Tiny House Living On A Boat- A Family Of 4 In 128 SF?

Our Tiny House Can Go PlacesWe live on an express cruiser that has two gas engines and all the comforts of home. We used to live on our boat part-time on Lake Travis outside of Austin, TX. That was for rookies. We decided to trade in our 3300 sf, two-car garage home for a more simple life on the water. We moved aboard our boat nine weeks ago and had it moved to Galveston Bay where we started the tiny house living journey of a lifetime.

We knew that living aboard was going to be different and we used to watch the show: Tiny House Living, with interest when we had a TV. “We could do that,” we thought and started to say aloud until our thoughts became reality and we boarded our 37-foot boat with our two kids and 90 lb. service dog named Onyx.The Family That Lives In A Tiny House

We’ve travelled over twelve hundred and fifty miles to reach the Florida Keys, where we will remain through November when the hurricane season is officially over. We are officially living the dream! I brought out the tape measure today and took the official measurement. 128 square feet of living space, down below. It should be noted that we don’t live on a small sailboat and we have as much air conditioning as we want. (as long as we are hooked up to electric or running the generator) Continue reading

Video Episode 3- The Intercostal (ICW) into New Orleans- Day 4 of our Travels

This next episode was day 4 of our travels and you can already see the relief in my eyes, as the boat captain.  I was a little more confident but still giddy like a kid (or Quagmire from Family Guy- giggidy giggidy).  We came through the dreaded city of Intercostal City, LA and into Houma.  It was nice in its own way but it was hot as the Sahara. We met some cool kids and had fun at the city marina, by our lonesome- but it was time to go.

The Intercostal was unremarkable until Morgan City, LA- where it got beautiful.  We saw bald eagles, bogs, swamps and tall trees.  The ICW came together with a river and it was big.  We mooted on towards New Orleans and I hoped, against hope, that we could get through the locks and make it to our marina by night-fall.  We did and it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Up and down by 12-15 feet and through the Mississippi was something I will remember forever.  It had a 20 knot current and was over its banks by 50 feet on that day.  It was massive and scary but we made it down the lock to the marina, where we resided for 4 days.  We explored, rode the trolly cars and went to an alligator farm in Hammond.  It was still hot but we didn’t care and the French Quarter was much more tolerable with Onyx leading us.

This is a true account of our travels.

I Lost My Ass In Lake Charles Louisiana (And Not At The Casino)!

Thanks to my bad memory, I already forgot this part of the journey.  Luckily, I have a wife to remind me through her mean video editing.  I hear Aubrey snickering and replaying certain parts of interviews she did with me on the boat in Lake Charles, LA.  It was a sad time.  My memory came back and I remember the fear I had when we just started out.  I remember leaving Texas and not knowing a thing about true boat navigation, seamanship or how it works on the ocean.  My beautiful wife created a video that was actually spot on, in terms of the sorrow of the first couple days.  I still love her but I am planning my revenge.

Being a boat captain ain’t easy.  At all.  The learning curve is steep and now I realize why I go to bed taxed and exhausted most nights.  I always wanted to live on a boat and I didn’t let my lack of experience stop me.  I tired to learn everything I could on the Internet and by reading books but there is no substitute for real experience.  I will always remember Lake Charles for the experienced I gained.

It’s been a couple of months of cruising for us now and I am still learning.  I know this will be a lifelong process and I look forward to it.  Enjoy the video because we did!

Goodbye Texas (I Didn’t Sink The Boat in Texas)

God blessed Texas with his own hands, brought down angles from the promised land, gave them a where they could dance, if you wanna see heaven brother here’s your chance.  I’ve been sent to spread the message, God blessed Texas.

All that being said, we left for greener pastures.  My lovely bride is finally working the video footage from our voyage to Florida and beyond and this is the first of many new videos that chronicle our epic trip.

