Many people in Southwest Florida live in homes that have more than 2,000 square feet, but Dita and Roger Wisard live in about 32 feet of space with only the sea breeze to cool them.
For the past two years the couple has lived on Zephyr, their sailboat that is now anchored just inside Matanzas Pass by Fort Myers Beach. It’s not the first time they have lived aboard a sailboat, and their experience helps them make the most of their cramped space.
Little cubbies are everywhere, behind every seat, under every seat, under the bed, and tucked in corners of the boat. Each cubby only holds a few items so the Wisards have a seven-page list that shows where each item is.
“We used to know we had something and didn’t know where it was,” Dita Wisard said. “With this we just look up where things are and how much we have.”
Zephyr is a 32-foot-long sailboat with a small cabin that includes one queen bed for sleeping and two small beds for storage. There is a sitting area, kitchen and small bathroom.
“What I like is the layout,” Dita Wisard said. “I can close off the front to make it more homey.”
The boat holds 60 gallons of water and 60 gallons of fuel. It has a 30 horsepower diesel engine. Zephyr has a deep freezer, a freezer, refrigerator, stove, and a foot pump for water. They wash their dishes with saltwater and rinse with freshwater.
The boat uses many aspects of natural energy. A wind generator charges the batteries. Solar panels in the back give them some power and a water catcher is used to fill the solar shower pillow.
“It’s a primitive life, but it’s a good life,” Dita Wisard said. “It amazes me all the time how without much you can still have a good life. It’s a simple life and a good quality life.”
The couple likes the freedom of sailing, the friends they meet along the way and the adventures they have when they are at sea and in port.
“When you are sailing you meet other sailors and you come together and one brings the guitar and one brings the harmonica, and you have a good time and then next day everybody departs again,” Roger Wisard said.
The couple has sailed all around the Caribbean and Central America. They enjoyed the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, the Mississippi River and the Virgin Islands.
“There is the freedom of traveling. It’s very healthy living. It’s very primitive, but healthy. You meet so many people and everyone helps each other,” Roger Wisard said.
One of their favorite ports is in Georgetown in the Exumas where they dock and spend their days at a port that has a variety of activities including yoga, water walking, basket weaving, volleyball, seminars, restaurants, bonfires and dances.”
“We also liked Rum Key in the Bahamas,” Roger Wisard said. “Every day we had a potluck. It was amazing.”
Roger Wisard built his first boat more than two decades ago. The family lived on it when his daughter was a baby. By the time she was 18 months old, life on board with an active toddler was too tough and the boat became more of a vacation place than a permanent home. The family tried living aboard the boat again when their son was born about six years later, and stayed aboard until his toddler years. Back then, they lived even more primitively.