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shadowraiths 06-28-2013 01:04 AM

Downside of living aboard
I've been perusing various liveaboard blogs, and one thing I notice, is, several months in, the blogger sells their boat and moves back on land.

Bc of this, I wondered why that is.

One common thing it seems, is that most failures involve derelict boats. You know the sort, engine doesn't function, the inside is rotted out, the thing leaks like a sieve, electrical causes all sorts of damage, etcetera and etcetera.

Another thing I've noticed is that, when these bloggers start out, they are full of excitement. They spend the first few months working on their new old boat. At some point, they run out of money, energy, and/or time. So, they throw in the towel and move shore side.

The most interesting, imho, thing, is that the majority seem to focus upon making their new old boat pretty, as opposed to functional. Or at least, non-sinkable, non-leaky...

As most sailnetters are aware, lots of people show up, ready to live the dream. I was one of them a year and a half ago. Imho, the failures are those with arguably, unrealistic expectations. Mostly in the financial area, it seems. But also in their perception of what the dream is.

This leaves me wondering, what percentage of people who move aboard stay? Also, what is the most common reason for failure?

Anyway, just curious. That, and, I figure it wouldn't hurt to have a thread discussing the "downside" of living aboard. Not to crush anyone's dream. Rather, to put some realism back into the equation.

TheTardis 06-28-2013 01:36 AM

Re: Downside of living aboard

Originally Posted by shadowraiths (Post 1051051)

The most interesting, imho, thing, is that the majority seem to focus upon making their new old boat pretty, as opposed to functional. Or at least, non-sinkable, non-leaky...

Imho, the failures are those with arguably, unrealistic expectations. Mostly in the financial area, it seems. But also in their perception of what the dream is.


Really excellent observations. I have only been living aboard for a few months, but the one best piece of advise that was given to me was to keep realistic expectations..of yourself, your needs, and the boat. I live simply, but I live well. My boat is my home, but it is a boat first and foremost. Basic maintenance and safely come before beautification.

Unfortunately, I see many in my marina that see their "boat" as purely a cheep means of living. They don't sail, they know nothing about their boats, and know absolutely nothing about basic maintenance. A few weekends ago, once such boat took on over a foot of water while the owners were away. Many of us rushed over to bail the boat out. When they returned, I started asking them basic questions regarding through hulls and other possible areas of ingress. They just looked at me like I was speaking Greek. There is no excuse to not have a basic understanding of your boat, especially when it is your home.

Speaking to the financial bit, many people are lured into the dream of living aboard thinking that it will be cheap. Boats are a constant project, especially for us with 30+ year old boats. I love working on mine, but I find sensible ways of doing it. Down in Annapolis there is a fantastic store that sells used items. Without them, I wouldn't be able to afford to work on my boat.

I don't want this thread to scare away any potential liveaboards, it can be a really wonderful and rewarding lifestyle. But it is important for people to do their research and understand the ups and downs. And above all, be realistic!

MobiusALilBitTwisted 06-28-2013 02:48 AM

Re: Downside of living aboard

Originally Posted by shadowraiths (Post 1051051)

This leaves me wondering, what percentage of people who move aboard stay? Also, what is the most common reason for failure?

Glad to see you are still here, I have been gone for about 9 month, I hope to see you around for a years yet, Take care and Fair Winds.

Sal Paradise 06-28-2013 07:34 AM

Re: Downside of living aboard
probably old news to many, but worthwhile if you haven't read it yet-

Cruising Blues and Their Cure by Robert M Pirsig

PBzeer 06-28-2013 07:50 AM

Re: Downside of living aboard
Moved aboard April '06, haven't spent a night anywhere else since.

mad_machine 06-28-2013 09:32 AM

Re: Downside of living aboard
You bring up a good point on derilct boats. When I was a young kid all those years ago, my best friend lived in Pa and spent the summers aboard with hs mom on a 33 foot owens. The boat looked good. The paint was shiney, the teak was treated, the insides vacuumed and polished... but the engines were never hooked up, the generator was long gone, and rot had ripped the planing boards off of the stern years ago.

She was basically a floating apartment that they towed from the slip to the travelift and back again every spring and fall.

Tim R. 06-28-2013 09:34 AM

Re: Downside of living aboard
We will be aboard 3 years this coming October. We chose this lifestyle as an adventure and to prepare for some long term cruising, not as a way to live cheap. We bought the best boat we could with cash and with plenty of cash left for upgrades. I am experienced with most all boat systems and we do all our own work except for haul-outs. So one of the worries most people have we eliminated - finances. We also bought a boat that was actively being cruised so we did not have any immediate maintenance concerns. We could upgrade when we liked.

How was this possible? We worked hard for many years saving the money to fulfill our dream. No shortcuts. We continue to work hard and save so we can enjoy an extended cruise in the future.

Cruisingdad 06-28-2013 12:35 PM

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.


DougSabbag 06-28-2013 12:40 PM

Re: Downside of living aboard
Been living aboard since May 5th 2000.

My first advice to wannabe liveaboards is to buy as big a vessel as you can afford.

We have numerous liveaboards up here in the greater Boston area who live in 30 something footers, or less, and go through hell because in reality they are living in "day cruiser" which was never designed or inted to be a liveaboard, so it is like they are living in their car.

There are no, or limited, interior walls so they don't even have the natural insulation of that, therefore for the winter they wrap their day cruisers in plastic.
Sort of like when a bum wraps up in newspaper to get throught the night, but clearly not the right way to live.

Choose carefully and WISELY.

Tim R. 06-28-2013 01:03 PM

Re: Downside of living aboard

Originally Posted by DougSabbag (Post 1051236)
My first advice to wannabe liveaboards is to buy as big a vessel as you can afford.

I would change this statement slightly. There is such a thing as a vessel that is too big. I have seen live-aboards and regular boat owners alike bail out because they were overwhelmed by the size and complexity of the systems on larger boats. And when it comes to affording a boat consider all the costs; initial purchase, upgrades, ongoing maintenance, slip fees, haul-out fees, insurance, heating/cooling costs, etc.

Buy as big a vessel as you can afford and are willing/able to maintain.

I do agree that some boats are simply too small for some folks to LA comfortably.

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