Live on a boat!

Contents

Why do you live on a boat?
What do you hate about living aboard?
Just what is moorage and how much is it?
What about insurance? Hull and Towing?
How much does maintaining the boat cost? How much time?
When is the best time to buy?
Are there any slips available? Do I want a covered slip or an open slip?
Facilities? Where do I go to the bathroom, shower, and do laundry?
Can I get internet? Cable TV?
Will I have to get rid of all my stuff?
Can I have dogs or cats?
Will people think I’m a weirdo?
Is the city going to eliminate liveaboards?
Should I get a power/motor boat or a sailboat?
Should I get wood or fiberglass?
This boat I’m looking at is a good deal, but I don’t love it. Should I get it?
Should I be on salt water or freshwater? Should I moor at Shilshole or a marina on the lake?
What kinds of problems should I look out for when choosing a boat?
What if I need a bank loan?
How do I find a boat to live on?
How do I know what marina’s to call, to make use of your secret protip above?
I don’t know how to drive a boat! Do I need a license?
View or Post Comments and Questions!

Why do you live on a boat?

I love everything about living on a boat! I always wanted to live on the water… this is the only way I could afford to do that! My house is also a hobby, from working on it to taking it on boat trips. I know all my neighbors that live in the marina and they are often helpful if I get stuck on a boat project, if I’m sick and need a ride to the hospital, etc. A close-knit community… there aren’t many of those in Seattle.

What do you hate about living aboard?

Sometimes I get sick of fixing things that break on the boat. In an apartment you just call your landlord! When you live on a boat it’s hard to find the right maintenance person to do certain things; everyone is very specialized, and expensive or flaky. It’s often easier and cheaper to fix stuff yourself. It’s also kind of rewarding when I do finish a project on my own.

Winters on the boat are hard too, even if you can get the inside warm enough (boats are poorly insulated) you are still stuck inside a small space. In the summer you can lay outside, all the doors and windows are open making the inside space feel larger, and it’s not a big deal to walk outside to the marina’s bathroom/shower (if you need that). Summers can be so amazing that they make the winter worth it, however.

Just what is moorage and how much is it?

Moorage is the cost of having the boat at a dock. It’s your home, basically: the place where you know you have somewhere to park, have city electric to connect to, and where your WiFi automatically connects. Moorage is basically your condo fees, and typically covers some amenities provided by the marina, like bathrooms and showers.

Cost varies wildly based on the marina, whether you want a covered (like a boat garage) or uncovered slip, and the length of the boat. A friend of mine pays $220/mo to liveaboard a 25’ sailboat, electric included. At my marina I was paying about $350/mo for a 27’ sailboat. My 42’ Powerboat costs me about $750 including liveaboard fee and electric.

What about insurance? Hull and Towing?

Depending on your prior boating experience it might be difficult to get insured. I would line up moorage and insurance before you purchase a boat. If you get a small enough boat your car insurance place might insure it. Gieco and others will insure up to say 32 or 35 feet. My first boat was 27’ and insurance was like $15/mo. My current boat is 42′ and I had difficulty finding someone to insure me at all. I had to go through an insurance broker, who found me a policy with some UK company… and it costs $1,000/year. I’d call your car insurance place and see what they’ll do, and use that size boat as the upper end for your search.

If you are worried about the boat breaking down, you can buy towing insurance separately. It’s kind of like AAA for boats. Depending on the type of boating you do, this might not be necessary; if you stay close to home or think you could get a tow from a friend, don’t bother. If you go far from home a tow from a towing company gets expensive very quickly.  BoatUS offers towing insurance for less than $200/year, providing nice piece of mind.

How much does maintaining the boat cost? How much time?

It helps to be handy… but you can Google how to do repair projects. Also you want to go to a boat supply store like Fisheries Supply  to 1) get quality parts 2) have the ability to easily make returns when you buy something you can’t use and 3) because they have helpful staff! I often bring in some dirty part and say: “I don’t know what this is called, but it’s broken.” They help me find the appropriate replacement part, or help me figure out a workaround if that part isn’t made anymore.

I feel like I spend a long time maintaining the boat, but it’s all relative. A boat with wood decks and trim will want stain applied every year, which is a drag. You will have a list of undone projects until you finally sell the boat, so it’s just a question of how much do you WANT to do?

When is the best time to buy?

I would try not to buy a boat in the summer; you’ll get better deals in the fall/winter. If you really want to live on a boat though, there’s no bad time to start!

Are there any slips available? Do I want a covered slip or an open slip?

