A Way of Living

Compact • Simple • Affordable • Eloquent


Design, Ritual and Way of Life...

Life aboard CAMELOT follows a pattern. Much of this is determined by the requirements of running a complex environment/machine and living in a high variety environment that requires constant attention. To some degree it is a reflection of our personal life-style preferences. In total, these factors congeal into a set of rituals and explicit patterns that makes life comfortable and that provides an underlying sense of orderliness.


The early morning sun, reflecting off the water, is showing varied patterns on the ceiling above your head. This is the first thing you see as you become slowly aware of a new day. Part of the morning ritual is to lay there watching the patterns - you wonder who will get up first and make coffee. Soon, the intensifying light patterns, lapping of the waves and the smell of brewing coffee brings some urgency to the day - “I have come!” it announces. Time to drift in and out a little longer. Time to feel the boat rocking - you sense which way the wind is blowing and what direction. You slowly build a notion of what is going on outside - of what Nature has in store this day.

A few minutes together in the Pilot House sharing perceptions of the last night and then on deck for raising anchor - itself a set of procedures and rituals. The warm coffee cup feels good on the hands in the cool morning air. The dew is clinging to the deck and Pilot House fighting a losing battle with the warming sun. Usually, the breeze is just staring to stir by sunrise - the anchor is raised, chain and decks washed down the mainsail raised and we drift away from our cove.

The day begins. Time to set course, put the boat in order and plan the day. Time is different on CAMELOT. On one hand it is leisurely - on the other, there is always something to do. Weather checks, equipment checks, small things to fix, meals. It is a self-contained lifestyle. A lifestyle punctuated with events and things to pay attention to. It is a 24 hour a day live-work-play-rest experience.


As I have noted elsewhere, life on CAMELOT is an integrated experience. It is a combination of intention (design) and spontaneity (responding to nature). All human-built things are, of course. However, on a boat the demands of the sea tend to strip things bare - this is not an environment to fake things. On land, the feedback loops are larger and longer. This causes designers to get careless until a hurricane or earthquake brings them back to reality. Usually, the results are blamed on God.

Bucky Fuller used to say if you cannot turn your house upside down, without it falling apart, this shows you are depending on gravity to hold it together - not engineering. We need to build our land structures more like our air and water structures - EarthShips. The land is fluid just as the water is - it just moves slower and less often. The purpose of a foundation should be to allow the structure to bear gracefully and safely upon the Earth nor tie it down in a way that actually makes the building more vulnerable. Car tires actually provide better foundations than most buildings enjoy. CAMELOT is designed to be completly rolled over at sea and still survive - even continue to sail depending on the serverity of the situation.

CAMELOT’s aft cabin is approximately 12 feet by 12 feet (one of three Cabins in her 41 feet of length and 22 tons of bulk). In this area we have a Head (bathroom), Closet, Storage, Settee (couch and a Bunk (bed). The Settee also folds out into a second Bunk. In addition, there is a Work Station and a fold out Table that makes a second workstation and Dining Table. Everything in this Cabin is designed to be secure in a rough seaway. There are three portholes, a skylight and two large aft windows. All of these can be secured for heavy seas. There is room for a stereo system, books and business files. Everything can be reached within one or two steps. The space does not feel crowded, compromised or inadequate. It is designed to work.

The Fore Cabin houses storage, a large Galley, a Nav Station and Settee and dining table (which configures into a double bunk).

Two people can live and work comfortably on CAMELOT for extended periods of time. Four, for shorter periods. There is great amenity and beauty - and best of all - this environment will go wherever there is over seven feet of water and 55 feet of clearance above. Relying on sail and engine, our fuel economy is about 12 miles a gallon of Diesel - this includes generating our own electricity. (These figures were calculated by the total number of miles traveled and fuel consumed - with two to four persons on board - during our sail from Ft. Meyers to Boston and back in 1998. Deadlines had to be met and Hurricanes avoided so this a practical number - imagine moving your entire house around with this economy).

The cost/performance equation of CAMELOT blows away most overspecialized land transportation and (so called) living/working structures. Why is this? What different design assumptions drive the creation of a Camelot compared to the typical land structure? What is so different living and working on CAMELOT than on land? What principles translate competently to the land experience? What kind of EarthShips would we design if we employed these principles? What would be the impact on our individual lives, our cities, our planet?

