Sleeping on a Sailboat for the First Time

One of our “Life Goals” is to learn how to sail. Mike has a little sailing experience on a small sailboat. I don’t have any sailing experience, but I get excited thinking about being able to travel by using (mostly) the powers of mother nature herself.

We thought it might be a good idea to test the waters a little at a time, so we booked a “unique stay” on a 22 foot Catalina through Airbnb. The boat was advertised to be similar to a simple camping experience, with the boat hooked on a mooring ball, with access to a dinghy powered by oars, and with minimal bathroom facilities.


Due to the excitement of the thought of being able to stay on a sailboat, I was unable to wait until springtime. We booked a Friday and Saturday night in February in the Clipper Yacht Harbor in Sausalito, California. We drove 3 hours south from Fort Bragg and are greeted by the host on the dock. With plenty of luggage bags in hand, we load the dinghy with what we could, including Mike and the host, and they paddle away, leaving me on the dock. The host wanted to show Mike the “ropes” and give him the grand tour of the 22 foot boat. So off they went.


By the time I got to the boat, named Shenanigan, it was dark and chilly so we hopped on board and started exploring the cabin. The V berth was about as big as a full mattress shaped like an ice cream cone with about 2 feet worth of space between the roof and the bed. This was just slightly smaller than our truck camper bed, so we figured we could handle it for 2 nights. My attention then turned to the “minimal bathroom facilities”, which included a 5 gallon bucket with a very nice plastic toilet seat, with lid, and the ever-so-lovely Doodie bags! He also had plenty of toilet paper for us. Such a generous host.


It was fairly late after a long day and we couldn’t see anything in the marina, so we decided to call it a day. We somehow managed to squeeze the two of us in bed without getting 1 single muscle cramp!

Waking up the following morning was truly my most favorite moment of the weekend. I woke up to the bright sunshine peeking through the tiny windows on the hull, with birds chirping, and the boat rocking ever so gently. It was actually really comforting. This was the first moment I thought, “I could live on a boat”. Now, it would have to be bigger than this one, but it was really soothing.

Then reality set in when I attempted to get out of bed without waking Mike up. That didn’t happen. After whipping myself around in a twisted ball like a Cirque De Soleil dancer and almost kicking Mike in the face, he got startled. As gracefully as I could, I finished squeezing myself out of that tiny little hole of a bed.

Now, one of the first things most people do when you wake up is use the bathroom. Well, you know you’re close to each other if you can use “minimal bathroom facilities” within 5 feet of each other. Sure enough, we’re super close.

Then it was time to finally open up (and air out) the cabin and take a good first view of the marina in the daylight. So I slide open the hatch, proceed to take out the 3 door slats, and step up onto the deck. It was a beautiful sunny day, with a gentle breeze, and we were surrounded by blue water and sea life. We saw seals, sea planes, and seagulls. We spent most of the day lounging on the deck with 1 trip to a local nearby restaurant for dinner.

Night #2 went a little better, as we had planned the configuration and process of getting into and out of bed.

The following morning wasn’t as pleasant as the first. It was actually quite serious. The wind had definitely picked up over night, and the waves were a bit more rough. We woke up a bit sooner than the day before and were just sitting at the dinette talking. We noticed a kayaker going by and it looked as tho his kayak actually seemed to be sinking. Sure enough, he capsized next to our neighbors boat. Now, you have to remember its February in Northern California and the Pacific Ocean stays around the low 50’s. Our boat neighbor waisted no time, not even to put clothes on. He came out of his cabin buck naked! As the kayaker clung onto the owner’s dinghy, he pulled him to safety. Mike immediately gathered up some of his spare clothes, got in our dinghy, rowed over to our neighbor, and offered the kayaker some dry clothes. He politely declined, as our boat neighbor had already grabbed him a sweatshirt and pants, but also acted surprised of Mike’s actions. They knew we were not a normal part of their boating community, as we were just Airbnb guests, but repeatedly thanked Mike for being so kind.

Once Mike rowed back, we began to pack our things and head out. It was definitely a memorable first stay on a sailboat. It only fueled our drive to continue saving, researching, and dreaming of our upcoming sailing life.


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