Living aboard a boat?

judsoncarroll4 Posts: 5,354 admin

I didn't sleep much last night. So, for a while, I thought, "If I could go anywhere and do anything, what would I do?" So, assuming money is not an issue, and I continue to be single, or actually found a woman who understands and shares my dreams... never have yet... and I had say, 5 years to plan and make it happen... what would I do? Well, if I have a big farm/ranch by then, I wouldn't have many options. Hopefully I will. But, I thought it through and I really have no reason to be anywhere. I'm self employed and can take my job with me. My last 3 family members are elderly. I have no friends... haven't for almost 20 years (long story, but lets just say it can be very lonely to be Catholic in rural NC... most folks, if they care enough to bother, want to tell you you are going to Heck and plenty would gladly help you get there). Beyond that... well, I'm not super optimistic about America's political, economic and societal future. So, I began wondering if I could live on a boat. I ended up making designs for solar and wind power systems, bio gas, small greenhouses, little chicken coops, black soldier fly feeders, water desalinization, below deck grow lights... calculating how many gallons of wine I'd need to make on board per year... and yeah, I could get really excited about designing such a self contained, regenerative living space... and I probably love to fish more than just about anything.... winter near the equator, summer up around Nova Scotia... maybe buy a few acres to hunt in Maine and Louisiana...explore the islands, the Mississippi River, the Great Lakes, South America, Alaska... maybe I could even figure out how to visit my old, seemingly lost friend in Odessa.... who knows. Diesel is cheap, wind is free and biogas comes from a composting toilet.... and I have a certification in biogas. I'd need to take some marine electronics and engine repair, etc classes, and actually spend some time learning to sail and navigate.

So, has anyone here ever lived on boat? What was the worst part about it? What am I missing? Pirates? Corrupt governments? Price gouging in bad situations?


  • Linda Bittle
    Linda Bittle Posts: 1,500 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @judsoncarroll4 Pirates, for sure. Seems like there's always some who plan to take what someone else has built.

    Is a boat defensible? One well-placed hole, and they have you crippled.

    Storms at sea don't seem like they would be much fun. But then, I don't like them much on land, either.

    I do see great value in planning the thing, though. Make good notes and drawings. At worst, it keeps your mind occupied in these times, and at best you might find that it is what you really want to do. You might even write a book in the process.

  • RustBeltCowgirl
    RustBeltCowgirl Posts: 1,403 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @judsoncarroll4 My father worked as a partner at a marina until he left for a more stable job. Living on a boat is the same as living in a camper. One's on land, the other on the water. They use a lot of the same interior fixtures, such as toilets, appliances.

    The biggest change would be if you got a really big boat or a houseboat. Some of them use regular domestic home appliances, etc.

    As @Mary Linda Bittle says "I do see great value in planning the thing, though." Try vacationing on a boat (Airbnb).

  • judsoncarroll4
    judsoncarroll4 Posts: 5,354 admin

    Hmm... well, I did basically live in VW bus for a while. I enjoyed that a lot. I still miss the old pop top!

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,507 admin

    I have awful motion sickness, especially when on boats. So I'm afraid I have no opinion to offer about living on boats. But my daughter would love to have an ocean-going sail boat. So I will watch this thread for ideas for her.

    Sounds like a big adventure, just planning for something like this.

  • judsoncarroll4
    judsoncarroll4 Posts: 5,354 admin
    edited July 2020

    It is fun to think about. I'll probably never do it. But, it makes a great "plan B". I come from a "seafaring race"... actually, several.

  • hmsadmin
    hmsadmin Posts: 123 admin

    @judsoncarroll4 You've described almost exactly my plan! I've been captivated by the idea for years now and am making steps towards it being my reality in 3-5 years.

    What you said here is especially spot on to what I'm thinking, at least for the first couple years on the boat - "designing such a self contained, regenerative living space... and I probably love to fish more than just about anything.... winter near the equator, summer up around Nova Scotia".