I am writing this 7 weeks after it was taken but I remember it like yesterday.  I remember leaving Kemah (TX), where we first lived aboard our boat as a family for a week.  This delay was unexpected but prudent because our boat was delivered, un-repaired and unseaworthy.  Miss Lone Star suffered a hail storm months previous to us leaving Austin and the repair shop had 10 weeks to finish all the required work.  It didn’t happen, unbeknownst to us, but we paid for the work.  We shipped it and dropped it in the water and that’s when the trouble began.

The repair shop made right on their errors and one of the owners came to help me fix all of the problems and 8 trips to West Marine later (and 5 days) we were off.  I can say now that I didn’t know anything.  The dry land me thought 5 days was one hell of a delay.  Not so, it reality.  The dry land me didn’t know anything about seamanship but he was to learn, and learn hard- I did.  Obviously, we are alive and well and I am post-writing this journal from Islamorada, FL.  Alls well that ends well but it hasn’t ended because soon, we are off to Cuba!

We cruised the ICW through Texas to Louisiana and the following segments will detail our voyage.  It was not without troubles, high seas or pirates.  Enjoy!

New Orleans to Gulf Shores, Alabama on the ICW

Gulf Shores Alabama

We really loved Gulf Shores Alabama and would recommend it to anyone who wants some sun and sand!

We loved New Orleans but it was time to move on along to non-gator waters.  We got out at about 11:20 and set out East on the ICW.  We had to wait for a risky railroad bridge to open up but thankfully the train backed up and they raised it.  The cruse was refreshingly calm and beautiful.  We ran through some low-lying areas that were really green but the water was also still green.  We were set on seeing some blue water in far off places.

The ICW goes through parts of the Gulf and several bays as it continues East.  We were as much as a mile and a half from the coast at times but thankfully the seas were calm.  The boat ran really smoothly and there were no problems.  It was a great day to be on the water.

We zipped past Biloxi and Mobile Bay and came into Dolphin Island.  The seas got a little rough and rose to 2-3 feet.  The ICW goes across at an angle and I looked at my charts to see that the waters could be deep enough coming into our marina.  It went well until we closed on the entrance at an angle and I found that the charts list the depths at high tide.  I found myself in 3 foot water and out boat carries a 3 foot draft.  You can kind of hear different depths of water and I figured that we were about to get into some trouble.  Luckily soft sand lines the area and it got no shallower than 36 inches so we coasted through it fine.  The approach to the marina (the right way) only had a depth of 3.5 feet so that would explain the lack of boats inside.

IMG_0143Gulf Shores Yacht Club was a nice place but again, vacant of other boats despite the 100 or so spots available.  Gas was expensive at $4.06 per gallon and the slip price was $70 for Miss Lone Star.  Aubrey wasted no time once we docked to look into the wildlife situation.  I was determined to gas up and get things squared away but I could hear some good ol’ boy daring her to catch a pelican on the dock.  “Oh no,” I thought!  She netted a few fish but the birds eluded her for the time being.  I got some ice and we parked the boat in our slip.  The kids were anxious to get to the white sand beach but we still had a lot of things to do so the opted for the bay beach that was next to the marina and we called it good.  Aubrey caught a few hermit crabs and found a crab trap that had a lone oyster, so that was good.

We didn’t feel like cooking and Tacky Jack’s restaurant was next door.  Onyx led the way and we got in with no wait because the hostess loved our dog and loved Veterans.  A woman talked to me a bit as she left and the hostess said “that’s the woman who just bought your family dinner.”  I couldn’t believe it!  That was such a warm and kind gesture that is so unexpected it made me cry.  We spoke to lots of warm and friendly people as we enjoyed the amazing views from the second story deck.  The food was out of this world and we ate so much fish we could barely walk back to the boat.

