CONS OF LIVING ABOARD


HEADROOM

This is at the top of my list of cons of living aboard because I am 6 foot 5 inches tall. 

 I've had only one boat in my life with standing headroom, and that was my CSY33.

Most other boats, especially sailboats, are short in that category.

Anyway, whatever your height, it's well to remember what your headroom requirements are when you go shopping for a boat.  

Robert Wadlow Did Not Live on a Boat

Make sure you can stand up.  Having to walk around crouched over is one of the cons of living aboard.

If you can't, you will be able to adjust to it just like I did but not without a few head bumps now and then.

CONS OF LIVING ABOARD:  IT'S HARD TO SAIL

If you live aboard, it is not always easy to be spontaneous and just crank up the boat and head out for a day sail or cruise.  You would be amazed the items below that you need to secure before leaving the dock.  If you don't, they will be flying all over the place.

Liveaboard Boat at Burnt Store MarinaLiveaboard Boat At Burnt Store Marina

You may also need to take down your sun awning, unplug your shore power, cable tv, phone or whatever else you have as an umbilical to the land.

If being able to go boating on the spur of the moment is important to you, you will have to make sure you think of all this before heading out.

CONS OF LIVING ABOARD:  PET CARE

Not so much a problem in most marinas, but if you live on a mooring or at anchor it can be a problem giving your dog a walk a couple of times a day.  Dogs make good shipmates if you give them exercise a couple of times a day and a place to do their business.

Sugar Enjoying The Air On SilverheelsSugar On Silverheels

CONS OF LIVING ABOARD:  LOUD NEIGHBORS

Some liveaboards think it's cool to be a pirate. They fly a skull and crossbones pennant and like to have a bird perched on their shoulder. One of the cons of living aboard is being next to a noisy liveaboard pirate.

CONS OF LIVNG ABOARD:  HAULING STUFF

If you live in a marina, you will find it a bit inconvenient to be hauling stuff to your boat like food and water, and hauling stuff back off like garbage.  If you have a car, it is usually parked quite a way from your boat.

If you live on a mooring or at anchor, the problem is even worse. 

You will either have to use your own dinghy or take a water taxi.

In either event, you will have plenty of things to carry both ways, and quite often.

CONS OF LIVING ABOARD:  LEAKS

The worst leaks are the ones that can sink a boat.  They come from through hull penetrations, and most of us are very careful to keep our eyes open for these.  Keep an ear out for the bilge pump and install a bilge pump alarm.  One of my recurring nightmares is waking up in the middle of the night with the boat sinking.  It's never happened to me, but I've seen it happen to others.

Leaks Are One Of the Big Cons Of Living AboardSt Johns River Near Palatka, Florida

But the most aggravating leaks are the ones that come into the boat through the deck or portlights and hatches.  Nothing can ruin a good night's sleep more effectively than a leak dripping onto your face from the hatch over your bunk.  It's like Chinese water torture.

It is very hard to find out where a leak is coming from.  It's easy, however, to find where it is making its appearance on the inside - usually right over your face or into your radio.

Tracing it to its outside source is far more difficult.

CONS OF LIVING ABOARD:  LIMITED SPACE

If you find that your boat has just enough space for you, the situation will be greatly worsened if you have a shipmate living aboard with you. 

Stowage is always a problem aboard a liveaboard boat.

You need room for clothes, food, books, music equipment, appliances, etc.  You will have a tiny bathroom.  On a boat it is  called a head.

The tiny bathroom counter will be just big enough to hold your shaving cream, razor, comb, deodorant, tooth brush and tooth paste.

If you are a liveaboard couple, you will have to be very creative about where you put your bathroom stuff.

CONS OF LIVING ABOARD:  BATHROOMS

Most boats, especially sailboats, have inadequate bathrooms.  The room itself is usually small with limited counter space.  Quite often there is no separate shower compartment;  you shower in the bathroom and everything gets wet.  You use the toilet and it has a tendency to clog and smell bad.  And you have to routinely and often empty the holding tank.  This is why if you live in a marina you will apppreciate a clean roomy marina restroom.  It can be a very real bonus.

CONS OF LIVING ABOARD:  LIGHTNING

Thunderstorms are a fact of life in most parts of the country.  The lightning that comes with these storms loves to find the highest thing on the water and strike it.  If you have the tallest mast in the marina, you might make a tempting target for the god of lightning. 

