Claustrophobic Moments

Just because I choose to live in a tiny floating home does not mean that I am exempt from having claustrophobic moments. Yes I love the tiny spaces of my home that are just big enough to hold the essential items, but there are other times when I curse those spaces with tears and frustration.

You see, maneuvering through tiny spaces on a boat is WAY different than moving about tiny spaces on land. Those that live in tiny houses on land, or even on wheels, can easily take for granted the fact that they are – for the most part – still. On a boat there’s always a degree of swaying.

You get used to it after a short period of time, but some days there are external factors like the wind chop, ocean swells, ferries or fast boats that can cause a significant amount of wake and waves and it never seems to happen at a convenient time. If I’m trying to get something out of the fridge or out of the pantry, I most likely have to remove half of the contents before climbing back into the fridge to get the item I want. That leaves a pile of things sitting next to me that can easily go flying across the room if a big wake comes, or if the seas are rough.

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Alternatively, boat maintenance usually involves a form of hot yoga in the most awkward places. When you’re upside down and laying over the engine, it’s extremely challenging to hold your body in such a way that allows you to get the job done. It usually looks like you are playing twister on a slow moving roller coaster ride! Now, try tightening some hose clamps, and crimping some new electrical connections with one hand, wiping the sweat from your brow with your upper arm and steadying yourself on one knee. Just don’t drop that screwdriver into the bilge!!! If only the boat would stop moving, this would be so much easier.

During times like those your concentration level is so high you don’t have time to even consider claustrophobic feelings until the work is done, then you realize you have to find a way back out of the hole you just crawled in. Other times I am acutely aware of my limited space.

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Our galley (otherwise known as the kitchen) is barely big enough for one person. When I’m in there, Peter will often step in to wash his hands or get something out of the fridge without asking me to move. He’s twice my size and if he steps in, I’m officially trapped. I can’t even take half a step in any direction. I can’t turn my body without bumping him. It’s times like that when my anxiety suddenly spikes and all I can think of is that I am trapped, and usually I’m up against an open flame on the gas stove! There’s no real danger in these mini claustrophobic moments and they never last long, but they do happen.

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Where my personal frustration always flares up is in the head (bathroom). The floor space inside is about the same as a port-a-potty though it does have decent storage, a sink and counter space. The door either has to be shut, or latched open. If you don’t latch it in either of those positions the rocking of the boat from side to side will cause the door to bang dangerously as it flings open and shut with each wave and you’re sure to lose a finger if you’re not careful. But sometimes I just want to step in to look in the mirror and brush my hair, or brush my teeth, or grab some deodorant! You work up a sweat flushing the toilet if the door is closed, though you don’t want it latched open the whole time either. I mean, is it too much to ask to have the door stay put when you open it half way? If the boat wasn’t constantly moving this tiny space wouldn’t feel so restrictive. It just freaks me out when the door shuts when I don’t want it to.

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The final place in my tiny floating home where I can fall victim to claustrophobia is in bed. It’s a trapezoid shaped mattress where we lie side to side not front to back. The inside position is enclosed by a low ceiling making it impossible to sit up straight. Peter is much taller so he takes the long part on the outside where he has plenty of clearance to sit straight up and stand next to the bed. I have to climb in over him and the dogs to get into what I call the coffin. To top it off, it’s so hot in the Caribbean that a space like that with no airflow is a sweat box. Luckily, there is a fan installed inside the coffin and I have to have it on all night long to retain my sanity. At least the mosquitoes don’t come after me in there!

Though I may have a few panic-stricken claustrophobic moments, daily life aboard a 300-some square foot tiny floating home is actually pretty comfortable. I wouldn’t trade it for a regular house in a million years 😉

Do you feel claustrophobic in tiny spaces?

(All photos published with permission, courtesy of

By Jody Pountain for the [Tiny House Blog]

6 thoughts on “Claustrophobic Moments”

  1. its cold, you climb into the bilge way back there…start sliding back out after completing the task…your clothes begin to bunch up…stopping you in your tracks. a thought occurs to you, no one knows you are at the boat. hmmm visualizing the headlines, “human popsicle found…””authorities had to cut the bottom of the boat out to recover the body!” ah,… move back forward and start removing layers with the whole 1- 1/4″ clearance! ha…keep livin’ the dream…blessings to you and yours….

  2. Looks nice inside. What kind of boat is it?

    That’s a pretty good size boat. Why not sleep outside under mosquito netting? The nights must be beautiful when it’s not raining, and even then you could sleep under a tarp.

    I have known people that cruise in an open boat and just sleep under a rigged tarp.

    Best wishes.

  3. The first picture alone made me claustrophobic! A jumble of body parts, all unidentified, initially, as to whose arm, foot, knee, head, etc. that is here or there… let alone how one might (or might not!) be connected to the other… 😉
    It took me about 5 minutes, and coming back to it, a few times, before I realized, with SOME certainty, that it’s of TWO people… the feet and knees belong to the camera-folder/helper, the red is NOT a pillowcase on someone’s HEAD but a tee-shirt on a body leaning down and INTO some tiny compartment, and the arm belonging to someone in that region… whew!
    You guys must be YOUNG and/or contortionists to live and work like this… although I admire the tenacity and sheer grit it takes to live this kind of ‘tiny’ (on rolling seas, no less – my stomach just knotted…), I could never do it…
    Even a comparatively large houseboat of 300 to 400 square feet would give me considerable pause (I can’t swim well, AT ALL, so anything ON the water is set to put me ill at ease from the ‘git – go’!)!
    Kudos to you for being HAPPY, not to mention, quite adroit, living thusly, however.
    Love being given the glimpse into another variation on ‘living tiny/small’!
    Great story….

  4. I bet it is great for sleeping, though…I am referring to the swaying of the boat; of course, provided that it isn’t stormy weather. I live in a 3 and a half apartment in the basement of a house…my apartment is a split level, so the bedroom and bathroom are on the upper level and the living room and kitchen are on the lower level. I only get claustrophobic if there is a lot of “stuff”, or clutter, or too much furniture. But since I am a happy minimalist I don’t have this problem, as to me, less is more, and I prefer having more breathing space than furniture and clutter. 🙂


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