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

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

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 –


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

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

Living Aboard Podcast – Picking Your Marina –

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

Living Aboard a Boat Podcast – Part II on Choosing a Boat

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


Living Aboard Podcast – Choosing a Boat – Part 1

Living Aboard a Boat Podcast – Choosing a Boat – Part 1

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


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!

Living Aboard Podcast – The Basics (Episode 2)

Essentials of Living Aboard a Boat Podcast – Episode 2 – The Basics

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


New Podcast Feed – Podbean – Living Aboard a Boat

ust signed up with Podbean, a podcast hosting site, and if this works we’ll be able to do things much faster and more efficiently. We’ll start by reposting the original 6 tutorial videos and add from there. Keep your fingers crossed!

Well… it’s been a load of problems lately with assembling the new podcast episodes. So hopefully we have a fix. We just signed up with Podbean, a podcast hosting site, and if this works we’ll be able to do things much faster and more efficiently. We’ll start by reposting the original 6 tutorial videos and add from there. Keep your fingers crossed!

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…