It’ll be easier to get into a marina in the off-season too. Not all marina’s do live-aboard, or even if they do, there may be a wait list. The easiest thing to do is to buy a boat that’s already in the water, in a slip with transferable moorage. You want to talk to the marina manager and make sure that you can take over the slip, at least for a few months while you find a new marina.

Facilities? Where do I go to the bathroom, shower, and do laundry?

You marina is likely more than a dock; it probably provides some common facilities on shore that include a bathroom, shower and laundry. Some provide only a toilet, some provide nothing. A large boat might have all three facilities right on the boat, but most smaller boats will not have a shower or laundry… and if the boat does have a toilet it probably doesn’t have a holding tank (which captures waste), so anything you put in the toilet will go right over the side of the boat (this, of course, isn’t legal). So if your chosen boat doesn’t have a certain amenity, make sure the marina you’re in provides it.

If your boat does have a holding tank, you can pump your holding tank out yourself for free at pump stations along the water. Once you get sick of doing that every week or so, then you pay a service to come around on a boat and pump your shit out for you. My service, SS Head, comes while I’m at work and costs around $60/mo. Clean water is available from the dock, and water from the sinks and shower goes down the drain and comes out right next to the boat; no holding tank to empty for grey water.

Can I get internet?  Cable TV?

This depends on the marina.  My marina has Comcast hookups, and a few people get their TV and internet that way.  I’ve also seen those little satellite dishes up.  Nowadays you can stream your TV and movies from Netflix and Hulu from the internet.  Available at my marina and also many places in Ballard is the very affordable Salmon Bay Wireless Internet service.  I put Salmon Bay’s little wireless antenna on my roof, and when my boat gets back in the slip it automatically connects!  Some people use Clearwire, a wireless service available in most of the city, but it’s more expensive and I’ve heard mixed reviews.

Will I have to get rid of all my stuff?

Pretty much. Even big boats are really small living spaces! Think of it as a challenge: what’s the smallest number of things I can own and be comfortable? You’ll be buying the small version of every kitchen appliance, even the smaller bottles of laundry detergent, etc.  Many people I know also keep a storage unit while living aboard, some marina’s actually have storage units on-site.  Get large, plastic Rubbermaid containers to put your stuff in, which will keep stuff dry if your storage gets a leak.  This way you can keep off-season clothes off the boat to save room, as well as those extra sails and lines you don’t use but might want some day, and all the little nick-nacks you can’t fit on the boat but will want when (if?) you move back on land.

Google “Micro Living” and you’ll get lots of info on the topic: I find it really cute that people think they are original for building small houses, when others have been living on small boat for years… and just not complaining about it.  Shedding material goods is totally worth the exercise, in my opinion. The less stuff you have, the greater the connection to the things you do have. It’s also less stuff you have which will break; you won’t spend as much time maintaining your stuff.

Can I have dogs or cats?

Yes! Ask your marina to make certain, but my marina has furry friends of both varieties. Cats roam the dock free, and dogs have lots of friends in every marina.

Will people think I’m a weirdo?

Well, if you’re even considering living on a boat, chances are plenty of people already think you’re a weirdo. You are restless and an explorer, people who have already settled down will find that strange. Don’t worry though, even if you shed some boring friends you’ll pick up exciting new ones. My mother beams with pride when she tells people that I live on a boat! It’s so northwest and is worth about 1000 cool points.

Is the city going to eliminate liveaboards?

Every few years someone starts to make a stink about this, and it generally blows over. They might make people who live on houseboats/house barges (those docks with houses built on them, like the Sleepless in Seattle houseboat) install grey water tanks (to capture water that goes down the sink drain), but I don’t think they’ll ever really crack down on people living on actual boats.

Should I get a power/motor boat or a sailboat?

My first boat was a sailboat, my second boat was a power boat, so you might think I recommend power boats, but I don’t. A powerboat has more room inside, but there is also more to go wrong and they are more expensive to operate. Someone without much experience would do well to start off with a fiberglass sailboat with an outboard engine. The fiberglass requires almost no maintenance, the engine can be easily and cheaply replaced if necessary, and learning to sail will teach you a lot about how to read the wind and weather which is very helpful in boating.

Should I get wood or fiberglass?

I would avoid a wood boat, they are beautiful, but you will spend the entire summer applying layer after layer of stain, instead of sailing! Wood hulls require more frequent haul-outs and bottom paint. You’ll also want to get covered moorage to protect your wood boat, and I don’t like covered moorage: it’s more expensive per month to rent and you get less light in your house! If you love woodwork, have a lot of time on your hands, and don’t mind the extra expense… great… I love seeing beautiful wood boats out there, but as a first boat I strongly recommend a boat that has fiberglass for both the hull and the decks topside.

