One of a two-part series featuring people who live on boats: Ahoy! Life On The Salty Seas
For nearly seven years, Trace and Lisa Harrington have made a spacious 80-ton minesweeper boat their primary residence. Used by the U.S. Navy in the 1950s to cut anchoring cables of undersea mines, the vessel now home to the Harringtons is known as Kai‘Ipo—their loose translation for “ocean lovers”—and also houses their two children, son Logan and daughter Kailey, as well as a black tabby cat named Batman Theodore Harrington.
The thought of living life at sea entered their minds in 2006 following a date night at Chart House and a stroll along Ala Wai Harbor, where boats glittered magically beneath a fiery sunset. Trace had spent his life thus far near water, learning to sail as a kid growing up in Arizona; fishing in the Red Sea in Saudi Arabia, where his father worked as a hospital administrator; dive training in Mexico at 18; obtaining his captain’s license while on Maui; and opening a watersports adventure company on O‘ahu. Lisa had always loved spending time around water, having grown up near the lake in Michigan, but she had never considered living on it.
Engaged and tired of the whole roommate thing, the Harringtons took the plunge, contacting a yacht broker just days after their date, and scooping up their beloved three-bedroom, two-bath boat from two older gentlemen sellers shortly after. Six months of renovations later, including the addition of air-conditioned bedrooms, cable TV, a dishwasher and washing machine, and of course, fancy toilets of the electric incinerating kind that reduce waste to ash and send it out to sea, Kai‘Ipo was ready for dwelling. (However, it took the Harringtons two years to get approved for their live-aboard permit, required by the state for anyone permanently residing on their vessels.) After the kids were born, Spiderman- and Hello Kitty-themed bedrooms completed the makeover.
Today, from the upper deck of their boat, the Harringtons enjoy million-dollar views of Ala Moana Bowls for a fraction of the price, front row seats for Friday night fireworks, and world-class entertainment that can be heard drifting over the waves from the neighboring yacht club. “Part of what’s kept us here,” Trace says, “is you go up to the top on the weekend or evenings and there’s so much stuff going on around you.” Lisa chimes in: “Our space is decent compared to a condo or something like that, it’s just that we don’t have a yard. But the beach is our yard, so that’s where we go every afternoon.” Filled with family and equipped with all they need, the Harringtons’ boat is not just a house—it’s a home.
This story is part of our The Sea Issue.
View Life On Boats: Reece Senda