Living on a boat sounds cool, but is it right for your lifestyle?
With real estate rocketing in cities like London, San Francisco, Vancouver, more and more people are ditching their pricey digs for a more adventurous lifestyle: living on a boat. Living on a boat can afford you all kinds of benefits: cheap rent, amazing views, and may (at least for a short time) make you a more interesting person at dinner parties (results not guaranteed). But before you walk out on your sofa bed and 5 roommates, there are 10 things you should know.
Already know you want to live on a boat? Check out our FREE 6-part series that shows you how to become a liveaboard.
1. You can save a lot of money on rent! That’s right, living on a boat is cheap. We spent two years living on a sailboat in a marina in Vancouver with a full suite of amenities (power, parking, internet, laundry, showers, workshop) and it only cost us $550 a month (our next best option would have been an apartment for $1100+). Of course, we had to buy a boat (that cost us around $10K) but over the course of two years we more than got our money back. If you choose to live on a mooring ball or at anchor, it can cost you even less! In San Diego, we paid $150 a month for a mooring ball, and anchoring was free.
2. You can’t trick your partner into living on a boat.
For some people, living on a boat is a lifelong dream, but no matter how romantic you find it, do not attempt to live aboard if your partner is not game. There are plenty of challenges: lack of space, leaks, and potentially a lot of motion. Talk your partner into living on a boat and you may wake up one day to find they’ve jumped ship. If your partner is on the fence, you can always try living on a boat before you commit. We list a few different ways to test-drive the liveaboard lifestyle (e.g. airbnbing a boat, chartering, or boat-sitting) before you move aboard full-time.
3. Buying a boat is easy, finding a place to put it – not so much.
Depending on where you live, it can be very challenging to find a place to moor your boat. Many big cities have liveaboard licensing requirements and as such many liveaboard licensed marinas can often have huge waiting lists (read how we skipped a 10 year wait list and got into the best liveaboard marina in Vancouver!). Do not buy a boat until you know where you’re going to keep it. There are some unlicensed marinas that turn a blind eye to “sneak-a-boards” but you’re really risking getting the boot at any time.
4. Marinas vs. mooring balls – location will affect your lifestyle.
Living on a boat in a marina will be very different from living at anchor or on a mooring buoy. Some important considerations are things like electricity and water (in a marina you will have 24/7 access to both, whereas on the hook you’ll be living off-grid). This can make a big difference, for instance if you want to have a shower (especially a hot shower) every day. Doable at a marina, difficult if not impossible on the hook. Other benefits of dock life include being able to walk off the boat. Going back and forth in a dinghy every day can be a nuisance, especially if you’re transporting pets, bikes, and heavy gear. Other perks of liveaboard marinas are comforts like internet, cable, and laundry. There are so many factors to consider when deciding between a marina, mooring field or anchorage (too much to cover here), so check out “Where to live aboard a boat?” for more info.
5. Personal space – who needs it?!
The number one question people ask us is, “How do you live on a sailboat and not kill your partner?” In most cases, there is no personal space on a boat. Imagine that every time you walk from the kitchen to the bedroom you must ask your partner to move out of the way so you can pass, and that about sums it up. If this is your number one concern, consider looking at trawlers instead of sailboats as you get way more living space and light on a 35-ft. trawler, than you do on a 35-ft. sailboat.
6. The big compromise: creature comforts
Most inexpensive liveaboard boats do not have hot showers and laundry. They also have tiny bathrooms, kitchens, and hardly any storage. If you can’t bear the thought of giving up bubble baths, then living on a boat is not for you. If, however, the idea of a minimalist, multi-purpose, stacking dish set cranks your gears – then you’re probably on the right path. Bear in mind, that some boats will be better set up for living aboard than others (we have a list of the best boats for living aboard).
7. You will have the coolest neighbors
Living on a boat tends to attract some interesting people: artists, musicians, engineers… Nick Cave and Rod Stewart both lived aboard in the U.K., as did Alan Watts in Sausalito. Boat life also fosters a very tight sense of community, so you’re far more likely to get to know your neighbors.
8. Bring your home on weekend getaways
Who needs a second home when you can take your first home with you. Perhaps it’s kind of obvious but it’s great to throw off the dock lines and go cruising on the weekends. Who knows, one day you may decide to sail around the world.
9. Leaks and climate control will become your obsession.
Boats leak, and if you live aboard in a wet city you’re guaranteed to wake up one morning with a soggy pillow or mystery puddle on kitchen counter. Mold can also be a challenge and many liveaboards opt to run dehumidifiers and heaters to keep humidity in check.
10. The best view in the city
It’s a cliché but one of the major pluses of living aboard is settling into the cockpit at the end of the day with a glass of wine as you watch the sunset. We found life on the water infinitely more peaceful and a great escape from the bustle of city life.
Thinking of buying a boat? Check out our post “What does a boat cost to own?”