Magazines 2020 Jan - Feb From house to sailboat dwelling

From house to sailboat dwelling

07 January 2020 By Grace Fox

Mission leader Grace Fox and her husband Gene live on a 48-foot sailboat in Richmond, B.C. She writes about experiencing "God’s transitional grace."

By Grace Fox. Reprinted with permission. First published in SAGE magazine (fall 2019).

“Wouldn’t it be fun to live on a sailboat someday?” asked my husband Gene. It was spring 1997, and we’d strolled an hour through a Vancouver marina, admiring boats of various makes and models.

Gene grew up on the Washington coast with a passion for sailing woven into his DNA. I grew up in southern Alberta and rowed a boat for the first time when I was nearly 20 years old. I rowed it backwards and wondered why it moved so slowly.

The thought of living on a sailboat seemed absurd to me, but I didn’t want to squelch my husband’s enthusiasm. Besides, the chances of it happening were nil, so there was no harm in agreeing, right?

“Sure,” I answered. “That would be fun.” Who could have guessed this prophetic conversation was the first step toward a massive life transition 20 years later?

God’s transitional grace

Life transitions are defined as a passage from one place or season to another. Some evolve slowly; others happen in a heartbeat. Some arrive uninvited; others come welcomed. Some are a painful process while others bring joy and hopeful anticipation. Many feel like a white-knuckle ride, stretching one’s faith and testing Sunday school theology.

Transitions always bring unknowns, but believers can face them with confidence because God pours out His grace—His enabling ability—on them for the process. Author Melva Henderson calls this “God’s transitional grace.”

Henderson writes, “God the Father ensures that with each transition in life comes the necessary grace to move intentionally and successfully…it stabilizes you where you are as you acknowledge and embrace the divine pull where God is calling you to be. It provides you with the wisdom and strategies to maneuver the unfamiliar bends in the road of your journey.”

In August 2017, Gene and I again walked a marina, just for fun. That innocent stroll launched us into a life change accompanied by God’s transitional grace every step of the way.

God’s grace supplies every need

This marina visit gave us opportunity to step inside several boats for sale. As I looked around the interior of a 44-foot sailboat, the Holy Spirit took hold of my tongue. “Remember our conversation 20 years ago?” I blurted. “We’re not getting any younger. If we want to live on a boat, then now’s the time to do it.”

I could scarcely believe what I’d said. Neither could Gene. He looked at me through new eyes and said, “Seriously?” There was no turning back. We both knew God was in this.

Grace-and-Gene-Fox_400x533.jpgTogether we sought God’s face and direction through daily prayer and weekly fasts. We moved forward asking Him to direct us to the right boat within our current budget and to provide moorage within reasonable driving distance to our ministry office in Abbotsford.

Gene asked a banker about pre-qualifying us for a loan. Several days later the banker called to say our loan was approved. “Approved?” asked Gene. “We just wanted to know how much we pre-qualify for.”

“Oh well,” said the banker. “It’s done, and it’s a good interest rate. Use it by January 4 or lose it.”

We scoured marinas from Campbell River, B.C., to Portland, Oregon. We found two suitable vessels, but the owners rejected our offers. A third sat in the same Vancouver marina where our initial conversation happened in 1997. The 48-foot vessel was in excellent condition but exceeded our budget.

December arrived with no deal struck. We resigned ourselves to resuming our search the following spring. But one day, on a whim, I googled the name of that boat in Vancouver. To our surprise, we discovered that the price had dropped $20,000.

We viewed the boat with a broker. When we finished, he said, “Make an offer. We’ll be more than reasonable.” We offered significantly less than the asking price, and he accepted. The deal closed on January 4, several hours before the loan was scheduled to expire.

Every yacht broker within a 350-kilometre radius told us that finding liveaboard moorage in the Vancouver area was impossible. “There’s a seven-year waiting list,” they said. We owned a townhouse and it seemed wise stewardship to keep it as an investment, but we couldn’t afford both mortgage and moorage fees for more than two months let alone seven years!

We put our names on two waiting lists and prayed with increased fervour. A 50-foot slip opened in the first marina several days before we took possession of our boat. Equipped with a concrete dock system and a dozen new wheelbarrows, this facility made it easy to move our belongings aboard over the next two months. Then a slip became available in the second marina—the exact slip where we’d hoped to dock our boat-home.

God’s grace extended to others

God’s grace equipped us with everything needed for the transition. We became official liveaboards on February 28, 2018. Some people say we’re living our dream. I believe it’s more than that. We’re obeying God’s call, and that call came with a cost and for a purpose beyond living a dream.

In our sixties, we purged our possessions and creature comforts. We walk slippery docks, and we walk a city block to use the public showers and laundromat. We have neither carport nor garage, nor do we have space for all our kids and grandkids to stay the night. We don’t even have curtains for privacy.

Nonetheless, God’s grace has enabled us to weather the changes well. We’ve developed contentment with less. We’re more appreciative of simple things such as sunshine, a walking path nearby, and quiet surroundings. Most importantly, we’ve built relationships here.

Many residents trust alcohol, marijuana, and alternative lifestyles to heal their hurts, but we offer something better—the Good News of God’s grace through Jesus Christ. We have no doubt that God let us experience His transitional grace not for our own purposes but for our neighbors. He’s pursuing them, inviting them to transition from darkness to light. And He’s trusted us to help them on their journey.

Grace Fox and her husband Gene live in Richmond, B.C. They co-direct International Messengers Canada, an interdenominational mission sending agency. She’s the author of nine books, a member of the Proverbs 31 writing team and a popular Bible teacher at women’s events internationally. She also trains national missionaries in Nepal and the Middle East. Learn more at:, and

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