How To Live on a Sailboat

how to live on a sailboat

Are you wondering if you can live on a sailboat? That depends on your lifestyle and whether you’re willing to trade living on land for living on a sailboat.

People have always been fascinated by the sea and its enigmatic beauty throughout the ages. The love and attraction for the ocean are everlasting, as we, humans, have always felt at home close to the sea. 

Some go on vacation at the seaside each year, others own a house by-the-sea, and there are also those who decide to buy a boat and live aboard to enjoy the full experience that the ocean has to offer. 

If you are a boat owner and one of your bucket list wishes is to live aboard your own boat, this article will put into perspective the most important aspects and tips on how to have the best experience while living on a sailboat and what you should prepare for before taking this decision. 

1.  Choosing a sailing boat to live aboard

The first step of the entire process is, of course, choosing the sailing boat to live on, depending on how much space you’ll need and what your budget might be. 

An average-sized sailing boat for 2 people is about 30 feet long and has everything that you’d need in order to live on a sailboat comfortably (shower, cooking and sleeping area, dining and working spaces)   You could even find an affordable one that has been used before which could also be budget-friendly. 

The average price of a new sailboat is around $150,000, but if you consider buying a used one, you’d pay between $10,000 and $50,000. 

One of the most important aspects that you have to take into consideration is electricity, so make sure the sailboat comes with electrical power and that all the outlets are working. 

The condition of the sailing boat is also important and it could make or break the entire experience. You can fix its aspect and make it look better, but it would be wise you choose a sturdy one that does not have issues like mold, electrical problems or leaks. 

2. Living on a sailboat Essentials

When living on a sailboat, you’ll need to worry about power, water, and sewage. Boats have water (freshwater for drinking)  and sewage tanks (for greywater and black water). 

When living aboard, you can connect your sailing boat to water in a marina. You’ll do the same with power using a marine extension cord and an outlet. Both facilities come with a fee. There are also some marinas that have sewage hookups at each dock. 

Another important aspect that you have to take into consideration when living on a sailboat is liquid fuel as it is used when cooking (kerosene, alcohol, diesel). On a sailboat, you don’t usually have standard electric or gas appliances.  

You must pay attention to how you store your fuel in order to avoid any dangerous situation. Make sure there aren’t any leaks and that the system is ventilated.   It is also advisable you install a carbon monoxide detector.

There are also alternatives to standard liquid fuels, such as propane, which is considered cheaper and more clean than kerosene and diesel. 

3.  Staying organized when living on a sail boat

As space is quite reduced, being organized will represent a strong advantage when you live on a sailboat. 

Storage spaces are great and so is dedicating them to specific objects. Don’t keep everything in one cupboard but instead dedicate a cupboard for pots and pans, another one for cleaning supplies, store your clothes in plastic boxes, or you could even vacuumed-sealed in order to save some space.  

You can do the same with your sails or engine tools, store them in dedicated places in order to keep the mess at bay. 

In order to save some space, you could also change your buying habits. Instead of buying in bulk, you could buy smaller items (such as toothpaste, soap bottles).

Another way is to choose to use natural products (solid shampoo, conditioner, shower gel), as they come in small carton boxes and you can store them in little tins/ They don’t take up a lot of space and they are a great alternative to big, plastic bottles that end up polluting the ocean. 

Reducing the amount of garbage that is produced is another great way to save space. As mentioned before, choosing products that don’t have excessive packaging but also choosing to use reusable items (a rag instead of a paper towel when possible), not using a microwave, and cutting down on processed meals. It’s also an opportunity to eat healthier meals. 

Lastly, in order to fit everything when living on a sailboat, you’ll have to make a selection regarding the things you chose to bring with you (clothes, objects, clothes).

4. Docking  

One of the most important aspects to be taken into consideration when living on a sailboat is choosing the marina, which will be your home for some time.

Some of the marinas allow people to live aboard, and some ban it completely. You should find a medium-sized, clean marina where rules regarding sanitary conditions are respected. 

Make sure to check out the prices, any hidden fees, the experience of other liveaboards about the marina management, and most importantly, go there in person and check everything for yourself to make sure you’d have everything you’d want and need. 

There are many advantages in choosing to live in a marina. 

First of all, the boat will be much more sheltered in case of dire weather conditions, than if you chose an open anchorage instead. The marina’s staff will also keep an eye on your boat to ensure its safety.

This grants you freedom knowing you can spend some time away from your boat while it’s in good hands. You can enjoy this time exploring the surroundings, visiting the nearby shops anytime you want or when you need to buy something. 

You would be able to enjoy most life’s comforts as you knew them before you made the decision to live aboard your sailboat, such as unlimited water and electricity, cooking on electric stoves, washing dishes, charging your devices. 

