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post #8 of Old 06-28-2013
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Re: Downside of living aboard

This could be a great thread and probably a must-read for those looking to do this life.

We have been living aboard with kids on/off since circa 2000. Now on our second LA boat.

I think most people move onboard for the dream - a lot like the camping trailer dream. They work a hard job and the thought of coming home to a boat where they can relax and chill is very exciting. Many of these people owned the boat beforehand and work stressful jobs, and noticed when they go to their boats, they are relaxed. Naturally, the thought of just living on the boat F/T must mean they would be relaxed F/T... right? THat is basically the Camping Trailer Syndrome. These people buy Camping trailers so they can get away from it all because when camping, they are relaxed. For the first three months, they are gone every weekend. Then the house starts needing repair. The trailer has things breaking. The job has him working weekends, etc. Six months - 12 months later, the trailer's for sale. Same with boats.

A second reason (and I think one of the biggest) is people fail to realize the boat is their home. It is not just a boat anymore, it is their HOME. That is why you see me going crazy on here when people start talking about cruising on a racer. Really??? All the stuff you didn't put on your boat when you weekended on it, you now have to find a place for. Most live aboards have crap sticking out of every crevice. We have to carry a suit(s), all the extra filing, warm and cold weather clothes, blankets in summer, books, family pictures, etc. Many get a storage unit to take some of this load off, but still, we really stuff our boats. So when people go out and buy boats, and they get a boat that cannot accommodate all this stuff, their little home just got a whole lot smaller. It gets cramped and uncomfortable. The air condition breaks and it is expensive and time consuming to fix. Moisture leaks on you in the middle of the night. The bilge breaks and everything else comes to a stop (including vacation or going to work). The water pump goes out and you are now showering at the marina (walking to the bathrooms carrying all your stuff in front of God and country) and you are cooking and drinking out of a pitcher of water. It rains and that leak you thought you fixed is dripping all over your computer and upholstery. It does not quit raining for three or four days (we have had two weeks straight, once) and you are absolutely going out of your mind and stir crazy. All of this stuff has happened to me at one point or another... and a whole lot more. This is the reality of living aboard, not the dream of what you thought it was. Either you deal with it, or you do what many (most) do, and say screw this! I want my house back.

THird, as mentioned earlier, expenses. There are a select few who can manage to live aboard with little to no costs. I mean, it is just a floating hull, right? Wrong!! For 99% of us, living aboard is generally much more expensive than living in a house/apt. In addition to paying absurd prices on marine items, you have dockage and insurance and maintenance. THose who are skirting by without insurance are in for a rude awakening. I see all of that changing. We have not been at one (NOT ONE) marina in the last few years that did not require insurance. Even the mooring fields are beginning to require it. TO get insurance, you have to have a survey (at your expense). To pass the survey, you have to have your boat in acceptable condition ($$$$... and all marine grade/ABYC standards). So those who pictured a 'free' boat and 'cheap' living are now exhausting their paychecks and savings just to scrape by. This is made worse because many people that are just starting off living aboard are new to boating (or boating on large boats). They don't know how to fix crap, so they either fix it wrong and screw it up (what do you mean I can't use the wire nuts I got at Home Depot??) or they are paying professionals to come out and do it for them which really eats up their money. Before long, they are walking away from their boats - broken and broke.

The last set I see that don't cut it are the moderately wealthy. They have this dream of 'living the life' - you know, Margaritas and sunsets. Marley and Buffet. Exotic Islands and fabulous beaches all to their own. Of course, they have never lived aboard before and one thing all cruisers have in common: we all live aboard. So they sell their 3-5000 sf house and put everything in storage. They read enough from the 'experts' who tell them if it isn't a Valiant or Pacific Seacraft, they are risking their lives leaving the dock. They dump hundreds of thousands in this boat and move aboard... only to find out the boat is uncomfortable and tight as hell. Even the Valiants have to ride the Waves and they get sea sick. Everytime they turn around, something breaks. You can't have air conditioning 24-7. You have to haul water. The storms can scare the Shite out of you and one really good one can take your life... yes, even on your Valiant. Before long, Momma says screw this and they go back and buy the house. They begin to use the boats periodically on the weekend. Then once a month, a year, and before long, it is for sale.

So, why do people fail at living aboard? Because the reality is different than the dream. But that is not something they can be told. It is something they must learn. And this does not mean the reality is bad... but it is different.

My suggestion to those considering living aboard: Triple the costs you think you will spend on the boat, buy the newest and most comfortable boat you can, plan to stay at a marina with good facilities and a good live aboard crowd (there is comfort and support in that camaraderie), and remember, whether a boat or a camping trailer or a house - it is still life. A boat won't change your reality outside of the gunwales... in fact, it can make it worse.


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