While many people dream about living full-time on a sailboat, it’s not for everybody. You need to make some real lifestyle changes, and you’ll need to put up with some things that you may not be prepared for.
I’m in no way trying to discourage you from your dream by the way. Living on a sailboat can be a magical experience. However, here are a few things you should consider before you sell your house and go out and buy a sailboat.
You need to be pretty handy or pretty rich for sailboat living
There’s a reason why people say that boats are a giant hole that you throw money into. It seems that there is always something to fix on your boat, and while this isn’t a huge deal if you just take it out on weekend fishing trips, it’s a huge deal if it’s also your house.
This means that you should really take a moment to assess your capabilities. How handy are you? Can you handle minor everyday repairs that happen on your vessel?
Even if you’re not particularly handy, you can get that way. There are videos on Youtube for everything, and if you buy a fixer upper boat, then you can learn to work on it yourself before you go, and be prepared to have a backup plan if you’re someplace where you can’t get the parts you need.
You need to have a sizable emergency fund available.
Even if you’re handy, there will be things that you need to buy for these repairs. Some people are not at all prepared for the costs of maintaining a boat, and for a weekend-er, that’s no issue, but for you, it’s a disaster.
You should expect normal yearly repairs and maintenance to fall somewhere around 2% of the price of your vessel, and account for those things in your budget.
But, your emergency fund should be separate. What if your boat were to be completely destroyed? Could you recover? If your boat could not be repaired, how would you get yourself to someplace safe?
While many people recommend a 3 months salary emergency fund, that is for “normal” situations. I’d recommend more for boat dwellers who are far from home and could be stranded with no help from friends or family.
Space could test your relationship
If you plan to live on your sailboat with a partner, then you might want to take some shorter excursions first to prepare. While you may love your partner, being trapped in a very tiny cabin with them for extended periods might be difficult. Some people just can’t handle it.
However, storage space is also precious on a vessel, and much of that will be overrun with tools, spare bits and pieces, cooking equipment, and everything else that you need to live.
So, you’d better practice becoming a minimalist and learn to do without a lot of your stuff that you may have grown used to. This can be a big sacrifice, and tough if you’re not prepared for it.
Dock space can be hard to come by and expensive
Marinas are often hard to come by, especially in places with a high cost of living. This means that if you plan on docking, you need to plan ahead, and make sure that there’s somewhere for you to go before you get there.
There’s also the fact that many marinas don’t actually allow “live-ins”, and you may have a limit on how much time you can spend there. How strictly this is enforced is dependent on the location, but you should keep it in mind anyway and have alternate plans ready.
Toilets on boats are not.. ideal.. to say the least
Using a toilet on a sailboat is a lot different than the one in your house. It requires a lot of manual attention, which includes filling the bowl with water yourself and vigorously pumping it to get it to flush.
In addition to that, these kinds of toilets can clog easily. That means you’ll need to go easy on the toilet paper, and some people even use a bidet to rid themselves of the clogging issue.
You’ll also need to be mindful of how full your tank is and stop somewhere that has a pumping station that you can use to empty your waste. Speaking of which..
You need to watch your resources carefully
If you’re not paying attention to your usage, it can be easy to run out of water or drain your batteries, or you could be halfway through cooking dinner only to find that your propane tanks are empty.
Living on a sailboat is sort of like long-term camping. You need to keep a sharp eye on your essentials, and make sure everything is topped up before you leave a port.
In short, it’s very important to do your research before jumping into things. While living on a boat can be amazing, it can also test you in many ways. Make sure that you’re prepared and you’ll have an amazing time though.