This boat I’m looking at is a good deal, but I don’t love it. Should I get it?

You need to love a boat. If the boat’s lines didn’t grab you right away, I’d avoid it. Love at first sight definitely exists with boats. I’ve seen some dirty, ugly boats that I knew instantly with a little TLC I would love. I’ve seen beautifully maintained boats that are just not my style. If you don’t love a boat you’ll regret it because you’ll treat it like an investment and not like a labor of love. A boat is not an investment: you’re not going to be making money when you do sell the boat again… the only money in your pocket is going to be what you save over living expenses you’d incur on land.

Should I be on salt water or freshwater? Should I moor at Shilshole or a marina on the lake?

I think the only reason to go with Shilshole would be if you want to go sailing on the Puget Sound frequently. It’s salt water there which is harder on your boat and it’s kind of a pain to get to/from there to the rest of the city. From my marina I can just walk out to restaurants and stuff, BUT if I want to go on the sound I have to go through the locks (which is free, but time consuming and a pain in general). Fresh water is easier on the boat too. I’d recommend a fresh water marina unless you have a compelling reason to stay on the salt.

What kinds of problems should I look out for when choosing a boat?

Hull, Electrical, and Engine. If any one of those three is not perfect, expect to pay a lot of money. Unfortunately knowing the condition of each kind of requires a special survey, each of which can be a couple hundred bucks… especially for the hull because doing it right requires a haul-out. A diver can have some idea of the condition of the hull, and they are way cheaper than a haul-out, however if you are getting a loan a haul-out and survey may be required.

The cheapest way into a boat is to pay cash (no need for a survey) for a boat with a fiberglass hull built in the 1970’s, with an outboard engine. Fiberglass in the 70’s was way thicker than necessary, I’ve never heard of a 70’s boat with hull issues. If it has an outboard motor, then at least you know you can ‘repower’ (buy a new outboard) for one to two thousand dollars. An outboard also means the engine is separate from the boat’s electrical system, meaning that if the electrical is bad you just won’t have lights on the boat… you’ll still be able to get home. A smaller boat will have less wire to pull and less reliance on an electrical system, so it’ll be cheaper and easier if you do have to completely redo it.

What if I need a bank loan?

Just go to your bank and ask them what’s up. They will require you to insure the boat’s hull (like full coverage on a car) to protect their investment and they will probably require a recent survey of the boat. The interest rate is normally the same as their used car loan interest rate, or around five or six percent.

How do I find a boat to live on?

Here’s my secret protip I wish someone had shared with me: call marina’s asking about live-aboard openings AND if they have any foreclosures for sale, or boat auctions coming up. If a boat fails to pay moorage long enough, the marina can take possession of the vessel and sell it to try to pay off accrued debt. My marina regularly has auctions and I’ve known people who have purchased pretty serviceable boats (they are DIRTY, the engine may not run, but a little TLC…) for $1000-$3000 or so.

Or, do I like did for my first boat, and search craigslist for “liveaboard sailboat” and look for something that’s currently in a transferable moorage (call the marina and verify that the moorage is transferable before you buy). My first boat was a 27’ sailboat that I got for $5500. I spent three awesome years on that little boat. It’s probably worth paying a little more for the boat, if it comes with the convenience of already being in a liveaboard slip (that you can take over) in a marina you want to be in.

Nicer, more expensive boats are all on Yachtworld.

How do I know what marina’s to call, to make use of your secret protip above?

As far as marina’s I really only know of Shilshole, Stagstad, Stimson, Ballard Mill Marina and Leshi. There are tons more. Honestly I think a combination of Google maps and driving around is going to be how you find them all. Some marina’s are super tiny and only have a half-dozen slips.

I don’t know how to drive a boat! Do I need a license?

You do need a boater’s safety card to drive a boat in Washington State. There’s an online course and the registration fee is very reasonable. This teaches you some stuff about how to stay safe on the water, and the rules of the “road” but doesn’t teach you how to sail or drive a boat.

If you are affiliated with the University of Washington you can do what I did and join the Washington Yacht Club, they have free classes to teach members how to sail. Other yacht clubs in the area offer sailing lessons, and I’ve also heard The Center for Wooden Boats offers lessons. Finally, you can always just buy the boat, and make friends with people around the marina who will give you advice… if only so that you don’t hit their boat on the way out of your slip!

Exciting update! This story has been picked up by Three Sheets Northwest! They are a fun page to follow on facebook.

But, but… I have other questions about living on a boat!

Comment on this post with your question, and I will answer it to the best of my ability!

Fair winds and following seas!

36 thoughts on “Live on a boat!