The waves were brought that night and came across the bow.  I slept better but Aubrey had a hard time with her slumber.  I got up at 2:30A to readjust the lines because the tide came in and loosened up everything.  I took Onyx for a walk and went back to sleep until 7A.  We ate breakfast and got things scared away before walking to the beach.IMG_0043

The beach was grand but the water was not blue.  The water was cold and the people were warm and friendly.  Some kids were walking up the beach selling bracelets they made in benefit of the US Marines who died in Chattanooga, TN.  We struck up a conversation with them and their mom, Valerie.  Our talk spanned over two hours and before I knew it Aubrey had an invitation for us to dine with several families who were visiting from Tennessee.  They were awesome and the kids played all afternoon with their children.  We walked back to their beach house and they were kind enough to drive us back to our boat so we could shower before dinner.  We hoped that we would meet friendly people but never expected anything like we received.  We showered and Mickey picked us up so we could feast on a huge home cooked dinner and dessert.  It was a perfect night and I think we made life-long friends in the process.  We came back to the boat and slept like sleepy sailors.

Kliebert’s is the Absolute Best Alligator Farm in New Orleans!

Aubrey definitely wrestled a few gators!

Aubrey definitely wrestled a few gators!

All of you know how addicted my lovely wife Aubrey is to catching animals so we had to find the absolute best alligator farm in New Orleans to indulge her. We did just that and found a place outside of New Orleans called Kliebert’s in Hammond, LA.  We are so glad we made the drive because the experience was made our entire trip, even if we don’t do anything else.Kliebert's Alligator Farm New Orleans

The marina hof so many animals that you would never expect to see at an alligator farm.  The farm is the longest running in Louisiana and possibly the USA.  It is nice and clean and all of the people are so friendly.  The cost is so low, something like $48 for 4 of us after my military discount.  It was worth five times as much as that, easily.  Hammond Alligator Farm

The Marina had a loaner truck that we borrowed to make the 1 hour drive to Hammond, LA.  We stopped in town and ate the best Po Boy catfish sandwiches we will likely ever eat.  We ate at Noon and I am still full at 10P, probably because I ordered an additional one after the first was so good!  We made it to the farm just in time for the tour.New Orleans Gator Experience

Harvey Kliebert founded Kliebert’s Alligator Farm in 1957 and it is now run by his Grandson, T Mike.  We took the tour and that was really cool but it was the extra (many hours extra) time that T Mike spent with us that made the visit so worth while.  Aubrey got her fill  T Mike is a regular on Swamp People and several other shows.  This is his life and he loves it.

We saw big gators, small gators, nutria, crocodiles, snakes, alligator turtles, fox, macaw, chickens and all sorts of farm animals.  Bianca made light work of catching her own chicken when the tour started and kept it throughout (including in the shop at the end).  Blake rode and kissed a few gators and played with T Mike’s puppy.  Aubrey held EVERYTHING!  The trip was for her and she took full advantage of it.  We saw “Crush” a 1200 lb 15 foot gator and watched him eat.  That was cool!

I got to hold and learn about all of the animals and I loved every minute of it.  Aubrey and I liked it so much that we will likely be back in September for an alligator hunt with T Mike for her birthday.  I’ve got an idea for a gator skin seat cover for my Harley and I know just the guy to help me get it!  I can’t say enough about the warm hospitality of T Mike and all of the people.  We felt like family and we spent something like 5 hours there.  I barely got Aubrey to leave but she got in the truck just as we were pulling away.  She must love me..New Orleans Baby AlligatorsNew Orleans AlligatorsD94A7984T Mike Kliebert AlligatorAubrey HamicRobb Hamic

Louisiana ICW to Houma, Louisiana

The kids and their good pal Jo Jo in Houma, LA.

The kids and their good pal Jo Jo in Houma, LA.

We left early in the morning and in better order than the prior morning, which delighted me.  I was happy to say goodbye to Intercostal City!  We untied and went one dock over to Shell Morgan Landing to  top off with gas, which was good because we’d ran the generator for 30 hours since our last fill up.  We made much better fuel usage coming in because I dropped the engine RPM’s to 3050.

We filed up with 120.8 gallons and only paid $2.80.  I was told that this was the cheapest gas on the ICW and I believe it.  It should be noted that the owner of the fuel station has two tie up spots that he allows cruisers to hook up to anytime.  He closed the station the prior day because his Dad passed on and didn’t let us know when we called to let him know we’d be stopping in.  The hook ups are 30 amp and there is water at the station.  Really nice guy, by the way.

