I am planning on Living aboard in the near future (slip availability seeming to be the biggest challenge in San Diego). As I have been getting back up to speed with this 20 year old Idea, I was taking care of my house this weekend (rental, sold my house during my divorce). For all the work I hear about boats being, and I am not dismissing it, how many people forget how much work and maintenance a house can me. I am in a 2800 square foot house. Two air conditioning units, yard work, cleaning three bathrooms, cleaning the floors (2800 sqft!!), termites, other critters, fences and gates, two car garage full of.... then there are the toys you accumulate in all that space, Jeep, Motorcycle, bikes...
Guess what I wonder, my house is a ton of work, as I start to downsize and get rid of everything life is much more organized and easier. I have to think this will make up for a lot of the work I will encounter maintaining the boat.
Some key differences that I’ve noticed mostly revolve around the fact that most house work, barring roof failures or storm damage, can be “postponed” until convenient. On my sailboat there are many things that are “must do now” due to safety and seamanship concerns. It becomes a job in itself creating the “boat lists” outlining what needs to happen now and what are comfort and convenience items. Throw in two additional factors as well, you’re in the most corrosive environment on earth and everything is constantly being worked due to wind and waves. Additionally, whatever boat you buy will no doubt be encumbered by years of “owner modifications” that must be attended to.
As far as the basics, once you’ve went through the below the waterline stuff, as long as you keep the bottom clean, did the job right in the first place and work your seacocks monthly, the basic “keep the water out” premise isn’t that expensive. Properly done wiring kept off the bilge floor will last; bilge pumps tend to fail often but again, not that expensive. Deck leaks need to be properly attended to or they can and do lead to expensive repairs however if you ignore them the short term biggest downside is you’ll be wet all the time. Rigging must be inspected and maintained. I check my stays and cotter pins during my pre departure inspections. Keep on top of things and it’s not that expensive. “Deferred maintenance” from previous owners seems to jack prices up exponentially.
Keep the water out and structural safety should always get $$ first. Everything else can usually be worked on as you can. Don’t forget certifications for safety equipment as well.
While my home did cost a lot to maintain, the biggest difference is in time. I work/check/fix/inspect things on my boat daily. My house generally got attention when something broke or I noticed paint peeling etc.
It’s generally not maintaining the boat that costs so much. It’s getting it up to standard in the first place whilst keeping it safe and functional because you’re living on it/ using it.
I do all my own work and am a stickler for ABYC standards so for me, the cost difference is mostly in time, not as much $. My “minor refit” this spring on my 34’ cost me $9500 and three months of 12 hour days. Added up, if I had paid for labor, the labor alone would have been $32k. You do the math.