  1. Max

    Hello Anthony, great article! And thank you for taking the time to share your own experience with us. I’ve dreamt about living on a sailboat for a long time, and I actually do plan on moving to Seattle in the near future.
    I saw that you have covered alot of information on single haul boats in the Marina, however can you give me abit more details when it comes to Catamarans?
    For example, since they are duel-hauled, I’m assuming everything costs double? (maintainence, cleaning..etc)
    Also, you have mentioned that in the example of a 40ft catamaran you’ll need a “Rare” slip, can you elaborate abit more on that? Just how rare would that be? And cost wise?
    Getting two single haul slips to park a catamaran sounds unrealistic in itself, since if it’s already hard enough to get one, I can only imagine how tough it’ll be to get two side by side in any marina.
    Lastly, you talked about there are parking available close by the marina, is that included with the mooring fee? Are there any safety concerns and/or covered parking?

    Thank you so very much in advance!

    Reply
    1. Anthony Curreri Post author

      At my marina car parking is included, and there are no covered or assigned car parking spots (guests park in the same lot I do). I bet that’s the case with most marinas.

      My marina isn’t giant but it’s probably over a hundred boats, and no catamarans. There just really aren’t a lot of catamarans in the northwest for whatever reason, when you look on yachtworld.com they mostly in the Caribbean or Europe. Not that I’ve never seen one before, but it’s not common. No idea about costs associated since I’ve never known anyone that owned one. Honestly if you are trying to get into the PNW, I’d save the catamaran for your second boat.

      Reply
  2. Dave

    Hey how many days a month qualify as a liveabord? I’m sure it varies by marina. I work in the airlines and would only be home about 15 days a month maximum.

    Reply
  3. John Readey

    My wife is ok with living on a sailboat, but her non-negotiable requirement is that it must be a catamaran! I do think that in the PNW, being able to sit up in the salon with a 360 view outside is much better on those raining days. Cost for a newer ~40′ cat is quite a bit, but then compared with getting a condo in the city, is quite affordable.

    Anyway, I’d prefer to live on the hook in the summer months. Sailing off to various points of interest in Puget Sound or heading up to BC. My question, how challenging would it be to find a winter moorage? I wouldn’t want to pay for a slip for 12-months if I’ll only be parked there half the time.

    Reply
    1. Anthony Curreri Post author

      Liveaboard moorage in Seattle is very difficult to get now.

      A friend of mine bought a boat in Everett which I think was liveaboard possible. I think it was this marina:
      http://www.portofeverett.com/home

      They moved it to live aboard in Bainbridge, I think at this marina:
      http://winslowwharf.com/

      I have seen a Tacoma marina advertise liveaboard on Craigslist, maybe Port of Tacoma? don’t remember and not seeing it on CL right now.

      I believe Parkshore marina allows liveaboard for people who own a condo slip there (renters are not allowed to liveaboard)
      http://parkshoremarina.org/

      Reply
  4. CW

    My husband and I have always talked about living near the water. Yesterday he came home from work and asked me what I thought about living ON the water. I think it’s a great idea, but also a little scary. We’ve always lived in cramped quarters (dorm rooms, shared housing with in-laws, etc.), but a boat (at least one we could afford) will be even more cramped. We also have a toddler. How big of a boat should we realistically be looking at?

    Reply
    1. Anthony Curreri Post author

      I really believe that in general, people can make anything work. Large families have gotten by in one room shacks! What is the smallest boat that would be comfortable for you can really only be answered by you. Or… someone else that has kids, at least! My friend Jaime and Her Husband Erin live on an Angel 45 with two (soon to be three) children. The Angel 45 is a pretty big boat by most standards, but it still only has two staterooms, they would like to get a boat with four, so the kids each have their own bedroom. A couple with one kid I’m sure could be comfortable in much less. I’m trying to get her to write about her experience, when she does, I’ll link to it!

      Reply
  5. Jerez

    I want to buy a boat.
    I took some sailing lessons this last fall and wish I’d gotten more in before the cold set in.
    Do you sail?
    Sorry, I scanned your interesting article.
    I don’t recall sailing touched upon.

    I’m a single female and I want to spend the rest of my life adventuring a watery lifestyle. I’ve had many adventures but I’m wondering why I didn’t get serious about this sooner.

    Anyway, when it comes to shopping for a boat when you’re clueless, well, have you written that manual yet?
    🙂
    I’m waiting for that to come out.

    Maybe there’s some salty fellow in some Marina who would be on call and would look at boats with me.
    Is there such a service provided that you know of?

    It would probably be worthwhile to have some professional advice.
    Big life change and investment.

    Ok, am I weird?
    I hope some other single women have chosen this lifestyle. A salty lady would be fine too. I just think I could use some help.

