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Travel writer (and former BUST intern!) Libby Zay took on an adventure closer to home in February when she, her husband Raul, dog Penny, and cat Nessie moved onto a boat in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. “The seed was planted by the idea of downsizing and tiny living,” Zay says. “But once we dug in, there were so many other benefits.” Like being close to nature and saving money. Buying the two-bedroom, two-bathroom, 35-foot boat cost the couple $20K, but monthly, they pay less than half of what they did while living in a house. “We pay a slip fee to keep the boat there, which includes our water, cable, Internet, [use of the marina’s] pool, and laundry,” she says. “We get metered electricity and pay a guy to pump out the sewage tank.” Since Zay’s husband is a carpenter, they’ve also been able to DIY most of their renovations. 

Before saying bon voyage to land living, the couple knew nothing about boats, and though moving into such a small space with her husband and pets required an adjustment (especially when the pandemic kept them aboard for months shortly thereafter), Zay says that everyone is happy with boat learning and living. In particular, they’re excited to take lessons from a captain so they can travel the Chesapeake Bay. “We don’t think about it as a crazy lifestyle anymore,” Zay says. “We just think of it as our home.” 

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When they bought the boat, the bedroom had two twin beds. “Being a couple, we prefer to have one bed together. We’re not in a sitcom,” Zay quips. “It didn’t quite feel like home until we actually got the bed in there.”

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“Every space has to be a little bit modular,” she says. The front of the boat is a reading nook, office, storage area, and potential guest room with a bathroom; the middle is the kitchen and family room; the back is their bedroom and bathroom. 

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The couple got rid of 90 percent of their possessions, but swears they don’t miss them. “We don’t own any furniture because everything in the boat is built in,” she says. “The only furniture we have is two beach chairs.” 

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Zay describes the bathroom as a wet room: “You close the door and with the sink, you pull up the faucet and can hang it on a hook. Then the whole room is a shower. It’s kind of neat because then you clean your bathroom every time you shower.” 

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“We really wanted to keep the character of the boat,” Zay says. “The interior is all teak and it’s kind of dark. There are a couple original things in there, like a barometer and a clock.”  

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The warm, nautical color palette was inspired by the boat’s teal bench cushions. 

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“One of the common questions I get is: What do you do if there’s a storm? It’s just great to open up all the windows and watch it go by,” she says, about the little joys of boat living. “You can see so much more sky.” 

Photos by Megan Lloyd 

By Anna Gragert 

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