Salty or Sweet? The Tiny Boat Mentality

Sitting on the deck of my boat, journal in hand, I watch as the sun slowly descends along the horizon. The sound of the waves tapping the side of the boat and the muffled laughs of my neighbors playing cards on the dock blend into the background. I can see James, the 14-year-old from across the marina, running up and down to each and every boat boasting the tiniest fish he just caught with an excitement that could be matched by no other.

It’s in moments like these, as I sit watching, that I wonder when exactly it was that my child-like sense of adventure and wonder left me.

It must have been a gradual fade. One that slowly went unnoticed. Until one day I looked up, laughed, and caught myself saying, “that’s just a tiny fish.”

There are so many times in my life when I have these “tiny fish” moments. Where I fail to realize that what I am doing, and who I am, is good enough. Where the pressures of our society and fear of comparison permeate my mind. Where a child-like excitement, so beautifully exhibited through James, is hushed by the busyness of life and its inconveniences.

Well it’s time to switch my “tiny fish” mentality to a “tiny boat” mentality.

There are a few rules that come along with the “tiny boat” mentality. Rule #1: No shirt, no shoes, no problem. Just kidding…I still need my dock lease. So while I have definitely adopted the shoeless, laid-back lifestyle of the marina, the shirts are staying put. The real Rule #1 when it comes to the “tiny boat” mentality is not to sweat the small stuff. Let’s be honest, life on a boat produces enough sweat on its own, and no one wants those added pit stains.

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I guess you could call me a perfectionist, as I do tend to obsess over the details in almost every situation. Even writing this blog is a practice in relinquishing some control on my part, being that I know it will never be exactly how I want it. (“Sometimes I’ll start a sentence and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way.” -Michael Scott) But ever since I moved onto the boat, the beauty that surrounds imperfection, a beauty that too often goes unnoticed, has become much more evident to me.

It’s the way my neighbors are sometimes “too loud” while laughing at the grill that now brings a smile to my face, knowing how much fun they are having. It’s seeing the tiny leak in my forward hatch, and feeling the water drip on my arm in a big storm, that now reminds me how blessed I am to have shelter. It’s the way I can get frustrated in the Florida heat when I have to walk the long dock to get to my boat that now allows me the time to pass every neighbor and say hello, becoming even more grateful for my new community.

It’s all of these seemingly tiny inconveniences, where I often find the most beauty in my day. So I’m going to strive to not sweat the little things, and find something positive in each situation. Even if sometimes I have to look a little harder.

Rule #2 in the “tiny boat” mentality is that you can do absolutely anything you set your mind to. Gone are the days of fearing failure. Failure is the world’s best catalyst for change. I was constantly worried about what my failure would look like to others, and it kept me from finding the confidence to pursue what brings me joy for way too long. Now I’m taking time to slow down, recognizing what makes me happy, and taking the first steps towards achieving it.

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Rule #3: Stop basing your success solely on end-results. Working at a school, I see this every day. Students focusing on the fact that they got a lower grade than they wanted on an assessment, instead of taking a step back and recognizing how far they have come and how much they have improved overall. Even as adults it is so easy to make our happiness black and white. You had a good day at work or you didn’t. You made the right parenting choice or you didn’t. The problem with that outlook on life, is that we don’t take the time to step back and see all of the little successes that are littered throughout our week.

I could be cheesy and say that life is about the journey, not the destination. And that you should celebrate every small success along the way. But really, in a world where we are often told to downplay our achievements, or that our achievements in and of themselves are not good enough, I think we would all be better off striving to be a little more like James. To find that inner, child-like excitement that comes along with even the small victories, the tiny fish.

Rule #4: Slow down. Way down.

We live in a world of constant motion and change. People walk quickly past each other on the street, heads buried in their technology, working their lives away. If there’s one thing I love the most about living at the marina, it’s that the pace of life is much slower. And while at first I thought it was due to the relaxing, laid-back environment (which definitely contributes), I have quickly come to realize that the leisurely, happy atmosphere is just a byproduct of those living here. It’s being surrounded by a group of people whose main focus in life is human connection and friendship, and this can be found anywhere!

My grandfather was the king of slowing down, and as I look back on my own childhood, some of my fondest memories were with him. We would sit for hours on his front porch, just him and I, as he told me stories and jokes. Sometimes we would just sit in silence and enjoy each other’s company as we looked out over the neighborhood. Fast-foward to now, as I sit writing this blog on the deck, I truly appreciate being reminded that often the best way to keep moving forward is to slow down.

“Take time and slow down. Invest yourself in what you do, whether it be working or playing, eating or praying. Notice and give attention and concentrate. For appreciation is the wellspring of joy and thanksgiving, and appreciation is the fruit of patient and attentive experience. If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing slowly.”

