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Vacationing in a Docked 25-Foot Sailboat

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.

Mother Goose sailboat exterior

Sailboat exterior Sailboat interior Sailboat kitchen Sailboat bed Sailboat eating nook

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.

Sailboat neighborhood

“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.

Shoes in their place

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?

I enjoyed my small space vacation, but to learn more about what it’s like to live in small spaces day-in and day-out, check out my Life in a Tiny House Ebook.

If you enjoyed the Mother Goose sailboat, you’ll absolutely LOVE our free daily tiny house newsletter with even more! Thank you!

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Billy Ulmer

Writer at PAD Tiny Houses
Billy Ulmer is the author of the Life in a Tiny House Ebook, a collection of photos and in-depth interviews with people who designed and built their own tiny homes. He is a co-owner of PADTinyHouses.com.
{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Brent
    June 26, 2015, 11:06 am

    Hello I live in a 30 foot sailboat on the Great Lakes. It does take some time to get used to, but like any small space you learn to adapt and downsize.
    I live on the boat 6 months of the , winters on the water can be brutal up here .
    Typically the marina is very quite during the week, I have never slept better in my life, and if I want a change of scenery, I cast off and head elsewhere, my backyard playlake is huge .
    I believe in small spaces and the boat fits al my needs and sense of adventure. I love it (:

  • Shaw
    June 26, 2015, 12:44 pm

    Cal25 Excelent choice.

  • June 26, 2015, 2:58 pm

    I’m a retired yacht captain and spent a good bit of my adult life living on boats from a 47′ classic motor yacht, to a 65′ Hatteras motor yacht to an 85′ custom-built sailboat on the French Riviera (hey, SOMEBODY was going to do it, why not ME?).

    After returning to the States from Europe I bought a 26′ sailboat and cruised and lived on it for almost six years. I loved them all.

  • David Filar
    June 26, 2015, 4:16 pm

    A Cal 25 wasn’t the best choice for overnighting. The interior fiberglass is not ‘finished’ smooth. It was also a waste not to sail the boat. I sailed a Cal 25 from 1971 to 1982 out of Rock Creek off the Patapsco River in Baltimore. My parents sold the Cal 25 and bought a Dickinson 41 center-cockpit ketch. For three years they traversed the Intra-Coastal Waterway between Ocean City, MD and Marathon, FL in the Keys. On their last trip north they made the Bahamas. It’s my book “How My Parents Spent My Inheritance!” Thanks for the photos. They brought back a lot of memories.

  • Jabasini
    July 3, 2015, 1:24 am

    That just seems too small and confining…:(

  • Capt.Steve Thompson
    July 7, 2015, 7:00 pm

    25′ is right on the border of uncomfortable, but it depends a lot on the boat in question. Try a Catalina of comparable size you would be amazed at the difference. Sailboats tend to be VERY well laid out, and thoughtful in small ways.

  • February 2, 2016, 7:41 pm

    I’ve been sailing and cruising on small sailboats for over 30 years. Have spent a number of years at a time living aboard small sailboats. It’s not a simple conversion from land living, but the rewards are far greater! I have spent almost 5 years in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez on 22 foot sailboats. I grew my own sprouts, made tortillas, and foraged for and ate a wonderful variety of seafood: lobster, scallops, clams, oysters, sea cucumbers and a variety of fish, fish and fish.

    I could tow them down Mexico Highway 1 to avoid the tough seagoing trip down the outside of the peninsula. Once there, I anchored out every night for free. Solar panels kept the lights on. Water, good clean water, is abundant in the Baja Pensinsula as its sources are generally mountiain runoff, rather than the shallow-dug wells found on the mainland that gringos fear!

    It’s not as simple as jumping in and going. There’s lots to learn about a boat, how to make it go where you want, and how to avoid or fix problems as they occur. Fortunately there are tons of FREE classes all over the USA to teach you; US Power Squadrons and US Coast Guard Auxiliary both provide those services.

    And you can get a boat, for cheap. The best place to start is at the facebook page for the book by the same name: Champagne Boating on a Beer Budget.

    Boaters all know that the farther you are from shore, the more you need your friends. The boating community tends to be quite supportive of one another.

    Check it out! Go now! Have fun! And welcome to an ancient form of living a dream: life aboard a small boat!

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