One of the most frequent questions we get is “how in the world are you able to live on a 37 foot boat without killing each other?” I guess we’re just lucky?
These topics have been highlighted in earlier posts, but we think they’re so important that we developed this series of 5 posts.
Our actual interior living space is about 18′ by a little over 6′ — yes, not much more space than 100 square feet. I remember turning down vacation rentals because “they were ONLY 900 square feet”. 🙂 Imagine living with your spouse in space smaller than my walk-in closet at the lake (and it’s a small 2 bedroom house!). If you’ve always lived ashore and are contemplating moving aboard full-time or becoming commuter cruisers, which entails living aboard “full-time” but only for a specified stretch of months, in our case six months at a time, here are a few tips.
1. No matter what the subject, if you don’t live like that at home, you won’t live like that aboard a boat. Living on a boat is not about learning to camp on the water (although it sometimes seems that way). The key to loving living aboard is to make it your HOME! So as you’re thinking about a boat, compromises are fine, camping is not.
For example, we never used a pressure cooker on land, but I was convinced from reading all the cruising books that a pressure cooker was essential. I even learned a bunch of recipes before we moved aboard. Aboard I used the silly thing maybe once or twice. I still use it & keep it aboard, but now it’s valued for it’s locking lid, not the pressure cooker part. That’s just me, we have friends that use not one but multiple pressure cookers all at the same time for a single meal. Find your own style and apply it to everything aboard! It’s your home!
2. In that same vein, I refused to live on a boat without a Mr Coffee (I know there are more boat-friendly ways to make what arguably is a better cup of java, but I like my Mr Coffee). But our boat didn’t have an inverter or any of the necessary A/C power considerations. David still grimaces when he talks about adding an expensive inverter and generator to power my blankety-blank $9.99 Mr Coffee. Guilty and we’ve never regretted it (I’ve not noticed David turning down a cup of coffee in the morning either!). Not only do we have the ability to run Mr Coffee (now converted to Keurig Single Serve) but lots of other “nice-ities” aboard as well.
For those on the fence about going cruising: Notice the THEME here is that to successfully live on a boat, you must evaluate your current lifestyle and adapt it to life aboard. Do NOT, under any circumstances, be talked into doing it as a camping trip. We love camping, it’s FUN … for a short duration, but most of us do not want it as an ongoing lifestyle. If you want to deliberately cut cruising short before you even have a chance to figure out if you like it, just go the camping route. It’ll be over faster and you won’t have invested the money to make the boat a real home! Some may not agree with me, and this is not universal, but overall, this is the trend I’ve noticed among cruisers.
3. Remember that unless the weather is horrendous – torrential rains and lots of wind – you don’t live inside the boat. Most cruisers spend most of their time outside. If you HATE being outside, you might consider another lifestyle!
4. Our family room is our cockpit. We try to make it as comfortable as a family room in a house — we use beanbags, portable cushions and throw pillows since by its configuration, we have to walk on the seats. We also added – had custom made – a new teak cockpit table large enough for cocktails and snacks for 4 or dinner for us. We eat almost every meal in the cockpit. Of course, the grill is there too, so it’s a natural place to hang out.
5. Hanging out in the cockpit requires a little thought on comfort. We added isenglass roll down panels to our cockpit canvas – this allows us to create our own “greenhouse” effect. If it’s raining, the cockpit stays dry, if it’s chilly but sunny, the cockpit heats up just like a sunroom and is comfy and fun almost as soon as the sun comes up. If you cringe at the amount of money it costs to turn your cockpit into a family room, just think of it in terms of adding a family room to your house — then it seems much more cost effective! 🙂
6. More cockpit considerations — if you’re out there after dark (and dark comes early in the winter, even in the far reaches of the tropics), you’ll need some sort of light. We’ve used everything from a Davis mega-light to a Coleman lantern. Candles are nice, but don’t provide enough light to read by. Our current favorite is this LumiQuest SoLite – a solar powered little LED that uses NO power and costs less than $15!
7. Unfortunately, light often attracts bugs – sunrise and sunset are by far the worst times for bugs, mosquitoes, noseeums, whatever. Because noseeum screens are so dense that literally NO air circulates through them, we originally opted for regular screens that we could roll up and down to help isolate ourselves from bugs. And they helped. But we noticed that even more than bug screens, we needed sun screens – to block the vicious sun rays, especially late afternoon’s slant and heat. When we redid the cockpit enclosure two years ago, we opted for sunscreens instead. We find that the ones we chose eliminate about 70% of the UV and are dense enough to keep out larger bugs such as mosquitos and flies just as well as the original bug screens we used. We’ve accepted the idea that when the noseeums are thick, we simply go inside and close up. That doesn’t happen often, usually only when the wind totally dies and we’re anchored in a mangrove anchorage such as Russell Bay by Everglades City or the mangrove cayes of Belize.
Anyone have anything to add to overall lifestyle aboard and/or cockpit/family room enjoyment? Please leave a comment and share!