Imagine your house. Now shrink it down to your living room and kitchen. That’s the size of the boat we lived on for 60-odd days with 7 people. Now take that space and shrink it down to 40 square feet. That’s the size of the space Rob and I shared for 2 months. Now we’re sharing 20 square feet aboard Kayanos. I know what you’re thinking … and, no, we’re not midgets, dwarves or leprechauns. We’re just brave, or really stupid, depending on your point of view.
You can read reams of blog posts and stories on how couples transition from living in comfy, spacious homes to living aboard a sailboat. Our growing pains aren’t that different, really, except that we moved into one small part of someone else’s sailboat, rather than having a whole boat to stretch out into. I hadn’t really thought ahead to how crunching into new space might affect Rob and me, individually and as a couple.
It’s not just space we have to share, either. Our new lifestyle required downgrading material goods, which was helped along rapidly by the Great Baja Theft. We have to swap the one music-making device left, the small laptop, the one red headlamp, the remaining water bottle, the new guitar (since Rob’s learning to play), the single body lotion, the yoga mat. At least we still have our own toothbrushes.
We didn’t live in a huge house, by American standards. But the 1,700 square-feet felt luxurious to us, and allowed us to each have our own room, or “chaos space.” Mine was dubbed the “earring room,” filled with jewelry, clothes, my desk, yoga stuff, guitars. Rob’s was dubbed the “gear room,” with his fly-tying station, 12 backpacks, packraft, fishing, hunting and skiing gear all on top of his paperwork and files. Now the remaining clothes, papers, yoga mat, guitar, backpacks and recreation gear must all fit in our 7 foot by 4 foot berth. Oh, and we have to fit in there, too.
For two super independent people who are used to having inherent boundaries of “my stuff” and “your stuff,” it’s been quite a transition. The good news: we’ll make it through our first anniversary. The other news: it ain’t easy sharing a tiny space with your partner, but it is doable with a lot of patience and a sense of humor.
Our bed aboard Llyr was the size of 2 of my body pillows at home (I sure miss those), and a far cry from the king bed Rob and I could each spread-eagle across at home (Rob definitely suffers more, since he’s a foot longer than our berth). Our closet consisted of 3 tiny cubbies and 2 shelves. Our desk doubled as a table and a toiletry/medicine cabinet. Instead of our own room, we each got our own hooks on the wall.
Let me stop here to be clear: this is the NICEST sailboat berth I’ve ever been in. Seriously. I was expecting one half the size, and was giddy with excitement that we had a big, breezy hatch to open, our own desk, 7 foot headroom, and … drumroll, please … a door to close! We already miss Llyr’s cushy berth as we wedge into a smaller berth aboard Kayanos (where Rob abandons me to stretch out on the settee most nights). But even the best berth ever is still small enough to create some angst between a husband and wife used to living very independently.
To compensate, we compromise. A few minor sacrifices maintain the greater peace: Rob lets me have an extra pillow on the tiny bed, and a whole hook dedicated to hair ties. I ignore the constant clutter on the desk, and his boxers hanging in my face from the improvised clothesline. I get more cubby space since I have 5 times more clothing, and Rob gets an extra shelf for his fishing gear.
Luckily, Rob and I are both communal people, used to traveling and sharing our home, our gear, our lives with others and each other. The only tough part, really, were the up-front negotiations about who gets what when, not the least of which is a bit of privacy. As long as I can occassionally spread-eagle alone on the berth with a book and he can tune me out with headphones and loud music, we seem to get along just dandy.
We’ll see what our next berth looks like as we hop sailboats across the Pacific, but I can predict one thing for sure: before long, we’re going to be so good at maximizing tiny spaces that we just might be able to live in a leprechaun home.