For the Swaims, a family of three plus a dog and cat, life on a sailboat means early mornings, tight spaces, and blue horizons. Travis studies as a marine electrician in Bath, Maine, and for now Sophi spends most of her time with their 4-month-old son, Felix.
The Swaims are “liveaboards”, which means they choose to live on their boat all year round. In a city like Seattle, an estimated 500 or more liveaboards live on the water. But here, off the coast of Maine, the community is much smaller. Sophi and Travis’ family is just one of a handful who live off of Chandler’s Wharf, in Portland, Maine.
Chandler’s Wharf sits a few blocks from the Old Port and the conveniences of the city; but for now, the Swaims’ home is the water. Their space is small, but each morning the sun rises over the harbor and offers the possibility of a new day.
The Swaims moor their boat at Chandler’s Wharf in Portland, Maine, where Travis and Sophi pay for a full-time spot.
Sophi coos softly to Felix as he wakes.
Between Travis’ work schedule and Felix’s erratic sleep schedule, the family is often up before dawn to start its day.
Sophi and Travis juggle Felix over breakfast. In a sailboat that is a little more than 32 feet in length, the family must economize the little space they have. After breakfast, the table folds back into the wall, and their seats convert to a place for clean laundry, assorted mail, and a sleeping Felix.
Sophi sits down to change Felix’s diaper. Above her, clean laundry drapes across the doorway to dry.
Bella and Travis cross the wharf for some ice. “The tugboat” says Travis, “is Bella’s favorite.”
Bella curls up next to Felix for a nap.
Frankie swings from his hammock, made from an old fishing net. A knack for breaking into neighboring boats keeps him confined to the Swaim’s “Seabird” unless supervised. As Sophi and Travis climb the ladder to leave the boat, Frankie hawkishly watches for his chance at a getaway.
The morning sun rises over Portland’s harbor.
ELICIA EPSTEIN is an aspiring journalist from Massachusetts. She studies Studio Art at Pomona College in California and has just finished a semester of photography at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Maine. She is currently a regular contributor to The American Guide.