The Top Liveaboard Pros And Cons

The Top Things To Consider When Looking To Liveaboard A Boat
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Liveaboard HQ - Quest for The Best Presents: The Top Liveaboard Pros and Cons

What is a Liveaboard?

To those new to the topic of boat life, the answer may not be obvious. Still, it depends a lot on who you ask. In the traditional sense, it is someone who maintains their residence aboard a vessel rather than on land. There are those who openly live aboard a mostly stationary boat in a marina which allows and even advertises to liveaboards.

These marinas typically charge an additional monthly fee of between $75 and $150 and provide certain amenities such as restrooms, showers, laundry, sometimes even a pool or tennis courts.

Not all marinas accept liveaboards, so it is important to conduct research before assuming anything. A quick phone call to a marina may save you time and frustration when you reach the point at which you are aboard your dream boat and seeking the perfect spot.

What Is A Sneakaboard?

Then there are those who pay the slip fees for the month but sneak into the marina slips and onto their boat under the cover of night. These are known as ‘Sneakaboards’ and it is a somewhat common practice.

Some boat owners find themselves on a long and timely liveaboard waiting list, or part of a situation where a combination of a “no liveaboard” rule and a complacent or forgiving dockmaster exist.

A resourceful and organized sailor, one who can keep their boat in such condition to not raise suspicion, can usually maintain the discipline necessary to pull this lifestyle off over the course of several months.

Sneakaboards generally do not want to move their boat unless forced to do so. Similar to liveaboards, sneakaboards want to take advantage of a monthly fee that is less than they would expect to pay for an apartment, house, or condominium on land.

What Is A Cruiser?

Cruisers, part or full-time cruisers on the other hand, are open about their status regardless of the marina rules. They maintain a permanent land address, or at least an address through one of a handful of companies that offers this service (virtual address) and have their mail forwarded as they sail to different locales.

They have no problem informing the dockmaster that everything they own is aboard their boat and that they’ll be living aboard while they stay, but that their stay will (generally) be less than three months.

In these cases, they enjoy the benefits of liveaboard status without the stigma often associated with those who see living aboard in a slip as tantamount to living in a trailer on the water.

Live Aboard A Boat And Know The Pros And Cons

Finding A Friendly Mooring

Whichever path you choose, you will want to try to find marinas or yacht clubs that are friendly to those with more than the weekend urge or once monthly itch to visit and use/work on their boats.

There may, however, be a marina that fits the bill but is full. This means you would have to join a waiting list, which could mean several months or even years to wait for someone to vacate their slip in favor of moving on to another location.

One strategy is to keep a close eye on websites which advertise boats for sale in your area. Often times boat owners or their families will come upon unexpected circumstances that force them to move back home to assist or to sell their boat to afford medical bills. And sometimes those with the upper hand will simply offer their slip (and boat in many cases) for sale at a premium depending on the expected wait time at that particular marina.

Boaters who desire liveaboard access and have the means to afford such rates can expedite this process. Who are those people, you ask? Well, in areas such as San Francisco and Seattle, they are well-paid employees and founders in the tech world who have the income to support those premiums. They understand that the short-term financial hit is worthwhile as they can anticipate saving much more income by living aboard than they would if they were to opt to live on land.

Do your research and find the right situation for you. If this is truly the lifestyle you are seeking for the next several years, you will need to remain steadfast and determined in most cases. Everything worth having is worth fighting for as someone once said. An inexpensive and alternate lifestyle is no exception.

 

Boat Challenges

Does the head function? It had better, because even if the marina facilities are within a few minutes walking, there will no doubt be occasions where you need to relieve yourself on board.

Holding tanks and boat plumbing are the bane of every boater’s existence when they malfunction. And even when they are functional, most marinas have strict policies requiring vessels to pump out every week or so. This sometimes means motoring out of the slip and next to a dedicated pump out dock.

As long as your engine starts and runs, this should pose no problem. But if you cannot move your boat for any reason, you may be forced to pay a penalty or at least pay for a pump out vessel to come to you; not a cheap expense.

Pros of Living Aboard A Boat

With all of that aside, the pros of living aboard are plentiful too.

A life of subtle movement in the water, with ocean breezes and a like-minded community of friendly people is often attainable. Those who live aboard have generally had an interesting life. Many are no stranger to adversity and are more than willing to lend a hand or a tool at a moment’s notice.

