Mar 2, 2010

The truth about living on a Sailboat

The truth about living on a Sailboat

Including our sail to Canada in 2005, LeeAnn and I have lived aboard a boat together for over two years. Not so long really. But long enough to answer some simple questions about our lifestyle that we are commonly asked:

1. It's an awfully small space... Don't the two of you get sick of each other?

Sometimes we get mad at each other. But living and traveling on the boat puts us in a constant state of challenge. It's very hard to get things done when we are mad at each other, so we are normally forced to make up quickly.
For example:
We get mad at each other and go to bed. A storm comes up in the night and the anchor starts dragging. It's very scary, loud, and annoying to have to get out of bed and go stand in a thunderstorm, wet and cold, in the middle of the night. But it has to be done, and we do it as a team. Our anger becomes secondary to our goal.
It's easy to say living under such conditions has improved our relationship greatly. It's a great pre-marriage test that I would recommend to anyone.

2. How do you take Showers?
We don’t have a shower on our boat.

Three ways to get showers at a marina:
1. Fill up your gas tank and they let you take a shower.
2. Pay for a day dock and take a shower.
3. Somehow acquire the bathroom key code and sneak a shower after the marina staff leave for the night.

Three ways to get showers at a marina:
1. Fill up your gas tank and they let you take a shower.
2. Pay to take a shower.
3. somehow you acquire the combination and you sneak a shower.

Other ways to shower:
1. If the water is clean (like the Northern Great Lakes) you can take showers in the lake
2. If you are somewhere private you can take a shower on deck with a solar shower.
3. The worst option is to take a sponge bath inside the boat. Wash hair in the sink.

3. How do you cook?

We have a toaster oven that runs on electricity, and we have an Origo two burner stove top that burns denatured alcohol. We love to eat, and cook very good food.

Most people have a propane oven. These are very expensive, and you have to find a place to put the propane. Not to mention you have to eventually find a place to fill the propane.

We chose the electric oven because we charge our batteries with a generator. So our evening routine is to run the generator for about 2 -3 hours during which time we cook dinner, charge the batteries, and watch a movie.

This setup works great. although if we could have afforded it we would have probably gone with solar panels, wind generator, and a propane oven.

4. Do you get seasick?

LeeAnn does not get seasick. I do. I find that having a full stomach helps. I eat a lot of saltine crackers, pretzels, tortilla chips. Etc. High carb things seem to help.

I also am starting to think that my queasiness is stress related. I don’t see myself as a “worrier” so, when I am worried I don’t admit it. The worries build up, and I start to get queasy. It helps to sit down and take a deep breath.

5. Are you rich?

As in money? Unfortunately no.

6. How can you afford to do this?

We get this question a lot. Budget, budget, budget is our mantra.

We bought a cheap boat and fixed it up, opposed to buying a new one.

We NEVER take docks. There is ALWAYS somewhere you can anchor for free.

When traveling we never eat out. And generally we don't drink either.

Also keep in mind, we have no car or house payments, or any of the standard bills, such as: cable, internet, or anything like that.
7. So how much does "it" cost?

In 2005 we didn't think about "budgeting" at all and we spent $3,000 in three months… We spent the most in the first few weeks on nice docks and going out to eat.. Then scrapped by for the rest of the summer on hardly anything. We sailed from Canada to home on 500 dollars...

In 2007/08 our budget was $120 a week. $60 on food, $60 on Gas.
Some weeks we went way over, and some were way under. Generally it evens out.

For 2009 we plan on spending $140 a week. $70 on food. $100 on gas. Damn inflation.

None of these figures reflect repairs to the boat.
When all is said and done, we will spend $1,000 a month total. Something always breaks on the boat. Or we spend a few extra days in an expensive area (like New York) where we splurge.

8. Whatdo you do on the boat?

We have a flatscreen and a DVD player to watch movies. We both like to read, and we have three shelves and a drawer full of books. We enjoy cooking very much. Lunch and dinner are highlights of the day. we sight-see. Watch sunsets and sunrises. Fix the boat, and worry about the engine. Relax, pay guitar, listen to music. Sleep.

