THE LOVE BOAT: Doug: When I was in my early twenties, a retired Navy captain invited me to be a deckhand on his 42-foot sailboat. We spent the summer sailing to and around the Bahamas, and I fell in love with the lifestyle. I don't like to cut grass or pull weeds, and waking up every morning with the marina breeze and the sunrise, well, there's just nothing that compares. I was lucky when I met Kathleen. She comes from a Mississippi family who also shares a passion for boats. We have been living aboard, off and on, for the past six years.

THE LIFE AQUATIC: Kathleen: Living on a boat is all about making choices. There's limited space, so you really don't get caught up in consumerism. You don't have room to. We don't have a dishwasher, a washer and dryer, or microwave, but these are choices we made. We don't feel that we need those things, but there are plenty of boats in the marina that have them. Our sons, Abe, 31/2, and Jack, 21/2, have enough toys to keep them busy, but not so many that we don't know what to do with them.

FAMILY AFFAIR? Doug: Limited space does have its advantages. I was born and raised in Lynchburg, Va., and my brother Mark is as redneck as they come -- that isn't an insult because he would tell you so himself! But one time Mark, his wife and his daughter came to visit. Mark is use to sleeping in a king-size bed, but we had him in a rather small area. By 6 a.m., my brother was up offering to buy us breakfast -- something he never does -- just to get off the boat.

CRUISIN': Kathleen: Upkeep of the boat is between $5,000 and $7,000 a year, but it depends on how you use your boat. There are cheaper houseboats that never leave the marina, and then there are boats like ours that serve as both home and recreation. We dock at Gangplank in D.C., and we keep our boat ready to leave shore, so whenever we want to take off, we can. Sometimes that entails trips to the Baltimore aquarium, or sailing up and down the coast for a vacation. One of the biggest costs is probably the charge to keep the boat docked at the marina.

WASTE NOT WANT NOT: Kathleen: Living on a boat also helps with conservation. The water is never metered but we don't use more than 250 gallons a month. We also use less electricity. There are boats that have battery power and those that have their own generators. But that's the great thing about living on a boat: You have so many options to fit different lifestyles.

-- As told to Karen Hart

Young Abe takes the helm on "Wonderful Life" -- the Engelkes' home afloat in the Washington Channel.