    I’m thinking a cat boat maybe. ?? Or?
    If you know of any great deals, pass that info on please. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Anthony Curreri Post author

      That’s great that you want to buy a boat! I did sail, and I do advocate buying a sailboat as your first boat in this article. This section has information on sailing clubs: I don’t know how to drive a boat! Do I need a license?

      The following sections are all about buying a boat, do you have some specific questions?
      Should I get a power/motor boat or a sailboat?
      Should I get wood or fiberglass?
      This boat I’m looking at is a good deal, but I don’t love it. Should I get it?
      Should I be on salt water or freshwater? Should I moor at Shilshole or a marina on the lake?
      What kinds of problems should I look out for when choosing a boat?
      What if I need a bank loan?
      How do I find a boat to live on?

      Yes, you are weird: Will people think I’m a weirdo?

      A catamaran sailboat would be awesome, my only warning is that it will make moorage more difficult to find, as they are so much larger than normal boats. You’ll either have to have a special, rare slip or you’ll need to pay for two slips. I have only seen one catamaran sailboat in the PNW. I have seen a handful of catamaran powerboats here, they are not as wide as catamaran sailboats, I think.

      Reply
  6. Marvin

    Hi, Anthony

    Apologies if you’ve already answered this.
    I’m currently disabled due to depression/OCD and am living in my car in the San Francisco Bay Area.
    That’s not the only reason I’m looking to rent a boat. I’ve thought about living on one many times.

    I’m looking to merely rent a boat that the owner may not be actively using for whatever reason. How does one begin to search for owners that might be willing to rent?

    Reply
    1. Anthony Curreri Post author

      I think Craigslist might be your best bet. I have heard of Liveaboard boat rentals, but it’s not super common, a lot of marinas only want owner-liveaboard, if they allow liveaboards at all. But it’s worth looking around on Craigslist for sure! The only other thing I can think of would be to google up yacht clubs and marinas in your area and email them to ask.

      Best of luck!

      Reply
  7. Lindsay

    Hi! So… I’m renting a live-aboard for the winter (wanted to test it out and learn things before buying) It’s a 40ft, gasoline-powered, double-engine cruiser, and… it’s got some crazy fumes. And I have questions.

    * Does the city / coast guard require an inspection / permit for a live-aboard?

    * Are there sensors or emergency shutoff valves required for things like propane, carbon monoxide, benzene…?

    * Holding tanks. Do most live-aboards have grey water holding tanks? Mine does not. I think this is fine. However, it also does not have a tank for the toilet. Owner says it’s fine to pee, but everything else (including toilet paper) is a no-no. So I use the marina bathrooms. But… is this totally whacked?

    Thanks for the fantastic info!

    Reply
    1. Anthony Curreri Post author

      My pleasure! What do the fumes smell like? Gas you probably know already, propane smells kind of like rotten eggs. Your boat might smell like a mechanic’s garage after you run the engines for a while, but after they cool down and you air the place out it should not smell like that!

      Fume detectors, first off, if you are renting, your landlord should really be providing all this for you though, in my opinion. Now:

      You should have a smoke detector in every room, you can buy combination smoke alarm/carbon monoxide detectors that are battery powered, Search amazon for: Kidde Battery Operated Combination Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Alarm. Unless you are burning a gas for heat/engine, you’re probably never have carbon monoxide though.

      Propane is a little harder, (search amazon for propane detector) they are more expensive, and the one I bought required wiring into the 12 volt system… battery powered ones might exist though? You mount the propane detector under the stove (or any propane device), since propane is heavier than air.

      My boat has an explosive gas detector in the engine room, which will detect gas fumes. Yours may or may not have this, and it may or may not be working. This is another installed/wired into the boat type system which you probably won’t be adding to a rental. But it’s nice to have!

      Emergency shut off values:

      Propane: Every boat will be different. That said, most boats I’ve been on with a propane stove have a little black panel with one button on it, near the stove. When you push the button, the panel should have one light on it to indicate that the propane is on. What this is doing is opening a value near the propane bottle, to allow the propane to flow into the boat. When you are done using the stove, you hit the button again to turn the light off and close that value. That way if you have a leak anywhere in the propane line or stove, you aren’t dumping all your propane into the boat (where it will settle down into the bilge and stay there for a long time). If you don’t have one of these shut-off buttons, you really should be going outside to the propane bottle and turning the valve to close the bottle when you aren’t using propane.

