The Big Move: From a Rock to a Boat

Back when I was making my life plan, I definitely thought that by the time I was nearly 32 I’d be married in my home state with two kids. Instead, I find myself living out an alternative, beautiful dream as an Island Girl/Aspiring Mermaid/Lobster Diver and finally – for the first time in my life – making the BIG STEP of moving in with my boyfriend. And because I have fallen in love with a man who is also in love with a boat (which just so happens to be his beloved home), this big step of moving in together means an even bigger step for me – moving from dry land onto a sailboat.

Over the past 14 months, I have slowly come to accept the fact that I actually already did live on the boat, spending far more time there than in the little place I kept ashore. But it was nice having my cottage as an option to stay a few nights on land sporadically, not to mention the luxury of extra storage, real showers, a TV, and a full-sized kitchen. I still had an out. But my little cottage was for sale, and it sold. So by December 1st, it was time for the real commitment: moving onto the boat full time.

Buxom isn’t just any boat, either. She is an all wooden, 78 year old (yes, you read that right, seventy-eight years old!), 33ft pirate ship lookalike. She’s not a big boat and doesn’t boast many modern conveniences (yup, that means no shower, folks), but she’s the most beautiful boat I have ever seen in my life – a stunning, gaff-rigged ketch with a black hull and tan and bark sails.

Her Captain/my boyfriend C is the best Captain and sailor I’ve ever met (not to mention darn gorgeous – had to say it!). He refers to the 1700/1800s as “the good ol’ days” and has never had an email address or a smart phone. He also happens to be in love with me, which I still don’t quite get, as I can hardly take myself half the time. But in love we are, and are now sharing these small quarters with our gargantuan kitty/albino puma named Tug.

Tug, our Albino Puma, taking up a large portion of the V Berth aka our bed

When you tell people you live on a boat, they usually reply with the standard, Wow! That must be so amazing! and tend to get this far off look in their eyes, no doubt picturing you romantically sailing around the world every day. And while I have come to find that I DO, in fact, love living on the boat, it has involved a whole range of adjustments and has been comedic, to say the least…

GALLEY WOES

The amount of kitchen – er – galley things I had to let go of in the name of consolidating hurt. Things like my food processor that I used to make salsa that is not available on island was particularly difficult to leave behind. I relegated myself to keeping my good knives, but with such little space and tools, I barely cook anymore. And you know what I think about that? HA! I WIN! Oh, and you know how Starbucks sometimes has to offer the “pour over” but they act like it’s a treat? Yeah, that’s how we make our coffee every day. No coffeemaker with a timer around our boat! One major recent improvement? We used to have no refrigeration but C made us an insulated icebox, which makes him pretty amazing and me pretty happy.

I MISS A CLOSET

Then there were the clothes… I got rid of a ton of clothes. A ton. But somehow, it still feels like they’re breeding or something. My closets are now hammocks and the struggle to keep them organized is a daily battle. These hammocks have a way of burying the things you want most and preventing you from having any real concept of what exactly it is you have. I swear Buxom eats clothes, among other things. I have two shirts – shirts that I love – that have simply vanished. I blame the boat.

One of my hammock “closets,” and also my bedside table with my Yeti

APPRECIATE ELECTRICITY, LANDLUBBERS!

We have limited power through solar. There is only one power outlet on the whole boat (seriously, we have to share?), and I do a ton of work from my computer, so this can be a definite issue. I also do a lot of photography. Basically, we need more batteries. Many more. But, on an old wooden boat, there’s not necessarily space for a big battery bank and wiring. I am trying like all hell to figure out the best ways to make my life happen on this boat, but sometimes the figuring out only comes in stages. For now, this one remains a toughie.

GIVE ME SOME SPACE HERE!

Privacy? Yeah, you don’t get that anymore. All bodily functions will be observed by your boat mate. I remember my first glorious night getting “sick” (use your imagination) and just wanting to swim to shore from embarrassment. Have an argument with the boy? Well, I am just gonna stomp off into the V berth SO TAKE THAT! Yeah, that’ll teach him, considering the V berth is a whole 5 feet from where he is… The air will hang with the stupidity of all arguments. Thankfully, we rarely argue and when we have, it usually ends up mushy or hilarious. On a boat such as ours, nothing can be left unspoken, which we’ve learned is actually really good for our relationship. You get to know how to accommodate one another in a hurry.

