Archive for the Living Aboard in General Category

Derelict Liveaboard Boats: Reflections

Alan Miles - Photo

Photo by Alan Miles via Flickr Creative Commons

Living aboard a boat can be more complicated than a mere lifestyle choice.  Access to marinas and water is very much a public, environmental and safety concern.  More so, the public (this includes all – including landlubbers, sightseers, tourists, commercial vessels and politicians) does have a legitimate say in the way the neighborhoods should look, smell and represent the community as a whole. This is not unique to waterways, but is the very essence of zoning rules and public ordinances.

Regulatory and municipal initiatives can still have quite a harsh impact on lifestyle and options for the liveaboard. Simple regulation, which is otherwise logical – whether or not it is something you are or are not in favor of, can have rather sweeping implications. Take, for instance, the situation highlighted in Broward County (click for article here) in which anchorages are being cleared of “derelict” boats – defined as a boat that cannon move under its own power (including a sail). Some regions require boats to move just to prove their capabilities, and others are simply cited.

Are the Regulatory Goals Being Met?

I am an advocate for the liveaboard, and I believe that I’ve proven that beyond a doubt over the course of the past decade. It is often my concern that liveaboards are unfairly targeted when a politician wants to earn free points for causes such as “municipal beautification” or “environmental interests” without really doing anything of true substance. It is easy to bully groups such as these and free political points are earned at the expense of a terribly disorganized bunch (by design), particularly easy since there is no true adversary. Legislation can often pass rather unencumbered.

Nevertheless, we cannot be so fast to fault a system when there is a true and important public purpose. Safety on the waterways is truly important. Commercial vessels require a means of doing business and protection of their interests. Crime on the water can be a tremendous problem.  Also, as a person with true environmental concerns, it is my view that we really need a way to protect the environment and when we can’t stop boaters from dumping their holding tanks into our shared space, I am perfectly comfortable with an ordinance banning this practice. As a matter of fact, it is too bad that there aren’t more prosecutions for this.  It is so gross.

Ironically, liveaboards don’t really have an impact on the environment, or many of those other enumerated issues illustrated above.  So while the politicians score points targeting liveaboards as an environmental victory (e.g., restricting liveaboards to small percentages of eligible marina spaces), the amount of pollution caused by liveaboards is actually a tiny minute fraction of the amount of pollution caused by the runoff from even just one light rain. To the contrary, liveaboards in well-maintained marinas actually reduce environmental concerns by helping to police the boating community. Targeting liveaboards completely misses the point and does less than nothing to solve the problem.

The Broward County Initiative

I haven’t been to Broward County in many years and really don’t have any idea what is happening in that community. I want to be clear that when it comes to the problems in that region (or lack thereof), I really have no first hand knowledge. I don’t know the safety, environmental or aesthetic issues regarding these boats in this region. There really is no one-size-fits-all solution to the way in which communities govern themselves and I won’t presume to guess without making a trip east to check out the scene.

Still, I am concerned when it comes to the application of disproportionate power. Liveaboards and many of these boat owners are simply not able to sufficiently represent themselves. This dynamic of power vs. the disorganized few is not the way healthy legislation is completed. The give and take lacks take and the give side takes quite a bit of credit for whatever legislation is passed. It doesn’t always end as it should.

So if you are in this region, pay attention. If you think that there is overreaching going on, take issue. We are talking about real people’s homes and lives and this is not something to be taken lightly. I know that there is a collective discussion going on in the region.  If you have something to discuss, speak up and let your voice be heard.



Where Does the Time Go? Welcome Spring

Where Does the Time Go?  Welcome Spring

68764551-LI am amazed to think that time passes by so quickly. The real indicator of that is not gray hair, my daughter entering a different grade in school or really anything else of tangible meaning. The indicator for time passing is really the date of my last posting on the blog. Facebook sees more updates these days, but I worry that the site is becoming stale.

So what is going on?