What would it be like to live in Compact • Simple • Affordable • Eloquent structures? These are the questions I want to answer in this piece. I propose that our present way of building is wrong-headed. It is wasteful and directs our attention to the wrong things. It destroys awareness as it is destroying the Earth. It is neither necessary - nor affordable - no matter a society’s wealth. There are many alternatives: better designed houses, new configurations, mega-structures - ultimately, some definitions of “affordable” may mean getting off the planet. Whatever the scale, scope and configuration of the these solutions, it gets down to the intimacy between the environment and the way-of-life lived in it - and the criteria used.

The day progresses in an orderly, timeless yet, strangely fast-paced way.

After CAMELOT is under way, there is time to eat,organized the boat, do repairs and projects - and, of course, navigate.

Depending the purpose of the trip, the weather and where people’s energy is the day may be one predominately of sailing, relaxing, working - or some combination of all three. There is great difference between a day where a specific destination has to be reached and one where any number of anchorages will do. Sometimes the working of the boat takes the entire crew, sometimes only one.

Whatever the starting condition, it can change a quickly as a change in the weather - which can be very fast indeed. Tranquillity can abruptly change to arduous work and even danger.

No two days are ever the same on the water and they are never boring. Life progresses - a series of small tasks and new experiences. Soon the day is over, the sun setting and an anchorage found.

CAMELOT has her own energy generation system. Because this is finite in real-time, and you are aware of it, the day’s work and play follows the natural cycle of weather and day/night cycles.

CAMELOT does not provide a complete answer nor a perfect one - there are many more dimensions to living “in Compact • Simple • Affordable • Eloquent structures” than any one environment can explore or demonstrate. She does provide an experience of an alternative kind of environment and a better way of fitting into the Earth environment than the vast majority of buildings that exist today.

She provides a living experience that challenges the bloated structures deemed necessary in many affluent societies. She re-frames the notion of intimacy.

The relationship among people is entirely different on CAMELOT than is typical between people on land. Things are much more intimate. Even on a large boat you can never really get away.

Privacy is handled differently than on land and so is conflict. The architecture of the boat can have a big impact on these aspects of life. This is so on land, of course, however, the scale and nature of the constraints are different. Life on CAMELOT feels like what I imagine a traditional hunter-gatherer society is like.

CAMELOT has to be managed 24 hours a day. Someone has to always be on duty - even at an anchorage when a formal watch is not required. Much of what passes as “normal” process on land would be rank carelessness on water. This creates a general level of awareness that is unfortunately rare on land.

On water, you deal with things as they are when they are. Our land-based civilization has lured us into a false sense of living in a static environment - and environment made so by our systematic elimination of natural variety. We surround ourselves with bulk - the modern form of armor. Almost all land-based systems are an order of magnitude or two over designed. They are huge, ineffective, crude, out-of-scale - really bad design.

On CAMELOT, the days pass. Nature is large. Our habitat is intimate scale, efficient, affordable, adaptable, understandable. CAMELOT has presence but does not get between us and our experience of the world - compare this to land-based architecture.

Large populations and intimate scale can be accomplished with our land-based habitats. We have to rethink our assumptions about what constitutes adequate space, energy systems and flows, how we leave place for other life forms, if we see earth as something to fight, dominate and plow through or as a “fluid” medium that shows little permanent damage in our wake.

We should be building EarthShips not aggressively anchored, monstrous over-scaled buildings and infrastructure that covers the Earth like a disease. Density, as Jacobs points out, is a necessity of the human enterprise. I believe that this will remain true even in the virtual age. It is our underlying design-strategy that we have to challenge - not our propensity to form communities. Density, even LARGE structures, do not have to be the way they are. It is a shift of paradigm.


November 25, 1999

posted November 25, 1999

revised April 9, 2000
• 20000113.163516.mt • 20000117.84241.mt • 20000118.17517.mt •
• 20000206.101620.mt • 20000409.18305.mt
• 20010204.142982.mt •

Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001Matt Taylor

Search For:
Match:  Any word All words Exact phrase
Sound-alike matching
From: ,
To: ,
Show:   results   summaries
Sort by: