This Family Lives On Their Sailboat. Here’s How They Make It Work

This Family Lives On Their Sailboat. Here’s How They Make It Work

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Kristyn Christiansen paddles a row boat with his son, Boden, at a marina in Vancouver, British Columbia. Boden is waving at his mother, Sophena Kwon.

Nestled inside a marina in Vancouver, British Columbia, among the charter boats and commercial vessels, a couple is raising their two young children.

For nearly a decade, this 60-foot-long sailboat has been home for Kristyn Christiansen and Sophena Kwon. And they love it.

“It’s our place in the city,” Christiansen said.

Calico, then 2 weeks old, naps by the dining table on board the family sailboat. Apartment buildings can be seen from outside the family’s boat as Christiansen washes the dishes after a long day at work. Inside, the boat is about the size of a small apartment. There isn’t a ton of space, but they make the most of what they have.

“They live such a creative lifestyle,” said photographer Tanin Kayvan, a Vancouver native who has been documenting the family’s life on the boat and on a nearby island where they’re building their next home. “There’s really a lot of thought and intention that went behind everything that they’ve created for themselves.”

Vancouver’s housing market was recently ranked as the most expensive in North America, and living on a boat has allowed Christiansen and Kwon to save quite a bit of money. But this couple’s lifestyle is not about necessity. It’s always been a choice.

“They’re actually two very successful business owners,” Kayvan said. “Kristyn, he’s an artist and he builds signs for different businesses around the city. And then Sophena (helps run) a family business where they sell clothing made from natural fibers and natural dyes. They do very well off of that.”

Kwon and Christiansen hold their children while Christiansen works on the computer. The kitchen on board the boat is equipped with both an oven and a stove, so they are easily able to prepare home-cooked meals. Christiansen, who grew up in Saskatchewan and lived in the Canadian prairies until he was about 30, had always dreamed of living on a boat. It was one of the reasons he moved to Vancouver.

He got his first boat by trading in a motorcycle he had restored. He later traded that in for a larger vessel, and then in the early 2010s — right around the time he met his future wife — he sold that boat and got the one they live in now.

“With a boat like this, I can take it anywhere in the world and have my home anywhere that I wanted to,” he said. “It’s just nice to have that option to move it around.”

Kwon was born in Vancouver, sailed as a child and has always lived around water. It didn’t take her long to adapt to life in the harbor.

“This boat is a pretty special boat,” she said. “I had a really nice apartment in the West End of Vancouver, and the boat topped that for sure. It immediately felt like home.”

It didn’t take long for Kwon to adapt to life in the harbor. “Lots of love has gone into this boat,” Kwon said. “Since having our two babies, our boat is in full-time home mode and not being used to sail.”

Boden hangs onto a shelf inside the boat. “The good thing about living on a boat, especially for children, is that everything has rounded edges so that if you’re falling about at sea, you don’t hurt yourself,” photographer Tanin Kayvan said. “And there’s a lot for (children) to hold on to, because that’s how boats are built.”

Christiansen stands on a rocky area in Bowen Island, a short ferry ride from Vancouver where the family has a property that they use for weekend getaways. Bowen Island is also where they are planning to build another home in the next couple of years.

Early on in their relationship, Christiansen and Kwon would spend time working on the boat.

“I’m quite a hands-on person as well and I love working with my hands, and it was a nice process to do together,” she said. Afterward, they’d go diving and swimming. “There’s so much to explore close to Vancouver,” she said. “We regularly go to Hornby Island and Salt Spring Island and kind of island hop along the way. It’s such a great part of the world to sail in.”

She moved in, and the two married. They now have two young children. Their son, Boden, is nearly 3 years old. Their daughter, Calico, just turned 1.

Kwon delivered both of her kids on the boat, with the assistance of midwives.

“One night I was just like, ‘I want to give birth somewhere that I feel the most comfortable,’ ” she recalled. “And that place is my home, and the energy on the boat is where I feel most comfortable. And when you’re giving birth, you want to be most comfortable.”

Christiansen brushes his teeth in the boat’s bathroom, which is just big enough for one person. There are other families in Vancouver who also live on boats, but Kwon and Christiansen say they’re the only one in their marina. For a monthly fee, the marina prov

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