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The Good, Bad and Ugly of Living on a Boat

by Nim Hirschhorn/Sail LUNA 14 Jul 00:40 PDT

Let's set the scene...

Nim and Fabiola Hirschhorn purchased Luna, a breathtaking customised 2019 Lagoon 450S that can comfortably sleep six guests, to form a floating boutique hotel, and a home for the couple. The boat has beautifully designed interiors, and a spacious deck for the best in alfresco living. The outside cockpit affords them ample space for lounging, sunbathing, relaxing, and dining, whilst the roof gives them ample access to the sun's glorious rays.

Captain Nim holds an impressive sailing logbook, as well as being an Air Force combat veteran, US Coast Guard certified skipper, and an experienced PADI divemaster. He's already sailed the Atlantic Ocean, the Adriatic, Aegean, Mediterranean, Caribbean, and even navigated the famed Suez Canal.

Nim's wife, Fabiola, grew up on boats with a sense of island-girl freedom. She qualified with a degree in business, and worked in wealth management before answering her call to live on the sea.

The Hirschhorn family lived in Florida and had a humdrum 9-to-5 existence with successful corporate careers. Fabi was an analyst at a top wealth management firm, and Nim was the CTO of a big IT company. They jointly agreed that they felt trapped in their corporate worlds and were yearning to set sail again. They decided to resign from their well-paid jobs, purchase Luna, and the rest is history.

When passionate foodie Fabi was young, she dreamed of opening a boutique hotel, bed and breakfast, or a food truck. On the other hand, small charter firms in the BVIs inspired Nim, and he wanted to try it himself; he knew that he had all of the attributes necessary to make the venture a success; he loved sailing, entertaining, hosting and making cocktails.

Sail Luna was launched, and living on a boat commenced.

What are the pros and cons of living on a boat?

"Fabiola and I are self-employed and enjoy the freedom of sailing through the usually calm waters of the Caribbean surrounding the Virgin Islands. We feel entirely liberated at being able to live our lives as we please, through our passions, and love what we do. We adore living in and around the Virgin Islands. We've made some wonderful friends, including the local rum distiller, fishermen, and organic food growers.

"Together we can create a healthy balance between work and play, and utilise our time off to explore other parts of the Caribbean. Our boat is relatively small, and we enjoy being with our guests. I think that we have the best of both worlds. We have the opportunity to build relationships with the local community. We can share our local knowledge with our guests, and then also have the freedom to go off-route and explore new areas.

"We didn't have this level of wonder and freedom when we had corporate responsibilities."

"We love to travel! As much as our guests dictate our travels, we can head off to a remote cove to rest and enjoy each other's company or explore unchartered waters when we have free time. This year we are running a few charters in the Bahamas; it's an adventure we are both looking forward to.

"We do get on very well together, and thankfully, we are both pretty calm personalities. A boat is considerably smaller than what we'd have on land, so on the flip side, our close quarters can mean we niggle at each other, but that doesn't happen often. But if you see us at opposite ends of the boat, you'll know why! We might have a day on our own for a pamper, haircut or to do some shopping. But mostly we are together enjoying each other's company and perhaps a romantic dinner wherever we dock.

"As a couple, we are very mindful of each other, and living and working on the ocean gives us many moments of calm. We enjoy nothing more than enjoying the forever-changing water rush under our hull. It's the best mindfulness activity around. We are grateful for the life that we lead."

Introducing others to the magical world of sailing

"Since starting Sail Luna, we've been honoured to introduce many people to the joys of sailing. We love that every day is a new experience for our guests and us."

"We're a charter boat for those who want a holiday away from the crowds, or are novice sailors who don't yet have the experience and confidence to charter a bareboat. We typically welcome guests every week, and it's a joy getting to know new people and being able to personalise their holiday as much as possible. It's fun knowing that no two weeks will be the same. We offer five-star service, and a bespoke experience.

"We've even been part of magical moments like an impromptu marriage proposal."

We get to live on the water

"People often ask us where we live. Whilst we always joke that we live on a different beach every day, it's not far from the truth. We do work very long hours, but with any experiential vocation, it's very rewarding."

"There is nothing better than our guests expressing how magical their voyage has been, and how they can't wait to return. Our return guests are what drives us to create as close to perfection for them as possible. We love our lifestyle and love being able to share it with our guests. We welcome guests into our home; they leave as friends.

"We live in one of the cabins on the boat. It's small and cosy, and sometimes a place that we quite literally crawl into after a long and exhausting day. We have a tiny kitchen garden on board, and we use the herbs for cooking, fresh salads, or my cheeky cocktails.

"Sail LUNA is equipped with a 100 litre and hour seawater desalination reverse osmosis watermaker so that we can have a constant supply of fresh potable water and she even has air-conditioning, which we can run from our generator. While on charter when we need to run all A/C units onboard to ensure the comfort of our guests.

