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Anne Romine Talks Living on a Boat at Age 12

At this point in time, Anne Romine has her life pretty much figured out. She’s got two kids (including the one writing this article), a husband, and a dog she adores. Most importantly, she has a house on solid ground. When Anne was 12, she and her family left everything behind in Iowa in order to live on a boat in Florida. She told me more, sitting on a beach in her adopted hometown.

Her Campus: So what was the plan, versus what actually happened?

Anne: Essentially, to fulfill my father’s dream. He wanted to live on a boat and sail around the world. My brother and I would take correspondence courses. So we sold our house in Iowa and most of our belongings, though we gave some of our things to family members for them to hold onto. The boat was supposed to be finished by the time I finished 7th grade, but there was a fire at the shipping yard, so we went to Montana for the summer and then rented a townhouse in Florida. I started school, and then the boat was ready in about November, so we moved onto it.

 Anne in front of the boat she lived on (age 16)

Her Campus: Why didn’t you leave then?

Anne: I think that my dad had had this big idea, and but the actual execution of it was scary. So when we were faced with a couple roadblocks, he lost his nerve. My brother, Thom, was struggling with addiction, and they thought that getting out of Iowa would help, but changing the environment didn’t change him. After he was arrested, my parents decided to set sail after I went to college, but something was wrong with the boat, so they sued as part of a class action lawsuit. Still, they never went on their world trip.


Her Campus: Have you considered suing your parents for emotional distress?

Anne: (Here she gives me a sardonic look, not bothering to dignify this question with a response.)


Her Campus: How did you feel when your father told you what he wanted to do?

Anne: It was completely devastating. I was crushed, because it was so scary and so upsetting. Apparently when I was told, I said “I can’t sail around the world because I don’t have 365 pairs of underpants.” At the time my mother thought this was very funny, and looking back I guess it is, but it’s also a little sad.


Her Campus: Tell me about actually living on the sailboat.

Anne: It was very hard. We lived on the boat from November to May, because the rest of the time it was too hot. It was very crowded, and we were in very close quarters, so there was no privacy at all. It was hard going from a big house in the Midwest to a tiny sailboat in Florida.


The boat the Reed family lived on

Her Campus: What was it like having this dramatic experience during your middle school years?

Anne: Horrible. I was cool, and then I was a huge nerd, wearing the wrong clothes and listening to the wrong music. Middle school is when you’re figuring yourself out, and then everything that was working in Iowa had to pivot and I had to reinvent myself with a whole new set of rules.


Her Campus: Do you think if you had stayed in the Midwest you would be a different person?

Anne: Yes, very much.


Her Campus: Was it hard to make friends?

Anne: Well, that can’t be blamed entirely on the boat. It certainly made me weirder, and I couldn’t host pool parties or sleepovers. I had a one friend who lived on a boat that anchored instead of in a marina like I was (a much worse situation), so she and I were friends.


Her Campus: Are you still friends with anyone from Iowa?

Anne: Yes, my first best friend and I are still very close.


Her Campus: How did your family dynamic change?

Anne: The whole dynamic changed. My father was a respected attorney in our community, and he couldn’t even practice law in Florida. Our financial status changed, our social status changed, and all our spheres of influence were different. We went from being leaders to being the new weird people.


Her Campus: Do you feel like these stressors brought you closer?

Anne: No, because of my brother. Things were worse with him than I knew, so there were a lot of secrets being kept from me, which doesn’t exactly bring a family together. I was in survival mode.


Her Campus: What were the best and worst parts of this whole experience?

Anne: The best part was the adventure of it, and that it’s given me an easy fun fact every time I have to introduce myself. The worst part was exactly what you would think it was, moving out of our beautiful house, leaving my friends, and being the weirdo that lived on a boat.


Her Campus: Where are some cool places you sailed?

Anne: While we actually lived on the boat we only ever went to the Bahamas. The boat was meant for deep water, so you couldn’t even go to the Florida Keys or it would run aground. This is exactly what it did in the Bahamas, which was one of the hottest and most miserable summers of my life. Although, my mom and dad would go on day sails, and then when Thom and I came home from school, our house would be gone.


Her Campus: You said that you think if you stayed in the Midwest you’d be a different person. How specifically has this influenced the person you are today?

Anne: I didn’t let a fear of new things affect me, and I’ve become more resilient. I wasn’t afraid to go to college in Maine, or to take a job in Kansas City. I’m not hung up on material things because I know what it’s like to walk away from everything. At the same time, the things that I do have from my childhood I treasure greatly because I can’t go back, and there’s not a lot of these things. Plus, living on a boat forces you to be very organized, which is a skill I still have.

Anne Romine today

Her Campus: I know how important music is to you. What would you consider to be the soundtrack of that time?

Anne: 2112 by Rush. When we went to the Bahamas, we took my cousin Stuart. Whoever washed the dishes got to pick the music, and he picked that album every. single. time. (on cassette tape!)

All photos courtesy Anne Romine

Claire Romine

Agnes Scott '21

Claire Romine was born and raised in West Palm Beach, FL. She currently attends Agnes Scott College, as an English Literature and Political Science double major. Interests include yelling about Taylor Swift and reading terrible young adult novels.
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