It is not uncommon to plan cruises with neighbors, or to share knowledge and troubleshooting advice over a cold beer or bottle of rum. Often, there are nearby islands or gathering places where socializing is made easy, often organized by several people who are quick to learn about the ‘newbie’ who has just arrived.

Be open, friendly, helpful, and honest whenever possible, and you may find that being a liveaboard is exactly what you had dreamed it would be. Fair winds!

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The Pros And Cons Of Liveaboard Life

Now that you understand the basic differences in liveaboard naming conventions and public perceptions, let us shift focus to the actual day-to-day rewards (Pros) and challenges (Cons) aboard your vessel.

In this scenario, let’s assume you purchased a 30’ sloop that was built over thirty years ago for less than $10,000. You found a slip in a marina which allows liveaboards for an added $100/month. Your total expenses are, say, $500/month for the slip plus the $100 liveaboard fee. $600/month all in.

Congrats! You are on your way.

Proximity To Neighbors

You and maybe a friend or two motor your new home into the marina and into a slip that you have organized in advance. (You did organize this in advance, right?). You arrive and dock in your designated slip, set the dock lines, kill the engine, and assess your surroundings.

To your port and starboard are two neighbors, close enough to spit on as they say. With only a narrow walkway between you and them, you will quickly notice the proximity.

You will hear their music, their laughter, their arguments if they happen to be a couple, the barking of their dog. You will, within a few days or weeks, know more than you ever wanted to know about the five or so boats and boaters in your immediate proximity.

Are they friendly? Are they medicated? Do they smoke cigarettes? You will know it all, for better or for worse. Hopefully you will find your neighbors to be generous and kind, quiet and courteous. But other times you may need to re-assess your location and begin the hard work of finding another marina altogether.

However, if you are unsettled shortly after finding your slip, ask the harbormaster if there are any alternatives within the marina. This can usually lead to an upgrade, at least temporarily, so long as your reasons for wanting to relocate are valid.

Now let us assume you are in a happy place in a happy slip, with happy and friendly neighbors who respect your privacy and space. Now what are the remaining challenges? Well, some of that depends on your boat.

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Other Liveaboard Challenges

Other challenges can include the boat’s bilge system, sudden inclement weather, mold, and electronics.

The Bilge

The bilge is essentially a reservoir at the base of the hull that collects liquid runoff of all sorts. Many boats contain electric bilge pumps which run off the D/C deep cycle batteries aboard. Others require the old bucket method to empty.

On many occasions in many marinas, boaters will open hatches above or next to cabins or v-berths to allow for breezes to come through. This is a great way to air out the interior, but if you happen to be away from the marina when a storm passes through, the boat can quickly become soaked and your bilge full of rainwater and any other residue that may wash into it.

Electrical Wiring

Being sure that electronic wiring is sound is one major challenge when buying and living aboard a boat.

Mold

Another difficulty is mold. Depending on which part of the world your boat is kept, mold - and black mold in particular, can be a constant nuisance. Mold is not only unsightly, but over time can potentially lead to respiratory health problems if not addressed.

If black mold is an issue, many boaters use white vinegar or other non-toxic cleansers to rid the interior of it.

Electrical And Electronic Gear

Finally, batteries must be maintained, along with all electronics, solar systems, wind generators, satellites, communications, cellular devices, and more. Salt water can quickly shorten the life of electronics, so having waterproof containers and appropriate coverage for electronics is of paramount importance to a liveaboard.

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Pros of Living Aboard A Boat

With all of that aside, the pros of living aboard are plentiful too.

A life of subtle movement in the water, with ocean breezes and a like-minded community of friendly people is often attainable. Those who live aboard have generally had an interesting life. Many are no stranger to adversity and are more than willing to lend a hand or a tool at a moment’s notice.

It is not uncommon to plan cruises with neighbors, or to share knowledge and troubleshooting advice over a cold beer or bottle of rum. Often, there are nearby islands or gathering places where socializing is made easy, often organized by several people who are quick to learn about the ‘newbie’ who has just arrived.

Be open, friendly, helpful, and honest whenever possible, and you may find that being a liveaboard is exactly what you had dreamed it would be. Fair winds!

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