Boat Life Isn’t Easy

Our first year of living on a boat has pushed me both mentally and physically, more than I ever could have imagined. Peter and I love the life we have chosen, but we definitely have our challenges too.

“You don’t know your strength until you know your limits”

-Peter Pieschel, 2014

It took us awhile to get over the initial exhaustion of becoming liveaboards. It takes a LOT of work to live on a boat and for the first month we were just plain exhausted every day. We knew it would get easier and as the weeks passed by, everything eventually did get easier. A year later we are still dog-tired every night but we work and play even harder than before.

Here are just a few of the things that make life on a boat more challenging than it was for us on land:

  • Our muscles are constantly working to keep us balanced since the boat is always moving.
  • When we buy groceries, we have to take a taxi to and from the store, unload the groceries into the dinghy, transport everything out to where the boat is anchored, pass everything from the dinghy up and over the lifelines into the cockpit and down the 5′ vertical ladder into the depths of the boat, then try to make everything fit in the tiny and awkward storage spaces.
  • Sometimes we spend all day catching our own food from the sea.
  • We must be weary of real-life pirates and properly secure our boat, dinghy and belongings.
  • Safety is a priority and the utmost care must be taken to inspect every single component to ensure everything is in working order. Even something as small as a hose clamp could have catastrophic consequences if overlooked.
  • Making sure our anchor is properly set determines how well we sleep at night.
  • Squalls can be on us in a matter of minutes whether we are prepared or not.
  • We need enough wind to sail, but not too much so that it’s dangerous.
  • Our 150 lb dinghy  and outboard motor has to be hauled up on deck for long passages, and returned to the water when we are anchored.
  • Internet in foreign countries is often unreliable and weather reports may not be available.
  • We have to lift a ladder up onto the bed to get the dogs in and out of the cockpit.
  • We haul a 5-gallon bucket of salt water up on deck every time the dogs go potty to rinse the astro-turf.
  • Every time we want to get something out of the fridge we have to stretch our Gumby arms way down to the bottom, take everything out to get to what we want and then put all the other items back in.
  • When we want a pot or a pan, we have to get down on our hands and knees to get it from a locker underneath the stove which extends way down against the hull.
  • When we want to use the kitchen table we lift it down from its latched position against the bookshelf.
  • Taking a shower requires us to jump in the ocean to rinse, lather and repeat before we do a conservative final rinse with fresh water.
  • Power is needed for LOTS of things we once took for granted: lights, fans, radio, cell phone chargers, computers, hot water heater, dehumidifier, navigation instruments, coffee makers, microwave and air conditioning. We have to generate our own power with solar panels, a wind generator, or by running the engine or diesel generator.
  • We make our own water with a machine that converts salt water into fresh water, but only when we have enough power to run the machine.
  • If we need to supplement our water supply, we lug 6-gallon jerry jugs to and from shore, then lift them up onto the boat from the dinghy and slowly pour them into our tanks.
  • When something goes wrong, we have to be very innovative and creative to figure out how to fix it with the tools that we have at hand.
  • When we’re done using something, it has to be put away because there’s no room to leave clutter out and we don’t want it to roll away or break when the boat rocks from a passing wake.
  • When we use dishes, we have to wash them by hand every time we eat.
  • We have to be plumbers, electricians, mechanics, navigators, chefs, fishermen, sailors, excellent communicators and fun-havers.

Living on a boat is much different than living on land. There was a lot to get used to, but it has all become normal to us now. We absolutely LOVE our little home and we say it out loud to each other every day. Its hard work but SO worth it at the end of the day. We maintain our home in such a way to be able to travel across oceans, visit far off lands, and discover beautiful tropical beaches and crystal clear waters. We’re going Where The Coconuts Grow and the wind in our sails will take us there!

This journey has been an incredible education too. As the months go by we continuously learn so many new skills and we learn how to live with ‘less’ all around. We need the basics, safety equipment, gear, a few personal effects and all the rest is just stuff. Our priorities have definitely changed as we work on the boat every day and keep everything in ship-shape. We appreciate the little things we didn’t even notice before. We take a lot less for granted and our happiness increases by the minute.

