Seaside Homes: Choosing to Live on a Boat

– article by Barry Mathias; photos by –

Ever wanted to live on a boat? I ponder this question as I “battle my way” (definitely a landlubber’s expression) along a seemingly endless dock, one of five, at the Van Isle Marina. I pass dozens of large vessels, each securely moored in its own slip; as it’s December, the few inhabitants of this stationary armada are all wise enough to stay inside and avoid the pounding rain and turbulent wind.

I’m greatly relieved to reach “Arctic Viking,” the home of Jocelyn and Trevor Rod, and be welcomed aboard as I enter into their warm, snug saloon.

“The boat is a 40-foot Nordhavn,” says Jocelyn. It’s a strongly-built vessel with a pilothouse that gives it a tugboat appearance. “There are six other Nordhavn boats in this marina; we share a passion.”

On either side of the door is matching white seating, providing comfort with storage areas beneath. “This is the lounge area,” she says, pointing to an L-shaped settee with an ingenious matching stool. When the padded top is removed a table is revealed, and when that is removed a space for shoes is revealed. “We had a craftsman build it, but the rest of the interior is mostly how we found it,” says Jocelyn. The boat, launched in 2002, has four previous owners, although it looks brand new.

Windows surround this social area, providing natural light and interesting views of the marina. To the right is the dining area: comfortable seating around three sides of a solid table with a thick wooden rim to protect meals from being dashed to the floor in storms. The walls, cupboards and trim are in a high-gloss rich brown wood, and the use of space has been very well planned.

“You really have to like each other to live in a small space,” Jocelyn smiles. “We used to live in a 7,000-square-foot house on six acres, before we bought this boat in March.” They had always intended to buy a boat, but had planned for a time after Trevor, Jocelyn’s 48-year-old husband, had retired. “He’s a pilot for WestJet, and I work for Pacific Coastal Airlines. We don’t see a lot of each other when we’re both working.”

In their former life, they ran a business in Qualicum Beach: a retreat bed-and-breakfast for women that focused on four-day craft courses. “We grew the business. Soon, we were booked up a year in advance.” The pair had no problem selling Wyldflower B&B and moved down to Sidney, where they bought Arctic Viking. “It’s named after my husband, who is 6’2″, and is distantly related to Eric the Red.” Jocelyn agrees that both of them are: “definitely planners.”

A curved, wooden-paneled counter with a ceramic top delineates the corner kitchen. It has two stainless steel sinks above a variety of drawers and cupboards. Inside the kitchen space is a propane stove and oven, which Jocelyn says is “too small to cook a turkey.” A stainless steel dishwasher and a double fridge complete the ground space, with an inset microwave at eye level. The large fire extinguisher on the wall is a reminder that fire is always a concern at sea.

Right of the kitchen is a four-step staircase with two large built-in stainless steel freezers on the other side. “We want to travel and see as much of the world as possible, and this boat can do a full circuit navigation of the earth. When we go on this voyage, we will be taking our home with us!”

Above the freezers is a large flat television pointing towards the lounge area, with an expensive amplification system. There are discreet pot lights and lamps, and the emphasis is on comfort and a lack of clutter. The selection of navigation books and photographs of family add a homely touch. “We have two children from Trevor’s first marriage,” Jocelyn says. “They are 21 and 15, and when they stay, the boat comes alive.”

As we go up the short staircase, she points to a glass display that provides a clear indication of the remaining water in the port and starboard tanks. “We use a fraction of the water we used to use in our house.” While electricity is supplied to the boat at a cost of between $20 and $50 a month, the couple has to connect their own water pipe to a nearby faucet when needed. “We have two heating systems and air conditioning, powered by electricity or diesel. It’s very cheap.” Jocelyn explains that they chose their mooring because “it’s quiet, protected from the worst of the storms, and swans and seals visit us. We pay moorage fees by the year, and a live-aboard fee of $225 per month. All in all, it works out at about $1,000 per month. It’s very economical.”

Upstairs is the pilothouse: an impressive high-tech space with a large silver wheel, ship-to-shore radio, gleaming apparatus and large radar and television screens. It’s an ideal nautical cockpit for a pilot, with wide windows allowing all-round vision. For long voyages, there is a fixed table with a long bench seat, and behind is a raised bed allowing one to be sleeping while the other is on duty. “We wear radio earphones at sea, so we are always in contact with each other.”

Down a short staircase and to our left is the immaculate engine room stretching to the back of the boat; it controls the fuel, water and electrical systems. You need to have mechanical knowledge to operate this vessel. “Prior to this, the biggest boat I’d been on was a canoe!” Jocelyn laughs. She’s obviously a quick learner.

Next door is a tasteful two-bunk bedroom with cupboards and modern portholes. “Ideal for when the children come to stay.” Opposite, the washroom is surprisingly spacious, with toilet, sink and walk-in shower. The shower has a seat that is useful in rough weather.

Finally, we come to the master bedroom. This is a welcoming, wood-paneled room that is wide at the door end, with attractive fixed cupboards providing useful surfaces, built-in wardrobes and discreet lighting. A large double bed faces the door, and the space on either side narrows with the shape of the boat, giving it a womb-like feeling. “The bed suits me,” Jocelyn says, “but is only just big enough for Trevor.”

“It’s a very well-planned boat, although I miss my bubble bath, and the large washer/dryer takes about four hours to complete its cycle.” They have kept their apartment in Victoria, which they rent out, but their world cruise is their dream. “We go out on two- to four-day voyages, and have been to Gabriola and other islands, all part of getting to know the boat. In January we travel to Seattle for the Boat Show,” Jocelyn says. “In April, the boat’s one-year anniversary, we’re going to Princess Louisa Inlet, with Desolation Sound next on the list.”

“We’ve had a lively month,” she admits. “Things like head issues and water pumps go wrong on a boat.” She praises Philbrooks Boat Yard Ltd., the nautical servicing firm. “We have a good relationship with them.”

Living aboard is not for everyone, but if you want to see the world on a reasonable budget, then this is the life for you.

To see all of the photos from this Seaside Homes shoot, visit

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