Words and Photos by Kel Rohlf
As I’ve alluded to in past posts, my dream has been to live on our boat. It was autumn when we bought the boat, and the first thing I told Les was that I wanted to spend Christmas Eve on the boat. We made reservations at the Alton marina near our home. I packed food, warm clothes, a little Christmas tree and stockings and brought gifts. Our sons met us Christmas morning.
We were new boaters. We knew we’d have shore power, where we “plug” the boat into a receptacle on the dock. Neither one of us thought to bring our little electric heater. We were quite cold our first night on the Intuition. I slept with my warm hat hunkered down in the sleeping bag.
We planned to bring the boat home that afternoon, but soon realized that the ramp where we put in was below a level for taking boat back onto the trailer. That happens at Alton when the lock and dam lets water out. We didn’t know, we were first time boaters. Thankfully, the marina let us keep our boat there free of charge. A week later we decided that we could get it out at a ramp north twenty miles. One son pushed ice chunks out of the path out the boat while Les drove, and the other son and I drove the truck and trailer to the ramp. A great first memory of our Intuition.
Since then we’ve “lived” on our boat while cruising rivers, canals, lakes and inter coastal waterways. While living on our boat this summer, I realized there are three ways that we live: cruising, anchoring and hanging out at marinas.
While cruising Les does the majority of navigating and driving. I take over the helm from time to time to give Les a break or to give me a different perspective. I like to be “doing” something. I can read, write in my journal, take photos, knit, nap or cook meals while we cruise. And often Les and I’ll talk about life or what’s next when we arrive at our destination.
We like a good mix between anchoring and staying at marinas on a long trip like this. On some trips, we primarily stay at a marina like when we stayed in Florida at Marineland marina. One of my favorites because I could walk across the street to the beach, while Les worked from the boat. On weekends we often only anchor out when we cruise up to our favorite diner in Hardin, Illinois. And occasionally we stay at Alton marina.
There’s only a few differences between anchoring or mooring at a marina, when it comes to living aboard. The obvious one being that at marinas we have access to the amenities on shore, like showers, laundry, groceries and shore power. While at anchor we have a solar battery to charge electronics and a house battery to run lights, the refrigerator and water pump for the sink. All our radios and gadgets are powered by the boat batteries. The boat batteries (two) charge while we motor around or via a portable generator if we need it. Les would like to use solar power to recharge those batteries, as technology becomes more affordable and efficient.
Whether we’re anchored out or at the marina one of my favorite occupations is planning and cooking our meals. Storage on the boat is minimal, but I have created a galley and system for storing food, dishes etc that works. Sometimes Les will offer to cook or deal with the dishes, but I often have to intervene because I know where everything is stowed.
Our boat is pretty easy to keep clean. Making the bed is a chore since you have to climb in the berth to tuck the sheets, but on this trip I’ve become a pro at pulling everything out, since water from condensation has been accumulating under the hypervent padding. The bed is three layers: the hypervent, cushions and memory foam. I pull everything out about once a week, dry the fiberglass platform that all the layers rest upon, then put it all back.
Living on a boat is work. Living on our boat is a great pleasure, as we’ve made it our own and it’s just right for the two of us. We give each other space when we need it. One of us will sit inside, while the other sits on the “back porch.” And when we’re in port, we can go off exploring by ourselves, if we so choose.
Living on our boat may be seen as romantic, but mostly it’s not that much different than living our everyday life. Except, of course, the views and the water and the places we get to see. Otherwise it’s eat, sleep, shower and embrace each new day.
Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. (Matthew 6:34 The Message)