"For this we need to run the generator all night, usually from 8:00pm to 8:00am. The generator consumes 1 gallon of diesel per hour.

"LUNA also has a surprising amount of storage space including external lockers and plenty of internal cupboards."

"We spend most of the time on the boat looking after our guests. I often sail or clean the decks whilst Fabi is cooking up a feast in the little kitchen. We have to keep on top of our chores so that Luna is a pleasant and clean environment for everyone. Fabi and I spend a lot of time outside on the decks as well, we both love to feel the sun on our faces.

"We tend to dock at least once a week to collect our guests and pick up supplies or use the shore-based laundry services between each charter. We might dock at other places on our charter if the guests want to explore a particular island, enjoy a private sandy cove, or shop from the local markets. Sometimes we will go with our guests so that we can show off our local knowledge!"

We have friends all over the world

"Over the years of sailing, we understand that many people who live and work on yachts have similar adventurous personalities. There is a compassionate community of like-minded people you enjoy spending time with when you are not looking after your guests.

"Sailing full-time is not for the faint-hearted; the people in the industry are driven, inspiring and courageous. No matter your nationality, race or creed, it's a fully inclusive community that looks out for each other. There is always help on hand if you need help with something, want to discuss a stormy weather forecast or a new route."

"The fun part about living our life is that you'll never know where you may bump into someone you might know; we are all so mobile. Living on a sailing boat might sound lonely, but it's the complete opposite in reality.

"You do, of course, miss your friends and family, but with modern technology and improving internet communication, we stay in contact regularly. We currently use a VHF radio, local SIM cards for calls and the internet and an Irridium satellite phone when we are offshore."

Feeling happy in your soul

"One of our biggest life lessons is that money doesn't make you happy."

"We've learned that society's definition of success is far from the truth. Both Fabi and I had successful careers with large paycheques. Our roles gave us a certain level of prestige in the eyes of our family and friends. We are truly happy working barefoot and tending to the needs of others, cooking, cleaning and entertaining.

"At the end of the day, we are far happier and much more content. We have created a unique lifestyle and our own definition of success. We believe that if something makes us feel happy, everything else will fall into place.

The weather

"We quickly learned that Mother Nature could be a friend and foe. If a storm is coming, we seek to find shelter and protection from the prevailing winds. If the wind decides to stop, then so do we.

"We have learned to be flexible and not too rigid when planning our charters. If we have to stay in a particular destination for a couple of weeks, we enjoy exploring. We don't ever feel like we've missed out on something; there is always tomorrow. However, we have to be mindful that this is also someone's holiday, so we might need to go that extra mile to accommodate their disappointment."

Boatlife is not always comfortable

"Luna is a relatively spacious boat. We've utilised every inch as carefully as possible; on occasion, it can feel cramped, particularly if we've had to batten down the hatches because of poor weather. Privacy can also be challenging. Fabi and I have become masters at making ourselves scarce when our guests want to have some private time.

"You also have to be prepared for mishaps, breakages, and possible limited water supplies. We don't have access to a car, so our shopping can sometimes be challenging if groceries are not available dockside or we need to use a dinghy to get between the boat and to shore. There can also be challenging times of year in the Caribbean with mosquito-borne diseases such as chikungunya and zika virus."

"Luna is a floating hotel and it's also our home, so we have to be double-prepared because we also have guests to consider. Whilst Fabi and I might be OK with an imperfection, snag or breakage, we sometimes have to improvise or provide a quick fix so that the boat runs smoothly. There are so many external variables outside our control, like the weather, product or spares availability. We've learnt to adapt quickly because 'the show must go on!'

"We are fortunate that we have a reasonably regular routine; having guests aboard ensures that. We are pretty used to the constant change at sea. We have learned to embrace it with positivity. It can be easy to get caught up in decision fatigue from time to time. From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep, we've consciously and subconsciously made hundreds of decisions.

"Fabioloa and I both enjoy keeping active. It can be difficult to find time when we have guests aboard, but luckily our work is physically demanding, meaning we get a lot of exercise naturally and on a daily basis. We grow our own herbs and eat healthy, fresh food from local ingredients. Although we are on our feet all day, we love to swim and peacefully paddle on our SUPs around the anchorages when our guests are ashore.

"Living on a boat takes lots of patience, flexibility and willingness, but it also affords us endless amounts of joy. Neither of us ever look back with any regrets, and we plan to live on Luna for as long as we can."

About The Hirschhom's

Captain Nim Hirschhorn, is a US Coast Guard-certified captain and experienced PADI Divemaster. First Mate/Chef Fabiola Hirschhorn, is an experienced sailor, and award-winning chef. Together they founded Sail LUNA, as a husband and wife chartered yacht crew. Guiding guests through their all-inclusive getaway to the Virgin Islands' luxe offerings, and beyond, while exploring picturesque waters, lustrous beaches, charming local villages, and delectable food is the mission of Sail LUNA's vacation experience of a lifetime. They can't wait to welcome you on board!

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