The biggest baby aroundWe motored on down the line and quickly passed through the Bayou Beef Lock, which was easy.  We floated through with no problems and no time ups.  We radioed ahead to open the pontoon bridge after the lock and that was cool.  We made Morgan City in what felt like little time at all.  The ICW gets really big here.  We made a turn north to fill up just up the river, which held a current of about 3 knots.  Gas was $3.07 and I didn’t really need it but I thought it better to be on the safe side of the river.  They raised a rail road bridge so we could enter and that was interesting to watch.

We headed east  on the ICW and things got somewhat prettier.  We were really happy to pull into one of our favorite marinas at City Park in Houma, LA.  There are only two spots but they are really accommodating.  You call ahead the the harbor master and he met us there in a couple shakes.  We tied up along their dock, which is a short 1/2 mile walk into town.  There are 50 and 30 amp hook ups, water and even a pump out.  The cost was only $25.  The best part was a nice dock and a huge park under the shaded bridges right next to the boat.  The kids loved it.D94A7454

We walked into town to eat and get some ice.  It was blistering hot at about 100 that felt like 120.  Onyx the dog was happy to find a air conditioned spot where we dined on bacon fried Mac N Cheese and some sort of completely delicious french fries with chicken, blue cheese and a special sauce.  The kids had fun letting off some steam in the AC.  The ice half melted not eh walk back but it cooled down our cooler just the same.

We were sitting in the park when some kids came up to see Onyx.  She has so many fans.  We sat there for hours talking to Jo Jo, Derek and KK.  Great kids.  Jo Jo, who was a very big boy became Blake’s personal bodyguard around the park and wounding’ let anyone mess with him.  Derek told us (mainly Aubrey) everything about Back Ops and all the shows he was watching on TV.  He wants to be a pro football player or a video game designer.  Aubrey taught them all how to throw a fishing net.  They all caught fish but we didn’t see any gators.

D94A7452We spoke to about two dozen people in Houma and they were all delightful and fun to get to know.  We thought we might stay an extra day but we opted for making New Orleans the next day so we said so long.

Louisiana ICW to New Orleans

Aubrey can net fish like a true bad ass!

Aubrey can net fish like a true bad ass!

We set off a little late at 10:30AM but we got off just the same.  The boat was clean and polished and we had plenty of fuel to make it.  The day passed much faster than the previous ones.  I called ahead and booked a slip in the Seabrook Marina on the Industrial Canal, just east of the lake.

We were zipping alone for the entire ride but things got really interesting as we got closer to New Orleans.  There is apparently a spot, that no one can see on the map where a coonass lives in an RV on blocks just shy of the banks of the ICW.  He is a mean coon ass and he looks like Popeye.  I had my trusty video camera out as the scenes flew by then I heard a bunch of hollering and what I thought was a gun shot.  Kind of hard to mistake, when you are me.  I immediately slowed and moved the engines to idle.  “What could be the matter,” I thought to myself.

I look over and see Popeye the coonass in metal jon-boat and he was holding his fist in the air.  He was shaking it, intermittently with flipping me the bird.  About 5 of his kin were scampering somewhere between the RV- clothes line and the skiff that was revving.  It all seemed to be a mistake and strange, at the same time.  These guys were mad and wanted to kick my ass, there was no mistake.  It was comical at the same time.

I yelled, “sorry.”  I assumed that I did something that pissed them off and they wanted to try to board Miss Lone Star like some old school river pirates (my assumption).  Popeye replied, “get over here!” as he kept shaking that fist.  His kin continued scampering to the boat but couldn’t get aboard because of my 3 foot wake that was overtaking the 12 foot boat.  “I didn’t see your house or boat,” was my response.  “Get overhear asshole,” was his response.  “Fuck no,” was mine.  I figured that it was time to figure some things out.  Aubrey comes up an assesses the situation.  She looks at me for the second time on this trip asking “should I get the guns?” with her eyes.  I say not yet with mine.  I continued idling alone to make sure there were no further houses or kin upstream.

