We get lots of questions from friends, family, strangers, internet followers, boating and non-boating people alike about what it’s like living on a boat, so we thought this would be a good place to answer those, and hopefully provide a good resource to those who are thinking about following in our footsteps! Have a question? Either leave a comment or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll include it here!
Q. How did you learn to fix the things that break?
A. It didn’t happen overnight, and there’s no one source, but here are a few key resources we use constantly.
– In a perfect world, the previous owner of your boat left you all the important manuals for the systems. Make sure that s/he does. You will use them! If you don’t, try to go to the manufacturer’s websites and print out paper copies before you go cruising.
– The Internet (of course!). Not just Google, but cruiser’s forums, YouTube for instructional videos, Facebook (Brian always has me going to the group “Women Who Sail” to ask questions – sorry dudes, no boys allowed), manufacturer’s websites, etc.
– If you’re paying someone to fix something, watch over their shoulder. If they discourage that, get someone new. In our experience, most of the people we’ve hired want us to observe and participate in repairs so that we know what to do next time. Be nice to them if they’re excellent, become friends with them, and then when it all goes to pot, they’ll take your phone call and walk you through a fix if possible. We’ve just published our “Resources” page that lists the people we’ve worked with and love, if you’re in that area, don’t hesitate to call on them!
– Nigel Calder’s “Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual“. The BIBLE.
– Other cruisers. We’ve been really fortunate to meet great folks in our travels, many of whom have run into similar issues and would love to pay it forward! We haven’t dealt with Cruiser’s ‘Nets yet in anchorages or ports, but we’ve heard that if you put a call out on the morning ‘net for advice, you’ll get it!
– Most importantly, STAY CALM. Take your time, try not to get frustrated. Bounce ideas off your cruising partner if you have one, even if they’re not mechanically savvy (which I am not), sometimes they’ll say “did you think of x” and a lightbulb will go off!
Q. How are you supporting yourselves? Do you work?
A. Every cruiser’s story and situation is different. Most wait until retirement age, but for us and our situation (Brian’s MS, in particular), it wasn’t what we wanted to do. We were fortunate to make enough money off the sale of our apartment in Manhattan to buy Summer and have money to live off of for a few years. The good news about cruising is that you can do it on the “cheap” – while boat repairs can add up, we do as many of those ourselves as we can. After that, it’s up to you. You can avoid marinas and anchor (free), cook on the boat instead of eating out (hard for us, being used to NYC takeout, plus all the great places in new ports to try, but we do it), and watch your bar tabs (even harder for us, but we’re working on it!). No electric bills, minimal fuel bills, we generate power with wind, solar, and our efficient generator. And…no buying STUFF like you might living in a house!
Also, there are all sorts of jobs you can do from the boat. We know cruisers in graphic design, jewelry design, customer service, captains, boat brokers, business owners…if you can get an internet connection, you can find a way to fund this lifestyle (or at least make beer money). You won’t get rich, probably, but really, once you move aboard, being rich takes on a whole new meaning – we’re rich in experiences and life as opposed to dollars, and it’s awesome. Our friend Melody on Vacilando goes into more detail on work you can do as a cruiser here.
What will we do when the money runs out? We’ve got some ideas, so don’t worry Mom, we won’t be living on the streets!
Q. What do you do all day? Do you get bored?
A. It depends on where we are and what we’re doing. Since moving aboard about 9 months ago, we’ve been on the move from Florida to Nantucket and back about half that time, with the other half stationary in Nantucket (3 months), Annapolis (1 month) and Florida (1 month).
Being on the move on the ICW is pretty self-explanatory. When we’ve been stationary, we’ve either been hard at work on boat repairs, or in Nantucket, busy with friends, family and the animal shelter.
One thing to point out is how it’s a lot more work to get basic stuff accomplished, like grocery shopping and laundry, than it is on land. Pile up the wash, put it in the dinghy, motor to shore, lug to a Laundromat or a marina’s laundry room, sit there while it washes, fold it all up, get back in the dinghy…you can see how this takes a bit longer than walking into your laundry room and going about your business while it washes! Grocery shopping…figure out how far away it is, strap on backpacks, hike over, load it into your packs (we’ve gotten very good at knowing how many cans of beer we can carry!). A little more complicated that hopping in the car!
Do we get bored? Sure, sometimes. But on the other hand, we’ve always been “homebodies” so even when we lived in NYC, we’d prefer to stay home lounging around on days off than out and about. We have lots of books on our Kindles, and well, there’s always Angry Birds and Candy Crush (fine, that’s just me, not Brian!)
Q. How do you live in such a small space?
A. Remember, we lived in Manhattan – we’ve always lived in small spaces! And honestly, we’re spoiled – with a catamaran, we have TONS of space compared to a lot of our fellow cruisers. Yes, our bedrooms are small (read: just a bed), the heads (bathrooms) even smaller, but we probably have more square footage than we did in some of our NYC apartments. And, we have 4 “bedrooms” and 3 “bathrooms” – WAY more than we could ever dream of having in New York!
Q. You have cats onboard? How do they like it? What if they fall overboard?
A. Stevie and Lucie are doing great onboard! I’m not sure they often realize that they’re not on land…well, unless the engines are running…or we’re in rough seas. Stevie’s only gotten seasick once, which involved much foaming at the mouth, but the minute the boat stopped he was back to normal, looking for his dinner. When we’re underway they’ve found their nooks and crannies where they feel safe, but otherwise they roam pretty free! We use a normal litter box and normal food bowls, so it really isn’t much different than land.
The only thing we’re very careful about is letting them out of the cabin. We haven’t yet let them out unsupervised, so they’ve really not been in much danger of falling overboard. They both seem to have a general understanding of the fact that they are surrounded by water, and have no desire to get up close and personal with it. We have learned some tips and tricks in the off chance that they do fall over, such as hanging a towel over the side of the boat – we’ve heard that they’ll latch on and we’ll be able to pull them aboard. Let’s hope we don’t need to test this out anytime soon!