I’ve received a couple of cool comments lately and don’t want them to get lost in the posts. I love hearing from everyone out there, especially when you’ve been inspired or encouraged to take the plunge. Feel free to comment or contact me with whatever comments or questions you might have.
Reading your site has really firmed up our resolve to live aboard. We’re in Tennessee on The River, but we’re looking at buying a 38-to-41 footer and moving to the Gulf coast. So thanks for taking the time to do this, and we’ll be opening our own blog once we get the deed done. Gotta sell a house and all that first.
Our biggest concern is…not knowing how to sail! But I’m sure we can learn from the other live-aboards around us. We’re eager to get good at it, Katie will cook for anyone and everyone, and I can fix stuff, mechanical and electrical.
Cheers and thanks again!
I’ve been reading your blog for a while and it has some excellent info and I always manage to spend an hour reading it every time I drop by here. It also inspired me to go through with living aboard.
I am about to become a resident at the Port Credit Harbor Marina. I am bringing my new (first) boat there this weekend. Could you give me some info on how you get internet service. I am a web designer so this is a priority. I have heard that there is wifi service available but have not been able to track the company down.
Thanks for the good read,
This is part 2 of 4 on the topic of Living on a Boat.
In this post I will try to answer some of the questions that I get about living on a boat. If you have other questions that are not addressed here, feel free to send me an email and I will try to answer them for you. This will also be the beginning of my FAQ. Occasionally I will add to the FAQ as I accumulate more questions and answers.
How do you deal with the winter?
The same way you do, except I shovel the dock instead of the walk. In the fall we wrap our boat in plastic so that it looks and acts like a greenhouse. During the day the temps can get up to over 90 F under the plastic, even in the middle of winter. We use a bubbler which is basically a big underwater fan to keep ice from
forming on the lake in a little patch around our boat. There are some steel boats though, who don’t bubble and don’t seem to have any problems. We choose to bubble as we like the open water around the boat so that it still rocks and moves around a bit – just like every good home should. We heat the inside with electric heaters, but could use propane or even wood as some of our neighbours do. All in all, winters are very warm and snug aboard our boat and we actually look forward to it.
Do you have running water – hot water – a shower – a tub, etc.
Running water, hot water, showers, tubs, etc. are not essentials. We did not have any of them on the first boat we lived aboard – the Alberg 30. We managed just fine. The marina has showers available for us live aboards and so every morning (rain, shine, snow or sleet – just like the mailman) we would troop off to the marina bathrooms for a shower. It was a bit of a drag but you get used to it. Now, on our River Queen, we have running water, hot water and a full sized shower. Ahhh pure luxury! We don’t have a tub, but there are some boats that do. Our neighbours (Atlantic Grace) a couple of docks down from us do have a tub on their 40′ sailboat. Now, they are living the high life! See, even living on a boat has a bit of the ‘keep up with the Jones’ syndrome. Seriously though, you can get used to not having these things – I know that might be inconceivable to some people, but it is the truth. We did.
Where do you go to the bathroom?
We have two different seasons for the bathroom use – during the summer anything goes. We just have to go do a pumpout of the holding tank now and then. During the winter we try to limit #2 to the marina bathrooms. We can still get pumpouts in the winter but they cost a lot more and so we usually try to reserve as much of the holding tank as we can for those true emergencies – the midnight runs, so to speak.
Don’t you miss…?
We used to miss a lot of things, but to tell you the truth, I can’t, for the life of me, remember what they were now. I have everything I could want or need on this boat. We’ve adjusted to our space and lifestyle and those things we missed … we just don’t miss any more. It is a simpler life for us – less junk and clutter is a good thing.
What about the boat always rocking and moving?
That took some getting used to. Living on a boat that is always moving makes land feel kind of weird. When we first moved aboard, we would get onto land and have ‘spells’ where we would feel like the room or the ground was still rocking – it is a peculiar sensation. However, after a couple of months even that went away. I don’t even notice the boat moving now – in fact, if it stopped moving, I would probably feel that more.
Don’t you worry about sinking?
When we first moved aboard, every little sound made me imagine water was rushing into the boat and Davie Jones Locker was calling me … I haven’t thought that in a couple of years now. You get used to all the nosies and sounds and I know now what is a normal sound even if it is not a sound we hear very often. Plus I know my boat pretty well, it is not about to sink.
What do your families think?
