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Interior, Not Inferior! Artifacts of a Seafaring Soul: Personalizing Life Aboard a Sailing Vessel

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  • Discover how the contents of a vessel reflect the owner’s personality and experiences
  • Art, artifacts, and mementos create a unique and personalized atmosphere onboard
  • Small modifications and creative methods can securely attach items without compromising the vessel’s integrity

Everything I do is a reflection of my personality—for better or worse. And everything I observe is an opportunity to learn, question, and more fully understand my immediate environment. I especially enjoy visiting the homes of friends. First, I peruse the book shelves—well, back when books were commonly found in the wild. My favorite shelves were a chaotic mix of fiction and non; of literature and smut; of the lowest and the highest of brow. 

I could instantly tell if the books were on the shelves because they’d been read and cherished—or were placed there merely as visual props. 

Nothing is vapider or sadder than a book intended to be displayed rather than read. 

Next, I look at the art. 

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Art is a direct window into the soul—the owner is straight-up showing you what he wants to see. 

Bathrooms, of course, are an open book on human sexuality. The more perfumed and flowery a toilet area, the more uptight the homeowner is of sex. Couple that with a neatly trimmed lawn and a just-washed/waxed car and I’ll show you a prude. Doubt me? Just visit Japan—but before you do, take a six-week course in how to electro-operate one of their my-poop-don’t-stink toilets. 

Of course, the kitchen/galley area is the heart of any happy home. Nothing nurtures love like a good meal compassionately served and gratefully consumed. Laughter and joy are the two tastiest ingredients of any dish. The walls of a good kitchen are always burnished by smiles, by giggles, by sighs of deep satisfaction. 

Ganesh always carries a pen—and a weapon if the pen doesn’t work!
Ganesh always carries a pen—and a weapon if the pen doesn’t work!

Except, it is sad to say, when it comes to a boat. A distressing number of liveaboard vessels offer not-a-clue to those folks who inhabit them. Strange! 

It is as if the boats somehow intimidate their owners from revealing who they really are. 

In St. Croix I went aboard a liveaboard boat that ‘hadn’t been touched’ in ten years of inhabitation because it ‘might lower the resale value.’ 

Okay. I get it. You’re telling the world a great truth—that you aren’t important even to yourself, but your money is. 


Once I attended the launching of a wonderful couple’s dream boat—a 36-foot Kenner ketch in New Orleans at Young’s Boat Yard in West End. They’d both worked as long-haul truckers for over ten long hard years to afford her. They were both very personable and a hundred friends were there to help them celebrate the splash. 

As the graceful ketch floated and the slings relaxed, the skipper jumped aboard with a can opener in his hand, put a large scratch in the cockpit sole, and said, amid loud, Big Easy cheers, ‘now that that’s taken care of, welcome aboard!”

Yep, my kind of sailor. 

When I sold my Hughes 38 Wild Card after two circumnavigations and 23 years, the new owner negotiated with me to leave as much of the ‘art’ on the bulkheads as I could. 

Ganesh, my current 43-foot Wauquiez ketch, had a factory-fresh interior when I purchased her—and I defaced it ASAP. The last thing I want to do is live in a generic, soulless hotel room—ashore or afloat!

Note my books on the lower left…and the marlin spike far right.
Note my books on the lower left…and the marlin spike far right.

Does this hurt the resale value of a vessel? Perhaps. It might. Or perhaps the potential buyers might realize how much fun the current owners have had aboard… and want to duplicate such an exotic lifestyle. 

Isn’t a cruising boat the ultimate Movable Feast?

One item I always have aboard is an illuminated, fully-rotating globe which often has the voyages of the schooner Elizabeth, the double-ender Corina, the ketch Carlotta, the sloop Wild Card, and the ketch-with-the-Solent-jibs Ganesh drawn in. (I don’t put deliveries or ocean passages I’ve had on other boats—or the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Pacific would be spider-webbed!) 

Of course, pics of our wonderful daughter and our grand kids are on our ‘bulkhead of family fame.’

