Living Aboard a Sailboat

Living Aboard a Sailboat: Embracing the Sailing Cruising Lifestyle. For adventurous couples or families longing for the open sea and the desire to escape the daily grind, living aboard a sailboat is a dream worth pursuing. The transition to the sailing cruising lifestyle is an exhilarating journey filled with opportunities for exploration, self-discovery, and unforgettable experiences.

Choosing the Right Sailboat

Selecting the right vessel is one of the first and most crucial steps in living aboard a sailboat. As a couple or family, you’ll want to consider factors like size, layout, and amenities that best suit your needs and preferences. Whether you opt for a cozy monohull or a spacious catamaran, your sailboat will become your floating home and a key component of your new lifestyle.

Four years into our sailing adventure, I wrote an article and created a video emphasizing top-level considerations when looking for the perfect boat. With my husband being 6’4” and me being 5’11”, standing room was a biggie. Another key element was safety. We left for our adventure with a three ½-year-old, so a center cockpit and heavy displacement boat were on the list. Check out our article and video, Buying a Sailboat – Prioritizing What Matters Most! 

Mastering Sailing Skills

Living aboard a sailboat means becoming proficient in sailing. Investing in sailing lessons or courses will empower you with the knowledge and confidence to handle your vessel safely and efficiently. Sailing together as a couple or family is a skill and a bonding experience that will deepen your connection.

Many people write to us asking where to start. We often recommend getting qualified to do a boat charter. The American Sailing Association, Royal Yachting Association, or Sunsail offer courses providing enough instruction to take a boat out yourself. The courses aren’t long and the experience of going on to sail a boat for a week is priceless.

In my article, How to Become an Ocean Sailing Cruiser, I offer six ways to get experience. Read that here.

Creating Your Floating Home

The sailboat you choose will become your unique floating home. As you adapt to living aboard, you’ll need to embrace the challenges of limited space and storage while maximizing the efficiency of every nook and cranny. It’s all about maximizing your onboard space while ensuring comfort and functionality.

The first year on Britican, we filled her up with far too much stuff. By the end of the year, we were offloading loads of things. You only need a few pots and very limited kitchen items. Regarding clothes, you don’t need much as you’ll find that you wear the same thing over and over. No one cares what you look like when you’re sailing! And there’s no need for anything precious. The salty sea and sun ruin everything, so keep all your good stuff on land. After years of sailing, I would eliminate things to make room for food. That’s all I cared about…having a full stock of everything I loved to eat.

Check out our storage checklist and video on storage tips here: Storage Organization on a Boat

Budgeting for the Sailing Lifestyle

Balancing your finances is a crucial aspect of living aboard a sailboat. Couples need to establish a budget that includes ongoing expenses like maintenance, mooring fees, provisions, and occasional marina stays. Proper financial planning ensures a smoother and more sustainable journey.

In my Sailboat Buying Guide for Cruisers, I list every expense included in the sailing lifestyle.

There are the costs associated with buying a boat, the costs to prepare the boat for what you want to do, and the costs to service and maintain the boat.

If you’re unsure what to include in your budget, get a copy of my guide – Sailboat Buying Guide for Cruisers.

Navigating the Seas and Beyond

Creating your cruising itineraries and exploring diverse destinations is a thrilling part of living aboard a sailboat. You’ll delve into navigation, passage planning, and utilizing various navigation tools, including GPS systems, to chart your course. Plan your routes with an eye on weather patterns, customs regulations, and local experiences.

Interestingly, sailing schools still teach how to navigate with dividers and charts. In the real world, however, everything is done on an iPad! I created a 7-step checklist for passage planning a while back, and Simon recorded a video showcasing all the apps and resources we use when planning voyages. Check out Passage Planning – 7 Step Checklist

Sailing Communities and Connections

The sailing cruising lifestyle offers a chance to connect with like-minded individuals and form lasting friendships with other cruisers. Joining sailing communities can provide a wealth of support, advice, and social opportunities, both on and off the water. The camaraderie of fellow sailors adds more fulfillment to your journey.

I’d go one step further to say that the sailing community makes the sailing lifestyle what it is. Because sailors often need advice or assistance, a pay-it-forward situation exists. Most cruisers are kind, generous, and eager to help. It’s not uncommon for a neighboring boat to stop by and ask if you have any trash you want taken to shore. When you enter an anchorage, you might see someone on the deck waving and yelling, ‘Welcome to the neighborhood.’

While living on land, we had a circle of six or seven friends. When we became cruisers, we had a circle of hundreds of friends!

Staying Safe and Sound

Safety is paramount when living aboard a sailboat. Couples and families should be well-versed in safety procedures, conduct regular man-overboard drills, and have the appropriate safety equipment. Staying prepared for emergencies and adverse conditions is essential for peace of mind.

Safety, safety, safety! It’s not difficult to create a safe boating environment, but unfortunately, many cruisers don’t know enough. Watch my video on how to do a boat safety audit here: Boat Safety Audit

Savoring the Lifestyle

Ultimately, living aboard a sailboat is about embracing the freedom and simplicity of life at sea. It’s a chance to explore new cultures, savor local cuisines, and immerse yourself in the beauty of the world’s oceans. The experiences you’ll encounter and the memories you’ll create will be unlike anything else.

We were fortunate to spend almost ten years cruising around the various parts of the world. It truly was an experience of a lifetime. Simon and I are so grateful for the sites we saw, the people we met, and our sailing lifestyle.

So, suppose you and your partner or family are contemplating the transition to living aboard a sailboat. In that case, you’re embarking on a remarkable voyage full of adventure, learning, and the opportunity to live on your terms. The sailing cruising lifestyle offers a unique blend of freedom, self-sufficiency, and shared experiences that will undoubtedly become a defining chapter in your life.


Kim Brown:
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