What is going on in the world?  Interest in living aboard continues to be strong.  I can tell from the book sales, daily emails and trips around the marinas. Interestingly, interest in life aboard increases in times of desperation, uncertainty or change and while this remains a volatile political environment, it seems as if daily uncertainty and desperation are down a bit these days. The economy has been rather stable, with modest fuel prices, and as a result job loss and marriage dissolution are down. That bodes well for stability but while interest in life aboard is strong overall, it means that this is less strong than in other times, and actual movement aboard is more postponed.

One nice thing is that I do often receive the success stories – with photos of the boats and lifestyles that my readers achieve when they do move aboard.  Sometimes I know that I had some meaningful involvement in their choice and preparation and that makes me feel very good.  Thank you and keep sending that stuff over.

Springtime Coming

Time passing does mean that winter turns to summer. It’s time to do this all over again (except for folks in warmer climates that keep their vessels wet all year round). Prep well so that you’ll be safe.  This is like a re-birth and we get to experience this in our own way – almost as if we’re a part of nature.

I understand that this is a casual and not all-that-informative post. Mostly it is meant as a thank you – for visiting, reading and sharing. I’ll try to post more but in the meantime do try to answer emails very quickly.

Fair winds,


Our New E-Book World: All Formats of Living Aboard

Our New E-Book World: All Formats of Living Aboard

We have decided to make some changes for customers. No more protected files. No more selling only one format. We live in an interconnected world and people do change devices over time. From now on, we sell every format all for the price of one eBook format. We’ll give you a zip file with formats for Kindle, iPad, Android and even PDF. Put ’em where you want ’em (just please don’t post them) and keep them forever.

We are also creating a list so that you will be notified of future editions and all future updates will be free. !!! We think that this is all pretty cutting edge and friendly.

Thanks for your support –


Annual Winterize Your Boat Checklist

Annual Winterize Your Boat Checklist

With a special thanks to Chris Birch for providing us with his annual winterize-your-boat checklist, here are some thoughts for you to consider as you prepare your boat for the 2013/2014 winter. To all those of you whose season is coming to a close, I hope you had an awesome season.  Hope that this checklist really comes in handy.  Chris is one of the top marine technicians – so if you’re in Boston, MA, contact him if he can help. Otherwise, his contribution is incredibly nice of him.

To Do       Project

Phase 1 – near the end of the boating season:
∆                Fall varnish
∆                Clean & wax topsides from waterline to the rail
∆                Clean & wax deck, cockpit & house
∆                Interior cleaning including storage lockers and contents there of
∆                Bilge cleaning

Phase 2 – Just prior to haul out:
∆                Fuel:  fill tank(s)
∆                Add fuel stabilizer and biocide to fuel tank(s)
∆                Canvas: remove, send out for service & storage
∆                   Sails:  remove, send out for washing, minor repair & storage
∆                Main engine(s):  winterize
(Change engine oil, oil filter, fuel filter(s), & engine zinc. Flush, fog & seal)
∆                Generator:  winterize
(Change engine oil, oil filter, fuel filter(s), & engine zinc. Flush, fog & seal)
∆                Batteries:  clean, service, charge, hydrometer test
∆                Head(s): winterize toilet, macerator pump and holding tank.
∆                Fresh water sys.:  winterize tanks, water heater, taps, showers & shower sumps
∆                Ice maker: winterize
∆                Bilge & bilge pumps:  test & flush all electric and manual bilge pumps
∆                Air conditioning / heat: winterize
∆                Refrigeration:  winterize
∆                Water maker:  winterize
∆                Windshield spray system:  winterize
∆                Salt water wash down pump(s): winterize
∆                Winterize & stow dingy outboard engine
∆                Clean, deflate and stow inflatable dingy
∆                Full systems check

Phase 3 – After haul out (or final move to winter slip for in water storage):

