How does life aboard Yahtzee work for us?

How does life aboard Yahtzee work for us?

As we cruise and race aboard Yahtzee, we come across a lot of folks with a wide array of questions about what our lifestyle is about. Because we don’t have permanent moorage and are always on the move, people often wonder how we do everyday things like laundry or where we get our mail. And it’s hard for some to understand that this is our life and that we’re not on a constant trip or vacation with a house or homeport to go back to.

That said, here are some of the frequent and funny questions that we get asked along the way…

Where do you do your laundry? 

The quick answer is, wherever it’s convenient. Many marinas or yacht clubs have laundry facilities that we use when we stop to get provisions and take showers. And if those aren’t available, we’ll take it to a regular old laundromat. With two boys aboard, we try to get it done once a week, but that can be tricky.

Also, we’re often invited to bring laundry with us to friend’s houses — because nothing says “I’m a cruiser” like taking your laundry to a dinner party!

How do you shop for groceries?

This one goes with the laundry question in that we do it when we stop in port. Jill’s very good at provision planning, which allows us to go 5 to 10 days without needing a grocery store. But it really depends. Some places we cruise to have more convenient grocery stops than others. For instance, while cruising in Desolation Sound for 3.5 weeks provisioning options are limited, so we went to the store less and had to plan accordingly. But if we’re near places like Ganges, Friday Harbor, Port Townsend or Anacortes, then it’s much easier.

Porter and Magnus rollin' in Chuck Wagon on the ferry from Nanaimo to West Vancouver.

Porter and Magnus rollin’ in Chuck Wagon on the ferry from Nanaimo to West Vancouver.

As far as how we physically get there, Jill and the boys typically walk with the collapsable wagon (which Porter named Chuck) while I work. Or, I hang out with the boys and she goes, which can be much easier for everyone. We’ll also take public transportation, and Jill and the boys have even accepted a ride back to Yahtzee from a fireman on a gator.

Porter loved getting a lift from the fireman

Porter loved getting a lift from the fireman

How do you get around?

We get this one a lot because we don’t own a car, and the simple truth is that we walk … a lot. But it really depends on where we are and what we’re doing because our kayak and dinghy are like cars to us while we’re anchored out. And the wagon does a lot of the heavy lifting when we’re on land.

Our cars: the kayak, aka Spirit Bear, and the dinghy, aka Hornpipe.

Our cars: the kayak, aka Spirit Bear, and the dinghy, aka Hornpipe, carrying the wagon.

Other than walking, we use any combination of public transportation such as trains, buses, Ubers and have been known to hitch a ride here and there — which is common practice in many island communities that we visit. Occasionally we’ll also borrow a friend’s car or rent one, but rarely.

What about safety? Or as the question usually gets asked, “Do you worry about them falling overboard?”

Life jackets — or as we call them, boat coats — are non-negotiable. If Porter and Magnus are on deck and out of the companionway, they have to have one on. No exceptions. And if they’re not in a boat coat, they’re in a harness and tether attached to the boat.

Magnus eating a cooking in his boat coat just outside of the companionway.

Magnus eating a cookie in his boat coat just outside of the companionway.

Also, it is our duty to keep an eye on them while they’re on deck and to educate them about safety. We don’t “worry” about them falling overboard, but we teach them what to do if they did go overboard and talk together about what we would do in the event. The fact of the matter is that if they did go overboard, a life jacket is going to save their lives. Period.

On deck in their harness and tethers during the Oregon Offshore Race.

On deck in their harness and tethers during the Oregon Offshore Race, with lifeline netting as an added precaution.

And while safety equipment is helpful, so too is their familiarity with being on the boat in a variety of conditions. The boys joined us aboard Yahtzee when they were hours old, have spent many miles under sail and power, and learned to walk on deck and down below while the boat was moving. That comfort level doesn’t mean an accident won’t happen, but it does help a lot as they walk around the boat on a daily basis.

Do you have a shower on board?

Technically we do have a shower aboard, but we don’t use it. It’s not an actual shower stall, so everything in our forward head would get soaked and the amount of condensation that all four of us showering regularly would create would be immense.

Our shower routine is tied to the stops we make for provisions, laundry and fuel, so we’re typically showering at a marina or yacht club while the laundry is going. And in the summer we use a sun shower on deck.

How do you stay warm in the winter?

For starters, winters aren’t that bad while cruising in the Pacific Northwest. I can count on one hand how many times we’ve seen snow or ice on deck and I don’t even have pictures to substantiate that claim, it’s so rare.

Our diesel fireplace is great at keeping the boat warm and dry

Our diesel fireplace is great at keeping the boat warm and dry

When we’re anchored out, we have a Sig Marine 180 diesel fireplace that keeps the boat really warm and dry. It’s awesome. We run it off and on throughout the day and in the past two winters of cruising full-time, we’ve only kept it running all night a few times. Our Mr. Buddy propane heater is great for quickly taking the chill out of the air while we get the fireplace going. And our oil lamp is perfect for times when we don’t quite need all the heat of the fireplace.

If we’re at a dock we run a small space heater and a dehumidifier. Together they do quite well to heat and dry the boat; the dehumidifier pulls out the cold moist air and then the space heater warms up the cabin.

How do you fund this?

I work from the boat as managing editor for Three Sheets Northwest and also do some freelance writing and editing on the side. As long as I have a decent connection to the Internet for a portion of the week, I’m good. I use a combination of data from our cell phones and Wi-Fi to stay connected.

Where are you from or where do you live?

We get this one A LOT and though it isn’t a tough one for us to answer, it can be difficult for people to grasp. The easiest response is, “Wherever the boat is.” And if you ask Porter where he’s from he’ll tell you, “Yahtzee.”

