Boat Life,  Opinions

Living on a Boat – Family and all

Here is part 3 of 4 in our series Living on a Boat.

Post 1: Living on a Boat – Cheap Living.
Part 2: Living on a Boat – Questions.
Part 4: Living on a Boat and Alcohol.

That us on the upper deck.
That us on the upper deck.

A number of people have commented to me that living on a boat is something that you can only do if you are single. If you have a family, it just does not make sense. Huh? We are a family of four living on a boat. Done deal! Say what you will, living aboard a boat with a family is not only doable, but I hope to convince you that it is actually preferable in many ways to conventional suburb living.

As I wrote on the About page, we are a family – Ma, Pa, The Boy and now The Girl. The Boy is 3 1/2 years old and has lived aboard a boat since he was nine months old. The Girl has only ever lived on the boat – she is 9 months old. I clearly remember the day she was born. My wife was laying down in the aft cabin, heavy and uncomfortably pregnant, counting off the minutes between contractions to determine when it was time to head down to the hospital. That, my friends, is a boat wife!!

Many people imagine that living on a boat is all about boat parties, keggers and floating frivolous fun. Nothing could be further from the truth for most of us. Our community is just that – a community. There are some people who party on a regular basis, but most of us are just living our lives here. Our boat is our home. Our boat is a house first and a boat second. Now, that does not mean that we don’t have friends over for an evening on the boat – we do. This very afternoon we had two visitors, both came over in dingies and stopped in for a chat on their way to wherever to see whatever – just like a regular neighbourhood. In essence, my life is the same as yours just slightly more confined (we like to say cozy.) We are happy, relatively well adjusted people and as a family, we are close. My kids know where mommy and daddy are virtually all of the time – they are able to watch their parents working together and showing affection together; hopefully demonstrating to them how adults and spouses should interact with each other. The Boy is able to “play” with his sister any time he wants as they are both under the watchful eye of mom pretty much no matter where they are on the boat. After all, anywhere on the boat is still only a couple of quick strides away – so they can’t go far. In short, we are a close-knit family.

We have received a couple of veiled comments about how our life is effecting our kids. There seems to be a perception out there that kids somehow need all the trappings of a middle-income life to be happy.

They need their own room.
They need to have what all other kids have so they don’t get singled out … like a house.
They need to have their … own TV … cell phone?!?

Are you kidding me? I had a semi normal life growing up, but not only did I not have my own TV, but we did not have a TV in the house! And a cell phone – what’s that? I’m normal … I think.

The simple response to all this is: kids are adaptable – they adjust.

Kids don’t know what being happy is. They get their feedback from us as parents and adults. If they see that we are happy and enjoying life, so will they. If on the other hand they see that we are not satisfied and are generally unhappy with our lot in life, they too will develop that demeanor and attitude of discontent. Kids, generally speaking are molded by the adults around them. They model and mirror us. Want to know what you look like to others? Watch your kids.

Comparing growing up on a boat to the sterile modern suburb life is not even a fair fight. On a boat you have excitement, nature, a wealth of experiences and the joy of being, not just close-knit, but just plain close to your family. The suburb life has little of this. Now before you jump all over me, I acknowledge that there certainly can be, and are, exceptions to this generality. I am basing this on my own observations. The people in the suburbs are my customers. Every day, I get into my service truck and drive off the ‘burbs to service their appliances. Eventually, the houses all become the same, you can’t tell one street from another and things are so … clean. No, that is not the right word – boring. Cookie-cutter … everything is the same. Does that make sense? Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily, but is “cookie-cutter” a requirement for a happy kid and happy family? No way! I am not concerned one bit about my kids growing up on a boat. I’m glad that I am able to provide something different; a stimulus that hopefully drives them to a life of continual exploration and an experience that makes them interesting and interested adults.

Ok, enough of the kids-philosophy lecture – each to their own.

The kids playing in the upper bunk.
The kids playing in the upper bunk.

