Category Archives: How Do You…?

November?! Already??!!

How did this happen?

Living aboard in Southeast Alaska is most sublime in the summer. The docks hum with all kinds of wonderful activity. The harbor I’m in has a mix of pleasure and work boats and some of those boats do double-duty as pleasure and work. There are a few liveaboards as well.

double rainbow harbor

This amazing double rainbow arced all the way across the channel to the mountains (that you can’t see in the photo.) We get a lot of rainbows. This one was particularly spectacular. My photo is a pale, pale imitation of the very glorious reality. I actually got a phone call to ensure that I stuck my head out to see it! (We do that here – we call people to tell them the aurora borealis and rainbows and orcas are out.)

All summer, folks to and fro with carts full of supplies, families with rolling suitcases, and dogs along our docks. Always dogs around here. Charter operators haul down food from Costco for their clients (the ones with the rolling suitcases!). Commercial fishermen have Home Depot and Western Auto stuffed in their carts with hoses and pipes and line and buckets and lumber- all manner of interesting accoutrements. Sanders and grinders sound off as evidence of people giving their boats the repairs and maitenance needed.

And I missed this. Well, I was here until mid-July (not including a quick trip in June) so I did get to see that rainbow above. But July, August and September are some of the best times to be in Southeast! I still feel like I’m shaking off winter until about mid June. But, family obligations kept me South for a long time this year.  And I never did get to really shake off last winter and put on summer contrary to some of the photographic evidence from May and June!

Einar & William Lake

Here are my two boys in May on a nearby lake. They got to try stand-up paddleboarding and also kayaking. They of course want a paddleboard and a kayak and, I, of course, AGREE with the desire!

And now, it’s November and I feel as though I didn’t get a summer but the temperature gauges are all in the 30s and the rain is cold and icy and it almost feels like snow, but not quite because it’s that time of year for the really miserable, soak-you-til-you-get-hypothermia rain. I feel a little lost.

I may have mentioned in another post that we homeschool. November means typically two solid months of school has happened. We’re more like 3 weeks. I feel so behind the 8-ball (where did that phrase even come from?? Oops, From whence cameth that phrase anyway? ((no ending with prepositions on this blog, no siree!)))

But here I am, in the dark a few days after the time change. My boys are still sleeping. We brought a dog back from our travels. My daughter lives down south now and we have her dog again. And I’m trying to assemble myself and my thoughts and grasp the reality that IS rather than the hope that isn’t.

This was the summer I was going to haul out, scrape the bottom, paint everything,  have a roof put on, add a tophouse.

When I purchased the boat, the roof wasn’t finished. It is raw plywood covered in a couple layers of plastic. It’s survived two winters with me. I thought that was probably pushing it enough.

But, it’s November.

And this isn’t the time to start roofing jobs.

Though my sweet friend says he’ll do it. I am skeptical of the wisdom of starting that project NOW. Especially if we find out there is plywood or other undergirdment that needs replacing. I cannot bear the thought of having my roof open to the elements. Nor can I bear thinking of just covering over a problem that will just need to be uncovered and fixed later

This summer DID see some positive changes and upgrades, however. I have a propane gas cookstove now rather than the Dickenson diesel stove. Two lovely young fisherman bought the Dickenson and supposedly put it on their gillnetter.

They were so adorable.

Earnest, hardworking young men in their early twenties. I get a little verklempt when meeting these kinds of people.

Stove Out!

This is my dear friend who helps me with so much pulling that Dickenson out! He manhandled it out the door and literally bicep-curled it up into the cart to haul it to his truck! I get nervous when he does stuff like that. I depend on him to keep that body of his working and injury-free.

Stove In

This is my pretty, shiny, brand new cookstove! See those four burners? You know what that means? That means someday I’ll be able to fry eggs and bacon. Seriously I am excited about that. The installation isn’t finished. I could use it right now, but it’s still a little jerry-rigged and ya know, I am just not going to go with jerry-rigged. I have enough of that in my life. So, I’ll wait until it’s properly installed. It’ll come. So yes, I’m still cooking in the toaster oven!

So yeah. November. I’m really struggling with it being November already.


The Insanity Can Set In for Months!

We wrestle cabin fever with varying degrees of success from about October through March. Weather, daylight, schedules, finances and forgetfulness along with me being a single parent conspire against us.

Living on the boat with kids, at least for me, is a LOT like camping.