I decided to poll our immediate families to answer this question. Here are there responses:
My Father: “My father always said that you could get used to anything. He said, for example, “you could get used to hanging if you hang long enough.” That describes how we feel about you living on a boat : we are hanging in there getting used to the idea.
I always tell my patients that I have a married son living in Toronto. Two kids. Living on a boat in a marina. When they realize what I just said, they say “oooh….coool! Then I launch into a description of the merits of shrink wrap plastic, describe how a bubbler works, tell how to break up the ice around the boat without falling in more than once, and tell how to go to the bathroom on a boat. They always ask about the children. I have told them about safety features, such as a water sensitive “turtle watch” which can also be used to test the kids salivation skill, and about life jackets. They always sound happily relieved when I tell them that the kids don’t have to wear them to bed at night. I have described the joy the kids get out of converting dried old bread crusts into goose guano on the dock.
Yep, your living on a boat has provided a great deal of conversational fodder on what would otherwise be a dull afternoon.”
My Mothers 1st response was: “You sure you want to hear?”
But then she said this, “No problem with you living on the houseboat. It’s like a very small apartment. The sail boat was pretty small and always the worry that you were going to “sail the 7 seas”. I was also concerned about the safety of the grandchildren on the boat, especially when I saw the picture of [The Boy] learning how to walk on the dock, but you take precautions with life jackets and now “the watch”. Where you want to live is between A. and you and you both seem to be very happy where you are. When your great grandparents on your father’s side came to Canada they lived in a sod house on the prairies. I wonder what their parents thought? You saw the house in Ireland where your grandfather lived as a child, only it was only a small house with one room upstairs then and 12 children lived there. Also your great, great grandparents house at Armaghbrague where another 12 children were raised. How did they do it? I would love to see you in a comfortable house with room for the children to play outside without worrying about them and not necessarily a view of Toronto, but that’s up to you.”
My Sister: “I too, have enjoyed my visits to ‘the boats’. My fave experience was when we moved you onto the sailboat and we picked up anchor and puttered out of the marina into the lake and just sat and watched the sun set. My most recent visit was in winter which meant for me hiking up to the showers in the marina and although it was fun like a ‘camping weekend’ I am glad that I don’t have to do it on a regular basis. As well I was ‘woozy’ for a few days after I returned home – as I guess I was not used to the gentle swaying of the boat from the waves and wind. All in all this Auntie would just rather have you living CLOSER – boat or no boat !! :)”
Mother-in-Law: “I see shocked faces when I mention that my daughter and her husband live on a boat. They seem relieved when I quickly mention that it is really like a small apartment.
I do love all the new modern conveniences you are bringing on the boat. The hand run washing machine is very exciting especially due to the fact that the daddy and 3 year old son do the washing now. When are you going to get a butter churner and make your own butter?”
Brother-in-Law #1: “well i think it’s great! there is no disadvantage to this visiting relative as long as i have flexibility in my requirements for sleeping arrangements and no expectations of privacy.”
If I wanted to move on a boat, where should I start?
This question is actually a huge topic that I cannot fully and completely address here. However, here are three important areas of concern for you to consider before you actually make the move:
- Do you have a body of water nearby that has space and facilities for living aboard a boat? If not, why not? Is your weather not conducive to living on a boat i.e. do you live in Tuktoyaktuk? Is there some sort of by-law in place that disallows live aboards? i.e. Oakville, Ontario. Basically, if others are doing it in your area, then there is no reason why you can’t. Ask around, especially at the marinas. If they point you to someone who is living on a boat – bring a small gift, i.e. a bottle of wine or a hunk of cheese and crackers and tell them you would like to chat about living aboard. Most will accommodate you especially with the added incentive of your little heart (or stomach) warming gift. Simply walking up to a live aboard and firing questions, will get you little useful information.
- Do you own a boat? If not, are you ready to own a boat? Is money the issue – if so, how will you solve this problem? Is there a “creative” solution to the money issue? A land living friend of ours just told us that he was moving aboard a 38′ powerboat a couple of docks down from us. Our first comment was, “Wow, contrats on buying a new boat!” He replied, “Oh, I didn’t buy it, I’m just boat sitting for a year. The owner does not have time to take care of the boat right now. All I have to pay is the dock fees.” That is what I mean by creative.
- Are you single – fine. If not, is your family/other half ready for this type of change?
These three areas of concern: the Where, the How, and the Others are right at the top of the list of practical considerations if your are looking to explore the adventure of moving aboard a boat.
How do I convince my Significant Other to move aboard with me?