∆                Shrinkwrap.   White plastic?   Or clear plastic for $100 Surcharge?   Zipper door?
(note: Sails and canvas must be removed prior to shrinkwrap)
∆                Set out dehumidifier containers
∆                Send prop(s) out for tune and service
∆                Diver to change zincs  if boat is to winter in the water
∆                Other:

Winter projects

To do       Project

∆            New electronics installation
∆            Interior varnish or painting project
∆            Exterior varnish or painting project
∆            Wiring project
∆            Rigging project
∆            Plumbing project
∆            Carpentry project
∆            Flexiteek decking project

Preventative maintenance suggestions:
∆            Replace engine control cables
∆            Replace old hoses and hose clamps
∆            Add a bilge pump and/or high water alarm
∆            Service your steering system
∆            Service your winches
∆            Service or renew your sea cocks
∆            Send prop(s) out for tune and service
∆            Renew your cutlass bearing(s)
∆            Re-bed some or all of your deck hardware & ports
∆            Cabin sole varnish
∆            Repaint your worn anchor chain markings
∆            Renew your running rigging
∆            Renew your standing rigging
∆            Renew your dock lines and /or fenders and/or fender covers
∆            Bleach clean your interior lockers and bilge spaces
∆            Renew your head(s)
∆            Upgrade or renew your DC wiring system
∆            Upgrade or renew your AC wiring system
∆            Send your engine alternator(s) and starter motor(s) out for service
∆            Clean & paint your engine
∆            Other:

FINALLY – Re-Commissioning Checklist

To do       Project

∆                Remove & recycle winter cover
∆                Bottom paint.  Interlux Micron CSC is standard choice.  Alternative paint?  Color?
∆                Zinc: install new shaft/tabs/rudder/hull/thruster zinc(s)
∆                Clean shaft(s) & prop(s) and thruster tunnel(s)
∆                Diver to clean bottom and change zincs if boat wintered in the water
∆                Clean wax topsides (waterline to the rail)
∆                Clean wax deck (from the rail up)
∆                Polish stainless
∆                Interior cleaning
∆                Bleach clean interior lockers and bilge spaces
∆                Varnish:  exterior varnish or other wood finish
∆                Tune rig
∆                Bend on sails
∆                Install dodger and / or bimini
∆                Main engine(s):  commission
∆                Generator:  commission
∆                Fresh water system:  commission
∆                Ice maker:  commission
∆                Head(s):  commission
∆                Air-conditioning / heat:  commission
∆                Refrigeration:  commission
∆                Battery:  clean, service, load test & charge
∆                Check and grease sea cocks
∆                Service stuffing boxes on shaft(s) and rudder post(s)
∆                Service winches
∆                Inflate and check and clean inflatable dingy
∆                Summerize dingy engine
∆                Full systems check
∆                Other:

Three Ways a De-icer can Protect Your Boat and Dock this Winter

Three Ways a De-icer can Protect Your Boat and Dock this Winter

Jack Frost can pack quite a bite, especially for boats that spend the winter in harbor. That’s why it’s important for boat and dock owners to do all they can to keep their vessels shielded from the snapping jaws of winter. In more temperate climates, where ice is not as much of a concern, simple insulated covers and a good gel-coat layer could suffice. However, if your boat or dock is exposed to frigid temperatures, you’re looking at freezing water and ice – and that can present a whole iceberg of issues.

De-icers are commonly used by many boat and dock owners during the winter, and for good reason: They ward off the formation of ice, which can be devastating to boat hulls as well as the structural integrity of the dock. De-icers are motorized devices that keep the cold water churning so it can’t freeze as easily, drawing warm water up from the bottom and pushing it to the surface. When a de-icer is used, the watercraft and dock remain safely protected from the cold shoulder Jack Frost inflicts.

Here are three winter disasters a de-icer can prevent:

1. Hull Damage

Normal current and wind speeds naturally make water rigs tip, rock and pitch in the water. When freezing temperatures and a layer of ice are added to the equation, the result is a nasty grinding action that can scratch and tear away the gel-coat along the waterline of fiberglass boats. This allows water to sneak into the laminate and further damage the hull. Ice can also get into the plank seams or the bilge of a wooden boat and cause anything from minor cosmetic damage to major leaks.