(Can you tell I’m not feeling the romance of it these days?!)

View from our windwo Saint Patrick's Day 2014

View from our windwo Saint Patrick’s Day 2014

Minimal space and minimal possessions create situations without simple, easy solutions. Getting our one pair shoes or one coat soaked may mean using wet or damp gear for a few days after. (You can imagine how awesome that is on a 20 degree day!)

Snow and wet weather gear are bulky (hello space issue) and difficult to dry out. There is no “just wear your other pair of boots”.  We don’t have room (or the amperage) for an on-site dryer I can just pop things into so they’re ready for the next day, nor do I have room to hang things to dry.

We had raingear, but found it to be bulky and hard to store properly without it getting mildewy. Mildew is super appetizing, no?

If it’s rainy or snowy AND windy, it can be downright miserable to be out and about. There is an indoor play area here but I have yet to figure out their hours and pricing structure in spite of calling, visiting, checking the website AND soliciting info from friends and strangers. I forget we have an ice arena (maybe because I don’t know how to skate?).

There are lots of team sports type things, but they’re costly and not really practical for our drop-in lifestyle.

Winter Trap Shooting League

Winter Trap Shooting League

The summertime is easier with the better (usually) weather and the additional daylight. Then it’s easy to load up and go explore the beach or play in a park. Catch, kite flying, frisbee are no brainers in the summer. But, the rest of the year…


In spite of all that, we have found some cabin fever helps that I DO remember (sometimes!) to do and can afford once in a while.


For $20, I can get all three of us (my oldest currently living out of state) in a comfortable, warm theater watching something we all enjoy. Our Costco sells $19.99 movie cards worth $25 in spending power. What that means is, we go grab a card (and sometimes a hot dog) and head to the late Sunday afternoon showing whenever there’s a PG- or G-rated movie. (The kids are 7, 12 and 14. At the moment, my oldest is with friends in Washington.) I don’t feel at ALL obligated to purchase soda or popcorn. Sometimes I do it, but often, I don’t.

I like the movies because I know exactly what to expect. The cost is reasonable and known upfront AND it isn’t a commitment. No signing up for a season of movie going. It’s not a club. It’s just week by week.


We are at our church a LOT. Our church is so nice to us. It is hard to believe how kind they are (feel free to comment on that). We attend regularly on Sundays and then once a month they host a movie night with a kid and an adult feature. It’s fun. It’s free. The bathrooms are awesome and so’s the leg room. Company ain’t so bad either. 😉 I go to a ladies Bible study and my oldest goes to Confirmation once a week. We actually utilize our church building a lot for daily living, too.


Hike is maybe a misnomer. I really like the British term “hill-walking”. It seems less strident and arduous. Hike always conjures up these super outdoorsy, fit, ooh-ahh boots and brand name jackets types of images and well, that’s not me. Hill walking on the other hand, seems much more casual, like most anyone could do it.

We don’t do a lot of walking because I do forget about it and the weather/daylight issue. And in the summertime, I worry about bears.

But, there are a couple places we enjoy going. There’s a beautiful Catholic shrine nearby. We enjoy the grounds there once in a while. We have a neat trail on the site of a historic mine. This area has the added benefit of a playground for the youngest.

Shrine in early spring

Shrine in early spring

Right by our airport, literally in the landing path of planes, we have a slick trail as well. The kids really like seeing the planes come in to land right above their heads.

Another trail we enjoy takes us around one of our lakes. I like this one because it’s got a variety of terrain but nothing too steep for too long.

I try to scope place out prior to adventuring out with the kids. I just really hate doing things “cold’. I really prefer to go new places with a companion and then take the kids. That’s how I discovered two of the four above.


This one isn’t as awesome for the kids as it is for me. We have three or four theater companies, a symphony, lots of live bar music opportunities, a dance troupe, an independent film house and some really cool programs hosted at the local university. And tons more. There is just a LOT of music/theater/writing/artistic/intellectual opportunity here. I try to do as much of that as schedule and budget allow.


Playgrounds present the same challenges as hiking so it’s not one utilized much in the fall, winter, and spring months. There is one just a couple miles away that my youngest really enjoys. It has lots of climbing structures, hiding places, swings, balance opportunities, slides… it’s just really great for physical play and imaginaton.

flying kites in March

At our local playground last spring. It was maybe 40 degrees. The lake behind was still frozen and people were playing hockey on it.