We do get frustrated sometimes but I think we’re getting better about understanding that we’re both doing our best. Our patience with ourselves and with each other is growing too. Everything we do, we do it as a team and it seems much easier that way. We’re helping each other figure out how to do things we haven’t done before and it’s actually really fun! It’s hard at first to step outside of your comfort zone, but when you do, that’s where the magic happens 🙂


After the initial exhaustion wore off a little, Peter has been my primary source of inspiration. His quote about strength and limits really did get me thinking and even though everything we do seems so hard, he always helps me to see things in a positive light instead. We really are stronger than we think we are, and as a good friend once said to me, we have to BELIEVE in ourselves!!

Peter and I have set sail on an adventure of a lifetime with our two dogs and we both feel so lucky that everything has just fallen into place.  It’s one of those moments where we know we’re in the right place at the right time and now is the perfect time in our lives to follow our dreams. We’re young, we are finding strength we didn’t know we had, and we’re throwing our fears and doubts aside in exchange for this amazing opportunity. What better time in our lives than now to travel and see the world? There’s so much beauty and joy out there just waiting to be shared.

We hope our adventures will inspire others to take a leap of faith, step outside your comfort zone and find out where the magic happens. Dreams really do come true, if you believe!!

By Jody Pountain for the [Tiny House Blog]


26 thoughts on “Boat Life Isn’t Easy”

  1. Thank you for sharing! I miss living on the boat and can’t wait until I get to return to that very tough existence which is the closest to bliss & happiness I’ve ever experienced.

  2. Makes you wonder how the old time sailors did it. For instance, rounding Cape Horn, hauling up wet canvas with frozen fingers aloft in the rigging, standing on a rope while the ship’s pitching is magnified by the distance up the mast.

  3. Jody your list is very insightful of the effort involved in ship life, and simple living more generally. I am glad you find the cost well worth it. I find that otherwise tedious tasks are less so–and can even be enjoyable–when I know I need and choose to do them in order to live a more simple life.

  4. Alas, I am too decrepit for boat life. Sigh. Plus that whole seasick thing . . . but I’m so glad you are able to enjoy your lives to the full the way you do. So true about comfort zone and magic locations! As long as you get to hang out in your comfort zone when you really need it.

  5. My wife and I don’t live on a boat but the corner of no and where in Nevada. We have similar issues, our power comes from solar, wind, or generator. We also have our pirates too. If a person leaves their property unattended for any length of time, then some of the locals declare it abandoned and come and take any thing they can haul off.

  6. Hmmm…. thought provoking article. Makes me wonder how different this is from tiny home living. Squalls aren’t such a problem, showers are, dogs easier to deal with on land, but good for protection and companionship.
    Picking what boat you plan to live on makes a big, big difference. It sounds like yours may be a bit small for two people and two dogs. If you want some advice – but based on a houseboater, not a sailboater… tackle one issue at a time. You two are smart, determined, and clever; you can find solutions.

    • Meehlticket – Thank you for the compliment. It definitely is easier to tackle one thing at a time. The list is never ending but we do what we can and it works for us! It’s a very rewarding feeling to look back at all the things we’ve accomplished in just one short year.

      The boat we chose actually couldn’t have been more perfect. Any smaller and we might be regretting it, but we can’t afford anything larger. It’s really hard to compare to a living space on land due to the funny shape of everything but it’s quite comfortable after we got used to the whole idea of living compactly. For us, it’s well worth the tradeoffs to be out here sailing the seas 🙂

  7. I’m sure you’re probably aware of this, but in case you are not, I’d like to save you a bit of trouble and money. If you are supplementing your water supply with water from ashore, you will not want to rinse your water maker with that water as chlorine will shorten the life of the membranes. Happy sailing!

    • Nick, yes that is a pretty important part of understanding watermaker systems. When we do top off our tanks with water from shore, careful attention must be paid to whether the island water supply comes from Reverse Osmosis (RO) or well water. Down island in the Caribbean, the local water supply is often suspect and we will add a bit of chlorine to a full tank.

      The good thing is that we live aboard full time and we are constantly running our watermaker. We don’t ever leave the boat for any length of time so fresh water flushes are very rare for us 🙂

      An excellent point to remember though! Thanks for the input!

  8. Thank you for this really well done blog! I live aboard as a semester abroad through Sea Education Association, and wish I could go back. Your blog is inspiring and your adventures real. I look forward to reading all of it! It sounds like you and your partner are great, adventurous sailors! Fair winds, Charlotte


Leave a Comment