Live Off the Ball and Living Off the Hook

I stumbled across this article this morning and thought it might be worth sharing:

An Instruction Manual

With my book, I sought to offer a definitive guide to certain types of living and a ton of considerations. Live underway and on the chain can be so varied, however, that drawing up some thoughts for any particular lifestyle can be nearly impossible.

Every person’s circumstances out there can be so varied and any similarity can feel completely lost. For instance, living on the east side of a channel can offer a strong and shifting current while the other side can be subjected to strong winds. Each condition offers important and different considerations.

Personal Experience

I had the opportunity to live off the ball (mooring) and hook (anchor) for a little bit. The author isn’t kidding about the freedom, but I’ll tell you the truth, this can be quite a wild experience. With my sinking dinghy, I relied on water taxi for trips to and from – and tough weather could make that trip literally impossible. I enjoyed the isolation and disconnection though for sure.

So with that said, check out the article and of course, feel free to contact me with any comments. Look forward to hearing from you!

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.



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 –



Suenos Azules Article on Living Aboard

This is just one of those great overview articles that I come across from time to time. It’s a solid take with some sound advice. Be sure to check it out if you’re looking for a good overview and advice regarding life aboard. I reserve the right to disagree with the advice of course, but the more you hear if you are considering the lifestyle the better.

Click HERE for the link!

How Much Does it Cost to Live Aboard a Boat?

It seems like I begin every blog the same way.   It depends.  How much do you want to pay? What kind of boat would you like to live aboard? What luxuries do you need?  What location would you like as your berth?

And what expenses would you like to save?

I can’t answer these questions for you, and I have posted a podcast video on “Costs” as well as a Cost Spreadsheet for your convenience.  But we can take a few moments and address some of these issues.

Many people choose a live aboard lifestyle with cost in mind.  In some cases, the boat becomes a floating apartment and the largest boat possible is retained for this service – and the boating expenses become only marginally less than land-based living, and the non-boat expenses actually remain or even increase. When I was a new liveaboard, I fell squarely into this model, living in a small space (my 33’ Hunter), but chose to live in a well run marina in the shadow of the Boston skyline.

There can be legitimate savings.  Boat ownership +  insurance tends to cost less than a mortgage (or rent).  Utilities (electricity, fuel, water, cable, cell phone, internet) are still paid, but oftentimes cheaper – and alternatives such as greater efficiency (solar panels), and technology (Internet/Hulu for TV, Netflix for movies, etc.) is a very economical yet viable alternative to the exhorbitant costs of cable. Highspeed internet is still a challenge, but some marinas offer wireless, cell phone service can include data plans, etc., and some option should  fit your needs.

Another key saving is that a liveaboard cannot possess many material possessions aboard.  Sell ‘em, share ‘em or store ‘em – but you can’t keep them on board.   Two of these options include positive cash flow or savings, and one option incurs a (often significant) monthly cost.

There will be costs such as boat maintenance, and there may be added costs such as parking.  We’ve talked about boat maintenance costs separately, but the bigger the boat, or the more complex the boat, or the greater age of the boat, means greater expense – both in terms of berthing as well as in maintenance.

So the queston of cost is a byproduct of all of this stuff – and hodgepodge of preferences, needs and expenses. The determination of savings requires a broad comparison against your current lifestyle.  Be sure to refer to the video and spreadsheet – they are both free (and do not add to your liveaboard expenses) – but it is certainly possible to save money, and many people do.  But it is also possible to spend more than you would have (including in the cost of drinks).

Lastly, manage risks.  Homes and apartments don’t sink.  There is no risk there – and insurance can run from a couple  of hundred dollars on a renters or personal possession policy to a couple of thosuand bucks for a reasonably nice home.  Boats however, do sink – and crash (including into other boats) – and bump around – and you can end up with substantial expenses.  So be sure to properly insure or  you might end  up severly understimating your costs (perhaps  by tens of thousands of dollars).

From my perspective, I want you to be prepared.  Know what you are in for – and avoid surprises.

So did I answer your question?  Of course not.  But with a little thought, research into your desired location and planning, you can.

How big a boat do I need to live aboard?

You might think that longer means more storage and comfort. It does not. Longer means longer. That’s it. There is an immense difference between a narrow 42 footer and a beamy 35.

There are more than a handful of questions that you can ask throughout your life that no one can answer for you.  For those folks who are evaluating this lifestyle, I’m sure that this is a question that you are asking – and you are probably becoming frustrated that you can’t seem to get a straight answer out of anyone.  I find that when I speak to this issue at boat shows, I find that no matter the boat that we discuss, the prospective buyer’s response always starts with the word “But…”.

Like all of your life’s goals only you know what you want.  Only you know whether you and  your companions need more space, seaworthiness, storage or amenities.  Only you know whether you (and your companions) are willing to shower in a marina or would be comfortable onboard, and if you are onboard, only you know how much or how little space you are willing to tolorate.  No one knows what you want or need.  That makes this important decision yours and yours alone.

Your primary obstacle, and we all face this, is that every boat is a compromise.  Like a house (a terrestrial habitat), bigger often means more expensive and labor intensive.  But unlike a house, a boat that is longer will require tradeoffs, including fewer locations for berthing, maneuverability and so forth.   When we think about size, we are thinking about everything from daily comfort, maintenance, storage, performance, etc, and every solution has a counter-argument.

