Trevor Gordon loves the ocean so much that he refuses to leave it. He lives with his wife on a 36-foot boat in the Santa Barbara, California, harbor. They're a hop, skip and a paddle to nearby surf, and they get to kick their feet up on the deck and watch the sunset every night. But Gordon's is no houseboat; he frequently sails it all over the California coast and beyond. Intrigued? Fancy a mobile, water-borne surf shack? Gordon's got plenty of advice.
First, take heart. While nothing about maintaining a boat is easy or cheap, Gordon says there's a lot about keeping a surf yacht that a novice boatman can figure out.
"You can totally DIY a lot of beginning boat maintenance," he says. "Of course it's easier to buy a boat that's been well maintained, but it's also more expensive and less rewarding, and you learn a ton fixing up your own boat. So if you have the time, it's totally worth it to do the work yourself."
Gordon's 36-footer is a nice size for two people, but you could go smaller. "I like this model built in Santa Barbara called the Flicka 20 [which is 20 feet long]," Gordon says. "We have a friend who lives on one in the harbor. It's slightly bigger than a van and they're really good sea boats. Twenty feet is probably the smallest you'd want to live on, though, even by yourself. Any smaller and it starts to feel like a little teacup boat."
Obviously, moving onto a boat presents challenges. Things most of us take for granted, like convenient showers and laundry, require some planning. Plus, if you actually want to take your new seafaring home and look for waves, be prepared for a steep learning curve.
"You can't just wing it, although if you're a surfer and you understand the ocean and winds, then it might seem somewhat natural," Gordon says. "No matter what, understanding the physics behind sails takes time. A lot of people think, 'I can do that.' Then they go out a little way out of a harbor and think, 'Whoa, this is pretty intense.' Weather changes quickly. Then they'll have to get rescued by the Coast Guard, they get discouraged and they won't want to do it again. The more background you have when starting out, the better. Take some lessons and watch a bunch of YouTube videos."
If you're still tempted by any of this, Gordon says to learn everything you can before you whip out the (huge pile of) cash to buy in. "I don't know if I would just buy a boat without knowing anything about them. By the time you actually buy the boat and start to learn how to live like that, you might be like, 'Oh, this isn't actually what I wanted at all.'"
[This piece is Part IV of the DIY series “Do Something,” where four surfers share their how-to secrets for board-building, moviemaking, swell-chasing, and alternative living]