    I've been traveling around the US in an RV for the past year with the intention of finding decently priced land (preferably somewhere I can store the RV safely over winter, too), that's also 1-2 hours drive to a sail-able shore. Having lived in the PNW for a couple years, I adore it up there, but.. no land near that coast is "decently priced", hah! Plus, I've read sailing can be great, but generally much rougher on that side (especially for a brand new sailor).

    So, I headed east first, checked out the Carolinas this spring, and have been slowly moving around Vermont, New Hampshire, and (right now) Maine. My opinion so far: somewhere in these 3 NE states is going to be the best bet, and I'm really diggin' the whole culture of Maine the best. The Carolinas were nice, with some great plots of land available, but you'd still have to store the boat way far north during the summer/early fall.

    My plan is to spend 2 more years traveling around the US by road while getting comfortable with working on my own electrical, plumbing, and minor structural things. (Like Rustbeltcowgirl said, they're much the same systems on RVs and boats. Boats are just more of it with a lot more critical moving parts, and with the extra twist of not exactly being able to call in help while you're out at sea if you don't know what to do. I figure I had better become adept with what I can now while I have the "training wheels" of my 5th wheel!)

    In 1-2 years from now I'll really search out my land, spend some time building up a permaculture/food forest while finishing saving for the boat, then spend hurricane season at my forest, and the rest of the year along the eastern seaboard working on sailing skills. Eventually, I want to sail much further off. And I think that once established, I could leave my forest unattended for a year or two without it going too wild. Or simply rent it out to a like-minded caretaker while I'm off sailing.

    "Pirates? Corrupt governments? Price gouging in bad situations?" - This can be a big or small concern depending on where you go of course. Anywhere social structures have failed, pirates and desperation follow. I'm also not too optimistic about the outlooks of a lot of countries, so this could get interesting. Most important, like with everything, is to just stay aware. Depending on where all you want to sail, what you can legally have onboard to defend yourself can be a slim selection. There's tons of great people to learn from on youtube, blogs, etc from full-time liveaboards that have encouter all sorts of situations though. So I'd reccomend lots of research now and re-research for each country if ever you sail internationally.

    I've seen several people that grow some veggies and herbs onboard, and sprouts/microgreens are especially popular. Sailing on salt water really limits what can be grown on deck though. I'm aiming to get a 40ish foot catamaran for several reasons, but one big reason is the extra room and payload capacity to turn part of a hull into an indoor (or is that inhull?) grow room. The seas have so many edible things, and I'm a newbie with foraging, but coastal areas seem to be fantastic for finding wild food and medicines, too!

    As you can tell by my wall of text, I'm super stoked for my future liveaboard life! All my knowledge is theoretical at the moment. Sailing lesson are coming soon. But, if you have any questions along your way of looking into this, I love to nerd-out on boat stuff and I may be able to share some resources and things that have inspired me along my own planning stages.

  • judsoncarroll4
    judsoncarroll4 Posts: 5,354 admin

    Keep me posted on how things go. Maybe we can share some ideas. I agree that the culture of Maine is great - If I liked cold winters, I'd probably move there. Integrating Permaculture concepts into boat living is a very exciting concept. The "earth ship" style of living would seem to be translatable to living on the water. My grandfather built a "beach house" right on the Intercoastal Waterway, so I've been in and on a lot of boats, and have seen a lot of live aboard set ups. But, none with a self sufficiency, sustainable/regenerative mindset.

  • Ferg
    Ferg Posts: 285 ✭✭✭

    the best sleep i've ever had was on a houseboat.

    Cruiseship wasn't too bad either, for that matter.

    People do live in boats and garden off of them in other parts of the world. It's doable for sure. Probably a better experience if you ditch any first-world "needs" (-:

  • Acequiamadre
    Acequiamadre Posts: 269 ✭✭✭

    I grew up on a 29 ft Cascade. Our living space was about the size of an average American bathroom. My stepdad was an amazing sailor and he and my mothers had spent many years living half the year in Mexico and half the year in the US (to earn money for the other half). After my mother was diagnosed with cancer, we decided to go full-time as cruisers. As a result, much of my 11th year was spent snorkling, sailing, watching whales, negotiating the markets, and scrubbing the literal deck if I talked back.

