Adventures in real estate: “I gave up my basement apartment to live on a boat year-round”
I’d dreamed about it for years. The pandemic was the push I needed
Heather Kalka, 39
Wildlife care supervisor at the Toronto Zoo, Pickering
Even before the pandemic hit, I was feeling the financial crunch. Back in 2018, when I was still with my ex, we bought a duplex in Port Perry so that I could move my mother into the second unit and take care of her. But when my ex and I split up, I needed a new place to live and found myself a basement apartment in Pickering for $1,500. My mom still lives in the duplex, so I was paying $1,600 for my part of the mortgage there and shelling out $3,100 a month in total. On top of that, my employer, the Toronto Zoo, was hit hard by the pandemic and there were threats of layoffs and pay cuts.
I’d dreamed of living on a boat for years. The pandemic was the push I needed. I found a 32-foot Trojan sport fishing boat on Kijiji for $3,000. It was built in 1975 and was definitely a fixer-upper—the engines don’t work—but it was a great deal. It has a decent-sized deck, a stove with three burners, a small oven and a cube fridge, plus a dinette and space to sleep five. Luckily, the boat was at Tenkey Marina, one of the few marinas in the GTA that allows for live-aboard boats. Plus, it’s just a 15-minute drive to the zoo.
Docking fees are $570 a month, and that covers my water, Internet and hydro. I had to pay $1,500 to have the boat lifted up for a marine survey so I could get insurance, which costs another $67 per month. I also paid $2,000 to upgrade the electrical. I moved in on June 1, and I absolutely love it. Before, I was living in a dark basement apartment, and now I’m outdoors for the majority of the day. It’s almost like camping. The first few storms were pretty nerve-racking. I kept waking up in the middle of the night just to look out the door and make sure I was still tied to the dock. I got used to the swaying, and now I find the rocking of the boat soothing. I’ve slept right through the past few storms.
There have been some other adjustments, too. My fridge is about a quarter the size of the average fridge, so I have to plan my grocery shopping. I don’t have much storage for dry goods, either. And the oven is tiny. It doesn’t even fit a regular-sized cookie sheet.
I’m planning to live here through the winter. Come November, I’ll shrink-wrap my boat and fire up some space heaters. I’ll also have to pay for hydro over the winter, so I know my bills will go up by a couple hundred dollars a month. The plan is to go one full year on the boat. Assuming I still love it, I’ll either upgrade or stay where I am and pay down some debt. As it stands, I absolutely love the lifestyle.