We also use our local McDonald’s for the indoor play area. I hate going there. It’s uncomfortable. And loud. And I feel obligated to purchase something since it IS a business. And… my kids are usually hungry. And I get tired of saying “No.” But, it has come in handy as a drop-in place and there are usually other kids there so my little guy enjoys that. It is totally a sign of desperation when I am there, however!


I don’t take advantage of this one as often as maybe I should or as I’d like. I can’t reciprocate by having people over since there just isn’t a place to put them. But I do have one friend with kids that I’ll ask if we can come over. This works better for my youngest than my oldest, but he’s usually the one chomping at the bit the most! So, he’ll play outside, or build with legos, or, play Minecraft with my friend’s youngest while she and I visit.


This winter was pretty abysmal for snow play. And maybe that’s why we struggled more this year with cabin fever than we did last. BUT, when we do have decent snow, I take the kids sledding. I love this activity. It’s cheap ($15 for each sled at Costco!) and easy to access and, if it’s cold, cold, cold, well, they don’t really get wet! Oh, and it’s something all the kids enjoy.

Skiing and snowboarding are popular here and we have a resort close by. It isn’t an activity I’ve been able to really encourage too much (gear and money), but the school my kids attended last year did some downhill and cross country ski opportunities. My older two are homeschooling this year and my middle child had the chance to do ski lessons with our homeschool group, but the derth in snow put the big kibosh on that. However, when we do have snow, this will be an activity the kids can definitely take advantage of more frequently.


In addition to the cultural events, we try to do the neat things offered in the community. Most recently there was a Winter Celebration with fireworks at the ski resort. That was really a fun time even though it was drizzly! We always see people we know at those things. I love the sense of belonging to this place as faces light up in greeting.

Wow. This is quite a list and there are so many opportunities here. This winter we really struggled. I am so glad spring is coming and the daylight is coming. Once the temperatures are consistently above 40, even with the rain, we’ll be outside a lot more!

I’d love to hear what you guys do for those times of cabin fever. Many of you have similar challenges with weather, transportation and finances. What ways have you found to combat the winter stir-crazies?!

More than just a Dish Washing Discussion



Resource conservation gets a lot of play in the small space living movement. I have to concur that my lifestyle definitely can conserve resources. At least some of them.


Like dish soap.


I posted the above photo on my Facebook profile with the caption:

“It’s been over a year and I’m just now finishing a bottle of dishwashing soap. We use it for hand washing too.”

One of my endearingly witty friends commented:

“Hopefully it doesn’t mean you never do dishes or wash your hands….”

At least I think he was being witty. And endearing.

Of course we wash our hands. Pretty regularly. Dishes – weeeelllll, they get washed a little less regularly. (Please note that “a little less” is kind of like the opposite of hyperbole – a litotes maybe?) But, when we’re in a groove, we do dishes about once a week.

Crazy, right? I may or may not explain more about the infrequency of dish washing. For the record, I wasn’t super “on it’ when I lived in conventional housing either.

When we lived in a regular house we went through hand soap and dish soap fairly regularly and it got me to wondering why, here on the boat, we didn’t use nearly so much.

In a house, we had the large, Costco-sized jug o’ dish soap on the corner of the sink rather than a the petite, elegant bottle currently gracing our dish washing space. That giant bottle takes up too much counter space. My hypothesis is the smaller bottle causes less soap to come shooting out, hence effortless conservation! It’s easier to get just the right amount for hand or dish washing. I don’t know about the kids, but I use just a couple of drops on my hands and it seems to suds up just fine.

Two other significant differences are, in my opinion, our overt water conservation and a significant change in dish washing method.

Because we are not connected to a constant source of water, we have to fill tanks. This causes us to be very aware of water usage. The sink never gets left running. A smaller stream of water is used when rinsing soapy hands or dishes. It helps you see you don’t need as much as current practice indicate.

When washing dishes, I don’t load up a sink of dishes and let them sit in soapy water and then forget, have the water get cold and then refill the sink with new hot water and new soap. We don’t wash a water glass after just one use. “Clean enough” is often, clean enough. If i fill the sink to do dishes and I can’t get to it before it cools, I’ll boil some water in my handy dandy electric kettle and add it to the cooler water.

In the house, with unlimited hot water, I often didn’t fill the sink with water. (I’ve always hated sticking my hands in the water. I have weird sensory issues.) I’d run the water and wash/rinse as I went which of course diluted the soap in my dish cloth quickly. Now, I fill the sink on the left and then put the dishes to be rinsed on the right to be rinsed.