Lightning is one of the cons of living aboardHopewell, Virginia. Photo by Rick Kidd.

The striking photograph above was taken in Hopewell, Virginia by Rick Kidd and is on the website of National Geographic.

There are techniques for grounding your boat so lightning will theoretically find a safe course from wherever it hits your boat down into the water the boat sits in.

It's a good thing to study up on.

CONS OF LIVING ABOARD:  STORMS/HURRICANES

Storms are also a fact of life.  In Florida and the other coastal states in eastern and southern America, hurricanes are a strong possibility each season from roughly June through December.

The photo below was taken from a liveaboard boat at Burnt Store Marina near Punta Gorda, Florida during the early stages of Hurricane Charlie in 2004.

Cons of living aboard:  hurricanesHurricane Charley Coming In To Burnt Store Marina

In your cozy home on land, you can either ride it out or evacuate after nailing some plywood on your windows and storing fly away stuff inside.  When you live on a boat, you will have no such luck.  You have to secure your boat best you can in the marina or move to a safer mooring.  You'll want to take your valuables like jewelry or money with you and get the hell away from wherever the hurricane decides to hit.  You don't know what you will come back to.

It's also not easy to decide when you need to leave your boat.  For example, in September 1992 I was aboard my sailboat in St. Augustine.  Hurricane Andrew was forming in the Caribbean and landfall was expected on the Florida coast somewhere between Jacksonville and Miami.  I had to decide whether to stay in St. Augustine or head back to my home port in Melbourne.

When you are moving a sailboat, you are moving slow.  I decided to secure my boat at a safe marina in Daytona Beach and go home to Melbourne to get my house ready for the storm. 

As we all know now, Andrew slammed into the area of Miami-Dade County south of Miami and was a disaster.  It was a long way from St. Augustine and Daytona, but that is the luxury of hindsight.

CONS OF LIVING ABOARD:  MAIL SERVICE

This is not a problem if you plan on living in the same marina for a long time.  You can use your marina's address.  If you plan to move around a bit or stay on a mooring or at anchor, you can use a private mailbox service in whatever town you end up in.  Be advised, however, that the private boxes can't forward your mail to you when you move.  I prefer a regular U.S. Postal Service mailbox.

OTHER CONS OF LIVING ABOARD

MARINA AVAILABILITY

Good liveaboard marinas are not a dime a dozen.  The quality of marinas varies widely from downright trashy to extravagantly luxurious.  Many marinas do not allow liveaboards, and others only allow a small percentage of the boats to be liveaboards.

MILDEW

Mildew is a moldy fact of life on boats.  Most boats are poorly insulated and condensation forms on most surfaces.  Boats have even been known to have their own inside rainfall systems.  It can be managed by swabbing with a chlorox/water solution, but it needs to be looked after all the time so it doesn't get out of hand.

CORROSION

Just about everything on a boat wants to rust.  You have to be alert to it on a routine basis.  Rusting hose clamps on lines attached to through hulls can sink your boat.  Corroded electrical terminations can set your boat on fire.  Your electronic equipment can corrode if you don't keep it under wraps.

WET WALKING FROM CAR

In some parts of the country, such as Florida, daily heavy rains during the late spring, summer and early fall are a way of life. 

A walk from your car to the boat or from your boat to the marina restroom can be a drenching experience.

DINGHY STORAGE

If you live on a mooring or on the hook, you have to find a place to keep your dinghy when you are on shore.  It's best to find a safe place where your dinghy is likely to still be when it's time to go on back to the boat.

When you live in a marina, you can either keep it tied up securely to your boat so it doesn't move around, put it on deck or on davits, or maybe in a marina storage rack if they have one.

SEVERE MOTION

I have lived aboard on two separate times in marinas that had an extreme amount of wave motion.  In one case, the waves came from prevailing southeasterly winds that caused huge waves to come rolling into the marina from the ocean.  In another marina, boat and ship traffic set up huge waves that crashed into the marina.

In both cases, the motion of my boat was too severe to even sleep.  Nothing could be left loose or it would fly around the boat and crack you in the head.  It was impossible to liveaboard, and I soon realized that I was the only liveaboard in one of those marinas.  I moved to another marina.

In the other rough marina, I was lucky that the dockmaster let me move to a calmer slip further away from the wave action.





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