9. How do you do laundry / get groceries?
We use cruising guides ("Skipper Bob" is a great, inexpensive resource) to find out which anchorages have grocery stores or laundromats within walking distance. Generally we keep our walks under 1 mile.

10. How far from land do you normally go?Generally not very far.

We are "coastal cruisers." However I have sailed across the Atlantic Ocean

Our goal for 07/08 was to see the east coast. We would never see it if we were sailing off out of site of land.

We made many multi-day passages in 2009

12. Why doesn't LeeAnn ever give write in the blog?
She has tried it a few times. But doesn't enjoy it.

Other Posts about living on a sailboat that you might be interested in:

Sailing Books - A ciriculum to sail away

What is the food like?

How To Go Cruising Now (a step by step guide)

How To Make Money While Cruising

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  1. Wow. Cool. I feel very enlightened and informed now. I would have liked hearing more from Sushi. Seemed that she was nudged out of most of the question/answer time. Where does she poo? (which leads me to the same question about you and LeeAnn.....oh...never mind :) Does she love living on the water or does she dodge for land whenever the opportunity arises? What does Sushi like to eat?

    I am also curious.....Dramamine knocks me out. Doesn't it make you tired? Is that why LeeAnn doesn't get "that sick of you" because you are knocked out half the time?

    What are your future plans? If this is your chosen lifestyle (this is where the questions on behalf of family members who want to know but wouldn't be so bold and brazen as to ask.....or they don't have internet :) than are you planning on a wedding? Will it be a coastal wedding or will you come home to wed? Then after you are married and can FINALLY consummate the relationship.....and you begin to build your family....where will the baby sleep? Will the baby be a pirate too? :)

    Well, that is enough questions for today :) I am sure...given enough time...I can come up with some more if you would like!!

    Seriously, glad you are all doing well.

    Tell LeeAnn she should start a blog on being a Hobo Sailor from a womans perspective. You are very entertaining Chad and as your aunt I of course love you to no end....but would enjoy hearing from the lady of the boat.

    XXXXOOOOO Aunt Joni

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed this post.

  3. What a cool kitty you have :) Thanks for the update and give LeeAnn a hug for us :)

  4. I have a question for you - my boyfriend and I are thinking about setting out on a similar voyage with our dog Sophie. Do you ever have any problems trying to get a pet into other countries without a quarantine?

    Thanks from landlocked Edmonton, Alberta, Canada!

  5. Hello Whitney,

    Dogs are a lot more common on boats than cats.

    It's easy to check your animal into the bahamas. Just get the paperwork completed before you leave.

    I don't know much about other islands in the carribbean, but we do know people who are currently traveling the islands with dogs, so it must not be too bad.

    Do keep in mind with your dog that you will need to bring it to shore (probably twice a day, rain or shine) for it to use the bathroom. Sometimes just finding a place to walk the dog can be a challenge.

    I would reccommend a large dinghy that can accomadate the dog.

    Human food can be hard to find in the bahamas, I would buy all the dog food you need from the states before you leave. Changing the dog food constantly might make it hard on your dog --- he will be "holding it" a lot more than he is probably used to.

    Feel free to email me with questions>

  6. Pretty cool blog dude. Kudos!

    Ok.. I understand that if you budget well you can make your money go a long way. But the money still has to come from somewhere,right? How do you make money so that you can keep sailing?


  7. Glad you like the blog!

    We stop along the way to work and make money. We also take that time to fix and make improvements to the boat.

    Take Care!


    1. Hiya, Chad! Nice post! Can you expound on the above comment? What type of work do you do when you stop along the way? - sorilea

