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Guide to living on a boat

Everything you need to know to go from landlubber to full-time liveaboard

Ready to live on a boat year-round? You might be surprised to know that there are several steps to moving onto a boat, the last of which is actually buying a boat! Robin and I moved onto our Dufour 35 and have lived on it for 5 years. We were lucky enough to have some knowledgeable people guide us through the process, and we’d like to pass some of that wisdom onto you!

1. Decide if living on a boat right for you

With real estate prices blasting into the stratosphere, living on a boat and paying a fraction of market rental rates is a pretty sweet deal. Still, there are plenty of things to consider before uprooting your life and moving aboard. What does it cost? Will my partner hate it? Where will I shower? Check out our post Is living on a boat right for you – 10 things you should know to answer some of those all important questions.

2. Decide where you’ll keep your boat

The #1 mistake people make when moving aboard is buying a boat before knowing where they will keep it. This is because in most cities, there’s a large supply of boats, and limited liveaboard space. The lack of moorage is usually due to city regulations that limit the number of liveaboard slips and year-round anchorages. So, the first thing to decide is where you will keep your boat while dwelling on it. You have three options: a liveaboard slip in a marina, a mooring ball, or anchoring. These options differ in terms of ease and expense and we cover all the costs, pros, cons, and considerations in our post “Where to Live on a Boat”.

If you’re new to boating, you’ll definitely want to start by moving into a marina, by far your easiest and most comfortable option. However the lists for liveaboard marinas can stretch upwards of 10 years! Fortunately we found a work-around. Here are three different ways to find a liveaboard marina and skip the wait list.

3. Try before you buy

Before you take the plunge, we recommend that you try living on a boat before making the commitment and moving aboard full time (especially if you have a partner who’s not totally sold on the idea). Often people move aboard and find that it’s not what they expected and are then stuck living on land and paying moorage on a big boat. Fortunately there are lots of ways to try before you buy, like airbnbing a boat through Boatsetter, or boat-sitting. Read our 5 ways to test drive the liveaboard life here.

4. Know what a boat costs to own

If you’re thinking of living aboard a boat you’ve probably realized that you can save some money by doing so. While you can save a bundle (Robin and I saved $12,000 or $500 a month in rent over 2 years), your actual savings will depend on a variety of factors including what type of boat you buy, where you store it, and how much maintenance is required. To better understand what it will cost to liveaboard, read our post What does a boat cost to own?

5. Know what to look for in a liveaboard boat

So you’re cruising craigslist and the classifieds for your liveaboard boat, but not sure what too look for?  There are special considerations when looking for a liveaboard boat in particular: space, cost, layout, performance, etc. Here we lay out all the important attributes to look for in a liveaboard boat and provide a list of boat designs that are well suited to living aboard.

6. Buy a boat

If you’re actively searching for a boat, check out our series with everything you ever wanted to know about buying a boat. It includes how to choose the right boat, where to look to get a deal, the ultimate boat survey checklist, how boat pricing and values worknegotiation strategy and more.

We hope you find something here to help you transition to the liveaboard life. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below. Good luck!