Dan Kirsch and Sandy Williamson, Outer Reef 610

Dan Kirsch has been on boats since he was 6 months old and remembers building an 18-foot cuddy cabin from a kit. Larger boats came later, including a 37-foot Silverton his father owned. Eventually, Dan and Sandy Williamson, who had their first date on a boat, would cruise that 37, and other boats. In 2017, they bought an Outer Reef 610 Motoryacht, Sandana. They’ve been living aboard and cruising ever since. 

One of the misconceptions about living aboard, Dan explains, is that it’s like camping out. “We’re extremely self-sufficient on this boat, but it doesn’t mean we rough it. When we decided on the Outer Reef 610, we incorporated features that enhance our comfort and independence aboard.”

Left: Sandana, the couple’s Outer Reef 610.

Left: Sandana, the couple’s Outer Reef 610.

Sandana’s electrical system is a good example. Dan says the boat only pulls 14 amps through an inverter and large battery bank with everything running. With three solar panels, the couple can go 24 to 48 hours without turning the generator on. “In the right weather, the panels cover all of the air conditioning draw,” he says. “We also have a watermaker than can produce 56 gallons of fresh water per hour. We have a beer cooler, food refrigerators and freezers. We shower aboard every day.” Dan says these comfort features save money in the long run, because the couple frequently anchors out rather than stay in marinas.

Photos | Have a closer look at the Outer Reef 610 in the gallery below:

The independence doesn’t come without effort. “Provisioning can be a huge challenge,” says Dan. “We engineered lots of stowage space into this boat, so when we have access to places like Costco, we can stock up with non-perishable goods that will last for months. We freeze other things for use later. We work very hard at getting what we need when it’s easy and trying not to have to go to stores all the time. Trust me, it becomes a real pain trying to find eggs when you’re in the middle of nowhere.”

Sandy relaxes on the boat’s expansive flybridge.

Sandy relaxes on the boat’s expansive flybridge.

Sandy is now retired, but Dan does occasional sales consulting. For that reason, it’s important for the couple to stay connected from their boat, whether they’re tied up at their current homeport in Salem, Massachusetts, or out cruising. “We’ve got Wi-Fi and cellular signal boosters, so keeping up communications with the outside world has been relatively easy,” Dan says. “We also use MyIslandWiFi.com. For $75 a month we get unlimited cellular data and the use of a mobile router. It works great wherever we can pick up a cell tower. We maintain an Iridium GO satellite phone onboard, but that’s mainly for safety when we’re offshore.”

The couple’s Outer Reef 610 cruises between 9 and 18 knots and has maximum speeds of 13 to 23 knots. The lower helm and galley are just two steps from the main salon, which makes this deck a spacious area for everyday living. Belowdecks are three staterooms and two head/shower compartments, with a huge master situated amidships. The stand-up engine room was one of Dan’s requirements.

Dan, who has a USCG captain’s license, says that weather and safety are important. “The weather is an everyday part of our lives. When you’re living aboard—tied up or not—you have to know what’s happening. We’ve been from Florida to Maine and up to Nova Scotia, and I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve been in really rough seas.” That’s because this couple spends a lot of time planning, and when it comes to weather, they stay flexible with their plans. “Having deadlines is a good way to get in trouble,” Dan says, ‘so we avoid making schedules. If we do get in trouble, we’ve got a liferaft, safety communications gear and a full complement of safety equipment.”

Dan and Sandy maneuver their motoryacht into her slip for tie up. 

Dan and Sandy maneuver their motoryacht into her slip for tie up. 

Unlike some liveaboards, Dan and Sandy maintain a condo in Beverly, Massachusetts, although they rarely use it. “We decided to keep a property ashore in case we have medical issues. There are great hospitals in Massachusetts, so we like the security of having a home to go to if we really have to,” Sandy says. They also wanted a place to celebrate Christmas. Sandy wasn’t interested in hotel holidays, so keeping a condo made sense.

