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Living Aboard Argonaut II: A Classic Wooden Yacht

I was a retired teacher and live-aboard in Seattle. Now I'm back to teaching in a remote area of New Mexico.

Argonaut II at anchor

Argonaut II at anchor

Here's How It All Started

Living aboard the Argonaut II is part living in a museum, part living in an RV, part "living the dream," and part just a very ordinary life.

Since we live aboard a classic wooden yacht, build 92 years ago, with many of the original systems intact, we do in effect live in a museum. Some of the original artifacts of Argonaut II are also on display at the Maritime Museum in Victoria, British Columbia.

Here’s the story of how my husband Jerry and I came to Seattle and ended up purchasing the classic wooden yacht Argonaut II .

So, here goes…

In May of 2006, we sold our off-the-grid house in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico to the perfect, maybe the only, couple for the place. Not many people want to maintain their own electrical system, road, and all the equipment necessary for living remote. They purchased our house, furniture, bulldozer, tractor, unimog, etc., after our house had been up for sale for less than a day. Things just worked out perfectly. Basically, Jerry and I left New Mexico with our clothes, dishes, sheets and towels, and Jerry’s tools.

We came to Seattle and looked at two boats, the Sally S . and Argonaut II. Argonaut II , a 1922, 73 foot classic wooden yacht, was our choice. After a sea trial, haul-out, and survey, we purchased her and moved aboard the second week in May. Along with the boat came the dock space at a marina in Ballard, a really fun, interesting part of Seattle. We are on the porch, which is a dock on the outside of a boathouse, located right inside the Ballard Locks in the shipping canal leading to Lake Union and Lake Washington. In addition, we were also inducted into the Pacific Northwest Classic Yachting Association, a great group of folks who love old wooden boats.

Take a Tour of Argonaut II. Welcome Aboard!

And Part 2 of the Tour...

A Little Bit of Argonaut II History

Argonaut II , which began as a company yacht for the Powell River Logging Company, was sold to the United Church of Canada during the 1930s and functioned as a mission boat, hospital, and post office around Vancouver Island among isolated Native-Canadian settlements for about 30 years. It was sold in the 60’s, fell into disrepair, and was eventually purchased by Julian Matson, another Northwest legend. A Washington resident bought her in 2001, and we bought her in Seattle in 2006.

Our first two cruises on Argonaut II were real eye-openers. We thought we were just buying a big, pretty, old boat, but found we were now the caretakers of a piece of Northwest history. First at the port of Edmonds, Washington, and then at the Bell Harbor Marina in downtown Seattle, we participated in classic yacht shows that allowed the public to tour the boats. The response was overwhelming! Hundreds of people toured the boat at these two shows. People knew the boat, knew the previous owners, or had seen the boat in books or at other shows. There is even a documentary about boats the Northwest featuring a lot of information about the history of Argonaut II .

Throwbacks to a Golden Age of Northwest Boats

  • Come to Jesus Boats - YouTube
    Half a century ago, the United Church of Canada operated the Argonaut II as a mission ship that ministered to the spiritual and physical needs of remote comm...

Recaulking in Port Townsend and Back to Seattle

We knew the boat needed more work so in August we went to Port Townsend, Washington, for a haul-out and spent 50 days reefing, caulking, refastening, sanding, and painting. Basically what this means is that the material between the wooden planks of the hull had to be scrapped out and replaced. Also the large nails holding the planks on had to be replaced. Then the hull needs sanding and painting. It’s brutal physical labor. However, after working on our first boat and building our house, we were able to do it. After the folks at the yard saw how hard we worked, and that we were going to stick it out, they couldn’t do enough for us, lending us tools, scaffolding, and, of course, advice!

Coming back to Seattle in October, we found out about another Northwest tradition. Every fall the Muckleshoot tribe is allowed to string fishing nets everywhere. We had to go through a maze of nets to get into the locks. But we made it to our home on E Dock, sort of a classic wooden boat haven. Many of our neighbors such Cle Illahee, Orba, Shearwater , and Winifred , are also featured in books, magazines, and documentaries. The owners are sources of knowledge and advice on everything from varnishing (a constant topic and activity) and anchorages to food and wine.

