Small House Living: Island Packet 350 Interior

Below and behind the cushions of this settee is tons of storage space. The settee itself can be reconfigured to make a comfortable twin-sized bed. Aft of the settee (to the right) is a U-shaped galley complete with double basin sink, two burner stove, a deep cooler, and more storage space.

An element of campers and boats that fascinates us is how they are put together inside. The miniature stoves and heaters, ingeniously built-in storage spaces, cabinet doors that cleverly fold out into full-sized tables, and settees that work like jigsaw puzzles to convert into beds are perfect marriages of ingenuity meeting practicality. More than that, in many instances boat and camper interiors are beautiful, replete with richly textured wood, stainless steel and brass, and finely crafted finishing touches.

Below, the salon looking forward, on the left with the table up, on the right with the table down. The table has a folding leaf which, when opened, allows the port (left) settee to be used as dining seating as well. (Click on photos for larger view.)

Before we got into boats and campers, we had been researching small-house design. In fact, our craftsman-style bungalow in California, built in 1908, in many ways seems to have anticipated the small-house movement. With just 1,200 square feet of living space and features such as a space-saving Jack-and-Jill bathroom and built-in custom-crafted cabinetry, the E Street house is right in step with the small-house philosophy.

Bandon’s head has a porthole and skylight for plenty of natural lighting, and there’s ample elbow room. Forward (to the left) is a shower head. Separate doors alow for access from both the forward stateroom and the main salon.

One benefit of living in a relatively small space is that they don’t require much energy to heat up, cool off, or light. For example, a rooftop solar panel provides almost all the electrical energy we need in our camper, and we anticipate that once we install solar panels onboard Bandon and change the incandescent lighting over to LED, we’ll be able to live off the grid in our boat.

Above: The forward cabin features a comfortable full-size bed, a hanging locker, three cupboards, and additional storage in holds beneath the bed. Below: The aft cabin features another double bed and similar storage.

Another happy consequence of downsizing is that it has prompted us to examine how much stuff we acquire, hold onto and end up having to store or dust. We’ve discovered that as we pare away material possessions, the things we do have tend to better fit our lives in terms of form and function; with limited amounts of shelves, closets, cupboards and drawers, we do our best to only bring things into our lives that are particularly useful, durable, interesting or beautiful, whether the item is a piece of art, a set of dishes, or a cheese grater.

Above: Bandon’s galley is a U-shape favored by many sailors, providing a tight configuration where the cook can wedge in a keep the crew fed in rolling seas. A 100-gallon water tank provides water by both an electric pump and a hand pump. The two-burner stove runs on propane. Aft (to the right) is a deep ice chest accessed through the countertop. Below right: Dinner plates and bowls stay secure in purpose-build slotted cupboards.

How much space is enough is, of course, a personal matter. Onboard Bandon, we don’t have large clothing wardrobes or a rack full of pots and pans, and when we finish reading a book, it’ll go to friends or be sold back to the bookstore. Bandon has no TV, we removed the microwave oven, and we do our laundry at the local laundromat. When we want to watch a TV show or movie, we download it onto our computer or pop in a disc; microwave ovens haven’t been part of our kitchen for many years now; and our local laundromat is a cheerful place in town where we can browse shops or catch up on reading while taking care of laundry.

We’ve been pleased to note how little fuel, electricity and water we’re consuming. Early experiments with our new pressure cooker indicate that we will be able to cut water and fuel use even further.

Livin’ in a Van down by the River

Seward Harbor, May 21: This is the view from the back widows of our pickup truck camper, our summer home while we work to get Bandon ready to live on and to sail. Mornings start early up here, the first sunlight slanting into the camper a little after 5:00 AM – and getting earlier each day. Warblers and other songbirds are the first to wake. Too early for us. By the time we roll out of bed, gulls are calling and scolding and the high chirps of eagles have taken over. The fishing season hasn’t come into full swing yet, though a few engines can be heard making ready for a morning or a day on the water. Blueberry pancakes with maple syrup and strips of bacon on the side some days, fried eggs others, cold cereal when we’re really eager to get moving, but always with a ruby red grapefruit, a glass of orange juice and a big mug of coffee made from freshly ground beans. Then the walk to the end of the dock and a full day of work. In the photo above, as you look down the open water between the docks, Bandon is the last mast on the left.

We’ve submitted the paperwork to the coast guard in order to change the name of our Island Packet 350 from Tarsus to Bandon.

This is a sound vessel, and she surveyed well, but there is always work. The first of it has begun with giving every square inch of her interior – from her beautiful teak-wood sole to her overhead – a good cleaning. Meanwhile, there’s sorting through all the items previous owners left behind. From can openers to canvas, much of it is useful, and much of it is not. All of it requires a decision: toss out, donate to the  local thrift shop, or clean and restow.

Everything we touch, clean, move off or bring aboard makes this boat that much more ours. Bandon will be our home. In the near-term, that means about three months out of the year. And so we are outfitting it as such. This means furnishing it with good dinnerware (we went with Denby for our plates, bowls and pasta bowls), stemware (we found Schott Zweisel Tritan crystal wine glasses that look and feel luxurious but are exceptionally break resistant), and quality bourbon/Scotch glasses.

We anticipate that Bandon will be a full-on sailing vessel in every sense, but we recognize that even the most serious sailing vessels spend most of their days at anchor or in port. We want those days to be comfortable and inviting.

