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Grandparents Ditched Mortgage for Sailboat and Van Life

This is the story of Tony and Margo. They are retired grandparents who ditched the traditional life of a house with a mortgage and switched to a more mobile and adventurous lifestyle.

They now enjoy living in their 1987 Catalina 36 sailboat along with a 1982 VW Westfalia van that they call their Baja Buggy. The couple has been living on their sailboat for over 20 years now.

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Retired Couple Living Aboard Catalina 36 Sailboat for 20+ Years

Grandparents Ditch Traditional Life for Sailboat and VW Van Life 001

Images via FLORB/YouTube

This is what it’s like when they’re using the sailboat as their home.

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Images via FLORB/YouTube

It’s actually pretty spacious.

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Images via FLORB/YouTube

This is what the cozy bedroom looks like in the sailboat.

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Images via FLORB/YouTube

When they’re on land, they like to live and get around with their VW van camper.

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Images via FLORB/YouTube

It’s a wonderful micro-studio on wheels!

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Images via FLORB/YouTube

And when you find a spot like this…

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Images via FLORB/YouTube

Video: Retired Grandparents Ditch Mortgage for Life at Sea


  • The couple have been married for over 50 years
  • They have now been living in a sailboat for 20 years after spending 3 years selling their home, cars, and getting rid of their debts
  • They also have a 1982 VW Westfalia Van for traveling on land
  • They live aboard a Catalina 36 sailboat
  • The boat has a 25 horsepower diesel engine


  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zYXsBphrh4E
  2. http://dylanmagaster.com/
  3. https://twitter.com/dylanmagaster
  4. https://www.instagram.com/dylanmagaster/
  5. https://www.patreon.com/dylanmagaster

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Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Hudson
    August 12, 2018, 3:28 pm

    No heat or a/c on the boat or did I miss that? They must feel pretty safe to live in Mexico.

    • jerry
      August 12, 2018, 7:56 pm

      You can have A/C, no problem. Why would you think otherwise?
      But since the water is so cold there it’s not really needed or use it to cool the air.
      I lived 25+ yrs aboard and hard to beat for a low cost life.
      And good boats are available at really low prices normally finding good ones for $5k if one looks well.
      Only get the boat you need. I’d stick to under 30′ for 2 people as easier to handle and everything is priced on the length for dockage, bottom painting, hauling out, etc.
      A great idea is taking a 25-28′ trailer sailboat or 12-24′ houseboat and convert it to solar which can run an A/C if needed and anything you want really.
      Then use on water or land.

  • August 12, 2018, 3:54 pm

    My lifestyle is this, forever free…….!

  • Toni
    August 12, 2018, 6:35 pm

    Wow! Beautiful story and wonderful lifestyle! We have been discussing going this route, but I would want a Chinese junk for the larger beam. I love the full kitchen setup (For a boat) as well as the setup in the Westfalia. So nice to see there are other people that love cooking so much. Tony and Margo, if you read this and I may ask, why Ensenada and not further south to Rocky Point or even the Sea of Cortez? Just curiosity on my part since we considered going south for the same reasons you have.

    • Jerry Dycus
      March 6, 2019, 5:23 pm

      Buy the smallest boat that you are comfortable with. The larger the boat the more it owns you vs you owning it.
      I’d avoid a Junk as likely a lot of work to maintain unless you like working on boats.
      Boats are rather cheap especially in the fall up north.
      But a great low cost life I found for 25 yrs. And sailors especially are the best people as we depend on each other.

  • Margo A. huizing
    August 13, 2018, 8:34 pm

    Our children live along the coast of California and our vantage point from Ensenada is perfect when we want to visit them and our six grand children. We take the buggy south all the time to kayak, hike and enjoy the Sea of Cortez. The location is perfect for us.

  • Michael
    March 7, 2019, 6:37 am

    Perfect. I like this combination of sailboat and van which allows to travel on land and water. It costs less than a house and cars when you keep it at a decent size.

  • Astrid Von Lichtenstein
    April 23, 2019, 1:29 am

    God has blessed you both!!! I’m so glad you are enjoying your life. I’m a flight attendant so I’ve been all over the world. I live small in a rural country setting. I have dogs, cats, chickens and fresh eggs every day. I have no mortgage, no car payment and minimal debt. My parents are elderly and only 5 minutes away. I feel so blessed everyday and I’m happy 😊 when I hear that other people are happy with simple lives as well. I wish you happiness all the days of your life!!!!! XoxoxoX

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