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An illustration of a sailboat on the water

Life on the Waterline


While Jim Innes races across the Pacific, others are calling it home 24/7. Live-aboard boaters make up an adventurous community of people who not only chase the sunset but live under it. Bruce and Sheila Macdonald have raised their four children on North Star, a 53-foot former fur trading vessel built in the 1930s. The Macdonalds spent summers cruising along the coast and winters docked in Victoria so that their kids could attend school. “The children grew up with minimal electricity and little storage. They learned how to respect each other’s space and understand the value of things,” says Bruce. “For entertainment, they jumped in the dinghy and explored the areas [where] we were anchored, rather than sitting in front of a video game.”

For Brent Swain, author of Origami Metal Boatbuilding and famed West Coast do-it-yourself boater, life on his 31-foot sailboat Easy Street is as thrifty and comfortable as it gets. To avoid the monthly moorage bill, which in B.C. typically ranges between CAD 500 to 800 for a boat of Easy Street’s size, Swain anchors whenever possible and rows his dinghy ashore. Also, Swain coins himself an “opportunivore.” He hunts and fishes and then cans his own food onboard. “It saves a lot of money and gives me better quality food than the industrially produced stuff.”

According to many live-aboards, boat living leaves a modest environmental footprint compared to living in a house. Swain uses solar panels, LED lighting and a water catchment system. “The average house uses 1,300 litres of water per day. Sixty-five litres, mostly from my rainwater catchment, lasts me a couple of weeks,” he says. Live-aboards share a feeling of community that comes with their lifestyle. “Our neighbours change regularly and we meet some amazing people; then they sail away and new ones come in,” Bruce Macdonald remarks, “and if we don’t like the scenery, we just flip our lines and go somewhere else.”

2014 Pacific Rim Cover, "Sharks in Crisis" Cover story.

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