Keenan Abner Interview

by | Dec 6, 2018 | Interviews

Keenan Abner was originally born in Little Rock, Arkansas and attended the University of Central Arkansas. He then worked for a startup company in San Francisco for about two and a half years where he lived on a boat in Oakland, CA. We interviewed him to get advice on how to live on a boat. 

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

“I was originally born in Little Rock, Arkansas, I went to school at UCA in Conway and I graduated with a degree in business management. Then I worked for a startup company in San Francisco for about two and a half years. I worked remotely for them while living in Nashville, Tennessee but now I’m back in my hometown of Little Rock.”

I hear you lived on a boat. Could you tell us more about your experience?

“So when I moved to Oakland for another job I didn’t know anyone there and I didn’t have a place to live. The day me and my coworker were going to put down a deposit, my boss moved my coworker across the country, so I needed to find a place fast. I remembered seeing a friend that I used to play Ice Hockey with posted on facebook about living on a boat there and was moving back to AR, so the boat was going to be open. I got introduced to the guy who owned the boat and ended up striking a deal to live on the boat. We ended up becoming good friends, we played hockey together and I was in his wedding.That’s how I came to live on a boat.”

Have you been boating for a long time? Did your family boat often when you were younger?

“So I had been boating a lot before with family and friends, since our family had a recreational boat. I had also gone sailing before, but this was my first time staying on a boat for an extended period of time. I had stayed on houseboats before but its a totally different experience. This boat was less than 40 ft. and didnt have a ton of usable space, it was a power boat so it was a little bigger, but there was barely anywhere in the boat that I could stand up fully.”

What challenges did you face while living on a boat?

“The boat engines were in disrepair so the entire time I lived there it never left the dock, so I didn’t get to experience it off the dock. “

“I lived in a place that wasn’t the best marina so the neighbors I had were a little sketchy and crazy. I never felt unsafe but I made sure to lock up my valuables.”

“It was fun in the summertime, but in the winter’s it was brutally cold because there was no insulation when you’re sleeping down in the bow.”

“If you aren’t used to it was tough. It didn’t rock a whole lot, but getting used to the constant movement was tough.”

“On the boat you don’t have all the amenities that you have everywhere else. The boat had a shower but it was small. There was one on the dock, but then you had to carry your stuff and go out into the cold. It only had a dorm room mini fridge and no real cooking surface, small outdoor grill. I didn’t have a car as well so getting groceries was a bike ride to the store and back. I could only buy what I could carry, so a lot of the challenge was constantly thinking ahead because of the lack of amenities.”

“The Biggest challenge: Constantly having to think so far ahead for every little thing that you do because you’re missing a lot of the comforts and amenities that make life easier. For example, being able to quickly heat up a meal was not as easy in my situation.”

What were some perks of living on a boat?

“Through living on a boat I met one of my really good friends which was great. It  was always interesting and you learned a lot about yourself.”“Summertime was fun because the weather is nice and everyone wants to be on your boat.”

“I never had a dull conversation with anyone because they would want to know where I lived and that launched into a whole conversation. They always wanted to see the boat or experience it.”

“It taught me a lot of positive things about myself, like what I can and cannot tolerate and what I really need. You have to downsize a lot for it, so while we think it’s a bad thing, it’s actually good thing when you can put practically everything you own into a backpack. It’s really good to get back to the things that are important and to not be wasteful. I think a lot of positive things came out of it for me.”

What’s your next step?

“We interacted. I wouldn’t say that I always wanted to interact, but they definitely did. We had an old military vet who actually shot a potato gun off the back of my boat one day. People from all walks of life were there, young and old, teenagers that were just living on a boat because they needed some temporary housing, you name it. I heard many strange and interesting stories. For the most part, everyone was friendly and looked out for each other, it was kind of a community. It wasn’t a glamorous place to be, but it worked for me as a living situation at the time.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to live on a boat?

“One, I would make sure you have at least spent the night, preferably multiple nights, on a boat and not a houseboat, but like a small boat. If you’re not used to it, it can be quite disorienting. I would advise that you try think about all the challenges ahead of time. Everyone thinks it’s just glamorous living on a boat, and it’s a lot of fun, but there are many things that are difficult. Be real with yourself about it, maybe do a trial before you launch yourself into it full time. Luckily, the boat I was living on wasn’t mine, so I didn’t have to worry about maintenance. The boat has to be maintained as you live on it, not just the living part but the actual functional parts of the boat as well. If it just sits there for a long time it goes out of disrepair. Be prepared for a minimalist lifestyle and for a life where you’re constantly having to deal with unique challenges. If you get easily frustrated, or little things bother you I would say living on a boat is not for you. You have to be able to go with the flow (no pun intended).”
Can you tell us more about the restroom situation?
“The restroom situation was fine as long as you had a good company to come clean up the restroom. We had a toilet on the boat, but we try to avoid going number one there because it fills it up a lot faster. So there are two ways of looking at it, either doing less liquid or solid waste. Of course, if there’s a leak it gets stinky. So if I could go up on land, I would do that. If I had any visitors I would encourage them to go up on land, because it was just easier.”

So you said you had guests did you have a lot of boat parties?

“Yeah, so the boat owners, the guy’s name is Dan and the wife’s name is Cynthia, they came over a lot. We had some “parties” in the summer. In the winter someone would come by every now and then. If I ever met up with someone, most of the time I would meet up with them somewhere else since the boat was really small so it was just easier to meet somewhere else.”

Would you live on a boat again?

“Not long term. For short spurts maybe, I think I got my fill. Living on a boat was a great adventure, but I think I’m a little past that now. I was on the boat from age 23 to 25. This was a good option because it was the most affordable way to live solo that I could find in the Bay Area. It was not cheap at all, was actually ridiculous compared to other places, but it was the cheapest that I could find so that’s why I chose it.”

Boat Owners Dave & Cynthia

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