    It was a carefree wonderful life. We were poor and h$&^$ but lived everyday in the embrace of the ocean. The Mexican people were open, warm, and amazing. Markets were rich with local vegetables and medical care (basic) was inexpensive. My mother had to return to the us for chemo, but defied her odds. We used to wonder why we returned from that lifestyle back to the grind of American life.

    There is a whole community of "cruisers" that live on boats and sail the world. In terms of the regenerative mindset: a small sail boat has a low footprint and is wind powered. Some folks we knew has small gardens. We only had a solar shower and very limited power with a small solar cell.

    We had a bike that my stepdad used for errands. We only had small duffles of clothing because our living space was so small. I now live on a homestead where we have so. much. stuff. Pots to make jam. a cider press. canning jars. chicken coup. mowers, broadfork, wheel hoes, seed bank, seed shack with grow lights. I joke: homesteading feels like the opposite of simplicity. So a cruising lifestyle is a different kind of sustainability.

    We also met lots of folk who bought a boat to live their dreams and would get themselves in trouble because they had not put in the time to learn how to sail, navigate, etc. Pick up Latitude 48 and there are opportunities to crew for others. This would allow you to learn more about the sailing culture, get experience, and meet others.

    In terms of governments, most are corrupt. Pirates, they exist, so stay within international waters and talk to local sailors to learn if there are issues. The sailing mags almost always do stories when there are, but Mexico is very safe overall--start somewhere where they is a strong cruising culture so people can help you learn--and home is a bus ride away if you hate it. More dangerous is not knowing how to set your anchor or read the sea. My stepdad, from our small but seaworthy boat, rescued many rich folks that thought buying the boat of their dreams meant they also purchased the knowledge to match.

    I would totally recommend cruising. While most other kids were thinking about clothes and middle school drama, I was swimming with whales and learning how to cook mole.

    It was really difficult to choose between a cruising lifestyle and a homesteading one with my children. Sadly, my husband and I keep waiting for those trust fund checks to show up, and they must be delayed. So we work, can, and til the land. Even so, I sometimes wonder if that was the right choice. Nothing beats my memories of years growing up free and on the sea.

    p.s. if you get a boat to have it at the dock, they are known as a "boat shaped hole into which you throw money."

  • judsoncarroll4
    judsoncarroll4 Posts: 5,354 admin

    Thanks @Acequiamadre that is really good advice and you've given me a lot to think about!

  • Annie Kate
    Annie Kate Posts: 680 ✭✭✭✭

    Oh, I love this thread! Not that I'll ever be able to do it, but just the dreaming! We read Northern Magic out loud in our homeschool twice--about a family that sailed around the world--and we also watched a movie about a teen Dutch girl that sailed solo around the world.

    @judsoncarroll4 @Linzi @Acequiamadre Thank you for your extensive descriptions. Please keep us up to date with your plans.

  • Brueck.iris
    Brueck.iris Posts: 142 ✭✭✭

    I'd worry about the weather, I think.

  • silvertipgrizz
    silvertipgrizz Posts: 1,990 ✭✭✭✭✭


    I don't get seasick, and I don't have 'sea legs', or a boat...but I thought about it for a very short amount of time....I would always be concerned my cats would fall overboard lol rof.....but it would not be funny if they did...

    I do love the smell of the sea, and the peace, and the colors...and dreams of where to go next. I just really love the idea of being that free.

    I am however a land lubber..and love aviation/flying which is one of the reasons I bought some books on nav from David Burch..he is amazing and see some info below...

    David Burch was and poss still is a guru navigation instructor that I got some books from not long ago...very interesting books..his name is and a summary of some of his accomplishments:

  • RustBeltCowgirl
    RustBeltCowgirl Posts: 1,403 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @judsoncarroll4 Was reading a different blog about tiny houses and found this.