Living on a boat

Living on a boat. What’s it really like?

1st August 2015
The Greek Crisis
The melting dinghy
Living on a boat

Living on a boat. What’s it really like?


Living on a boat.

Which way to Hull

Hull was right at that place which looks like a boot, not left!

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 its six years later and we “did leave” and “did not come back”. I might admit that this was down to my navigational skills that 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!

Living on a boat is a simplistic way of life.

Living on a boat and relaxing

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 don’t have a choice.


What is the difference between living on a boat and living in a house?

I have written a post previously about how you can practise 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 quiet 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 where as 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 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.

Living on a boat shower

I had to use something big!

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.

When you live on a boat shopping is a major exercise.

Shopping in Greece with Cygnus III behind

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 getting 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 it 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 everything is put away so some forgotten saucepan or cup will not decapitate you 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 have had to listen to every song Johnny Cash ever recorded and contemplated suicide several times. On arrival you put the handbrake on and unless you are in a crime hotspot you will be pretty sure 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 we are still in the same spot and we are not going to swing round and hit our neighbour’s boat.


Washing away the day.

Drying the washing

Just drying the washing

So now it is early evening and you have arrived home after a gruelling 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 whilst living on a boat get washed each time you swim and ironing means pegging them out in the sun.


Tell me that story again, and again, and again.

Drinks on the noat

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 you first. Either way you make new friends from all over the world, drink plenty and best of all you can tell all your 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 living on a boat?

If your living on a boat these descriptions may ring your ships bell?

  1. When staying in a house you always come down stairs backwards
  2. You find yourself bleeding from random places at random times.
  3. You and your wife define “taking a break” as moving about six feet apart and looking in opposite directions.
  4. 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.
  5. You think butter only comes in soft or liquid form.
  6. You only have 3 cooking pots.
  7. When invited to dinner at someone’s house you spend all night turning unnecessary lights off.
  8. When invited to dinner at someone’s house you ask if you can do your laundry.
  9. The doctor assumes your body covered in random bruises is a sign of physical abuse.
  10. You are the only one who doesn’t want to win the big screen TV at the charity raffle.
  11. You think “Game of thrones” is something you do when two people need the toilet at once.
  12.  Kids think you’re the coolest person on earth. Adults think you have lost your marbles.
  13. When you don’t like the neighbourhood you just move.
  14. You are content knowing that sailing is code for boat repair in exotic places.
  15. You can assemble a gourmet dinner using only one pot and mouldy cheese.
  16. Doing laundry involves a net bag, a moving boat, and 50 feet of line.
  17. When asked for a piece of paper, you ask if they want course or fine.
  18. You don’t want anything for Christmas that isn’t on a Kindle.
  19. Cardboard boxes, wrappers, and packing are thrown away before getting onto the boat.
  20. You define a good anchorage as one where you can get Wi-Fi.
  21. Your wallet contains more boat cards than business cards
  22. You know what a boat card is.
  23. When visiting ashore, you wake everybody at daylight screaming “We’re aground “when you open your eyes and don’t see water.
  24. You define an easy chore as one where you don’t have to pull everything out of the locker first.
  25. You covet new solar panels more than a new car.
  26. You can identify boats by the sound of their halyard slapping against their mast.
  27. Removing things from the refrigerator is like playing Jenga.
  28. In shoe shops you go straight to the flip-flops.
  29. You accidentally put your life jacket on when you get in a car.
  30. 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.
  31. Filling the water tanks is a full day’s work.
  32. The only thing you do religiously on Sundays is wonder what day it is.
  33. The first thing you do after setting the anchor is to see what other boats you know.
  34.  You talk to your boat and give parts of it stupid names.
  35. You understand and pay attention to the entire weather forecast.
  36. You spend weekends sitting in your cockpit with a boat hook beside you, waiting to fend off the next holiday charter boat.
  37. Every time you consider buying something you have to decide what you’ll get rid of to make room for it.
  38. When visiting ashore you look for instructions on how to use a push button toilet.
  39. A three minute hot shower is pure indulgence.
  40. You covet your neighbour’s engine more than his wife.
  41. Ice cubes are the ultimate luxury.
  42. You have to strap a bag full of water to your boom & wait a few hours before you can take a hot shower.
  43. You’ve googled to see if there are any companies that make triangular bed sheets.
  44. You know that duct tape was invented by God.
  45. You only bring out real cups for fancy occasions.
  46. Trying to find a partner to sail away with you isn’t being romantic, it’s kidnapping.
  47. Your computer homepage is the Weather Service
  48. You’ve spent mornings standing naked on the deck of someone else’s boat, adjusting halyards, lashing lines & freezing your ass off.
  49. You have given up trying to defend your lifestyle and are content with smugly thinking…..they don’t know just what they are missing.
  50. Having sex always rocks your boat.


Voted in the top 20 best sailing websites.

We have just had some really good news in that Boats and Outboards have voted us in their top 20 best sailing blogs. Clicking on the link will take you there and you can of course see and read other great sailing blogs.


As always we really like to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment below or send us a message. We are always happy to answer any questions about living on a boat.



