San Francisco is so expensive, this couple decided to live on a boat — here’s what it’s like 10 years later

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Misa and Mike gave up their dream of owning a house and moved onto a 900-square-foot boat to save money.
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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

When Misa Gidding-Chatfield and Mike Kraft decided to move in together, they had two options: Buy a home for half a million dollars in the outskirts of the Bay Area (which would leave them with an hours-long commute into San Francisco) or live in the Bay on a boat.

Ten years after making the decision to live on a boat, the couple plans to reside at sea for the rest of their lives.

We spent a recent afternoon aboard Mike and Misa’s home to see what their life is like.


This is Mike and Misa’s home sweet home.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

“I always wanted to live on a boat,” Mike, a project manager at a San Francisco electrical contractor, told Business Insider on a sunny day aboard the boat in the East Bay.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

“Out friends and family thought we were crazy,” Misa said. The couple started looking at boats in 2005, while everyone else was buying real estate at the height of the bubble.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

They figured they could save money living on a boat rather than squandering money on rent or blowing their savings on a house. San Francisco is one of the most expensive housing markets in the US. Between 2005 and 2017, the median sales price rose from $840,000 to $1.5 million.

They got on the waitlist for a live-aboard permit in a Bay Area marina and started shopping.


Mike and Misa looked at over 200 boats between Seattle and Los Angeles before settling on a 58-foot fishing boat designed by a retired Naval architect. It cost about $300,000.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

At 900 square feet, it’s big enough for the couple and their rescue dog, Roxie.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

But Misa still had to majorly downsize. She gave away her furniture and books and rented a storage unit where she keeps her art supplies. Her many plants found a new home aboard.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

They renovated the boat like they would a house, with new carpets and wood paneling.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

A custom-built cabinet hides the television and gives the living room a cleaner look.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

The kitchen is a little light on storage, so the couple uses magnets to hang their cutlery on the wall. (When they leave the marina for rockier waters, the knives are stowed away.)

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

They make most of their dinners using meal-kit delivery services including Blue Apron, Sun Basket, and HelloFresh. Misa likes that the services send only as much food as they need.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

The lower level has two guest bedrooms, including bunk beds for their grandchildren.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

Misa carved a small studio space out from the kids’ room. A small hatch lets in natural light.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

The master bedroom offers a cozy retreat below deck.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

There are three (cramped) bathrooms aboard. A desalination tank provides up to 800 gallons of fresh water for the showers, sinks, and ice maker.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

One difference between living on a boat and in a house is that the septic tank must be emptied once a month. A custom-made “Full of Shit” alarm lights up when it’s time.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

Life at sea comes with some other sweet perks, including the harbor views.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

After a long day at work, Misa loves to putt around the marina and check out the other boats. They enjoy weekend-overnighters at nearby Angel Island and Treasure Island.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

Because of their size, marinas offer a close-knit community for people seeking it. Mike said anytime he pulls up to the dock, his neighbors hop out to help him tie down the boat.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

The couple’s monthly expenses include payment on the boat’s mortgage (they have about $150,000 left on their balance) and a $900 slip fee to live aboard the boat.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

They also shell out for oil changes and about $300 every three months to hire a diver to clean the bottom of the boat in order to prevent rusting.

The costs of maintenance and renovations can also be prohibitive.


Living on a boat isn’t for everyone, because of the maintenance involved. They spend three hours every weekend washing the outside of the boat. “It’s not for lazy people,” Mike said.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

But the payoff can be worth it. “It’s our vacation, it’s our home. It’s a passion,” Misa said.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider