I know that one of the things it’s hard to get your head around if you don’t live on a boat is how a couple or even a family could be comfortable in so little space. The living area equates to far less than a tiny studio flat and yet we all seem to still have enough room. In fact, as we’ve added twice to our crew list, making room for babies on board, we actually have less space than when we started. But, to be completely honest, in the five and a half years that we’ve been sailing full-time, I’ve never felt cramped.


Having your boat on the dock at a marina is a form of floating home that landlubbers can understand. Sure, you enjoy the cosy space of your boat but you have the perceived liberty of stepping off it whenever you like to stroll out and explore the charms or attractions of the Mediterranean, Caribbean or South Pacific. Full-time boat life, however, rarely takes place tied to a berth, which is why most of the worldwide cruising fleet are found at anchor. It is there, on the hook, with only your dinghy acting as your gateway to the land, that you truly appreciate how hard all the spaces on a yacht have to work.


When the boat is moving the life that happens underway divides quite logically into that of the working cockpit and that of the domestic world below deck. The transition between the two mirrors the shift in going on watch and coming back off. The deck itself is a domain of infinite breathing space and freedom; the endless horizon available whenever you want it provides any mental room you need to feel un-restricted. Under sail or at anchor the strong winds, blazing sun, or torrential downpours transform the cabin into a sanctuary from the conditions of the outside world and, as such, it immediately becomes a space that comforts and encircles you. There’s an extraordinary feeling of security and reassurance in hunkering down on a boat; you’re at once aware of the background weather and yet cocooned within a shelter that seems sturdy and impenetrable.


The table in our main saloon is a large fixed wooden oval with bench seating curving round it, no flipping down or sidestep shuffling necessary, which is unusual for a boat this size. It is the site of every family meal and has a highchair clamped on to one side of it. Yet, in the course of a single day, it is also the spot where our daughter builds castles and towers from Duplo while our infant son sits cross-legged on its surface, playing with a wooden shape-sorter, at the same time as I tap away at the keyboard with my coffee to hand. Then the sketchbook and pens come out and the table becomes a drawing board, a place where we explore the letters of the alphabet, sketch cuttlefish or illustrate elaborate stories. In this same position I settle down to nurse our son and my husband reads a book while our little girl snuggles in his lap. Later, it’s the location for making up pancake batter, for watching a movie, for spreading a series of blankets to make a cave or a tent underneath it. The surface then becomes a workshop, as the bolts for the rigging chainplates are being systematically cleaned, polished and inspected there, before James puts them back in and I spread out the charts and cruising guides, littering the tabletop with my scribbled notes and plans.


Each item of furniture on board has a similarly dynamic life and all their manifold functions and purposes seem to co-exist on top of one another. It is in this way that you are able to be spatially very close to someone else on board and yet be in a completely different place from them at the same time.


The intimacy of the home in which we live somehow makes it like more than just a dwelling. James once described it to me as being a space that you almost wear, tailored to your shape. And that seems right to me, in a rather profound way. It’s like slipping on a well-worn pair of jeans, that are at once soft and hardwearing, that fit your particular frame and that hold some innate soothing familiar warmth. Everything you need is within an arm’s reach and your movements in relation to the other people on board are like a well-choreographed dance.


And of course you mustn’t forget that in spite of the teeny square footage we have the biggest swimming pool around…