First of all, I don’t think you should convince you Sig O that this is what you should do. If they don’t want to do it, and you force the issue, they won’t be your S.O. for long. Find some other dream to live with them or figure out some way of changing their mind, but if they are not commited to the living on a boat lifestyle, then you are headed for trouble. In my case, my wife initially moved aboard as an adventure – now, she wants to live on a boat as much as I do. In fact when she was pregnant with The Girl, she was the one who convinced me that moving into a larger boat was the way to go rather than moving back onto dirt. She’s a special one – and I’m keeping her all to myself!
Living on a boat is as much about being happy with your choice as it is about saving money or living an adventure. The topic of who you share your adventure with is one that I’ve tried to address before. Check out the post called So You Want to Live on A Boat for more information including the following.:
“There is one other topic that I would urge you to do some real soul searching about before you take the plunge. That is, your marriage. How strong is your bond with your wife – how much does she really want to participate in this adventure? Living aboard a small boat means that you really cannot get away from each other – your bedroom is also your living room which is also the kitchen which is also the bathroom, etc. More marriages have been ruined by moving aboard a boat – just look at all the boats for sale in Florida. Talk with some of the sales people down there and they will tell you story after story broken marriages and busted dreams. Husbands sort of hanging around trying to sell the boat while the wife flies home to try to find normalcy in her life again. Read some of the stories that are out there about the conflict that couples go through when living in a confined space. Then have a face to face with Mrs. about how you are going to deal with these conflicts when they arise (and they will arise – believe me.)”
Work out your issues before you move aboard because you will be working out your problems sooner rather than later if you do move aboard.
Don’t you worry about keeping your kids safe?
Yes – big time! This is one that I’ve spent a lot of thought time on. The Boy is not a swimmer … yet. It is something that I’ve been working on with him, but have not yet reached the point where he is comfortable in the water. It is a process. It is hard for him to learn how to swim if he is not happy just being in the water, so we work on that first. But, even if he were a great swimmer and loved the water, I would still work through the problem and set up the various systems to keep him safe on the boat. Life jackets are a must anytime he goes out the door. His “Turtle Watch” is used whenever he is playing on deck. On the Alberg, we used netting and jacklines with a tether to his life jacket. With The Girl, it is currently door baby gates (the kind used to keep kids from falling down stairs.) Soon she will be walking and then it will be life jackets and tethers for her as well. Having a set of rules, staying fully aware of where the kids are and what the possibilities for trouble are is the biggest defense in keeping kids safe on a boat.
Will you ever go back to living on land?
Yes – probably, however, moving back onto dirt is not in the immediate future for us. I suppose at some point we will, but for now – this is our life.
This past couple of weeks have brought us some absolutely spectacular lightning shows. Lightning with a thunder accompaniment always brings thoughts of safety (and fear) to mind. In a previous post about lightning safety, I managed to ease my mind by convincing myself that the higher masts around us would protect us from a strike. However, the truth of the matter is, if lightning would have struck our sailboat, there is no telling where it would have ended up. Our mast was deck stepped (the bottom of the mast sits on top of the deck, instead of going right through to the keel), which means that any lightning strike coming down the mast would have had to jump somewhere to continue its downward path. This is how holes get blown in the bottom of boats. Add the fact that the mast was practically sitting directly over our heads when we were laying in the v-berth and, well … you get the picture.
So now we are in a big metal boat; a big, highly conductive surface directly connected to ground (water), with a nice high metal canopy framework begging for a lightning strike. So am I really any safer?
I asked around the marina, and for the most part, people did not think that the metal boat would be safer – but then I came upon another boater who lives on a steel sailboat. He’s got the full deal going for him – a nice high metal mast and a highly conductive steel surface connected directly to ground. What he suggested is that we are actually safer in our steel shells because (in theory) the lightning strike should take the path of least resistance and flow easily and directly through the hull and into the lake. He likened it to a Faraday Cage.
Here is a quote from Wikipedia:
Cars and aircraft. When lightning strikes an aircraft or a car the electric currents induced on it are forced to travel on the outer skin of the vehicle’s body. If you were in a car, and the car were struck by lightning, it is not in fact the rubber tires that would save your life. If the lightning can jump from the ground to the sky, then it can jump from the ground to your car. What actually happens, is by being enclosed by the car’s cabin, the lightning travels around you, through the conductive frame of the car. This is because the car forms a Faraday Cage.
