The Definitive Guide to Living Aboard

June 15, 2015 - 9:01 AM by Samantha Pudney


Have you ever been on the marina and seen people who live inside their boats? They seem to be living the life; a carefree life of basking in the sun and taking evening dips. But living on a boat is not always peachy. Just imagine being on a vehicle that’s always in the water. Sure, you could fish for your daily supper if you had the right license, but you’d inevitably have to step out of your boat every so often to buy other perishables and household goods. 

And just how close are those shops to your marina?

If you think you have what it takes to live on your beloved boat, here’s is your guide to living aboard:

  • You might be wondering how large a houseboat has to be. Consider that if you live on a big boat, you’ll be responsible for maintaining it. But if you stay in a small low-maintenance boat, you might feel cramped or claustrophobic. The general rule here is to pick the smallest boat you’d be comfortable living in. Just be sure to factor in your appliances and what you’ll be storing on the boat.
  • When it comes to storage, you need to remember that having too much storage space may tempt you to bring more than you need onboard. In addition, the added weight can cause performance issues on your boat. If you have items you want to keep, but not necessarily onboard, there’s storage space you can rent out for a reasonable rate. It’s best to keep your precious valuables – photo albums, souvenirs, keepsakes – here. For more important items like documents, jewellry or cash, you can put them into a safety deposit box. Lastly,  you’ll need a place to stow away your goods onboard, so that they’re kept safe even when you decide to leave your slip for a bit.
  • Living on a boat can be romantic, but it can also be inconvenient. Most people are only aware of the first part, the fun side. You’ve got your boat in a marina where you’re free to soak up the sunshine or take in a private view of the sunset. The steady rocking of your boat can lull you to sleep, and there are no neighbors to wake you with their music. But there’s another side to this little piece of paradise: your boat is most definitely smaller and less steady than a house on the ground. Also, you’ve got to keep your boat free from mould and mildew, and you have to be able to secure your boat whenever the weather starts to get nasty. It’s not all about the glamorous life, but if you can live with these inconveniences – perhaps then a life at sea’s for  you.


  • Your boat may be your home, but your marina is your neighborhood. Once you’ve got your boat, you need a place to park it. Some marinas may not have slips for those who want to live on their boat, while others will be more welcoming. But in addition to renting some space, you need to make sure that the marina you’ve chosen is livable. Is the marina constantly filled with people? Does it seem like a safe place to live? Could you get along with the people who live nearby?
  • Living on a boat may seem pricey, but it can also be a thriftier option to living on land. Your boat-based lifestyle only needs to be as cheap or as expensive as the luxuries you want to have. For instance, if you want to eat out instead of cooking in your galley, then that could be a huge expense when it’s considered on an annual basis. You’d also have to consider your slip fees, liveaboard fees and the other amenities you’ll have to purchase. If you’re the kind to live with minimal technology and you just want to savor the open air, then living on a boat may end up being cheaper!
  • You might be forced to leave some of your stuff on land when you decide to stay on a boat. That huge fridge of yours, the washing machine, the dishwasher? It isn’t likely they’ll make it on board if your boat isn’t the right size. To get around this, you may want to consider trading them in for smaller, lighter and more space-saving options. For instance, you can give up watching TV and rely on the internet for your shows instead. Or opt for an MP3 player instead of a rack stereo. But even when you’ve replaced your appliances with their portable counterparts, stay prepared to deal with the days when there’s a lot of moisture on your boat.


  • Kids and pets can safely live aboard, so long as you take some safety precautions. Take care to give your kids and pets lifejackets when they’re on deck – and keep your pets tethered to something when you’re cruising.  Keep an eye on your kids at all times and make certain they understand what they can and can’t do onboard. In addition, you may also want to look into learning streams for your children: will you home-school them, or enroll them in a school near the marina?  Whenever possible, you should encourage your kids to have some off-board fun, too.
  • Weather conditions are also a huge factor for people who live aboard. The summer usually doesn’t bother people who live in boats, but winter’s a whole different ballpark! It’s necessary for you to keep yourself safe and protected from the cold. As for the safety of your boat, you can opt to put plastic covers on the deck to keep it dry and to insulate the boat. But for temperatures below freezing, you should have sufficient heating devices to keep the boat and its passengers warm, as well as smoke detectors and CO2 detectors to ensure that these heaters are vented properly.