“For many years we admired the boats moored at the local marina,” shared Deb Morris, “dreaming that one day that would be us.”
As residents of Yamba, New South Wales, Australia, both Morris and her partner Jamie Bradley had plenty of experience with the ocean, but not too much when it came to boating. However, in 2014, the couple decided it was finally time to take the leap and start their search for their “floating palace.”
Their search finally came to fruition after eight months of hunting when they found their future, custom-made houseboat on eBay, moored in Redland Bay, Queensland. The previous owner was able to bring the boat down to the Gold Coast, and from there, Morris and Bradley transported it by truck the rest of the way.
When they first got the boat, it needed quite a bit of work, but since then, they’ve managed to make a wonderfully unique home for themselves, and they’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process.
Morris also mentioned that it was quite the transition for them to move from the land to the water because they downsized from a four-bedroom house, selling and donating almost all their “worldly possessions.”
But in the end the couple felt liberated to leave their old lifestyle behind and pursue their new aquatic one.
Living along with Morris and Bradley on their houseboat are their dog and cat, Yogi and BooBoo. Morris affectionately referred to their pets as their “fur kids.”
Yogi is an extreme water dog whose favorite activity is actually to swim underwater, and BooBoo enjoys lying about on the boat and never strays. Yogi and BooBoo have both transitioned swimmingly to living on the houseboat.
“Both have had a spill into the water,” laughed Morris. “Not off the boat but off the marina finger, but it appears they learned from the mishap, as did we!”
When Morris and Bradley are out on dry land, they like to take Yogi for a nice run. They are partial to having sand under their feet, so they spend a lot of time on the beach, and the family also enjoys a good beach fire.
A Stunning Area
Morris feels very fortunate to have access to what she considers to be one of the best marinas on the East Coast: Yamba Marina. This marina has excellent facilities and security, and during the week they keep their boat there. Plus, it’s in the perfect location.
“There is a local café, seafood shop and Chandlery,” described Morris. “Combined with the flood-lit walkways, it feels quite resort-like.”
The area is further complemented by some of the most gorgeous scenery, with pristine beaches and abundant wildlife. In a place like Yamba, there are infinite exploring opportunities of which they frequently take advantage.
Change Of Vocation
Both Morris and Bradley had extreme career changes back in 2010 that allowed them more freedom and flexibility, which come in handy when living on a boat. Bradley took on an auto electrician apprenticeship which proved to be a great decision to complement the pair’s lifestyle.
“Who would know how valuable having an auto electrician onboard would be!” exclaimed Morris.
Then after 35 years of passion for photography, Morris decided to pursue a career as a professional surf photographer. Could there be a more serendipitous arrangement? An auto electrician and professional surf photographer living onboard a houseboat in the ocean!
Morris’s love for the ocean speaks volumes in her award-winning photography. She’s been featured by Smithsonian Magazine, The Australian, Huffington Post, Skynews UK and numerous other international lifestyle, photography and sports publications.
Additionally, she’s won numerous awards and recognitions including the Spanish International Photography Award in 2016 alongside being recognized as a leading surf industry photographer by Nikon and Surfing Australia.
“Living and working with the ocean is nothing short of a privilege,” Morris humbly stated. “I am fortunate that being a surf photographer marries well with residing on a boat.”
When Morris and Bradley first got a hold of their houseboat, there was quite a bit of work to be done, but since then, they’ve made some major modifications and given the boat their own personal touch.
“Cosmetically she was very bland,” added Morris, “but a great structure to start to form our own twist on her personality.”
The couple christened their new boat “Egret” and got to work.
They extended the roofline over the front deck, moved the anchor box forward to allow more room and increased the size of the plough anchor. They’ve also added fold-down blinds so they can revert to an inside-outdoor area when they feel like it.
Additionally, the couple decided to add a Balinese bar, which they decorated with authentic Indonesian hand carvings they’d collected throughout their numerous visits to Asia. They also built a bench seat on the rear deck using recycled hardwood for the seating which doubles to conceal their batteries and fuel storage tanks.
This renovation also helped establish the perfect area for their herb and veggie garden.
Knowing they would miss their garden terribly when they first moved onboard, Morris and Bradley made sure to accommodate for a garden space and they have been successfully growing a variety of vegetables and herbs. Morris mentioned that one of the benefits of gardening on a boat is that there aren’t any bugs. What a way to garden!
They also removed the makeshift kitchen to replace it with new cupboards, counters, sink and cooking appliances. Plus, they added a new hot water system, re-covered the floors with timber linoleum and installed an inverter to allow them to run appliances when they’re out cruising. They also have USB ports installed internally and externally for easy use.
As a result of Egret’s design, the ventilation is exceptional with the large sliding doors and windows, making it so they never need air conditioning in the summer. Then in the winter, the energy panel structure (EPS) walls provide great insulation and they only have to use a small blow heater occasionally.
The Houseboat Life
Morris said that even though Egret continues to be a work in progress, little by little they are creating their unique home. Whenever anyone asks her about the negatives of living on a houseboat, Morris struggles to think of any.
“Maybe having to walk half a kilometer with my weekly groceries in the rain is not so good but other than that, the boat life is tremendous,” smiled Morris.
Some of the lessons the couple learned were through trial and error, such as ensuring salt is kept to a minimum because it attracts moisture when it rains and having your tender tied close when cruising because you might just end up with its anchor wrapped around the main motor blades. Fortunately they were able to fix their motor blades on this last one.
Morris told a story about how when they first moved in to the boat they tried hanging their clothes out to dry on a clothes wrack. The couple quickly learned this was not the best method, for they lost every towel they owned.
“They are now on the bottom of the ocean,” sighed Morris.
Through these minor mishaps Morris and Bradley have become experts at living on their houseboat. They love the lifestyle they’ve chosen and one of their favorite things to do is cruise around at the relaxing speed of about 8 mph while sitting back on the deck and enjoying a nice cup of coffee or tea.
“For us it’s a simple life,” shared Morris. “It’s something we wish we had discovered decades prior and we don’t think we could ever live on land again.”
Power: 70hp Suzuki
Solar: 300 watts
Battery Amps: 360
Photos provided by Deb Morris