It’s funny the things that strike you, such as dish soap usage. I’d love to know from you what things you’ve noticed in your lives that are different from past patterns or different from the American norm.

How Do You: Cook?

kitchen emptyI get asked a LOT about the challenges I face in cooking. This is an area I struggle with tremendously for a variety of reasons. The reality is, my facilities simply are not adequate to do what I need to do for healthy, varied food for a family. My goal is to eat grain and sugar free as my family does so much better with that. Additionally, I shoot for low carb too since *I* do so much better that way. “From scratch” just doesn’t happen, unfortunately.

My cooking is done primarily in a toaster oven. I also have a crock pot but using that is more challenging because washing it is hard (which leads to another question – how do I do dishes? But that is another post for the future.) The photo above was taken prior to moving aboard. The space to the left of the sink is where my crock pot now lives and the spot to the very right is the diesel stove. I use that flat surface as a dish drainer when I wash dishes.

I do not have a microwave or a hot plate or a stove with a surface on which to use a frying pan.

Challenges I encounter are:
1. Limited food storage:

I have a dorm size fridge and a dorm size freezer. The freezer frosts up significantly and I am not really sure what to do about it. Things get lost in the hoarfrost and the door literally freezes shut. The obvious solution is to simply buy a new freezer. But that means money spent on a new one, the time spent taking out the old and installing the new and then disposing of the old. I get overwhelmed. No judgment, please. If any of you are in the area and want to take care of that for me, I’d love that. Otherwise, know this is simply information, not complaining. (Can you tell I get a lot of “helpful” “advice” from “well-meaning” folks? I’m a little sensitive. I admit.)

So, the size of the units makes keeping too much on hand difficult.

2. Limited counter/flat surface prep space:

Cooking takes a surface to cut meat and veggies, to put the bowls and pans and cutting boards, to put finished product to serve. I am very, very visual. I need to lay everything out that I’m going to use. I cannot do that on the boat. Consequently, I use an inordinate amount of brain space trying to keep track of what I’m doing. Also, many things require a bowl of something to be mixed while something else sautes in a pan, etc etc. If I can’t mix it all together, it just doesn’t happen. There are no side dishes! Ha!

My counter space is occupied by my crock pot and my toaster oven. What I’d REALLY like to do is install a small, propane cook stove in place of my Dickinson diesel stove. It would free up counter space AND I could do more than one thing at a time potentially. This is probably at least a $1000 proposition plus getting the right help to get gas lines properly installed, getting diesel lines properly uninstalled. Not out of the question, but very difficult for this already overwhelmed mama.

3. Small sink

I have a DOUBLE sink!! That is actually pretty awesome. Lots of boats don’t have a double sink. This allows me to hand wash on one side and rinse on the other. But, the sink is SMALL. My crock pot fills it up. And the faucet has to be wiggled to get it up over the lip of the crock. (That can’t be a good thing to do regularly, right?) Washing isn’t the real issue. Getting it RINSED is the issue. There just isn’t adequate clearance. I did go shopping for a new faucet that had more clearance as I figured that would be a good way to significantly ease things without a major overhaul. Faucets that will fit my sink are surprisingly hard to find!

Cooking real food means using actual dishes of a certain size and getting those washed and rinsed is challenging.


So, what do I actually cook? If I can slice it directly into my crock pot, I can cook it usually. If I can warm something in my toaster oven, say breaded chicken tenders from Costco, then I do that. I used to do a lot of alternative baking with coconut and other nut flours and I don’t do that anymore. I shop every couple of days. I go to Costco and think “Hmm. What is an actual MEAL. Oh, chicken tenders. We’ll eat those for dinner today, and lunch and dinner tomorrow. And apples. I’ll grab a flat of apples.” And that’s how it goes. Pretty romantic, no?

When I first bought my boat, I lived on it alone and it was MUCH easier to fix things. I have much simpler desires than my kids. Also, being just one person I didn’t need to cook the quantity that is needed for 3 kids, 2 of whom are teens and have adult appetites. Keeping up with quantity in the toaster oven is difficult. I think we lived a year on the boat before I was able to get the crock pot.

Honestly, cooking on the boat is a lot like camping. It takes a lot of planning and logistical work and is energy intensive.

Do you live in a small space? What challenges have you encountered? What creative solutions have you found? Please comment!