Step One: Cut a Hole in the Box

The decision to live aboard a boat is not one that many people ever make. In fact, the notion of living on a boat permanently is rarely even considered an option. Boats have been used throughout human history, and in many ways have helped shape our modern society. They have been used as tools for exploration, trade, tourism, war, adventure, science…but rarely as a home. How is it then, that we have come to recognize it not only as an option but as a preference?

I’ll be the first to admit, if ever there was a couple to live on a boat, we would be that couple. We both grew up on the ocean from a young age. Skye spent entire summers with her family aboard their Gulfstar 44, Watersong, exploring the Maine coast and honing her sailing skills. Meanwhile, I strung together ocean adventures of my own; daysailing our O’Day 17, Sadie, and cruising with my grandparents on their Whitby 42, Emilie B. We both continued sailing throughout our teenage years teaching at yacht clubs, working on traditional schooners and cutters and taking every opportunity to feel the waves beneath us. In a wonderful twist of fate, we found ourselves studying together at Maine Maritime Academy, working towards a career at sea. Our relationship has always been centered around our love for the ocean and a passion for the boats upon it. It has never been a matter of if we would own a boat, but when.

Boats for anything other than commercial use are typically considered a luxury, a toy for the lucky few with disposable income. But as you delve into the sailing community you will find that sailing is not strictly a privilege of the upper class. There are people from all walks of life that have made it an integral part of their life. Some are boat owners, while others are crew members. Some sail on tall ships while others sail large yachts. If you want to spend your days on the water, and you are willing to put forth some effort, there is a path for you to do so.

Our path has been long and winding, with plenty of tacks and gybes along the way, but we have found our way back to the water nonetheless. At the end of the day, it is really a matter of priorities. We wanted a boat to call our own. One that we could sail on a whim, that we could outfit as we pleased, that we could perfect. But we also needed a place to live, and housing costs are continuously on the rise. Tired of throwing away rent money every month, we considered buying our first house, and eventually made an offer. Due to external circumstances at the time, a bit of doubt, and a fear of settling down, we decided to walk away when the owner countered our offer. I think it was one of our best decisions and a defining moment in our conviction to live aboard. Rather than limit our options and imagination to the confines of the proverbial box, we cut a hole in the box, stepped outside, and rediscovered our path. If we wanted the luxury of owning a boat, we would have to forego the luxury of living ashore.

Therein lies the reason that most people never consider living aboard: it requires sacrifice. Sacrifice denotes a negative experience, but I contend that it doesn’t have to be so. Nothing in life is free, and as such, personal sacrifices are a currency that can be spent almost anywhere. When we discover our true passions we go to great lengths in their pursuit; a natural and worthwhile endeavor. If only for fear of living a boring life, we must step out of the comfort zone regularly. In any case, the experience is sure to make a great story!

So while we won’t know for a while yet how this new adventure will shape us, we move forward with confidence and passion, and an eye to the weather. We challenge you to consider the path less chosen, or even a path never considered. Despite our background on boats, deciding to live on one full time is still a major change for us, and we look forward to the adventure. Be sure to follow our blog for an inside look at life aboard year round in Maine.

Matt Garand

About Matt Garand

Lifelong Mainer, and professional mariner, Matt Garand is the creator of A Life Aboard, a look at year-round living on a sailboat in Maine. Matt and his wife, Skye, live aboard in South Portland and use every available chance to throw off the lines and explore the coast.