Tiny Floating Homes: Terrapin

The Nance family is living aboard a 45′ sailboat. Their tiny floating home, Terrapin, is the perfect size for this family of four. Phil, Aimee and their two daughters, Jessica and Emma, have been out cruising for a total of 46 days after sailing south from their hometown of San Diego, California.

They are currently stopped in Puerto Vallarta. Though their adventures have only just begun, they have experienced some amazing experiences so far.

Why Sail Away?

Aimee explains it best…

“After a few years of Phil and I commuting over 1.5 hours each way in opposite directions and having to pay a nanny to raise our girls, we knew we were ‘doing it wrong’. We never had quality time with our girls. Dinner with all of us present almost never happened and we missed having quality family time. We had considered a couple different ideas like moving to Europe for Phil’s postdoc or buying an RV and traveling the U.S. Neither of these ideas were perfect for us. Then one day while getting ready for work, Phil somewhat jokingly said we should sell everything, buy a boat and set sail. He showed me a few blogs of other families that had decided to do the same thing and within 3 days I agreed to his idea. In less than 2 years we sold our home and 90% of our possessions, bought a boat and set sail!

We chose the cruising lifestyle because of the ability to have quality family time while giving our girls an incredible experience at the same time. So far we’ve gotten more than we could have asked for. In the short period of time we’ve been sailing, we’ve seen things that some people only read about in books. Just recently we saw a huge pod of grey whales, a pod of dolphins and Phil swam with a mom and baby Humpback whale (and got videos)! We’ve had family night swims in phosphorescents which amazed all of us. Every day we wake up to new adventures.”

About The Crew:


Phil originally grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, spending most of his childhood and early 20’s messing about in boats. Phil met Aimee at the University of Oregon in 1997 and they have been mostly inseparable ever since. He received a PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of California – Riverside in 2012 and will be “working” as a freelance science writer and editor while living aboard Terrapin.

Aimee grew up in San Diego and spent the majority of her childhood on the beach. Born into a family of landlubbers who get sick at the sight of boats, she was new to sailing yet eager to learn. Having recently finished her high school teaching credential, Aimee is excited about boat schooling her girls.


Jessica is 11 years old and loves the idea of the many new adventures that await her. She likes her new boat life but she especially loves having a more relaxed school schedule.  She enjoys meeting new people, she’s working on developing her Spanish and is always on the lookout for cute animals in her travels!

Emma is 9 years old and loves to cook! She takes charge in the galley and likes to experiment with local ingredients. Before leaving on this grand adventure she was most excited to learn about different cultures and see the way people are living all over the world. Emma loves animals and she is especially interested in Costa Rica, hoping she gets a chance to hang out with monkeys and sloths.


Murphy, aka Captain Fluff, was found roaming around at the Blind Tiger bar in Charleston, South Carolina in 1999 and was quickly adopted into the family. He’s lived in 3 different states, moved to 8 different homes and will spend the remainder of his 9 lives aboard Terrapin.


The Boat:

Terrapin is a 1978 45′ Dufour 12000 CT Pilothouse Ketch. She’s easy to handle yet big enough to offer the girls their own private space and carry all the ‘toys’. She has plenty of natural light and storage with a great layout. She didn’t require too much work after purchase and fell within the right price range. A complete cabin makeover ended up costing less than $200 and made a world of difference in making this boat feel like a tiny floating home!


In an effort to get accustomed to living on a boat, the Nance family moved aboard 7 months prior to setting sail. This helped them tremendously as they slowly got used to living in a smaller space and living so close to each other.

It’s 18 minutes long but the crew of Terrapin put together a great video tour with excellent detail of their home. Check it out >>here<<!


For more information about SV Terrapin and to follow the cruising adventures of the Nance family, visit their website: www.sv-terrapin.com

Jessica and Emma have created their very own blog, Pigtails in Paradise, to stay in touch with friends from back home and also to share their thoughts on the cruising life from a kid’s perspective. You can find the girls’ blog >>here<<.

If you’re like me and find it easiest to follow along on facebook, visit ‘Sailing With Terrapin‘ to like their page!


(All photos published with permission, courtesy of www.sv-terrapin.com)

By Jody Pountain for the [Tiny House Blog]



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