Living on a Boat

by Christina Nellemann on November 3rd, 2008. 46 Comments
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I’m sure many people like me have had the romantic dream of living aboard a boat: being rocked to sleep by gentle waves and waking up to new neighbors in the marina, chatting with friends over drinks in your cockpit while cooking a freshly caught fish on a tiny stove. Having your home on the water can be both extremely rewarding and more work than you ever thought.

People who live on boats are probably the top experts on how to live in a small space and how to conserve limited water and power.

Courtesy of Bumfuzzle.com

Courtesy of Bumfuzzle.com

Courtesy of Bumfuzzle.com

Living on a boat does take some adjustments to the way that you would live in a house. Space is a major factor when living on a boat and every inch needs to be used effectively. While most boats are built with an eye on efficient storage, you will have to downsize your possessions quite a bit to get things to pack neatly into the boat.

Life Lessons: Moving onto a Boat

Living on a boat is also different from living in a small house. Water and weather is a constant threat to the integrity of your home and your comfort. While many newer boats have everything you need for comfort, some older, less expensive boats may need constant upkeep and maintenance. The ability to know your boat inside and out, and be able to make repairs yourself can save you big headaches and bills.

Courtesy of Toast Floats

Courtesy of Toast Floats

Once you do have a boat, if you are not cruising, you will need to find a marina or dock you can rent or buy. Prices for docks vary for different areas. They are usually priced by the foot or the yard. However, not all marinas are liveaboard friendly. Many marinas consider someone who lives on their boat as a transient. On the other hand, you can find a few marinas that offer showers, storage, laundry facilities, electricity and cable TV to liveaboards.

If you are able to create your own power (many boats come with solar panels), haul your own water and wastewater and be as self-sufficient as possible, you may be able to live very cheaply on anchor or on a mooring ball.

Dock Search is a database of docks and marinas around the world for rent and for sale. Some offer liveaboard options. Marinas.com shows aerial and map views of marinas around the world.

Mark Nicholas, who lives on a sailboat, has written the book, The Essentials of Living Aboard A Boat, and also has some interviews with liveaboards that are available as video podcasts. His blog also has loads of information and links about how to be a successful liveaboard.

I found some additional excellent blogs, videos and websites about living aboard a boat and each covers the issues of space, boat problems and maintenance, cruising, cooking and docking.

Living On A Boat: One Woman’s Transition to Living Onboard A Boat

Toast Floats: A Family of Five Living on a Catamaran

Sleeping with Oars: Living on a 47 foot Hans Christian Traditional

We Live On a Boat: Family of Four Living on a 40 foot River Queen

On the Boat Where She Lives
Hillary Johnson is a writer who lives on her 35 foot sloop, Surprise in Ventura County, Calif.

Landlubbers No More

So You Want to Buy a Boat: Liveaboards in the UK

Living Aboard Magazine

Bumfuzzle
Although they no longer live on their boat, Bumfuzzle, Patrick and Ali Schulte have an excellent blog about their travels aboard the 35 foot catamaran.

They now live and travel happily in their VW panel van. But that’s another story.

By Christina Nellemann

Courtesy of Sleeping with Oars

Courtesy of Sleeping with Oars

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46 Responses to “Living on a Boat”

  1. Brand says:

    An absolute gem. I’m hooked on the tale of the Bumfuzzle!

    • Lisa says:

      Me too! I love their story and enjoy following their adventure. Someday I hope to get a catamaran and go explore! :)

  2. [...] Nellemann recently wrote an article here on the Tiny House Blog about living on a boat. In it she pointed out some of the challenges and pleasures of life on the water.  My husband [...]

  3. paul says:

    I have recently become single again and I am seriously considering moving onto my 1993 SeaRay 330 Sundancer. I lived on it for 6 months 4 years ago in Cincinnati OH while waiting for my home to be built. I loved it, and I am ready to get rid of everything. I want to move to a different body of water like the Florida area. I hate Cincinnati winters and want to be able to boat year round. Any suggestions on locations? Most places in Florida don’t allow liveaboards. Cincinnati has some great marinas on the Ohio and are liveaboard friendly. I found a few nice places on the Hudson River that will allow great river boating and big water boating. The only down side is New York winters are worse than Cincinnati. I would appreciate any helpful information to my big delima, thanks.

    • Donna says:

      Hi paul, I myself just bought a sailboat and moored Port Salerno, In Fla. Its beautiful here. It is the east coast sturat area. I been on my boat for 1 mo now and LOVE IT. Come on down and enjoy the weather.

    • Dave says:

      Try Jacksonville Fl, St Augustine lots of great places to live aboard. I’ll be doing it myself soon.

