Norm is my neighbour – one boat over from us. He is an S.B. (Not S.O.B. – just S.B. See my previous post here for a definition.) He too blogs about life aboard. Here is an excerpt from his most recent post:
The fact is, living aboard throughout the winter is in some ways even more fun than living aboard over the spring/summer/fall. First and foremost, the “Others” have clearly departed, leaving the marina blissfully otherlesss. The marina is now the exclusive domain of the tight knit Liveaboard community who while formed by people from all walks of life – from students and the unemployed and the retired, to doctors and lawyers and teachers – share so much in common, namely an appreciation for a simpler lifestyle, a passion for boats and living on the water, and a shared experience overcoming obstacles to being successful in this lifestyle: Much like a floating insane asylum. (Actually, there are no doctors, lawyers or teachers here.)
Check out The Cheryl & Norm Sailing Page – it’s a good read!
A comment that a reader posted on my Winter Live Aboard and Lake Ice post got me thinking about sounds on a boat. I am sure that dirt dwellers who come aboard our boat are amazed by the myriad of new sounds they hear. There are dock-lines creaking in the chocks, halyards banging against masts, waves lapping, docks groaning, ducks quacking – the symphony of marine life. Yet I hardly hear it anymore. The cacophony of life on the water blends into the background and as long as the sounds are there, my subconscious can relax – all is well.
BUT – add in a sound that is not supposed to be there and WHAM – you freeze what you are doing, your body slams to attention and all ears are pricked intently – listening … listening… What was that?! Listening for the sound that strikes fear into the heart of every sailor – the sound of running water. Sometimes I even go so far as to check my bilge – just to make sure that water is not silently rushing into my home.
Sometimes you figure out what made the sound (a pot shifting in the cupboard) and you can relax. Other times, you never do quite figure out what made the sound in which case that sound is imprinted on your mind and you are tuned into it – in the back of your mind listening for it – hoping to never hear it again.
Then again, most of the time the marine band plays on, the music fading into the background and all is well.
We are getting hit hard today. It’s been snowing for a good 12 hours now and it is still coming down. Last night it was quite windy too – we were banging around pretty good until I ventured out to tighten up the dock lines. It is also very cold – up to -26 with the wind chill. So getting to work is going to be a lot of fun today. At least I don’t have to shovel the driveway.
I get emails quite often from people who dream of moving aboard a boat. Here is a typical email with my response to his questions. NOTE: Long post here.
Questions from an emailer:
“I am thinking of doing what you have done. My wife and I are 49 yrs old
not rich but have a little money to put towards a boat. I told her last
night I just wanted to sell everything and move on a boat. Then all
these questions popped up. May I bother you with questions about cost,
weather, problems incurred, etc.
We live near Raleigh, NC, had have access to the Inter-coastal waterway,
and the East Coast. I have always wanted to go to Ireland, and was
jealous of the photos you posted. How was your trip to Ireland? How long
did it take you, and what if anything would you have taken or changed
that would have made the trip better? When living on a boat what cost is
involved when traveling, like anchorage fees, etc. I am thinking of a
sloop, or similar sail powered vessel. Between 30′ and 40′ in length.
Are you comfortable and what is it that you miss about living on land?
Thanks for your blog!!”
First of all, there is a saying that you are going to hear more and
more as you look into the possibility of moving aboard a boat – that
is: ‘Just Do It!’ (Thanks Nike) More than anything that I could tell
you, that is the best piece of advise that I could give. The things
that you mentioned like weather, cost, etc. are just nagging doubts
that are trying to stop you from ‘just doing it.’ Moving aboard a
boat is not hard – it’s just different – and as much as we get set in
our ways as we get older, humans are good at one thing: and that is
adapting. You will end up, like us, just figuring things out as you
go along. That, in itself, can be a bit stressful, but in the end you
will have the joy of looking back and saying to yourself, ‘look at
what I’ve accomplished!’
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.) My wife and I are very fortunate. We have a
strong bond together and we have much in common. Our hopes and dreams
are very close to being the same – certainly close enough that we both
feel that living on a boat is fulfilling those dreams. We both
understand each others roles in our relationship and are careful to
let each other have the space and freedom to act in those roles. In
short, we are a good team – not all marriages are like that.
On to some of the specific things you mentioned.
Weather is not an issue. Other live aboards may tell you differently,
but for us we simply became more aware of the weather around us. When
strong winds are predicted we would make sure the lines were tight.
If there was lightening in the forecast we would often just try to be
away from the boat at the time. You will make changes as you become
aware of the weather around you, but it is not a big issue for us.
Problems: hey, stuff happens. What can I say? You will figure it
out. Try to plan for the common eventualities and then just react
when things happen. There are lots of books out there that will tell
you how to make your boat safe in various situations – follow those
directions and you are half way there to solving your problems.
Remember the old adage: ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of
cure.’ Basically, we have the same number of problems as when we
lived in a house, the problems are just different. Don’t let the fear
of the unforeseen stop you from moving aboard.
Cost: That is a tough one for me to answer. You can live on a boat
really cheap. If you choose sail over power, it is even cheaper. You
can also spend a lot of money living on a boat. If you take a slip
every night and fall into the habit of eating out instead of making
your own meals you can spend a fortune. We are sort of middle of the
road. Our slip is quite cheap and we eat out maybe 2 times a week.