Is there a minimum size?  Sure.  A boat that can’t fit a bed is probably too small.  However, I know couples who live quite comfortably on 26′ sailboats that offer headroom that only a child can enjoy, and I know solos who live on 60’+ yachts.

You might think that longer means more storage and comfort.  It does not.  Longer means longer.  That’s it.  There is an immense difference between a narrow 42 footer and a beamy 35.  My old Hunter 33 had a 10’9″ beam and no storage at all, while the comparable Morgan’s and Island Packets (at slightly smaller lengths) were like full apartments in comparison.  And yet, I was entirely comfortable although the book does introduce my challenges.  Another point, some long boats are actually more sprit than substance.  Look at the substance – but remember that you might pay for the bowsprit.

There are three considerations.  First, remember that no matter how large a boat you buy, boats are small.  If you are doing this with a companion or family, you will be in close proximity all of the time and in actual physical contact some of the time (like when walking down the passageways).  Any uncomfortable person means that everyone will be uncomfortable.  Second, most people who buy now for their dream to circumnavigate the world later generally waste a ton of money.  Even if you end up circumnavigating the globe, it may be 5 or 10 years down the line and the boat you buy will have required substantially more maintenance, money and time over that period of time.  In reality, few ever do head out to the open ocean.

Lastly, many boat buyers, particularly first time boat buyers, buy with amenities in mind.  I did.  Everyone does.  While many amenities are never needed or used, the real reason to avoid buying for amenities is more basic for the majority of us – we’re not wealthy – and those optional amenities actually cause us to not properly evaluate the boat itself, and ultimately make sacrifices when it comes to the choice of vessel.  Your are buying a boat, not a radar on something that floats.  The structure is your primary protection, so make sure that you float, stay dry and safe.  Amenities can always be added later.

If you watch the videos, in particular, the videos on Choosing a Boat 1 and 2, you will see that it is not uncommon for boaters to wish that their boats were smaller.  Long boats cost much more money – and you pay by the foot.  They require more work and maintenance – again by the foot.  If you choose a boat with a lot of brightwork, you’ll exchange the life you have for a life sanding and refinishing.  My personal preferences are shorter, cheaper and all fiberglass – but that’s just me.

Hopefully this has helped provide an explanation to the answer that is so dissatisfying to all of us.   No one will tell you what to do or how to do it, and there are few things more personal than choosing a boat.

We’ll get to the subject of cost next time, but for now – don’t forget to visit the cost video and cost table so you  can get a sense of all of the costs that you might not be considering at this moment.  Don’t be surprised – be prepared.

Until next time…

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 /

Love these Personal Stories


Come take a walk on the wild side.Daryl, Rick, Lila, Kate and Tawny and all the others out thee are just some very nice personal examples of why so many of us have been drawn to the lifestyle. For these, and so many other reasons, are the reasons why I keep working so hard at promoting this lifestyle. And while there are failures, successes continue to outweigh. Nevertheless, I find it is a success when a person who should not be living aboard is ultimately talked out of the lifestyle. We don’t win with numbers, but rather with more examples of how wonderful and personally fulfilling this lifestyle can be.

Calm waters,

Mark N.

A few bad apples and landlubber support

This attached article reflects the ongoing tension between the little board community and the community-at-large. The article itself, and the accompanying commentary, overtly reflect the ongoing tension between historic versus progressive movement, and the monetary concerns that are reflected throughout the land-based community when it comes to support of the community and the waterways. Given the dilapidated condition of many of the boats described in this article, it would seem as if the community presented in this case is a perfect case study of this disconnect.

One issue not highlighted in this article is that of environmental concerns. This is the third leg of the anti-live aboard stool.

As a member of both communities it is hard not to see the core justification in both sides’ position, although so many of the positions are often fueled by mis-perception and scapegoating.  In reality, this dialog, relived in scores of communities, tends to be more aptly described as a political dialog rather than a social one.  For instance, the boaters are a group easily targeted, diverse and unrepresented, while other segments of society who are better represented can be  a much more significant draw on a community’s social, monetary and environmental infrastructure (see, for instance, fishing boats and impoverished communities).

With that in mind, here is one recent example of this dialog.

Bainbridge liveaboards facing ‘end of days’ – Bainbridge Island Review

In future discussions, we will visit some of the neighborhood revitalization issues and the impact on the boating community.

Calm waters,

Mark N.

Choosing between a New or Used Boat

Here is an article that is very high level and probably not many of the issues that  I would point out when it comes to choosing the right boat.  We have posted a video on the multimedia page, which includes lots of interviews and opinions on the subject area.  but while the advice here is accurate, through the years it has appeared that the tried and true test of whether a person will buy a new or used boat is more aptly one of preference and desire for new boat then it is a question of logic.  for all of the reasons suggested by the author and the section “depreciation”,  logic nearly always suggests that the best value is in a used boat-something tested and already refined for purpose.

A very happy new year everybody; and as always thank you very much for visiting.  Enjoy the article!

Calm waters,

Mark N.