Other posts we think you will enjoy


  1. Oh my! This is amazingly accurate! We moved aboard our “new to us” steel hulled ketch in January and do not regret it! We returned home to sell our home and all possessions and I can’t wait to return to her later this year!

    1. It is an amazing life living on a boat Lynda and you realise that the longer it goes on how little you really needed when you had a house. Good friends and new adventures are far more important.

  2. Hi Mark, love your blogs. I’ve noticed you run out of beers quite regularly and as a beer loving man myself I know how hard it can be. Don’t threat, I made it my mission to one day sail up next to you and refill your supplies. Unfortunatly it will take some time, please be patient. I’m currently investigating the most suitable vessel to transport your precious cargo safely from Australia. Still early days in the process I call “restocking Cygnus 3”. Rest assured its not if but when your delivery will arrive…. Till then, keep up the good work, your reward will come.

    1. Arno, now you have gone and done it. Instead of looking at the next wonderful Island in Greece to visit I will be looking towards the main shipping lanes and asking all the bulk carrying cargo vessels if they are looking for us. It’s not me with the beer, honest, it is all these other buggers who pop by to say hello and then drink my stocks. If I had beers I would certainly put one in the fridge for you!

  3. Hubby sent me a link to The 20 “BEST” Sailing blogs. Yours was on the list. This is his big dream as well. I love to travel, but the boat thing scares me a bit. But, I am learning to “love” the idea.

    I enjoy your sense of humor and way of storytelling.

    Nice to know other people have the same dream. We are not “there” yet…but hoping in a year or so. We have ZERO experience as well, so it is promising to read of your trials and your attitude that it will all work out. Also to read Barb’s post about her and her hubby at 62yo. My hubby is 60 and I am 55. We have 11 yo twins. We want to take them on the adventure of a lifetime!
    After all, if you follow your dreams, the Universe will help you! Right?!

    I look forward to reading more of your journeys. Safe travels.

    1. Cherie, I would be more concerned if you did not feel apprehension and a little scared.
      We have been doing this for 5 years Cherie and we are total wimps. From time to time we still get scared but those times are very few and far between. You do very, very occasionally find yourself in new situations where you don’t want to be. You get through them, the boat looks after you and then they become an experience. It is only when we have guests who say, aren’t the waves a bit big, or the weather is really bad that we realise how far we have come. At one time we would have been scared but now we have faith in the boat and ourselves it just does not worry us. Your experience grows and so do your abilities.
      What I will say is that it is an amazing life and if you don’t do it you will always wonder.. what if? If you do do it you will always wonder “Why didn’t we do it sooner?”
      If you have any questions at all just e-mail us. We are always happy to answer any questions.

  4. When I started readying your article I felt someone was writing about us. When we started out we were both 62 years old. I had never set foot on a sailboat. No one gave us more that two weeks then we would be back. It has been almost 6 years and my husband has not been back to the states since.
    Our only one regret is we wish we had started earlier.

    Love your article It puts a smile on my face.

    s/v Another Way

    1. Barb, I am glad you saw some of yourself in this live aboard a boat blog. When we set off I am not sure if we were so inexperienced that we did not know what to expect and just saw the dream or had to show the doubters we were going. What ever the reason it is the best decision we made and our eyes have been opened to a big, beautiful world full of wonderful people.

  5. Though I don’t live on a boat reading this post and the list at the end gave me a pretty good idea of what is like. I think the hardest thing for me would be the limited amount of food. Oh and congrats on being recognized as the #1 sailing blog

    1. Jay, there certainly is no lack of food and the good thing about living aboard in other countries is that you get to try so many different types of food and recipes. Thank you for the comment on the blog but alas we are but one of 20 and each is number one in the way and the subjects they write about. They are all excellent blogs.

  6. Hi There
    Loved reading your blog on boat life .. Am also in the process of moving on and taking off .. Its seems to have taken forever but a mid September lines throwing ceremony is approaching fast. Departing Cairns Australia for SE Asia. Look forward to seeing you out there .. somewhere ..sometime 🙂

    Paul / SV Bicoque

    1. Thank you Paul. I know it is pointless wishing you a wonderful time aboard Bicoque because we know you will have the time of your life. We will be sailing that way one day so always keep a cold beer in the fridge for us my friend.

  7. Took me 20 years to build my replica of the Spray. Now that I moved to an island in panama I will sail her here from the U.S. I am 72 and lucky to have wife that I don’t have to kidnap. If you are in our neighborhood there is a safe anchorage and a nice place to spend some time on land. ( look at website).
    I still have tears from laughing so much reading your blog. Thank you!!!!

    1. Thank you for your comment Peter and for reading the blog. Although Living on a boat is written tongue in cheek I think we all recognise things what we do. One of the biggest advantages in life is being able to laugh at yourself. Trouble is I now have tears running down my legs.

  8. Loved the post. Humor is in the eye of the beholder I guess, as it just seems “well, duh” to me. No really, I love the humor. Sailing my Perry 47 on the start of a circumnavigation. I’m in the San Francisco bay right now stuck for about a year working on the cruising kitty. That is unless I get fed up with other peoples drama and cut out earlier. I will definitely keep my eyes on this blog.

