Living Aboard a Sailboat Living Aboard a Sailboat Pros and Cons vs in the Winter vs with a Family ... and 1 more
Edited by Kathy McGraw, Maria Quinney
Life aboard a sailboat can be very fulfilling for some people. There is nothing like watching the sun sink under the horizon while you're at sea, with the wind in your hair and the briny scent of saltwater and seaweed in your nose. Whether you've always dreamed of an itinerant life aboard a boat, or you want to simply your life and learn to make do with less, the sailing life may be for you. A sailboat also makes an excellent option for retirement in a marina.
Method 1: Living Aboard a Sailboat Pros and Cons
Life aboard a sailboat isn't for everyone. It's a spare life by necessity; you'll be living in a small space and have to rely on yourself and your partner for most things while at sea, including boat repairs and medical emergencies. However, if you're the type of person who enjoys a challenge and you prefer the freedom of the wide open ocean to the confines of a home on land, then you may enjoy life on the water. Here are some pros and cons to living aboard a sailboat to help you decide if it's for you:
- 1Freedom. Living aboard a sailboat means you're free to sail anywhere, as long as the wind is blowing in your favor and there is water to sail on. Since you live on your boat, you always have the comforts of home with you wherever you go.Advertisement
- 2Off the grid living. When you're resting at anchor out on the ocean, there are no power lines to connect to, and if you operate mostly under sail power, you conserve your fuel use. That's off-the-grid living at its purest.Advertisement
- 3Get back to nature. Out on the open water, with nothing but the wind at your back and the motion of the ocean at your feet, you become one with nature in a way that you can't experience anywhere else. By day, you hear music in the calls of the seabirds gliding in the air currents aloft, and by night in the crackle-snap of shrimp rising to feed from below. The mournful calls of passing whales may sing you to sleep, as sure as your mother's lullabies did when you were a child. Life aboard a boat can be magical that way.
- 4A relaxing life. The rhythms of life aboard a sailboat are different that the rhythms of life on land. Although it's life that presents its own challenges, such as dealing with weather, rough seas, and boat repairs, it's a laid-back lifestyle. The sea keeps her own timetable, and she won't be hurried.
- 5Boat living can be economical. If you can perform most boat maintenance and repair tasks yourself, you'll cut down on some of the expenses of living aboard a boat. You'll find, as well, that the costs of heating or cooling your small living space to cost less than doing the same for a house on land.
- 6Live a simpler life. Living in the confines of a sailboat forces you to minimize what you own. You'll find that there is very little that you need, or even want when you must be conscious at all times of your limited space. For instance, you won't use as many disposable items, such as paper plates or towels, because you have no room to store them.
- 7Marina Life. Many long term marinas in Central America, Florida, the Caribbean, and Texas offer long term rates. These marinas can be almost like a resort with pools, golf courses, clubhouse events, and general comradery with like minded sailors. Marinas can coast upwards of $1500 a month depending on where you dock your boat. Texas and Central American countries have cheaper marina costs.
- 1Repairs and maintenance. You will spend a lot of time repairing and maintaining your boat.Deferred maintenance can become costly, or even deadly in the case of unrepaired leaks. There should be a repair budget of around $10,000 per year. If you sail often, sails will need to be replaced every 5 years.
- 2Loading and unloading your boat is a pain. If you're anchored off shore, you'll need to ferry things like garbage to shore for proper disposal, and ferry items like groceries, clothing, or anything else you purchased on land back on board. Even if you're docked at a marina, you'll still need to carry things off and on your boat, all of which can get old after a while.
- 3Limited space. Life on board a sailboat doesn't give you much space for stuff, so you have always to be conscious of it when making purchases. This can be a good thing because it forces you to simplify, but it can also feel cramped at times.
- 4Storms/Hurricanes. Weather changes all the time at sea, and in parts of the world where people like to live aboard a boat, such as the Caribbean, hurricanes are always a threat. While you can try to make for shore and a dock, ahead of a storm, storm swells can still wreck boats in marinas.