Dan and Sandy are advocates for the liveaboard lifestyle. Their favorite aspect is the opportunity to travel. “There are so many spectacular places in this country to see, and we just soak it up everywhere we go,” Sandy says. “Whether it’s the Bahamas or Nova Scotia, the beauty of our world makes it all worth it. We wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Mark and Kae Edington, Nordhavn 47

Mark and Kae Edington on the bow of Fusion, their Nordhavn 47

Mark and Kae Edington on the bow of Fusion, their Nordhavn 47

Mark and Kae Edington are high-school sweethearts from a town outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. They’ve been boating together ever since. “On one of our first dates, I took Kae down to the water and taught her how to sail a Laser,” Mark says. “We both ended up going to the University of Cincinnati where we did all sorts of boating, mainly in small racing dinghies.”

Sometime after college, the couple moved to Hendersonville, Tennessee, which is surprisingly well-connected to the water, thanks to the Cumberland River and large, local lakes. They did a lot of racing and traded up to larger sailboats. Eventually, though, the couple discovered the joys of powerboats and the desire to live aboard. In 2008, they sold their house, bought a Carver 56 to call home, and worked their way down to Bradenton, Florida. “That was around the time that oil was really expensive, so it was painful to make any extended trips,” Mark says. “We sold the boat and bought a house in Florida. To stay on the water, we got a 32-foot Yellowfin for fishing and day trips.”

Mark takes command at the flybridge helm.

Mark takes command at the flybridge helm.

But the couple had dipped their toes into the liveaboard lifestyle, and knew they wanted to get back into it. They also dreamed of making long-distance voyages, so the couple started looking at trawlers.

“About four years ago we sold the house, got rid of virtually everything that was in it, and bought a Nordhavn 47,” Mark says. “We settled on Nordhavn because of the wonderful support we’d seen in online communities, and we knew about the brand’s reputation for building seaworthy boats. I think their collective customer base had logged nearly 7 million miles. That’s pretty amazing.”

The Edington’s 47, named Fusion, has a cruising range of 4,000 miles at just under 7 knots, and has a small auxiliary wing engine if the main engine goes down. The main salon runs nearly full beam and there’s a large galley with full-sized appliances. Below are two cabins with separate heads, which the Edingtons like when there are guests aboard.

Kae in the stand-up engine room

Kae in the stand-up engine room

The Edington’s say friends and family are excited about their lifestyle, and many make the effort to visit and stay with the couple on the boat, which is berthed in Bradenton. “I’m one of six kids, so we get a lot of visitors, and Mark’s parents also enjoy the boat,” Kae says.

The couple admits that living aboard was scary at first, but they’ve learned some life lessons from the big move. “We were a little terrified of letting all our possessions go,” says Mark, “but it didn’t take long for us to realize that it was all just that—stuff. We really didn’t need most of it. We have everything we need now.”

The Edington’s are also realistic about the potential downsides to living aboard. “First of all, it’s not cheap unless you’re living on an old, 24-foot sailboat with very few conveniences,” Mark says. “Boats are an expensive investment and are hungry machines that require maintenance, upkeep, insurance and fuel. And that’s not even factoring in slip fees for marina stays. You’re not paying property taxes or utilities for a house, but those savings don’t offset the major expense that a boat represents. Lots of people think we’re doing this to save money, but frankly that’s pretty far from the truth.”

Bikes help expand the couple’s range while in port. 

Bikes help expand the couple’s range while in port. 

The couple says many people don’t realize how self-sufficient liveaboards must be. “You’ve got to be able to fix things and jury-rig others, especially when you’re under way and far from help.” Kae says. “It’s sometimes unnerving to know that if the boat goes down, burns or gets destroyed that everything in your life is gone. But that’s not something that dominates our thoughts.”

