14 years ago, we moved into our first home together.
It was a 22ft sailboat.
For those who don’t know much about boats, all you need to know is that this is small. REALLY SMALL. Especially when we are both nearly 6ft tall and boats that size do NOT have 6ft headroom.
So why did we do it? More to the point, why do we still love boat life 14 years later??
Here are our top 12 reasons to live on a boat:
1: The Scenery
Imagine waking up every morning, putting the kettle on and sitting down to enjoy your morning cup of sanity…. whilst looking out of the window at a view to die for. The harbour, river, canal or even lake glistens in the morning light. Birds fly above the water, hunting for fish and all you can hear is the water lapping on the hull and the occasional engine from another boat chugging by. This is your back garden. This is your sanctuary. Sometimes it’s raining, occasionally snowing, often sunny and ALWAYS beautiful. Always. Even on a bad day, there’s something about the water which has the ability to calm even the most frantic mind. It’s soothing. I haven’t found a house yet which can calm me like water can.
2: Cheap(er) sea view
I grew up on an island. A teeny tiny island where I saw the sea EVERY SINGLE DAY. I loved looking at it, seeing it change with the weather and the seasons. It has always been a dream of mine to live somewhere with a sea view. But… we live on the south coast of England. The property prices here are INSANE. If you want a view of the sea, or indeed any water, you’re going to be charged a premium for it. It might actually be cheaper to hand over your firstborn. And maybe your second…
We just don’t have the kind of money to get a house with a view of the water. Yes- we could move somewhere cheaper- but our jobs and life are here (for now- more on that coming soon!) Besides- we’ve lived in the North before- it’s a lot colder!!
When we moved onto a boat, we discovered we had the most incredible views- for WAY LESS than any house would cost. We moor our boat in one of the many premium areas along this coastline (there are lots of marinas here, because this is where the rich like to come sailing!) Yes, this means the moorings are more expensive than other parts of the country- actually, more expensive than some in London- but it’s so much cheaper to live on a boat and get that coveted sea view than it is to buy a house.
3: The Peace
Ever been woken up or disturbed by neighbours fighting, children screaming or just a loud noise from next door? That doesn’t happen on a boat. Yes, there are a few people around and yes, there are often children, but generally everyone is pretty respectful and wants to preserve the peace of the place you are in. Although- full disclosure- I have occasionally been woken up by swans tapping on the hull. Yep, swans. They were literally demanding their Crunchy Nut cornflakes (other cereals are available…)
4: Living Expenses
Living on a boat is generally cheaper than living in a house. Obviously, this depends on the size of the boat and the size of the house, but unless you’re a multi-millionaire on a super yacht with 5 crew members to pay, the monthly living costs are going to be cheaper.
It also depends on WHERE you are mooring your boat- the cost of living on the south coast is nearly double to that when we moored in the North West of England. And our living costs have increased as our boat size has increased. But a three/ four bed boat moored on the South Coast UK is vastly cheaper to buying a 3/4 bed house just down the road.
In the UK, liveaboards aren’t very common in marinas along the coast, but they ARE common along the canals and river networks. I’ve never tried living on a boat on a canal (although I’ve rented a barge several times) so can’t comment on their rules or fees. In a coastal marina, your council tax etc are included in your marina fees. You need to have a permanent address somewhere else- which we do. Discretion is key- most marinas don’t mind how long you stay onboard for as long as you don’t have stuff all over the pontoon and your boat is kept neat & tidy. The only problems seem to occur from boats who make the marina look bad and cause trouble for other boat owners. That’s when they get asked to move on.
You can get some SPECTACULAR winter mooring deals- which run from October to end of March. We could be living on a boat in the heart of Portsmouth for around £600/month. This includes water but not electric or gas. HOWEVER, you then have to think about the summer months. If you only have a winter contract, you will either need to sail your boat somewhere cheaper for the summer- such as Plymouth or even further, or you will need to stomach the higher summer costs. That same berth can cost upwards of £1000 every month from April until end of September (mooring fees for boats are charged per metre. So, the longer your boat- the more expensive the mooring. Something to think about when buying one!) We have found the cheapest option is to sign up to a place for 12 months. It means we pay the same price every month whether its summer or winter and the price overall is generally a few hundred pounds less than it would be if we only did a seasonal contract. But this does lock you into one place for the year- so pick somewhere you’re happy with. (I’ll do a longer post about the practicalities of living on a boat soon (heating/ cooking etc) Otherwise it will take you all day to finish this!)
5: Your Home travels with you
One of my favourite things about living on a boat is the ability to sail off whenever time & weather allows. A couple of hours sailing and you could be anchored in a beautiful cove, sipping a glass of wine and watching the sun slip over the horizon. You might even see the Green Flash! The best bit about these last minute adventures if you live on a boat is you don’t need to pack! All your stuff is already with you. Just make sure food, drinks and fuel is topped up and you’re good to go. For as long as you like. If the weather turns cooler, no worries: you have a fleece or jumper in the drawer downstairs. Want to go swimming- no problem! Your bathing suit, towel and perhaps even a wetsuit is hanging there just waiting for you. No concerns about forgetting the sunscreen, or your kid’s favourite toy, or a hat. It’s all there- ready to go when you are! What could be easier?