  4. Christina says:

    Hello Paul,

    When doing research for this post, what seemed to be the issue was not a lack of live aboard marinas, but finding open spaces with no long waiting lists. It seems that once someone gets a spot, they hold onto it.

    Have you looked at Living Aboard Magazine? How about Docks.com? Do a search on the Living Aboard magazine forum for the area in Florida you want to live. There are tons of very helpful people on those forums.

    Good luck and let us know about your new journey! We might want to do a post on you in the future.

  5. [...] having to scrape out our wallets for that last little penny to fund it all. Whether it’s a boat, mobile, or studio living, the fact is a majority of Americans are downsizing their dwelling [...]

  6. [...] having to scrape out our wallets for that last little penny to fund it all. Whether it’s a boat, mobile, or studio living, the fact is a majority of Americans are downsizing their dwelling [...]

  7. [...] having to scrape out our wallets for that last little penny to fund it all. Whether it’s a boat, mobile or studio living, the fact is a majority of Americans are downsizing their dwelling space. [...]

  8. [...] having to scrape out our wallets for that last little penny to fund it all. Whether it’s a boat, mobile, or studio living, the fact is a majority of Americans are downsizing their dwelling space. [...]

  9. Fabulous article. I loved it. I have also written about living aboard
    in Marina Del Rey.

    http://hubpages.com/hub/The-MARINADELREYBOATPeople

  10. This is so interesting to me! I own two sailboats and two VW vans! I found the best place to live on a boat or in a van was… Mexico! In the summer, take the van into the mountains and enjoy cool breezes. The winter is perfect sailing and every marina is a full time liveaboard deal. You are expected to live on your boat in Mexico! Food is cheap (I’m a vegetarian and my food budget is about $30 a week). Free wifi everywhere. RV parks right on the beach. I’ve been coming to Mexico each winter for sailing since 1997, but moved here full-time in 2006. I still earn a living, but now work over the internet.

    • Chuck says:

      Are you still living in Mexico? I was planning a trip. How are things down there? What type of things are there to do? What is you slip fee and what does it include? Thanks Chuck and Beth

    • matt says:

      Jim,

      Where do you put your boat in in Mexico? And what are doc fees?

      Matt

  11. Christina says:

    Thanks Jim for the information. I have heard that about Mexico too. Have you seen Misty Tosh’s blog?

    http://sweettooth.typepad.com

    I am going to look at your blog. I would love to learn more about how you live. We may do a post on you!

  12. Living on a boat might a good move if you consider conserving energy and water etc. This could be a “Go Green” direction. We like the “Go Green” idea. It is safer on the environment and can show us a new way to live better. It seems it might be the eccentric way of living only having access to certain material products that we have all grown so accustomed to. We enjoyed this information- Thanks

  13. Real Mann says:

    One this about this micro house stuff… Why is everyone getting screwed for so much money? I can build a 16×20 for $5000…

  14. [...] post by Everett Bogue about imagining my ideal reality. I woke up and started clicking links on theTiny House Blog all about living on boats. A few days before I had tried googling resources for living on a boat. [...]

  15. Nikita says:

    Nice article. Helped a lot with the following post:

    Hermit Friendly Lifestyle Options

  16. steve says:

    My girl and I are looking for a boat to rent to live on.In the Seattle to Edmond’s,WA area.I work on the water ,and we both love it.We are very clean and neat.Does anyone have any websites or have any leads for us.THANKS..Steve an Katie.

    • Honenberger says:

      Steve: did you find any websites that helped you locate a rental boat? I’m looking for a month’s rental on Florida’s west coast for this coming Feb-March. Thanks, H.

  17. dan says:

    I have lived on a boat sents june 1993 and would advice looking into the laws federal state and local. dont get in a jam for lack of this!and learn to handle your boats please!
    Dan fishcamp goodland

  18. Tivo says:

    I am part-time living (during the week) on a 16′ C-Dory. It is very doable. I find the stress level way down without all the other distractions of a house.

  19. Safira says:

    I have been living on a 40 foot pilot house ketch scince 2000. Been around the world once. I have met so many interesting and a few strange people too. I have found that the only stress there is is trying to figure out where to go next.

  20. Does anyone know what the term is for a person who lives on a boat? I know it exists and have heard it before, but for the life of me can’t remember it or find it anywhere online. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

  21. This has always been my dream, but I was cursed with terrible sea sickness that hits me almost immediately when I step onto our boat. I take medication to help reduce that nausea but it doesn’t work well enough to allow me to stay aboard for very long.

  22. Sophi says:

    Great blog! We have been living on board our sailboat for two years up here in Maine. I’ve found that there are few resources for living aboard in nothern/colder climates, so I’ve started a website some of you may like to check out! It’s http://www.maineliveaboards.com. There are quite a few of us, and the wealth of knowledge from those who have been living on board (some for over 20 years!) is immense. Hopefully we can get the tips/tricks out there for some newbies to find!

