Writing Blog

What’s it Like to Live on a Boat?

I can’t give you the definitive answer to this question. It’s like someone asking what it’s like to live in a house. The answer depends on a lot of variables: what kind of house, where is it, who are you living with, etc.

But I can give you some general things I’ve learned in a winter and a few weeks of living full time on a boat – the winter on a 38’ monohull in the Eastern Caribbean, the few weeks on a 47’ catamaran in Panama.

Living on a boat requires compromise.

There’s less storage space, and what there is is more difficult to access. This is less of an issue on the catamaran, which is so much bigger, but there isn’t the same space as in a house. And a lot of it is cached under the floor, behind and under seats. So, getting things out, and putting them away takes more time and memory.

There’s less living space. My galley (kitchen) is now about three times the space I had last year, but it’s still small. Same for the heads (bathrooms) and salon (living room) and staterooms (bedrooms). That’s just a fact. On the other hand, we have less stuff to put in them.

There’s less stuff. Less to sort and clean, but less to use. Like additional kitchen appliances, and cleaning things. You learn to adapt and use what you have. The stove has three burners, and the temp control is almost negligible. I’m learning to work around it. And to use things for more than one purpose.

There are fewer places to shop, and you don’t find what you’re used to. We’re in different, often poorer countries. There are still large grocery stores, but not as large, and they carry different products. Just try to find tortilla chips and salsa in the French island!. So, again, adapting. Compromising.

That’s what we give up on the compromise side. But, there’s also what we gain.

Time. The tasks we have often take a little longer since we’re missing conveniences, but we have fewer tasks. There’s also less time wastage – at least, the wastage that isn’t me reading too many books. Less time on the road to run errands, less shopping, simpler cooking and cleaning. Also, time spent ironing clothes and fussing with hair and makeup is saved.

Stress reduction. Yes, things on the boat can require repair with frustrating frequency, but it’s usually stuff Ritchard can handle. There’s no pressure from deadlines, bosses, keeping up appearances. There’s time for naps and reading and hanging out with people, and it’s not stealing time that’s also needed elsewhere.

Freedom. We say, when sailing, that we have intentions, not plans. When you’re this dependant on weather and other factors beyond your control, you have to go or stay as wind and waves allow. So, no schedules, no timelines. Also, no rent, unless you’re at a marina, no property taxes, no utilities. If you want to say today is a non-workday, that’s up to you. If you don’t care if the laundry or groceries wait a day or so, then they can wait.

Warm! Since we’re from Canada, we appreciate not having snow, sleet, ice and all the other wonders that comes with winter. (Boots, coats, scarves, gloves etc.) Sure, we might come to miss four seasons eventually, but right now, I’m glad to be warm.

And finally, fresh eyes. We’re living in places where people don’t speak our language, eat our food, follow our customs, and expect what we expect. It’s a chance to try out our minimal language skills, rely on help from strangers, try new things. It’s a way to find and challenge prejudices, to meet other wanderers, and become less narrow in our viewpoint. And to see new kinds of beauty, whether in nature or people we encounter.

Not everyone who lives on a boat will have our experiences. But for most, these compromises are the things they are willing to give up in order to gain what we find on our travels.

 

 

 

Kim FindlayComment