6: Minimal Living
My family will be in stitches when they read this. It’s a long running joke that I suck at minimal living. And in boat terms, that’s probably true.We spent so long living on a tiny boat which had NO room for any stuff that, now we have a bigger boat, I’ve spread out a little. I like clothes, and shoes- even though I basically wear the same 5 outfits over and over again. But living on a boat forces you to choose. There is only so much space you can fill- so you have to pick what you fill it with. My husband likes gadgets. I like clothes. He gets his areas, I get mine. We choose what we bring onboard and use our space for- and when it’s full, it’s full. We’ve been living in a house for 6 months now (more on that below) and it frightens me how much STUFF we have bought. We have expanded to fill our space, as everyone does…. but there is so much STUFF, and so much MONEY spent on the stuff. Most of it we don’t even really need.
7: No Cold Callers
There is generally a locked gate between you and any unwanted visitors. No-one can just ‘show up’ at your door, especially salesmen. Or trick or treaters. (Or the in-laws!) They need to know the code to get in- and marina codes are changed regularly to protect the boats inside. Often we’re away when the codes change- I was once stood outside at 11pm for over an hour trying to get the new code so I could get into my home! (I swear they never sent us that email…!) We feel a lot safer leaving our daughter on her own for a night in the boat than we do in the house.
8: Less Cleaning
Some people like cleaning. I am not one of them. Boats are smaller. Ergo- less time spent cleaning them. Winner winner! And less stuff means less dust. Good news all round. I can clean ours top to bottom in a couple of hours- which frankly is quite long enough!
The number of birds, fish, seals and occasional dolphin we have seen from our boats is ridiculous. It is one of the best ways to get close to nature. Also, you don’t really get spiders on boats. Occasionally some tiny ones, but for people like me and my daughter who HATE them, boat life is heaven. I’d forgotten how big house spiders can be- it’s one of my driving factors for moving back onboard in a few months! But all the other wildlife is very pretty! Even those pesky swans…
10: Low Maintenance Garden
Not great if you love your garden, but if you’re like me and don’t even know where to start with green space- boat life is great. We’ve spent so long on boats that even the most basic garden terms are totally alien to us. I love gardens- my parents are fantastic gardeners and I always enjoy spending time in their haven- but I also enjoy having so much beautiful nature around me without having to do a thing to maintain it. Lazy, I know.
11: The EPIC Parties
You’re sipping a glass of champagne, watching your friends leap off the boat into the water, screaming in delight as they swim around. The sun is shining, music is playing and the sea is like glass. Times like these are just plain special- and it’ll be a party they talk about for YEARS! Boat parties are fun parties- whether you sail out of the marina or stay put. It’s something not many people get to experience and certainly won’t have done before- I love being able to share something I love with my friends and see them find joy in it too.
12: You suddenly become more interesting…
This might be a good or a bad point- but suddenly EVERYONE knows you live on a boat…and they all want to ask you questions! Yes, the questions are normally the same, but that’s only because you are doing something so DIFFERENT from the norm- and people are interested. I find it flattering to be asked questions by people I don’t even know that well- I’m so used to my crazy life that I forget it’s different to theirs. But if you’re after obscurity- maybe don’t tell many people! My daughter’s friends find it epic- but they all want to be invited to the boat! She’s learnt not to tell people until she knows they’re good friends and like her for herself- not just her boat parties. An important point in anyone’s life I think!
This article wouldn’t be fair without mentioning some of the downsides to living on a boat:
- Carrying down shopping/clothes/parts etc. Everything on the boat needs to be carried down. No delivery truck can park outside (unless you’re lucky enough to be on one of those great moorings you can park your car next to- but they don’t have them in any marina near us. Luckily, there are trollies we can use!
- Walking to car in winter/ cold/ rain– there’s very little point styling your hair. Ever!
- Space. You can’t get very far away from your shipmates. You need to be respectful of each other’s privacy. Everyone needs their own space sometimes.
- You NEED to do maintenance– it’s not optional! Your home will literally sink if you don’t. It’s mostly not a lot- more a little and often routine keeps it all in shape.
- Ventilate your storage. Clothes can mouldy in any enclosed space. Houses aren’t generally a problem but boats are. You need to make sure you air your clothes/ shoes and other fabricsregularly and use dehumidifiers.
- Mail/ Insurance etc Most marinas aren’t happy with you receiving loads of mail. We use a mailbox for most things and when we need packages delivered we use family or friends.
- Sky TV/ Internet– there aren’t any wires you can connect to the boat. Having said that, some moorings will allow a phone line- which you may be able to use for internet. And luckily Sky has Sky Go- so I can still watch Game of Thrones. That would be a dealbreaker!
It’s funny, as I write this I can see that the downsides look fairly large and annoying! Who wants to lug their shopping down in the pouring rain in February while their hair blows itself into a knot? Not me! But even that isn’t enough to outweigh the good points from our point of view.
We’ve rented houses a couple of times over the years. Heck, we even own one- just in a different country. (More on that in another post!) And right now, we are again living in a house. We rented one so we had somewhere to look after my mother-in-law when she got poorly. (Unfortunately, she passed away a few months ago.) We’re tied into a contract, but when that ends we’re going to be moving back onboard. We miss living on a boat. Even the bits which suck sometimes- it’s all part of creating a life which overall we love.
Living on a boat makes us stop and appreciate nature, the weather, the world around us every single day.
It makes us view the world differently and open us to new experiences we otherwise wouldn’t get- like waking up to a sunrise at anchor.
Living on a boat is not for everyone, but it might be for you! What do you think? Have you tried it? Would you like to? Let me know below- I’d love to hear your thoughts.