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This Ballard family is living the sweet life on the water



Dave Miller, Amy Gourde and daughter Marley find community in a marina.

Photo: Joshua Huston

The term “close quarters maneuvering” certainly rings true onboard the 1982 Atlantic 44 motor yacht named Recess. Dave Miller, Amy Gourde, their 6-year-old daughter Marley and two cats (Mocha and Latte) have been living on the 45-foot boat docked at the Shilshole Bay Marina for a total of seven years. With two staterooms and a bathroom, Recess accommodates the trio nicely, and offers a unique childhood experience for Marley. 

Originally from Detroit, Dave spent most of his early years boating and fishing on the Great Lakes, which led to a love of watercraft. “I went fishing every chance I got with my dad and at summer camps,” says Dave. “I was fascinated by boats and ships and daydreamed about being a captain of a ship one day.” Those dreams led to jobs aboard vessels and years of rowing crew in the Chesapeake Bay area, where he learned the ins and outs of owning and operating boats. 

Photo: Joshua Huston

Their home is mobile but still a place to set down roots.

In 2006, Amy and Dave made the move to Seattle; three years later Marley was born. The couple met new challenges juggling a newborn with life on the water. “Having a baby aboard brought about many challenges,” says Amy. “Marley learned to walk with a life jacket on and was greeted warmly by all the neighbors on the dock.” 

Marley has inspired me to find ways to foster her natural curiosity — and rekindle my own — while minimizing the impact on the living things that she wants to investigate,” says Dave, who constructed a dock aquarium to house “guests” like starfish and crustaceans. 

After a brief hiatus in an apartment on land, they recalled the wonderful community of the marina and decided to move back aboard Recess. Older and more capable of handling helpful tasks, Marley is the perfect first mate. “Going out in the dinghy has given her a chance to practice her skills on a smaller, less dangerous scale. She’s getting good at securing lines to cleats and tidying lines up after,“ says Dave. 

There’s the added bonus of making friends with the local sea life as well. “Marley has inspired me to find ways to foster her natural curiosity — and rekindle my own — while minimizing the impact on the living things that she wants to investigate,” says Dave, who constructed a dock aquarium to house “guests” like starfish and crustaceans. “I set up a circulation system that continuously pumps new water from the sea into the tank, keeping the inhabitants alive.” 

Photo: Joshua Huston

Marley's stateroom has plenty of space for friends.

Best of all, their home is mobile, which allows the family to take cruises to neighboring destinations such as the San Juan Islands, or Vancouver, B.C. “This summer we cruised over to Poulsbo to watch the Fourth of July fireworks display. We were only 300 feet from the barge. Marley was mesmerized!” says Dave. 

When asked what she likes to do best on the dock, Marley answered, “Sidewalk chalk and picking up crabs,” among many other wonderful things.

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