      Engine Petrol/Gas shut off: Again, every boat will be different. I have a little valve by the engine right before my external fuel pump, on both engines. If you have a leak in the gas tank or line leading up the engine you’ll still smell like gas, and starting the engine or anything that sparks, like an improperly located and wired electrical appliance will be hazardous (gas fumes explode), besides the fact that it just can’t be healthy to be breathing gas fumes all the time. Before you get too freaked out though, I’ve had non-boaters as guests convinced that there was a gas leak, when I went down and smelled I just shrugged and said: that’s what an engine smells like. But it could be a problem. I’d ask the owner or a neighbor for their opinion too.

      Holding tanks, grey/black: Grey water is water that goes down a sink drain or shower drain. Black water is what comes from the toilet. Grey water capture isn’t necessary, yet at least. My sinks just drain out next to the boat. Black water, including “just pee” is illegal to dump and should be captured in a black water holding tank. To be legal, is it really harmful to the environment to dump just pee? That’s not for me to answer 🙂 I believe many people in my marina use the marina bathroom only. I did this when I lived on a 27′ sailboat, which did not have a holding tank (actually I had my #2’s timed to come out at work, haha). Now I live on a 42′ powerboat with a holding tank, and I flush #1, #2, toilet paper: everything! I pay a service called SS Head to come pump me out every week ($60/month). Some people, even with a holding tank, don’t flush paper… because they are afraid of clogs I guess? It seems crazy gross to me. People do different things, you find what works for you. 🙂

      Liveaboard inspection: Short answer, No. Long answer: you can request a coast guard inspection, my understanding is they check life jackets, fire extinguishers, safety things like that. Basically the same inspection they will give you on the water if they pull you over, but if you request it at the dock they won’t fine you, only tell you where you are lacking. You can pay a business for an owner’s inspection, and a person will come look at the boat systems and tell you if things are dangerous because they are improperly wired, things like that. The only thing required for liveaboard is approval from your marina, and whatever the marina requires, like insurance. (Unlike a car, you don’t even legally need insurance, though most marinas will require it).

      One last note about smells: if you have a moldy kind of smell when coming back to a closed up boat, try replacing as much carpeting as you can. That’s always what’s worked for me.

      Hope this helps! Get some opinions on those smells, pronto!

      Reply
  8. Matt

    Great article. Just curious how you get rid of grey water if you shower onboard. Does it go in the sewage tank or go over the side? Your answer above sounds like the only inconvenience with showering onboard would be with filling the water tank.
    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Anthony Curreri Post author

      Black water (toilet flushes) go into a holding tank (sewage tank) which you can either pump out yourself, or pay a service to come around and pump out for you (totally worth it!)

      Grey water (sink drain water, shower drain water, and clothes washing machine water) just goes over the side of the boat, right out into the canal. After I do dishes I can look out and see soap suds floating in the water next to the boat. I use biodegradable eco-friendly soaps at least!

      So yes, showering aboard means filling the water tank more frequently which is a pain, but not so bad. Some people avoid showering aboard so that they don’t get a bunch of humid water vapor in the small space. I shower then leave the boat to go to work, and now I have a dehumidifer, so that doesn’t bother me.

      Reply
  9. Pete

    Great post Anthony! Very informative and very cool lifestyle! I’m thinking about a “second home floating condo” in Annapolis, Md. We would only use it for one night stays and never cook on it or shower in it. Additionally, I’d never run the boat. I’m a member of as sailing club “timeshare” and have no time for the hassle of boat upkeep and maintenance (not that I couldn’t; I have the skill set and the desire, just not the time).
    I am thinking of a old, say 1985, Carver or Chris Craft, with a flybridge in the 30 to 32 foot range. I am seeing boats for about $15 grand. My notion is that if I kept it for 5 to 10 years, who cares what it’s worth? I’d donate it at the end.
    If I just park it in a slip, do you think I could power off the marina for the air conditioning, fridge, toilet flush, bilge pump etc.? The engines and batteries could be theoretically mothballed, unless I am missing something. I wouldn’t care about bottom paint, because I’d ditch the boat when I’m ready to give it up.
    In your judgement, what do you think of this plan? What maintenance do you think would need to be done other than cleaning the boat? I see that you may have made cosmetic upgrades to your cabin and I may need to make some enhancements. I have good woodworking skills so I’d appreciate you telling me if that work is hard on a boat that I am looking at.
    Thank you so much in advance of your reply.

    Reply
    1. curreri Post author

      The floating condo! Since you are only going to be spending a night here and there, you don’t even have to get a “liveaboard” slip, any slip should do. You can likely find a boat that is in OK shape cosmetically with questionable or definitely seized up engines for much less than $15k. However, some marina’s require boats be in running condition, so you may want to ask about that. If you do get a boat with engines that work, I would pay a mechanic to winterize the engines (drain all the fluids basically) as well as draining and cleaning the fuel tanks. Gas evaporates over time leaving engine-clogging sludge. And partially filled tanks will rust from the inside over time, due to condensation.

