Q & A: Living on a Boat!

 We moved on to Seas Life, a 43-foot Catamaran, in June 2017 based out of Norfolk, VA. Watch a video of  how it all started! 

We moved on to Seas Life, a 43-foot Catamaran, in June 2017 based out of Norfolk, VA. Watch a video of how it all started! 

Below are questions we received from you guys! We hope we've answered them with enough detail, but if you're wanting to know more about this lifestyle, buying a boat, or living on a boat, send us an e-mail: seaslifeforgood@gmail.com. 

How much do you love it? 

Ryan: LOVE LOVE LOVE IT! Even when others might think it sucks, I love it. I often sit and stare aimlessly into the water and think of how lucky I feel to be here now doing this; how beautiful our surrounding world is. Back on land, my life was rushed, but out here, it’s different, calm, serene.

Sheena: There are pros and cons to everything in life (exactly the same way as living in a home on land!) It is hard to put a single number or word on it because it is more like a room full of knobs that increase and decrease depending on the circumstances. But mostly, I love traveling and not having to report to a 9-5 job that stresses me out every day. I love having the freedom! That is an incredible part of this that land just doesn’t seem to grant you. It’s very expensive to live on land! It’s far cheaper to live on the water, fish and shop for local foods, and maintain your dry goods and the clothes that you have instead of being always tempted to buy more, more, more. I also love that this life provided me time and space to put all of my energy toward my own business. It made me a better entrepreneur. I needed this sheltered time. 

What are some of the challenges of getting to a new port? 

Ryan: Weather always wins. Stay and wait for windows or the challenges will arise. Pick a line of travel that won’t rock and break things in the boat or on the boat, especially when you know you have at least 12 more hours of beating into it.

Sheena: To save money, we anchor (you can anchor anywhere in the water for free!) When we’re coming into a new port, you have to be aware of your surroundings: look for the proper markers, stay in the channel, monitor the tide and the currents and the winds and the depth of the water. Once you find a safe anchorage, you have to make sure you have enough anchor chain out so that you won’t drag (this is one aspect of physics behind sailing). You also have to make sure you have enough room around you so that your boat can shift with the changes of winds and tides without hitting any other boats. 

How do you meet people?

Ryan: I talk to everyone.

Sheena: The sailing community is an incredibly kind folk! They will dinghy right up to your boat for a good conversation which usually means someone is being invited to dinner! We also meet people every time we go on land: in yoga classes, in ballet classes, at stores, in restaurants. 

We meet a lot of people through Instagram! Whenever we’re in the same port, we connect for meals or good talks, and then we continue to chat with them even when we go our separate ways. Technology has made it very easy to stay connected to family and friends. 

Do you ever tire of it? 

Ryan: Not yet! 

Sheena: Yeah, sure! I also tired of living on land, driving the same roads, to the same buildings day in and day out. Mostly, I get frustrated or tired of living on a boat when it rains. Everything feels wet, everything. And I really don’t like to be cold and have wet feet. So that means I put towels down on the floors, but that’s annoying to me too. I also get tired of bad weather when we’re off shore. That gets pretty old, very fast. But I’ve learned that chaos subsides and safe harbors and clear weather are just around the corner - you just have to wait it out. 

Do you ever feel stir-crazy? 

Ryan: When I do, I get out! I explore on the dinghy, got snorkeling, fish, look for lobsters. 

Sheena: Yes! I know when my body starts craving movement (which, for me, is often). Then I find a local ballet or yoga class. I also do yoga on the bow of the boat. Stretching helps release pent-up energy. We also go on walks or long bike rides to expend energy. Swimming also helps. But, similar to that feeling of needing to get out of the house, I have that feeling too, and I just do what I would have done on land: I get out of the “house!” 

How much of your future do you want to invest like this?

Ryan: Continue to explore until it loses its luster. 

Sheena: For as long as it’s fun! A rule that I apply to everything in my life. 

What are your plans for emergencies?

