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April 13, 2010

An unexpected lifestyle change results in healthier living

(Editor’s note: Maria Torelli submitted the following article to Fitness magazine based on her experience of incorporating a healthy lifestyle into her life as a liveaboard.)

When my husband of 20 years suggested one day that we live out his retirement dream a little in early in life, it meant of all things, buying and living onboard a boat. My first thoughts were, he was going through a mid-life crisis or something. While he had been researching long distance cruising boats for a few years and talked about doing it when we retired I can honestly say that I didn’t see this coming. Granted we both enjoy boating and being out on the water, but my definition of boating was usually limited to a few hours during a warm, sunny afternoon followed by a nice hot shower back home. Moving aboard a boat, regardless how nice it might be is not something I had truly expected to have to contend with in this life time. It took some strong soul searching and reflection on just how short life is to agree to this life altering change in accommodations. So how did things turn out?

Fast forward five years to today and all I can say is that never in my wildest dreams did I think I would come to enjoy this little understood, healthiest of life styles, some call “living aboard”. While we are not official “live aboards” in the sense that we live 24/7 aboard (we still own on home 100 miles away), we do average 3 days per week aboard and in the summer we spend entire weeks aboard. It’s still amazes me today how we have come to enjoy this life style and how it has improved both our physical condition and metal state of mind.

At first glance, living in a smaller space like a boat may be viewed as a negative until you realize that the smaller space motivates you to take notice of what surrounds you. Fresh ocean breezes and the beautiful San Diego bay with its miles of paved walkways are at your doorstep and provide all the inspiration one requires to be outside and enjoy it all. But it is more than just the walks that I came to appreciate; it was the whole life style of living on the water that has helped me to become the healthiest I have been in years. It’s a life style full of outdoors, exercise, eating healthier and allowing for more time for myself.

So what is a typical week like living aboard a boat in San Diego, CA? For me it is like a never ending vacation in paradise. Even work is more enjoyable than ever, at least that is what John tells me. Our typical weekday morning’s start out with John getting up before 6:00am and taking Daisy, our ten year old Chihuahua, for her morning walk. I get up soon after John leaves for work and have my morning coffee while watching the morning news shows. There is something special about mornings on a boat. I’m not sure if it is cool air and morning dew outside while staying warm inside your own piece of floating paradise (the boat we live on is a like a mini yacht with all comforts one would expect) or looking at the calm water reflecting the sky and clouds above like an oil painting beneath your feet. The occasional gentle sway of the boat, thanks to a nearby sailboat heading out to sea for the day reminds you that you are free from land and all the hustle and bustle associated with the fast pace of living on land. The sound seagulls flying above remind you that nature is all around. By around 9:00am things start to pick up around the docks with people going about their daily routine. It is a positive atmosphere with people going about their life passions. During the summer I will go up to our top deck outside and perform my morning Pilates before things get busy around the dock. There is something special about morning exercise as the sun rises over all the boats in the marina while listening to soft music playing in the background.

After a light breakfast, I will take Daisy for her late morning walk. We just cross the parking lot to the bay on the other and set out for our 45 minute walk together. I never tire of the views of downtown San Diego and Coronado Island. I try to use the gym at the marina three times per week for light weight training. On the rare occasion when the weather turns poor I use the gyms treadmills to keep up my cardio. Living aboard in a private marina is a lot like living in a small gated community with your own recreational areas, restaurant, outdoor pool and security. There are also designated places to store your bicycles. No one can bother you unless they are a member.

Another form of exercise that comes with living aboard is moving provisions from the car to the boat. This will require the use of a dock cart (a wheelbarrow type cart with two wheels in the front). If you have ever pushed one of these carts loaded with supplies up a gang blank at low tide you will appreciate the workout your legs will get. The first few times I did this I thought no way, but now I find it fun and challenging.

Keeping the boat clean also provides a form exercise not much different than cleaning the house but is much more enjoyable. Even our relatively small boat at 40’ has enough rooms that cleaning takes time. Polishing all the teak wood tones up the arm muscles while going up and down the stairs helps keep your legs toned. John gets his share of exercise washing and waxing the exterior though recently he hired a crew to take care of this exhaustive effort. He finds that the ongoing maintenance tasks take up enough of his time.

While John is at work I usually spend my afternoons either visiting nearby beaches, parks or shopping at local boutiques. As I mentioned earlier, living in San Diego is a like a never ending vacation on the water. Daisy goes everywhere I go and we are always finding new places to walk together.
Meals aboard range from simple chicken salads to the occasional gourmet Rack of Lamb. Our diets changed significantly since moving aboard as our awareness of staying healthy has become everyday habit. We have never eaten so much fresh fish, vegetables and fruit. It helps that many of the nearby specialty food stores we shop at focus on healthy diets. While we still enjoy our occasional steak and wheat pizzas, we found that moderation is the key to enjoying it all. When you find yourself spending so much time outdoors and exercising you naturally want to eat healthier.

Long walks after dinner along the bay are the norm for the three of us and serve two purposes. They get us off the boat for an hour before retiring to the elegant salon for a little television and it gets Daisy out of her bed. When we don’t cook on board we have our favorite restaurants, all less than a five minute drive to choose from. Most restaurants near the water serve healthy meals using the freshest ingredients. Since downtown San Diego is only a ten minute drive we usually dine there once a week and spend time just walking around the Gaslamp District for exercise.

Another benefit I discovered was that I cured my headaches which I suffered for four years and was prescribed numerous medications that never worked. John also found that his stress headaches disappeared soon after moving aboard.

Looking back over the past five years can I honestly say that living aboard has changed our way of life. We find that when we are on the boat, we are not stressed out or worrying about all the chores that comes with owning a house. Those tasks are waiting for us when we get back home. John’s daily commute is reduced from 90 minutes to ten. We exercise more than ever and eat healthier. We spend more time together and rely on each other as a team whenever we take the boat. We consider ourselves blessed to have experienced this wonderful life style and would recommend it to anyone interested in improving the quality of their own lives.

Summary of Maria’s Exercise Routine
Morning Pilates – 30 minutes (3 x week)
Morning walk – 45 minutes (daily)
Gym workout – 30 minutes (3 x week)
Afternoon walk – 30 minutes
Evening walk – 45 minutes (daily)

John and Maria Torelli have lived aboard their Nordhavn 40’ trawler yacht for five years in San Diego, CA and recently published a book about their life style “Life is a journey why not live it aboard a trawler”. They have also had numerous articles published by national boating magazines. They can be reached at N4061@yahoo.com and enjoy sharing their experiences with other interested in this little known lifestyle.

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