Living on a boat. What’s it really like?
(This is a guest blog post and it was originally published at www.cygnus3.com)
Living on a boat
Before we set off from Hull on Cygnus III we were told many times that “We would never actually leave” and “You will be back in a few days." Well now it's five years later and we “did leave” and “did not come back." I will admit that this was mainly because my navigational skills got us lost and we did not know how to get back!
In those five years we have visited numerous countries and many hundreds of ports and anchorages. It is not that we wanted to visit so many places, but without signposts in the sea you have to occasionally go in and find out where you are.
It's a simplistic way of life
Time to live a simpler life
Since leaving, we have had to change our lifestyle quite a bit from the way we lived in a house to a more sedate and simplistic way of doing things. It is not that we are tree huggers or paid up members of Greenpeace. It is just that we didn't have a choice - living on a boat offers a particular lifestyle.
What is the difference between living on a boat and living in a house?
I have written a post previously about how you can practice living on a boat from the discomfort of your own home. So how is actually living aboard a boat that different from being in a house? Let me explain by going through a normal day….
Are we still in the same place?
When living on a boat, the most important thing to do before anything else in the morning is to make sure we are still in the same place. This is quite important to us. I doubt that many people in houses wake up saying “George, the house has moved again.” But if we get our anchoring wrong, we get woken up by a drunken stag party of boat-eating rocks trying to get in.
What’s that floating by?
The first thing most people do after waking up is to go to the bathroom. (Did you know a minute is different depending on what side of the bathroom door you are on?) We still have to go as well but, whereas in a house you push a button and think no more of it, we have to think carefully. If we are in a port or anchorage with people swimming, the last thing they want is a smelly, brown haze emanating from our boat all around them. We have to make sure it goes into a holding tank, so we can lose it out at sea. (A tip here with guests who want to swim when you need to leave, is to throw a few sheets of toilet paper with brown steak sauce in the water when they are not looking. Point it out to them and your guests tend to scramble aboard very quickly).
Jumping in the shower
Taking a shower is a win for us. It may not take long in a house but for us, we just jump off the boat into the sea. There is nothing better. The only thing we have to be careful of is the use of fresh water to shower off afterwards. We carry a limited amount so when our fresh water is getting low we can spend a day or more trying to find somewhere we can fill up.
Shopping is a major exercise
Shopping in Greece with Cygnus III
The next thing you may do in a house is put the kettle on for a hot drink. We can do that provided our gas has not run out but what if you have run out of milk or something for breakfast? Well you jump into the car and go to the shops and get back before the kettle has boiled. For us it is a major expedition that has to be pre-planned.
We are probably anchored in some secluded bay so we have to get the dinghy out and take it ashore finding somewhere safe to leave it. We also have to remember to take all our accumulated rubbish ashore with us as on a boat that soon smells like a sumo wrestler’s nappy. Then there is the walk to find a shop in a strange place and carrying whatever groceries we need back. The episode can take half a day as real men will only make one trip no matter how much they have to carry.
Short on clothes
So for those in a house, you may need to get changed into your work clothes. I will already be in mine, a pair of shorts. We definitely win here.
Johnny Cash is driving us to work
Time to leave for work
Then you have to get to work which may be a 20-mile drive. Just enough time to listen to a Johnny Cash song. On a boat we may decide to sail to another bay. The weather probably will not bother you in a car but we have to check it first to see if we can survive it on our sail. We have to check that everything is put away so some forgotten saucepan or cup will not decapitate us during the sail. Unless you are very late for work, I doubt you will ever get your car over at a 45 degree angle along the way. Your quick 20-mile car journey may take us between 4 and 6 hours, but we've had to listen to every song Johnny Cash ever recorded and have contemplated suicide several times.
On arrival, you put the handbrake on, and unless you are in a crime hotspot, your car will still be there when you get back. When we reach our destination we have to pad around like a cat on a pillow looking for the right spot to anchor. As soon as you apply the handbrake, you are out the car and away. For us we have to check each time the wind and weather changes, that we are still in the same spot and we are not going to swing round and hit our neighbor’s boat.
Washing away the day
Just drying the washing
So now it is early evening and you have arrived home after a grueling day at work. Just one or two more things to do and then you can finally relax. First you may have to do some clothes washing but you can throw it in a machine. We have already done our washing. Those shorts we have been wearing for the last three months get washed each time we swim and ironing means pegging them out in the sun.
