Someone once asked me, “Are you the mermaid?”  I looked at the person quizzically at first, then it clicked: I’m a girl who lives on a boat, commonly referred to as a “mermaid” in the boating community.

I also have almost half a million dollars in student loan debt.

Yes, you read that correctly.  Paying student debt has proven impossible for me.

Bad decisions and a bad marriage left me with ruined credit, back taxes, and a student loan burden no one should have to face.

I am not yet fully “off-grid,” since I live aboard my boat docked at a marina, with the luxuries of 120-volt electricity, water, high-speed internet and cable, laundry facilities, and a bathhouse to shower. Eventually, however, I would like to be off-grid and self-sufficient, able to anchor my boat, use solar power to generate electricity, and use a dinghy to get to shore and back.

Living on a boat – being a “live aboard” – is a complicated lifestyle.

Being anchored out, (or “on the hook,” as sailors like to say), is even more so. Snail mail, FedEx, and UPS don’t really understand marina living. So getting mail and packages can be a challenge, even though I currently live at a marina with an office that can receive packages.

At my old marina, where I was the only live-aboard, it took two months to convince someone from the U.S. Postal Service to put mail in the box I hung on the marina fence.

Although I have a P.O. box to use for particularly important mail, that address doesn’t satisfy the government’s need to know everything about everyone under the Patriot Act, so banking, driver’s license, and insurance all still have to be linked to some physical address, even if they use my P.O. box for a mailing address.

I got in a heated argument with my state’s motor vehicles division over what I can do if I do live off-grid and my physical address is “the middle of such-and-such creek.” The representative actually told me that I would have to lie and use a friend’s address ashore. As an attorney, it irks me to be told by a government official to perjure myself.

Even getting pizza delivered to the boat can be a challenge.

I have to explain in detail how to find the marina, the right pier, and then my boat. I always tip the driver very well to remember me.

Why did I become a mermaid? I had long wanted to live aboard – there is nothing like being rocked to sleep by the sea.

My opportunity to have the American dream of a nice house, car, and 2.5 children was dashed long ago. I struggled, living paycheck-to-paycheck – as I unfortunately still do – but I had a rare opportunity to get out from having to pay rent by buying my own sailboat. I still pay “rent” in the form of dockage at a marina, but my boat is my own, and it has helped me lower my base monthly overhead significantly.

How do I juggle it all and make it work? How did I end up in this predicament? Check back and follow along as the story unfolds.

I have almost half a million dollars in college debt. Yes, you read that correctly, find out how I recovered from it!

*Name has been changed to protect privacy