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I had to give up my San Francisco condo to live aboard a boat. In retrospect, these are the nine things I wish I’d known.

  • After losing my job three years ago, I had to give up my residence in San Francisco and go onboard my boyfriend’s yacht.
  • It was tough at first but satisfying in many ways to live aboard a boat.
  • But there are several things I wish I had known before embarking on this adventure.

As a San Francisco radio news reporter, I was suddenly laid off. Almost the entire newsroom was laid off in a single day. A room in Sausalito was going for $1,500 a month, a rate I couldn’t pay. So I issued my 30-day notice.

I made arrangements to move into my boyfriend’s 46-year-old ketch yacht, undergoing a significant renovation. He had been working on the yacht nonstop for months, with no end in sight. In my mind, it was going to be like camping in a primitive wooden hut with no electricity or plumbing. I’ve always been drawn to new experiences, the great outdoors, and breaking the mold.

As a result, I undertook a significant decluttering effort, donating most of what I no longer needed to Goodwill and transporting the remainder to my mother’s garage in Oregon.

I was living aboard a boat for the first time less than a month after losing my job. There were no sunset-tinged joyful hours or dolphins frolicking in the surf to be found here. It wasn’t easy, particularly in the beginning.

However, living aboard a boat has also provided me with tremendous insights and a deep connection to nature that I will never give up.

The following are the things I wish I’d known before embarking on a boating lifestyle.

A “completed boat” doesn’t exist.

I had no clue how much labor a yacht entails until I began my new life aboard one.

This place constantly appears to need some kind of repair. We had wanted to sail to Mexico for the winter for the last two years, but the boat wasn’t ready. We’ll try it again this year if everything goes as planned” (fingers crossed). For the last three and a half years, my partner Tom has spent many hours, days, and weeks preparing the yacht for ocean sailing. Still, there is a lot of work that has to be completed.

After reading these two adages from the boating world, I understand why they are so popular: “The two finest days of a boaters life are when they purchase their first boat, and when they sell it.”

If you’re planning to purchase a boat, be sure you have the mechanical know-how to maintain it, or you’ll pay a lot of money to repair it. For more options, you can check out PaydayNow website for emergency loans.

The only difference between living on a boat and a tent is that a ship has walls.

There were very few conveniences when I arrived aboard the vessel. There isn’t any water pressure. There is no heating—insufficient heat. There isn’t a toilet in sight. Internet access is unavailable. There is no refrigerator. There is no place to take a shower. The list keeps growing and growing.

I used a Jetboil camping burner and a skillet to prepare meals. We turned to the marina’s restrooms, our gym, and a makeshift bucket to relieve ourselves. We hunkered down in our sleeping bags and blankets when it was freezing outside.

In several projects, the boat has gradually accumulated the features that make it seem like a home. For the first time in my life, I was grateful for a toilet, a stove, and an oven. I’d never considered using a heater before. Despite the challenges, living aboard an incomplete boat gives you an appreciation for the things that most people take for granted.

To say that a marina isn’t always pleasant is an understatement.

I’ve found that certain marinas are better than others when living aboard a boat. Some seem like a run-down trailer park, while others look like a luxury RV park. I’ve seen abandoned boats covered in tarps, bicycles, workout gear, and rubbish in the past.

Sailboats aren’t usually associated with upscale marinas and yacht clubs, which I believe is a prevalent misconception. Before deciding on a marina, take a tour around the docks and meet the neighbors.

On a yacht, finding a legal location to dwell is a challenge.

Legally living aboard a yacht in a city like San Francisco, where rents are exorbitant, is quite tricky.

Liveaboard slips are in high demand and maybe years in the making. They also cost twice as much as conventional slips. Our marina only permits us to stay on board for two nights a week, and we make every effort to comply with that restriction. We often take our boat out to anchor in beautiful spots around the Bay and spend the rest of our evenings in my van or house sitting.

Sailing is a challenging sport.

Until I moved onto the boat, I’d never seen one in person, much alone sailed one.

It was a lot of work the first few years learning to sail. So many errors were made because I couldn’t understand them.

In the third year, I now understand what everyone else is talking about. In Hood River, I took windsurfing classes and used a Hobie Cat a few times. Everyone may not be able to enjoy sailing at first. Make sure you’re up to the challenge of sailing before embarking on a life on the open sea!

Using a boat’s toilet may be a real pain in the neck.

Living aboard a boat necessitates a fresh approach to the bathroom.

It’s a manual flush, for example, in our toilet at home. Flushing is accomplished by forcefully pumping a handle up and down after filling a big cup with water. There’s a dying goose sound, and it’s simple to plug. We utilize portable bidets to prevent toilet paper from clogging our pipes.

It’s not easy explaining this toilet style to guests. Pumping out our holding tank isn’t an option unless you’ve got a vacuum-sealed line at your disposal. Living aboard a boat is the most significant drawback. Gross!

It’s possible to run out of necessities at any time.

In contrast to the convenience of a home, where you can turn on a switch and have an unending supply of power, running water, and gas for cooking, life aboard a boat is a lot more challenging.

A boat’s supplies are limited, so you need to keep a close eye on your supply. When we were moored out and preparing a delicious meal, our stove ran out of propane. We had to use a construction blowtorch that we had on board to complete our meal.

Another day, when we awoke to make our daily coffee, our water tanks were empty. Fortunately, it was just a one-hour sail back to the slip from where we had left off.

Checking our water supply before heading away for a few days and having extra water on hand have taught us a lot.

Things begin to smell bad quickly.

A boat’s surroundings are significantly different from that of a dwelling. Mold thrives in damp environments like those created by cooking and dishwashing. To prevent decay from forming in our cupboards, we now regularly wash and dry them.

Diesel and the holding tank may also cause a boat to smell bad. When the plumbing system in the toilet begins to break down, many vessels have that foul “boat smell.” This is a common problem. Tom had to remove all the colored wood from our boat because of leaks and spills when we first set sail.

You can’t get enough of boat life.

Despite the difficulties, I had no idea life aboard a yacht could be so addictive.

I like the rush of sea air and the tap-tap of rain on the cabin house as it passes through the companionway. When we anchored out, the boat leaned and softly rocked me to sleep in a large gust of wind.

Our lives are more prosperous and exciting because of our time spent on the yacht. The world is our oyster when we set sail on a ship and take our residence with us. Even as we sail, dolphins can be seen jumping from the boat’s bow.

The world is our oyster when we live aboard a yacht, and I can’t imagine a better way of life.