March 13, 2010

Harbor is home for boat dwellersSailors who live year-round on their boats relish the hard, but peaceful lifestyle.


— By

click image to enlarge

Doug Jones/Staff Photographer, Monday, November 24, 2008: Stewart Heart, left, puts this year's shrink wrap over his 47 foot sailboat with fellow marina mates, Arunas Bukauskas, in red, and Ian Fulkert Klazinger. The South Port Marina has half a dozen in it s live aboard community who pool resources and help eachother out in the lifestyle that sees them living year round on their boats. Live aboard lifestyle has advantages and disadvantages.

Doug Jones

click image to enlarge

Doug Jones/Staff Photographer, Monday, November 24, 2008:The living aboard lifestyle is more challenging on a 30 foot sailboat than a 47 footer like his neighbors but Arunas Bukauskas is comfortable in his livingroom/bedroom/computer room/kitchen, cooking on a 2 burner alcohol stove, and job searching on the web. Since the marina shuts off their water system to the slips so it won't freeze, he and others in the live aboard community run their own submerged lines for the winter . They pool their labor and money for such ammenities. Bukauskas, who added insulation to his interior, will use the marina bathrooms and walk to the nearby grocery store when he lives it up with a meal of roast chicken he says. He's counting on his electric heater, powered with a shore line, to keep him warm.

Doug Jones

Additional Photos Below

Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND — At a time Americans are learning to do with less, a small enclave of ocean dwellers has that lesson figured out.

Sure, they put up with a colder walk home, an icier walkway and the work of transporting drinking water to their homes.

But, boy, do they sleep well at night.

''I go to trade shows and stay in hotels. I can't sleep. It doesn't rock you,'' Stewart Heart said.

South Port Marine in South Portland has about a dozen winter ''live-aboards,'' sailors who live on their sailboats -- in the ocean -- all winter long.

This winter community is a different breed. And, while it would be easy to think these folks are living on their boats to cut costs during these uncertain economic times, many chose this way of life long ago. This tougher lifestyle comes with inherent joys that infuse an infectious cheer into this neighborhood, while fear and anxiety fill the minds of America's work force.

Consider the Hearts.

They had a Victorian house in South Portland, which they poured sweat equity into for many years. When they had it all but completely remodeled eight years ago, they considered selling it. At the same time, Stewart Heart, a lifelong sailor, was shopping for a sailboat so the couple could one day pursue their dream of sailing around the world.

That was eight years ago. Today the spacious cabin, with its wide wooden table and couches, and cabinets that look to a full kitchen, is all the home the Hearts want.

While the lack of space started as a hardship, Barbara Heart said now it is what she loves about the live-aboard lifestyle.

''I love the small living,'' she said. ''We've been married 23 years. We bought a house and fixed it up over 15 years. Then, I was bored. When he found the boat, I said, 'What if we sell the house and live on the boat?' ''

Both are self-employed, he as a boat broker, she as a consultant for small companies. The Hearts say they will move back to the mainland only after they have sailed around the world.

''That's why we're doing this. That's what this was all about,'' Barbara said. ''Everything I need is here. I bake muffins. I have a Cuisinart. We have dinner parties. I am not deprived living in a smaller space.''

Some of their neighbors are less experienced, but share the same passion. And even if some are now benefiting from a smaller mortgage during these uncertain economic times, it was this simple outdoor life that first drew them.

The sound of the wind, the rocking of the vessel and the constant winter sight of mergansers keeps the South Port sailors calling Casco Bay home.

Arunas Bukauskas raised his three children on Peaks Island and lived on Munjoy Hill, but said he has found no community as warm, welcoming and tightly knit as the winter sailors who gather on Casco Bay.

''After I was divorced, I rented an apartment in Portland. I always wanted to live on a boat, but when you have a family, it's not going to happen. So I stopped renting, and bought a boat. Instead of paying for rent, I pay for the boat,'' said Bukauskas, whose teenage boys stayed with him on the boat this summer.

''I enjoy it very much. The view is good. You're in nature.''

While Bukauskas, a sailor for 20 years, moved onto a boat for the serenity and ocean scenery, downsizing two years ago also came at a good time. Bukauskas, an artist, lost his job with the design firm Transformit last week.

At this hard time, he said he is concerned, but also looking forward to the winter and regrouping on his boat.

Like the Hearts, Bukauskas said it is the maritime community that offers the greatest reward to those who put up with the hardships of life at sea.

''On Munjoy Hill I had neighbors, but here everyone is very social, because we're here to help each other. People expect you're going to need help, and they need help,'' Bukauskas said. ''Some are more social. I'm not too social, but last winter, there were three to four of us in the Christmas parade.''

Even as the mortgage industry stumbles and other Americans lose their homes, these sailors say they live on the water because they love the ocean -- not the savings.

Bob and Theresa Hudson have lived aboard their boat three years. They sold their house, bought a larger boat and moved in.

Hudson, a contractor, said he can't imagine going back to the mainland.

''We did the whole house thing. I had a 20-foot boat I used to go fishing in,'' Bob Hudson said. ''We thought, 'Let's buy a boat and live on it.' We bought a 43-foot Viking. We were talking about it last night. Our home was bigger, but we would never think about going back. It's peaceful here. And the community, everyone helps each other.''

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Doug Jones/Staff Photographer, Monday, November 24, 2008: After a break for lunch Stewart Heart, left,and Arunas Bukauskas prepare to go outside to finish covering the Heart's boat while Barabara Heart looks after the dog and makes a business call while she works from her office/bedroom in the 47 footer's aft cabin. The live aboard lifestyle has advantages and disadvantages.

Doug Jones


Further Discussion

Here at we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)