- 5Finding marinas that accept liveboards. According to Living-aboard, finding a decent marina that allows people to dock and live aboard their boats is hard because there aren't many of them. Furthermore, the number of spots these marinas have for liveboards might be limited.
- 6Moisture. Since you're on the water, you'll be dealing with some condensation all the time, which can lead to mold and mildew if you're not scrupulous about cleaning your boat's cabin regularly.
Method 2: Living Aboard a Sailboat in the Winter
The easiest way to live aboard a boat during the winter is to head south where the weather is always warm. However, if you need to stay in the north where the weather gets cold in the winter, then you will need to prepare your boat to handle the cold temperatures.
- 1Insulate your boat. Proper insulation is essential for living aboard a boat in cold weather. The best way to do this is to rip out the old walls, install proper insulation, and put new walls up, just like you would in a house. As an extra layer of insulation, you can "shrink wrap" the deck of your boat with a plastic covering.Advertisement
- 2Keep ice away from the hull. A must for living aboard a boat in the winter are bubblers, which are fountains that run along the exterior of your hull and prevent ice from forming.
- 3Fuel and water lines must be winterized. Just like your car, you need to use antifreeze in your fuel lines and keep your water lines heated to prevent freezing.
- 4Heating your boat. You can heat your boat via direct heat with cabin heaters or even a space heater, or you can have an indirect heating system installed, similar the ones installed for the home. In both cases, you need to have proper ventilation. For cabin heaters or space heaters, it's important that they are prevented from tipping over in rough seas, and they preferably should have an automatic shutoff if they are in danger of tipping. Fires aboard a boat are a Very Bad Thing (VBT).
Method 3: Living Aboard a Sailboat with a Family
Growing up on a sailboat can be a wonderful experience for children. They can learn a lot about the oceans, winds, and currents, and it can be a real bonding experience for the entire family to work together to sail from port to port. Here are a few important considerations about sailing with children.
- 1Space and privacy. Space is always at a premium aboard a sailboat, and adding more bodies to it shrinks the available space down. Can you live in close quarters with three or more people? Another consideration is privacy. Although young children don't much care about that, as they get older, they will start to crave space of their own. Many sailboats in the 40-foot range or higher, come with several cabin options to provide more privacy. Catamarans are a popular option with families as they provide more storage space and living space.
Method 4: Living Aboard a Sailboat with a Dog
All dogs are remarkably adaptable, and most can make the transition from land to sea with ease. Here is what you need to know about living aboard a sailboat with a dog.
- 1Small dogs make better boating companions than large dogs. There are many reasons why cruising with a smaller dog is easier than a large one, Getting a small dog aboard a dinghy carrying him up a ladder is much easier since you can carry a smaller dog under one arm, smaller dogs take up less space, and they are much easier to handle.
- 2Start with a puppy. Although adult dogs can adjust well to life on a boat even if they've never lived on one before, training a puppy to live on a boat is a much easier task. Like children, puppies learn at a much faster rate, and they are much more adaptable than adult dogs. There is even a man sailing around the world with a chicken named Monique.
- 3Living aboard with a dog requires more planning. The boating life already requires a lot of planning, anyway, but when you add a dog to the mix, he becomes another consideration you must take into account. While most marinas don't have any restrictions against pets, some do, and there are places in the world where traveling with a dog is not feasible due to the expenses associated with it, such as Australia or New Zealand. Always know the regulations regarding animals of any foreign country that you visit ahead of time.
- 4Where will your dog use the bathroom? You can, of course, take him ashore to do his business, but there may be times when this is not feasible, such as during a storm, or when you are underway. For these times, you can have him do what he needs to do on some paper, puppy pads, or a piece of Astroturf.
- 5Veterinary care. Veterinary care is not hard to come by so long as you plan ahead. Choose a vet that's easy to get to from wherever you plan to dock or anchor.