Tell me that story again, and again, and again
Living aboard is all about socialising
You may put “Deadenders” or “Cremation Street” on your television to relax and help you escape reality. For us we will look round at our reality and pay a visit to a nearby boat unless they get to us first. Either way we make new friends from all over the world, drink plenty and best of all we can tell all our old stories to someone new. For me, with the memory of a goldfish with Alzheimer’s, this is a blessing. The only thing left is to stagger and fall into the dinghy and try to find your own boat again. This is no easy task in the dark and getting alongside and on board is like pushing hot marshmallows in a money box. It can all end up in a terrible mess.
So how was your day …..
How will you know when you truly become a live aboard?
- If you're living on a boat these descriptions may ring your ships bell?
- When staying in a house you always come down stairs backwards.
- You find yourself bleeding from random places at random times.
- You and your wife define “taking a break” as moving about six feet apart and looking in opposite directions.
- You avoid telling people you live on a boat just so you don't have to explain to them you actually sleep on it as well…again.
- You think butter only comes in soft or liquid form.
- You only have 3 cooking pots.
- When invited to dinner at someone’s house, you spend all night turning unnecessary lights off.
- When invited to dinner at someone’s house, you ask if you can do your laundry.
- The doctor assumes your body, covered in random bruises, is a sign of physical abuse.
- You are the only one who doesn't want to win the big screen TV at the charity raffle.
- You think “Game of thrones” is something you do when two people need the toilet at once.
- Kids think you're the coolest person on earth. Adults think you have lost your marbles.
- When you don’t like the neighborhood, you just move.
- You are content knowing that sailing is code for boat repair in exotic places.
- You can assemble a gourmet dinner using only one pot and moldy cheese.
- Doing laundry involves a net bag, a moving boat, and 50 feet of line.
- When asked for a piece of paper, you ask if they want course or fine.
- You don't want anything for Christmas that isn't on a Kindle.
- Cardboard boxes, wrappers, and packing are thrown away before getting onto the boat.
- You define a good anchorage as one where you can get Wi-Fi.
- Your wallet contains more boat cards than business cards.
- You know what a boat card is.
- When visiting ashore, you wake everybody at daylight screaming “We're aground “when you open your eyes and don't see water.
- You define an easy chore as one where you don't have to pull everything out of the locker first.
- You covet new solar panels more than a new car.
- You can identify boats by the sound of their halyard slapping against their mast.
- Removing things from the refrigerator is like playing Jenga.
- In shoe shops you go straight to the flip-flops.
- You accidentally put your life jacket on when you get in a car.
- You walk, in the rain, all the way back to your boat, carrying a backpack, a load of laundry, groceries destined to fall out of their bag at any second…all while thinking how lucky you are.
- Filling the water tanks is a full day’s work.
- The only thing you do religiously on Sundays is wonder what day it is.
- The first thing you do after setting the anchor is to see what other boats you know.
- You talk to your boat and give parts of it stupid names.
- You understand and pay attention to the entire weather forecast.
- You spend weekends sitting in your cockpit with a boat hook beside you, waiting to fend off the next holiday charter boat.
- Every time you consider buying something you have to decide what you'll get rid of to make room for it.
- When visiting ashore you look for instructions on how to use a push button toilet.
- A three minute hot shower is pure indulgence.
- You covet your neighbor’s engine more than his wife.
- Ice cubes are the ultimate luxury.
- You have to strap a bag full of water to your boom & wait a few hours before you can take a hot shower.
- You've googled to see if there are any companies that make triangular bed sheets.
- You know that duct tape was invented by God.
- You only bring out real cups for fancy occasions.
- Trying to find a partner to sail away with you isn't being romantic, it’s kidnapping.
- Your computer homepage is the Weather Service.
- You've spent mornings standing naked on the deck of someone else’s boat, adjusting halyards, lashing lines & freezing your ass off.
- You have given up trying to defend your lifestyle and are content with smugly thinking: they don’t know just what they are missing.
- Having sex always rocks your boat.
About the Author
Mark calls himself The Incompetent Skipper. After retirement, Mark's ambitions in life were to travel the world by sea. With the support of his family, circumstances in life, and a push from his wife, Mark and his family sold everything, bought what they call Cygnus III, a 45ft sailing boat and went off sea to live life off the grid. They have been living on sea, traveling from country to country for a few years. Mark shares his experience of life on the sea through his website. He writes blogs about his lifestyle that inspire adventurers from all over the world. Mark provides behind-the-scenes tips and insights into other options of living life, especially after retirement. Please follow and share Mark's blog on social media as well as subscribe to his website.