The design of tiny homes owes a lot to the design of boats, and while I’ve spent a lot of time in tiny houses on wheels, I’ve had practically no experience with life on the water. So I decided that staying in a docked, 25-foot sailboat would be a fun counterpoint to my time in tiny homes.
I spent two nights on the “Mother Goose”, which is available on Airbnb as a nightly rental in Port Angeles, Washington. My two nights on the water were a fun experiment in small spaces, and a great opportunity for me to briefly try on boat living.
The Mother Goose
The Mother Goose is probably best for one person or a couple. It has a full bed that narrows considerably at the foot, an eating nook that can convert into a single bed if needed, and a minimal kitchen with an icebox, electric kettle, and sink that drains directly into the water. There are several little storage areas, and no real bathroom, but there were nice centralized facilities a brief walk from the dock.
I’ve been in maybe two dozen tiny houses at this point, but I was surprised at how different the Mother Goose felt. Although it has around 84-square feet of floor space – the same size as the tiny house Dee Williams has lived in for years – it felt quite a bit smaller than Dee’s house. Partially because square footage on a boat can be deceptive – everything is curved, so the usual measurements don’t really work. But the main difference was in ceiling height. A few extra feet of head height can make a huge psychological difference, and there was only about a five by five foot area on the boat where I could stand up straight. I found myself frequently ducking when I didn’t need to. I’ve heard people recount a similar feeling in camper vans. It also made me recall how huge Alex and Allison’s 320 square foot accessory home felt, mostly because their ceiling height was so tall.
But the size of the space wasn’t a hindrance, over all. When my companion and I sat across from one another in the eating nook, reading and working, everything felt normal as could be. Climbing into the bed felt like entering a children’s fort, which was fun and cozy.
One common issue people face with tiny houses on wheels is parking – where will they live? In a friendly back yard, or a rural area far from zoning enforcement? Living in boats has been common for much longer, so boat “parking” isn’t as worrisome. The marina was surprisingly convenient to the rest of town, and the “neighborhood” was quiet and beautiful.
“A Place for Everything”
My favorite moment in the boat (Aside from sunrise, that is) was the first time I took off my shoes. We had just come in and covered most of the surface areas with our luggage, so I stood with them in my hand, wondering where I could I put them down so they wouldn’t be in the way. Then I saw the space underneath the step down into the cabin, and it was perfect. I set my shoes there, feeling so clever and self-satisfied. The last day when I woke up, I noticed that my companion’s shoes were there too, right next to mine.
In my own homes, I’ve always had a spot where I set my keys and wallet, but this wasn’t just the place I knew to look for my shoes, it was the only reasonable place to put them. It was as though the step was designed with that intention: Dual-purpose step/shoe cubby. When I visited Aldo in his tiny house on wheels, he described the tiny house experience as an exercise in, “Constantly taking things from their place, and putting them back in their place.” One on hand, that can be a hassle. But you can also get a very contented feeling from putting something in its right place, and not using up your braincells wondering where you left your phone or your keys.
If you’re interested in tiny homes, I totally recommend a stay in a boat like the Mother Goose. It’s great to test your assumptions about what kind of square footage and amenities you need, and aspiring tiny house designers have a ton to learn from boat design. Plus, isn’t everything a little more fun when you’re on the water?
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