The First Five

Our first five days as liveaboards


“Man surprised me most about humanity. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
-Dalai Lama


Today closes of the fifth day we have lived aboard our Fountaine Pajot (FP) catamaran and already it feels like five weeks.  Currently I am sitting in the cockpit (aft) surrounded by the south Florida summer breeze and beauty that no iPhone image could accurately capture.  I haven’t been the greatest about returning texts since we arrived in Fort Lauderdale because we hit the ground running and haven’t slowed down!


The Timeline

When TJ and I came to Fort Lauderdale at the beginning of June to survey and purchase our boat, we did so intending to close on her while we were here.  Originally our closing date was set for June 10th but due to a paperwork glitch we didn’t close until June 21st instead.  At that time TJ was actually heading offshore to work and I wasn’t going to stay in FL and close by myself so Vivienne and I traveled to Ohio and spent seventeen days at my mom’s house, taking us through the Fourth of July.  On July 5th Vivienne and I departed, with the dogs, for Charleston, SC where we would pick up a rental SUV and some of the more necessary items for the boat (cookware, sheets, etc.).  A drive that usually takes 11.5-12 hours with stops ended up being almost 14 hours because of heavy holiday traffic and accidents!  Vivienne, Missi, and Kai were such troopers through it all! The morning of July 6th consisted of me rushing around to gather the items I would bring with me to the boat, picking up the rental and packing it full (i.e.: no view point out the rear window), and loading up in the car to drive to Saint Augustine, FL for the night.  Thankfully my sister-in-law had the week off work and came with us at the last minute to help out because Vivienne was done riding in cars!  We woke up on July 7th and continued south to Fort Lauderdale, stopping in Palm Beach to pick up some boat items we left at a friend’s house (life jackets, cleaning supplies).  FINALLY, after three day of driving covering 1,250 miles,  we arrived at our boat at a marina on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) in Fort Lauderdale.  TJ flew in from New Orleans, having just got off work, and arrived later that night.  Phew!

Our Floating Home/Live Aboard (thus far):

Our boat is beautiful and more than I ever could’ve hoped to find when we began talking and searching last summer.  She is spacious and perfect for our little family!   Vivienne’s room is the only one that has been completely decorated, as she is the only one for which I brought the decorative vinyl wall clings.  Her room is “Frozen” themed and looks like that of any other almost-three-year-old…except her bed is oddly shaped and takes up 98 percent of the room.  Her toys are strewn about and her clothes are stored under her bed, but the toddler style room shines through.  Vivienne had fun helping us peel and stick the iconic movie images and we also created a “People Who Love Vivienne” collage of photographs.  Vivienne’s room is located in the starboard (right) hull of the boat while our room is in the port (left) hull.

TJ and I have the “master cabin,” though the bed appears to be slightly smaller than the other two beds onboard.  Our bed sits up higher and we have to use a step to get in it while the other two beds sit lower.  We have a small closet and shelf area but in our cabin, as in Vivienne’s, there is a little doorway that connects to crew births (single beds forward in the hulls) that we use for storage.  Right now it houses my clothing while TJ’s clothes are under our bed.  Our room is always nice and cool because we have the controls for the air conditioning!  Yes, our boat has AC so even in this South Florida heat we keep cool when we are plugged into shore power.  Once we get underway and sail we won’t have AC anymore but will hopefully have a steady breeze from our movement.

The head (bathroom) is small, I will admit, but it works for us.  When we are at the marina there is a “comfort station” that has showers, bathrooms, laundry facilities, and a common room with cable TV.  The sink faucet in the head comes out and becomes a shower, should we need/decide to shower onboard.  We also have a cockpit shower, which is another small shower head/faucet looking thing stored off the back of the boat.  This is my preferred method of showering.  I’ve walked to the comfort station with Vivienne in tow to shower but I don’t mind standing on the port hull steps and showering in my swimsuit under the stars after Vivienne has gone to sleep.  There is something incredibly peaceful about it.  Vivienne enjoys being a “baby in a bucket” and takes her baths in a soapy five-gallon bucket on deck.  Eventually she will grow too big for this method of bathing but for now she has a blast doing it!