Ryan: Try to avoid it at all costs. Stay rested and think before acting. We carry an EPIRB (which would alert safety and rescue personnel of our exact location should we need it), a personal MOB AIS (which is warn by driver when other is sleeping). We have also practiced Man-Overboard Drills and each of us knows how to drive the boat to safety or call for assistance. 

Sheena: For cuts, bruises, allergic reactions, illness, broken bones, we have an entire closet full of plastic bins labeled for each potential occurrence. The cuts bin, for example, has everything we would need to stop bleeding, clean the wound and protect the wound. Each bin has everything we would need to take care of something right away. If it’s something terrible, we would do what we could with what we have and make a call for more help. Out on the ocean, your options are: 1) Calling the Coast Guard for assistance, 2) Subscribing to a commercial provider for help - which includes a helicopter with medically-trained crew coming to retrieve you, should you need that kind of emergency attention. 3) Taking care of it yourself and changing your direction to find the closest port where you could visit a medical doctor. 

How much time between your dream of living aboard and actually moving onto the boat?

Ryan: This is my seventh boat in life and each one got a little bit bigger. I’ve dreamed about it for a decade, lived aboard a Hunter 30’ and a 1969 Bristol 40’ for two years each. This boat was purchased almost two years ago and it took us 1.5 years of full-time work to get her into shape. Many would have stayed to fix more, but we decided we would get more work done with southern weather. Boat projects never end. Now, we just do them in warmer temps! We just re-caulked and re-bedded a salon window last week!

Sheena: Living aboard was never my dream. It was Ryan’s dream, and it became something I’d like “to try on for size,” so to say. It was 1.5 years of work, about 4 months of living aboard while we prepared to leave and now we’ve been sailing for 2 months. 

I want to move onto a boat! Any advice on what I should be doing? 

Ryan: Go scout marinas and talk to everyone. Tell them your plans and dreams and there will be others who will help you. There will be some that might not react the way you are hoping, but don’t stop. There are so many boats just sitting there wasting away, waiting for the right dreamer. Since we have lived on the water and frequent marinas, we hear about incredible deals on boats. Put yourself into the world, and it’ll happen.

Sheena: I agree with Ryan on this. Immersing yourself in the world you want to be in is the first step to making something happen. You’ll meet people along the way who will help you, encourage you, connect you to others, and the next thing you know, your dream is your reality! It works just like magic. 

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Is it hard to keep a smaller space decluttered?

Ryan: Keeping spaces decluttered is a personal challenge for me in life, yes. But living on a boat requires me to find a home for everything, which helps me personally.

Sheena: No, it is the same as keeping a home clean. We knew when we were moving to a smaller place that we needed lesser things. We did a lot of yard sale-ing, donating and finding places for our belongings. But our boat still feels full and feels cluttered mostly after passages when we have little time to put things back in their home. After a passage, we always have to have a deep-cleaning session to get everything back in its home, dry and clean. 

How did you decide to live without “stuff?” Heirlooms? 

Ryan: We kept many things we needed and then found homes for the ones we didn’t need in this chapter. Sheena has a bit more measurable approach. 

Sheena: 

  • For clothes, I had a rule: If I hadn’t worn it in the last 6 months, I didn’t love it that much! So I donated it or passed it along to girlfriends. I also followed the rule of: You don’t need 10 versions of the same thing. I didn’t need the same pair of pants in every available color. I kept my favorite, and got rid of the rest. 
  • For shoes, I got rid of everything that was too worn for keeping (I tend to hang on to things from elementary school because my feet stopped growing then). I kept only what I felt I’d need: comfortable shoes + some dress shoes just in case I wanted to dress up and feel fancy. If I’m being honest, I’m barefoot most of the time. 
  • For furniture, I kept a lot of it in my home that is rented out. Anything they didn’t want, I placed with friends for good keeping. 
  • For books, I kept the ones I adore or haven’t read and I donated the rest to the public library. Now, I exchange books. When I’m finished reading one, I leave it in a book exchange which they have at marinas, or I pass it along to another sailor. 
  • For heirlooms, I left them with my mother for safe keeping. 
  • For my car, I left it with my mother. I removed the license plates (de-activated them) and changed my car insurance to “storage only.” 

