For almost three years my family and I have been traveling from one location to another. We certainly were not living on a boat in a marina! We started off in the Mediterranean, crossed the Atlantic Ocean, cruised the Caribbean and eventually, after 18,500 miles, have decided to settle down for a long-term stay (1 year?) in Charleston, South Carolina.
Our choice to homeschool our, now 6-year-old daughter, didn’t work as well as expected. After many discussions, my husband and I decided that a proper schooling environment would be best. We decided to temporarily curtail our cruising lifestyle and instead enroll our daughter, Sienna, into first grade in America.
So…we’ll be living on our boat, in a marina, for at least one year – perhaps longer…
Transitioning from full-time cruising to full-time marina life has been interesting. On the one hand, I’m sad that our ‘flying-the-the-seat-of-our-pants’ lifestyle has been put on hold. On the other hand, it’s nice to take a break from constant travel, massive uncertainty and having to pay over the odds for many goods and services.
With the prospect of staying in Charleston for at least a year, my husband and I discussed the idea of renting or buying a property. In our minds, having a boat was for the purpose of using the boat. If not sail to around the world; we’d want to at least use our boat to sail when conditions allowed us to do so.
Interestingly, we’ve found ourselves in a rather odd situation – sailing around Charleston on a 56’ sailboat isn’t fun
The marina that we’re in sits right smack in the middle of a tidal river. Coming and going outside of slack tide, when the river is running fast, is almost a certain disaster. Every week a boat gets pinned up against docked boats because the engine isn’t capable of fighting the tide and making it into a slip. A boat enters a pontoon area, lines up to turn into a slip and before the skipper makes the turn, the boat is pushed onto docked boats and has to sit there until the slack tide arrives.
Furthermore, the harbor that we’re in is so small that we have to tack constantly rather than have an enjoyable easygoing sail. When we took my parents out they sat around enjoying the sights while I tacked one way, crossed the boat and prepared to tack the other way…repeat, repeat, repeat.
Sure, we could sail out into the Atlantic Ocean but usually, the conditions are not favorable for an enjoyable ride
Our dream is to still circumnavigate the world but our daughter’s education must come first. She’s been in school for three months and thus far she not only loves the steady routine but she’s making massive strides in her academics. Sienna has made many friends, she participates in everything and it’s a joy to see her in an environment where she’s thriving.
So… we’ve ended up in a situation where we’re living on a boat in a marina where our boat is a static home rather than our originally intended vessel for travel and adventure.
Interestingly, there are many people around us that live on their boat and never leave the marina on purpose
For us, our situation changed but for many people, they’ve made the conscious decision to live in a marina full time. Some marina liveaboards work locally and others are retired. One of our neighbors has been in our marina for seven years. He has a lovely 60’ powerboat with no engine!
From my perspective, however, I’ve felt a variety of conflicting feelings. We didn’t consciously set out to live in a marina. For some reason, I’ve felt the urge to get a property on land, but when further investigating my thought process I really can’t justify the craving.
As it stands now, I think I’m just feeling the societal pressure of living a ‘normal’ life
As with many things in life, when I find myself conflicted I get out a piece of paper and write down my thoughts. I created a list of reasons why living on a boat is better than living in a house…
13 reasons why living on a boat in a marina is better than living in a house on land
- If and when we want to move (if we ever want to move) we don’t have to sell our home; we simply untie our lines and move our home to a new location. And considering our home can move with the wind, the coastal areas of the whole world are possible future ‘homes’.
- We have waterfront property for a fraction of the cost that homeowners are paying. In fact, our neighbors on land are paying millions for the same view we have.
- The cost of living can be much lower. Boat owners in a marina pay a monthly rent for the boat slip. There’s usually a large discount for taking out a long-term contract (ex. Over 6 months). Other costs include electricity and some marinas charge a liveaboard fee.
- There’s a community of full-time liveaboards all around us. Because of the proximity of the boats and the need to walk along quite a lengthy dock to get out of the marina we chat with our neighbors several times per day. If someone has an issue, everyone helps out. Everyone is always looking out for everyone else. The social setting is fantastic. Almost every evening we all get together and enjoy a chat and drink along the dock or aboard a boat. The friendships made amongst liveaboard boaters are meaningful and fulfilling.
