The Best And Worst Things About Living On A Sailboat

Last Updated on

The idea of moving out of your current home to live on a sailboat may seem very tempting. But as anyone who is considering a big change in their lives, you are probably worried about what is awaiting you once you step a foot onboard.

Let us give you a little perspective on the aspects of living on a sailboat by overviewing the best and worst things about it.

The best things about living on a sailboat

Nature & wildlife

One of the biggest aspects of full-time sailboat living is the closeness to nature.

When you live on a boat, you become a part of nature and obtain many unexpected “neighbors” whether you want it or not. You will often see sea birds perching on your boat or dock lines, maybe demanding a snack from you. Dolphins may pay a visit to you and blow at you to get your attention.

And, of course, you get the chance to personally observe how the sun goes beyond the horizon – a renowned and revered scene among seafarers and even people who live far from the shore.

Freedom

Living on land, you are free to travel anywhere in the world, but you will always have to come back. On a sailboat, you will face no such restrictions – no commitments and complete freedom are arguably the biggest benefits of full-time sailboat living.

You are free to go anywhere and even stay there if you are willing to spend the time traveling thousands of miles. And if you find a particularly likable place, you are free to stay there forever.

New places, new people

The travel aspect of sailboat living comes from the freedom to go anywhere, but we thought that we should mention it as a separate point since it’s also significant.

Compared to full-time living in an RV, you are arguably going to see less interesting things while living on a sailboat. On an RV, you can pay a visit to any inland location that can be accessed by a vehicle. With a sailboat, you are restricted to seaside cities and areas.

Does this mean that you will quickly run out of places to visit on a sailboat? No – we think that a single lifetime isn’t enough for anyone to experience everything that traveling on a sailboat can offer to you. Plus, you have the bonus of being closer to the sea, which is great if you like fishing or just enjoy the views.

A great thing about traveling on a sailboat is that you don’t have to deal with any hotels. This is great regarding your budget, as well as means that you don’t need to do any packing before traveling.

You can also meet many new people along the way. When you live on a sailboat, you have more things in common with your neighbors than if you lived on land. First and foremost, you’ve chosen the same lifestyle, which is far more important than what your hobbies are or where you are from.

And sharing your boating ups and downs with others, you have the chance of creating a deep and lasting bond with those you meet.

Economy

Is the transition to full-time sailboat living cheap? No, it certainly isn’t. You have to buy a sailboat, first of all, not to mention all the small things that you may need to ensure comfortable pastime. But once you switch from an apartment to a boat, you receive the chance to dramatically reduce your costs.

Heating the small living space on a sailboat is much cheaper than heating even a tiny house or apartment. Living on your own boat, you also don’t owe anything to anyone – all the money you spend directly goes to satisfying your needs.

If you have the knowledge and tools, you can also greatly save on maintenance or repairs. If your boat doesn’t have any engines, then you will further save huge amounts of money on operating a motor.

You may also just stay in a marina and never go out, not having to ever worry about electricity and its costs. Well, you do actually need to pay some fees for staying in a marina, but those are negligible compared to what you’d spend at home.

Simplicity

Unless you are wealthy, the moment you step aboard your sailboat, you will have to forget about all your wasteful habits. Your boat most likely is going to have much less living and storage area than your house or apartment, so you will have to make a lot of compromises to ensure that you stay on the comfortable side.

Anything that pointlessly takes up space on your boat will need to stay outside. You will only be able to take the bare minimum with you, unless you have a super-large boat in which free space isn’t a big concern.

Your eating habits are going to also change. You most likely will need to reduce your calorie consumption to minimize the number of trips to the shore after food, as well as to optimize your budget. A pleasant bonus of this is that you may be able to lose weight (if that’s a problem for you, of course).

At first glance, simplicity may not sound like an advantage. Who wouldn’t want to live in luxury and be lavish? However, living on a sailboat teaches you a very valuable lesson – how to be efficient.

Satisfaction

Many challenges and hardships are awaiting you aboard your ship, but there is something in them that may deliver unparalleled satisfaction to you.

You are on your own. When things go wrong, it is up to you to figure everything out and bring things back into order.

You are probably going to limit yourself in many pleasures, but you are going to instead gain the ability to make resource-efficient decisions.

Solving difficult tasks, you are going to feel better about yourself. You are going to enhance your self-esteem.

Besides, what you may also be tickled with is that you are doing something that only a few people are doing, and something that many are interested in.

