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Long distance skippers: is living on a boat enjoyable?

Living on a boat can be tight!

Another question that has popped up on Quora is whether living on a boat is enjoyable? In this piece we will look at short, medium and long term prizes and pitfalls of life afloat.

Weekend / week-long sailing

Most boat owners will be limited as to how long they can spend on their boat every year. They are like you and I, generally at the beck and call of their employers and may get 4-6 weeks off work a year. One week for Christmas, several public holidays and the weekends every week cut from that and you may have a week at Easter and perhaps two in Summer.

That means most sailors will spend the odd weekend afloat and if lucky, get up to 10 days in summer cruising. To get to the point where you own your own boat you will know what it’s like and have made the lifestyle choice that living on a boat entails.

So, by comparison to your comfortable home in your comfortable life ashore, a little discomfort in return for the pleasures of sailing is well worth it!

What is pleasurable? You get the sunrises and sunsets, the fun of blasting along in good winds, the perception of independence, and the fun of family and crew hanging out together. You will love your sailing career and that breadth and depth of knowledge used in your daily life afloat makes living on a boat a complete pleasure.

A month or two?

Everyone gets a different roll of the dice in life. You may run into some lucky sod who retires age 30 to have children and do as they please. You may get redundancy and spend the money on a few weeks chilling out before going back to the rat race.

That can be an introduction to long term life at sea. You will get used to having a minimal wardrobe and few possessions as most yachts really can’t take much gear. That minimalism will introduce you to choosing what your most prized possessions are. Thankfully we have MP3 players so 1000 albums take about a cellphone’s worth of space – as against CDs or vinyl!

Living on a boat will take on a whole new dimension. Your life will not be controlled by your boss but by wind and tide, as well as where you want to go. You could do the Atlantic Racing Cruise (ARC Race) across the Atlantic. That will be a definite taster as to how you really enjoy living on a boat, often with 3-4 others for weeks on end.

Cutting loose – living on a boat permanently

You may be one of those lucky sods who have worked in high finance and got out before you burned out age 30. You could be what Millennials refer to as ‘digital nomads’, lucky enough to have a job you can do anywhere in the world. You may just be a civil servant retiring at age 50 with a fat pension to do as you will with it.

So you sell your home, get rid of 99% of your possessions and pack your spouse / partner into the boat with you. Have you thought this through? Did you do the ARC Race or an extended cruise together? Are you the sort of couple that after 40 years finish each others’ sentences and can be in close quarters all the time? I ask this knowing couples that have purely survived because the man has been at sea or on the road for at least half the year. Stick Pete and Mary in a boat for six months and I have no doubt only one person will step ashore at the end of it!!!

Living on a boat is about relationships at the end of the day. This is why a crewing agency such as Onboard Space is so cool as for a low cost with us you can meet and see how you can work in close quarters with one another before doing a longer trip.

There are other aspects of long term living on a boat. How experienced are you? Could you jury rig a new mast after being rolled 1500 miles offshore in storm survival conditions? You will need to! What about electronics and mechanics? Life afloat can cost very little but given that much of your working day you may be sailing and not earning a living you will be quite skint anyway.

Does that answer the question?

There are so many aspects to living on a boat that I could write an awful lot more than this. Your first stop will be to get afloat through somewhere like Onboard Space and see for yourself.