The Sailing Vessel Bandon

The t’s have been crossed and the final i dotted. All 37 feet and 12 tons of the sailing vessel Tarsus is ours.

What have we gotten into?

There’s a line from the film The Shipping News that seems to fit. “Course, you don’t know nothin’ about boats, but that’s entertaining, too.” 

Four years ago when we bought our C-Dory, Gillie, I’d never piloted a power boat longer than 12 feet – my dad’s aluminum car-topper with its 5 hp engine. Barbra had even less experience with boats. All we really knew was that we wanted a fishing boat. So we did our due diligence – read books, researched on the Internet, visited dealerships, checked out boats in marinas, talked to people and attended boat shows. In the end, we came to a familiar set of conclusions, the short of which go like this: There are a lot of boats for sale, and most of ‘em float. Out of all those boats, a few makes stand out. After that, everything is a compromise. The boat we really wanted was too big to readily trailer; thus it was not the boat we really wanted. We took the plunge, bought Gillie and a year later towed her all the way to Alaska, to the Port of Valdez, which is over 3,000 miles from Sacramento. We then launched her, ran 90 miles to the Port of Cordova, and spent the next eight days and nights fishing and camping aboard our boat in Prince William Sound.

Above: Jagged rocks and islands create a maze leading from Resurrection Bay out into the Gulf of Alaska. Top photo: Massive Blackstone Glacier towers above its namesake bay near Whittier, Alaska.

Time and tide kept me from sailing, but I honestly can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t want to sail. It’s always been there. Landlocked in western Pennsylvania, my family would take summer vacations to the coast – up to Cape Cod, down to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, west to Oregon – where we’d spend a week frenetically touring museums and historical sites, dining out in restaurants, perusing art galleries and shopping. For my part, I could have spent all day every day on those vacations doing nothing more elaborate than fishing the first tide of the day, combing the beaches, and walking the marina docks. The boats, particularly the sailboats, were magical. Mesmerizing. I’d see their owners emerging from below deck, or topside working on this or that, or just relaxing and looking off in the distance and I wanted to be those people. I had so many questions for them, but I never worked up the courage to break free from my family, approach one of them and ask. Questions like, How does it work? How do you steer it? Do you live on it? What does its name mean? Where have you been on it? Where will you go next?

Tarsus’ former owners were podiatrists. Although we haven’t completed a formal name change yet, on each piece of paper associated with the sale (for a boat this size, there’s nearly as much paperwork as in a home sale) we have penned in Bandon where the vessel’s name appears.

Sea otters are a common, always welcome sight along Alaska’s southeast and central coasts. 

There’s a small town on the southern Oregon coast where a river with runs of salmon, steelhead and striped bass joins the Pacific. Bandon. For a long time, Barbra and I looked at land on the Coquille River upstream from Bandon. In addition to the fish, the area has deer, turkeys, game birds and elk as well as good mushrooming and abundant wild berries. It’s a quiet part of the world, not overly far from wine country. We talked about a piece of land with trees, a spot for a garden, raising chickens there and cutting our own firewood for a wood burning stove in a cozy house where we would homestead.

Bandon is that. But it’s more. This time, it’s not the boat that represents the compromise. It’s the lifestyle. Choosing to become sailors means, at least for now, not becoming homesteaders. It means not driving our camper all over North America, or having a cabin on the shores of a lake full of walleyes, or collecting wine, or, in Barbra’s case, getting a pilot’s license.

Bandon will be docked in the Marina at Seward, pictured here in early July.

To borrow from Robert Frost, Bandon is the road we’ve taken. She’s got a sound hull, every amenity and comfort we need and then some, and sails to take us over any sea. It is dreams come true for us, and in some of those dreams there is a placid lake full of walleyes, and endless summer days touring North America in our camper, a herd of elk feeding on windfalls beneath our apple trees, a salmon fresh from our river for Thanksgiving dinner, a wood burning stove and a freshly made blackberry pie.

Resurrection Bay, where Seward is located, has one of the largest summertime concentrations of Coho salmon in North America. There is an abundant, varied and rich ecosystem in the bay, making it a premier locale for everything from watching sea birds and otters to seeing whales, dolphins and porpoises. The surrounding mountains are spectacular and help ensure for predictable winds, making Resurrection Bay a great place to sail. For more information about the sailing vessel Bandon, click on the word Tarsus.

A Boat to Sail the Ocean Blue

We fell in love with this 2002 Island Packet 350 last summer while visiting Seward. Here she is hauled out for survey on March 3.

Her tip-to-tip length is 37′ 10″, on deck she’s 35′, and at the waterline 29′ 4″. Her mast rises 48′ 3″ above the water. Rigged as a cutter, she’s also powered by a 38 hp Yanmar diesel engine. Displacement is eight tons. Gross tons: 12. 

Below deck there are two staterooms (sleeping berths), one fore and one aft. The two settees convert to beds to sleep a total of six people. Teak deck, 6′ 4″ of headroom in the main cabin, and lots of storage space. The head, complete with shower, is located just aft of the forward stateroom. The fuel tank holds 50 gallons of diesel and the freshwater tank holds 100 gallons. There’s a dedicated navigation table, a dinette table that folds into a bulkhead when not in use, a smartly designed galley and easy access to the engine.

The gimbled two-burner stove with oven is the centerpiece of the galley. The narrow space allows the cook to wedge in and brace when the boat is moving. The microwave will go. 

Here she is this past summer with a fresh coat of bottom paint. She sure put a song in our hearts! (Click photo for larger view.)