I’m having a hard time concentrating on what Jennifer and Tripp Adams are saying. I can hear the dolphins break the surface at the bow and stern as the rocking motion of their home lulls me into a trance-like state. I’m imagining myself being soothed to sleep as the waves lap the sides, salt air wafts through the cabin and I am rocked like a swaddled infant under a blanket of stars.
The Adams’ and their daughters, 10-year-old Savanna and 7-year-old Ashley, call the Southern Eaze, a Sea Ray 500 Sedan Bridge, their home. Not home as in “we visit it on the weekends and button it up and head for shore during the week,” but home as in full-time residents of Patriots Point Marina for the past two-and-a-half years.
People seem to have polarized opinions about such an arrangement. There are those who say liveaboards are living the dream and those who cannot imagine downsizing enough to exist in such close quarters. Laura Gresham lives on a 45-foot trawler in the Wild Dunes Marina with her boyfriend and 145-pound Great Dane. Obviously, not everything can be downsized.
“I don’t miss anything about a house,” said Laura. “It was a good opportunity to give bags and bags of stuff to charity.”
The Adams’ moved aboard the Southern Eaze after selling their 7,000-square-foot home in Summerville.
“We don’t miss the stuff,” said Jennifer. “You think you will but you don’t.”
After spending an extended time on the water, Tripp Adams, the owner of the Tout talent agency, had an epiphany.
“We had this incredible house full of all these incredible things; everything from original artwork to antiques. Once we sold it and and cruised for six months, we realized we didn’t miss one thing,” said Tripp. “I realized the most important thing was my wife and two kids and us spending time together.”
Misconceptions about for those unfamiliar with the liveaboard lifestyle. Many think those who anchor themselves to a marina must be antisocial compared to their landlubberly neighbors. The reality is that just as in a “normal” neighborhood, there are those who like their privacy and those who embrace a sense of community. Glen Appelbaum, a resident of the Charleston City Marina, feels people can choose to be as private as they want to be. He has spent the last 14 years living with his wife on their Belliure Endurance 50 yacht and has made lifelong friends in the process.
Tripp, on the other hand, estimates that he spoke with his neighbors in Summerville a total of four times during the nine years he lived there.
“Here on the boat, you get to know people within a couple of days, and there is no question there is more of a sense of community,” said Tripp.
Becoming a liveaboard, it seems, indoctrinates you into a tightknit community where everyone has at least one thing in common: a love for the lifestyle.
Being a mother of three children under the age of 9, my mind cannot help but wander to what it must be like to raise children in such close quarters, without roomfuls of plastic toys strewn about to keep them entertained.
Savanna, a fifth-grader at Mount Pleasant Academy, seems to have adjusted just fine.
“There are lots of things I like to do,” she said. “I like swimming, fishing, taking boat rides, going net fishing and making jump ropes out of line. There’s lots we can do here, and my friends think it’s cool when they come over.”
Ashley, a second-grader, said her favorite thing about living on a boat is being with her family and catching fish. Her most prized catch-and-release was a sea horse. The girls are exposed to marine life most parents pay to take their children to see at aquariums.
“There were manatees here two weeks ago, and we see more sea turtles and dolphins than we can count,” said Tripp.
“It was more nerve-racking when they were younger,” Jennifer admitted. “They always say liveaboard kids will fall in at one point or another and Ashley actually did. She rode her bike off the pier at night and popped right back up and dad was the hero who saved her bike. Knock on wood; we have never had anything bad happen on the boat.”
Nevertheless, conflicts are bound to arise with four people living in close quarters.
“Coming from a big house, everyone had their space,” said Tripp. “Now the dynamics have changed. It forces us to spend more time together and to deal with any disagreements we may have. Where else are we going to go? Sure, the children will argue, but then they will go outside and see a dolphin and their whole mind-set will change.”
Other practical matters come to mind as well. Jennifer’s description of her cleaning routine is enough to make any homeowner swoon.
“The pickup is daily because it is such a small space, but the good thing is it’s done in 10 minutes and I vacuum once a week with the central vac. We do a lot more fun things and relaxing on the weekend, as opposed to cleaning and house maintenance.”
Glen Appelbaum echoes that sentiment. The yacht broker and Geechee Girl Charters co-owner hasn’t lived in a traditional house since sailing into the Charleston Harbor and dropping anchor in 1999.
“I don’t know anything about mowing the grass or termites. It’s a great lifestyle,” he remarked.
Everyday matters such as cooking can get a bit creative. For example, not many mothers can boast that they have made cupcakes in a toaster oven.
“We do a lot of grilling, have a three-burner stove and a toaster oven. I can’t cook a turkey, but, depending on how you look at it, that can be a good thing,” said Jennifer.
Laura, on the other hand, has the pleasure of not needing to keep many pots and pans aboard their home. She is the owner of both Hananhan’s Neighborhood Pub and LG’s By the Creek in Hanahan.
In the wake of super storm Sandy, which devastated the East Coast in 2012, the Adams’ have been answering lot of the questions about hurricanes.
“My response to those who ask is to ask them what they would do,” said Tripp. “We have insurance just like anyone else. We batten down and head somewhere safe inland with relatives.”
Glen had the opportunity to meet Hurricanes Dennis, Floyd and Irene during his first year in Charleston yet remains equally unfazed.
“People who do this put things into perspective. People are far more reckless with their cars,” he said. “The only risk you take by not doing anything is that you will shrivel up and die of old age and never get to see the sun.”
When asked why he decided to settle in Mount Pleasant when he can pull anchor and float his family home to any destination, Tripp had a hard time deciding between the people, the atmosphere and the community.
“I did a lot of traveling in my previous job and covered not only 13 states but the vast majority of South Carolina, and I can truly say that Mount Pleasant is the best place in the whole state of South Carolina. The fact that it is connected to Charleston is a huge bonus,” he said.
Laura, a lifelong South Carolinian, agreed.
“Everybody is just so laid back in Mount Pleasant. Every day I wake up and feel like I am on vacation,” she explained. “Just the other night, we were out on the deck and stars were everywhere and we could hear the dolphins playing; it’s just so calming.”
By Colleen Dennis
Photo by Brandon Clark