Italian Boat

Living on a Boat

Simple and Practical Thoughts to Ponder

Living on a boat can be a great thing, however it does have it’s pros and cons like anything else. Things that you take for granted in a hard structure often take on a more important role. Things such as weather, season, wind direction, and tidal changes all play an important role on where you live and the type of boat you live aboard. 

Honey...You Want to WHAT?!

Can I bring my shoes? :)

First you should ask yourself why you want to live on a boat. It certainly is a romantic thought to be on the water being slowly rocked to sleep on a nightly basis. Then of course, that dream may become a reality quickly when the boat starts rocking in the middle of the night due to a front that rolled in. Also, you may realize that a boat is sometimes hard to keep warm in the winter months and cool in the summer months. That space gets smaller and smaller as time passes too. On the flip side however, it is a great way to get to know yourself and be a part of a small community of fun loving, adventurous, and a diverse group of people. 

Okay, Let's Do It!

Power or Sail?

A big question that needs to be addressed is how much space do you need? Do you have children or pets? How many people will be living on board? Sailing vessels are smaller and quainter while power vessels can have more livable space. Do you plan on traveling? If so, how far and where?

Which brings up the question of what type of boat? Both sailing and power vessels have their advantages and disadvantages. Then within the type of craft you have various sub-categories that you must consider. Living aboard a sailboat is often thought to be inexpensive, but may take more hull maintenance and attention than a powerboat. Sailboats also have the lure of romanticism that have been lent to them via songs and movies. The livable and storage space of a sailboat is usually less than that of a powerboat and much slower too. 

Boating Skills and Seamanship, 14th Edition
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The author....on a boat.... in Italy.

The Essentials of Living Aboard a Boat
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Take me for a sail in you...

With sail, you need to consider weather and tidal currents more closely. You will eventually need to learn how to actually sail. You can run a sailboat under power but the lure of sailing with the wind in your hair and the sounds of the waves lapping against the hull drive the dream.  Also, you will need to spend time learning to navigate a bit more than the power boater as one mistake in your calculations can cost you time and location that are numbered by days and possibly hundreds of miles off course! Oops, we didn’t think of that one! So as sailing vessels can be cheaper to operate, they have a learning curve that is much greater than that of a power vessel.

We're Gonna Need More Po'er!

A powerboat can go from point A to B in a straight line. Hit the throttle, point the bow, and you are off.  Owning a power vessel is easier, but more expensive to operate and maintain. Those engines need fuel and constant attention. One missed tune-up or over looked pre-voyage check could land you with a heavy tow bill and engine repairs. You can run a power vessel in the inter-coastal waterways the entire time with out ever learning celestial navigation or other nautical techniques. It is a great option for the first time boat owner that has money for the up keep. Don’t be mistaken, however. Sailboats demand you hard earned cash as well with her teak, rigging, and sail up keep.  

Where to Send the Mail..

Mail? We don't need no stinkin' mail!

Next, we should consider if you are going to moor the boat in a slip or buoy. At a slip, you could have access to the finer things in life, such as electricity, Internet, telephones, water, and convenience of stepping off the boat for a while. With a bout or mooring “off the grid”, you will have only what you and the boat can provide. This is where you will need a dingy, generator, and most likely a solar panel. Off the grid is cool as long as you understand that you may need to hop in the dingy just to get to shore to buy that milk you just ran out of or to get to work. The weather will not always be your friend here either. Some people that live off the grid work from the boat so that they do not have to leave. They work on the Internet making money or for other live a board people doing odd jobs for cash. Don’t forget security either. Most dock space has some sort of gate, but not all. Living “off the ball” or buoy is much more secure. 

Last Thoughts

No matter which vessel type you choose, you must have it in your head that, just because you do not have a lawn to mow or a roof to repair, there are costs associated that a regular home owner does not need to think about. Maintenance of the hull, rigging, engines, sails, generators, batteries, and solar panels are all things that need dealing with. Time is not your friend either, do it when it needs done or suffer financial setbacks and heartaches. Not to mention you have to learn about all these things prior to getting on board… or do you? Common sense suggests yes, but some jump at the chance and learn as they go. Acquiring knowledge and assistance from other live a boards, books, and dock masters is half the fun of doing it.

There is so much to think about when it comes to living on board a boat. As long as you plan for the worst and keep an open and flexible mind, you can live the romantic dream!