Anitta Martin’s short journey from Tabor City, N.C., to North Myrtle Beach began while riding in her mother’s car on Christmas Eve about four years ago.
She had sold a painting the day before and planned to use part of the money for the Dremel tool her daughter wanted for Christmas.
As she searched through her pocketbook for the envelope with the cash in it, she was dismayed to discover she had left it in a store the day before. She had no other money for the gift.
She kind of lost it, she said, but somewhere in her moaning she heard herself say that she couldn’t worry about stuff anymore. She would just have to have faith that God would take care of her.
Almost immediately, she said she felt a veil lifting from her eyes and weights flying off her shoulders.
Since then, she’s rented the six-bedroom house she was saddled with in Tabor City, culled her possessions, purchased a 41-foot houseboat named Hotel California and taken up residence in the gentle waves of Dock Holiday’s Marina near the northern end of North Myrtle Beach.
“Now, to me, it’s not about having things,” she said. “It’s more important having peace of mind.”
Martin and her houseboat were featured recently on HGTV’s “You Live in What?”, when the boat was all white and the two palms weren’t snuggled nicely in the large pots on her rooftop deck.
Since then, Martin’s buddy and artist Ruth Cox of Myrtle Beach has painted the exterior to look like the blue shingles on a Cape Cod-style cottage. Window boxes have been hung and planted along one side of the boat and a painted red-white-and-blue life preserver ring is “hanging” by the front door to match the real one resting against the dock end of the cabin.
Inside, Martin has about 320-square feet where her own artist’s touch is evident from the comfortable blue settee snuggled between the boat’s console and the hanging beads that separate it from the galley/dining area to the narrow wooden planks she installed on the ceiling to replace the acoustical type tiles that were there before.
The galley and open bedroom area is a couple of steps down from the sitting area. Ceilings and walls are white as is the bedcover at the other end of the space. Several of Martin’s paintings decorate the walls and a small cup-and-saucer still life by Cox rests on a shelf in the galley.
Martin said she sometimes thinks she’d like a larger houseboat -- one with a dance floor in the bedroom, if you please -- but she vows she’ll never, never ever go back to the life of a landlubber.
“You rock like a baby in a cradle,” she said of her chosen lifestyle.
Martin was born in Mullins but traveled the U.S. and Europe when she was growing up. Her father was in the Army, and she said she went to 13 different schools before she got to high school.
She’s continued to roam since striking out on her own, living in Georgia and Oklahoma, among other places.
“I’ve got gypsy in my blood,” she joked.
She liked the wide open spaces in Oklahoma, but as anyone stricken with the same malady will tell you, the Great Plains ain’t the Atlantic Ocean.
She and her first husband had a 60-foot boat they kept on North Carolina’s Kerr Lake when they lived in Durham. It planted the thought that has become her reality. The bedroom dance floor she added on her own.
“Anitta is a unique person,” said Cox, who’s known Martin for 30 years. “There’s nobody in the world like her.”
The label might have bothered Martin’s former self, at least subconsciously. But the epiphany in her mother’s car freed her from trying to be like others, nudged on by the harsh years after the break-up of her second marriage.
When she left the Tabor City house, she packed up what she could fit in a large basket. Just the very important things, like her baby teeth, she said.
Culling her clothes was harder as she moved from a houseful of normal-sized closets to a small cutout in the far end of her Hotel California’s bedroom wall.
But she’s had to repopulate her wardrobe somewhat earlier this year, when she got the job as manager of the Ethan Allen furniture store in the Coastal Grand mall complex.
Before her Tabor City phase, she was a decorator, had her own business and, for a time, worked as a designer for Thomasville Furniture.
She’s been in plenty of big houses as a designer, she said, but even though she thinks they can be beautiful inside, they’re no longer on her radar.
Martin said a friend looks down on her houseboat from one of the big houses atop the small knoll across the canal. Her friend says she envies Martin’s simple lifestyle.
“I look up there,” said Martin of the view to the house from her deck, “and I don’t envy her a bit.”