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Living Aboard A Boat

So I’ve been living on the land for the last six weeks at an extended stay hotel while I’m waiting for the transmission repairs to be completed on the Pomaika’i. After a year living aboard a boat, it’s given me a break to sit back and contemplate how much I enjoy living aboard a sail boat.

Living Aboard A Boat Is Less Expensive

One of the first things people bring up when I talk about living on a boat is the costs (or lack there of). I have gotten my professional boat bum union card yet (still have a day job) so I stay in a marina. The costs with power and water are about $500 a month cheaper than the average local one bedroom apartment (nice one in a nice neighborhood). This means the purchase price of my first sailboat, the Palani, would have been covered by these savings in March of 2018. Since I flipped the insurance settlement for the Pomaika’i I’m behind a few months so again; the total purchase price will be covered around June 2018 solely from the savings over renting an apartment. Not bad to get a home for basically $0 out of pocket. Granted since I’m planning on doing more than just living aboard I will have a lot of money in fixing/upgrading systems, but still, it’s money well spent from my perspective.

Living Aboard Is Living Small

One of the advantages I find in living aboard a boat is that it keeps me “contained.” I’ve downsized my living arrangement three times in my life and always found it liberating. Having limited storage means that I have to think about things I buy. A rule of thumb is that everything on the boat has to serve two purposes, except Beer. The beer has enough pull it’s allowed on just by being itself. Also since I don’t have a car (use Uber and public transportation) I limit my purchases, just too much trouble to drag big unnecessary things back to the boat. This keeps the boat uncluttered and my budget within its borders. A secondary benefit of keeping the boat uncluttered is that it usually only takes me a half hour to get ready to sail. I have to stay focused on not getting buried in boat projects and to keep going out and enjoying the water.

Living Aboard Is Closer To Nature

One of the things this latest stint living on land has brought home is how you’re closely connected to the surroundings. Three quick steps up the companion way and you’ve gone from your bed to watch the birds and wildlife around you. There’s always something going on around you:

  • seagull begging food from the dock piling
  • dolphins swimming around the back yard
  • the random manatee cruising through the marina
  • fishes jumping and feeding in the fairways
  • bikinis on the boat ramp next door

Living Aboard Keeps You In Shape

I struggle with getting to the gym on a regular basis. I logically realize that it’s a healthy activity but just mentally lack the motivation. I noticed when I first moved onto the boat I lost 15 pounds. Between your front door being a Stairmaster (the five steps from the cabin to the deck are steep) and always have projects to do you burn calories. Doing work on the running lights at the bow and forgot a screwdriver? Step across the different levels on the deck, down five steps and back again. As I’m forgetful, this happens 20 times a day on “project day.” While the boat doesn’t move much while at the marina there is some mild rocking (or if some jerk flies up the ICW leaving a wake some not-so-mild wake) and I think this does a lot for your core muscles and burning calories.

Living Aboard A Boat – Downsides

The first thing you learn about living on a boat is it’s a world of compromises. There is no perfect boat design that handles storage, liveability, sailing characteristics and capabilities for all conditions you may encounter. So, of course, there are some downsides to living on a boat.

No #2. When at the dock you have to make the long trek (cause I like the isolation of being at a far out dock) to the bathrooms whenever you got to go (at least on my boat). This keeps the holding tanks from filling up rapidly.

Communal showers. Again the long trek early in the morning up to the showers at the Marina. While the boat has showers and water heater, it’s just more budget efficient to use the Marina’s facility vs. going through your onboard propane.

People. I can handle people in small doses and enjoy the boating community (a small group at a time), but marinas can get crowded on the weekends. Normally not a problem, 90% of the people at the marina understand this and respect privacy boundaries. But every once in a while you get that neighbor that only comes down on Saturday to party on his boat and play music to all hours (actually they usually respect the quiet hours, I’m just one of those guys on farmers time that goes to bed early).

But this brings out the best benefit of living aboard a boat. Get tired of people, just untie your dock lines and head out to sit on the river or in an anchorage for the weekend. All the same, amenities you had at the dock (shower, cold beer, bbq, and your fishing pole) without having to pack anything up!


  • Daniel, thanks for sharing your experiences. I too lived aboard back in my younger years…just out of college and it was an awesome experience for my then girlfriend (now my wife) and we dream about moving back aboard once we have the kids raised. (Expect this time we hope to have a bigger budget for a nicer boat).

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