THE BIG PICTURE
Good naval architects (and our Valiant 40 had one of the best) focus primarily on designing vessels that are safe and that move efficiently through the water. This means that allocating space for human accommodations is secondary -- resulting in cozy living spaces. There's lots of storage, but most of it is dedicated to supplies, spare parts, tools, and the like, so not much space left for personal items.
Living aboard a boat also necessitates being somewhat physically fit. The gentle waves that rock you to sleep can sometimes become bigger ones that throw you off balance when you’re moving about the boat. And there are steps and obstacles to climb over and around, and physical work to be done. There’s no way to predict if a particular person’s body will be comfortable on board, but if you can pass a field sobriety test and climb a flight of stairs two steps at a time, you could do just fine.
Transportation: Isn’t that provided by s/v Cayuga? Of course, for trips of a few hours or a few weeks. But we spend just as much time in our dinghy – in this case, a 9-ft, rigid-bottom inflatable with a 15 hp outboard motor. It’s the jeep that takes us to secluded beaches and snorkeling spots. It’s the pickup truck that hauls groceries from town to the boat. It’s the family car that takes us sightseeing, and to restaurants and beach bars.
Accommodations: Our living space below deck includes two cabins -- but each is barely big enough for an almost-double bed, with only enough floor space for one person to stand and change clothes. Our version of a Great Room is similarly compact and includes a galley, navigation desk, and salon (living/dining room) with a fold-down table that has seating for 6-7. The salon also performs double duty when we convert the seating to two extra bunks. Above deck, the cockpit is our boat-driving station as well as our front porch and outdoor shower, and it's where we eat many of our meals on a fold-down table. Completing the picture is the engine room, many storage cubbies, and the head (bathroom).
The Galley: Preparing good food is a priority for us, and that’s made relatively easy with our 4-burner propane stove and oven, refrigerator/freezer, and double sink, as well as a gas grill in the cockpit. We eat much the same way as we do at home on land -- relatively simple but tasty/healthy meals. To minimize creating extra heat in the cabin (and to conserve cooking gas) we seldom use the oven and rely just on stovetop cooking. Food needs have to be anticipated and brought aboard, so our itineraries include places where those are available. We can almost always find what we want -- or at least close substitutes -- anywhere we travel. Our pantry is generally well-stocked with staples, spices, and condiments, and fresh produce is usually only a short dinghy ride away. We eat most of our meals on board, with an occasional lunch or dinner ashore.
The Head: This probably represents the biggest contrast to its land equivalent. The bathroom sink is standard issue with hot (sometimes) and cold running water. The shower is also pretty normal, except that it shares space with the sink and commode -- odd, but very functional. More on this later.
Energy Sources: Just as we do onshore, we rely primarily on external energy sources to meet our energy needs. Diesel and gasoline for transportation, propane for cooking, and electricity for everything else -- pumping water, refrigeration, communications, entertainment, lighting, and more. However, there are two big differences. (1) All our fossil fuel energy has to be brought on board the boat and safely stored until needed, and (2) much of our energy consumption comes directly from the sun -- solar panels generate much of the electricity we consume and the wind provides most of the motive power for our transportation.
Almost all of our electrical devices run on 12 VDC power that is stored in large batteries, but we can convert that to 120 VAC (US residential standard) when needed. Almost all of our 20 interior light fixtures use LEDs, so we have lots of efficient lighting. While we're very careful with energy consumption, we have plenty of power for watching movies, computing, surfing the Internet, and listening to music.
By now, you've probably guessed that there’s no air conditioning -- it consumes WAY too much electricity to be practical on our boat unless we're plugged in to shore power in a marina, which is very seldom. However, there's usually a nice breeze so for cooling we just open our 12 ports (windows) and 5 hatches (skylights). We also have electric fans throughout the boat.
Water: While our 20-ton home happily floats on it, we do have to maintain a continual awareness of the details involved in keeping it in and keeping it out.