After they took delivery of the 47, the Edingtons did a shakedown cruise to Cuba. “That was an amazing trip and it sort of cemented our desire to keep exploring,” says Mark. Today, the Edingtons are prepping for their next big adventure. They want to spend time exploring the Caribbean before heading west through the Panama Canal and onto the South Pacific. Says Kae, “We’re really excited about exploring all of these beautiful places and being aboard at the same time.”

Tom and Sandy Boughner, North Pacific 45 Pilothouse

Tom and Sandy Boughner.

Tom and Sandy Boughner.

Tom and Sandy Boughner started boating on the Chesapeake Bay in 1999, one year after they met. “A friend took us out on an afternoon sail,” Tom says. “We loved it so much we decided to give it a try and enrolled in a weeklong course at J/World in Annapolis. That sealed the deal.”

The couple was hot on finding a sailboat they could cruise around the Bay. They ended up buying a Nordic 34 sloop, made a lot of really great friends and learned their way around the Chesapeake. They fell in love with the boating lifestyle and all the people involved with it.

Then, in 2006, the couple moved to Washington, and brought their sailboat with them. They explored the San Juans and other places, but found the area was inhospitable for the style of sailing they liked. So, in 2015 they made the switch to a powerboat. They bought a Ranger Tug 29 and cruised it all over the place. Those experiences got the couple thinking about long-term plans. “We wanted to sell everything and live aboard for good,” Sandy says.

There were many reasons they wanted to move aboard, but one stemmed from Sandy’s experience working in the senior-care industry. “We wanted to save our kids the end-of-life trouble of going through all of our stuff and deal with selling the house,” she says.

The North Pacific 45 Pilothouse.

The North Pacific 45 Pilothouse.

In 2018 Tom and Sandy started looking for a boat that could serve as their full-time home. They had friends who owned a North Pacific 49, which the Boughners had spent time on and come to appreciate. So, they began their search for a new boat with that builder. They checked out a North Pacific 45 Pilothouse at a Seattle boat show and eventually placed an order. They moved aboard in July 2019.

The couple says their North Pacific 45, which they named Maggie Mae, is an ideal liveaboard platform, thanks to a full-beam main saloon and U-shaped galley with home-style appliances and stowage. They enjoy time spent in the pilothouse, where there’s an excellent view, elevated bench seating and a folding table on which they fire up the computer and get work done. Forward is a master stateroom with private head. A guest cabin lies to port abaft of the master stateroom. Power is a single 250-horsepower Cummins QSB 6.7-liter diesel.

The couple put a lot of thought into what they wanted. “We had to have two cabins, so we could invite friends and family along for trips,” Tom says. “That was a big one. We also wanted the option to customize.” A decision the couple labored over was whether to sacrifice side decks for that full-beam main saloon. In the end, they gave up the side decks. “We wondered if we’d regret that, but it ended up being the right decision,” Sandy says.

Like many people who choose to leave a house to take up full-time residence on a boat, the Boughners field inquiries from friends who wonder what the transition from land to sea is like. “The question most people ask is how we stand being so close to each other all the time,” says Sandy. “We’ve never had a problem. We get along really well.”

Other friends wonder how the couple copes with the basics of day-to-day living. “People are curious about how we shower, do laundry and stay warm or cool,” says Tom. “They don’t realize we have all those systems on the boat.”

There are other benefits of living aboard. The couple loves the community they are a part of at the Port Ludlow marina where they keep the boat. “Unless you’ve lived in a marina before, it’s difficult to explain the camaraderie,” Sandy says. “Everyone looks out for each other and there’s a lot of socializing. The location is great, and we’ve got areas nearby where we can walk our two dogs.”

Because Sandy is still working, the couple spends a lot of time in Port Ludlow, but they won’t remain tied up there forever. “We’ve got a cruise to Alaska planned for next year,” Tom says. But for now, we’ll do short shake-down cruises. Our life and future plans really have us excited.”

This article originally appeared in the November 2019 issue.