      You’ll need batteries… more systems than you think inside will run off the 12v system: all the cabin lights, the toilet, the freshwater pump, the bilge pump, etc. So you’ll have to maintain a battery bank (which is just checking fluid level’s every year, and maybe buying a new battery every 5 years or so). Do make sure you have a modern battery charger, and leave it plugged in all the time (older battery chargers will over-charge and ruin batteries, modern ones are worry-free).

      Once you have the boat looking the way you want, the ongoing annual maintenance things include: Cleaning and waterproofing any canvas, staining external wood, fixing (rain) leaks (caulking and re-bedding hardware), giving it a good wash, and ideally a wax. Probably less maintenance than a cabin in the woods, and you can find handy men to pay to do all those things if you want.

      You’ll need to have the boat hauled out periodically to have the hull cleaned/painted, make sure the hull is not blistering, the thru-hulls are good and the zincs are intact. You can probably get away with doing this as infrequently as every 5 years (as I do) though I do pay a diver to look at the bottom every year.

      So totally doable! Make sure the boat you buy has the hull and topsides/decks both made of fiberglass otherwise you’ll be spending more time staining wood each year (or paying more for someone else to stain it!)

      Reply
  10. Jordan

    Hey. Thanks for the quick reply. And answeing my questions. Is there any marinas that have all the hookups for not using any public places. Do you have a shower in your boat? Going to the gym like LA Fitness could really be a drag. But that is one of the perks. Also is there security. I would have some valuables that are very expensive.

    Reply
    1. curreri Post author

      I have a shower on my boat, but many smaller boats either don’t have a separate shower and/or they may have a fairly small water tank. I figure a shower uses 20 gallons… and I’ve seen water tanks smaller than that. By no separate shower I mean they might have a shower head in the bathroom, with a drain in the floor next to the toilet. I’ve never used a shower like that, but it seems like such a bathroom/shower and a small water tank it might be good for rinsing off after a swim, but not great for daily cleanliness.

      My boat really doesn’t lock at all… the way the windows slide open don’t allow me to easily add a lock… I’d have to take apart some stuff and I don’t care enough 🙂 There is a locked door to get on to the dock from the shore (though of course anyone can boat or swim onto the dock), but I also know all my neighbors and feel pretty confident that someone would notice a stranger getting on my boat. And I just don’t have a lot of room to keep a lot of stuff anyway, expensive or not.

      But for you, when you look at boats ask about it locking up, I’m sure some boats you can button up tight. And shower in. You just need to figure out what things are really important to you, and then look for boats that meet those requirements. Or you can go in knowing that you might need to re-evaluate certain things you take for granted on land… and you might find changing certain parts of your life is great! Like maybe if you decide to shower in the gym you also get in a workout while you’re there! Or maybe you realize you don’t need a videogame system at home, but find that playing at a friends house once in a while and reading a book at home makes you happy too.

      Reply
    1. curreri Post author

      The power won’t be an issue, most marina’s you can hook up with a 30amp cord, and the fridge is probably only about 3 amps. How much space it physically takes up is more the issue. On a 30′ boat you’re probably still in mini-fridge territory for size, but it depends on the boat. Some boats (mostly sailboats) have the fridge built into the counter, such that you lift out a piece of the counter and put stuff down into it. Kind of like a top-loading freezer (though way smaller).

      Reply
  11. Jordan

    What Happens if the tanks need to be refilled? Say I take a long ten minute shower at night then one in the morning. Will I have to go out side and refill for I can enjoy a hot shower in the morning time? Thanks, Jordan.

    Reply
    1. curreri Post author

      Most people don’t shower aboard (they walk up to the marina bathroom on shore, or shower at the gym), so the water lasts a long time. I have a 120 gallon water tank on my current boat, which I can get about a week’s use out of before I need to refill. Then I need to uncoil a garden hose (well it’s a potable water RV hose, but it looks like a garden hose, only white) and stick it down into the fill hole on the boat. Eventually I ended up hooking dock water directly into the boat, but this is frowned upon, since if you break a water pipe suddenly unlimited water from the city is pouring into the boat (unlike the maximum 120 gallons I’d get out of my water tank… which would not be enough to sink the boat). I shut off the water valve when I leave the boat to avoid this problem, but I’m sure people forget sometimes. However it’s SO nice to take long showers and not worry about running out of water, then, soapy and cold, running outside to uncoil that stupid garden hose and stick it in the boat. But again, this all depends on the boat or the marina.