Living on a boat is definitely possible with a family. It might be harder for you if your family is already accustomed and acclimatised to living in a larger space but it is still definitely doable. There is one thing you can do to mitigate the body-shock of moving into such confined quarters; that is to get away from the mind-numbing activities of “watching TV” and “playing on the computer.” This is a mistake that we made. We used the TV and computer as our entertainment and became addicted to the mush that these inputs made on our brains Watching TV and playing on the computer are not activities, as in doing something, but are really something used to pass time till we can get our next mind-mushing hit. Sucking on the cocaine teat of the TV is a fruitless and unproductive activity that, as far as I can tell, has no redeeming value and does little more than make you want more. Instead – do stuff! Build something, go fishing, learn about the weather with your barometer, watch the clouds and know what they mean, learn the mating rituals of the Lesser Greebe, collect insects, do some scrapbooking or if all else fails – read a book! Fill your life with activity and break the crack/dope addiction. Change can take time and there is always a learning curve with everything new, but believe me, a life of ‘doing’ is far more exciting and fulfilling than a life of ‘watching.’ Your family will thank you for it (maybe not now, but later.)

One final point about living on a boat with your family, and I’ve mentioned it before, is that there are trade offs. The main one (for me) being privacy – it is hard to get away. Sometimes, you just need time apart to think or breathe or just be. That is hard to do with 4 people inside of 300 square feet. Privacy for us is nothing but a distant memory … way back in time when we were living in a house .. with doors … and locks … and rooms! So I guess I’ve traded my privacy and space for an economical, stimulating and exciting life. For me it is worth it…


  • Jamie

    Bravo to you for your reasoned, logical posts on living aboard. Having been pregnant with twins while living aboard my boat (I carried them for a friend and I was actually living alone during much of the time), I feel a camaraderie with your lovely wife and have enjoyed watching the family grow over the past year. You have put into words many of the truths about being aboard and the benefits gained. Thank you!

  • Linda from South Florida

    I have enjoyed reading your take on living aboard. I agree wholeheartedly with your philosophy of raising your children. The people who make an impact in our world for good are not the ones who had a “cookie-cutter” lifestyle as children. They are the ones who were encouraged to think outside the box and to develop their uniqueness.

    Thanks for your articles. I read everything I can on fulltimers and liveaboards. My 65 year old hubby retired last year, and since I am 12 years his junior, my retirement time is somewhere in the future. So for now I continue to work, while dreaming of a simpler life, and hope to do that one day when I retire, either in an RV or on a boat.

    We live in South Florida in a tiny condo and have worked hard at downsizing our possessions and our needs over the last decade, in anticipation of lifestyle changes at retirement. Perhaps it will become a reality, but if not, I can at least enjoy reading about people like you, and enjoy the life through your perspective.

  • Vivian

    Hey T. Great post! As a family living aboard, I hear ya! When we bought our cottage last year, one of our biggest concerns was that our sailor girl was going to prefer the life on land. At first, it seemed to be going that way. I am happy, and proud, to report that our girl prefers to be “at home on boaty” with mommy and daddy. I think your point about closeness is the key. At the cottage, she sometimes spends large amounts of time entertaining herself while we are in another room getting some work done. At home, “on boaty”, we are always together so that even when we aren’t ‘playing’ together, we are at least interracting. Even when she plays alone, she is not alone.
    I don’t feel there are many compromises living here as a family. And what ever small compromises there are, it’s all worth it to feel the closeness and the warmth and love of my family.

  • Forever Fashion

    I’m a bit jealous to you.
    No TV and nobody is waiting for it. No cells and again it doesn’t bother anybody. Just your family, your boat and a bit of Internet (BTW what’s the way you’re connected?).
    The only question I have is how your wife feels there? Is she happy enough to live on 300 sq.ft.?

