Most of the choices we make involving where we live involve state, city, or (if we’re really dedicated) country. Things like the number of accessible grocery stores and the number of parking spaces (to determine the number of parties hosted, of course) are real considerations. If we’re pushing it, maybe we have to choose between a backyard or a porch, a lawn or a two-car garage, or wood floors versus carpet. Wherever we touch down in the end we know we’re getting four walls, windows, a few bedrooms, and a (fairly) solid foundation. Life on this green earth is never really questioned. So what happens when we swap the walls for paneling, the windows for portal, and the bedrooms for bunks? A few years of life as a liveaboard – the term for someone who uses a boat as a place of permanent residence – can answer those questions and maybe even shed a little light on what we truly want.
Anyone who’s even set foot on a boat immediately recognizes the fact that space is an issue – more of an issue, in fact, than it is in any normal situation. After all, conforming to the shape of a floating vessel is a task most modern essentials just weren’t made for. As you might expect, plenty of businesses have risen to the challenge: a dorm-room-sized refrigerator, mini microwaves, and single-burner stoves are now no-brainers for any conscious liveaboard.
That being said, how small is small? Most consider liveaboard boats to be comfortable and cost-effective when they approach the 40-foot realm, with boats manned by a single soul usually a few feet under the number. One major consideration is standing space: does the boat have enough room for you to stand up straight, stretch, and move around comfortably? If not, it’s probably a no-float.
So do liveaboards really just sail the seven seas a few hundred times a year? Probably not, although who’s to say no, right? Boat maintenance, laundry, running water, internet access, and supply space are potentially limiting factors: after all, one can only fit so many cans of beans into 40 feet and still have room for the paddles, right? As well, for the amount of time the boat spends cradled in its element, water and boat-building materials have a uniquely hostile relationship – every year, about 30% of the boat’s original cost should be set aside for maintenance. This could mean new sails, engine repairs, deck replacements, or electrical upgrades. Staying safe, happy, and warm flat-out requires more work at sea than it does on land.
Unless you’re a fan of minimalism and very handy with a glue gun, none of this may seem very positive! So why do people chose the liveaboard lifestyle? Like anything worth doing, long-term life aboard a boat requires a true passion for the lifestyle. In the words of Sir Francis Drake, famed nautical mariner, “It is not that life ashore is distasteful to me. But life at sea is better.” It could be the neighbors (or lack thereof), the early morning sunrises, or the ocean breeze, but when you find your heart’s home, live there – even if it means rolling with the waves.