2. Dock Lifting

Ice, wind and current are no friend to docks, either, especially if all three elements are thrown together. Because ice expands during the freezing process, the water levels will fluctuate, making it difficult for dock piles to stay firmly in place. Heavy ice flows and ice pressure can shift the dock pilings – or worse, pull them out of their footings entirely. Any watercraft near the dock could be damaged as the dock shifts.

3. Ice Expansion

Like most substances, water at ordinary temperatures contracts, increasing in density as it cools. At about 4 degrees Celsius, however, water reaches its maximum density and then decreases in density as it reaches its freezing point. Because of this, ice forms on the top of the water first, allowing it to freeze and float, and then the rest of the ice forms below. This simple sequence can be disastrous for both docks and boat hulls. The pressure from ice expansion can crush a hull or dock, causing major damage and compromising the structural integrity of the craft.

Jack Frost can try as he may to freeze lakes and rivers, penetrate boat hulls and crush docks – but he’ll have a much harder time succeeding if a de-icer is on hand to protect your goods during the winter.

Note from Mark Nicholas:  We don’t take many guest blogs, but this is a matter of interest and there is no better resource than people who deal in the goods they are writing about. the truth here is that this is a matter of importance to me. boats and ice do not mix, and cold climates do run the risk of crushed hulls. safety precautions are essential. if you are in a cold climate, take this opportunity to think about how you will stay safe and secure.  Its time to gear up for the cold!

This blog post is courtesy of SavvyBoater, which carries a wide selection of de-icers, boat covers, bimini tops and boat propellers.

Safety Reminder! Missing couple feared dead in Squalicum Harbor boat fire – On Patrol –

Here is a reminder of one of the worst things that can happen aboard.  Fire.

Boats can transition from romantic havens to death traps with fire.  They offer limited exits and surround the occupants with toxic and flammable kinder.  Here, there were limited firefighting capabilities.

Security is more than lifejackets.  It is a level of awareness of surroundings, and broad preparation.  Yet even in the best of circumstances, tragedy may still occur.  Our prayers are will everyone involved.

Missing couple feared dead in Squalicum Harbor boat fire – On Patrol –



The Onboard Bathroom Experience and the Magical Porta Potti

Life aboard a boat should bring with it all of life’s requirements – including, but not limited to, a toilet. At some point even the most bound up boaters will still have to go.

In order to solve this simple problem, we all engage in some pretty remarkable gyrations. In a home, we move the waste away from us. Onboard, we socialize just a meter or so away from our holding tank. Nothing we do can ever strip the boat from that smell – which is at best the odor of the deodorant.

In order to utilize a standard marine head, the boater requires not only the space required for the head itself, but also also the plumbing, holding tank, macerator (optional), intake seacock, waste seacock and deodorizer – and if there is cold weather, the use of anti-freeze to ensure that the lines don’t freeze. All of this, particularly the holding tank, takes up valuable space and requires ongoing maintenance.

There are other options of course. The marina offers a head – but that can be inconvenient at best, and impossible to use when cruising. Some utilize the reliable toilet-seat-on-a-bucket technique, which works very well but lacks in some notable ways. Another option – perhaps the best alternative, and even a more appealing alternative in many situations, is the Porta Potti (which goes by some other interesting names as well), an ingenious invention that is a quite effective alternative to the marina head.