  8. I came across your blog and found it to be very helpful and entertaining. My boyfriend, George, and I are planning on starting our sailing adventures New Years Day 2010. George just recently put a down payment for a 1989 J33 JBoat. It was a deal of a lifetime that he couldn't refuse and it really kicked us into motion to get out of the states and living on a boat.
    Our boat is located off of the island of Tonga in the South Pacific. George has a close contact with someone that has spent a lot of time traveling that area of the world, and has been a great source of information and encouragement. He was the one that set us up with the great deal on the boat.
    As of right now, we are forming a business plan for a source of money, as well as something fun for us to do together.
    I know and am expecting to undergo many lifestyle changes, and that is one of the most exciting things about it, but I'm also trying to learn as much as I can before our departure.
    I don't necessarily have any particular questions, but wanted to let you know that that your blog is a very helpful Q&A session. They are simple, yet necessary questions.
    I'm always appreciative of tips and advise on traveling and living on a sailboat. I know that you and LeeAnn are out and about site seeing and exploring, but if you do happen to have time to share info, I'm all ears (or eyes, since I'll be reading it :> )

    Safe Sailing-

    1. love reading all,, im scared yet some, plus havent found the woman to set sail with in my journey called life, but here in Florida, so hoping to find safe Doug

  9. I want to thank you for this post.
    It has inspired me to go through with my dream to sail the ocean blue.

    I have negligible experience sailing and am wondering if you have any advice on how to begin, such as
    "What would be the best boat for your buck?"
    "What books would be most instructuve?"
    and any others.
    i would prefer to learn from others mistakes than suffer through them on my own, so any help would be great.

  10. I'm so glad I found your blog. Me and my husband are getting ready to start our lives over, Living on a sail boat on the ocean. Your blog has been a good sourse of imformation for us. Continue to keep us imformed,you woulden't beleive the help youve been. Thank you. Maybe we all can meet up somewhere when we get out there? That would be great huh! Sharon

  11. Wow this is so cool! What a fantastic way to live your life, I am officially jealous. Even more jealous that you have found someone with whom to share such a specific lifestyle.
    I'll definitely be reading, I love this!

  12. It seems to me that you both are living a good life and are doing what very few people achieve: what you want. Two people like you can only be sending out positive energy, and as one human to another, I'd like to thank you both for that.

    I have always had the adventure bug. It never wore off from childhood. I have been "anchored" in medical school for 4 years now and am almost done, and must finish this adventure before I start another. Unfortunately, there are no "traveling" medical schools. If such a thing had existed, however, I would have been the first one to sign up.

    I'm sure that I don't have to tell you both to keep it moving and living life at life's natural pace. To keep the dream alive. I think the worst sin we can commit is conventionality. It's plain, boring and unoriginal. It's suit and tie, starbucks and hamburgers. It's do what you do because there is no other way. It's give up your childish pursuits and pursue the life of conformity.

    Well, just the fact that you said no to that, makes me know that we could get along. So, friends, I wish you life, water and fish. One could ask for little more.


  13. My BOyfriend and I are 37 and 34 respectively. his goal is to live on a boat in 7 years.

    Thank you for your blog. I have to admit I am nervous but excited.

  14. This is a really nice blog, you have a lot of cool tips here. I just got my boating safety certification, and have been practicing a bit so I can do the same thing someday. Since I am still new, I just had a few dumb newbie questions (don't laugh): You said you find places to "ancher off" for free. How do you find these? Are these just spots far enough off shore to drop anchor? Are the lights on the mast enough to not get hit by another boat at night? I would be worried the coast guard would have a field day with that, usually if you aren't spending every penny you have on something, the cops/coast guard have a problem with it. I honestly think their entire careers are devoted to stealing from the poor and funding the lifestyles of the rich. But enough venting for today...

  15. This is absolutely brilliant... my husband and I are newlyweds who've just sold our place and we're going sailing for a year (or more). Thanks for this :)

    The video gave me goosebumps... fantastic!

  16. is the gas only for cooking?

  17. Denatured Alcohol for cooking. Gas for the engine :)

  18. when u life on a sailboat then why do u need gas? Sorry if its a stupid question but its just because gas also costs a lot of money.. ?

  19. a little bit of gas goes a long way on a sail boat.