- Full-time liveaboards have common values. They all have a love for the water, are not into buying things for the sake of buying them (no space). Most boaters are very interested in conservation, green technology and taking care of the planet. Many work from the boat or are more entrepreneurial in spirit. They value strong friendships and work very hard to make others feel welcomed and wanted. Liveaboards give, give and give. Someone is always cooking too much and invites others over. There’s always a last-minute decision to have sundowners and appetizers. Liveaboards generally don’t have cable/satellite TV so they’re not inundated with negative news. Although conversations about topical news will be had, it certainly doesn’t dominate the time spent together. Stories are shared, jokes are told and food and drink are shared. There’s a deep feeling of respect and community amongst boaters. For me, it’s truly a community where I feel that life is worth living.
- With the ebb and flow of transient boaters, we meet new friends every week. And considering our marina also has a hotel that provides various conventions and events, we meet interesting people all the time. For example, one week we met a bunch of Veteran’s from the Vietnam War and another week we had very interesting conversations with several Nuclear Physicists.
- Keeping up with the Jones isn’t as prevalent with liveaboards as it is within a housing community or estate. Most boats are drastically different so you can’t compare them. And due to the lifestyle, the type of people that live on boats are not very interested in material possessions. When a neighbor gets a new tender we celebrate with a ride around the harbor…
- There’s a reduced amount of space so the need for filling the boat with unnecessary items is low (In our old house, it took us three months to get rid of all the needless items we had in our attic, cupboards, and closets).
- If it floods, which this area is known for, our house rides the tide rather than take on water. Or if a hurricane is heading this way, we have an option to move.
- Not only do we have dogs in the ‘neighborhood,’ but every day we’re graced with dolphins, pelicans and a variety of other beautiful creatures that you won’t find on land.
- Cleaning the whole boat takes a fraction of the time needed to clean a house and there’s no law maintenance needed.
- If we ever want to sell our boat we’re not limited to selling to the local area. Our target market includes the whole world rather than just someone that wants a boat in Charleston, South Carolina. In other words, someone from the UK can buy our boat and move it over to the UK quite easily. You can’t sell your house to someone in the UK!
- Crime rates are far lower in marinas than on housing states. People rarely get burgled, murdered or violated in a marina!
While thinking things over, I also jotted down a few negatives about living on a boat in a marina rather than living in a house on land. But as you’ll see the positives far outweigh the negatives 🙂
5 reasons why living on a boat in a marina is NOT better than living in a house on land
- It gets cold and our heaters don’t work as well as central heating does.
- The walk from our ‘front door’ to the car takes about 15 minutes, as we have to walk down a long dock.
- From time to time people call us ‘boat people’ and I sometimes feel judged. For the most part, however, I take great pride in telling people that we live on a boat. Usually, it sparks off a conversation and the people we’re talking to end up wanting to join the community of ‘boat people.’
- Living long-term in a marina requires more clothes. When we were cruising around we usually follow the warm weather. Now that we’re staying a full year in one place we’ll have to endure a winter and will need to buy and store more clothes. (Secretly I’m very excited to buy new clothes!!! I’m just not sure where I’m going to store them later…)
- It’s hard to be on the water but not have the ability to sail ourselves.
What are your thoughts? Any questions? Please leave them in the comments below 🙂
And if you need help with choosing a marina…
Grab a copy of my best selling guide, Checklists for Sailors as there’s a Choosing A Marina checklist with over 50 questions/considerations you’ll want to gain answers to. Some questions include:
- Is there a fee for liveaboard status? Do you accept liveaboards?
- Is there a black water pump-out facility that comes to the boat or do we need to move the boat to it?
- How easy is it to enter and exit the marina?
- What is the marina hurricane policy? (Do you need to remove your boat if something larger than a Cat 1 is coming?)
- Are there any restrictions on working on your boat?
- What’s the hull growth like in the area? (Am I going to need to pay a diver to clean my hull every month?!)
Get more questions like these in my Choosing A Marina checklist so you know before you go! In addition to this checklist you’ll get others like, Leaving A Boat In The Marina (short-term), Selecting Insurance For Your Boat, Cleaning And Maintenance Checklists, Maintenance and Servicing Checklists, Medical Checklists, Passage Planning and more! Get your copy here: Checklists for Sailors
Other Articles/Videos You Might Find Interesting
- Find out what we thought about our year-long stay at the Charleston Harbor Marina (Review).
- Here are 40 Reasons Why Living On A Sailboat Rocks!
- The Top 10 – The Reality Of Boat Life