Deciding to Live Aboard

Devon towing the U-Haul down from Oregon

On our first day in the Bay Area we moved the boat from the Aquatic Park to a transient slip at Marina Village in Alameda. We weren’t planning to live aboard long term but planned to stay on the boat while we had fun exploring the area and spending time with my sisters. We figured ‘Imi Loa was big enough to cruise on but probably too small to liveaboard while trying to live a normal life with regular jobs, etc. After a few weeks we took Amtrak back up to Oregon to retrieve our vehicles and our stuff from storage, then we started looking for apartments. Well we should have started the apartment search first because it quickly became clear that our cozy little boat was nicer than most of the available/affordable apartments (the competition for apartments we pretty fierce too, it seemed that a bribe was required to get the better places). We were still enjoying living aboard and the liveaboard fee was so much less than rent that we decided not to get an apartment. So most of the stuff we hauled down from Oregon went to the Salvation Army.


Of course deciding to live aboard full time meant more projects! The first thing we tackled was the cabin cushions. They were the original foam and the original upholstery from 1979, pretty hideous and not very comfortable. We found some fabric we liked and took a trip to Bob’s Foam Factory in Fremont for replacement foam. We knew it would be really difficult to do the work onboard so we took everything to my sister’s apartment in Richmond.

…and after!

We figured it would take us two days, well of course it ended up taking us 6 days! Fortunately my sister didn’t seem to mind us moving in and taking over her place for a week 🙂 One reason it took so long is that we made our own piping. It was a pain but we were really happy with how everything came out and it made a huge difference in the cabin.

The next project was our MSD (marine sanitation device). We had installed an Airhead composting toilet in ‘Imi Loa and had had a love/hate relationship with it ever since. We loved not having a holding tank and it really was pretty odor-free but it’s performance was not reliable. When we were just using the boat on weekends or for occasional multi-day trips it mostly did okay. But there were times when the temperatures were too cold and it didn’t really compost much and when we were using it every day it just couldn’t keep up. Then there were times when the weather was warm so it was able to compost but that’s when we would be invaded by gnats. Not very nice and it happened a few times despite trying really hard to maintain the right moisture balance and having screens on the air inlet and exhaust. I tried diatomaceous earth before resorting to pesticides and completely starting over. The liquids tank was also frustratingly small, the manufacturer claims it will need to be emptied every two days, we were lucky to get through 24 hours before it was full. And if you didn’t realize it was full it would overflow into the solids tank and that made for a horrible, nasty, stinky mess. We also had a wave make it down through the exhaust vent and flood the solids with salt water, that was almost as bad. I think composting toilets are a great idea and they seem to work for some people but it just was not working for us.


We really don’t like the idea of a holding tank so we decided to install an Electroscan waste treatment system. The Electroscan grinds up the waste and uses electrical current running through salt water to produce chlorine compounds to disinfect waste, which can then be safely and legally (in most areas) discharged overboard. Of course we also needed a marine toilet and chose the Lavac for its simplicity and robustness.

…and after!

Nothing on a boat is ever straight forward so one thing led to another and we wound up relocating our DC panel from the port side (in the galley by the sink, dumb location!) to the navigation station on the starboard side, replaced all of our battery cables, installed a Xantrex Link 1000 battery moniter, put in a new battery switch, and added a secondary DC panel. While we were at it we flush mounted the VHF radio and installed a new FM stereo. I couldn’t find any photos of the Lavac and Electroscan after they were installed but who wants to look at pictures of toilets anyway?!


5 thoughts on “Deciding to Live Aboard

  1. Welcome to the Bay Area! So glad you finally arrived! Umm. Did I lose some time? It feels like you’ve already been here for years.

  2. I am interested in a independence 31 for my next boat.
    I live in the Bay Area, do you have any idea whare your independence is now.
    They are few and far between so I am looking under every rock.
    Thanks for your time,

    • Hi Tom, the gentleman that bought our Independence lives in Sausalito, but the vessel documentation site now lists a new owner in Berkeley. Not sure if that’s much help but good luck on your search! Rowan

      • Hi Rowan, thanks so much for your reply.
        Much of the fun I have found out in messing with boats is the search, it always leads down an interesting path of cool places and often wonderful people.
        Best of luck to you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s