  20. That was the most inspiring video I have seen yet on living on a boat. Congrats to you two for just doing it. I am going stir crazy in my suburban life. I have been planning in my head for about 10 yrs now. The house is going on the market soon and I am going to buy a boat. I hope it's not to hard to find a girl who would enjoy that lifestyle. I am 39 now and have been procrastinating for too long. You two should film your own reality show. It could prove to be very helpful to other peeps and possibly afford a newer boat with all the bells and whistles. Food for thought. If you have questions drop me a line I used to work in film and know the peeps and the business. Who knows maybe I'll be your producer. Kevin:)

  21. I love this blog! It's so cool! I live in Fort Lauderdale, do you ever come down to South Florida? We have a huge sailing community down here, if your ever in town dinner is on me! Maybe you can convince my wife to let me buy a sail boat. LOL, maybe I should learn how to sail first.

  22. i bought a sailboat on new years eve and have never sailed a day in my life. cant wait to get my life started out on the water. seeing how and what you guys are doing is so inspiring to me to hurry up and start living the rest of my new life that's out there waiting on me ..hey alex were in fort lauderdale in the area as well

  23. Amazing blog! As if I weren't restless enough already... One big question, though - How on earth do you both stay (incredibly) fit living on twenty-some-odd feet of boat?? My hat's off to you.

  24. Really interesting. I might try this someday although I don't see myself spending more than a year with this lifestyle. But then, who knows?

  25. Nice webpage amd hope to see more videos.
    Im going to sailing around myself looks later this year. Im selling off my properties so I don't have to worry about them while Im gone crusing. Im going to be doing lots of underwater filming diving and using a underwater ROV system to creat some cool videos I might sell on the net as I cruise. I will also be doing some fine art prints from my photos and also some vinyl cutting on a small cuttter for people that might need some vinyl graphics. The units are small and don't take much electric.
    Im looking at some catamrans like the Gemini 105 new model.
    You guys keep having fun and exploring the world and creat some stuff on the way.
    There are some cool sites on the net you can sell your stuff through
    for free as you travel.

  26. You are one lucky guy to have a girl that like to do these things with you. Hope it continues for the both of you and keep being fun, thats the main thing.

  27. Love the fact that you knew nothing about sailing. As with anything, it's when people think about the risks that they don't do something. Sometimes you need to just say "What the hell!".
    More of us should take that "risk". We would all be much happier... and the world would be a better place.

  28. Hey you two, my name is Charlie and I just found your blog by accident while looking for used sailboats. I'm so glad I did! I think about the crusing life a lot and maybe you have tipped the scales for me. I owned a Cal 29 for a dozen or more years, but lost her in a divorce. I'm interested to hear that most of your crusing friends are over 50. That's encouraging... I'm 60 now and without a woman in my life, but you never know. Keep up the great blog and be safe...

  29. I love the arcade fire, music was perfect for the video. I have always wanted to explore boat living but job/life seems inescapable. I recently decided that sailing is something I should try before I quit my job. I live in the great lakes state so I should be good on that. Thanks for posting this site. It's lets me know I am not crazy to think this is possible!

  30. nI was wondering what you do for a living? There was no mention on where your money came from to support your sailing

  31. We don't "have money" we work, budget, save, work some more then go sailing! The post above covers how much it costs, and how we can afford to do it.

  32. Dear Chad and LeeAnn,
    Thank you for this blog! This post was helpful to me as I am planning to buy a cheap boat and live on it with my girlfriend.
    I love to see people overcome money issues!!! You don't need to be rich to do cool things, only creative!

    Also, for the seasickness, you may want to ditch the dramamine and try ginger, its 5X more effective i've heard.
    Good luck to you in the future, happy sailing!

  33. Thank you Chad and LeeAnn!

    This post was very helpful to me, as I am planning to buy a cheap boat and live/sail with my girlfriend, im 26, so hopefully by the time im 30, more hopefully in the next two years. We currently live on maui im very surprised at how cheap some of these boats are that come around.
    I love to see people overcome money issues!!! A little creativity and you don't need to be rich to do cool things.
    For seasickness, try ginger, i've heard it's much more effective than dramamine. Reed's ginger ale is usually cheap and has a bunch of fresh ginger.

    Good luck to you guys, happy sailing maybe I'll see ya around haha!!

