Living Aboard a Boat The A to Z Challenge

Living-Aboard Versus Cruising

Thursday, April 14, 2016S.V. CAMBRIA


During the month of April we’re participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge where every day (excluding Sundays) we’ll be posting to the blog . . . alphabetically. The overall theme we’ve chosen to tie all the entries together is living aboard and cruising – things we’ve learned along the way: our thoughts, reflections, and tips for those starting out or are interesting in this lifestyle.




I don’t like living-aboard. I really don’t. Strange comment coming from somebody who’s lived on a boat for the last 15 years, but it’s true. David doesn’t really care for it either: It’s a necessary evil. A means to an end. Something we tolerate. So, how have we managed to make the water our home for so many years? The answer’s simple: We see ourselves as cruisers, not live-aboards. And we love cruising.

What’s the Difference?

Living-aboard and cruising are both lifestyle choices and, while they have a lot in common with each other, they’re very different. What makes someone a live-aboard and not a cruiser? One key factor to being a live-aboard is living on a boat. All cruisers are live-aboards, but not all live-aboards cruise. Confused yet? Me too.

The live-aboard boat is tied up in a marina or on a mooring, oftentimes permanently, giving them a fixed address. Apart from living on a boat, they live a land-based life just like everyone else. They have daily access to shore power, fresh water, trash bins, showers, wi-fi, pump-out facilities and laundry. Some live-aboards even splash out the extra cash for cable or satellite TV. They most likely work five days a week (unless retired), have a car, shop at the local Costco, eat at restaurants and take the kids to school just like everyone else. On the weekends, they probably don’t take the boat out because, well heck, they’re living aboard and there’s junk lying all over the place.


Cruisers, on the other hand, don’t hold regular jobs. They can’t because they’re out on the water, moving from place to place. They can, however, work remotely online or earn money on the fly by doing odd jobs or providing services (like sail making, engine repair, canvas work and writing). The boat is rarely tied up and when it is, it’s for a short period of time (usually to wait out hurricane season, make repairs or take a break). Owning a car is a temporary situation, usually as a way to tour a country. Their hailing port is most likely thousands of miles away, and home is now wherever the boat is. They may have a cellphone but, if they do, a collection of international SIM cards go along with it.

Shades of Grey

The world is rarely black and white and there’s a broad range of live-aboards and cruisers: There are live-aboards who are cruisers-in-waiting and are working and saving for the day when they can untie their lines and sail off into the sunset. There are temporary live-aboards, permanent live-aboards, part-time live-aboards and full-time live-aboards. There are live-aboards who can’t wait to get back to land (or to cruising). And live-aboards who can’t picture themselves living anywhere else.

Cruisers are also a diverse group of people: There are world cruisers, seasonal cruisers, regional cruisers, long-term cruisers, short-term cruisers, full-time cruisers and part-time cruisers. There are cruisers who are working on land to refill the cruising kitty. And cruisers who sail to a foreign country to live-aboard.

Where Do We Fall?

David and I like to see ourselves as cruisers first and live-aboards second. For six months of the year, we live on the hook and move around from anchorage to anchorage along the Inside Passage. This is our preferred way of life. But a funny thing happens when October rolls around – winter storms begin to move into the area and we have to start hiding out more and more often. By the end of the month, the balance has switched and we spend more time stuck below decks with the heater running than we do enjoying our surroundings. It’s at this point that we usually look at each other and say the words we dread, “I’m done.”


The transition to marina life is a difficult one for us. We prefer to spend our time in remote areas where we could be the last two people on earth and marinas, by comparison, are loud and full of people. At anchor, a boat has room to swing in a full circle with plenty of space and privacy. In a marina, we feel closed in and claustrophobic. Personally, I get restless and start counting the days until the cruising season starts again (16 more to go!). But we need the time to visit family over the holidays (my grandmother is now 97 and its important for us to spend time with her – she still lives on her own and just gave up driving a year or so ago), give our bodies a rest, and take care of boat maintenance. For us, it’s a necessary evil, one that’s helped to keep us on the water for 15 years.



Now it’s your turn. Do you live-aboard or cruise? How do you see the difference between the two lifestyles? If you cruise, how often do you take a break? And if you live-aboard, how often do you take your boat out of the marina? Join the conversation below in our comments section or hop on over to our Facebook page and ‘Like’ us!