The boat never pulled out, which was a good thing because in the midst of all of mine and Popeye’s exchanges one of his kin said he was going to kill me, thus expressing his intent to do me in.  I figured, worst case would be that they would give chase as fast as a supped up 20 hp Mercury could run and possibly pull alongside me, if they used nitrous.  If that were the case, they would’ve gotten a warning spray of 5.56 bullets (silenced) off their bow.  I would assume that would be enough, but hell this is Louisiana who the fuck knows.  I’m happy to report that they let us be and we kicked it back up to a smooth 26 knot cruising speed with no further incident.

I saw two bald eagles just outside of Houma and the trees are gorgeous.  We passed the most beautiful swamps I’d seen thus far.  Traffic was light and barges were easily passed.  We didn’t see another pleasure vessels.  We are the only pleasure vessel that has been on the ICW so far.

We made it to the Harvey Lock at 2PM.  We got though in just less than an hour and I have to say that it was supremely impressive how we were transported up 5 feet before entering the Mississippi River!  We exited and saw that the river was running about 50 feet over its banks with a 20 knot current.  We watched as the biggest transportation ship You ever say booked it down the river going 25 knots.  That river is so amazing in its strength.  We made it to the Industrial Lock and waited for about 2 hours to pass though, down 5 feet this time.

We made it to our marina and it was really nice.  We’ve travelled 370 miles so far.  We got a long slip.  They have a nice loaner truck to use for errands and great facilities.  The laundry room is nice with new appliances and the showers are clean.  The people are warm and friendly.  I would definitely stay here again.  We stayed 4 nights total and explored the city and the surrounding areas, as much as we could.  Tomorrow we are off to Dauphin Island, Alabama.

Cruising the ICW- Kemah, Texas to Intercostal City, Louisiana

Louisiana ICW

The ICW can be long and strait or short and curvy!

Cruising the Inter Costal Waterway in Texas and Louisiana is a lot different than I imagined. We departed from Kemah, TX at 10:30 AM after refueling. We cut across Galveston Bay and stayed in the ship channel for a lot of the passage. It was a lot shallower than I imagined, only 8-10 ft.   We made it to the opening of the ICW and turned east.

We were met by a couple of pods of dolphins and the broke at the bow of the boat. Aubrey squealed like a kid when she saw them. The pod swam right by the boat and we could see them up close. The played in our wake and we ran across another pod as we continued east.

We made our way past a few tugs pushing barges, no big deal. I opened up the throttle and moved right along. Hours passed and I noticed that the gas gauge was dropping. We past Sabine Lake, TX on the ICW and I made a mistake by using my GPS to look for fuel services. It directed us back three miles and around the bend.   I knew that something was off when I saw a dead end canal under a bridge with a bunch of seedy types all over. Aubrey went below and asked if I wanted her to get my gun? I said no and turned the boat around. Apparently the business closed in 1975 but Garmin failed to update it.

The ICW has more twists and turns and diversions than you would imagine. I was happy to have my new GPS to help me along. I made it around 150 miles from Kemah and my gauges were reading low. I decided to make a left turn to Lake Charles so we could get fuel. This diversion set us up a river, literally. We took a wrong turn at a cut off and ended up shoaled in a marsh. It said it was a marsh but it looked like a lake across from a country club. I had slowed to almost nothing and saw the depth gauge show low water and we bumped on the shoal. I wasn’t cussing yet.

We tried to push ourselves off with some poles to no avail. I wasn’t planning on jumping into 3 foot of water in a marsh with the gators and the bull sharks so I dropped the dinghy from the rear of the boat. It didn’t release so I tied a line and threw it to my lovely first mate at the bow. I tried to pull it off a few times with my 9.9 hp Honda to no avail. I noticed that the bow would swing so I pulled sideways and the boat came free along with myself as I tried a little too hard, over-rotating the dinghy. I decided to fall off before it flipped. No worries, I was up again before I could be gator bait. We tied the dinghy and made it just in time before the fuel stop closed at 6. It was a long day!