Security

Living in a sailboat can be no less safe than in a house or apartment. Furthermore, if you stay in a good marina, you may have much better security than you could have ever dreamed of! Good marinas have security guards, access gates, and good police protection, so you can be sure that you are going to be as safe as in your old home.

Your neighbors are also going to play a part in the security of the marina. They know who belongs to the marina and who does not, and anything suspicious is going to provoke a reaction in them (and also in you if you notice anything).

The worst things about living on a sailboat

Hauling things on and off the boat

No matter whether you are moored in a marina or anchored a little away from the shore, hauling things on and off the boat is going to become a headache for you, especially if you are in an unfamiliar area.

And believe us, you will need to leave your boat to find supplies and also get rid of the waste that has accumulated onboard quite frequently. Arguably, this is the biggest issue with full-living on a sailboat.

The best way to alleviate this problem by is staying in a marina, but mooring in one very often isn’t free. If you don’t have the budget, your only option will be to anchor as close to the shore as possible.

The bad thing about being anchored in the sea is that you will need to use your dinghy every time you want to get on the shore to dump your waste or buy some supplies. And then, if you are unlucky with where you moored your dinghy, you may need to waste a few hours on trying to get your job done and then getting back onto the ship.

Resource management

Resource management is a big issue in every aspect of our lives, but even more so when living on a sailboat. When out on the water, not only your budget is a concern – you also need to think about optimizing your use of onboard resources so that you minimize your trips to the shore.

The most problematic resource is freshwater. For certain applications, washing with seawater and then rinsing with freshwater may suffice. But you can’t drink seawater, nor can you use seawater in devices like pumps or washing machines (if you have those) since its mineral component is very damaging to them.

Freshwater isn’t the only resource that you will need to use sparingly while onboard, but it’s the most demonstrative of the importance of resource management on a sailboat.

Waste dumping

Waste dumping isn’t the absolute worst thing about living on a sailboat, but it’s definitely one of the least pleasant things. This will hugely depend on the availability of dump-out stations in the area you are in though, as well as whether your boat has an accessible waste drain (it most likely will).

If the dump-out station is positioned close to the shore so that you can just run a hose from the boat’s waste drain to the station’s port, you are lucky. Otherwise, you would need to dump all the waste into a container, which you then would need to take with you to a dump station. 

Waste dumping thus is not only quite an unpleasant procedure but also very time-inefficient at times.

Seasickness

Not everyone suffers from seasickness, and it won’t be an ever-present problem in the sea either. However, the constant motion of the boat is a huge catalyst for seasickness even in people who have never experienced it on board before.

Anchored in a calmer area with minimal boat traffic and calm weather, you are less likely to experience seasickness. But if a few larger ships pass by or if the weather is windy, expect to experience some severe seasickness, albeit it should get easier for you as time passes by. And God forbid if all those wave-generating factors happen at once!

Lack of space

This might be quite a surprising downside of sailboat living, but many sailboats out there suffer from a catastrophic lack of room. In this sense, RVs – which are also frequently used for full-time living – can be much more efficient since a bigger portion of their body is occupied by interior compartments.

Not the case with sailboats, especially cheaper ones. A 40 feet sailboat is often going to offer less free space and comfort than a 40 feet RV, even though sailboats can be much wider and taller than RVs! 

This might be a surprise for many newcomers to full-time sailboat living, but that’s a thing that you will have to deal with, unless you have the budget to go for a large boat that would offer you residential-grade comfort.

With sailboats, you get limited sleeping space, limited kitchen space, limited entertainment space, and basically limited everything else. Due to this, sailboat living isn’t the best choice for people who like to have a little more comfort.

Lack of appliances

The lack of appliances is linked with the lack of space and comfort, but it is a thing big enough to be mentioned as a separate point.

We again have to make comparisons with RVs since they are another very popular choice for full-time living.

Most RVs that you can find out there – apart from the cheapest and most compact models – are going to have the majority of appliances that you would have at home. The only thing that the vast majority of RVs lack are laundry appliances, but these are fairly easy to install if you have time, money, and free room in the RV.

Sailboats, on the other hand, very often lack critical appliances like full-sized stovetops or refrigerators. Many, many RVs come with those, albeit often in a smaller form-factor than you’d have at home. On a sailboat, unless you spend additional money on a stovetop and a refrigerator, you often aren’t going to have these conveniences.

