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Making Plans to Live Aboard a Sailboat

Learn how others did it. Ask advice on all issues related to making the move onto a boat.

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Making Plans to Live Aboard a Sailboat

Unread postby Edge0302 » Mon Jul 09, 2018 10:49 am

Hello all!

I’m Lauren, 27 years old and finally deciding I’m just not cut out for land life. So my plan is this: I am getting rid of most of my possessions barring only what will make life on a boat easier/manageable, I am going to buy a used boat, and live on it. As I get accustomed to sea life and (probably) work on making the boat pretty inside again. I dont have much money to play with, so I’m hoping to get something for $3000 or less that floats and sails and anchors.

Basically ive been trying to downsize ever since i moved out on my own in a one-bedroom house i rented. I had so much unused space and nothing to do with it, so i ended up just collecting piles and piles of junk. I got married and tried the picket-fence life, and although the marriage didnt work out, i did figure out that was not the kind of life i want. It took me a couple of years of thinking and figuring out what it was i really wanted from my life, but I think if finally on to something.

So i suppose the main reason I’m posting this is for like a peer-review of sorts. I think I’m at a point where I am as prepared as I possibly can be to make this switch, but I want to make sure I’m not being overly impulsive and missing something critically important. Ive done some extensive data collection, from the internet and from personal sources, compiled a list of things I should be regularly concerned about, things I should be prepared for that could constitute an emergency, and more.

I’ve been approaching this from a minimalist/survivalist standpoint, three minutes without air, three hours without shelter, three days without water, three weeks without food. To those ends, air is pretty easy to come by, pretty much everywhere except under water. But in the unlikely event that for whatever reason i end up under water, whether from a capsize or other nasty event, I figure it would be a good idea to have an easily accessible emergency small SCUBA tank. Not much more I can do on that front.

The next biggest things I would worry about would be what make my environment more friendly, can i warm up if im cold, or can i cool down if im hot. In tropical latitudes cold may not be a huge issue all the time, so i might be set with just a couple sweatshirts. Around the arctic circle on the other hand, i may want a built in furnace or other heat source and some space heaters, lest i slowly go hypothermic. The Sea and foul weather go together like eggs and bacon, so ill need to keep myself dry while not diving overboard: insulated, water resistant foul weather gear including a parka and insulated waterproof pants along with layers of other clothing should do the trick i think. I enjoy hiking and literally dont leave my home without a loaded pack so i can take off at any point, so as far as survival on land, i have that covered as well because, quite obviously, i wont be leaving my pack shoreside.

In the event of a sinking, capsize, fire, or other unforseen emergency that would force me to abandon ship, ill need a secondary means of creating shelter at sea and staying warm and dry. A Life raft or rib are good options, additionally i think i should have ditch-bag that i can grab on the fly with some basics as i deploy the lifeboat.

Water was what i was having the most trouble figuring out how to provide myself with. Then i came across a device called a water maker which seems to be the best option. I think a 30+ gallon freshwater tank is probably the smallest tank i should go with just because in the event of a failure of the water maker, i would have up to 30 days at sea to figure out where to replenish my stores (figuring one gallon per day). I also plan to have back up options for water acquisition at sea, a tarp for catching rainwater, and a still.

Food is my lowest priority as far as survival goes, for me it really only helps determine my level of comfort wherever i am. I barely use my refrigerator for anything aside from cooling my drinks, so food storage on board shouldn’t be a problem even with the smallest of refrigerators (if it even has one!). Are there staple items that should be kept on board? Are there food preparation considerations that are different aboard as opposed to on land?

Money has been probably one of my biggest concerns while planning for this, depending on the quality of equipment i choose, the condition of the boat, and more i could spend anywhere from $2,500 to $50,000! In preparing for my move, what items should take high priority and what should be a lower priority. Should i replacing the faulty fuel filter or the life jacket no one is going to for the next 3 months (obviously just an example). Also, earning my own money has been a concern as well. The plan is to work a shore job at first while i make the adjustment, but eventually I want to run my own business from my boat. Is that kind of thing practical? I mean, I dont exactly need that much money, just enough to cover fuel and food and maintenance.

Anyway, thank you very much for reading this long post, I really look forward to hearing your thoughts. Attached/linked is a list of items that I came up with. I dont know how it will pan out, but its what i have so far.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/ ... sp=sharing

Thanks So Much!

