Sailboat – Less is More

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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.)

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 for tips on how to live well by living with less.

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Lisa E. - October 28, 2014 Reply

“Wow, this is really, really nice. (Love those boiled wool slippers, too!) The decor absolutely gives it that warm, homey feeling; you can almost smell the apple pie in the (convection) oven. Fantastic job; absolutely one of the very best boats I’ve ever seen. Enjoy your beautiful life; you’ve earned it!

    Daniel Broggel - October 28, 2014 Reply

    A lovely boat!

    Cheryl - October 29, 2014 Reply

    Thanks Lisa; funny you’d notice the slippers. Yes, they are boiled wool and they are about 20 years old! They are one of a few things I could not part with when I downsized to move on my boat. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Kent did a great job with the layout.

jaks - October 28, 2014 Reply

What a beautiful space you and I have similar taste. We left our 4 bed house to live on a narrow boat in England and love it!

    Cheryl - October 29, 2014 Reply

    Hi JAKS, I’m fascinated by canal boats. Are they the same thing as a narrow boat? You must have a wonderful life. Are you a member of the Facebook group called Women on barges? It’s a great group!

crow dogwidow - October 28, 2014 Reply

This is impeccable! What a beautiful use of space you have created! I can imagine being completely at home there. Nothing short of inspirational!

    Cheryl - October 29, 2014 Reply

    Thank you, your comment made me smile. I’m glad you enjoyed the pics of my boat…my home.

christine hubal - October 28, 2014 Reply

I want to move onto your sailboat. So cozy looking!
Where did you get your teapot and your bedspread? Love them too!

    Cheryl - October 29, 2014 Reply

    Hi Christine, one of the best things about living in a small space is you have no place to put things so it cuts down on the impulse to shop. That being said, the only store I shop at anymore is Anthropologie. I tried to paste their link here but it was a jumbled mess. They have an online catalog and that’s where I got both of the bedspreads and the teapot. I hope you have fun shopping!

Helen - October 28, 2014 Reply

Amazing! I love your sailboat! It looks very cozy inside. Congrats for taking that forward step.

    Cheryl - October 29, 2014 Reply

    Thank you Helen, for your encouragement and kind words.

Terrie - October 28, 2014 Reply

Just beautiful!

    Cheryl - October 29, 2014 Reply

    Thank you Terrie!

Ken - October 28, 2014 Reply

Looking at your photos, makes me want to sell my own house and buy a boat. I have thought about it many times. I fear the upkeep at my age though, would rule it out. Enjoy your life aboard while you can!

    Cheryl - October 29, 2014 Reply

    Ken, don’t let aging stop you from achieving your dreams. It’s true some people may have to adjust a little bit but it can still be done. Four instance, instead of a sailboat, you may do well on a powerboat. As sailors age they usually go for trawlers later in life. I’ll be posting some sites on our Facebook page ( Hands and Rope) later on, that you might be interested in. You can post questions and find out how older people have managed to live aboard comfortably. Don’t give up your dream, just alter your course. I hope to see you out on the water someday!

    Diana - June 17, 2016 Reply

    Ken I don’t know what your age is but I started living on a 41′ sailboat at age 69 with pets down in the Florida Keys. My standard poodle was the dock greeter. Best move I ever made. it’s not for everyone but I love it.

Anton Ross - October 28, 2014 Reply

I’ve been a live aboard since I restored my Soverel 36 “Meridian” since 2008, and love it. I’m down in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, and would love to see sailboats featured more often as alternatives to land-based “tiny” homes.

Love the site!

    Cheryl - October 29, 2014 Reply

    I agree 100% Anton! I’ve toyed with the idea of starting a FaceBook page that highlights individual live aboards and cruisers that I come across. I might just incorporate them into my current Facebook page. I already have a collection of them. They are all fascinating people with awesome boats and everyone’s story is different.

    Jody Pountain - November 1, 2014 Reply

    Hi Anton,
    As a liveaboard myself and the newest contributing writer for Tiny House Blog, I have already planned a new series to feature some other sailboats as ‘tiny homes’. Stay tuned!!

Michael Smith - October 28, 2014 Reply

Just wanted to say thank you for sharing your journey as a live aboard. I love the thought that it takes more Moxie then Money to make this change. Just what I needed to hear. I’m at the precipice and ready to make the leap. Namaste

    Cheryl - October 29, 2014 Reply

    Namaste, I don’t think you’ll regret it. And my philosophy is, even if you were to, you won’t have to look back on life and always wonder…what if????

    Living in a ting space is a lifestyle change that requires less of everything to do it but it gives back so much more, once you embrace it.

CathyAnn - October 28, 2014 Reply

You live in a sailing paradise. Love your sailboat and how you’ve made it so comfortable. I’d be content living aboard a boat like yours too!

    Cheryl - October 29, 2014 Reply

    Thank you Cathyann. Living in a tiny space has its drawbacks. I’m going to post something about that soon on our Facebook page. The worst part about moving aboard was adjusting to such a small bathroom. You have to take the good with the bad in some situations. Thank goodness, the bathroom or head doesn’t bother me ( much) anymore.

Cyn Coleman - October 28, 2014 Reply

For years, my husband and I have thought of buying a sailboat for summertime tiny house living. We have a nearby lake that will take up to 25′ boats and we have looked at many, many sailboats.
We have to have one with a swing keel, but I love all that you’ve done. I would also have a “garden” on deck and create cozy quarters. We have a Sunfish and a canoe, so we have plenty of play things and can moor the boat along a beach. We have a small cottage an hour from the lake, so I think it would work out well.
Love all you have done! You made MY dream come true!

    Cheryl - October 29, 2014 Reply

    AWESOME Cyn!

    One of my favorite quotes is from a poem by Mary Oliver, called The Summer Day. My favorite line is, ”
    Tell me, what is it you plan to do
    with your one wild and precious life?”

    GO FOR IT!

Rebecca - October 28, 2014 Reply

This may be my favorite one so far on the site! Very well done and I love the sentiment.

Becca - October 28, 2014 Reply


MJ - October 29, 2014 Reply

Well done!

Synocrat - October 30, 2014 Reply

Love the cephalopod motif in the decorating and the little hydroponic rig on the deck, all very tasteful and intriguing.

Jody Pountain - November 1, 2014 Reply

Very cozy! She’s a beautiful boat. You already know I’m thrilled to see more ‘tiny floating homes’ 🙂 Love it!

Chris - March 2, 2018 Reply

What is the PVC pipe on the stern railing? What is the smaller one under the larger one with the plants? Is it a true ‘hydroponic’ setup? Any write up on that?

Interior looks great.

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