That is enough for us – but there are others here at the marina who
never eat out, don’t own a car and really live on little money. It is
hard to compare costs with living on dirt – they are really just too
different. However, here in Toronto, I would say that the cost of
living on a boat is less than half of what it would cost to live on
dirt. It’s not hard to figure out what your fixed costs will be, just
figure them out and build in a buffer for the unexpected and you will
have a good idea of what it will cost you.
Just for the record – we did not sail to Ireland. We flew – that was
a family trip. I would love to sail to Ireland and may do it someday.
I have not sailed outside of Lake Ontario so I cannot properly answer
any questions related to cruising like that. There are lots of others
online with blogs who are cruising who could give you some ideas on
Power or Sail: I am partial to sail as I am on a sailboat. However,
there are some definite advantages to living on a powerboat especially
if you do not have any boating experience. In many ways powerboats
are more like cars – you sort of just point them in the direction you
want to go, give it some gas and off you go. Sailing is a whole
different ballgame – I would not say that it is harder, but the
learning curve is a bit steeper. If cost is an issue, go with a
sailboat – the wind is free.
Between 30′ and 40′ is probably the most common size for the majority
of live abaords. Of course some live on smaller boats and many live
on larger – but for the most of us, who are not made of money
somewhere between 30 and 40 is the way to go.
Are we comfortable? That is probably the hardest question for me to
answer. Yes – we are completely comfortable yet in many ways I miss
the comforts that come with living in a house. I do all the same
things that I ever did, I sleep in my bed, eat at the table, watch TV
after supper, work at my job, read books – everything. The only
difference is that I do all those things while occupying the same 50
sq feet. I can’t leave something out to come back to it later because
I need the space for the next thing that I want to work on. I guess I
miss space. Does that make my stay here uncomfortable? I suppose,
but not enough for me to give up living aboard. My wife and I tend to
take the view that the world is our backyard. When you look at it
that way, I have all the space I could ever want. Even though we have
given up space, the trade off is freedom. Freedom to pick up anchor
and move anytime, anywhere we want. The freedom to put the boat on
the hard and go somewhere else. The freedom to change my neighbours
if necessary. I think the trade off is worth it – you may or may not.
Ok – that’s it for now – let me know if you have anything else you
want me to ramble on about.
Take care and remember, Just Do It!
My son (aka The Boy) is never bored. Check out this video on my wifes YouTube site. He would do this for hours if we let him.
There are some unwritten rules that come into play when using public showers. The keeping your eyes up as I related some time ago in my ‘Mens Room‘ post is one of those rules. Here is a short story that shows just how necessary those rules are.
A couple of days ago one of our houseboat neighbours invited us over for a couple of minutes to show us what living on a houseboat is like. (My impressions were that it was very comparable to living in a small apartment. He had a big screen TV, a computer station and even space for an exercise bike. Man, that is living!) Anyway, he related a story that illustrated another one of those unwritten rules. He met up with a fellow live aboard in the grocery store one day. This fellow was, well… I’m not sure how to say it ….. a shower buddy. You see, when you get into a schedule you will often meet the same people every morning in the showers – hence – shower buddies. Anyway, upon meeting up in the grocery store this ‘buddy’ clapped our neighbour on the shoulder and in a loud voice said, “I didn’t see you in the shower this morning!” Uh, hmmmm … thanks?
So there you have it, another unwritten rule – never refer to public showers outside of the shower room.
Here is how I found my neighbour clearing the ice out from around his Bayfield this morning. He is a much smaller man than I – probably half my weight so I guess he can venture out on the ice much sooner than I can – but still, the ice is only about 4 inches thick! Anyway, if this cold weather keeps up, it won’t be long before I too can clear the ice from my boat by walking on water.
The last 3 or 4 nights have been very cold which have made for interresting mornings. The peace of our sleep has been punctured by the sound of fellow live aboards pounding ice off their hulls, docks and lines. You can’t tell what direction the pounding is coming from either as it seems to come from all around. The sound travels very well through the ice and you could swear someone was pounding on your own hull with a hammer. It’s a new experience for me … I love the sound of pounding ice in the morning.
Last night was a rough one. The wind was up – gusting over 50 kph and it was COLD. When I got up this morning it was -16 C so I am sure during the night it was even colder. So, because of the wind there was a lot of jerking and banging which woke us up several times throughout the night. What was worse however, was the ice growing in around the boat. The bubbler keeps the boat clear of ice right up to about the middle of the v-berth. From there to the bow, the ice has begun to close in from the bay. So there is all kind of scraping, cracking and groaning from the ice rubbing against the hull. Of course, in the night, your imagination can play tricks on you, so several times I imagined that we were sinking. Man, nothing like the daylight to drive away the boogieman. This morning I can see that there really is only a tiny little patch of ice touching the boat right at the tip of the bow – nothing to worry about. So hopefully tonight when I am all tucked in, I can ignore the sound of good man winter clutching the boat.
For all you wandering Stumblers that have been visiting, here is what living on a boat in winter in Canada looks like.
Last night when I went to bed it was -15 deg celsius and this morning it is -16. The area around our boat is open water still but the rest of the marina bay is frozen. Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks of having open water right next to your hull is that it draws the geese and ducks. I’m not sure what was going on last night but there was an awful lot of splashing and quacking going on. Maybe that is what they have to do to keep warm – I don’t know. Anyway, I’ve go to go warm up my truck so I can head off to work. Welcome to winter.