It’s Good to Be Little
Choosing to go small was a very conscious decision. For boating to be sustainable for me and my circumstances, I bought the smallest boat that would fulfill my needs. The more popular attitude seems to buy the biggest boat one can afford and to maintain land-based lifestyles.
Many new boat owners are unprepared for the costs of keeping a boat maintained. The bigger the boat, the higher that is. I often see the inability of people to keep up. They spend their time and money on maintenance and moorage, rarely using the boat. There is also the person who lives aboard but doesn’t keep it in seaworthy enough condition to leave the dock. All of this was unappealing to me.
So, I went small. I do make choices and accept conditions that many would find unacceptable for themselves. Sacrifice can be relative. The payoff of sailing more and living within my means is worthwhile. My carbon footprint is smaller than the average American and far smaller than the average boater.
Fast Forward to the Coronavirus Pandemic
I was living at Point Hudson Marina in Port Townsend for the winter of 2019/20. The liveaboard moorage there was transient, and you are required to leave on May 1st to make room for the tourist season. When the pandemic fully arrived in March, and the lockdown ensued, options and communications became uncertain.
I was fortunate enough to be working and very happy I wasn’t living in Seattle. However, the idea of not having dockside moorage with steady access to water and electricity during a pandemic was a source of anxiety. While I was able to live anchored off the waterfront, this seemed especially unappealing. I have spent many weeks at anchor during various expeditions with Sampaguita and relished it. But somehow, it wasn’t exciting to me at all while working full time and dealing with the chaos of a worldwide health crisis.
I had several non-boating friends tell me I must be lucky to have a boat in these times. I always responded with, “Well, it has its plusses and minuses.” In reality, “escaping” wasn’t an option. Job abandonment didn’t seem wise, and I felt good about my workplace’s preparation and protocols. And escape to where? No communities wanted outsiders showing up off their shore. You will always be considered a vector. You will put pressure on their resources, and I was a bit worried about security too. No, I wanted to make my stand in Port Townsend, I just wanted a secure place to moor.
I can guess what you might be thinking. With a bigger boat, living at anchor is easier. I could have larger water tanks, a water maker, solar panels, wind generators, refrigeration, a hot water tank, pressurized faucets, a dinghy with an outboard, and more. Except this wouldn’t have been in line with my pre-pandemic reasoning. Plus, while I had a job, there were no guarantees with that. Financial times were bound to be difficult for many for quite some time to come. I was happy with my choice to keep my overhead low.
And now comes the punch line. In January, I paid $100 to sign up for the permanent slip waiting list at Boat Haven Marina. The smallest slips were 25 feet, and since that accommodates a Flicka, that was my choice. At the time, the list was five names long, but for whatever reason, people often pass. I was told, “It may not take long for your turn to come.” In contrast, I know people with boats over 30 feet who’ve been waiting two years or more for a slip. For larger ones, it could be three, four, or five years, or longer.
Sure enough, in February, I got a call for a slip. But can you believe I didn’t realize I had a message from the Port until about five days later, and by then, they had moved to the next person? Ugh. That was when the pandemic was still just an epidemic. But by April, I was losing sleep on where I was going to go on May 1st. Then, I got “the” call again! I did not miss it this time, and I did not hesitate. “Yes, that slip sounds great, and thank you very much.”
So, on May 1st, within four months of adding my name to the waiting list, I moved into my new permanent slip. The virtue of being small has paid off again. “It’s good to be little.” “I am thankful to be little.”
Living aboard a small boat
Has challenges you may note
The galley is small
A head with no wall
But low fees to stay afloat