Neighborhood Notes: Making Waves – Houseboat Living In Olympia

olympia houseboat


By Eric Sims-Brown

van dorm sponsorThis is just so cool.  My mouth is open.  My eyes are wide.  I’m living in my head, imagining all the adventures.  I’d definitely put a diving board on the deck.  I can see myself, arms wrapped around knees…”I am so good at replacing toilet valves.”

Jess Lundie pulls me back to the present mid cannonball.  This is her home, her houseboat.  “I was without a toilet for six weeks last summer.  There is a bathroom in the marina but it’s still a pain.  Three o’clock in the morning and I can’t believe I have to walk to the dock.”

olympia houseboat
In the morning, Jess Lundie rolls up the windows on her houseboat.

There goes my diving board.  Plop.  I can see it at the bottom next to a dog bowl and a pair of sunglasses.  One of Lundie’s two greyhounds knocked the bowl into the water, a friend lost the sunglasses.  “I’ve almost dropped my keys walking up and down the ramp,” says Lundie.  The ramp resembles a cheese grater and, unlike stairs, is not stationary.  Lundie has to monitor the tide tables.  When the tide is out the ramp is too steep for Shoxy and Superman to climb.

Athena is curled up in in a box by the window.  This is Lundie’s cat.  She doesn’t seem to mind the steady back and forth.  It’s neither violent nor peaceful.  I don’t notice the movement until I sit down.  There it is, like a bowl of Jell-O underneath my feet.  “What’s weird for me is when I go sleep on land.  I had a company convention last week and I was in a hotel for three nights and that was strange.  It was weird to have everything so quiet and not have that low grade motion,” says Lundie.

olympia houseboats
Jess Lundie’s 700 square foot home fits herself, two Greyhound dogs, and a cat.

Lundie hasn’t always lived on the water – although she is drawn to it.  “I really want to sail around the world,” she says.  Lundie, who also plays roller derby and is near fluent in Spanish, practices sailing on her eight foot dinghy.  The idea of chasing sunsets contrasts with her current need for a good internet connection. Somehow she makes these two opposing images work.  Says Lundie, “everybody who lives here [the water] has chosen to live differently for a reason.”

Part of Lundie’s reason is the desire to live a more simple life.  She doesn’t own a lot of “stuff.”  Her home is roughly seven-hundred square feet.  Her kitchen is tiny and she “can’t run heat and the microwave at the same time because the breaker is really small.”

Repairs are difficult.  The last toilet fix took so long because the part is no longer made.  Lundie found one on Craigslist.  The guy she bought it from lives in New Jersey.

olympia houseboatThen there’s the part about needing her hull painted.  Every few years she has to have her home towed and lifted out of the water via crane.  The paint is costly but keeps “things from growing on and eating into the boat.” Oh. And her neighbors are close – on a nice day it’s easy to see them bobbing up and down on their boats three feet away.

Sound simple?  There are pros and cons to every house, every neighborhood.  The pros of living here are easy to see.  Lundie rolls up her back windows.  It’s a cloudy day; a shredded mist falls on my glasses.  The Capitol building is on my left; on my right (somewhere) are the Olympics. The air is briny and clean.  I’m used to the waves now.  It’s peaceful, like a hammock.

“I love getting up in the morning and having herons standing on top of my boat,” says Lundie.  “A whale came in last week.  I could have jumped off my boat and touched it.”


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