We settled in for a long, dreary, wet Seattle winter. I got a job at a supermarket while Jerry worked at a commercial vessel repair yard.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2010 Lee A Barton


Lee A Barton (author) from New Mexico on August 10, 2020:

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We have sold Argonaut II, so I'm really glad that I have the videos to remember her and our time on her.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on August 10, 2020:

I love that you included the video tour of the interior of the boat. It sure sounds like a lot of work but what a reward and what a view!

Lee A Barton (author) from New Mexico on July 25, 2020:

I've also lived off-grid in the Jemez Mts. of New Mexico. Living aboard can be very similar, or very different, depending on the type of boat, your systems, and your resources. I loved living aboard, but it was mostly a very ordinary life--get up, go to work, etc. However, the cruises we took made everything worthwhile. Glad to be back on land now, though. Thank you for reading and commenting, John.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on July 23, 2020:

What a beautiful yacht is the Argonaut II. Thank you for sharing your home through the wonderful videos. My wife and I lived off-grid for three or four years also at one stage. I always wanted to live on a boat but that is just one of those dreams that were never realised. Congratulations on doing just that.

Lee A Barton (author) from New Mexico on November 03, 2015:

Thank you, livetech!

Paul Levy from United Kingdom on November 03, 2015:

A gorgeous wooden masterpiece, thankyou very much for sharing! We dont often see vessels of this ilk.

Lee A Barton (author) from New Mexico on June 09, 2015:

Thank you for stopping by cal jarvis! I have visited Ladysmith. It's a wonderful place.

cal jarvis on June 09, 2015:

have tought about your boat for a long time but have not sold my store in lady smith bc dry land for know but a friend has an antique store here and it smells wounderful its called kramers best antique improver its a usa product and its natural the smeell draws you in but after you are there for a bite it gows none afensive. good luck Lee b

Lee A Barton (author) from New Mexico on February 26, 2015:

I enjoyed checking out your site, Forty Two! I sure can relate even though our boats are very different. Thanks for stopping by!

Forty Two on February 26, 2015:

That is a great read, thank you for sharing. I am always interested to learn about other people's live aboard experiences. We live on something a little newer with our pets, which provides another level of challenge. I just started writing about mine too, if you're interested it's here:

Lee A Barton (author) from New Mexico on June 20, 2011:

Sorry to take so long getting back to you, KT Banks--I've been off line for a few days. Anyway, there are SO many factors that determine how expensive living aboard is--the type of boat, where it's moored, etc. If you email me via my hubpages profile page, I can send you some more specific information.

Thank you for your kind words!

KT Banks from Texas on June 17, 2011:

My brother and his wife live North of Seattle. On an Indian reservation in Marysville. they had a house there for about 25 yrs overlooking the Sound.But for the past several years the cliff the house is on is becoming unstable and losing ground.

I think they would live very happily on a boat. I just wonder how expensive it is.

Yours is just awesome! I'm happy for you.

KT Banks

Lee A Barton (author) from New Mexico on December 10, 2010:

Thank you, Marty! I've been slacking off lately, but I do plan to write a lot more about Argonaut II.

Marty Crist on November 30, 2010:

That is one beautiful boat. Living aboard her has got to be a blast. Enjoyed reading about your adventure into boating. You seem to have a flair for writing so give us some more.

Lee A Barton (author) from New Mexico on November 07, 2010:

We insure our boat through Jim Hackworth, a broker in California for Markel Insurance. It's the insurance recommended by the Classic Yacht Association. Yes, it IS challenging and expensive, but I consider it a necessity; in addition, many marinas will not accept a liveaboard without insurance.

JF on November 07, 2010:

My wife and I are considering living aboard a 1930's Lake Union Dreamboat. Do you mind my asking who you use for insurance? I've found finding insurers challenging.


Lee A Barton (author) from New Mexico on September 06, 2010:

Thank you for stopping by Zsuzsy Bee! It is an interesting life. However, I still have to go to work, do boat maintenance, etc., but getting out on the water makes it all worthwhile.

Zsuzsy Bee from Ontario/Canada on September 05, 2010:

Wow what a great way to live. I'm not sure how I would fare with the winds but I can see that this type of life would have a 'free feel' about it.