Do you have a storage space or totally downsize? 

Ryan: No storage space. It’s pretty liberating to know that every personal possession I own is floating within 43’ length overall. 

Sheena: We did not pay to have a storage space. We figured, how much is X (item) worth? Is it worth it to pay X amount monthly just to keep it? Or would you rather just buy it new, later? We decided against the storage space and we use only what we have on the boat! 

What are the daily chores? 

Ryan: Lately, the engines have been working beautifully, so I have been soft scrubbing and waxing about 5’x5’ sections. Yesterday, I dove the bottom and wiped one hull clean of last two months of growth, and cleaned the daggerboard holes of the oysters that had grown up there before we get our new daggerboards installed. There are ALWAYS 50+ things broken on a boat. I do all safety projects first, right when I notice them, and all others get thrown into a laundry bin of tasks. When the right time presents itself, I tackle one task at a time. For example, yesterday’s soft scrubbing before a predicted rain storm to give the boat a natural fresh-water rinse. 

Sheena:

(Boat specific)

  • Picking things up and putting them in their homes (they may have fallen throughout the night due to boat wake or strong winds). 
  • Open the windows for fresh air to fill the boat (preventing mold)
  • Making sure we have enough fresh water to last us
  • Making sure our batteries are charged

(Life oriented) 

  • Eat daily
  • Tea daily
  • Write daily 
  • Read daily
  • Stretch daily
  • Check my e-mails
  • Check my social media outlets
  • Create content (blogs, vlogs, images) 
 Ryan has his 50-ton Merchant Mariners Captain's License, and Seas Life is his 7th boat!

Ryan has his 50-ton Merchant Mariners Captain's License, and Seas Life is his 7th boat!

What tasks need to be done daily or weekly and are not just a part of life? 

Ryan: Boat stuff. I always check engines (oil, radiator fluid and sail drive fluid) and give the boat an overall look. When we are close to land, we try to take out the trash (and poo paper) every day. 

Sheena: Trash removal (which requires us taking it in the dinghy to a place that will accept it). Grocery shopping for fresh vegetables and meat. Checking for mold and spraying vinegar on it, if found. Sometimes, fuel replenishment (for the generator, dinghy or boat). 

How do you get past your own mental hangups about diverting from the norm like this? 

Ryan: Keeping focused on what makes me tick (being out in nature, being in control of our own vessel, moving with the wind, feeling alive). I worked really hard to make what makes me happiest actually happen. I stayed focused on that.

Sheena: This is such a hard one! It’s something we deal with differently and daily. For me, it was really difficult. I cried a lot because I felt like I was letting everyone down. But then I realized that I cannot live for other people’s hopes and dreams for me. I have to discover, design and find my own. I stayed focused on the journey, the potential for self-discovery, the gift of undisturbed time. Every time I started to feel unsure, I would pray or meditate and I kept hearing, “Go. This journey will be good for you.” Suddenly, “the norm” had no further power over me. I was meant to create a new norm for me. 

How do you get past everyone else’s mental hangups about diverting from the norm like this? 

Ryan: Those who truly love me have continued to support my decisions in life and in sailing. Life is too short and there is too much life to be lived to worry about things beyond my control, like how other people think or make mental judgments. Peace, Love and Happiness is the norm I intend to spread in 2018. 

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Sheena: I remind myself that I only get one life. I remind myself that people who worry about me are doing it from a place of love, they’re just showing it the only way they know how. I remind myself that life is fluid and what I am doing now, and what I am doing later, and what I’ll do after that may never look like “the norm” to others, but it will feel good and be good for me. 

Do you ever feel scared? Of unsafe waves, of shocks, sting rays, pods of big fish knocking you over, of pirates (the Somali kind)? 

Ryan: Sure, to loose fear would be a death wish. We try our best to educate ourselves and make solid choices.

