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So You Want to Live on a Boat

So You Want to Live on a Boat

So, you want to live on a boat? Having lived on a boat for about three months now I feel slightly qualified to offer you some tips and tricks to planning your adventure aboard. Mainly I will be offering you some ideas of how to find a boat, what to pack and some personal opinions about my experience. Take everything with a grain of salt as all people are different!


It may seem obvious, but if you want to enjoy living on a boat you have to really want to live on a boat! Just because you are on a boat or traveling doesn't mean your troubles are going to magically slip away (but hey they might). You have to be willing to experience all aspects of boat life and not just the upsides. Some challenges you may encounter are adjusting to living in a smaller space than you are used to and learning to live with more limited resources. For me these things came naturally but I can see how they would be challenging for some.

Photo by Minimal Millenials  

Photo by Minimal Millenials  

I have been interested in van life & minimalistic living for a long time, so nothing about living on the boat was super shocking for me. I actually got quite lucky as there is a full kitchen, showers and I have a cabin to myself. If you want to know if minimalistic living is right for you I suggest watching some YouTube videos. I can draw many parallels between YouTubers who document their experiences living in vans and the experiences I am having on the boat (just add water)! I recommend watching Jinit Fell, Minimal Millenials, and Eamon & Bec if you are looking for content like this. Here are some specific videos to have a look at. 

I'm sure if you are interested in minimalist living you will want to have a deeper look into all three of these YouTube channels. If these don't interest you, you might want to reconsider boat life or start searching for luxury yachts...😂


Next you have to find a boat that is right for you. Things you might like to consider are what kind of boat you would like to live on and the location of the boat. Do you want to live on a sailboat or a power boat? A monohull or a catamaran? What size boat & what size crew? Are you willing to share a cabin? These are all things to consider.  Most boats are traveling but you should be able to browse their sailing plans. My recommendation is to explore opportunities on Crewbay or Workaway and see what you find.


Surprisingly, there are  many boats that are willing to take on inexperienced crew. In most situations you will be sharing in the expenses of travel or you may find an opportunity where you work in exchange for boarding but are still expected to cover your personal expenses. There are many different arrangements which can occur.  Mainly the captain seeking crew will have detailed their expectations in their profile but you can chat with them to gain further clarification if you need. I'm positive you will find a boat that is right for you! For me this was a 35ft monohull sailboat named Alaussa cruising in the Caribbean. The focus is leisure and not work. I have my own cabin and pay rent to live aboard. During my time I have gained valuable insight about boats and sailing and made a life-long friend.


Once you have found your perfect boat it is time to pack. Based on where you will be going geographically you should pack your clothing accordingly. I will speak from my personal experience which is living aboard in a tropical Caribbean climate.


Chances are while living on a boat you may not have access to laundry 24/7. I have been doing my laundry about every two weeks. So for this reason make sure you pack enough clothing and underwear to get you through. That being said you should also be as minimalistic as possible while packing as you may not have much space to store your clothing. I recommend 2 bathing suits, lots of underwear, a decent amount of shorts and shirts, and one sweatshirt. It won't hurt to have a few skirts or dresses if you plan on going out.  


I have only been wearing one pair of shoes since arriving and that has been a trusty pair of cheap flip flops, which are perfect because you can just leave them in the dinghy and it doesn't matter if they get wet. You can bring a pair of sneakers if you think you will be hiking often, mine have come in handy a few times.


For your shorts or bottoms I recommend a light and flowy material or workout material. No one wants to walk around town in a drenched pair of jean shorts after a particularly wet dinghy ride, pick something that dries fast.

Also consider wet dinghy rides when thinking about what kind of a bag you will bring. I personally brought a small backpack but with extended exposure to salt water the zipper eventually broke. I recommend a drawstring bag for your belongings. You can also purchase different sizes of dry bags to keep your electronics safe. For your large bag for when you move onto the boat bring a duffle bag as opposed to a suitcase, having a collapsable bag makes it easier to store out of the way when it is not in use.


For tops I recommend you bring a variety of tank-tops, crop-tops, and workout shirts.  Also bring some that cover your shoulders. Sometimes you will want some shade if you are sunburnt. 


To avoid sunburns you might consider purchasing some UV shirts that will protect you from the suns harmful rays while sailing. Wearing these is also a way to minimize your sunscreen use. I recommend checking out the selection of UV shirts by Shark Zen.


As far as makeup and toiletries go I would say stock up on a few of your "can't live without" products. Having things that are familiar to you will help make yourself feel at home on the boat. For me having more than one tube of my favorite mascara was quite nice as I have not found it anywhere in the Caribbean. As far as makeup goes however, you will not need much. It can't hurt to bring it if it is something you love but for me I have transitioned into only wearing it about once a week and am really enjoying it! Chances are you will be swimming a lot and you may just find you just have less need for makeup. I personally only want to put it on if we are going for a night out.

Also, consider how much water you use to wash makeup off of your face. On the boat water conservation is especially important and I would much rather drink it than scrub my face with it.

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A great deep conditioner is a must, here is a vegan option! Living on a boat has not done my hair any favors. Combine excessive, wind, sun, and salt and what do you get? Split ends! I can't wait to go to the hairdresser....


Books! Chances are on the boat you will have limited to no Wi-fi. For me I have also chosen to skip getting a SIM card or paying for cellular data abroad so I only use Café and Bar Wi-Fis for communication. In those quieter times on the boat it is nice to curl up with a good book. I've read four in the past month. Reading is something I commonly neglected when I had constant cellular data so unplugging has been a nice feeling. If you are into knitting, crocheting, stitching, or some other hobby that can keep you occupied in Wi-Fi-less times I recommend bringing these supplies as well. I particularly wish I had brought a journal to write a travel dairy, it just isn't the same on your phone or computer.

I hope you enjoyed my tips to help you prepare for boat life. Are there any additional unanswered questions? Leave them in the comments below!

Wander often & wonder always,

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