Sunday, May 27, 2012

How to make a boat a home

Is it human nature to want to mold your environment to reflect your presence? I find that even in the small confines of a boat, with the big beautiful world around us as an infinite yard/playground, we are still looking internally at what about the boat we can alter, change or add to.

We've been visiting lots of other boat-homes and I am inspired, amazed and surprised by what personal touches and innovative designs people have managed to create within a severely limited space.

We bought our boat out of charter. It's previous life was a week in week out transport of tourists, whose aim was to motor to as many beautiful places as possible in the shortest possible time. As chartering is expensive, the aim was always to get as many bodies on board as possible, to share costs.

So Shiloh hosted eight guests at any given time, fully utilising her 4 berths (beds) and 4 heads (bathrooms). She did her job well and made it through the constant turnaround for over 7 years fairly unscathed.

Now that we have moved aboard, we have completely different needs. 4 heads is almost ridiculous. Even in large suburban homes, 4 bathrooms is an overkill. We've got an ensuite for each bedroom, even though these bedrooms are smaller than the average walk-in closet!

We have no shelving, no knick knacks, no clutter. And though that is great, the boat is still looking less loved, less lived in than others.

We will definitely add things as we go, but there comes a point where boat owners have to decide how much to alter or change. Structurally speaking, removing bathrooms involves plumbing and throughhulls and can get complicated. Changing one of the berths into a storage or living space can also be quite complicated, not to mention expensive.

But this is our home and we plan to be with Shiloh for quite a while. So she is worth our best efforts.

The question is where to draw the line. Can we change the colour of the interior wood or even change the surfaces altogether? Should we recover the lounge suite cushions with leather?

The list gets longer, the longer we live aboard.

Installing the new dodger
 We have already added some practical things like a clear dodger above the cockpit so that we don't get soaked during rainstorms and high seas. We've added side panels as well for a cozier and less wet experience at anchor. We added nice white vinyl cushions on the outdoor seating area.

I'm sure we'll continue bit by bit over the months and years.

All around us the turquoise sea holds us afloat and captures our senses. Palm trees wave from the shore. But I guess that a home is always something we need to create, no matter how beautiful our surroundings nor how small the residence.


  1. Be happy you don't have a bunch of stuff in your boat! It just gets in the way. I did see something neat in another cruiser's boat the other day, though. They had nicely drapped the courtesy flags from all the different countries they'd visited across one wall.

    That's awesome that you guys have four heads! Ours is so small it reminds me of Alice in Wonderland.

    1. Thanks for commenting Bettie! I admit it's nice not to be weighed down with tonns of stuff :) I do like the flag idea and might follow that as we gather them.

      We are already considering adapting the two heads in one hull, to be one for shower only and the other for toilet and sink. Love your Alice comment :)

  2. How about some marine antiques? Currently refitting our Hallberg Rassy and giving it a personal touch.

    1. B.L.U.curl - sounds lovely - I guess it will take time to find things that suit our boat and our personalities :)

  3. You could paint some things yourself or do mosaic work to personalize the area. If you don't like the boat cushion covers..consider redoing them as it's relatively cheap in the grand scheme of boat refit.

    Beautiful boat!

    1. sundowners - I absolutely LOVE mosaic work - I have a few pieces that I bought but it's a great idea to learn how to do it. And yes, we'll recover the cushions in the saloon as they take up a big part of the main room and could make a big difference :)