I look forward to reading about your other adventures too.

kindest regards Zsuzsy

Lee A Barton (author) from New Mexico on April 10, 2010:

Thank you so much, Lisa! However, after spending two weeks in the boatyard in gale force winds, no running water, covered in highly toxic bottom paint--I'm rethinking the adventure part. I do realize it's just the other side of the same page!

lisadpreston from Columbus, Ohio on March 31, 2010:

What a true adventurer you are. You are really living the life. Lucky you!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lee A Barton (author) from New Mexico on March 21, 2010:

Thank you, IzzyM! I'm so happy to have found YOUR hubs! Our cruising is confined to the Pacific Northwest now, but ONE of these days we will go south, then through the Panama Canal, go north, and "cross" the pond. That is my dream anyway. I would love to visit Spain, one way or another, before I die.

IzzyM from UK on March 21, 2010:

This is amazing stuff. I am so happy to have found your hubs :)

Lee A Barton (author) from New Mexico on March 03, 2010:

De Greek, everyone who enters the engine room is handed a rag to start polishing. It's a tradition started by a previous owner. As part of the Classic Yacht Association, we attend shows where the public is invited to tour the boats. Many of the old salts come aboard, go below, enter the engine room, and never emerge! They are still polishing. That's our secret!

De Greek from UK on February 22, 2010:

I love your Argonoput II. So muchhead room and space... She is a dream! And how do you manage to keep the engine so unnaturally clean??? You are in danger of being frowned upon by the old salts :-))

Lee A Barton (author) from New Mexico on February 21, 2010:

Thank you, Kathleen! How great to hear from you. I hope you can visit us and take a little cruise one of these days.

Kathleen Niggle Fossen on February 21, 2010:

How very interesting and an interesting life to boot. The boat is really lovely. I too love the water....must run in the family.

Lee A Barton (author) from New Mexico on January 25, 2010:

Thank you Peggy! I'm learning stuff every day and really enjoying interacting with the other hubbers. I had never even left a comment on a site before I started this--now I'm all over the place leaving my two cents worth. It's fun!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 24, 2010:

Hi Lee,

If you feel as though it is good enough to publish...always add a comment box. You can still go in and add things. Each time a person comments on a hub...and you answer, it draws attention to that hub which may encourage other readers. And if you make comments on other people's hubs, generally they return the favor of reading and commenting on least a great percentage of the good hubbers do that.

Lee A Barton (author) from New Mexico on January 22, 2010:

Thanks, Peggy! I'm actually not done with the cruising hub yet and will add comments at the very end. I probably should wait til I'm finished to publish--but I'm new to this, and it's just too much fun to wait. I look forward to checking out your other hubs!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 21, 2010:

Really enjoyed reading about your living aboard the ARgonaut II. You forgot to add the comment section to your hub about sailing in the San Juan Islands. You added my link...will return the favor!

Cynthia Baker on January 19, 2010:

Hey, Lee. Love your Blog. I actually used it in my class as an example for students who are writing their own as an assignment. Great pictures!Cynthia.

Lee A Barton (author) from New Mexico on January 18, 2010:

How great to hear from you, Fay! We are planning to come north this summer but may not make it quite to Kenai this year. However, it's our main goal to get up there as soon as we can. Hope to see you. Lee

Cousin Fay on January 18, 2010:

Your Yacht is wonderful. I love it. You are lucky. I said once Kenai got one more traffic light; I would move. I did move farther away from town. (they now have 7 traffic lights) Have you ventured very far north?

Lee B on January 13, 2010:

Thanks for your support. I've got a lot more to write, but got busy and didn't keep up. I'm planning to write about some of our cruises, the history of the boat, which is fascinating, and living aboard in general.

Angela C on January 04, 2010:

Wow - Beautiful. I am green with envy!

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on January 03, 2010:

What a unique life and what an incredibly beautiful boat. I'd love to read more about it!

Roger Barton on January 03, 2010:

look forward to reading more...

Winsome from Southern California by way of Texas on January 02, 2010:

Welcome to Hubs Lee B! If "Night at the Museum" is any indication, you could be in for quite a ride. :)

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