  • Regina

    Dear Husband of A/Father of L,
    So this may be a little weird but I stumbled upon your blog in search for information about living aboard a boat. Very suitable blog for my search however I wasn’t particularly expecting to find such an interesting collection of stories. I’ve begun to fall in love with your writing; I have not read everything you have written, only about 2 hours worth. I started to take notes about certain things that would be good for me to know if I decide to live on a boat. I made a list of Pro’s and Con’s and then I started to think more short term living than long term since I do not have much knowledge of surviving on a boat nor do I have a husband/man to figure it out with. I’m young and I’ve had this thought of living on a boat. Being near the water is important for me, I love everything about it. I need the calming natures of the world in my life as much as possible. I want a lot out of life like you mentioned in a blog and I don’t want to follow anyone but myself. The funny thing about me wanting to live on a boat is that I’m an architect or at least working to become a registered architect so of course I have dreams of having a beautiful home… but the home is not as important to me as the boat. The boat evokes such a powerful feeling of contentment and fun. I would rather have a large boat to live on with a small home on a lot just for safety I suppose. Your blog is so down to earth & real; not a snotty boater like one might expect. It is very touching. The Twilight books are fairly popular right now… and I have a friend that cry’s hysterically over the second book as if what’s happening to the characters in the book is her real life. I thought it was a bit silly but she is a best friend of mine so I understand. When I read your blog, (which I’ve never read a blog before) it sort of feels like an addiction… like a good book I want to continue reading… Anyway I just wanted to compliment you on that. I’m not exactly sure if that’s how these things work but I figured I’d let you know maybe you should write a novel if you haven’t already…Take care!
    Regina – Long Island, NY

  • Daniel

    That is what a want , live on a boat with my wife.
    We ar 54 and 60 years old,kids are now married.
    We are looking for a condo in florida …. but i always wanted to live on a boat.
    We have some questions for you.
    Living on board a fiberglass boat ..what to i need to know?
    Will i have to get the boat out of the water …every 2 years for some reason???
    What should I look for (boat to avoid).?
    I was thingking …what would be the minimum size …40 feet?
    Tyvm for your time
    Daniel & Francine

  • Kris

    Hi, Daniel

    We live in St. Croix usvi and know alot of people that live on sailboats down here!!! Please feel free to contact us and we can send you to a man and wife around your age that do it now and have been doing it for a very long time. We are looking at moving on a boat now but have a 11/2 year old and a 31/2 year old. We are trying to work out all the saftey issues before we do it.

    Best Wishes
    Good Luck

  • Kris

    Please contact me, we are as well looking at life on a boat with a 3 1/2 year old and a 11/2 year old. I have so many questions.
    Thank you very very much

  • Grant

    Great post, this excites me. I thought I was the only one who ever considered such an idea. You are right my friend. Doing is was makes life fun. Thanks for sharing. God bless.

  • Dan

    What a great story! we are boaters too. I am 52, and my loving wife is 30, we have been together for ten years, and are very happy. My question is this… we have a 32 foot Marinnette and are thinking of getting it to Fla, can you recomend some marinas, and are there any covered slips that you know of? you should be so proud and grateful that God, has covered your family with such wonderful blessings. I agree with you, don't take this life for granted.

  • stephanie myatt

    wow, i am so impressed and happy to see you can do this!!! we have four children and really want to escape the city living and all the middle class entrapments. We live in the Alberta and have had little boating bar a white sail I and II coarse but we want to make the break. Your website is insprirational, thank you!

  • Alice

    I think the way you have chosen to live with your family is so interesting. Just wondering what are your plans for the future? I only ask because I have 4 nieces and nephews who seem to have grown into little adults faster than I could ever have imagined – not only in size, but in maturity. Will you live in the same boat or get a larger one to accommodate growing kids? Even just thinking of the food – a growing boy and girl consumes a helluva lot!

  • Tabitha

    I just found your blog and love all of the information and experiences you post.  We are researching and minimizing with the hopes of starting our…"new life" in the near future.  I especially liked your comments regarding what they think kids need in life.  I would love to show my kids the world up close and personal rather than how they see it now from a TV or computer screen or hear about it on a cell phone.  I think that there is nothing more valuable in life than to actually experience the living and the beauty part for yourself and to be able to do that from childhood is absolutely priceless.  I hope to read more and thank you for sharing!

