Cheryl GreatHouse is a massage therapist living in Portland, Oregon. After meeting her through a mutual acquaintance, I knew I wouldn’t be surprised that this strong lady would end up living on a sailboat named after the Maori name for “Warrior Woman.” Cheryl lives on a 1980 Morgan 38 foot sailboat on the Columbia River. After living in a range of homes (including a backyard yurt), she decided to live her dream and move onto Wahine Toa and into a marina. She and the Morgan have taken a few sailing trips, but the boat also offers her a comfortable, tiny space close to her job and her love of the water. Cheryl was so kind to share her story.
Cheryl lives in a 38-foot Morgan sailboat in Portland, Ore.
What was the catalyst for you buying your own boat?
It’s been a dream of mine for years! I grew up on motor boats, served in the Army on boats (yes, the Army has their own navy), and fell in love with sailing about 15 years ago. I don’t really like the feeling of being “anchored” on land, nor do I feel comfortable being landlocked. The idea of minimalist living has always appealed to me, as has the idea of being self-sustaining. Then there is the beauty and adventure of taking my home and sailing across oceans so that I may experience new cultures in a totally different way. Also I have a very romantic notion about discovering the world in the way of the first explorers.
Tell us about your boat.
My lovely boat is named Wahine Toa which is Maori for Woman Warrior. I purchased her for $36,000. She is a 1980 Morgan 38. Her length is 38 foot along the waterline, 41 foot overall. This beauty has been sailed all over the world and has been set up for long passages. She comes equipped with a gimbaled stove/oven, fridge, hot water heater, and a bathroom (called a “head) with a shower. There are also two closets shelves, cabinets, and other sneaky storage areas! There are fresh water tanks that can be filled, a water maker or desalinator to make drinking water when you are out to sea. Of course when you are on the dock you simply fill the tanks with a hose. You also have a holding tank for gray and black water. Most marinas, like RV parks, have a pump out station or service. She sleeps four pretty comfortably but can fit at least two more. There is one cabin that affords one lucky person or couple some privacy if others are on board.
Where are you docked and what are the benefits and challenges of your location? Where do you like to go sailing?
I am docked on the Columbia river, outside of Portland, Oregon. The marina is not technically supposed to be a liveaboard marina however they have all that I need so make it home very easily. The benefits are that it is super quiet, I live on the river, and I get to interact with nature on a daily basis.
The only challenges that I can think of are when the winter hits and the docks get icy. It can be treacherous to get down to the boat. Having shoe grips are important. Another is the distance from the parking lot to the boat. You have to go down a pretty steep ramp then a few docks over to get home. Another challenge is that when you want to go sailing you have to make sure that everything is put away or else it could go flying across the cabin and lead to a big mess!
What are the benefits and challenges of living on a boat?
Definitely low overhead costs! It is way more affordable than having an apartment here in Portland! I pay $250 for slip fees, water, and electric. To me it simply feels more cozy. If I had to list a challenge for living on a boat I’d maybe say Wifi isn’t as accessible. And, you do have to be physically capable to get up and around on a boat. Then there is the work to keep the boat dry on the inside to prevent mold. Being able to do repairs on your boat, and maintain it, yourself is a good ability to have. Boat work tends to be pretty costly.
What is your favorite part of living on a boat?
Getting rocked to sleep every night, and the solitude. Then there is the wildlife in the area. There are ducks, geese, Blue Heron, nutria, raccoon, osprey, eagles, and sometimes even a river otter or two. There has even been a sea lion found sunbathing on the breakwater!
What do you recommend to others who are thinking of doing the same thing?
Don’t be intimidated by the idea. I was at first. So many people telling me that owning a boat is expensive (like having a house isn’t?) made it easy to doubt my decision. Get on as many boats as possible, do your research for the boat that will best do what you are wanting a boat for (fresh water vs. salt water, warm water vs. cold water, family of four vs. single person, etc), and enjoy the process!