I always refer to Nine of Cups as home. After 15 years living aboard, wherever we are, no matter what country or what port, she's our home. When we dock in a foreign country and folks ask us where we're from, we usually reply “Well, today we're from here.” It wasn't always that way though and several women who are thinking of becoming liveaboards have asked me when I stopped thinking of Cups as just a sailboat and starting thinking of her as home.
Certainly there was not one exact moment when the boat equaled home. Having sold our house, car and most of our worldly possessions before embarking on our liveaboard lifestyle certainly helped speed up the process. Cups was all we had left. Moving familiar items aboard made her more homey … our whistling teapot, pictures, our favorite mugs, a familiar blanket to snuggle up with on cool evenings. You know … all those creature comforts that make a place not only comfortable, but yours.
Perhaps, experiencing our first storm and hunkering down for the blow was a telling event. Seeing how well Cups handled the wind and waves was certainly reassuring. She was seaworthy and sea-kindly despite the crew's ineptness and discomfort. She protected us from the elements (and ourselves). As we came to know her better, she took on her own personality. We began caring for her as we'd care for any well-loved family member. We began to miss her when we were away.
I always said that when I could walk effortlessly without lights through Cups at night (on deck and below) and not stumble on the step up from the galley to the saloon or the step down from the forward cabin to the forward head … that's when Cups would really be “home” to me. That's when I'd be so familiar with her that I wouldn't have to think about my movements as I moved blindly from one end of the boat to the other.
It happened without my realizing it. I found it hard to sleep without a little rocking motion and the lap of water on the hull. After awhile, I found myself moving around the boat with ease. I could hustle down the companionway ladder gracefully; grab stuff from the galley lockers without hitting my head on anything; hoist myself up the long step from the dinghy to the rub rail to the deck while holding onto a grocery bag; and, yes, walk through the boat from stem to stern in the dead of night without stumbling a step or missing a handhold.
Now, it's being on land that seems the novelty. No rocking, no lap of waves, no smell of the sea. Our home country is the USA, for sure. But after 15 years aboard, Nine of Cups, wherever she might be, is home.