Honestly, living on a sailboat reminds me of being in the Army to a degree.  Everything is a little bit harder but that much more rewarding. I’ll be the first to admit living on land in a house was easier but there is something to be said for the calmer, slightly harder, more simplistic way of life. On land I didn’t have to worry about popping a dock line if the tide drops too much, checking bilges for excess water in the hulls, trying to get a slightly deflated dinghy hooked into the davits on the back in 92 degree temperatures, or getting our dogs to jump from the deck to the dock to go for a walk.  (Don’t worry, they make it just fine.)  The dogs have probably been the hardest part of the adjustment; in particular Kai, our pit-mix.  She is already somewhat of an anxious dog and the first few days were rough for her, but she is settling into our new routine here.  Missi (poodle) adjusted easily and almost immediately.  Both sleep on the floor in our cabin on their dog bed and enjoy laying in the galley by the door in the daytime.  Slowly they are starting to venture out on to the trampoline but something about it makes them nervous.


Yesterday I remarked to an acquaintance, who also lives aboard and cruises, that we have only lived aboard for a few days but already I can feel my mindset making a shift.  On land things are stressful, rushed, and busy but on the water, even tied to land, people move more slowly and tend to be more relaxed.  Within two hours of our arrival at the marina I met our dock neighbors and learned more about them than I ever did in any of our previous apartments/houses.  The beautiful monohull beside us is owned (lived on during cruising season) by a couple from the French speaking island of Saint Barts in the Caribbean.  Our neighbors across from us are Australian (well, he is and she is American). Everyone is willing to help us out if we need it…all the time.  We also sleep so soundly onboard, with the gentle swaying of the boat how could we not?

Sweat.  The Struggle is Real.

I’ve come to realize our new lifestyle involves daily, serious sweating.  Everything we do during the day makes us sweat.  In the morning I get up and throw on a swimsuit with a cover up because I know I am going to sweat no matter what.  Walking the dogs, sweat.  Scrubbing the deck, sweat.  Watching Vivienne play in her bucket of water, sweat.  Moving that darn slightly deflated dinghy….SERIOUS SWEAT.  This is my life.  Sweat.  Part of the problem also is that we lived in Ohio for the last 2.5 years where the weather is cooler and has very little humidity and now I’m in a hot, humid climate but it doesn’t matter.  Sailboat living involves serious sweating.  It also involves a guessing game of “how did I get this bruise?” on a daily basis.  When I was in Army training in college, the group I was with would sometimes do a nightly count of “Stover’s bruises” because I always bruised like a peach and we had nothing better to do before bed.  I’m beginning to feel that way again!  I don’t even know how they happen! Pretty soon I’m going to be a giant black and blue, turning shades of yellow-green woman.

I don’t see any of this: sweating, bruising, outdoor showers, etc. as a negative.  We are living our dreams, and a dream we have heard several others tell us they wish they could do.  Part of this is “feel the fear and do it anyway,” though now that we are aboard most of the “fears” I once had have already dissipated.  My biggest fear was for Vivienne and the dogs but they are all adjusting so well.  Vivienne calls this our “boat house” and knows which gate at the marina is ours.  She always “holds” Missi on walks and has been very good about following our safety guidelines we set for her.  The dogs realize this is home but there are still little factors yet to work out but I’m no longer concerned they won’t adjust.  They will, it will just take a little longer for Kai than anyone else.

TJ and I are happy.  Vivienne is happy.  Heck, she gets to run around naked, in underwear or swimsuits all day, so what child wouldn’t be happy?   We can walk to the beach here, which we won’t be able to do in Charleston but we will be able to do again after hurricane season ends and we move to another location.  Vivienne actually eats better on the boat than she did on land because we don’t have a microwave so whatever I cook is what is for dinner and she eats it.  Living on a boat makes me so hungry because I don’t realize what a workout I’m getting simply by standing up and walking around until I sit down at night and feel like I’ve done nothing but spend my day at the gym.  I’m using muscles I haven’t used in a long time.  I’m happy, I’m relaxed, and I don’t look at my phone/computer nearly as often.  There is too much other stuff to do other than look at technology.  I don’t miss it.

God gives us one life and the Bible warns not to be a slave to money.  We had the “American Dream” of a house, a child, dogs, cars, etc. but it didn’t make us happy.  We were always stressing/slaving to pay for that life.  Living on a sailboat isn’t free but the experiences we will have as a family are priceless.  They already have been.  We are living an unconventional life knowing it is possible by faith.  We hope others see us living this radical lifestyle and know that faith as small as a mustard seed can make mountains move.


Par la Foi,
The McKelveys

~~All things are possible for those who believe. -Mark 9:23~~

One thought on “The First Five

  1. So awesome to read of your adventure and faith journey! Your beautiful writing brings us into your life with the words you write! We pray that God will continue to keep you safe and hold you close to Him! Please know that our prayers are with you!


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