Living Small to Live Large

Boomers Embrace Life on the Water
–by Mary Helen Darah

L-R: Chris and Diane Sackett and Steve and Lori Suffety live on their boats, docked at Bay View Yacht Club, year-round.

Chris and Diane Sackett and Steve and Lori Suffety have taken “downsizing” to a whole new level. The couples left their lives in suburbia to live full time on their boats, docked side-by-side at Bay View Yacht Club on Summit Street. “It all started when we joined Indian Hill Yacht Club,” stated Diane. “When we were at home, we wanted to go to the Club, and we didn’t want to go home once we were there. We were having cocktails with friends and they told us they have boats in the water year-round at Bay View. I told them to take us there.” Upon arrival, the couple met Steve and his wife Lori, who live full-time on their boat. “We began to pick their brains about their lifestyle,” recalled Chris. “We filled out an application for Bay View, decided to sell the house and buy a bigger boat. The rest is history.”

Steve and Lori have lived on their boat through two (thankfully mild) Ohio winters. Steve grew up on the water and loved it. “When Lori and I got married 20 years ago we got out of boating,” recalled Steve. “There came a point when I had to get back on the water. At first, it was just me and the kids. I asked Lori to spend time on the boat, and in 2015 we started spending our weekends on the water. In jest she said, ‘We ought to chuck the house thing and live on the boat.’ I felt like the luckiest guy in the world.” Lori feels their new life has made their relationship stronger. “I stayed home and took care of the house while my family was boating. Looking back, I think the house was keeping us apart. It was the perfect time for a major lifestyle change. The kids were getting older and we can now retire earlier while we’re still young,” she stated.

Some major changes and obstacles accompanied the couples’ new boating life. “I really miss having an attached garage and closet space—and that’s coming from a guy,” stated Chris. Both couples had to condense their belongings to fit their new spaces or lack of them. “We had an enormous estate sale and gave away oodles of stuff,” recalled Lori. “It’s a bit daunting to see your possessions go out the door,” said Chris. “The first wave of purging, we got rid of everything we didn’t want or use. Later we got rid of what was least important of what we had left. A third purge is still to come.” Steve and Lori tackled things a bit differently. “We filled up four storage units,” recalled Steve. “Six months later, we got rid of those things as well. It would have been a lot less costly to get rid of things right away. Lesson learned.”

The weather also plays a key role in their new lifestyle. “We had to take my daughter, who was visiting us over her winter holiday, to the airport last year,” said Lori. “The water was over the dock. People don’t realize that there is no stepping out onto dry land to get to the car. The cold water was brutal. There have also been times the wind has blown the water out of the lagoon and we are sitting in mud. Steve failed to mention these potential issues before we moved on the boat.

The four boat dwellers have also cut back on their TV viewing. “Our first year here we didn’t have a TV, and frankly we didn’t miss it,” stated Chris. “We have a TV now and watch Netflix and YouTube, but I find myself looking out the window at the water when the TV is on.”

Diane and Chris Sackett survived an Ohio winter on their boat and are ready for summer.

Support Systems
For the most part, friends and family have been very supportive of their decision. “My two girls were understanding when Diane and I sold our home in Perrysburg,” stated Chris. “My son thought it was pretty cool. He pops in quite a bit,” said Diane. “We get visited a lot. It’s not hard to get people to come for the weekend,” stated Chris.

Steve and Lori Suffety relax on their boat that has elements of their former life in the suburbs.

The Good Life
The side-by-side water dwellers are thankful they took the plunge to boat living. “The best part is not having to pay real estate taxes,” stated Steve. “It’s great not having to pull weeds, plant flowers or mulch before you can enjoy the day. You live life in the present.” His wife, Lori also feels the experience has brought them closer together. “I’m with my husband more than I have ever been,” she said. “Raising our children was wonderful, but I love this time with him more than taking care of a house.” Chris believes that if you have a strong relationship, you will become even closer—emotionally and physically—in a small space. “You need to be your significant other’s best friend or this isn’t going to work,” he stated. “Someday we may need a space for our grandchildren but there are hotels for that!”

The couples feel that it is vital to have a boat club that is another source of entertainment and activities. They feel they have found such a place at Bay View Yacht Club. “I think a few members wondered how long we would last but everyone has been extremely encouraging,” stated Chris. “It’s been helpful having a couple live next door or next ‘dock’ full time,” stated Chris. “We are living large, just in a much smaller place.”