Whim and water determine the location of this couple's floating home.

By Ben Brown
November 21, 2005
Lorenzo Beviaqua

Penny Farrel makes a mean waffle. It tastes especially good withfresh local berries and a 360-degree view of Long Island Sound. Orof the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Or of a favorite Bahamiancove.

Penny says she used to think it would be hard to choose where tolive among all the coastal locations pictured in magazines such asthis one. "Now," she says, "I don't have to choose. I can live inall of them."

Penny, 57, husband Malcolm, 63, and Breezy, their water-lovingHavanese pup, live aboard First Light, a 60-foot Grand Alaskan yacht. It comes prettyclose to what most people imagine when they think of a motoryacht―a beautifully appointed vessel with gleaming woodworkand state-of-the-art gadgetry. "The comforts of home," saysMalcolm, "in a smaller space."

The couple, experienced sailors and boat owners, moved aboard First Light in 2002. They waited until Malcolm retired lastyear from his job as a finance executive in a South Florida bank topursue their long-planned dream of cruising full time. They'llwinter in Fort Lauderdale and the islands to the south. In thesummers, they'll cruise the Atlantic Coast as far north as NovaScotia.

More than half the fun is in getting there. "We travel withdolphins and flying fish," says Penny. "We have our own privatewhale-watching tours."

The success of Living Aboard magazine shows that plenty of others also lovelife afloat. What began in the 1970s as an informal newsletter hasgrown into a 10,000-circulation (though still reader-written)publication with subscribers in every state.

Cell phones, e-mail, and satellite communications have made thecruising life more accessible and secure. Still, operating andmaintaining a boat big enough to live on requires a range ofskills. "My recommendation is to try it in stages," says Malcolm."Charter a boat for a weekend, then a week, then for a longercruise. If you like that, buy a boat for weekend cruising. Then tryextended cruising."

Giving up the house or the condo means giving up room for stuff,even on a comfortable-size yacht such as the Farrels'. "If livingwith less is a problem," says Penny, "you're not going to be ableto do it."

Engines, wires, and mechanical equipment need continualattention, often when a maintenance service isn't available. "Therecomes a stage when I need professional help," says Malcolm. "Butwhen we're under way, I'm doing everything."

Those who take to living aboard see letting go of possessionsand accepting full responsibility for their comfort and safety asliberating. They spend their days in bathing suits and T-shirts,enjoying their waffles on decks that overlook yet another coastalparadise.

"It's the lifestyle we've planned for," says Penny.

For first-person insights and advice about the onboardlifestyle, see Living Aboard magazine; 800/927-6905 or livingaboard.com.