Micro-living lessons from a boat
In August I bought a 26’ sailboat (later christened the SS Anchovy- small and salty!) to explore the Potomac and Chesapeake. It’s a 1990 MacGregor, with sleeping for 4+, a galley, head, basic GPS/sonar and 10HP outboard. It was $7K on craigslist, and after a fall of sailing it came back to the MicroShowcase lot for some needed upgrades. Over the winter months of rewiring, replumbing, restoring, and rethinking space use aboard, it seems that this little boat had a few lessons to impart to anyone wanting to live micro. So, let the modest voice of the Anchovy speak!
Storage: gear hammocks. Easy to install, remove, lightweight and very cheap ($8), these storage hammocks are standard equipment on many boats, used to store food and equipment, and are also perfect for the micro house closet.
Storage: underseat. Basically all the storage on the Anchovy is under seating or bedding. Fully enclosed sofa seating with access hatches on top allow you to store gobs of gear- surely more storage on board this boat than most 26’ tiny houses. So if building seating, make sure it stores.
Dishes: Corelle dishes have to be the most compact and economical option for micro living- a stack of 4 plates is well less than 1’’ thick, and they are almost unbreakable under normal use. $30 for service for 4.
Food storage: a mason jar rack system is one of the more beautiful and efficient ways to store food, at sea or on land. The water (and mothproof) storage jars double as drinking glasses, and look lovely. Five of these these metal racks were installed on board, and perfectly hold 4 pint sized mason jars each.
Oven. Many boats (and tiny houses) are quite small to accommodate a full size oven. So how to bake cakes, breads, brownies, quiches? The Outback Oven uses your range or campstove to bake, and really works quite well. Of course it cannot compete with a full size convection oven, but does it’s job for smaller 1-pan baking jobs, and stows away very compactly.
Simple sink water: a basic hand pump, 5 gallon water jug, and sink is perfectly usable, simple way of having temporary or permanent water supply without power. Marine catalogs such as Defender and iboats.com are full of marine grade hand and foot activated water pumps. Hand pumping does get tiresome however, so a simple, $75 pump+faucet combo was installed this winter.
Simple shower water: For showers, there are a handful of battery or 12V handheld shower/faucet/water pumps (Ivation), or the compact foot pump Helio shower. There are also integrated hot gas water heater + pumps available from Coleman and Mr. Heater (outdoor use only). (A shower solution for the Anchovy is coming next year…)
Simple power: As long as you don’t need to heat or cool anything (air/water/food), a 20W solar panel and simple charge controller, battery, and inverter can do a surprising amount, powering LED lighting, a computer, fan, radio, stereo, cell phone charger, water pumps, etc. I use this $350 BPP-240 Powerbank with integrated solar charging, inverter (for regular 120V household current), 12V, and USB. The advantage of this simple system is that it can be quickly disconnected from the boat, and allows it to be used for backup camping power— even additional range for the EcoReco scooter. (Note there are similar products that use lead acid batteries (such as the Goal 0 line. These are significantly inferior to Li-Ion batteries- they should only be depleted 50% to avoid premature failure, they are significantly heavier per watt, and involve more toxic chemicals should there ever be leakage.)
Other marine products: There are a host of other marine-grade products well suited to micro living- from the popular Dickinson marine heaters, inset stovetop with removable cutting board, and pedestal table systems all found in the Minim House.