There are a lot of reasons why someone might choose to live aboard a sailboat. For me, it was mostly about the cost of living and the desire for a new adventure. I had been living on the east coast and working in the corporate world for several years and I was ready for a change. Last year I started to sell and/or store everything I owned, and bought a small boat. Well, I bought a Passport 41′ (I was shopping out a 40-foot boat) which is a true live aboard and plenty big enough for my goals. I don’t do all that well with small spaces so this sized boat is perfect.
I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of living on a boat. The thought of being able to just pick up and sail away to new places whenever I want sounded like the perfect life to me. So, I finally took the plunge and bought a sailboat. I’ve now been living on my boat full time for a few months, and I wanted to share why I made this decision and what my sailing experience has been like.
Deciding whether to live aboard on the East Coast or the West Coast (or anywhere in between) is a tough decision. There are pros and cons to both, and it really depends on what you’re looking for and what you’re willing to sacrifice. I also wanted to include a rundown of some of the things you should consider before making your decision.
I’ve been sailing since I was a child and I knew that I wanted to live aboard a sailboat full-time, so I started doing research on the best way to go about it. I quickly realized that there are a lot of costs associated with owning a boat, from maintenance to insurance to groceries (not to mention getting to and from the grocery stores). I also knew that I didn’t want a bigger boat – something small and manageable was more my speed.
I spent months looking at boats online and finally found one that was perfect for me. It was an older boat, but it was in good condition and it was affordable. This boat was in the family for many years and I knew it had been well maintained and I actually learned to sail on it. This was an upgrade from the time I rescued a salvage boat from Treasure Cay in the Bahamas. I flew down to Florida and bought it sight unseen. Then my buddy and I flew to Treasure Cay and sailed it back, crossing the gulf stream in a North wind. It was definitely a risk, but it paid off.
Now, I’ve been living aboard my boat for a few months and I couldn’t be happier. Sure, there are some challenges – limited space in the water tanks, high winds in the winter months, dockside fees – but overall, I love sailing boat life. And the best thing is, I can go where ever I want!
There are a lot of reasons why people choose to live on boats. For some, it’s a way to simplify their lives and get away from the rat race. For others, it’s an opportunity to see the world in a whole new way. And for others still, it’s simply a cheaper way to live. Whatever the reason, there are definitely some pros and cons to boat life that you should be aware of before making the decision to take the plunge.
One of the biggest considerations is cost. Buying a boat is not cheap, and neither is maintaining one. If you’re not careful, you can easily find yourself spending a lot of money on your boat every month. That said, if you’re mindful of your costs and are able to live relatively cheaply, living on a boat can actually be quite affordable. Additionally, in recent years there are often opportunities to make money while living on a boat (such as chartering your boat out as a vacation rental).
Another consideration is space. Boat living definitely requires you to downsize since there’s limited space onboard, can you say close quarters?! This can be tough for some people who are used to having a lot of stuff, but it’s actually been really liberating for me. It forces you to only keep things that are truly essential and brings a sense of peace that comes with having less stuff. Your other option is to factor this into the size of the boat when you make the purchase, it’s not a major issue depending on your funding.
Finally, you need to be prepared for bad weather. If you’re not used to sailing in rough conditions, living on a boat can present some challenges (albeit exciting ones). Additionally, winter months in colder climates can be tough since you have to be extra careful about staying warm and dry onboard. But if you’re prepared for it and have all the necessary gear, bad weather can actually be one of the best parts about living on a boat since it makes you feel more alive than ever before. You definitely need to consider the size of your boat as well as the design and mechanical thresholds before taking on any bad weather. You should also check with your boat insurance to see if there are restrictions on where you can go during hurricane season, they will typically cover you within a certain number of nautical miles from the coast line as well. Your insurance company will also want you to have plenty of fire extinguishers aboard. but it’s also just a good idea (not to mention the United States Coast Guard requires them).