This is talking about cars and aircraft, but from what I can tell should also apply to boats. Anyone out there want to confirm this for me? Any modern day Franklin’s or Faraday’s want to experiment with this? (Go fly a kite!)
(Lightning Hitting CN Tower photo’s taken by Mathias Roussea on June 5th, 2008.)
When we moved from the house to the Alberg 30 back in ’05 we had a terrible struggle trying to find a place for everything. After giving away piles of stuff to Goodwill, selling junk in garage sales and just junking piles of other crap, the rest went into one of three places. Some went into storage, others things wandered into my mother-in-laws basement and the rest we tucked into the nooks and crannies of the Alberg.
It was an uncomfortable existence. For instance, my books. I loved having my book collection available to me at the house. Whatever mood I was in, I could head over to the bookshelves and satisfy my current curiosity until the next change in focus took place. When I moved all the books into storage, I lost the ability to reference my collection and have been feeling the loss of ‘curiosity relief’ for two years now. Now that I’ve installed some shelves here on the River Queen, I’ve been reading and referencing at will again – oh, what a relief it is!
Another example is cooking supplies and equipment. The Alberg had a very (very) limited galley area. Basically, a small but deep sink, a 2 burner Origo alcohol stove and a toaster oven. No cutlery drawer, no pots and pans drawer, no cupboards to speak of. Now….I’ve got a 3 burner propane stove with an oven!!! A massive pots and pans drawer. Cupboards that are stuffed full of supplies and cutlery at my fingertips. The luxury!
Moving from the Alberg to the River Queen could have been done in about 4 hours if we had really put our minds to it. As it is, we still have some stuff on the Alberg. What I can’t believe though, is how fast the River Queen is filling up. I know we have so much more room here, but do we actually have to fill it up?
This brings me to my final thought on this post – possessions.
Do we actually need all this junk? If you don’t use it and you don’t miss it, do you really need it? As I look around the room here, I can see several items that have not been touched since we moved aboard over a month ago. I suppose that I will use that foot rest under the helm someday – but I haven’t yet. And that Captains chair – man that looks good – kind of impractical though, as it is too high to sit comfortably on unless you are actually piloting this tub. And my new book shelves – already filling up with books that I want to read but likely won’t get to anytime in the near future.
So, how does one maintain a clutter free life – free of the encumbrances of unused possessions, without giving up all that stuff that you want to have around because … well, just because? Is there some sort of checklist that one can follow, or do we have to go though the yearly process of collecting and purging like some bulimic teenager?
At various times in life most normal people have to ask themselves, usually while shaking their head, “What is wrong with people?” This is the question that I currently find my self mumbling under my breath. (If you’ve never asked yourself this, you just might be part the subject upon which we are about to embark.)
You see, it is 12:30am – that’s middle of the night here – and the people in the boat across the dock from us are carrying on as if they were the only people within 100 miles. I assume, as they have been drinking since I first saw them this morning at about 10:15am, that they are now good and drunk. There are various loud male voices punctuated by fits of drunken female laughter – none restrained, none moderated. The first thing we had to do this evening as we got ready to go to bed, was close all the hatches and doors to somewhat muffle the carrying on. In the time it took for me to get the front hatch closed I was privy to the most degrading and disgusting conversation that was taking place over which all were laughing uncontrollably. Decorum and common decency being sadly wanted by these pitiful excuses for humans, and the self centered nature of their actions, lead me to believe that they were either brought up by farm animals or like the prodigal have descended to the level of the pigs who’s filth they seem to revel in.
In the past, I would have gone out, begging their forgiveness for my family’s bodily weakness in requiring sleep and to gently remind the farm animals that we, here in the civilized world, would very much like to retire in peace for the evening and would be much obliged if they would keep their grunting and snuffling to a minimum. My wife has denied me the joy of turning the hose on the floating pen as one member of the drunken troop is being rounded up tomorrow and shipped off to parts east of here – an occasion for which we too, by rights, should party and carouse all night long.
So, we wait, hoping beyond hope for the sweet sounds of silence that should result in a few unbroken hours of sleep till the morrow when those of us who have some purpose in life and who attempt to be productive members of society rise to go off to our places of employment (and try not to stumble over the dozens of crushed beer cans that the menagerie will have surely left behind.)
In my research for this very liberating post, I discovered that ungulates are known to eat their own young and often feed on their own excrement. I also found that pigs don’t sweat. And so, on that positive note, I shall end this post and go back to trying to tune out the nocturnal sounds of the swineherd 5 feet away from my bedroom window.