Yahtzee's homeport says Seattle, but our home is really wherever happen to be at the moment.

Yahtzee’s homeport says Seattle, but our home is really wherever we happen to be at the moment.

Since we don’t have a permanent slip, storage unit or car tying us to any port, where we’re from really rotates with the seasons. During the winter of 2014-2015, we cruised around the San Juan Islands because Magnus was born in Bellingham in December and we needed to stick close for appointments before and after his birth. Then we went north into British Columbia for the summer and back down to Puget Sound all the way south to Olympia in the fall before returning north to the islands.

This past winter we mostly lived in British Columbia around the Gulf Islands, but also spent a fair amount of time in the San Juans and a few weeks in Puget Sound. We spent the month of April working our way towards and into the Columbia River and then returned north to Victoria in May in the Oregon Offshore Race. From Victoria we cruised around Vancouver Island for three months and are planning to explore Puget Sound this fall.

So I guess the more appropriate question would be, “where are you cruising this (insert season here)?”

When are you going south?

This is a funny one to us because for many Pacific Northwest cruisers it’s automatically assumed that you’re “getting ready” to head south to Mexico and beyond. And while, yes, we’d like to do that someday, it won’t be soon. We lived in and experienced cruising in the tropics for many years and are in no hurry to return.

Wait, sailing to the Columbia River from the San Juan Islands is sailing south, right?

Wait, sailing to the Columbia River from the San Juan Islands IS sailing south, right?

We love cruising the PNW, have only scratched the surface of what British Columbia has to offer and dream of cruising in Jill’s home state of Alaska for a few summers, so the tropics can wait.

How will you socialize and educate the boys!? 

This is by far the most frequent query that we get, and it usually comes with a look of consternation from the questioner. Though other people seem to be quite concerned about how the boys will be “properly educated and socialized” — which we appreciate — Porter and Magnus are only 3 years old and 18 months, so we’ve got a few years. Of course, that answer doesn’t sit well with folks who believe that hyper-planning every aspect of the boys’ futures is an absolute necessity. And that education and socialization mean plunking them into a seat in a classroom with 20 other kids and a teacher. (For an in-depth look at this, here’s a great post on the topic of socialization by a friend and fellow cruising family). So the party line is that we’ll do some combination of (gasp!) homeschooling and stopping to put them in school. We’re by no means discounting the possible value of formal schooling, we’re just taking it one step at a time to do what’s best for their educational and socialization needs as they mature.

The boys are all good!

The boys are all good!

Jill takes the boys to aquariums, story hours, kids groups and playtimes whenever possible, and Porter has participated in an early learning program in BC. But as far as preschool and then school goes, we feel like the outdoor education we’re giving him, coupled with working on letters, numbers, reading, art projects, etc, is working great. Talk to the boys, and you’ll find out fairly quickly that they’re doing well.

Where do you get your mail?

This is a great question, and is one that we re-explain on a regular basis. We get our mail through Dockside Solutions in Seattle. Our friend Angela started this service out of Shilshole Bay Marina and has clients all over the world. Basically what happens is that Dockside gets our mail, scans it and puts it into a Dropbox folder. We can then select to have it held for us, opened and scanned, trashed or forwarded to an address of our choosing. I typically grab it when I come through Seattle for work or we have friends stop by and pick it up for us if we know we’ll be seeing them soon. Since starting with Dockside, though, we’ve realized that we don’t actually get that much mail.

How do you stay fit, do you have a gym membership?

We seriously get this question, which kind of makes sense, as many people have gym memberships and stay fit in a variety of ways, so they wonder how we do.

Rowing is great exercise.

Rowing is great exercise.

We’re fortunate that many of the activities listed above are physically oriented, which keeps us in good shape. Swimming, hiking, beach combing, rowing, paddling and actively sailing the boat keep us in, as we call it, “boat shape.” But the lifestyle has its hidden rewards, too. Walking to and from the grocery store while pulling a wagon or wearing a backpack, or both, is great exercise. And simply hoisting the dinghy and kayak on and off the deck and beach is a workout in itself. We also try to get in some yoga on the beach or foredeck and just being parents of two active boys keeps us moving. Plus, I don’t even know where we would get a gym membership, as we’re not in one place long enough to use it.

How long will you do this for? 

It’s easy for us to understand that our nomadic, cruising lifestyle is seen by some as a short term adventure that we’ll eventually move away from or get tired of. It’s not the norm, and can be hard to think of as a full-time way to live if you’re not a sailor. Some cruisers have a set two, three, four or five year cruising plan that they stick to, but that has never been our goal. We don’t subscribe to timelines or “5 year plans.” When we moved aboard Yahtzee and then started cruising it was with the thought that if it worked for us, we’d keep going. And now, it’s working so well that we can’t imagine doing anything else.

We also get variations on the question, “So, when you’re done sailing, you’ll buy a house?” Our answer to this one is quick and easy, “No, probably a bigger boat.” The bottom line is that we don’t want to live any differently than we are now. Of course, nobody knows what will really happen and what different paths and incarnations our cruising life will take, but the thought of plunking down roots in one spot and buying a home, car and everything that goes with it is unsettling to say the least. At some point we’ll probably stop to top up the cruising kitty — which is common among world cruisers — but it will be with the purpose of getting back out here as soon as possible. Life is good, and we’re happy Rollin’ with Yahtzee. Or as Jill so aptly put it recently, “Life couldn’t be better.”

Sailing fast on a relatively calm sea inside the reefs.

Hope this helps, and if you have any quesitons or comments, please feel free to contact us here:

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