by David Diehl
Kelly Mohrman lived the dream. Well, at the time, it was her parents’ dream. But nonetheless, Kelly Mohrman lived on a boat.
Originally from Greece, New York, Morhman started her childhood like most of us did. She lived in a house. With a street. And a family. But around the fourth grade of her life, Mohrman’s parents, Tom and Bev Wright, took to a unique change in lifestyle and decided that their home should float.
After the proper Power Squadron Courses, Coast Guard Classes, and model research at National Boat Shows, the Wright clan settled on a forty-five-foot Island Trader Sailboat and settled in to the Voyager Marina just off the Stutson Street Bridge (now the O’Rorke Memorial Bridge) in the Genesee River at the mouth of Lake Ontario. Realizing that is a mouthful for directions, they kept the boat
“We wanted a name that meant Freedom and very few languages actually have that word. I called the University of Rochester International Library and they gave me the word Tzu Yu,” explains Bev. “This means ‘freedom’ in Mandarin Chinese, which is the language spoken in Taiwan – the country where the boat was built.”
For nine years, this family of four and their dog and cat resided on the Tzu Yu and their driveway was also their basement – and it was wet. They had full electric, cable, and electric floorboard heaters. The children split a room in the V-birth with a curtain down the middle for privacy. While the parents laid their heads in the master bedroom – a cabin called the aft-state towards the back of the boat. It was Kelly’s parents’ dream to live on a boat. And she totally gets it.
“Now that I’m an adult, I can appreciate what my parents were trying to do. It was nice, I’m sure, for them to be able to come home and just take the home out,” admits Mohrman. “The funny story my husband likes to tell is that I would come home from my friends’ house and my home was gone because my parents would go anchor out and have dinner off of Somerville Pier. To think about that now as an adult, it would
be so relaxing, maybe even go for a swim.”
An obvious luxury for any couple after a long day at work, the spoils of boat living also translated to the rest of the family for summertime excursions and convenient travelling. The Wright family would often sail Lake Ontario for summer vacation and drift over the Canadian border to visit family.
“It sounds a little weird when it’s said like that… ‘It’s time for vacation, we’re going to take the house now.’ But it was very nice though, if you think about going, you’re never going to forget anything because you’ve always got it with you,” Mohrman recalls with a laugh. “We didn’t have to pack anything. And it was very cool, my father’s brother lived up in Toronto, so we would sail up and dock at Center Island in the Toronto Harbor. From there we would just take the ferry over and have a get-together.”
As you would imagine, the kids’ chores weren’t as commonplace as mowing the lawn and raking leaves. “Yardwork” was more like helping dad fill water tanks (as they couldn’t stay hooked up to frozen hoses). For some extreme upkeep, Tom even had to scuba dive to paint and mend underneath the boat. Keeping the house in order was a team effort, and they never sank.
“We were all involved with the sailing aspect of the living situation. It was a family affair – we all had to learn the ropes,” Mohrman recalls. “We all knew how to put up and take down sails, and the rigging. We all helped our father. We had to hoist him up and down the mast in order to paint it. We never had any major issues.”
All-in-all, Mohrman cherishes her time residing on the Tzu Yu and finds it cheekily satisfying when she gets to surprise her friends with the tidbit that she accomplished such a feat. (She even admits that attention she has garnered was through a social media game asking her to name a fact about herself that no one would believe. ’I grew up on a boat’ being her answer.)
If she would ever decide to live on a boat again, Mohrman remains undecided. The proposition is enticing, but she seems to have moved on to the next challenge.
“I’m more of an RV girl these days.”