Sailboats likewise frequently don’t have laundry machines. So do RVs, but the problematic thing with boats is that you need to go to the shore and then find a washhouse to get your clothes washed and clean. On an RV, this is much easier to do since you can just drive directly to the washhouse with no dinghies or taxis in between.

Inadequate bathrooms

Sailboats share their inadequately-sized bathrooms with RVs. Though you can find RVs or sailboats that have residential-style bathrooms, you will have to spend quite some money on such a vessel.

Sailboat bathrooms – or heads, which is how bathrooms on watercraft are called – are very often cramped. Not only that, they often combine the shower and toilet – due to this, every time you take a shower, the entire bathroom gets wet.

If this wasn’t enough, you also have little to no countertop space in sailboat bathrooms. Sinks are also a luxury in boat bathrooms.

And yeah, you should know that sailboats often come with poor toilets that get clogged very easily and are also quite uncomfortable. This issue could be solved by replacing the toilet, but this little project is going to require some investment.

Difficult maintenance

You don’t need to do maintenance on a sailboat too often, but if something decides to break down, things can get very annoying.

You can consider yourself lucky if you’ve had a minor breakdown that can be repaired with a temporary solution, or if you have all the necessary tools and spare parts with you onboard. But what if you don’t have what you need to resolve the issue?

You guessed it right, you would need to go to the shore, find a boat store, and spend money on spare parts or tools. Sailboat maintenance thus can be not only costly but also very time-consuming if you aren’t prepared.

Before committing yourself to the offshore life, ensure that you bring with you all the tools and parts that would allow you to do lighter repair and maintenance work without having to step onto the shore. That way, you will be able to save time and money when dealing with less serious issues, while leaving the boat and going to a boat store will be reserved for severe malfunctions.

Power limits

Once you leave your home to live in an RV or sailboat, you realize that you’ve been taking residential electricity for granted. Of course, you had to pay for your power expenditure, but you’ve never had to worry about any power limits. 

On a boat, you will have two options – you need to have your own power source, or you will have to rely on the power grid of a marina. If you’ll be staying in a marina, then it probably will have a power source, though you still should have a marine generator so that you have power when off-grid.

When it comes to having your own power source, you again have two options – using a power generator or a solar power system. Both are excellent options of portable power sources, but each has its own good and bad things.

Generators are cheaper upfront, but you will need to keep them fueled so that they produce power. This means that you will have to occasionally go to the shore and spend money to buy fuel.

Solar power systems are more expensive to set up, but they are more cost-efficient in the long term. Plus, they produce no noise – unlike generators – which may make them much more appealing to some people.

As you can see, supplying your boat with electricity requires some extra planning, a thing which can be avoided at home if you don’t really care about power draw.

Leaks

Various kinds of leaks also become a huge problem. While the worst leaks are those that can sink your boat, you are far more likely to come across a smaller leak that comes through the deck or hatches right onto your face while you are sleeping.

It can be frustrating to have your sleep disturbed by a leak, but it is even more frustrating to try and localize the source of the leak. 

And maybe the worst thing is that no matter how careful you are while sailing, you aren’t safeguarded from small leaks – these can happen due to poor hatch sealing by the manufacturer, for example. And you aren’t going to discover that there is anything wrong with the boat’s sealing until a leak occurs right when you least expect it.

Pet care

If you have pets, prepare for a wide gamut of problems on the board. If you have a cat or another pet that doesn’t require occasional walks, then your biggest problem will be disposing of their waste. But if you have a dog, ensuring sufficient activity for them is going to become an issue for you.

We’d say that the easiest way of going around this issue is having your boat moored in a marina from where you can easily go to the shore and walk your dog. And all in all, staying at a marina can make many things easy for you.

Lack of social interaction

When you are onboard anchored somewhere in the sea, you are essentially isolated from the outside world. Sure, it’s very easy to stay in touch these days if you have internet, but what you will definitely lack is in-person interaction with friends and relatives.

This may be a big problem for some people, while others won’t even remotely care about it. However, it’s a thing that you will have to think about and live with nonetheless, especially if you will be spending most of your time away from the shore.

Storms

Oh those storms, the biggest fear of experienced and inexperienced sailors alike. You may have the best-equipped and most luxurious sailboat in the world, but even she won’t be able to resist the violent onslaught of nature.

In coastal states, storms and even hurricanes are a very common occurrence. On land, you can either evacuate or ride the storm out. On a sailboat, you won’t have such an opportunity.

