‘NoETA’: Family Life as an Emeryville Marina Liveaboard

3 mins read

The Emeryville Marina Liveboard community is an eclectic mix of travelers, enthusiasts, the frugal-minded — and the occasional family.

One of those families are the Shanafelts, who stayed at the Emeryville Marina last summer aboard their 46 foot Nordhavn yacht “NoETA” (That’s ‘No Estimated Time of Arrival’ for those slow on the uptake ;).

Their presence seemed to signal a more “family friendly” direction at the docks and an influx of youthful energy. While still rare, kids seem to be coming more common at the Marina. Emeryville Marina management Safe Harbor Marinas and their new harbormaster seem to be making accommodating families a priority. The Marina reserves a few slips for visitors and shorter stays like the Shanafelts.

Downsizing, Minimizing, Prioritizing …

The Shanafelts opted to sell their 4-bedroom house in 2017, purge or store most of their belongings and move aboard NoETA. This minimizing and mobility has helped them determine what they truly “need” — and what they don’t. In the end, family has proven the most important asset.

Meet the Shanafelts – Family of Five Plus Pets

The Shanafelts are a family of five consisting of their father Pat (a pilot for Alaska Airlines) their mother Alexa (a teacher), teenagers Hailey and Jack and an adult daughter attending graduate school at UOP.

Prior to moving aboard, the family traveled the world. The globe-trotting comes courtesy of their fathers’ buddy pass privileges as a pilot. “We were a normal at-home family—just traveling during school vacations” says Alexa.



Living life aboard requires many sacrifices, downsizing and constant adaptation. One of the most difficult choices was relinquishing their family dog ‘Doug’. The Emeryville Marina allows dogs but does not allow children as permanent liveaboards. Emery Cove Yacht Harbor does allow children, but does not allow dogs.

Doug was shipped off to live with their eldest daughter. They still make an effort to see him whenever they can. “Being in Emeryville gave us the chance to see them both,” says Alexa. Their family feline Gilligan AKA “El Gato Gordo” remains on board and stays at a luxurious cat hotel when the family travels.



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A Warm Welcome by Neighbors

The Shanafelts received a warm greeting by Marina neighbors when they arrived. Alexa blogged about meeting their new boater neighbors and receiving an invitation to attend events at the Berkeley Yacht Club and sailing on the Bay. She cherishes the opportunity to forge new relationships with people who she may never see again but can stay connected to online.

Nautical symbols tattooed on Pat and Alexa.

Transit and Conveniences Just Steps Away

Emeryville Marina residents appreciate the same conveniences as those living on the mainland including shopping, transportation and dining. For Hailey, living so close to an urban environment comes with benefits. She’s enjoys popping by the Guitar Center for some accessories or an occasional bite.

Hailey says she looks forward to volunteering at a monkey sanctuary in Puerto Vallarta one day. She misses her school friends but is in constant communication with them online like most teens.

Jack, their youngest, is still adjusting to this new life it seems. “There is next to no privacy and the wifi is usually non existent,” he penned in a guest blog post. He is able to look on the bright side for many things. “School takes half the time it used to. It’s easier to find things since there aren’t many places to lose them.”

Hailey jamming on the bow of NoETA.

Working from Home and Home Schooling

During the Shanafelts’ stay in Emeryville, finding the entire family on board at one time seemed rare and they maintain busy and independent lives.

Alexa, with a masters in educational technology, is able to continue working remotely. She taught school for twenty years–most recently Spanish and media to eighth graders.

This was the first fall in twenty years Alexa had not been in the classroom, although she will home school teenagers Hailey and Jack, using online resources. They are currently practicing Spanish in anticipation of a trip to Mexico.

For Pat, when not flying, he can be seen walking the dock barefoot with a tee-shirt on. Pat notes he looks forward to retirement one day but will commute to airports in the meantime.

Next Stop …

The Shanafelts are so committed to this new lifestyle, they recently upgraded to a larger, 50′ yacht. They’re vested in sharing their adventures and embracing technology to help tell their stories including underwater GoPro equipment and a Drone.

“It’s been one year today that we left our home port of Gig Harbor,” they noted in a recent blog entry from Washington. “We have traveled over 2,500 miles, visited 29 ports, cruised both coasts of the United States and a portion of the Sea of Cortez. I can attest to the fact that A LOT of lessons have been learned, both boating lessons and life lessons. Many overlap.”

While the Shanafelts’ time in E’ville was brief, those they met are able to follow their next adventures online by subscribing to their blog at mvnoeta.com and following them on Instagram.


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Cindy Warner

lives in Emeryville after finding a Bentley 38 sailboat at Emery Cove in 2014. She learned to sail at Cal Sailing and covered the America's Cup in SF. She grew up in the East Bay and finds the shoreline home. She has written on San Francisco Arts & Culture since January 2009, using her bicycle and public transportation to cover stories all over the SF Bay Area.

1 Comment

  1. Hi, Cindy!

    Like you, I’ve been a long-time liveaboard here in Emeryville Marina. I’ve been sort of “grandfathered” in since the new corporation took over, and I’ve seen it go through two incarnations already, first as Marinas International and now as Safe Harbor. We’ve gone from Don to Michelle to Bill, and while I will admit that the marina has gotten a nice clean-up and makeover, with “F” dock going from meth-head central to decent folk, there is still a lot of work to be done, and I am seeing this…but also at the expense of those who don’t have anywhere else to go. People who’ve moved onto boats because that was the only thing they could afford. Then they get kicked out, do what they can to sail/tow their boats to the Estuary or Richardson Bay and anchor off, and now they’re cracking down on this as well.

    Well, just move!

    That would be an option if it weren’t for the cold, hard fact that this situation is EVERYWHERE these days, not to mention that A: you need to have a job lined up, B: you need to have the money for a new home, and C: moving is EXPENSIVE!

    We’ve developed a community here. We boaters are quite unique in that – I’ve had people greet me BY NAME in marinas I’ve never visited.

    The corporation is destroying this. All for the sake of that bottom line.

    I’m happy to see that this family is making the best of everything – always happy to see a boating family, period! Hopefully, the higher-ups will see this as well and relax with the eviction notices because a boat is ugly or dirty or a couple of years out with the registration. Hello? We’re your unpaid security. We watch out for one another AND the other boats on the dock.

    Think of that the next time there’s a gale blowing through San Francisco Bay – which happens rather frequently – or when the gate’s lock is broken – which ALSO happens rather frequently.

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