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Day to Day. What is it Like to Live Aboard Everyday?

We've been living aboard for just over a year now and there are still some questions we get fairly often.  It's starting to get old - answering the same questions over and over, but when you meet someone new and they find out you live on a boat in the middle of Chicago you have to put on the happy face and indulge them.  There are a lot of the same questions you have to answer but every once in a while you get something new.  If you, dear reader, are not a live aboard and are curious about what it's like to live day after day on the water this post might help you.

We lead somewhat different lives than many of the other liveaboards that we know about.  Many of the liveaboards we know of are retired, lots of them in Florida or the Caribbean living out their golden (or at least silver) years in paradise.  We are not those people.  To anyone who meets us you would think that we have a completely "normal" life and live in a "normal" place like an apartment or condo.  But when people hear you live on a boat they get wide eyed and want to know everything. We meet people who know a lot about boats, maybe they even own one, so they ask more technical or detailed questions, but we also meet people that know absolutely nothing about boats.  It's quite amazing how little some people know about boats, to the point that they don't even know there are boats that have heads (toilets) or galleys (kitchens).  The idea that you can live on a boat just seems so different to some people they can't wrap their heads around it, you might as well tell them you live on Jupiter.
Some folks just don't get it - at all - but the folks that do are usually the ones who ask all the questions.  Many people who ask a lot of questions are the type who've even thought about living aboard.  The idea of a romantic life on the sea appeals to them.  This is where disappointment can come in, but we try to keep it to a minimum.  You see, for someone living on the hook (at anchor in a bay, not a marina) in the Caribbean or Tahiti it's probably very romantic, watching dolphins swim by on a daily basis, watching the sunset as you drink a glass of wine or a Painkiller.  That is something we want too, but as of now, it's not like that.  We are both reasonably successful people and have careers with responsibilities.  Colette has been working 70-80 hour weeks for the last few months and Kevin is on the road a lot.  When we come home we are tired, we need to escape and relax.

Sooooo inviting
The number one thing that we tell people is that our lives are almost exactly like theirs.  We wake up, shower, make breakfast, go to work, come home, watch some TV, and go to bed.  That's a pretty typical weekday.  About the only difference we have is that when we take that first step into our home it rocks a little in the water.  Really, life is almost exactly the same as living on land.  However, not every day is the same.  There are days where the wind picks up and the boat will move around in the slip and alternate between the end of the ropes and banging against the dock.  There are days where the douchebags on the river don't obey the NO WAKE signs and give us 10 minutes of rocking and rolling.  There are days in the winter that the zipper on the plastic wrap gets bound up and is hard to open or close.  There are days where the sun beats in and the boat gets super hot inside since leaving the windows open is an invitation for rain to fall and soak our interior.

We were honored recently by a woman on the "Live Aboard Boats" Facebook group who recommended our blog to someone who is thinking about living aboard as a great primer on what the life is like.  Of course she did mention that we drone on at times, so we will take that into consideration for future posts.  But look, here we are at the end of paragraph five and STILL haven't gotten to the point!

Our top 10 list of questions and answers about living aboard:

1.  Q:  What do you do in the winter?     A: Suffer!  Actually, we wrap the boat in shrink wrap and use space heaters and a small alcohol burning fireplace.  It's actually quite warm usually.  The marina also has bubblers under the water to keep the water from freezing around our boat.

2.  Q:  Where do you go to the bathroom?     A:  We have two fully functional toilets, each with a 40 gallon waste tank that we pump out weekly.  The pumpout hose reaches our boat without us having to move.

3.  Q.  How much does it cost?     A:  It's reasonable, we bought the boat with the money we made from selling our house so we have no mortgage.  We pay just under $12,000 per year for the slip which includes all utilities and taxes.  Anytime we go out on the water we spend about $200 in gas. There is always maintenance to do, we figure we spend about $500 per month on maintenance once it's all averaged out.

4.  Q:  Is it amazing?     A:  Yes, but it's not the life for everyone.  We love the outdoors, don't mind spiders and bird droppings and enjoy almost every moment on board.

5.  Q:  What did you do with all your stuff?     A:  We sold it or gave it away, it was liberating.  We still have some things stored at Kevin's mom's house which we are slowly dwindling down.  We are considering buying a condo as an AirBNB rental property so we still have stuff to furnish it when that happens.

6.  Q:  Do you take a lot of long trips?     A:  We haven't yet.  We were supposed to go to Milwaukee this past weekend, which is only 80 miles but Kevin has been sick for about a month so we regretfully cancelled.  We want to take more trips, but we live very "normal" lives otherwise and life gets in the way.

7.  Q:  How did you ever decide to do this?     A:  We have been fortunate enough to travel a lot and have seen people living aboard boats in cities around the world, it really isn't that uncommon.  People in the midwestern United States may not be familiar with it, but it's not unheard of.  When someone offered to buy our house for a decent profit we sold it and couldn't imagine going back to a shitty apartment.  We've always loved the idea of living aboard so we just made a decision to do it.

8.  Q:  What about mail?     A:  Our permanent address is Kevin's mom's house where we get bank statements and are registered on our driver's license.  Magazines and packages come to our offices, and 95% of our bills get paid online.  There really isn't much need to have a traditional address in 2015, other than for taxes.

9.  Q:  How long are you going to do this?     A:  The winters are tough, or at least our first winter was, but we learned a lot.  Next winter will be better.  We are thinking of buying a condo very near the boat as an income property where we could live out the winter.  It'd be a lot simpler and maybe more comfortable but it would feel like giving up.  We have no plans to move back to land permanently, but who knows what will happen.  In January 2014 we had no idea we'd have sold our house and be living on a boat in May 2014.

10.  Q:  What's the best thing about living on a boat?     A:  There are a lot of great things, and some things that are not great, in fact there are some things that really suck.  One of the things I like best is the community.  Most boaters will go out of there way to help another, or at least offer them a beer at the end of the day.  Whether someone lives aboard or has a 16 foot fishing boat on a trailer, we all like to make each other's lives better.

So, water we thinking about living aboard on a day to day basis?  It's really very similar to living on land, but it has some great perks.  Sometimes it's not fun, but most of the time it is.  It's worth it in so many ways that we feel thankful for our lifestyle.

This is awesome!!!


  1. Great post. We've also had some interesting questions come our way: "Does your boat have an inside?" and "Do you shower regularly?" are two of my favorites.

  2. How can I subscribe to this blog? I was able to subscribe to Regal Life with a quick click but I do not see that here.

  3. Mike,
    Sorry I didn't have this active for some reason. On the page you should see a small black bar vertically stuck on the right side that opens up when you hover over it with the cursor. There is a Subscribe button on that bar, let me know if it works or not for you. Thanks for reading!

  4. Glad I saw your top 10 list of questions and answers about living aboard. This will help me alot about live aboard


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