      Reply
  12. Jordan

    What happens if I need more water in the tanks? Do I have to fill my self or does it do it for me. Say I take a shower then make dinner, will I have to refill the water tanks or not? Just Curious. Thanks, Jordan.

    Reply
  13. Michael Ness

    Dude, this is seriously an awesome article.so much useful information for a prospective first time boat buyer/live-aboard hopeful like myself.

    My one question.
    You talk about working on your boat.
    I’m considering a remodel of the interior of mine, to make it feel more spacious and homey.
    So, question is, how friendly are Marinas to that kind of project?
    Power saws, hammering, supplies, noise, etc. during reasonable hours, of course.

    Thank you for the post!
    I have bookmarked it for future reference.

    Reply
    1. curreri Post author

      It’s pretty acceptable at my marina. If you do it during unreasonable hours then your live-aboard neighbors will complain is all.

      Reply
  14. Walt

    Such informative advice…I live on the northern east coast. Finding a marina that allows livaboards year round is becoming a taxing endeavor. I understand the winters are harsh but I really want to give a go. My famity is all here therefore, I really want to stay in my neck of the woods even though I would love to live in the Pacific Northwest. Any advice on marinas in the nyc metropolitan area. I’m even looking at Maine. Thank you for your time.

    WALTER.

    Reply
  15. Caroline Mangan

    Okay, I’m slightly salivating over all of this information–great post. I’m going to ask some shamefully rookie questions, so please bear with me.. [Update-this turned out way longer than I planned–profuse apologies in advance..]

    My boyfriend and I are thinking about finally taking the plunge and buying a liveaboard sailboat. He in particular has always dreamed of having/living on a boat, but both of us have .0003% sailing experience. We just love the lifestyle, love the water, and are general adventure/travel junkies. The dream is to live on the boat and work until the boat is paid off, and then sail and find work as we went/figure out a freelance gig/you know, a collection of naive cliches.

    Okay, an actual question: do you have a traditional job and just come home to the boat at 5 after work? I’m curious about what kind of lifestyle you find is common with liveaboards.

    Next, your post presented me with a previously un-researched option of mooring in fresh water instead of salt. Seems like a great option to save maintenance $$ on the boat if you’re not planning on cruising out super often. Am I on the right track with this one?

    Okay, final one: For a couple, what size and price is kind of baseline for general comfort? We’ve happily lived in tight quarters before, but I for one am (at this stage) insisting on some girlie comforts like hot water and a fridge.

    I know this is probably 5 pages long and I sincerely apologize, but you’d be a life-changer if you could give me any insight on anything you can.

    You’re an inspiration regardless, so thanks for the posts!

    Reply
    1. Anthony Curreri

      I have a normal/boring person 9 to 5 job, with a retirement plan and stuff. Other people on my dock have more interesting work lives and styles… which is possible since their cost of living is so low. I think your plan to pay the boat off and then travel the world is way adventurous and great! Get a boat and then figure out what’s important to you, is my advice. The bigger the boat, the more creature comforts… once you look at a boat you’ll know if it’s right or not (ask if it has hot water!) If you fall in love with the boat you’ll know. Look at a bunch of boats! Try to be nice to the people selling them, remember that these people love their boat… otherwise they would never have bought it. And to answer your question, yes if you can find a freshwater kept boat, great! If you can keep a boat on freshwater, even better.

      Reply
  16. David Johansson

    Thank you for the great story about living a board a boat. I’m going to be in southern California on a 35 ft converted navy boat.
    Your picture are great too!

    Reply
    1. Anthony Curreri

      Seattle doesn’t have harsh winters… only twice this year did the temperature dip below freezing. I just have electric space heaters… but I do have two 30 amp electric ports at my dock (most people only get one). You can also heat with a fuel, there are diesel, kerosine, propane and even solid fuel (like little fireplaces) heaters! Or you can just layer and deal with the cold for a week 🙂

      Reply
  17. Brendon

    This is a great start. I’d love to live aboard a yacht. I’m thinking about where to live next, and as I enjoy sailing, a friend suggested I try living on a yacht in Seattle. That would be pretty cool, and does seem appealing. I don’t have much stuff, but I would like to have some kitchen appliances, such as a blender, slow cooker, food processor, however I don’t know if the yacht will have space. How do you go about cooking, or do you eat out a lot?

    Reply
    1. Anthony Curreri

      I do like to eat out a lot, but even on my 27′ sailboat I had a mini-fridge, electric hotplate, toaster oven, teapot, and rice maker and I used these things to host four person dinner parties occasionally. Living aboard is an adventure in re-thinking how you do things… if you love cooking you’ll figure out a way to do it!

      Reply

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