    1. Than you for taking the time to read the blog Kyle. We found there is never, ever enough money in the cruising kitty and more often that not you owe it money. Our best advice is just go as soon as you can. You won’t regret it but stay too long and you might. We wish you all you would wish yourself on your amazing adventure.

  9. Having sailed and lived in/on a sailboat during many stages of construction and while being employed full time for almost five years I thoroughly loved your description of “living on a boat.” It gave me a lot of laughs and brought back wonderful memories and a deep longing of still wishing and wanting to do it again. Given any opportunity I would choose it over any other type life style on planet earth in a heartbeat! Hey, and just to let you know I am a senior woman and I would not waste a nanosecond thinking about tossing everything and jumping aboard to sail off into the sunset, choppy seas, white caps and all. Thank you so much for sharing. Cast off the bow line, Matey!

    1. Stella, Thank you for reading and commenting and I am glad it brought a few memories back. Unless you have lived on a boat as you have it is difficult to explain to others the hold it has over you and the need to be on a boat. For us we need that freedom, to visit new places and meet people of all nations along the way. We have made so many friends that will always be friends and there will always be a bond.. I hope you get your wish to sail again soon.

  10. Don’t forget scary nights in a house where you just pull the covers over your head and go back to sleep. On a boat, scary nights are 50knot winds, on anchor, standing in the pouring rain with the motor on and sometimes in gear. Oh yea, ever mind the is a beach to the lee of you full of bommies!

    Great post!

    1. You are right Lynn but those nights are few and far between. You find out a lot about yourself and the boat in those circumstances and although it is scary at the time it is soon forgotten to be replaced by all the amazing days and nights.

  11. Hi Mark, I’ve sailed since a kid and have crewed on classic timber yachts for a decade. I have a Endeavour 26 for my independent sailing. Usually just across Port Phillip Bay in Victoria Australia for a lunch stop or just anchor elsewhere on the bay to enjoy the water, weather and the views. But my city apartment goes to auction this month and I’ve considered buying a bigger yacht and start distant adventures. But I know I have A.D.D. and as such am easily bored. The idea that I may have days of only horizons will drive me crazy! Anyone else in this boat? I’m keen to assist on a yacht delivery for a taste of distance, any other recommendations? Hey I loved your posting about living on a boat. This is my first look at a forum, I hope I can find it again!
    Thanks and best wishes!
    Robi Warden

    1. Rob, sailing long passages you would imagine you could get easily bored with nothing to see on the horizon but there is always something to do. The first three days are the hardest but after that you adapt and fall into a routine.
      Speak to most people who have crossed an ocean and they will usually say they did not want it to end.
      You are right though.. find a way of doing a delivery to see for yourself what it is like. Everyone is different.
      Thank you for taking time to read the blog and comment though and we wish you well

  12. My hubby and I retired and moved aboard July 1, and started sailing New England straight away. A newbie but already I thoroughly enjoyed this blog!

    1. Kim, thank you for taking the time to read and comment on Living on a boat. Congratulations to you. One month already but the time flies. It is an amazing life with special people. It is harder for women generally to adjust because they give up so much. You are a special person to do so or maybe you kidnapped your partner to do it. Believe me the rewards are worth it.

  13. Hi Mark thoroughly enjoyed your post whilst we Sun ourselves in Majorca. Our daily activity is watching all the yachts sail past and wonder where they are going…. Hopefully we’ll get there soon… all the best and catch up soon….

    1. Martin, We spent time trying to keep out the sun which usually means diving into the water. It is a hard life but someone has to do it and I have no doubt you will be doing the same soon. It is a wonderful life and the people we meet along the way make it so special….. one day soon my friend (oh, bring some beers with you, very cold ones)

  14. This is my first post to see. Thanks snd I hope to see more. I have a 28ft Hunter but only stay over on the weekends. I wish I hsd gotten the sailing bug earlier. I am a young, energetic 73 year old female.

    1. I remember watching the boats sailing past dreaming that one day I would be one of those living on a boat and sailing into the sunset. The dream is a reality and no matter what age you are if you really want that dream you will get it… go for it girl!

    1. Thank you Daryl. I really enjoy writing the blogs about living on a boat but I like to look at it from a slightly different angle. Usually 193 degrees to the perpendicular.

    1. Ah, but if you have time to make lists like that you are not swimming enough. Strange how women always make lists and come back with everything on that lists. Men remember what we are supposed to get but come back with beers and a ready made meal anyway…

  15. Hi Mark,
    I’ve not been around for a while, but I have been ‘following’ you. It’s good to see that you still have your sense of humour and that you are still afloat and not hit the ‘ stag party of boat eating rocks’, yet. My life is back on track, I’ve even sat down and written a ‘plan’ for how I’m going to get ‘Tengeru’ in the water and away from this God forsaken rock, called England. Money, be damned.!!. If I ain’t got any when I leave, I shall sell my body. My financial advisor reckons if I did 100 tricks, I could earn a quid.
    Keep the blog going, my friend. I’m not sure you realise how much of a inspiration it is to those of us yet to get to places where a ‘string bag and 50 feet of line’ is the perfect washing machine. God Bless.

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