We found this great place in Lake Charles, LA, in a place called Contraband Bayou. Bowtie Marina was the place we called home for a night. The owner is a really nice guy and he offered for us to stay after we filled up. He had a really nice little Marina and we were the only ones staying the night. We tied up to one side on a really nice dock and he had 30 amp service and water. I counted 10 slips and they were all beautiful. It was quiet and peaceful. Doug rented a few of his acres to the Coast Guard that built a site to house a few boat crews that were coming and going throughout the night. I never felt safer in a marina, let me tell you.

Bowtie Marina Lake Charles LA

We loved our stay at Bowtie Marina and I will got out of my way to stay there again!

D94A7399

The next day we left at 10:40 after much-needed coffee and a boat scrub down. I had more time to fiddle with my new GPS and it worked much better. We went through 2 locks and I had to call to open 2 pontoon bridges. It was much less eventful and a fun day. It did wear on though. 90 degree and sunny weather. The strait away’s were strait and long today and we saw some wildlife. All in all it was a good cruise.

We made it to a place called Intercostal City, but it’s not a city at all. No restaurant, bank or stop light and I’m not sure anyone lives here. We tied off on a public launch dock that is nice enough and we will fuel up at Shell Morgan tomorrow before heading to Houma. We walked over to a small store across the way and Aubrey went upstairs to get some ice cream for the kids. I waited under the store on a bench and talked to two fellas. Nice guys.  We spent a few hours with the AC below deck and Aubrey cooked another fantastic dinner. We went out for our nightly walk/scooter ride and the kids had a blast.  We had fun for about 1 hour and it became the witching hour for the mosquitos so we ran for it and here I sit typing this post. Goodnight all!

Galveston Bay, TX- Key Largo, FL In 10 Days!

Many of our readers have asked about details of our plans, departure dates, etc.  I am always surprised at the amount of people who lead or are looking to lead the cruising or liveaboard lifestyle.  We leave in two weeks and we are so excited!  Texas cruising

Move The Boat!

I made arrangements with a boat transporter to pick up our boat at the marina ship yard where it is being repaired.  I must have a lot of faith in God that he will see our boat through its last repairs.  I am lucky to have met up with a lot of nice people who seem to understand that we have tight time constraints and must leave on a certain date!  The boat will be placed on a lift and set it into the trailer.  It will travel from Austin to Seabrook Boat Yard at the mouth of Galveston Bay.  We had to contract separately with the yard to off load and launch our boat.  We will stay a night and pick up our tender from a few harbors over.  Our plan is to leave the next day towards Louisiana.

Cost: $2000 to transport and $410 to offload and launch in the water

Louisianan Miss Lone Star TravelsMiss Lone Star’s Course

The Southern Waterway Guide was a really big help.  I found an online and interactive version as well as a spiral bound book on Amazon for much less than the retail priced version.

Day 1,2– Galveston Bay to somewhere in Louisiana.  Assuming the boat checks out mechanically we will cruise under full-power along the Gulf into Louisiana.  Our boat loves to go 30 mph (and is most fuel-efficient) so we have a luxury most cruisers don’t have.  We will try to make it to Houma, LA.  I’m sure we can get there in a couple of days and it is 180 miles away but I think it is doable, depending on the vessel traffic once we enter the ICW.  We have 150 miles of open water and I know we will make good time.  30 miles in the ICW with no bridges to open or locks to go through.

Aubrey really wants to check out Louisiana and I hear that Houma is a nice place so we might stay an extra day to check it out.  Fuel will be a top priority.  We can anchor in a few places or use a nice dock for about $9 per day.

Day 3– Houma to New Orleans.  This leg of the trip is about 85 miles on the ICW.  I don’t know what kind of time we will be able to make and there will be a lot to see so I am open to the possibility we make good time or not.  There is a lock we must pass through below the city.  Our boat doesn’t need a lot of clearance and it looks like we don’t have any low bridges to contend.  Happy me. Continue reading