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At home on the harbor | Oak Harbor family’s backyard is the sea

Aislinn McShane, 7, puts on shoes and a life jacket before she roams around atop the trimaran sailboat her family moved into Monday. Mark McShane, right, and his wife, Rebecca, said boat living has been their dream for a long time.  - Photo by Janis Reid/Whidbey News-Times
Aislinn McShane, 7, puts on shoes and a life jacket before she roams around atop the trimaran sailboat her family moved into Monday. Mark McShane, right, and his wife, Rebecca, said boat living has been their dream for a long time.
— image credit: Photo by Janis Reid/Whidbey News-Times

Rebecca and Mark McShane moved into their new home Monday: the 40-foot trimaran SweetHaven docked at the Oak Harbor City Marina.

If just the two of them isn’t enough, there’s more …

They also moved their daughter, Aislinn, 7, two sons, Macallister, 6, and Finnegan, 4, and 3-year-old shitzu pomeranian named Penelope onto the three-hulled sailboat.

“For them it’s like they get to camp every night,” Mark McShane said.

The two large cabins above the settees provide sleeping quarters for the family. The couple installed a compact wood burning stove in the kitchen to heat the small space in the winter months.

“It’s cooler than living in a house,” Rebecca McShane said. “It’s small, but we’ve made it livable.”

SweetHaven, built in 1979, has a large engine room in the stern plus lots of storage and working room, Rebecca McShane said, and she features a tiller steering and a spacious covered cockpit.

Steps lead down into the main center hull which is the location of a horseshoe galley, navigation station and electrical panel. Everything in the kitchen is compact and within arms reach, something Rebecca McShane said she appreciates.

Living on a boat has been a dream since the couple married nine years ago. They planned to be living on a boat within 10 years, they said.

Formerly Coupeville residents, the family said they were drawn to the simplicity of boat living.

Rebecca McShane said they took four truckloads of items to a thrift store before their downsize to compact living quarters. She said unloading all of those things was freeing.

“To me, the appeal is simplifying life,” Rebecca McShane said. “I love having no stuff. We just enjoy nature. It’s a lot more cost effective, and cheaper than standard living.”

The kids are homeschooled, leaving the family free to “do whatever,” she said.

“We don’t like to stay put.”

The couple’s interest in boat living started with both their parents, who are now looking into purchasing boats of their own, they said.

Mark McShane, a lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Navy since 2005, is stationed at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station as an underwater surveillance specialist with the Canadian Joint Forces Command.

He traveled the world extensively through his military service and wants to have his family experience the same.

“I can’t wait to get the kids out,” Mark McShane said. “At night there’s a billion stars. They’ll get to see all the things I’ve seen.”

Simplifying their lifestyle and lowering their overhead frees up funds for them to do more things together as a family.

The boat provides a place for the children to sleep with the marina and the shoreline acting as their play space, Mark McShane said.

“This is their sleeping place and that is their yard,” he said.

For the next year, at least, the family plans to stay within Puget Sound, but the McShanes hope to start taking Sweethaven out to sea in the coming years.

They want this choice to be a lifestyle change that sticks.

Their motto, they said, is lettered next the boat’s doorway.

“Wish it. Dream it. Do it.”

Follow the McShane family’s adventures on Rebecca McShane’s blog at sailingsweethaven.blogspot.com

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