Boat Girl: A Memoir of Youth, Love, & Fiberglass

Boat Girl: A Memoir of Youth, Love, & Fiberglass by Melanie Neale

Boat Girl: A Memoir of Youth, Love, & Fiberglass

by Melanie Neale

Available in print and all e-book formats:

• Books & Books (Print Books in Miami)

Barnes and Noble (Print and Nook)

Smashwords (All E-book Formats)

•  Google Play

• Amazon Kindle


“I want to know how you felt about growing up aboard,” I said. “I mean, how do you feel about it now that it’s over and you’re living ashore?”

What I really wanted to ask was something I couldn’t comprehend, not to mention express. Did he feel like he had a home or was he rootless, the way I felt sometimes?

“I wanted to keep doing it,” he said. “I didn’t want to go to college or move ashore.”

“Then why did you?”

This is what a young Melanie would asked adults who’d grown up on boats, mostly to learn about them and to understand herself, but also to try to glimpse her own future.

Throughout the 1980’s and 90’s, Melanie’s family lived aboard a 47-foot sailboat, spending their summers along the US East Coast and their winters in the Bahamas. Melanie and her sister were home-schooled, the family fished for dinner and made their own bread, but her parents were far from hippie dropouts. Despite their unconventional lifestyle, her parents were determined to raise proper, well-educated young ladies while surrounded by sea gypsies, mystics, nudists, boat bums, and drug smugglers.

But the cruising life was not all fun in the sun. The family had to work hard to pay for their way of life; they dodged hurricanes, overzealous federal agents and bullying land-kids; and they endured a boatload of family drama. As her father published articles about how living on a boat brings families together, Melanie secretly struggled with an eating disorder, the alienation of being a boat kid, and confusion over her developing sexuality. As an adult, she lived aboard her own 28-foot sailboat and went through several relationships looking for someone who wasn’t intimidated by her stubborn independence and free-spirited lifestyle. Boat Girl weaves all this together into a story about a girl who, once all is said and done, simply wants her own boat and her own life.

Melanie paints a vivid picture of the trials and tribulations of family life aboard a sailboat without drowning the reader in the technical details of sailing. Boat Girl strikes a perfect balance between coming of age story and sea tale, enjoyable for boaters and land-lovers alike.


Boat Girl captures the wonders and the paradoxes of growing up just offshore from American culture in a way that I haven’t ever seen in a lifetime of reading about such things.”

– Tim Murphy, Editor-at-Large, Cruising World,
Coauthor, Fundamentals of Marine Service Technology


“An inspiring and beautifully written true story of a young woman schooled in the sea.”

– Dan Wakefield, author of New York in the Fifties


“As a child raised aboard—and as a father who raised a child aboard—I am deeply interested in boat kids. Melanie is among our best. She is not only wonderfully wacky, she tells the truth in large and small ways. I admire her—as a writer and human being. This is a delightful book… that only a boat kid could write!”

Capt Fatty Goodlander, author of Chasing the Horizon & Red Sea Run