What I Learned By Living Aboard A Sailboat
Living on a Sailboat
Life On A Sailboat
The question I get asked most often about living on a sailboat is "What's it like?" My honest response is always the same "It's the greatest experience that anyone could ever have and everyone should do it, even if only for a while." And then a funny thing always happens, the person asking the question always says "Oh I bet, the sunsets, the view, being at one with nature. Must be inconvenient though, having to come into shore to do your shopping and stuff. Oh and the rocking of the boat. And the wind. And the cold." That's when I smile and say "All of those difficulties are the best part of living aboard."
Living aboard a sailboat is a rich, rewarding way to enjoy your days, experience the beauty of nature and learn some important lessons. I came to sailing late in life and I regret the years of it that I missed so remember two things, you're never too late to learn how to sail and don't put it off! It might sound corny but I believe that living on board a sailboat will actually make you a better and happier person. Like Zen, it's hard to understand without direct, personal experience but I'll do my best to explain some of the things about life I've learned from being a live aboard.
The Best Religion
When I have to fill out forms or applications and such that asks me what my religion is I always put 'Sailor'. I'm not kidding, either, it means that much to me. In hindsight, however, I should really be writing 'liveaboard' because it's the act of living on board a boat full time that changes you as a person. Living aboard puts you right next to nature and makes you a neighbor of your fellow, non-human inhabitants of the planet which is incredibly enriching in itself but it gives you more than just great vistas. Living on board a sailboat is a little like being a pioneer.
Can't we all just get along
The liveaboard community is friendly, helpful and, above all, respectful of each others boundaries. I'm not saying that everyone that lives on board a boat is a saint, in fact I've met some real jerks and dirt bags but they are very much in the minority. For the most part, people that live on boats do so because they love boats and that gives us all a common passion and, let's be honest, it's a lot easier to get along with someone who likes the same things you do.
When I lived in Europe, unfortunately as a landlubber, I was shocked to learn that people there lived in tiny houses right on top of each other and never even knew their neighbors no matter how long they lived there! It wasn't uncommon for them to share a common wall with the people next door for ten years or more and never know their names! Now don't get me wrong, although I can be very sociable, I am not by nature a social butterfly. I keep very much to myself and am extremely private so I'm not suggesting that the liveaboard life is some kind of hippy-commune, I'm explaining that we all know at least one thing about each other and that is that we all like boats.
That common interest translates into friendly waves, swapped compliments about each others vessels and mutual appreciation, three excellent foundations for any society. Regardless of religion, politics, race or sex, sailors are sailors first and everything else second.
Life on a Boat
Be A Good Neighbor
Whether you're anchored out, docked at a marina or tethered to a mooring ball you're probably in pretty close proximity to your neighbor and, while you won't have anyone directly upstairs from you or below you, respecting each other's boundaries and privacy is high on every liveaboard's list of priorities. It's unlikely that you'll be disturbed by anyone's TV or stereo but there are things on boats that make noise such as wind generators and boat engines that need to be run either to produce electricity, for maintenance or to move the vessel. The most common annoying noise that you will probably encounter is a slapping halyard where one of the lines (that's ropes to you landlubber types) keeps banging against the mast in the wind. This can be really unpleasant and keep everyone around you up at night so we all keep a stock of elastic octopus straps on board which we use to tie those lines up and prevent them flapping and knocking in windy conditions.
Concern and respect for your neighbors is an important part of the liveaboard life-style.
Sharing knowledge is commonplace is the boating world and it's often our first contact and introduction to the people around us. For example, when you first pull into a new anchorage it's not out of place to see the mariners who are already there standing on their deck and using hand signals to help you find the best place to drop the hook. This kind of help naturally induces you to anchor up and then paddle over to thank your helpful new friends.
The first time I hooked up to a mooring buoy I cleated off a temporary hook up and then kayaked over to the nearest boat to check that I was doing it right and met a friendly chappy, Dan and his girlfriend, Sandra, who were only too happy to offer their experiences. They also showed me the best place to land and tie up my kayak and even loaned me a padlock when mine failed at the dock. And they gave me a ride to my destination. All this within the first ten minutes of meeting them. This is not unusual with mariners, it's actually very common.
Close to Nature
You Can't Buy A Sunset
Living on the water, so close to nature will probably change your perspective somewhat. You wake up to beautiful sunrises and end the day with glorious sunsets and these become significantly more valuable than what's on TV. Sure you can still see these things living on land but they're not so easy to see when you're surrounded by tall buildings and apartment complexes and there really is nothing as beautiful as a magnificent sunset mirrored on the ocean.
You're surrounded by nature, not just the sun and the moon but the weather too and so much wildlife! Every day I watch fish jumping out of the water, am visited by various birds that come to say hello and have seen so many seals and dolphins that I can't keep count. One of my favorite memories is watching an enormous school of golden headed jellyfish pass me by, their ghostly forms sliding beneath me without a ripple on the water's surface. if I hadn't been looking directly down into the water at the moment they swam by I'd have missed the moment. Experiences like this effect you in powerful ways and make you love mother nature all the more. As a result you become more concerned with lowering your carbon footprint and preserving nature.