When Misa Gidding-Chatfield and Mike Kraft decided to move in together, they had two options: Buy a home for half a million dollars in the outskirts of the Bay Area (which would leave them with an hours-long commute into San Francisco) or live in the Bay on a boat.
Ten years after making the decision to live on a boat, the couple plans to reside at sea for the rest of their lives.
We spent a recent afternoon aboard Mike and Misa’s home to see what their life is like.
This is Mike and Misa’s home sweet home.
“I always wanted to live on a boat,” Mike, a project manager at a San Francisco electrical contractor, told Business Insider on a sunny day aboard the boat in the East Bay.
“Out friends and family thought we were crazy,” Misa said. The couple started looking at boats in 2005, while everyone else was buying real estate at the height of the bubble.
They figured they could save money living on a boat rather than squandering money on rent or blowing their savings on a house. San Francisco is one of the most expensive housing markets in the US. Between 2005 and 2018, the median sales price rose from $US840,000 to $US1.6 million.
They got on the waitlist for a live-aboard permit in a Bay Area marina and started shopping.
Mike and Misa looked at over 200 boats between Seattle and Los Angeles before settling on a 58-foot fishing boat designed by a retired Naval architect. It cost about $US300,000.
At 900 square feet, it’s big enough for the couple and their rescue dog, Roxie.
But Misa still had to majorly downsize. She gave away her furniture and books and rented a storage unit where she keeps her art supplies. Her many plants found a new home aboard.
They renovated the boat like they would a house, with new carpets and wood paneling.
A custom-built cabinet hides the television and gives the living room a cleaner look.
The kitchen is a little light on storage, so the couple uses magnets to hang their cutlery on the wall. (When they leave the marina for rockier waters, the knives are stowed away.)
They make most of their dinners using meal-kit delivery services including Blue Apron, Sun Basket, and HelloFresh. Misa likes that the services send only as much food as they need.
The lower level has two guest bedrooms, including bunk beds for their grandchildren.
Misa carved a small studio space out from the kids’ room. A small hatch lets in natural light.
The master bedroom offers a cosy retreat below deck.
There are three (cramped) bathrooms aboard. A desalination tank provides up to 800 gallons of fresh water for the showers, sinks, and ice maker.
One difference between living on a boat and in a house is that the septic tank must be emptied once a month. A custom-made “Full of Shit” alarm lights up when it’s time.
Life at sea comes with some other sweet perks, including the harbour views.
After a long day at work, Misa loves to putt around the marina and check out the other boats. They enjoy weekend-overnighters at nearby Angel Island and Treasure Island.
Because of their size, marinas offer a close-knit community for people seeking it. Mike said anytime he pulls up to the dock, his neighbours hop out to help him tie down the boat.
The couple’s monthly expenses include payment on the boat’s mortgage (they have about $US150,000 left on their balance) and a $US900 slip fee to live aboard the boat.
They also shell out for oil changes and about $US300 every three months to hire a diver to clean the bottom of the boat in order to prevent rusting.
The costs of maintenance and renovations can also be prohibitive.
Living on a boat isn’t for everyone, because of the maintenance involved. They spend three hours every weekend washing the outside of the boat. “It’s not for lazy people,” Mike said.
But the payoff can be worth it. “It’s our vacation, it’s our home. It’s a passion,” Misa said.
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