Family of four moves onto boat to find path again

April 3 | Guest post by Maddie
The Wild Rose on the water.
The Wild Rose on the water.

When my husband and I met ten years ago on Orcas Island, we would spend a considerable amount of time dreaming of living alternatively. The thought of a house in a neighborhood bored us to tears. We wanted different, we wanted a little hardship in our living, and we wanted to physically work for what we had. The standard American way of living never looked that lovely to us.

Don't get me wrong — I drool over perfectly styled spaces. Historic homes will always tug at my heart. But let's be real here for a sec: if you spend anymore than ten minutes with my husband and me, you will quickly realized quaint historic homes and styled nooks aren't our gig.

Over the years, our goals and dreams have drifted everywhere from living in a bus, to a yurt, to a grain silo, to a storage container, and everywhere in between. We dreamed of a unique space that would allow us to be creative but also not be tied down financially to our home. We didn't want a big, expensive, fancy house. We wanted simple. We never wanted to be owned by our possessions.

Then we had our first daughter and thought that all of our creative ways to live had to wait. We needed a proper house to raise our baby. We took out a thirty-year mortgage and settled in with the rest of America in the 'burbs of Portland, Oregon. We put our true dreams on hold for what we thought we were supposed to have. But somehow, we never stopped sitting up at night drawing new ideas for tiny houses, dreaming up budgets to travel in a bus or scheming ways to live off of the grid.

We were trapped in suburbia and needed to bust the hell outta there quick. There was no denying it. We didn't belong.

Our second daughter arrived and we started making an exit plan. Our path led us to San Juan Island in Washington. We rented a house. A big house. The biggest house either of us had ever lived in. 2200-square-feet big. And we settled right in. But we didn't feel settled. We didn't need all of that space. We didn't want to buy more things to fill that space, either.

Bit by bit, we started to talk about what our next step would be. We talked about buying land and building our own tiny home (as in, physically doing it ourselves). Honestly though, we have a two- and a four-year-old, and we are tired. We didn't have time to build a house. We didn't have the money to buy land. We didn't want another loan and we didn't want to be owned by our house.

And then one day it all became clear. We needed to simplify our life to get where we wanted to be. We really had everything we needed already. We didn't need a big house and we didn't need all our stuff. What we needed was a boat. Yes, we needed a boat to live on. This little family of four + one old lab needed a boat.

One might think, "oh wow, how fun, they must be experienced boaters." Well think again, sisters and brothers. My husband boated when he was little, but that was recreationally. My family went canoeing once and only once. We spent a lot of time in the bushes along the river on that particular family trip. Boating is not in our blood. Okay, it is more in my husband's blood than mine and he is handy and mechanically inclined. But still, you get the point. We are novices.

wildrose.1 006wildrose.1 002

Everybody has their first day at being new at something, though. So just like any good inexperienced boating family, we purchased a beautiful (yet very reasonably-priced) 1954 50' Chris Craft Catalina. She is an old wood boat and her name is Wild Rose. She is one of ten boats of her kind, and it seems only one of two still remaining in the world. We fell in love with her as soon as we saw her. All I could think about was the fun someone had in the '50s when they got this boat.

She works like a charm and I know she has stories. We will only add to her stories. Every good adventure has a learning curve and this will prove no different. Here's to the "Adventures of Wild Rose."

wildrose.1 004

Join our community!

  1. Congratulations on taking the leap to live authentically. I would love to hear more about your adventures as you go!

    11 agree
    • Thanks! We are so excited about this new opportunity. Feel free to follow my blog as we continue on this adventure.

      5 agree
  2. I have the happiest memories of sailing around the San Juan islands (and BC) as a kid. My grandparents lived on Orcas – what a spectacular place! – and had a boat about the same size as your Wild Rose looks. We would take extended trips – 6 of us: my parents, my grandparents, and me and my sister. Oh, they were glorious – you're going to have so much fun! Or at least, your kids will have tons of fun…you might be in for a lot of work. ๐Ÿ™‚

    3 agree
    • Orcas is such a beautiful place- what a wonderful childhood you had! We are so happy to be able to provide this experience for our girls. I agree with you though, the work load for us is increasing. All worth it though ๐Ÿ˜‰

      2 agree
  3. OMG! San Juan Island is where my heart is and would move there in a second if I could. Enjoy your beautiful boat with your beautiful family in that beautiful sea!

    1 agrees
  4. "We wanted simple. We never wanted to be owned by our possessions."

    This is so great! My husband and I are looking into buying a sailboat (preferably a catamaran) and living on it full time, hopefully sometime in the next year or two. Good luck!

    3 agree
  5. How awesome to wake up every day on the water in the San Juans! It is so amazingly beautiful there!

    3 agree
  6. Love love love this post! I'm so sad the "fuck yeah" button didn't stay beyond April 1st just for this post because that is exactly what I said out loud when I read this! Growing up in Germany my family spent a summer on a boat cruising the Thames River and it was an amazing and challenging and wonderful learning experience. My retirement dream is to live on a boat cruising the ports and seeing new things, preferably in a catamaran. But for now I will settle for living in an RV and cruising the landlocked parts of the US and stalking your blog. How do y'all plan to handle winter cold weather in a boat with plummeting wind chill? Mostly I'm wondering about insulation of water/septic lines, interior moisture, and the like? Also, I'm so excited for your epic family adventure!!

    6 agree
    • We moved onto the boat in the last week of January and it coincided with a record setting coldest week. I was having major thoughts. We do have some insulation throughout the boat but freezing doesn't seem to be an issue. We are new at this though. We use space heaters but moisture is a huge issue for use. We have mushrooms growing!!! It is top priority to fix. So happy you enjoyed my post and happy days to you in your RV!

  7. Umm, can we see this as an ongoing series? I got to the bottom and was like, "TELL ME MORE!". I would love to see @Maddie write a post every few months updating us on boat living ๐Ÿ™‚

    5 agree
  8. OMG! So much awesome! So many questions!

    My first question was regarding water safety with the little ones – lo and behold, I clicked over to your blog and this was the first post I saw: http://adventuresofwildrose.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/children-and-life-jackets/

    I applaud you for trying something different, and exposing your girls to the amazing spiritual experience of life on the water. I hope when I become a parent I can do something equally as educational. I will be following your adventures!

    2 agree
  9. This is so cool! My dad has had the same slip at the local marina for almost 20 years, and the slip next to his is reserved for temporary guests. Over the years we've met a few families who were sailing long term – some up and down the west coast, around the pacific, or halfway around the globe. Certainly something I envied as a child.

    Anyways, if you ever head south to humboldt bay, you might end up in that slip. Stop in and say hi!

  10. Congratulations on your beautiful home! We are looking for our boat-home (NOT to be confused with a house boat!) as well, and actually looked at the Wild Rose a while back. She's a beautiful boat and I'm so glad she's found her people. I'm new to the wooden boat world too, but my hubby is a licensed captain, professional mariner and certified wooden boat fanatic so if you have questions or need resources about boat upkeep or cruising in the Sound, drop us a line! (Can you do that by clicking my name link? I don't know). Boat people are a wonderful, friendly, quirky set and your kid is going to have a fantastically wild childhood. Enjoy your grand adventure!

    1 agrees
    • So fun that you looked at the Wild Rose. We had our eye on her for about six months and looked at so many boats. When we realized she was still for sale we knew it was meant to be. We may just have a few questions for you so thanks for the offer as we are eager novices!

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.