    Best,
    Sophi

  23. I’ve dreamed about living on a boat ever since I was a little boy. I guess reading Moby Dick got to me. Never got to do it though. But I hope that when I retire I’ll get myself a boat and go on a world-cruise. In the meantime, I have to get as much information as possible on living in a crammed space. good post!

  24. jack says:

    They are usually priced by the foot or the yard. However, not all marinas are liveaboard friendly..

  25. Great page! Here is my story on living on a boat. I’ve been working toward this goal for the last couple years.

    What I find completely fascinating is that every live aboard has their own story. Liveaboards are just as different as their boats are.

  26. Living on a boat definitely is a lifestyle change. It is an experience one should try in a lifetime. Take a break from your busy lifestyle and do it for a year.

  27. Bumfuzzle says:

    We are the Bumfuzzle.com mentioned in the article. Turns out this tiny lifestyle just suits us. After sailing around the world we sold our catmaran and then drove around a good chunk of the world in a ’58 VW Bus. After that we bought another boat and had a couple of kids down in Mexico. It’s been a busy four years since this article was published. :) Anyway, if you’d like to read about life on a boat with kids come and check us out.
    Pat Schulte

  28. [...] Living on a boat offers a sense of peace as well as the prospect of adventure and freedom to roam. It is an ideal lifestyle for reclusive types who wish to explore their inner state while exploring the many shores of this planet. To live at sea is not easy; it requires technical knowledge and experience.  Most people suggest taking the time to do ample research before making the transition, and to try out the lifestyle on a part time basis close to shore before committing to any long term moves. There are many websites on the Internet that can help you identify the first steps to transitioning from land-based to a nautical lifestyle. [...]

  29. [...] lifestyle on a part time basis close to shore before committing any long term moves. There are many websites on the Internet that can help you identify the first steps to transitioning from land-based to a [...]

  30. bobby says:

    looking for some help. -i-will be getting my houseboat this time next year.-i-will start my trip in Missouri -&-taking the Missouri river down to some place in florida.need all the info that is out there for me to make this dram come true.

  31. Brian Hess says:

    I’ve been living on a 38′ Riverqueen in Cincinnati for over a year. I love it. I’m a nature lover, so I’ve enjoyed that part of it. I just love being on and around the water. Always have. It’s small, but laid out nicely and efficiently. It’s very cozy. I have a land dwelling as well, but I stay at the boat 90% of the time. I actually look forward to windy evenings, unless I’m out and about…

  32. Melody says:

    My husband and I have been living on our boat for 18 months. It is definitely a different lifetyle but one we have both come to enjoy. Our boat has 2 staterooms and 2 heads. This affords us a dedictated spot for my husband to work as well as a certain amount of privacy. I work from a small piece of furniture in our salon that holds my computer and all my files. The top slides back to hold my laptop and chargers. It’s tight but we won’t be working forever. We are in covered moorage so even though it rains alot in Oregon, we can be outdoors in moderate winter weather. We have a table and chairs on our cockpit and enjoy them year round. Our marina is very friendly to liveaboards and has a gym, showers and laundry. We have our holding tank pumped every two weeks. We are lucky to have a floating service to handle this so even if we aren’t going out that weekend, the task of cleaning out the holding tank is not overlooked. Other than that, we are plugged in to power when we are at our dock and use our generator if we are out on the river or up north in the San Juan Islands.

    Would like to hear from others who are living on board.

    Best -

    Melody

  33. brad says:

    i am 44 male & disabled with perithel neuropathy, i am doing very good with meds like lyrica,i have 3 boats 40ft houseboat, 24ft pontoon,& a 14ft alum. i live on kentucky lake near pairs tn. & am looking for someone to travel from tn. to new orleans or on to fl. would like someone easy going that likes to hunt & fish, hopefully can start a guide servise or just take life 1 day at a time, if anyone is interested in liveing & traveling on houseboat pls. call me @ 731-377-3574 or mail me bradrivertime@hotmail.com Thanks & happy boating…

  34. Brad says:

    live on the water

  35. Johnny Diaz says:

    Hi,
    Do you happen to live on a boat in South Florida?

  36. Ellie says:

    I made the big jump and moved to living on a boat in Southern California last year. I am keeping a blog about the transition and what it is like to really live aboard. Also info about day to day maintenance of a 38′ marine trader trawler and a Cal 20 sailboat. http://boatgypsy.blogspot.com/

  37. BoatBuddy says:

    A few years back while our house was being renovated my wife and I lived on our boat in a harbour on the North coast of Ireland. It was far from a holiday but I loved every minute of it!

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