started to understand the concept of having less and have been good with getting rid of most items too.  We talked about toys and whether they were garbage or whether we could pass it onto another child.  Being two, Savannah didn’t care.  As long as her beloved concrete lawn squirrel stayed, we were good.  Lyla, however, wanted to keep more and we let her.  This is a work in progress.  We will continue to revisit the toys and talk about what we play with and don’t play with.  This has to be positive for them.  I don’t want them to feel like their stuff just disappears in the night (I was tempted to fill a giant trash bag once they went to bed however Matt was the voice of reason).

So what do we have on the boat?  We each have a small closet of clothes, only the shoes we wear each week, bathroom stuff we use daily, a few blankets, bedding and towels, a handful of toys and puzzles for the girls, enough pots and pans for a meal and enough plates/dishes/cups for each meal.  We have to wash what we use so it’s ready for the next meal.  That’s it.  It’s like we packed for a mini vacation to a cabin.

I have to say, it’s lovely.  We feel so much lighter.  We have more time because we aren’t always putting things away, or doing dishes, or just dealing with our stuff.  I don’t feel like I have less though, I feel like I have more time, money and energy for other things.  You really should try it, get rid of 30 items, you might be surprised how quickly you forget them.