Re: Just beginning to shop around... would love feedback/ideas...
Okay, some observations from my experience, so far. Ymmv.
I "legally" moved aboard on New Years eve. At the time, I was sick as a dog and it was raining... cats and dogs outside.
My boat does not have a head. So, that meant trekking up to the facilities, sometimes, in the middle of the night. In addition to the rain, it was cold (though not as cold as it can get on the northeast coast... I live in the bay area, so my cold is likely shirt sleeve weather to truly cold-hardened types.). Think camping only now, having to navigate sometimes slippery docks. Yeah, we do get frost on the docks during winter, though, they rarely ice over.
My boat does not have a stove either. I use a jetboil for cooking stuff that cannot be grilled. I do have a large rail grill. Which is great when it's not raining and blowing like a son-of-a gun.
Amazingly, I do have a fridge with a real freezer. Though, I'm swapping that out. Mainly bc the thing takes up too much room. That, and I live right across the street from the grocery store, so I don't need to stock up on a ton of food at once. This will also keep electricity costs down.
Requirements, of course, will differ, should I decide to, say cruise down the coast. At this point, however, I do not consider my boat to be cruise worthy. Bay cruising, yes. Blue water cruising. No. It only has a little outboard motor, after all.
But back to the cold bit. My boat is small, so it was fairly easy to keep warm and dry. Though, to keep electricity costs down, I made a few adjustments. Like only running the heater at night in the evenings and when I was up. Also, layers. Layers of clothing that is. Several, in some cases. And, if I felt really chilled, I'd sit out on deck for a bit, then coming inside felt cozy.
And then, there's the rain. Rainy season is a good way to find out if the boat has leaks. I did find a couple of leaks. One took me forever to finally figure out where it was coming from. As it turned out, some deck hardware had been removed but the holes made by the screws had never been resealed. Obvious, once I found it.
I also set up a "boom tent" to go over the back deck so I could sit outside when it wasn't too cold. I also ran into a guy who was tossing a window that was only two weeks old. He was redoing all his canvas. Since his boat was way bigger than mine, the window fit nicely across my bimini arcs, thereby making an "almost" enclosed porch. Being able to sit out on the back deck in a torrential downpour really helped to keep the cabin fever at bay. Moreover, it was way kewl. At least to me.
Getting out of the boat with a boom tarp that drapes down past the lifelines, however, can be a challenge. To address this, I installed a a 6 foot zipper (which I originally hand sewed, and have since replaced with a tarp zipper that's designed to take the stress without unravelling the tarp material) and tied a string to the zipper pull to make it easier to open/close. Oh, and I rigged a mini-tent (ala a paint drop cloth with plastic backing) over my hatch, so I could open that if it wasn't too cold. Primarily to keep the air flowing.
Okay, so rainy season seems to be pretty much over. Now we get really hot days. I still use the mini-tent over the hatch bc it keeps the afternoon sun from heating up the vberth, and basically acts as a makeshift air scoop. For the back deck, I use a canvas tarp that extends from my dodger to the bimini arches to keep out the morning sun. And, I've got a bamboo window shade draped across the companion way to let the air in while also keeping the sun out. This setup, so far, has resulted in an almost chilly cabin climate. Though, I suspect that will change when we start creeping into the 90s. Nonetheless, this setup is extremely easy to take down and stow away for sailing.
Then there's the marina I'm at. It is very much like a resort. Extremely nice, well kept facilities. Oh yeah. And free ice. The slips are also wired for cable. I have very high speed internet, and could have TV if I actually watched TV. And of course, there's dock power and water. The setting is quite nice as well. We've got a large waterfront park with exercise equipment and jogging path, as well as a mall across the street that includes groceries, mailboxes, and eateries. And, there's a bus stop right out front. There's also lots of wildlife. Additionally, the marina is fairly well protected from both weather and tide elements. The trade off is that it takes about 20 minutes to motor out to the main bay area. This, of course is fine by me.
And finally, there's the people. It's a mix of young and old. And while this is a live aboard friendly marina, it's not a water-logged trailer park, so to speak. That is, on nice days, just about everyone is out sailing or power boating. It's very active. Importantly, it's full of lots of really nice folk.
Okay, so, it's now May, and I'm still waiting for the honeymoon to end. Bc frankly, I love living aboard. Though, no doubt, some would be horrified at some of what I've described above. Unsurprisingly, living aboard, like any other lifestyle, is not for everyone.
What I think helps, for me, is that I've always been very adaptable. I've lived in a high rise penthouse with amenities up the wazoo and the most amazing views. I've been a basement dweller as well. I even lived in a tent trailer, which had way less room than my boat, while traveling around the states. The only thing I haven't done, is live on the street...or in a war zone, for that matter. That is, as an adult. Though, I suspect if either ever turned out to be my lot in life, I'd make due.
Guess what I'm saying is, imho, adaptability is key. Esp if you're purposefully trying to live on a shoe string budget. Which I do.
Btw, speaking of budget. I budget everything. I also prioritize. And, I buy used as much as possible. Luckily I have a chandlery nearby. Which is a tad like a candy store to me, so I even budget how often I visit and try to only go there if I "think" I need something. Also, I generally cook at home and my entertainment, outside of family, friends, sailing and putzing around on my boat projects, is a good book or a movie.
Most of my boating friends have predicted that I will end up trading up. I may. We'll see. Regardless, some might say I live a minimalist life. Though, I would say, I live a simple life. One that makes me happy. Importantly, a life that makes me content.
Anyway, that's my experience, so far. Ymmv.
Btw, side note, I've run into a surprisingly large number of young people (as in college age, young) who are going the live aboard route. Some, even living on the hook. It's kinda kewl, actually. :-)