Due to this, you will have to be very strategic on where and when you are. If you happen to be far away from the shore when a hurricane hits you, you will have no other choice than to pray that your boat will be able to withstand it.

If you know that a hurricane is coming to your location and you are close to the shore, then you should moor your sailboat at a safe marina, take all the valuables with you, and get away from the boat to another, safer location.

Then, you will have to just hope that the hurricane doesn’t break your boat to shreds. There is nothing you can do to oppose nature aboard your perhaps impressive yet highly fragile boat. With that being said, the best option would be to think ahead and stay away from areas where storms or hurricanes are expected.

While we are still speaking of weather, you should keep in mind that lightning is also an important concern. Lightning loves to strike the highest thing it can find. Well, if your boat has the tallest mast in the marina, the lightning will likely choose it for its attack.

To safeguard your boat from the effects of lightning, you need to ground it so that the lightning finds a safe course through the boat and into the water.

Dinghy storage

We’ve already mentioned that going from the boat to the shore and then back for supplies and to dump waste can be time-consuming and annoying. However, we haven’t mentioned the problem of storing your dinghy while you are away doing whatever you need to do on the shore.

First of all, you need to find a safe place to keep your dinghy so that it doesn’t get stolen. Not only that, you need to tie it securely to the shore so that it doesn’t get driven away by waves or wind.

If you live in a marina though, things are much easier – you can keep the dinghy tied to your boat, put it on the deck, or place it in the marina’s storage rack if it does have one.

Mooring

Mooring is another big problem that you will have to take care of when living full-time on a sailboat. If you don’t intend to travel, then you can just pick a proper marina in your area and stay there without worry.

But what if you are in a foreign place and need to moor your sailboat? Well, in this case, you aren’t necessarily going to find a good marina for your needs and budget.

Some marinas are trashy and offer poor-quality facilities, while others are excessively luxurious and are beyond your financial capabilities. Not only that, but some marinas do not allow liveaboards, and some only allow a small percentage of moored boats to be liveaboards.

So yeah, if you are used to staying in marinas, then you may have a problem when moving to a new area. You could avoid this by researching local marinas beforehand so that you know whether you will have to anchor in the sea or not.

Speaking of staying anchored away from the shore, if this is how you prefer to keep your boat, then this won’t be as big of a problem for you.

Mold and corrosion

Depending on the part of the world you are in, mildew and mold can be a headache during your boating adventure. Mold not only looks ugly but also can lead to respiratory problems if not addressed promptly.

Besides, everything on the boat will want to rust. Rust can lead to severe complications starting from broken equipment and ending with sinking your boat or setting it on fire. Due to this, you need to pay special attention to the measures you are taking to safeguard your boat from corrosion.

Is living full-time on a sailboat worth it?

You’ve probably noticed that cons of living on a sailboat outnumbered pros. Not only that but if you do a quick search on Google, you are going to find many more posts on cons than pros.

Does this mean that full-time living on a sailboat isn’t worth it?

Well, there are no definitive answers to this question.

There are indeed many challenges in living on a sailboat. Indeed, many of them are quite unpleasant and a few are outright dangerous. However, this is one of the things that is actually appealing to those who’ve decided to switch to full-time sailboat living.

Some people – probably most – don’t like any radical changes in their lives. They don’t like motion, and they much prefer to live a calmer life, which may perhaps seem boring to some people.

On the other hand, there are people adventurous, those who just need to do something new every single day. The blood boiling in the veins of these people is going to force them to go beyond the limits of their current life, and fixed routines are going to quickly bore them to death.

Living on a sailboat is one excellent way to add a little bit of adrenaline to your life. No, you aren’t in constant danger, but you are arguably much less safe than at home. Weather is your and your sailboat’s enemy, every malfunction on the boat poses many inconveniences to you, and you are forced to give up on your lavish habits and live efficiently.

This is unacceptable for some people, but for others, it is going to be the lifestyle that they have always dreamed of.

Quantitatively, the pros of full-time sailboat living may lose to its cons. But qualitatively, we think that they are far ahead of the downsides.

The worst things about living on a sailboat aren’t necessarily accompanying you throughout your journey. You aren’t always going to suffer from leaks, and you likewise aren’t going to worry about power or dumping your waste if you are staying in a good marina.

The benefits though, they are going to accompany you anywhere, apart from maybe safety since it is dependent on the marina you are staying in.

In the end, some people will find the sailboat lifestyle unbearable, while others will consider it insanely charming. Which category of people do you belong to?

Home