Nichelle Swanepoel: Swapping suburbia for life on a sailboat

Taking owership of Pluto in 2017

There are a lot of things you have to let go when you sell up and move onto a sailboat. For a start; your 1800-watt hairdryer, high heels and crisp white and perfectly ironed clothes. Your sense of adventure and a great deal of patience and adaptability? Double up on those.
So why would someone give up the comforts of suburban bliss in exchange for an ever-moving home exposed to all the elements nature can possibly throw at you and venture off to explore the Indian Ocean Islands on a 36ft sailboat?

Travelling and living in different countries has taught me that we can get by with much less than we think. Adventure is always worth the challenge. Some challenges are so daunting to most people that for those who dare take the chance, it is uncharted and therefor incredibly exciting and rewarding. Most importantly change is never as scary as it seems. Humans are far more adaptable than we give ourselves credit for.

This is why we find ourselves living permanently on our sailboat, Pluto. We are equipped with a gimbal gas oven with two stove top burners, an 84litre camping style fridge/freezer, ample space for provisioning, including netting hanging from the ceiling for fruit and vegetables. Our two cabins can accommodate 4 people easily (twin size beds in each), a shower/toilet (called head in nautical terms) and a saloon (dining area) complete with collapsible table that seat about 6 people fairly comfortably. We move around Pluto with ease and the smaller space also means less stuff to clean, less belongings to worry over and less clutter in our heads.

The aft-deck gives us easy access to the water for a snorkel or a swim and the cockpit is well protected from wind and water and have seen many dinners and unplanned parties, including the past New Years’ in Knysna with some family and friends.

We get to shore by means of an inflatable dinghy with an 8hp outboard motor when we are on anchor. When we are sailing, it is packed away on the foredeck along with spare diesel and water supplies. We are mostly self-sufficient, making our own water and electricity from solar and wind. We use local markets to shop and try to practice a more conscious, sustainable life. We explore where we are, when we can, and live by our own rules.
My wardrobe is substantially smaller than two years ago; no heels, no washing machine and very little clothes that need ironing, but our horizons? So much wider.

Article by Nichelle Swanepoel