Cost of Living
One of the major considerations when deciding where to live aboard is the cost of living. On the East Coast, the cost of living is generally higher than on the West Coast. This is especially true in cities like New York and Boston which have high marina costs. However, there are still many affordable places to live on the East Coast, particularly if you’re willing to sail a little further south. Another good way to keep your costs down is by adding a renewable energy source. My personal favorite is solar panels, particularly the flexible solar panels that easily mount atop your bimini. You can also consider wind turbines. Either way, you’re going to reduce the amount of electricity you need to purchase at a marina or the fuel costs run a generator.
Another consideration is maintenance costs. Older boats tend to require more maintenance than newer boats, so if you’re looking at an older boat, you should factor in the increased costs of upkeep. Additionally, boats in salt water tend to require more maintenance than those in fresh water. So, if you’re planning on living aboard in salt water, be prepared to spend a little extra money on maintaining your vessel. I like to run my boat like I run any business. I keep spreadsheets and track everything. It’s very helpful to have the average cost for monthly maintenance. You can then keep a maintenance reserve account that is easy to budget for.
When deciding between the East Coast and the West Coast, weather is another important consideration. The East Coast generally experiences more severe weather than the West Coast, including hurricanes and Nor’easters. If you’re not comfortable sailing in high winds and bad weather, then the East Coast may not be the best place for you to live aboard. Additionally, winters on the East Coast can be harsh, so if you’re looking for a place to escape the cold weather, then you might want to consider living aboard on the West Coast.
So… here is a consolidated list of your 6 biggest considerations
One of the biggest advantages of living on a sailboat is the cost. Sailboats are relatively inexpensive to purchase and maintain, and they offer a great way to live a debt-free lifestyle. Additionally, because sailboats are small, they can be easily docked in less expensive marinas. So you don’t necessarily need big bank accounts if you do it intelligently.
Another advantage of living on a sailboat is the freedom it provides. Living on a sailboat allows you to travel wherever you want, whenever you want, covering long distances without burning lots of cash. You are not tied down to one location, and you can explore different places looking for the hot spot as your whim takes you, even if that’s South America. My personal goal is to make it to to Honduras, a sailing paradise!
Living on a sailboat as a new life also requires that you be self-sufficient, you might be out of service and not use text messages to bail yourself out (sorry no easy access in this life). This means that you need to be able to take care of yourself and your boat without relying on others, this is not the easiest way to live. This can be a challenge at times, but it also teaches you valuable skills such as how to repair things and how to live without many of the modern conveniences that we take for granted. As much as you should be self sufficient, you still need health insurance because let’s face it, it’s dangerous out here!
4. Closer to Nature
When you live on a sailboat, you are also closer to nature. This is because you are not surrounded by concrete and steel like you would be in a city (nor a lot of people). Instead, you are surrounded by water, which has a calming effect on the mind and body. Additionally, being close to nature can help to improve your mental and physical health. You can stay connected these days with Starlink even in the most remote, beautiful places on Earth (and even in different countries). I have to mention that marina wifi or just high-speed internet access in general will be a big challenge. Starlink has been a savior for me. It works even in somewhat rough seas and is a must-have for liveaboard sailboat life.
Another advantage of living on a sailboat is the simplicity it offers. When you live on a sailboat, you are forced to live with less stuff because there is limited space onboard. This can be liberating, as it helps you to focus on what is truly important in life and lets go of material possessions that do not bring value to your life. The one not so simple thing is having to keep so many spare parts around. With smaller boats life is much simpler although you don’t have much space, which perhaps makes life simpler in its own right.
6. Unique Lifestyle
Finally, living on a sailboat is a unique lifestyle that not many people get to experience. It is a great way to meet new people and see new places while still enjoying the comforts of home.
If you’re thinking about living aboard a sailboat, there are a few things you should consider first. But if you’re up for an adventure and willing to sacrifice some creature comforts, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Just remember to do your research first and have a plan!
There are pros and cons to both East Coast and West Coast living aboard lifestyles. It really depends on what’s important to you and what you’re willing to sacrifice. Maintenance costs may be higher on the West Coast, but winter weather can be harsher on the East Coast. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which coast is best for your needs.
If you’re considering living on a boat full-time, there are definitely some things you need to take into account first. That said, if you’re mindful of the costs and prepared for bad weather, living on a boat can be an incredibly rewarding experience that will allow you to see the world in a whole new way.
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