  34. My husband & I live aboard a 34' sailboat July-Oct for the last 4 years. We live in a house-on-dirt on the East coast in the winter, and seek cooler coastal weather in the summer in southern California. While it is true, we don't really rough it since we are in a slip at a beautiful yacht club, I am amazed about the questions people ask me about living on board. We get this one frequently: "Do you take your boat from Florida to California, and back again?". Really now, that would not be very practical! Besides we don't mind keeping Southwest airlines in business. But the best one is this: "How can you two live together in such a small space?" Well, I say if you are married to someone and you CAN'T live together in a small space, then there is a problem. We make a great team and my husband is 74 years young. Constant boat maintenance, cleaning, leaning, reaching, sailing, even boarding the boat & negotiating the stairs & steps keeps us healthy, limber, flexible. Lastly, why would anyone live in a house when they could live on a boat?

  35. You guys are awesome and will have significantly less regrets when you are old and gray.

  36. Do you guys ever get scared in rough seas?

  37. As stated above regarding rough seas: When Sandy came tearing up the coast what did you guys do?

  38. Hell yes we get scared in rough seas! My favorite thing about sailing is anchoring in a well protected harbor!

    Best advice for hurricanes is to take a river inland.

  39. Great life story and love the humor. Takes guts to live like that & don't think I have enough, sigh.

    How do you;

    - How do you secure boat when in town for provisions or work? does 1 of you stay with boat or just risk leaving it
    - How does Chad live on a sailboat if constantly dealing with sea sickness?


    PS With a girl like LeeAnn, however you convinced her to live on small tiny boat with you was genius.

  40. Hi Ed,

    We never locked the boat, and never had any trouble except one time when my bike was stolen off the boat in Charleston, SC while we were docked. We never had a problem while anchored out.

    As far as sea sickness goes, I just take medicine. Only really feel sick in the mornings on an empty stomach, or in very large following seas.

    LeeAnn is really awesome. That's why I married her!!

  41. Hi Chad & LeeAnn

    Thanks for the response above. Have a few more questions if you get time;

    1) What do you do with dingy when you go ashore?
    2) Can you anchor well enough without using a mooring ball for say a weeks "leave" (7/1, 2nd anchor backup)
    3) Can you anchor near nicer port areas next to all the mooring balled boats without being charged a fee ?

    Thanks and as you can see all landlubber type questions at this stage.


  42. Great questions!

    1) In many places you can just tie it up and leave it. However in some places it should be locked, and for that we bought a 15' stainless steel cable from a hardware store, clamped the ends into loops. This was probably unnecessary, our dingy was a piece of junk, and the motor was trash too.

    2) Yes. You could probably do it with one anchor... but for piece of mind, there is a 3 anchor method detailed in Chapman's here:

    3) Many of the "nicer" port areas don't have mooring fields, just anchorages and docks. There was only one mooring field we've come across with strict "no anchoring by the mooring balls" rule. It was at Shroud Cay in the bahamas. The island was uninhabited, I don't know what they cared. Probably because they paid to put in all the mooring balls, and there they sat. Empty. Other than that, we have never had a problem anchoring. We have even anchored in marina's, though, we were young and innocent, I don't know if the harbor master would let us pull a stunt like that now. Skipper Bob's "Anchorages Along the Intracoastal Waterway" is a very handy book to have for anchoring along the east cost.

  43. What a great blog. Here are a couple more questions if you have time. 1) when sailing over night, do one of you have to stand watch? 2) how often are you boarded by the coast guard? 3) how many places do you visit in a month, and where are your favorite stops? 4) how do you stay in contact with family and how often do you "check in"?

    Mike and Lisa

  44. What do you do about medical insurace...if one of you gets hurt...broken leg can put a sailer out of comission

  45. Hi Mike and Lisa,

    1) Yes, someone is always on watch.

    2) Surprisingly, we have never been boarded by the coast guard. Kinda puts "homelade security" into perspective. I have a friend who was boarded on a crossing midway from the Bahamas to Charleston, SC. I looked but can't find the post. It was an interesting read. We would have been boarded by the drug cops in Blackpoint settlement, Exumas, but we were not on the boat at the time they were making their rounds.

    3) Really just depends. Some places are more interesting than others. Some times you just get tired and want to stop for a month, other times you only stop for a night.