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Changes in mindset and habit don’t come overnight. I’m conditioned to sweat the small things, to keep up in this fast-paced world, and to find perfection. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few weeks, it’s that I need to take time to rejoice in the “tiny fish” that God has given me, and always pursue those moments, and Him, with child-like wonder. At the end of the day, the happiest people are not those who accomplish the most, but those who experience the most. Never doubt who you are or Whose you are.

Much love and adventure,

Kat

The Realities of Being a Full-Time Liveaboard

When I tell people that I live on my boat, their initial reaction is usually one of shock. “So like, how do you take a shower?”…..

I bathe myself in the ocean, Debra. No, but in all seriousness. I’m one of the lucky ones who has a shower on board. That being said, life on a boat definitely comes with its challenges and takes some getting used to.

When I started looking around at varying marina communities in my area, I noticed they were all extremely different. Some docks had 4 liveaboards, whereas my current marina has upwards of 40. Whether you have a small community, or a much larger one, there are some basic things that everyone should expect to come along with living docked full-time.

Laundry Day Can Be a Much Needed Break

Gone are the days of throwing your wrinkled shirt in the dryer quickly before you rush out the door to work. (Wait am I the only one who does that?) Living on a boat takes a fair bit more planning. Unless you are jetting around on some mega yacht, in which case nothing on my blog applies to you and I’ll assume you are here for my good looks and witty comments, you’ll have to make use of the laundry facilities at your marina. That means gathering your clothes, carrying them off the boat, and using the shared washer and dryer facilities. I typically spend an hour or two on the weekend in the laundry room catching up on emails while I wait for my clothes to dry. And by emails, I mean the latest episode of Law and Order SVU. So plan ahead, bring something to keep your attention, relax, and you’ll have salt-free clothes in no time.

You’ll Find a Sense of Community.

The best thing about living at a marina: community, community, community. When I moved onto the boat I had no less than five different people introduce themselves, ask if I was new to the docks, and offer to help me move on. For a young girl, living alone on a boat, it’s important that I feel safe and comfortable with those living around me. Because of the proximity of the boats and the need to walk along quite a lengthy dock to get out of the marina, I chat with my neighbors several times per day.

This whole transition has been a massive learning curve, and I’ve had help from my new floating neighbors at every turn. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it, or simply grab a drink with someone new. Remember, it’s more than likely that you will find you have a lot in common with other individuals who are choosing to live a similar lifestyle to you. The social setting is fantastic. Every evening brings a new opportunity to enjoy a chat and drink along the dock or aboard someone’s boat. Get to know your neighbors and have fun! (Side note, if you haven’t seen the show Community, ten out of ten would recommend. Not an ad, I’m not popular enough for that.)

Random Birds and Animals Will Make Themselves Your Roommates.

Just the other day, I was on FaceTime with my mom to show her the final renovations of my boat. All was good, until I turned around and had a crow fly directly into my boat. I nearly s**t myself. And if you’ve seen everything on my boat, it’s all white. No bueno. Anyways, after it laughed at me and hopped around for a second it was gone. Leaving me to bask in my embarrassment. When living at a marina, not only will you have dogs in the ‘neighborhood,’ but every day you’ll be graced with dolphins, seagulls, and a variety of other beautiful wildlife that you would never find in your apartment. (I hope) Needless to say, close hatches and windows if you don’t want a little company here and there! (Then there’s Kevin, the massive bird that keeps me hostage on my boat at least once a week. But Kevin deserves his own blog post.)

You Will Drop Things in the Water

There’s a reason that boat keys are attached to that floating thing. (What’s it called?) That reason is me. Kat Kelly. I once dropped an entire unopened gallon of paint off the side of my boat during renovations and, like the environmental freak I am, I dove in and swam quite far to get the can out. It was a great way to meet my neighbors at the dock across from me…

When climbing on and off a boat multiple times a day, inevitably things will take the plunge. My advice: invest in a quality waterproof phone case, attach floaters to everything that is important, and say a little Hail Mary. Anti-slip shoes will be your best mate. I have yet to fall into the water myself, but with short legs and a tendency to err on the side of clumsiness, it’ll happen sooner or later.

You’ll Get Used to Not Needing Much (And Like It)

One of the most anxiety-inducing aspects of downsizing onto a boat, at least for me, was parting with all of the possessions I had accumulated over the years. Now I absolutely love living a more minimalistic lifestyle! Having fewer options quickly equates to having fewer worries. I don’t have to stress about cleaning a huge space and it’s not humanly possible for dishes to pile up in my sink. A cluttered wardrobe gave way to a smaller selection of items I actually love to wear on a regular basis. I’m living based off of what I need, and no longer what is just convenient. Smaller living spaces just mean more time is spent outdoors, but with 360 degree views of the water, you could say I’m not missing the walls of my old apartment.

Making the transition to moving onto a boat full-time takes a lot of courage and adjustment. Small steps are better than no steps. Don’t be afraid to make that first move…you’ll be surprised how owning a far less will make you feel far more. 

-Kat