We bought a $62,000 sailboat and moved in
Who they are: Dale Inverarity, a 24-year-old software engineer, and Jessica Weaver, a 23-year-old nurse
What they bought: Hei Hei, a 53-foot Bruce Roberts steel-hull ketch sailboat, for $62,000
What it’s costing them: $5,672 for summer docking, $8,000 for winter docking, $1,478 a year for insurance, $100 a month in maintenance costs, $200 a month for diesel heating in winter, $400 a month for high-speed mobile internet, $500 for a yearly maintenance haul-out and $300 for a water-taxi season pass
—As told to Jessica Lee
Dale: “We met in August 2014 when we were both still in high school, at a train station in Cobourg. Jessica realized she’d missed her stop as the train was departing and managed to convince the operator to back up onto the platform for her. We got to talking, and it turned out that we were both on our way to a youth business conference. Jessica lived in Chatham at the time and I lived in Thamesford. We started dating, and after high school, we both went to Western and lived together in London. Then, we moved to Toronto in 2016. I was looking for job opportunities and Jessica was going to nursing school.
“In 2017, we moved to a 12th-floor condo near Queens Quay and Bathurst with a view of the waterfront. We were close to the National Yacht Club, and from our window, we spotted the ferries going to and from the Islands all the time.
“In December 2019, we travelled to Belize for a vacation, and rented a 32-foot sailboat on Airbnb. There was no fridge, no air-conditioning and it was sweltering hot. To keep beers cold, we had to put them in plastic bags tied with rope and lower them into the ocean. But we loved the experience. We had a captain and the boat to ourselves, and we could take it wherever we wanted. It was very freeing; there were no doormen or neighbours, just birds and the ocean. In Belize, we dreamed up a five-year plan to buy a boat and travel the world.
“During Covid, Jessica and I were working and schooling from home. All the benefits of living in Toronto weren’t available to us anymore. We were just sitting in the apartment day after day. So we figured it was a good time to move onto a boat. Our five-year plan morphed into a five-month plan. Jessica had a boating licence, but I got mine during the early months of the pandemic. We also did a two-week harbour permit course and four weeks of Zoom classes about marine radio.
“As soon as marinas opened in May 2020, we rented a car and drove around to look at 20 boats—people were panic-selling at the beginning of the pandemic. We were about to put an offer on a Corbin 39 with two bedrooms, but then we saw this other boat. It was 53 feet and much roomier inside. Plus, the previous owners had lived in the boat for 20 years, so it didn’t need a lot of work to make it comfortable. We hired a boat surveyor who okayed the saiboat, got financed at a boutique lender that mainly works with boaters, and picked up the keys in July.
“The boat has nice traditional lines and a pilothouse, which is an enclosed space to steer in stormy weather. Inside, there are two bedrooms and ample headspace. We were new to boating, and we didn’t want to come into it naively. We spent an entire day with the previous owners going over every inch of the boat. We wanted to keep in touch with them, so they could help us out if any issues came up.
“The boat was parked in Port Credit, and we moved in right away. We named our boat Hei Hei, which is the name of the rooster in Moana. In one scene, Hei Hei realizes he’s on a boat, starts screaming and jumps overboard. That’s what most of our family thinks will happen to us. But at the end of the movie, the rooster survives. If he can survive, so can we.
“A week after we moved in, Jessica had started working as a nurse and I was in a Zoom meeting, when all of a sudden, I heard a crushing metal sound. A 20-foot powerboat had T-boned us. I frantically checked for punctures on the boat and any damage to the stays. Thankfully only a little wooden end cap was nicked. After that incident, we bought bumpers to attach to our boat.
“Living in a sailboat during winter in Toronto was okay but I don’t want to try to do that again. We had the boat wrapped, but at night we would hear the ice rubbing up against the hull. And, it took some play to get the furnace working, but once it did, it was far too warm. Once, the furnace stopped working while I was out, so Jessica brought our dog, Apollo, and cat, Belle, into the bedroom and turned portable heaters on until I got home and fixed it.
“When we first visited the city before moving here, we went to the Islands and thought, This would be a lovely place to live. That was before we learned about the years-long waiting list for a house. Then, in January 2021, we realized we could finally live on the Islands, so we moved over to the Toronto Island Marina.
“Now, we’re pretty comfortable handling our boat, especially in a big body of water. Plus, it doesn’t go very fast. We’re still a little iffy about docking because we haven’t had a lot of practice, so we hired an instructor to help us.
“We’re extremely lucky to be able to spend our summer here. It’s like living in a park. The only downside is that the last boat to the Islands is at 11:45 p.m. so we can’t meet up with friends for late-night drinks, or else we’re stuck on the mainland. We also can’t take the boat to the mainland because there aren’t many spots to dock, and we don’t want to drive the boat after we’ve been drinking. Still, the benefits definitely outweigh the drawbacks. Apollo is so much happier here than he was in the condo unit.
“For groceries, we go to a Farm Boy near our water-taxi dock on the mainland. We can fit three months worth of food on the boat. There’s also a Penguin pick-up spot near the dock, which is great for Amazon orders. Our parents have started coming around to the idea of us living on a boat too. We recently had them over for dinner. They appreciate that we’re in charge of the boat and don’t have to answer to a landlord. Plus, they’re excited to come visit when we’re in warmer destinations.
“We have pretty much everything we need on this boat. There’s water all around us, and we can make it safe to drink using desalination equipment and a UV filter. It’s very liberating to have total control of our living situation and not have to depend on anyone else. We’ve rented for our entire relationship, and it’s nice to be able to paint or change whatever we don’t like on the boat.
“We’re hoping to begin our travels around the world soon, especially since I’m able to work from home indefinitely. We’ve bought dozens of chart books and navigation guides with field suppliers, docks, bridge heights, frequencies to call operators, anchorage locations, fuel prices and spots for haul-out.
“In September, we’ll head down through the Oswego Canal, Erie Canal, Hudson River, east coast of the United States to the Bahamas. Then, we’ll do a full loop of the Caribbean and see where we end up. We’re planning to visit Turks and Caicos, Puerto Rico, the British Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Mexico and everywhere in between. In two years, we hope to do a North Atlantic crossing. Then, once we’re ready, we’ll try to find a nice private island and settle down. It’s always been a dream of mine to own an island one day.
“Moving onto a boat has been one of the hardest things we’ve done, but it was also the best decision we’ve ever made. We were thrust into responsibility with a very steep learning curve. If the water doesn’t work, if the plumbing doesn’t work, you have to fix it. When something broke in the apartments we rented, we didn’t know how long we would have to wait for that thing to be fixed. Sometimes I think about living in a house, and it just seems so boring. The freedom of living on a boat makes all the challenges worth it.”