  • Chuck Reagan

    I can't begin to thank you enough for your post thru the last few years.  I will be retiring from the US Army in 5 years and continue to research everything I can on living on a sailboat.  I am from Isle of Palms, SC and absolutely have saltwater in my veins.  I've owned a few monohulls but due to my military obligations I have not been able to stay in one place to justify keeping them.  After posting this I will all but force my wife to read thru your posts.  This will really tell how convincing your writing is.  My wife is an Assistant Principal at a Catholic school in San Antonio and she is very big on the whole I need a house thingy.  She is 10 years younger than me and my children are 7 and 12.  I may have to wait a bit to ensure the proper education of my children but this is based on my Military assignment.  I teach Radiology now but in April of 2013 I will be assigned to a Military Hospital somewhere else for the remainder of my Career, 2017.  Hopefully it will be on one of the coast, ie. Ft Lewis in Seattle or one of the many installations near the Chesapeake(sp?) Bay.  Wish me luck and thanks again for the detailed information.
    Sincerely, Chuck Reagan

  • B. O'Connor

    Your blog was so inspirational! We just bought a sailboat and are moving aboard with our four children. Some people say were crazy but oh well. Its nice to hear someone else echo our feelings.Letting go of the things we think we need to have for our children was the biggest part. Once you let go of that you think what have I been doing for the past twenty years of my life?

  • BoatkidsRsad

    My kids former dance teacher leads the bohemian lifestyle and does the boat life with her Buddhist husband. When not living on the boat in winter, they live in a mobile home. Her children have an edge of sadness to them, and are sick of their parents lifestyle. One is 7 the other 13. They don’t friends on their boat, never had birthday parties, and are acutely aware of their childhood is lacking in normalcy. The parents protest A LOT about how wonderful it is, but I’m not buying it. This last summer both kids DREADED being cut off from dry land, the horrific near misses at sea, and above all the boredom of their parents lifestyle. I find the mother and father to be narcissistic hippies who could care less what their kids want, it’s all about them. You want to sail around the world and live on a boat? knock yourselves out when the kids graduate and go to college. She uses public showers at the YMCA and practically lives there! Gross. I’ll bet money that both kids will never want to be on a boat again in their lives, and will be the most domestic, living in the suburbs people we know. I can’t imagine how claustrophobic it gets as well with 2 adults and older kids – no way, I’d ever inflict my lifestyle on my children for the sake of living on a silly boat and the rest of the parents find the family and their lifestyle VERY ODD and strange.

  • strathy

    A 13 yr old kid who is ‘sick of their parents?’ Sounds normal to me – like every other teenager out there. I’ve never read or heard a story like the one you are spinning, but I have an inbox full of emails from former kids, and current kids who are growing up or who grew up on boats. A number of them are also in contact with my kid – no hint of the issues you imply. I been around kids and boats for a long time, and I’ve never seen any ‘edge of sadness’ or ‘boredom’. The kids I’ve directly observed were always ‘going on adventures’, swimming, fishing, running around in dingy’s and the multitude of other things kids do to have fun. If what you wrote is even a true representation of the real facts, then it looks like it is the parents who are the problem, not the boat.

  • Dreamer

    I have two kids. 3 and 15 months. My spouse and I are talking about living aboard, homeschooling and living an alternate life. We lived aboard before kids, but this will be a new experience! Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Matt

    I’ve enjoyed reading your posts for the past half hour. I’m glad to hear about your family life on the boat, and that you’re living what I’ve always believed to be a perfectly natural way to live.

    Best wishes!

  • Haileigh

    I really enjoyed reading this! After I lived on a boat for a few years with my mom I convinced my husband to get a boat with me instead of a house or apartment when we got married and were moving in together. After a year he has come around to the boat life! But I get those questions a lot about what we will do when we have kids and everyone is so shocked when we just say…have kids. On a boat. And they’ll be raised sailing on a boat either ours or weekend trips with grandma on hers. And yes it’s possible and yes it’s safe. I’m currently trying to disconnect from so much TV as well and that has been a touch challenging but I’m liking it more and more. Thanks for the read!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

27 − = 25