Tuesday, May 23, 2017


Stateless: the downsides.

As we renovate and prepare the new boat, Gail and I were discussing the pros and cons of our livaboard lifestyle. So much of what I've put on these pages has been in glowing reference to the joys of the way we live, the place and the people. I thought, perhaps, it might be good to temper that with a bit of reality. . . not TOO much reality, mind you. Reality and I have always been barely on speaking terms, but here are some considerations you might take into account before taking to the water. we go again.
First and foremost, as a livaboard, you are relatively stateless. Living on a (potentially) moving platform, your mailing address, your utilities, your “home” anything is largely a fiction. Slip four lines and shove off and you're somewhere else. By and large, this isn't a problem, but you will find, occasionally, that “we can't verify that address” will come up as the marina, a commercial address, can't be verified as a residence. 

Of course, the bug out potential is there as well.

Living on a vessel, you are living effectively in a floating tinyhome. Boats, particularly sailboats, can have a surprising amount of storage, but it's mostly “dead” storage. Want the tupperware? It's right there, under the cushion, under the hatch, underneath the extra life vests, the bagged catfood, the box of DVD's, my dad's photos, a box of tools that we had no place else to store, a bin of art supplies, and the peat moss for the composting toilet. No problem. But having to move six things to get to anything you want can be a hassle, and takes a bit of forethought when you arrange your storage.
It's also a compressed space. I'm fond of telling people that I don't take up any more room in a phone booth than I do in a stadium, and it's true, but this is, after all, a tinyhome. In a boat, Peter Dinklage from Game of Thrones could reach each and every top shelf. From where I'm sitting right now, I can open the fridge, reach the wine glasses, type of course, reach the battery bank, the towel storage bin. . . .all without getting up. It's a convenience. If you're claustrophobic, it's the third ring of hell.  Your new "kitchen range" is likely a single burner stove, your refrigerator, if you have one, is likely the same one your kid has in her dorm room at college.  Hot and cold running water?  You must be kidding.

On a boat, you just can't “let things wait”. Like houses and apartments, of course, they can burn, gas leaks can make them explode, shorts can cause fire. Unlike houses and apartments, boats can sink. They can ram the docks in high winds. They can leak around the hatches. They can break free of their moorings and go drifting off uncontrolled, with you sound asleep belowdecks. You have to be a bit more proactive, and no one is going to do it for you. 

Boat repairs can be expensive. I once asked a distributor what was the difference between a $.40 stainless steel bolt and a $2.30 Stainless Steel Marine Bolt. He said, candidly, the word “marine”. Tack “marine” onto anything and you're likely to pay at least 40% more for the same stuff.
Not that “marine” is a vain piece of marketing, not entirely. Marine environments are damp, corrosive, full of stresses that no landlocked construction would ever experience, and you don't DARE let that slide. One good wake from a drunken powerboater, one grounding, one lightning strike, and you are, figuratively and occasionally literally, toast. You have to pay attention. You have to keep yourself safe, because no one else will.

Having said all that, here we sit. We're up to our butts at the moment in new wiring and making decisions about motors and solar panels and where what goes and what we keep, but here we are.
We're free. I can slip the bonds of this dock at will. The cat loves the place. We wake in beauty every morning, and no amount of wind and rain and dryrot can ever change that.

We live aboard. Neither of us would have it any other way.

Don and Gail and Magellan aboard “Tesla's Revenge”


  1. I remember getting used to living in a 2.80 by 3 meter room. When my routines adjusted and my skill for work order and tool placement had optimized everything I found that I could switch on the coffee maker and the electric stove without getting out of bed, gradually sit up and access the fridge (without getting up) crack some eggs, slice some cheese, eat breakfast then clean up half the room (the part within arms reach) while still sitting on the edge of my bed. Put away the alarm clock, the coffee maker and the hot plate to make room for breakfast.

    Then took the dishes on a 5 meter walk to the shared kitchen and shower.

    The wall on the other side was my wardrobe, one step away. After switching on the coffee maker I gazed at it a bit as a form of outfit planning.

    Today I live in a comfortable sized house. I own 30 plates, Over 2000 books, 50 paintings and what not and I'm like... do I have to eat from all of those? Am I going to read all that? How many paintings can I hang up? Then I casually ignore it and leave everything where it is. Usually the same spot as 10 years ago. But still it is a lot of work to keep everything clean. I have about 10 hours of gardening saved up for this week.

    Life was much easier when I didn't have room for all this added complexity. I spend the money saved on restaurants which saved even more time.

    I've wondered about boats, each material has its own drawbacks. I think I liked the bottle island best :D

  2. Exactly. We are--as has been oft said--owned by our possessions. We find the less we have the more time we have for. . .well. . .living. From the livaboard community to the tiny home movement, more and more folks seem to have realized the liberating effects of stepping away from consumer culture and the tyranny of our own possessions. We'll travel widely this year, widely and slowly and without deadlines other than the tides. We could never do that if I were working to support and pay for a conventional home and car and the rest. I took a short term seasonal job for a few extra bucks this year to help finance revisions to the new boat, and was fascinated--and a little appalled--by how far we've stepped away from the offerings of the big box store where I've been working. I want to yell at people: "you don't NEED that! It's pointless!" Hubris on my part, perhaps, but still, I'm happy to have arrived at this place in our lives at long last.