Garrett and I have officially been living on our sailboat for six months now, and most of the time, it still feels like we just moved on board yesterday.
I’m happy to report that we’re still enjoying our living situation, and our marriage is surviving (or should I say thriving?) just fine. Really, it doesn’t feel that different from living in our tiny San Francisco studio apartment. It’s a little cozier, and when our home rocks back and forth we’re comforted by the fact that it’s the water moving underneath us and not an earthquake. So there’s that.
In all seriousness, though, we’re quite content living on our boat. I’m sure that our comfort is bolstered by our ever-hectic travel schedules that allow us to sleep in hotel rooms or friends’ homes a couple of times each month. Which, I might add, gives us all the more reason to not be paying $2,500/month in rent for an apartment we’re barely in. We’re using this time in our lives to be on the go a lot and save money—and for those reasons, I can’t complain about calling a Rafiki 35’ sailboat home.
Now, six months in, we’ve become familiar with our favorite and not-so-favorite aspects of living on a boat, as well as the tools that make our liveaboard lives easier.
Our Favorite Things:
The nature. I didn’t really think about it before we moved on board. The weather, sure, but the marine life? It’s been such a pleasant surprise to live so closely to fat harbor seals and the mercurial snowy egrets that frequent our marina. It’s been easier for me to wake up in the morning, too, because I look forward to seeing the sun rise over the water and the silver-backed fish sparkle in the water as I walk down the dock. I feel more connected to our environment, and because of that, more at peace.
The community. This is the first community that we felt we’ve had since moving to San Francisco. We’ve made friends with people from all walks of life, spanning all ages. The sailors we’ve met are always willing to lend a hand or a tool that you might need, and are always down for a drink. Just the other day, our neighbor Harvey left croissants in our cockpit with a note “breakfast for the lovebirds.” I mean, how nice is that?!
The social aspect. This piggybacks off of community, but we’ve been able to host our non-sailing friends and family a lot more since moving onto our boat. Our old apartment was so small that I felt as though I could never make people comfortable, so we rarely had people over. Now, even though our living space hasn’t expanded, we do have more seating areas and, really, who doesn’t love being on a sailboat? We typically have friends over at least once a week to go for a sail or enjoy drinks at the slip, and we’re grateful for the added fun!
The other thing that I love about living on our boat? The amount of money we can save. Garrett and I both have great jobs, but we felt like we just couldn’t get ahead when we lived in San Francisco. We had debt and were hardly putting any savings aside. Now, we’re almost debt-free and are able to put a good chunk of money toward savings every month. And, on top of all of that, we can still enjoy the type of lifestyle that we like, which includes traveling, eating out, and every so often, buying new clothes. It’s funny—so many people assume that we’re after living a minimalist lifestyle since we live in such a tiny space, but in reality, that’s not the way we think. We’re definitely more mindful of the environment and what we put into it, and we absolutely have less belongings than most people, but I’m still that girl who gets excited to buy new outfits when the season changes. And Garrett still owns like, 20 sport coats. I read the word maximalist in a book the other day, and it made me laugh out loud. We’re definitely not maximalists, and we’re definitely not minimalists. Is there a something in between?
Least Favorite Things
The head! (AKA the bathroom.) I miss having my own shower and cabinet full of all of my hair and skincare products. I don’t love having to schlepp all of my toiletries back and forth to the boat every day. Also, the toilet kind of stinks. For that reason, we try to use it sparingly. The holding tank gets pumped out every two weeks—if the guy shows up, which he doesn’t more often than he does, eye roll. All things concerning the bathroom require more thought than they did when we lived on land with city plumbing. It isn’t horrible, but it isn’t nice, either.
The lack of refrigeration. Right now, we have an icebox. It isn’t wired to be a running refrigerator yet—that’s a project on our horizon—so we can’t store perishables. We’re lucky to have a market right down the road, so it’s easy to pick up food daily if we need it, but that market is expensive. That, combined with our full-time jobs and travel schedules, drives us to eat out more than I’d like to. I feel like we haven’t nailed a dinner routine since living on the boat, and that’s a little unsettling.
Clothing storage. There isn’t a lot of that on the boat. We have one small closet and two small drawers. I use packing cubes to organize my undergarments and gym clothes, and that helps keep things tidy and condensed in a small space, but we haven’t found out how to store our everyday clothes in an easily accessible way. We do have a storage unit right around the corner from the boat that serves as a big closet and go there a couple of times every week to switch out our outfits. It’s fine, but not ideal. Especially when doing laundry - it just adds an extra step to the process of putting clothes away.
Things that Help
Electric Kettle - this might be my favorite gadget we have on board. We have a stovetop kettle that we use while we’re under sail, but the electric kettle is a lot more efficient to use when we’re plugged into shore power. It boils water extremely fast and we use it daily to make pour over coffee and to sanitize our dishes (we don’t have hot water on board).
Packing Cubes - I use a couple of different brands of cubes, but they all work to help keep my clothes organized in such a tiny space. I use smaller cubes for my undergarments (one for socks, one for underwear, and one for bras) and a big cube to store my gym clothes.
Pro Breeze Electric Mini Dehumidifier - this little thing is powerful! Dehumidifiers are kind of necessary on boats, especially if your boat is your home. We haven’t had any issues with dampness, so I’d say this mini dehumidifier is doing its job right.
Hand Steamer - this small, lightweight and easily-portable hand steamer goes with me almost everywhere and keeps my clothes wrinkle-free! The best compliment I can get is “you don’t look like you live on a boat,” which I attribute highly to this steamer.
Grill - Garrett’s parents gifted this grill to us for Christmas, and we’ve gotten so much use out of it. It’s a lot easier to cook on than the cabin stove or oven, and makes cleanup simple and fast.
iPad Mount Holder - this is our TV setup! We suction the holder to the front porthole in our v-berth to allow for hands-free TV watching at night.
DampRid Hanging Bag - I hang a couple of these moisture absorbers in our closet and they’ve collected so much water. It’s incredible. They’ve helped keep our clothes dry and mildew-free.
So — there it is. The good, the bad, and the helpful gadgets of this boat life. Is there anything else you’d like to know about living on a sailboat? Comment below and I’ll get back to you!