C and me in the cockpit sailing

SHOWER TIME

As I mentioned, we have no shower on our old fashioned Buxom. Instead, we shower with a gallon of water in the cockpit in the back of the boat. This means a couple things: 1) You’re showering in your swimsuit unless it is completely dark with no full moon and 2) Depending on the time of year, it is going to be COLD! Even though we warm our water up, it is still crazy chilly with the wind. However, I am incredibly impressed that with my very long, thick hair I can shower and shave my legs with less than a gallon of water. I’ve just come to terms with the fact that without the ability to run conditioner through it for a few minutes, my poor hair is just going to be a rat’s nest. I like to call it mermaid hair.

–   –   –

All of this adds up to a pretty different way of life for this former landlubber. Thankfully, C is unbelievably easy going, which is darn lucky for me cause I can be darn right irritating at times when I want my way. We all have this vision in our mind of what it’s going to be like – whatever your “it” may be. But I’d dreamed of this boat life with C, life on St. John, and let me tell ya – parts of it are a lot different than I imagined. But other parts? They are unbelievably perfect and more awesome than I ever expected. When we drop our mooring, take off, and let the power of the wind fill our sails – there’s nothing like it. Living on a boat with C has taught me to be a lot more patient and easy going and I continue to learn more and more about a nautical life which I adore. My advice to anyone who wants to live on a boat: don’t be afraid and don’t turn up your nose to any of it. It will challenge you and it will be both dirty and pristine at the same time.

Me & the sea

A couple years ago a dear friend of mine who was raised on a boat asked me if I really thought I had what it took to live on a boat. I told her (with my sweet Southern sass) that of course I did, though secretly wondered if that was true. But now here I am, taking challenges in stride, and loving the sweetness of it all.

Who knows what the future may bring, but here’s hoping for fair winds and following seas for me and for you, mateys!

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Leah Randall

About Leah Randall

Leah fell in love with St. John long before she actually made her move permanent in 2013. Her family bought a SCUBA diving business back in 2005, and so began her torrid romance with her rock. At that time in her life, stateside things like bad relationships, education, and careers got in her way of escaping – oh those complications! A reformed high school math teacher, Leah managed to clear away the obstacles and has been an official St. Johnian for over three years now. Many things captivate Leah on St. John, but nothing like scuba diving. Luckily, her boyfriend shares in that passion and they spend a ton of time underwater getting into all sorts of fun adventures lobstering and exploring the ocean frontier. You will find her underwater, on the water and in the water any chance she gets, as she is working towards ond of her current life goals of becoming a mermaid. Lobster Leah, the aspiring mermaid, also enjoys marveling at the idiosyncrasies of the rock she lives on and the beautiful personalities that surround her.

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8 thoughts on “The Big Move: From a Rock to a Boat

  1. I think I saw your boat yesterday sailing in the BVI. I live on a Lagoon 380 called Beagle Knot and we offer week long charters aboard to make a living. It was a 2 masted dark hulled boat with tan and bark sails we saw yesterday and it was absolutely beautiful under sail.

  2. You are welcome to come to our boat if you ever need a kitchen gadget. We have more than any boater needs. Including my beloved kitchenaid that I refused to part with and Bryan’s food processor that he uses for salsa and hummus.

  3. Hi Leah,
    Great article! I’ve lived on: 200 feet Charter sailing boat and a 200 feet coastal freighter, the form er in the west Indies, the latter in the Baltics. I can relate to everything you said.

  4. This is a great article. Thank you for sharing. It makes my life on my rock seem like I live in a teeming metropolis (I don’t…only 18K people here) in a gigantic mansion (it’s just a nice sized house)! LOL! What a wonderful adventure for you! Good luck to you and C!!

  5. Love it! Yes, I remember that conversation, haha. And yes, trying to keep your clothes organized is a daily battle- the struggle! You do better than me with the shower, I use about 2-2.5 gallons. It is an adjustment, but well worth it when you take off sailing ♡

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