Is Living Aboard a Boat the Right Life for You?

A marina with boats and houseboats, with one houseboat being moved out along the fairway
A houseboat on the move.

Living aboard a boat is an unusual lifestyle choice in the first world. Only about six percent of American households live in mobile homes, RVs, or boats—the Census Bureau doesn’t break that down any further, but you can be sure that most of that number consists of mobile home households. So, although many people dream about living aboard, very, very few people have actually tried it.

Because of that, you probably don’t even know anyone who lives on a boat and have no one to ask about the gory details of a life on the water.

That fact alone may stop you from trying it out: fear of the unknown is a powerful force for the status quo!

“Living Aboard: The Ultimate Guide to Life on a Boat” can help you answer the question of whether or not the liveaboard lifestyle is for you. The book talks about the two competing impressions of living aboard:

  • Champagne in the cockpit beneath a rosy sunset and water like a mirror
  • Drips and leaks in a heaving hulk with sketchy toilet facilities and pervasive mold

It’s not so much that either of those views is correct as that both can be; the successful liveaboard mindset is one that can enjoy the sunsets while positively coping with the leaks and adversity.

Living aboard is an adventure and a challenge. Every liveaboard will have a tough time at some point, with some different aspect of boating life. For those who choose to stay, though, the hard parts will make the high points seem all that much sweeter. Resiliency and self-sufficiency are hallmarks of most liveaboards, and they thrive by overcoming the occasional obstacle that comes along with life on the water.

The best way to figure out if life on a boat is right for you is to live on a boat for a little while! Too many people decide to sell everything they own and move on board without experimenting a little first. That is a big mistake!

Take a boating vacation before you make a commitment. Chartering a boat is relatively inexpensive and easy to do. If you aren’t a sailor or boater and don’t envision going anywhere, AirBNB often has listings for boats you can spend the night on board at the dock. Book a week or so on board and see how it goes. Of course, you will miss out on the maintenance and many of the other aspects of actual boat ownership, but at a minimum you will find out if you get seasick tied up at the dock, or can’t figure out how to operate a marine head, or miss your dishwasher so much you never want to leave home again.

These tiny, but crucial, aspects of daily life can only be experienced by actually spending time on board. Whether via AirBNB or a charter or time spent on board a friend’s boat, it’s worth the time and effort to give it a try first.

It’s true that many people do just jump into living aboard, and many of them do just fine. But there are many who suffer from a series of rude surprises and aren’t able to make the transition successfully. Save yourself the uncertainty!

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