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Our Experience Living on a Boat For 3 Years
We bought an old Trawler in January 2021 and lived on that boat until we sold her in September 2023. Our boating lifestyle consisted of full-time cruising, where we would stay in place for one night, all the way to our longest stay of three months! We traveled across the Eastern United States while journeying on America’s Great Loop, transiting almost 10,000 miles. Living on a boat is a stark difference from traditional land life, and here is the A-Z of what it meant for us!
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How We Started Living on a Boat
We started living on a boat after traveling abroad for a year and wanting to live and travel out of a tiny home. We didn’t know if we would like to live on a boat. So we bought a 1989 34′ Marine Trader Trawler that was within our budget. We chose a 34’ Trawler because it was large enough for Jennifer, me, and our 8-year-old dog, and it also met all the criteria for the Great Loop. We bought our Great Loop boat in a boatyard, did some work to paint the bottom, and got everything into ship shape before splashing and moving in!
Although we did some online safety training before living on a boat, but by and large, we were very new to boating. We planned on learning as we go while living on a boat and that worked out fantastic. There isn’t a better way to learn than trying and being immersed daily. Looking back, we would hire a captain to ease our entry into handling a boat.
Our Daily Life Living on a Boat
Our daily life living onboard was a tale of two stories. The days we moved our boat were vastly different than the days when we remained in one spot!
When we moved our boat, our daily life started very early. Typically, we would wake up right before dawn, check our engine, and prepare for the cruise. Living on a boat requires self-reliance and planning so these daily checks were very important to living on a boat comfortably. We would spend hours cruising the water before coming to our destination a few hours before sunset. After dropping the anchor at the end of a day on the water, we would divvy up our tasks: I would take the dinghy to shore with our dog, and Jen would begin cooking dinner. Finally, after a dog walk, we would enjoy a sunset dinner before heading to bed.
When we did not move our boat, and stayed at a Marina or on anchor, we relished in the moments. Our favorite times while living on a boat were the slow mornings watching the birds fly in the sunrise and the peaceful sunsets over the water. During the day, we would take our dog out a few times, get exercise, and work just like life on land! A key piece of being able to work on our boat is a solid electrical system and Starlink, meaning we could work anywhere!
What We Loved Living on a Boat
Our favorite parts of living on a boat were the simplicity of life, being off-grid, enjoying a slower pace of life, and always having a new waterfront property to enjoy. Because we could move our home, we could travel comfortably and still cook, which we loved to do.
What We Disliked Living on a Boat
The worst parts about living on a boat are dealing with bad weather and the increased time any chore takes. For example, if you need to get groceries, take your dinghy to shore, catch a UBER, or walk to the grocery store and then reverse it all to get back with heavy bags of food. Then you must perform tetris in your boat galley, ensuring everything fits!
When living on a boat, you must constantly watch the weather forecast. If a bad storm is coming in or poor wind conditions, it may mean you have to move your home! Living on the water is beautiful but unforgiving, so we do what we can to have a safe and enjoyable time.
How Much It Costs Living on a Boat
Living on a boat can be cheaper than living on land. This is because you save money on certain items like rent and car payments. We released how much exactly it cost us to live on our boat for a year in our monthly Great Loop Expense Reports. While you may not do America’s Great Loop, you can see how much some of the other parts of boat life cost, like marina stays, engine maintenance, repairs, and safety equipment!
What is the Boating Lifestyle
Boating Lifestyle, just like any lifestyle, depends on the individual. You can live on a posh yacht or a small old sailboat that never leaves its anchorage! Our boating lifestyle consisted of adventure, traveling 10,000 miles around the Eastern U.S., peace and relaxation, spending hundreds of nights on anchor, and working full time.
I Want to Live on a Boat, What Next?
Fortunately, it has never been easier to live on a boat. There are the minimum things that are required to live on a boat:
- The Boat (obviously)
- Enough money to afford safety equipment, insurance, maintenance, and repairs.
- Knowledge of how to maintain and cruise a boat
All of these are very obtainable with the right steps!
Here are Actionable Steps to Start Living on a Boat
- Rent a boat with a captain for a week.
- This will help you decide what type of boat to live aboard and give you lots of practical knowledge.
- Join Your Local Yacht Club.
- Being surrounded by other boaters will help you learn from their experience. Sometimes, clubs will have race nights where captains let you help the crew after you begin sailing classes.
- If you are working, transition to a remote role.
Living on a Boat Full-Time Compared to Living on a Boat Part-Time
You don’t have to live on a boat full-time, you can live on a boat for weekends or seasons at a time. The benefit of this approach is that you get the best of boat life, by living aboard only when the weather is best and in short periods you miss a lot of the negatives about living on a boat. The tradeoff is that you need another home to spend the rest of your time, and a place to keep the boat when you are not onboard, which increases costs significantly!
Common Boat Life Questions
Do you need boating experience to live on a boat?
No! We started living on a boat with zero experience, and you can too. You can watch our YouTube videos for how it worked out for us. But as long as you take it slow and get mentoring, anyone can live on a boat.
Permissions and Rules
Living on a boat can sometimes carry some poor stigma. So it’s important to respect the rules if you decide to live on a boat. If you plan to spend the majority of time in one marina, ensure the marina allows liveaboards. If you plan to spend most of your time on anchor, ensure your boat is functional and well-maintained. Most municipalities require anchored boats to be functional to avoid derelict or abandoned boats. Respect laws when coming to shore and ensure you don’t trespass and dispose of trash properly.
The best boats for living onboard are tailored to your needs; a boat is just a series of compromises. There is no perfect boat. We wrote a blog post on the best boats for the Loop, which may help you on your journey.
Kids can also be raised living on a boat, but like everything, there is a series of tradeoffs. The big one is you trade off community and socialization (e.g., in school) for responsibilities and exposure to new circumstances. We recommend checking out boating YouTube channels like Sailing La Vagabond, who travel with their two kids to get a better glimpse.
What We Learned Living on a Boat
While living on a boat, we learned to take things slower and appreciate the small moments that make up our day. We also were welcomed to a new community of boaters which is a wonderful and friendly community.
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3 responses to “Our Experience Living on a Boat For 3 Years”
I’ve so enjoyed reading about and seeing your journey on your Sunday Summary emails and YouTube. Good luck on your next adventure!
p.s. Hugs to Ollie!
We are planning to travel the inland rivers this summer and have really enjoyed your journey, tips and story.
We are considering an ePropulsion motor like yours. We would appreciate your final opinion on it. Also, how did you secure it to the dingy when at the dock so that it was not stolen?