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Re: Making Plans to Live Aboard a Sailboat

Unread postby scallywag » Mon Jul 09, 2018 4:48 pm


My favorite blog is https://katieandjessieonaboat.com/ You did not mention where you live. CaptForce and RTB are two that have done it or are living aboard. Marina costs.....Mooring cost.....


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Re: Making Plans to Live Aboard a Sailboat

Unread postby Edge0302 » Wed Jul 11, 2018 10:39 am

Thank you John! I’ll look into them! I’m landlocked in central PA at the moment, but when I move I’ll be in Norfolk, VA. The marina costs I’ve seen look to be much less than I’m used to paying for rent and shouldn’t be a problem. When I get confident enough, they will (hopefully) be a thing of the past.

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Re: Making Plans to Live Aboard a Sailboat

Unread postby RTB » Thu Jul 12, 2018 5:36 pm

Hi Lauren,

What's up with your spreadsheet? Sorry, but plenty of bizarre items listed....stuff I've never seen on any cruising boat.

That aside, you surely can live on a boat with a very small budget. You don't actually need a very big boat. You don't need all that much in the way of equipment. Just a boat that floats and is not taking on water. If you are at a marina, you will have electric and water available dockside. Easy access to shore to go work at some job. You can save big money by anchoring out. But life gets more complex. A good dinghy will be necessary to get you ashore for water, provisions, or trips to get packages and mail. And... What is your mailing address? In so many ways, life on a boat is simple, but has it's challenges too.

I just wanted to send you encouragement, but curious about that spreadsheet.

But Why's the Rum Gone?

1982 (Cherubini)Hunter 36
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Re: Making Plans to Live Aboard a Sailboat

Unread postby CaptForce » Fri Jul 13, 2018 9:12 am

When you're considering all those "spreadsheet" items, it might be wise to recognize that moving aboard doesn't coincide with cruising away in isolation. Most people begin their living aboard with some time spent in marinas. With this in mind, you can move your current minimal possessions ashore to the boat. Hopefully, at 27, you have not yet been burdened by too much ownership. One of the great freedoms of living aboard is a freedom from ownership.
Another risk with an overabundance of "stuff" while living aboard is the burden that can prevent easy use of the boat. It's best to maintain your life aboard keeping the ability to spontaneously go out for an afternoon sail after work or a simple moonlight evening out. This brings up another topic of marina choice. I think it's very important to have an easy and close access to sailing without breaking an inlet or being subject to strong currents. For this reason, If you're looking for a slip in the Norfolk area, I would recommend one of the marinas in Willoughby Bay.
Take care and joy, Aythya crew
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Re: Making Plans to Live Aboard a Sailboat

Unread postby LA_Admin » Sat Jul 14, 2018 7:16 am

While I agree that much of the list isn't necessary for marina life, or even long range cruising, it does show that you are taking this seriously. Most of your list can be purchased on an "as needed" basis though. Don't feel like you need all of that "stuff" the day you move aboard. You will be surprised at what you don't need.

Don't over think this. Find a boat within your budget and a marina to keep it. Move aboard with as little as possible and grow into it.

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Re: Making Plans to Live Aboard a Sailboat

Unread postby ka8uet » Wed Sep 12, 2018 10:53 pm

I agree with the comments above. You need a good dingy (think car for grocery shopping, laudromat trips, etc.), Basicequipment for safety on board (good radio, anchors and rode, boat hook, etc.) Personal items (medication, toiletries, clothing, etc.). You won't be setting off around the world right away, and short trips to get used to handling the boat alone are good. Good luck!
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Re: Making Plans to Live Aboard a Sailboat

Unread postby janice142 » Thu Sep 20, 2018 12:33 am

Hello Lauren. Your spreadsheet in my eyes is intimidating. Rather than list Everything you want/might need, how about approaching it from a different angle:
How little can you live with and survive?

From there, add until you reach a level of comfort/decadence that suits your happiness level.
What you need in New England is far different than requirements for Miami, Florida.

The advice to start marina-bound is a good one. You want a place with folks who live aboard too to assist you as you begin to spread your wings/get experience. Even a few months around more experience folks will enlighten you enormously and should save you considerable money sorting the unnecessary from that list of yours.

Good luck.
You may find some useful information on my website too.
Blatant plug: http://janice142.com
Janice aboard Seaweed
Trawler cruising on a nickel budget

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Re: Making Plans to Live Aboard a Sailboat

Unread postby JacobPel » Sat Feb 23, 2019 7:56 am

I like your approach a lot, Janice. How far along are you with your plans at this point, Lauren?

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