Boat Life: The Low Cost of High Living

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Co-Founder Dan Opz traveled around North America living in his ’86 VW Vanagon for the last 1.5 years. In January 2014, Dan sold his van and bought a boat to live and sail on in the San Francisco Bay Area.  A couple months later the rest of the Bedrock Crew moved out and into boats of their own. Read on to learn more about Dan’s story, his transition to living below deck, and the spoils of Boat Life. 

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Crashing along the Lost Coast with my van in 2013.

Late 2013 I was living in my van traveling around Northern California spending most of my time on the Lost Coast. I discovered this area when I worked in Salmon fisheries in Humboldt County. Co-Founder of Bedrock Sandals, Nick, and myself did spawner surveys in 2010, walking up and down remote creeks and counting the numbers of salmon and steelhead we saw. The Lost Coast and the small communities along it are sleepy little utopias nestled in some of the prettiest landscapes I have ever seen. Visiting this area makes you immediately start doing-the-math about selling your belongings in order to finance a few acres and a homestead.

During my time living in my van I frequently visited this part of Northern California. The alluring beach / mountain trails and surf combined with the outright emptiness of BLM land makes it perfect for setting up Van Basecamp. I headed here to spend a few weeks around Xmas and New Years 2013.

At that point in time I had traveled and lived in my van while working for Bedrock Sandals for the past 1.5 years. I had cruised all over the country, into Canada and Mexico, on adventure runs, Baja surf trips, and backpacking hikes. I met folks and saw places along the road that continue to inspire me today.

Although an amazing vessel of the road, I learned that VW Vanagons (even with subaru engines) are expensive to maintain and that maintenance over the last few months was draining my back pocket pretty quickly. I still to this day wholeheartedly believe that a vanagon offers one of the the best driving and simple living experiences out there. It’s a sensorial fish bowl of the road – there’s no better way to absorb a lonely highway than in the driver’s seat of a vanagon.  But as they say – the road giveth and it taketh away. It was time for me to find a new mobile home.

I grew up in New England and never got interested in sailing while young. Something about the face value of sailing culture in New England always made me apprehensive – private yacht clubs, lots of barriers to entry dollars wise – It never clicked for me back east.

Out in California I began to see sailing and boat life through a different lense. My old college roommate and friend, Tucker Gorman, introduced me to life aboard a sailboat in summer 2013. A year prior, Tucker packed up his Aerostar Van and headed west with no definitive plans besides seeing the country. He stumbled into the Bay Area and started crashing on a friends 22′ sailboat for close to nothing in rent. Others I met were part time chef’s, artists, Task Rabbit ninjas, all living aboard sailboats of their own. I began to see boat life with a different perspective. One of independence, adventure, and frugality. The low cost of high living. Keep your personal overhead costs low and your stoke high. The Bedrock Sandals Gospel. I bought a 30′ sailboat 2 weeks later in Sausalito – I was all in. A month later the core Bedrock Sandals Crew moved out to start a new factory in Oakland, Ca and moved into boats of their own.

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Besides an functional mobile home, the Clipper is an aquatic adventure enabler. 

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The galley of my sailboat.

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The v-berth sits at the bow (front) of every boat. Mine sleeps 2 comfortably. 

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The cockpit during a sail to San Francisco Bay’s Angel Island.

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Marina. 

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My single person ocean kayak that traveled with me on my van now serves appropriately as a dingy.

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My sailboat is a 30 foot fiberglass hulled Clipper Marine, designed by William Crealock and built in 1976. The Clipper has a galley equipped with a propane range, ice box, sink, and kitchenware storage. The cabin is constructed by mostly teak hardwood with holly accents on the floor. It sleeps 2 in the v-berth, another 2 on the port side berths, and has a head (bathroom) with a sink. The Clipper has a 40 gallon water tank storage, marine battery, an inboard / outboard motor, and a number of sails including a main, jib, and spinnaker.

Interior-Clipper-Sailing

When you tell most people that you’re moving onto a boat they caution you with warnings about the adjustments of living in such a small space. Having lived in a van for the past couple years I found myself in the unique position of a large upgrade in space and amenities with my move below deck.

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Breakfast Below Deck.

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Foggy day on the Bay.

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San Francisco Bound. 

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Naresh Kumar, Bedrock Sandals Ambassador, cooking up Indian food.

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Exploring the Sausalito anchorage.

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Waking up from the gentle rock of the boat.

I’m excited to continue living aboard alongside the growing flotilla of Bedrock Sandals Vessels, learning more about sailing and boat construction, and ultimately setting sail out of the Golden Gate towards Baja and beyond. For more photos and stories below deck follow me on instagram.

7 comments

  1. I wanted to reach out and say hello. I respect and dig your journey. God Bless. From the mountains in Northern New Mexico…your compa (comrade) Ulises

  2. Awesome. Do you ever fish off the boat? I always dreamed of getting and living in a sailboat like yours, but I don’t have any sailing experience/knowledge. I’m guessing you got yours from Tucker.

    • We just started trolling off the boat with a couple rods. I had little sailing experience but a couple friends happy to teach. Good luck with your dreams,

      Dan

  3. Sam Schleicher

    This looks like a dream come true! It definitely looks like both the van and boat life are something to look into. I have a small wooden 14 foot sailboat that is about 50 years old which I am restoring, it’s about the size of a sunfish boat, but it is perfect for beginners! Can’t wait to venture out on my own and try this! Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. I’ve been living aboard in Sausalito for a little over two years, and it really is the best. Nothing like sleeping on the water!

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