You’ll have to opportunity to use the marina’s facilities, such as showers and toilets, washing machines  and dryers for pristine and warm laundry. 

Plus, deciding to find an all-year-round berth for your boat in the safety of a marina grants you a sublime view for which many people would pay millions if they were to buy a house near the sea!

You’d have the same “waterfront property” at a fraction of a cost and in many cases, your view will be superior!

If you’d want to make a change, you could simply find a new marina somewhere else where you’ve never been before and just move there. You would not need to sell your home;  just untie your ties and move your home to a new location, without going through the entire process of moving homes which could be quite long and tedious. 

You’d also be able to cut down on some costs if you decide to live aboard your sailboat in a marina. You’d be paying a monthly fee for the berth but you could also have a longer contract, for more than 6 months for example, which grants a price reduction.

Electricity and a potential liveaboard fee (which some marinas charge) should also be considered. But you still can’t compare the costs to the standard bills that have to be paid when living in a house. 

If you are a social butterfly, you could be pleasantly surprised by the wonderful liveaboard community and the friendly neighbors. Socialization has always been important in our lives, as it brings joy, love, friendships that last for a lifetime and wholesome moments.

Because your boat will be tied along others and you and your neighbors will walk the same docks everyday, you can be sure you’ll develop some amazing friendships and find people with similar interests in life with whom you can chit-chat to your heart’s content. Drinks are in order as well as friendly visits, so the social setting is great.

Usually, liveaboard communities are very friendly and eager to help if there is an issue, as they stand united in case problems arise.

As this is a close-knit community, you will find many people with similar endeavors such as conservation, minding the sake of the planet through making better choices, green energy alternatives and eco solutions. 

They are also people who like to share what they have with their neighbors and like to invite them over a nice appetizer/ cocktails hour/ cookout. Life stories and jokes will be shared, insuring the fun of everyone involved. And since it’s a marina, it will be easy for you to meet new people and make new friends as there are many persons who stop by for a few days. 

Space is reduced on a boat, but this will give you the opportunity to only keep the things that are really important to you and that you put to good use on a daily basis. You won’t have to deal with cupboards filled to the brim with clutter that might not see the light of day in years. 

It’s rather common to swap items with your neighbors as many of them live by the saying “one man’s junk is another man’s desire”. You can also give away what you don’t need or use anymore and rest assured someone else will use it. 

Since the space is reduced, cleaning will be a breeze as well, as you’ll only spend  a fraction of your time cleaning your boat compared to cleaning a house. 

Lastly, crime rate is lower in a marina than in a standard housing estate.

5. Repairing your boat

Many marinas have facilities that make it easy to you to fix your boat. You’ll be able to find mechanics, carpenters and someone who could fix your engine or clean the hull if needed. Among their services you should be able to find mechanical ones, electric and electronics, slipping, antifouling, battery charging, polishing, towing, anodes, shipwrights, sign writing, detailing, cover makers. 

Before choosing a marina to call your home for some time, make sure you’d find there everything that you would need to keep your boat in good condition. 

5. Working while living on a sailboat

Remote Work 

It is a known fact that nowadays, working remotely is becoming more and more popular. If your job permits it, then it is one of the biggest perks when you live on a sail boat. The pandemic offered many people the chance to work from the comfort of their own home and it slowly but surely became the norm to many. 

We would advise you have a good internet setup in any remote work scenario. A DC-powered router, access point, remote WiFi, good cellular connection, there quite a few options for you to choose from. 

It’s a dream of many to do their work from anywhere they wish to, and jobs like accounting or any other work that can be done with the use of a computer, will become much more interesting with a change of scenery. The sea could become your new “office” if you choose to live and work remotely on your sailboat. 

Freelance Work

However, if you decide to change your job, you could try a freelance career, such as coding, writing, photography, web design, translation, virtual assistant, language tutor, or digital advertiser.

There are for sure many opportunities that await you! You could also put your skills to good use and maybe teach scuba diving or sailing in order to make a living or provide boat maintenance to those who need this kind of services if you have the necessary knowledge.

If you are sick with the daily grind and routine, a change of this kind might be the solution for you, especially if you long for a life of freedom and adventure.

Is living on a sailboat realistic?

In short, you can live on a sailboat all year, as many people do. A sailboat can accommodate 70,000 to 100,000 people. However, it is dependent on your lifestyle and whether you are willing to give up life on land. There are numerous advantages and disadvantages to both styles.

Before making a major change, you should try living aboard for a month. This is the best way to see for yourself what it’s like to live on a sailing boat.

Last Thoughts on Living on a Sailboat

Living on a sailing boat is for sure the opportunity of a lifetime and a wonderful experience. Make sure to take everything into consideration before making such a big life change, and enjoy every moment of your new adventure!

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