Living on a Boat: Guide For Liveaboards & What You Need to Know!

It might be easy to fall in love with the relaxed and occasionally adventure-filled living on a boat full-time. However, it’s an alternative lifestyle that requires preparation and the ability to deal with change.

If you decide to move aboard, make checklists of your needs and talk to your partner about the aspects you don’t like. Prepare the boat for living aboard before you make the move.

Before Moving Onboard Your Boat

Before you live aboard your boat, you should ask yourself some questions:

  • Do you live in a boating-friendly climate all year round?
  • Is it just for a shorter period, or is it a long-term decision?
  • How much experience do you have with spending a longer time on your boat?
  • What is your estimated budget for income and expenditures living on your boat?
  • Are you comfortable defending your choice over and over to friends and family?
  • Are you a skilled problem solver?
  • Will you be comfortable with your children and pets in this new environment?
  • Will your partner, children, and pets (if any) will be happy living aboard?


After the move, you may have to carry laundry to the laundromat or groceries from the parking lot with no pumpers nearby. You’ll need to go to the pump station regularly and also to the post office to pick up mail. Small doesn’t mean easy, so go through a typical week in your head and jot down solutions to problems.

Living On a Boat

Living on a boat


Daily life and social contacts

It is easier to socialize in a marina than in a neighborhood. In marinas, people help each other, so be ready to help when needed. If you prefer to live more privately, find a mooring in a quiet corner of the harbor. Living on a boat comes with challenges, but if you’re prepared, it could be perfect for you.

Storage and Space

When you move from a large house to a small boat, all the closets are smaller, there are fewer cabinets, and there’s no garage. To get ready, you’ll need to sort out your kitchen utensils, tools, and clothing.

WiFi

Plan for your connectivity needs. Whether it’s a satellite TV or high-speed Internet access via the marina’s WiFi, you’ll need a connectivity solution. You might want to stay connected with your family, social circle, work, and entertainment.

Comfort

You will need to keep the boat warm, dry, and with good ventilation. Mold and condensation will be a daily occurrence due to the high humidity of the water. Don’t forget about new cleaning supplies and tools.

Safety

You’ll need to decide whether to invite others and whether children and pets are safe on the docks. Install CO2 and smoke detectors as well as a propane detector. Check fire extinguishers regularly, and pay attention to basic things like bilge and battery levels. You may also consider walking from the parking lot to the slip at night, parking your car, and your emergency contacts.

Maintainance

Maintenance on a boat can be more challenging than at home. If you have basic plumbing and mechanical skills, that will come in handy. Boat systems are less reliable than those of a home and more prone to malfunctioning.
The alternative would be to hire a contractor for every problem. If you are staying in a rural area, this could be challenging.

Expenses of Living on a Boat

Boats at the marina

Don’t assume you’ll save money when you live on board before you do your calculation. Here are some of the costs that can come with living on a boat:

  • Paying a boat mortgage
  • Boat insurance
  • Mooring fees and Marina fees
  • Food and water
  • Gasoline
  • WiFi and Mobile bills
  • Cleaning and supplies
  • Boat repair & maintenance fees: plumbing, electrical wiring, paint jobs, etc.
  • Waste management

The best way to manage expenses is to set a budget and stick to it. Depending on the length and value of the boat, boat insurance can be as expensive as homeowners insurance.

Property taxes are usually lower, as are electricity costs since you don’t have to heat/cool/light such a large space. You will also likely save money on garbage disposal, gas, and water.

Maintenance and marine replacement parts and labor are often more expensive than the typical household replacement jobs.

How Can I Live Aboard A Boat With A Pet?

Dogs, cats, and other pets need to get used to their new environment. They need exercise, their own space, and easy access to food and a potty.

Make sure stairs and walkways are safe for them and that they know how to get on the boat or dock in case they fall in the water. You will need small spaces for them to get caught in and wires for them to chew on. Familiarize them with their new surroundings and be patient.

Can I Just Live Aboard If My Boat is Already at a Marina?

Most marinas require an application for permanent residency on board. In some areas, charter boat access is unavailable, or there are long waiting lists. Mooring fees for residents are often higher, and insurance rates may increase if the boat becomes your primary residence.

Final Thoughts

There you have it! Living on a boat can be a very rewarding experience, and it might even save you money compared to living on land, depending on your location.

If you plan ahead, calculate your budget, and can tackle the initial challenges of living aboard, that will give you a head start when moving aboard for the first time.

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