But our most cherished ‘artifacts’ are cheap items we’ve retained during our voyages that capture our joy at meeting someone new or being in some special place. Yes, the Bay of Penises in Fatu Hiva is the most beautiful harbor in the world. Sure, the lagoon of Bora Bora will take your breath away. And, of course, Chagos answers every Robinson Crusoe fantasy any sailor has ever had… so why not bring away some small item to forever refresh our happy remembrance? After all, isn’t the word souvenir from the French, meaning memory?

Now, my wife and I think nothing of driving nails, screwing screws, and drilling the holes for bolts in our bulkheads to hold our artifacts—but not everyone is so bold. Fine. Different strokes for different folks. 

Thus, we use white glue and/or a glue gun to prevent small and delicate items from sliding around in the seaway. 

Our ‘wall of family fame!’ Note my father’s WWII sextant.
Our ‘wall of family fame!’ Note my father’s WWII sextant.

To attach a flattish item to a bulkhead, we carefully pound three or four brass brads into its back. Then we snip off the heads of these brads. Then we put the artifact in its chosen place on the bulkhead—and strike it hard with the heel of our palm. Next, we drill tiny little holes at the marks. This keeps the item in place and even allows it to be removed for varnishing. If we decide to remove the item sometime in the future, we fill the tiny holes with almost anything (wax, stain, glue, sawdust, etc.) 

I’ve done this dozens of times on numerous boats and the tiny holes virtually disappear (if the area isn’t in the sun and the artifact fades the varnish).

Of course, double-sided tape works well—especially the ‘no marks’ kind that have stretchable webbing embedded in the glue surface that allows the attachment to be broken one tiny cell at a time. 

Getting our vessel underway quickly is important to me—as is surviving huge wakes while at anchor. However, that doesn’t mean that everything in my boat has to be through-bolted in case of an imminent pitch-poling or 360-degree roll. 

When we go for a hard sail, I have to move five items into nearby ‘waiting’ places. This only takes a couple of seconds and either I or my wife—or our granddaughter crew—can do it. 

The bottom line: I want my watery residence to be as exotic and erotic and unusual as I am. I want it to reflect who I am, how I came to be, and where I’ve been. Life is difficult. I’ve struggled hard to become like the men I admire. (Okay—granted, without much success.)

Freaky Tiki is our moral compass…
Freaky Tiki is our moral compass…

True, I don’t have a Rembrandt on the wall. But I’ve met with, laughed with, and broken bread with nearly every artist that created a piece that resides on our bulkheads. 

Example: In Tonga, during a blow, the fishermen carve swordfish swords and marlin noses in safe harbor while awaiting better weather. This has been a tradition for thousands of years.

Take our Tongan war club as another example. Villages don’t war there. Instead, villages in dispute send their ‘tiny’ (most gigantic) warrior. A circle is drawn on the beach. Each warrior is given a club. Each man can, at any moment, step out of the circle—or chose to fight to the death. 

Primitive? Dumber that having a quiver of nuclear weapons that can murder all of mankind with equal malice? 

Are you sure? 

Kids especially love to visit Ganesh. What kid doesn’t want to hold a 3-to-22-million-year-old Megalodon shark’s tooth in their hand? Or a sword I picked up on Sudan? Or the knife that, perhaps, killed Genghis Khan? 

It seems to me that part of the wonderment of life is to share our joy of travel with those we love. Thus, Ganesh is 43 feet of floating maritime museum that doesn’t take itself too seriously. 

Next time you row by, call out “Ahoy Ganesh!” and we’ll show you around… around the Big Fat Circle 3.5 times. 

(Editor’s note: Fatty and Carolyn are still on their honeymoon fifty-three years later.)

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Cap'n Fatty Goodlander
Cap'n Fatty Goodlanderhttp://fattygoodlander.com/
Cap’n Fatty Goodlander has lived aboard for 53 of his 60 years, and has circumnavigated twice. He is the author of Chasing the Horizon and numerous other marine books. His latest, Buy, Outfit, and Sail is out now. Visit: fattygoodlander.com

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