    4) We keep in touch with email and this blog. We also have a handy little tracker device called a "spot" that sends a signal to a satellite and plots our position on a map as often as we care to update it.

    In regards to the other comment about health insurance, it's probably a good idea to have some major medical.

  46. What type and size of boat is it that you 2 live on ? I am 18 and am saving up for a used catalina 22 to live on for a few years.

    1. The boat you are probably asking about was a Privateer 35. We own a Lagoon 380 now.

      Catalina's are awesome live aboard boats!

  47. My husband and I are getting a 36 Catalina ready to live on in the Baltimore harbor. Big life style change for us. We get along very well but this will be really close quarters. Any advice on how not to get on each others nerves while so close? We both worth full time so we will have at least 8-10 hours a day apart.

    Kathy and Jim

    What about visas?
    Apply in advance ??

  49. Hello my name is Blake and I have a question. Being so young what do you do for a living to be able to live on a sailboat.

    1. Hey Blake,

      Living on a sailboat is really pretty cost effective. We bought the boat for 9,500 which was paid for with savings and from the proceeds of selling our previous boat.

      While in Charleston, SC we rented a slip for $300/month which included all utilities and access to laundry facilities. We had an incredible deal. Others in the same marina were paying 400 - 500.

      If you can afford to live on land, you can afford to live on the water. Trying to do both is what gets expensive.

  50. Hi Blake,

    You can buy a sailboat for much less than what you can buy a house for, and living on a sailboat can be very cost effective.

  51. Charming article to post. I am glad to see this post. Thanks for this great share! Compare boat insurance

  52. Great blog.. im from south florida and had to move to Utah for 2 years and now moving back cant wait... Miss the salt in the air.. im buying a sailboat to live on... loved reading about Ur life

  53. Does anyone know the make of this sailboat?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  54. Hi, thanks for your "story" I enjoyed it and the insight you gave. I have a cat as does my girlfriend, so that will be interesting indeed.

    I'm looking at buying a 39'+ to live and travel on. I'm semi-retired and can "work" from anywhere I can get internet connection.

    Again, Thanks!

    See you on the waves, Ted

  55. Once again, great post! I couldn't find where you mentioned the kind of boat you had. I'm thinking of buying an Alberg 30 to live and cruise on. Are you still sailing now? If so, when do you think of stopping and joining the landlubber life? Thanks again for the posts.

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  58. So I just stumbled across your blog while googling this sort of thing wanting to know if it's possible to DO what you're doing without being super rich before hand (and without already having an abundance of sailing expertise), and this is EXACTLY what my fiance and I want to do! It's like the perfect lifestyle, as hard as some times would be. Personally I'm scared of the storms at night time. But, hey, looks like it's worth it. I'm really glad you wrote this blog, you've given me a lot of inspiration! Awesome blog!

  59. Hey HoboSailor,

    I was just curious how much the boat that you bought cost? (before cost of repairs and fixing it up)


  60. Hi where are you guys now?

  61. What a dreary existence - living on pennies. Must get tiresome. Sure, you can live on a boat and cheaply. But seriously, grubbing a living for the rest of your days doing the same old same old? Sounds awful. Good luck - you're gonna need it. Especially as you get older.

  62. Hey there. How guys do look happy. I am happy for you too. BTW, you guys look really thin. I hope you are just really fit and not starving to death. Ha! Glad I saw your video.

  63. Could you talk a little bit about any kind of social networking that there might be for people living on sailboats? I imagine there is a distinct divide between sailboat hobbbyists and sailboat residents, is there a club or social network or magazine for you to all kind of come together and socialize?

    1. Great point! you are totally right! Facebook groups are great for that. I'm a member of "Sailing and cruising with kids" and Liveaboard sailing families".

      You are also correct about the divide, there is an invisible "club" that you earn membership to after sailing south on a sailboat. You meet others sailings, learn of opportunities, etc. I imagine this is really the same as any activity where there are hobbyists and people who do it for a living.

  64. Do you have a cat with you on the boat? How design that work?

  65. I watched your video and really enjoyed it, you two have something to look back on the rest of your lives... it looks like fun ! Enjoy life to its fullest !!