Sheena: Surprisingly, I felt more scared before we lived on the boat and before we started sailing. The fear, as it turns out, was mostly all in my head. There are real things to consider, however. Before we head out to the open ocean, we check and re-check weather, winds, radar. If it’s not safe or predicting rough conditions, then we stay where we are! “There’s no shame in living to sail another day,” a sailor once told me. And it’s true! We make very conservative decisions when it comes to everything: weather, safety, where we anchor the boat, when we’re swimming and snorkeling. We use buddy systems and technology and anything we can use to help us stay the safest we can! 

How long did it take you to physiologically adjust to the differences between living on the water and living on land? 

Ryan: Overnight! I love being on the water, either surfing, wake boarding, on boat, anything! I love it.

Sheena: For me, it wasn’t a problem and I give credit to my dance training for that! I think I trained my inner ear early on to be used to a lot of movement! 

What do you miss most on land, and what do you not miss at all? 

Ryan: I could live on a boat like this forever. I love to skateboard and it requires a dinghy ride into land to skateboard, but I love dinghy rides too so still loving living on the boat!

Sheena: First, I miss my family and friends. I see them posting on social media all of the get-togethers and events, and I miss being there. But I know I’ll see them again soon! I miss little conveniences like the ease of just plugging things in to charge them, having a freezer with an ice maker, fire places. I miss being in a dance studio every day, surrounded by people I know and love. I also miss taking really long showers and not having to worry about water... (but we should be worried about water, even on land!) 

I do NOT miss the underlying hurry and rush that you feel on land - when you’re working a job, balancing a social life, running errands in tons of traffic, answering to someone else, feeling like a slave to a to-do list or calendar. 

What extra steps are required when living on a boat? 

Ryan: Every time you go to the store, you have to take everything out of the cardboard. Cardboard may have roach eggs in it, and we don’t want roaches on the boat. Re-filling our fresh water since there isn’t an endless supply. Monitoring your batteries because if your power runs out, you have to wait for more sun or use the generator. You’re always asking yourself, “What’s working? What’s not working?” 

Sheena: Anytime you need to go anywhere, it requires a dinghy ride, which can be fun unless it’s cold and raining. Then, it’s a little much. 

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In order to use the outlets to charge my lap top, I have to turn on an inverter which converts the energy from the batteries (charged by the solar panels) into 120 volts. 

You can’t flush your toilet paper, so you have to take out the “poo paper” with the trash. 

You have to pre-download all of your Netflix, podcasts, Amazon videos because you don't have wifi out here in the ocean (sometimes, you don't even have cell service)! If you forget to download while you have high-speed internet, you won't forget again after your first passage without any of that! 

Any behavior changes since living on a boat? 

Ryan: More conscientious of my usage of everything - power, water, trash. You have a better understanding of what you’re putting out there in the world.

Sheena: How I use water has changed a lot! Now, I don’t leave the water running while I’m doing dishes, brushing my teeth or even showering. I turn it off during all of the “in between” moments. For example, I get my hair wet and then turn the water off. Put in my shampoo and scrub. Then, I turn the water on to rinse. I turn it back off to put in the conditioner and rub it in. Then, I turn the water back on. So, a single shower will have me turning the water on and off 6-10 times! But during those “in between” moments, we aren’t wasting fresh water. 

 Sheena offers  Wellness Life Coaching  and Private Yoga sessions to the sailing community and beyond! 

Sheena offers Wellness Life Coaching and Private Yoga sessions to the sailing community and beyond! 

I started meditating more. Being surrounded by nature and actually having the time to just sit still and… be. No one is there to fuss at you or tell you that you’re supposed to be doing something else. You can just… be. 

I changed all of our cleaning products to organic, eco-friendly products

How do you make money? 

Ryan: We have a small overhead, so we try to keep our spending to a minimum. We are always looking for new ways to make money. 

Sheena: We work when and where and how we can. From freelance writing, to wellness coaching sessions and private yoga classes, we make money working digitally and also face-to-face with people in the community.