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bljones 08-04-2010 08:17 AM

Living Aboard Cheap- Dreamers read!
Here's a reality check- people live aboard for ONLY one of two reasons:
1. they can afford to, or
2. they can't afford to live anywhere else.

I used to live aboard thanks to reason #2. In the future i will live aboard because of reason #1.

I suspect that the vast majority of us are barely eeking by, but as long as we work 60 a week while getting paid for 40 to make the minimum payments on the cards, and continue to be distracted by the devices those cards bought, and as long as the month/money ratio is 1:1, we don't have the time to realize that we are stuff rich and cash poor.
The average 21st century family is one paycheque away from insolvency.
Think about how many fewer hours you would have to work every week if you didn't have a mortgage, a car payment or two, credit cards, utility bills, home theatres, a laptop, cable and internet, a family...

Over the last few months there have been a number of hit and run enquiries from those who are looking to live cheap. Where to live, how to live, etc.

Here's my story. Draw from it what you will.

I was a marina rat between wives, homes and jobs. It altered my perspective on what, and who was important, how much space and stuff I needed, and led to a more pragmatic and creative approach to life. i became a better and more creative cook. I read more, and rediscovered the cheap joy of a library card. I picked up pennies. I learned that really cheap beer in cans tastes just fine when the can is really cold, and you are sipping it after an honest day's labour, watching the sun pass beyond the horizon from the bow of your home. I noticed more. I discovered that you could feel rich with $100 in your pocket, and you could easily spend a couple of hours plotting and scheduling how to spend it, figuring out how to make it last, because the longer it lasted the longer you didn't have to work. I learned to abstain from impulse purchases. I learned the value of tipping 20%, even on a cup of coffee, and the value of being a regular customer- good loyal tippers sometimes get free coffee when their pockets are empty on cold rainy days. It wasn't idyllic, it was occasionally a grind, occasionally depressing, and more than once i found myself in tears, feeling sorry for myself. But I always knew where I stood.

It was one of the best experiences of my life.

If you're broke, then the ideal location for living aboard is wherever you happen to be right now, by default. It doesn't matter how much better or nicer or safer or easier it is somewhere else, you ain't there, you're here, and you're here because you're broke which is why you ain't there.
That's the reality of being broke on a boat. Another reality of being broke on a boat is that if it doesn't crush you, it tends to make you really damn creative about getting UNbroke. You barter, you trade labour around the marina, you scrounge stuff out of the trash that Sea Ray owners toss and clean it up and sell it. On Monday morning you are working the trash barrels and pulling empties to return for the deposit. On Friday afternoon you get out your bucket and brushes and furiously clean the topside of your boat, and pimp your boat cleaning services to those Sea Ray owners. In the spring you are furiously scraping and varnishing the brightwork on your boat, working to hook some cash money from those Sea Ray owners. If you get really, really desperate, you sell parts of your boat that you don't need right now, because you aren't going anywhere, like the compass, the VHF, and your Mustang floater coat. If you want to survive, you swallow your pride and you HUSTLE, and stretch every dollar until it snaps.

You become a low-movement low-exposure hermit, never leaving your boat except to scratch some work or stock up on ramen and beans because the less you do and the less you leave your boat, the less you have to spend on food and laundry and hygiene. or you grow into an integral part of the marina environment, a de facto security guard and boatkeeper. Most marinas don't mind having a broke guy around, as long as he keeps his slip rent current. If you're broke, sooner or later, if you hustle enough and eyeball the opportunities, you get unbroke enough to cast off and journey on.

Some call it "cruising."

If you're impoverished, that's different. Broke is a temporary condition- poverty is a state of mind. When you're impoverished you don't hustle, because you figure you'll never get ahead anyway. you don't look for opportunities because you don't believe there are any. How you even ended up with a boat is a bit of a mystery, but it's usually an inheritance or the misplaced charity of a relative who thinks all you need is a chance. You're just marking time, and sooner or later your boat sinks, burns, gets stolen or liened and you end up in the shelter you always figured you'd end up in anyway. Most marinas aren't unhappy to see you gone.

CaptainForce 08-04-2010 10:35 AM

It's very difficult for me to follow the emotions in this post or understand these living aboard conditions. I have never lived aboard because I had too little money for another choice and yet, having enough money was never a influence that caused me to move aboard. What about those that work hard with a moderate beginer's income fresh out of college and keep a budget that allows them to live on a lttle less than what they earn for thirty years before they retire. Sure, "It's the best experience of our lives", but money is not the cause or motivation...neither too little, just enough or plenty. Take care and joy, Aythya crew

LandLocked66c 08-04-2010 10:57 AM

I can't imagine living aboard right now. We don't have a mortgage, car payments, or kids. We do have the others... Cell phones, internet, and the costs of living. Those, in themselves, keep us living paycheck to paycheck at times. It amazes us how expensive it is to live and often comment how lucky we are not to have the car payments and such!

Sounds like you have lived a live aboard lifestyle that I wouldn't particularly enjoy.

smackdaddy 08-04-2010 11:41 AM

78 Attachment(s)
bl, this is depressing as hell - but it makes perfect sense.

I'm hereby stealing it for the salt's thread.

bljones 08-04-2010 04:17 PM

Depressing? Hell no! Challenging for sure, occasionally frustrating, but definitely not depressing. If the condition was permanent, then THAT would be depressing. I was broke, not impoverished. See the difference?

You had enough money, or enough income, or enough whatever, to have choices, so living aboard was a choice you made. Therefore, you fall into category #1.

My aim here was to throw a little reality at the dreamers who think that life on a boat is like downloading music- free, easy, and requires less effort than going to the mall and actually buying it.
Yes, it CAN be cheaper than renting an apartment...except there is no landlord to call to fix things when you live on a boat, and you can't put off fixing a busted bilge pump float switch... yes it CAN be more romantic than living in a concrete sea... until the head backs up.

kd3pc 08-04-2010 05:14 PM


well said, I know exactly where you are coming from...reality has to be faced one way or another...dreams you can enjoy or ignore with no consequence.

Dreams do keep you going during those reality days though...

remetau 08-04-2010 05:21 PM

I have some friends down here in the keys that pretty much live like this all the time by choice. I feel that they have a much richer life than most people I know still pursuing the normal American dream.

TheRealBill 08-04-2010 08:55 PM

Interesting story. Thanks for sharing...and good luck!

sailor50 08-04-2010 09:42 PM

Here's a reality check- people live aboard for ONLY one of two reasons:
1. they can afford to, or
2. they can't afford to live anywhere else.

What difference does it make? It's no different than a neighborhood.

A liveaboard who throws his/her wealth around is no different than living next to the Jones' trying to keep up with the next gizmo/gadget, car, etc., some hide (live) behind gates and walls.

A liveaboard who is frugal usually does keep watch on all boats in the area, recycles (hey I found a sail in a dumpster in San Francisco that I gave to a fellow sailor in Providencia), we are generally educated, do tip the 20%, have little debt because we continually save for boat maintenance and the occasional cruise.

I know a lot of sailors who leave their "titles" at the dock while out on the water - there's no Dr., Your Honor, etc., we are all equals out there!

bljones 08-05-2010 08:07 AM


Originally Posted by sailor50 (Post 628920)
Here's a reality check- people live aboard for ONLY one of two reasons:
1. they can afford to, or
2. they can't afford to live anywhere else.

What difference does it make?

The only difference is attitude. Attitude towards yourself, your boat, and your future.

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