Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Last updated: 1 year ago

Our Campus: Smooth sailing for Taylor Martin

UBC student Taylor Martin lives in a boat he got with fellow student Rene Allain for free on Craigslist. Photo courtesy Taylor Martin

Two UBC students have found a way to get around the high cost of living in Vancouver.

Taylor Martin and Rene Allain, both UBC students, have been living on a sailboat anchored off the shore of Kits Beach since September.

Martin said that Allain has always dreamed of owning a boat, so when the two saw a free one on Craigslist last spring, they decided to seize the opportunity.

The 26-foot sailboat needed a lot of work, but first, the pair had to get it from Port Moody to its current home at Kits Beach.

The boat’s sails and motor weren’t functional at the time, so it wasn’t an easy trip. It took eight days to make the commute; the boat was powered by a generator and a car battery rigged together to run a small motor.

“We were waiting for when the tide was rolling out, when it was slack tide, so that the current wouldn’t be pushing us backwards. And then we’d go as far as we could for that day and then drop anchor … and make our way back towards Kits Beach,” said Martin.

Martin and Allain spent last summer fixing up the boat, and they had their work cut out for them.

“We were doing everything. It just needed to be stripped, it was all moldy. There was a bunch of old paint and a pool of gasoline at the bottom.… It was getting pretty gross,” said Martin.

And when the school year rolled in and neither had found a place to live yet, they realized the boat gave them options beyond just sailing.

“[We] didn’t want to deal with finding a house or a sublet and kind of had a cheaper option, so we just decided to live on a boat.”

The boat now has a table and benches built from free scrap wood found around Vancouver. It also has three beds, a toilet, portable water tank and camping stove.

“It’s pretty simple for now. It’s kind of more like camping, but it’s getting there,” said Martin.

[We] didn’t want to deal with finding a house or a sublet and kind of had a cheaper option, so we just decided to live on a boat.”

His before-school routine involves an unusual commute: 100 metres by canoe from boat to shore.

Martin said they don’t have anywhere to store the canoe, so they stash it in some blackberry bushes near the beach. He said no one has stolen it, but it doesn’t always stay where they leave it.

“Usually what happens is someone has come down in the middle of the night or someone was pretty drunk and they’re like, ‘Oh, let’s take the canoe out.’ And they tend to not get very far,” said Martin.

Once on shore, the two friends bike from Kits Beach to campus, where Martin is a fourth-year geography student studying environmental sustainability. He said he plans to move to a regular house in Whistler after he finishes his degree this summer, and Allain plans to move to Vancouver Island. But both will be back on the boat before long.

“It’s kind of coming to the end of its term right now, but we plan on moving back onto it in the spring and fixing it up before we take it on a trip somewhere,” said Martin.

Martin said the boat still needs a new sail, rudder and motor. Despite the much-needed repairs, Martin has hopes for a seaworthy vessel by next fall.

“We both surf a lot. We want to take it on a big trip down to South America, maybe across into the Caribbean, just visiting friends along the way, and we’ll see how long it takes us to get down there,” said Martin.

“Whenever it’s too stormy to sail, we’ll surf, and whenever it’s nice and calm, we’ll keep sailing.”

  • skeptic

    how do drunks get the canoe at night? Wouldn’t it be out at the boat if they’re sleeping on it?

  • homie

    @skeptic–> during the evening/when they are out on surfing adventures and are camping in the wilderness…DUH

  • ReneLover

    I want more Rene.

  • butcher

    I smell tepid beefcakes in this article

  • Jeff

    Please describe your method for flushing your sewage holding tanks if this vessel is inoperable. The Coast Guard wants to know.

  • Steve


  • OhCaptainYourCaptain

    These guys are going to die a watery death if they try to take that thing on the open ocean. I suggest learning a bit more about boating before setting sail for South America!

  • SmarterThanYou

    First storm of the year and you’ll be thinking how stupid an idea that was. Plus we’ll be rescuing your dumb asses when you start to get tired of bailing.