The Potti is a stand alone alternative which requires no plumbing, holding tank, macerator, maintenance, etc. The potti is a two part system, flush water sits in the top unit. At the push of a button the water fills the bowl. After use the waste is dispensed into a lower unit which does have a deodorizer added. I’ve been utilizing one now in our camper van for several weeks with my two year old, and I can represent that there has been no odor whatsoever. The unit does need to be dumped manually, but I can also say quite honestly that this was a simple no-mess process.*


Of course these options may be disturbing to some, particularly those who like the idea of toilet affixed to some plumbing. However, the advantages to this type of option are obvious, and this is a worthy option for consideration for those who appreciate functionality and maintenance-free options over the perception issues associated with a fixed head. While we will not be removing our marine head, the advantages to the Potti are numerous. However, this is now a standard feature in the camper and as a father of a young child, I sure appreciate the convenience of traveling with one of these – as a safe, clean, convenient alternative to the horrific gas station facility.

Wishing you all an odor-free home!

* The fixed head can still be quite messy – a trauma I experienced first hand during a holding tank problem and a significant spill several years ago. It was perhaps the most disgusting moment in my life.

Living Aboard Podcast – The Costs of Living Aboard (Episode 5)

This is the final podcast of the original 5 part series. I’d like to take some time to chat about liveaboard and boating costs. When I first started along my journey aboard, I had thought of only the primary 4 or 5 costs – boat payment, interest, insurance and the marina rental. Wow was that naive.

Episode 5 is a review of the ‘free!’ liveaboard spreadsheet (free on, explaining different costs among a few different scenarios. It is just for discussion purposes, but at least the categories of life aboard are covered.

SO… hope this doesn’t scare you away from the lifestyle. Just hoping everyone goes in with their eyes open. It is the key to success.


Living Aboard Podcast – Marinas

Let’s continue our journey aboard with a discussion about marinas – featuring our special guest marina owner Tom Cox. Enjoy!


Living Aboard Podcast – Choosing a Boat Part II

Let’s continue with Episode 3 on Choosing a Boat. Here is Part II. Enjoy!


Living Aboard Podcast – Choosing a Boat – Part 1

Here you’ll find part 1 of the episode on choosing a boat. Some great interviews here.


Living Aboard Podcast – The Basics (Episode 2)

Check out Episode 2 of the Essentials of Living Aboard a Boat Podcast.  Enjoy!


Review: Don Casey – Dragged Aboard: A Cruising Guide for the Reluctant Mate

The reluctant partner is a huge topic not only on the books and forums, but the docks (your neighbors have to live with your reluctant partner too) – the story of two people aboard where one person doesn’t share in the enjoyment. The problem is exacerbated with shared space and limited storage. It can transform a dream in to quite the nightmare lifestyle.

Dragged Aboard offers some good advice as it relates to the reluctant partner dynamic in tight quarters. Personally, I don’t think that there is a fix to the unhappy crew, but there can be compromise (particularly on the happy partner’s part), and things that can be done to alleviate the problems. Most importantly, Don gives us the permission to address this stuff head on. In short, this is a worthwhile read.

I’m Back! Many apologies to my fellow live aboards

Ok – it’s been too long… I know. There are quite a few emails that I’ve received lately asking if all is well and whether there will be more podcasts, etc. There will be – and I do apologize for the delay. I think that I’ve got a few good excuses – a new book, family stuff, etc.

The truth is that there is much that we can do together – we’ll start with a discussion of the state of living aboard, and then move on to a discussion of living aboard in different locales. It’ll be pretty cool.

It is important to mention that the existing videos are all still right on – not much changes in the boating world, and the things that drive us to life aboard (the hopes, dreams, aspirations, etc.) really haven’t changed. But we’ll visit on those things that have changed (the iPad for instance) – and we’ll even do a review of the iPad, apps, 3G and so forth from the living aboard and convenience perspective. It’ll be pretty cool.

As always, please feel free to drop a note if I can help with anything. For those of you who do write me, you can vouch for the fact that I do actually write back.

Another Fine Liveaboard Oriented Site

Some nice articles on this latest site for liveaboards.  Pls be sure to visit:

Liveaboard Living | Live on a Boat:

liveaboard sailboat. Living aboard is truly an amazing lifestyle; Living aboard a boat is waterfront living at its best and least expensive.

Calm waters,
Mark Nicholas /