Sailboat – Less is More

by Cheryl

My life was wearing me out, so four years ago I left a high-rise condo in Seattle’s Capitol Hill and moved aboard my Valiant 40 sailboat, Koyah. My condo was 750 square feet, which is small enough… but Koyah has less than 250 square feet of living space (though it’s hard to be precise about living space on a sailboat.)

sailboat living 1

I’ve moored my home in various neighborhoods around Seattle and the Sound, from Fremont to Shilshole/Ballard to Anacortes up north, but I’m currently living in La Conner, Washington.

I’ve made the living space on Koyah comfortable with small but pretty decorative touches. Many people who come aboard are surprised by how homey it feels. The bunks are cozy, the narrow salon makes a great conversation pit, and the galley is always well stocked. We’ve got everything we need to be happy in this small space.

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Compared to life in a condo in the big city, life on a boat is simpler and more meaningful. The living space is small, so my boyfriend and I spend plenty of time out in our environment. We’ve built a small hydroponic garden on Koyah’s aft deck and use what we grow to supplement foraged meals. Fresh-caught Dungeness crab is a favorite, and we love gathering mushrooms in the woods near us around La Conner. We’ve both taken up the hobby of carving wooden spoons from driftwood and other found wood, too.

One of the best parts of living on a boat is the view. It beats looking at city streets and traffic any day, and if you get sick of looking at the same waterway, you can head for the islands and anchor somewhere else for a change of scenery.

Since downsizing and simplifying, I’m working fewer hours, but I actually keep more of my paycheck than I did when I was paying for a condo and living in the city, working 40+ hours a week. Changing my lifestyle and going small has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. I feel like I’m finally living my own life instead of allowing my lifestyle to control me.

By the way, for those who are wondering, it takes more moxie than money to make a change like this. You can follow us at http://facebook.com/handsandropes for tips on how to live well by living with less.

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Little Green Camper

green trailer

In my profession, I deal with the un-pleasantries of human nature. While working in law enforcement stationed in a metropolitan area, I often find myself needing a break from civilization. Over the years, I have found that time spent in nature is where I could clear my head and find security in the world around me. I started backpacking which relieved the stress and rejuvenated the mind and body. However, I was missing someone, my wife! She was not the sort to venture into the wilderness away from modern conveniences.

So came the creation of my first camper. Living on a budget, I acquired a fiberglass motorcycle trailer from my neighbor. Within a few weeks, I had converted the trailer into a covert camper. It was great for a time. But as my curiosity grew about cleaver ways to make the most of small spaces, I began surfing the net.

white trailer

I came across the Tiny House Blog and was inspired from the start. The stories, pictures, videos, and products stimulated my latest creation “The Little Green Camper.” I wanted something that would be comfortable yet completely sustainable for a long stay away from modern amenities. With a bit of planning and quite a bit of trial and error, we finally have a product that can provide that peaceful retreat.

The camper is made of all lightweight wood and salvaged RV parts. The dimensions are 6’ width x 10’ length x 8’ high. It can be towed by a small SUV. It is completely solar powered and includes a 10 gallon water storage. It has ample storage and a table/couch combination that converts to a queen size bed. The overall cost of the build was about $4,000. It took approximately 8 month due to an extremely wet spring and summer. Now it’s ready for the beautiful North Carolina fall.

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I hope this how-to-video will inspire others to take a chance and create their own peaceful retreat. I also wish that others will find inspiration in solar power products and find solitude among nature.

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Adventures with Dorothy, or Tiny Living Lite

Hi, I’m Pia, and I’d like to share with your readers how I accidentally fell headfirst into, and headlong in love with, living Tiny.

Dorothy babes love buses

Dorothy babes love buses

I had been infatuated with Tiny houses for about 5 years before I found Dorothy. I have a background in Architecture and I’ve lived in lots of beautiful and unique homes and places, though never ever for long enough. Overall, small, clever spaces just have a practical appeal, plus they’re absolutely gorgeous and romantic (tiny handcrafted wooden hobbit mound? Yes please!), and what nomad doesn’t secretly pine for a nice, lockable, four-walls-and-a-roof combination to call her own. If that particular combination happens to be technically portable, even better.

However, with custom Tinies coming in at tens of thousands of dollars, and the ideal of crafting my own being delayed by my resolute singleness and complete and comical lack of skill with heavy power tools, I’d consoled myself to Cabin Porning and Float Home-creeping and Tiny House Blogging…for the next few years, anyway.

Dorothy exterior with glorious mountainscape

Dorothy exterior with glorious mountainscape

That was until the end of the ski season in Canada had me pining for a nice, practical van to move my diverse collection of used snowboards and dancing shoes across the country. I came across and advertisement for a 1989 Chevy bus, freshly retired from ferrying disabled kids to and from school, in pristine condition, and going for a song. A vintage, golden shortbus, all boxy windows and brown vinyl interior cannot, once seen, be unseen (obviously), so I rang and emailed and rang some more, until she had been promised to me, and my plans had all changed. I was going to buy a school bus. I was going to cut out the seats and put in a bed and curtains of every color, and I was going to live in it. Because I was young and free, dammit, and I was absolutely smitten.

Dorothy exterior with riding ensemble

Dorothy exterior with riding ensemble

And guess what? In defiance of all probability and rationality, that’s exactly what I did, and it was, and is, the best thing I have ever done. I gathered handy roommates and gave them borrowed power-tools and we cut out rusted seats and fossilized bubblegum on early spring afternoons, salvaging seat-belts and selling the frames for scrap. We named her Dorothy, and cleaned her down to a blank, spare shell, then raided thrift stores and yard sales to fill her back up again. Friends heard what we were doing and turned up with blankets, houseplants, fairy lights, and candy. I had a personal shopper at Home Depot who patiently sold me, and then processed returns on, most every possible tie-down in the store, until we achieved the perfect balance of securely-anchored to girly-handmade and effortless-appearing. I tried to minimize the damage to Dorothy’s original body in our renovations, using existing bolt holes and finishes where possible, and covering things with removable screws and stickers, rather than permanent glues and paints. I knew that Dorothy would not be mine forever, and that her future owners could have as much fun taking her back to basics and working with her original bones as I was. With a lot of love, a lot of magnets, a lot of string, and a whole lot of good luck, we were ready to take her on the road within a fortnight.

Dorothy exterior with trendy vintage bike

Dorothy exterior with trendy vintage bike

Since April, Dorothy and I have stayed in ski carparks, playgrounds, backyards, driveways, RV parks, vineyards and riverbanks. We stayed, memorably, for a week in the industrial estate in Banff when her starter broke, and we’ve been towed twice, by the same handsome tow-truck driver, because I am terrible at timing stops for the auto propane she runs on/guzzles. She’s carried dogs, cats, bikes, and up to 10 people (I have wall-attached seat belts for 8), and she’s slept up to 3 people in relative (very companionable) comfort. She’s delivered us safely and uncomplainingly on a road trip through British Columbia and Washington State. And everywhere we go, she makes people smile. Little kids wave from the back window of their family wagons, and sweet gas-station attendants always have a story about their own van or caravan that they had when they were my age. If I drive her at night, drunk people always try to flag us down, and I swear I only get 20% of the parking tickets I deserve… Continue reading