Fresh Water – keeping it in: All our fresh water has to be imported. When we are at a developed location such as a marina, we can fill up our tw0 45-gal tanks with "municipal" water from a hose - easy. (We add a dollop of chlorine to the tanks, and have a super filter at the sink that remove all impurities, so we can drink anything that we import.) If there no developed marine facilities at a location when we need water, the solution is to fill up 5 gal cans on shore and ferry them with the dinghy -- a laborious process that we strive to avoid. So, all this is to say that we are very conservative with our use of fresh water -- submariner-type showers, dribbles for hand-washing and dish-rinsing rather than torrents, etc., etc. But that's not to say that we aren't comfortable and don’t have enough fresh water to use for whatever purpose needed. It's just that we use only the amount that’s minimally necessary for the task, which is much less than the quantities we're used to having on land.
Fresh Water – keeping it out: One characteristic of the tropics is periodic (and often unexpected) rain showers --often for only a few seconds or minutes. The normal state is for our ports and hatches to be open to catch the breeze. However, we always have to be mindful of jumping to close the hatches at the first raindrop -- usually the ports can be left open unless the wind is strong. Since some hatches are over a sleeping berth, at feeling the first raindrop on the cheek we're conditioned to spring up and close the hatches. And we try hard to never leave electronic gadgets setting under a hatch. (A rain shower claimed an iMac Pro that one guest left under the hatch above her berth.)
Salt Water – keeping it out: Cayuga doesn't have any leaks, and we close all the ports/hatches when sailing with potential salt water splashes, so why this topic? Because salt has a special attraction for water, thus if we bring salt water inside the boat and it dries, the salt gets left behind and forever sucks in moisture from the air and creates a habitat for molds and mildew. The usual way salt water gets into the boat is by dripping from people, especially shoes and wet bathing suits. The fix for that is to rinse off with fresh water before going below, and we use cockpit shower just for that purpose. We also keep a bucket of fresh water to rinse off sandy/salty feet and flip-flops after coming aboard from the dinghy.
Salt Water – letting it in: Wait, what about keeping it out!? Right, but there's one place we welcome salt water -- the galley sink. In addition to pressurized fresh water in the head sink & shower, the galley, and the cockpit shower, we have foot pump at the base of the galley cabinet that supplies salt water to the another faucet in that sink. This helps us reduce fresh water consumption by enabling us to use salt water for pre-rinsing and washing dishes. (Or it can be used for cooking -- it's pre-salted!) Of course, dish-washing is completed with a final fresh water rinse.
Waste Water: The water topic wouldn’t be complete without addressing this. First, the easy part. Grey Water from the sinks and shower simply flows directly into whatever body of water we occupy. This is normal among virtually all pleasure boats, and has no measurable negative impact -- especially if environmentally friendly soaps and detergents are used. Any water that finds its way into the bilge (the lowest point in the boat, imagine a sump in your basement) is also pumped overboard, unless we have an internal oil spill (that's never happened). The few oil drips that may occur in the engine room are captured by a special mat that rejects water and absorbs oil.
However, more complex management is required for the water associated with human waste – so-called “Black Water”. Using the head is the thing that typically requires the most adjustment for visitors. First, men need to sit down for all functions because a boat is often a moving and the only way for a guy to insure that he hits the target is to sit. Another rule is "nothing goes in the head unless it passes through you first", so toilet paper goes in a trash can. This helps insure no clogs in the plumbing. After completing the business at hand, the user grabs a handle by the commode and pumps seawater in to flush out the bowl. The contents flow into a 40-gal holding tank where they remain until either (1) they are pumped out at a dock that has waste management facilities or (2) we pump out overboard when we are in the open ocean, a safe distance from any human activity -- a procedure that is sanctioned by environmental experts.
Communications: Cell towers cover almost all of the US east coast, and Internet access is relatively easy. The Caribbean Islands also have good cell phone coverage, so we rely primarily on the boat’s cell phone for calls and text messages, and for email accessed through the phone. At some locations, we have WiFi access on the boat; at other locations, we have to be on shore to connect through a hotspot at a restaurant or bar. Except for when we make long offshore passages, we seldom go for more than a few hours without access to cell phone service. We also have several radio and satellite communications tools that are covered in the Boat section.