Motorboat Expert

Independent Yachting Magazine

Is it good to live on board and why do many people return back to shore?

Life on a boat

Updated on June 9th, 2024

What is it like to live aboard your boat full-time? You’ll be surprised how many people are interested in this issue. We don’t know if the number of people wanting to join the aquatic lifestyle is increasing or not, but one thing is for sure: while it can be seen as a way to escape social or sometimes even economic problems, a very small percentage of boaters and sailors stay on boats for long. And an even smaller percentage remains on the water forever.

The reason for this is very simple – most people are not in love with either the sea or boats. Without this important nuance, you will perceive almost every work on board as a duty. While at the opposite end of the spectrum are those who cannot imagine living somewhere on the shore, far from the sea and boats. And in their perception, any activity on board is an integral part of their main hobby.

Yes, sometimes problems happen that it would be better if they never happened, for example, a broken head or an infestation of some insects, but in most cases, the boat routine, which includes independent maintenance, simple repairs and organizational issues, is not viewed in a negative light and is often brings satisfaction from the work done.

And of course, lovers of classic yachts for the most part have a passion for working with wood, so they are probably the happiest people. Unlike, for example, someone who does not have such a passion, but accidentally, out of ignorance, bought an old wooden boat solely for the purpose of saving money. Here, of course, an unpleasant surprise awaits him.

In general, we think the point is clear. If you don’t have a passion for the sea and boats, then life on board probably isn’t for you. However, even having a love for the sea does not at all guarantee that in six months you will not begin to dream of a cozy and quiet house in the village that never rocks or heels from the wind, does not sink and will almost certainly remain standing exactly in the place where you left it. And which, it should be noted, unlike a yacht, can be an excellent asset.

Over the years we have had a variety of experiences living on both sailboats and motor yachts, from tiny cabin cruisers to spacious ocean trawlers. We believe that no one has any doubt that it is impossible to compare the comfort of a motor yacht with a sailboat of comparable size. In order to achieve a similar internal volume of living quarters, a sailboat would have to be much larger in size. But even so, it still does not provide the feeling of a full-fledged home on the water. Its very design does not allow it to achieve acceptable habitability.

However, if you go beyond 20 or even 24 meters, then you can get a really spacious sailboat. But then imagine how spacious and comfortable a motor yacht of the same size will be.

Here, sailors will probably want to mention that a sailboat at anchor will feel much more comfortable than a motorboat due to the heavy ballast keel, as well as their exceptional seaworthiness, which makes ocean crossings possible with a very modest size. Of course, this is true for small motorboats, but as the displacement of motor yachts increases, this advantage naturally disappears. In addition, a lot depends on the type of hull. In conclusion, modern stabilization systems are incredibly efficient and consume little energy.

It is also impossible not to notice that motor boats have a much shallower draft, which allows them to get as close to the shore as possible. And in the event of hurricanes and storms approaching, they can easily enter shallow sheltered bays or hide in inland waterways, without any obstacles in the form of low bridges. Well, besides, a motor yacht can sometimes just quickly move away from the course of an approaching storm in any direction.

Owners of sailing catamarans are probably ready to throw tomatoes at us, because their boats combine almost all these qualities: stability, space, shallow draft, etc. But, firstly, they still have many disadvantages, and secondly, given their prices, we would still rather buy a completely seaworthy and reliable motor boat for this money. Perhaps even a trawler.

From the memories of life on sailboats, there were constant creaks of rigging and other sounds, even in calm weather, which sometimes really began to irritate. However, as soon as it was possible to eliminate one cause of noise, another immediately appeared. Although we are almost sure that all the noise on a sailboat can be eliminated if we really want to, we would still prefer to just take a motor yacht and get rid of all this headache at once, including a tall lightning rod in the center of the deck, thank you.

Be that as it may, we do not consider the very extreme case when a boat is purchased with the last money as the only option for solving the housing problem. After all, it is here that sailboats give motor boats a head start in price (sometimes you can even find them for free) and also allow you to move between anchorages without high fuel costs. Well, at least until the first failure of the sailing equipment, damage to the keel or steering.

Therefore, small sailing boats are most common among people with unstable incomes, when even mooring in a protected marina and connecting to shore power is an unaffordable luxury.
The lack of a separate budget that fully covers all technical costs, as well as the lack of insurance, as well as any backup options in case of a complete loss of the boat, will inevitably cause stress and any unexpected breakdown (and this is exactly what happens on boats) against this background is probably perceived as a disaster.

This is a completely extreme option and an example of what not to do. However, if this is exactly what will bring you happiness, and you don’t want to waste a minute, then… After all, this is exactly what some of us once did.
For everyone else, the only correct option is to first completely arrange your life on land, acquiring reliable assets and stable, preferably as passive as possible, income, before you start scrolling through boat listings for sale.

Some problems of living on a boat

Depending on the size of the boat and the current location, you may encounter a variety of problems, from constantly high humidity to completely unexpected breakdowns that require urgent repair.

As the size of your boat increases, many of the discomfort issues naturally disappear because you have more efficient air conditioning and heating systems. However, at the same time, other problems appear, expressed in an increase in the number of complex equipment that requires maintenance and can also suddenly fail. None of this is a big deal if you mostly live in a marina and have quick access to repair services.

Many of us are lucky in this regard, since we love to delve into mechanics and electronics, and keeping all on-board systems in perfect condition gives us pleasure. This not only allows you to gain independence from the services of shipyards, but also provides additional safety during long ocean crossings.

It turned out that for many who are considering the possibility of living on a boat, any completely insignificant, from our point of view, little thing that we have never even thought about can suddenly become a problem. Perhaps this is due to the fact that a person who was born and raised in a comfortable urban environment, who have never even gone camping with a tent in their lives, suddenly finds himself in spartan conditions of almost complete autonomy, in which quite familiar actions are performed in unusual ways. And the smaller the boat, the more you have to adapt. But a small boat has its advantages.

Benefits of living on board

This cannot be overstated. Even those who are completely indifferent to boats seem to think that these were some of the best moments of their lives. And although everyone knows that long-term memory stores mostly positive memories, many people told us they would love to do it again. At the same time, the size and type of boat on which our interlocutors lived turned out to be not so important. Well, or at least secondary compared to the experience of close contact with water and contemplation of nature.

For some, it may be important to find many new loyal friends who are ready to help in difficult times.
And although, apparently, the presence of a certain number of assholes in this world is inevitable, life on the water is mostly sought out by people driven by their inner seeker of truth, and also just tired of the flow of lies, hypocrisy and endless stupid human conflicts.