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20 comments

  1. Of course, you are in an environment where you have actual, you know, **WINTERS** and that hugely affects your ability to cruise year-round. In our years aboard we've been both on-the-hook roaming cruisers, and tied-to-the-dock liveaboards. Whichever lifestyle we're in, after a few months we begin to look longingly at the other side of the coin. In other words, either way, this life makes us happy. Cheers, Jaye

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    1. Having a winter season definitely make it tougher up here (I'm still trying to figure out how we went from the idea of white, sandy beaches and sunshine to the reality of a rainforest in our plans), but some people do stay out all year. Like you, though, we reach a point where we need a break and are ready to take a stab at the other side of the coin -- tying up and plugging in.

      Cheers,
      Stephanie

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  2. I cannot believe that photo of your boat with all the snow!!! Ouch. I do not want to live-aboard or cruise (or live on land) in those temperatures. Pretty surroundings or not, I'll take them in summer. :-) But, I bet the snow is actually a bit of an insulator as well? Of course, I have never cruised with a heater on board. That would be a given in the PNW.

    We called ourselves live aboard cruisers, since we did both simultaneously full time for eight years, moving - slowly - from place to place. We hate sitting in marinas for more reasons than just the cost and have spent practically all of our time at anchor, except when needing a marina to fix boat issues and run errands. I always called being hauled out a necessary evil! Great overview, Stephanie!

    Liesbet @ Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary

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    1. Thanks, Liesbet. Yeah, the cost of a marina is definitely something that keeps us at anchor as much as possible. But there's a point where we're spending as much on fuel for the generator (not much sun in the winter here) as we would for a berth, so we call it quits. I have to admit, it's a relief at first but it's not long before we get itchy feet. Fortunately, it doesn't snow at sea leave too often (a handful of times in 8 winters) but it can be a real chore getting on and off the boat when there's ice on the decks! The wind and the rain, however, are a different story -- there's plenty of that to go around.

      Cheers, Stephanie

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  3. When Mike and I bought Galapagos, one of the things that we both were thinking was how much this boat would extend the cruising season for us. We were dead wrong about that. The weather is one thing, but the other thing is how early it gets dark. In the winter he doesn't get home until well after dark, leaving only the weekends for possible day sails. I hate to admit this, but Galapagos really isn't a day sailor type boat. I'm not sure exactly why. We've examined that, but have come up short handed as to an explanation. It's something psychological, because she is always ready to head out. We'll likely be living aboard by summertime and may then live aboard through the next winter. I do not look forward to that.

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    1. Yeah, the winter's are tough enough as it is here and living aboard can be tiresome. This year, we ended up spending 3 months in Kansas with family just to escape the rain. I'm really glad we did because now it's good to be home and getting ready to start the season. I sure hope our paths cross this summer. It would be great to meet you both in person!

      Stephanie

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  4. We are currently live-ashore racer/cruisers and wannabe full time cruisers!

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    2. Do you guys want to do six months in the islands and six months in New Zealand and/or Australia or sail around world?

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  5. Great post Stephanie! We also find that marinas get a bit claustrophobic — three days in a row seems to be about our max. As year-round cruisers in the PNW we love the winter because the anchorages and parks are empty. After finishing our second winter of full-time cruising I'd have to say that, in our experience, too much is made about how miserable the weather and darkness are — and we've only had snow or ice on deck a handful of times. When dressed appropriately outside and with proper heating down below, we don't find the weather to be that bad. And once the days start to get longer the cruising can become quite magical. That said, I do get how it can be a bit tough. Cheers, Andy

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    1. Yeah, the winter's are tough enough as it is here and living aboard can be tiresome. This year, we ended up spending 3 months in Kansas with family just to escape the rain. I'm really glad we did because now it's good to be home and getting ready to start the season. I sure hope our paths cross this summer. It would be great to meet you both in person!

      Stephanie

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  6. Interesting to learn more about this! I grew up in Manitoba and know nothing about boating!!

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    1. I always joke that I grew up in Kansas -- the Mecca of the sailing world! Lol.

      Stephanie

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  7. I can see the difference in climate could be a deciding factor! Sounds like the PNW is cool and wet in winter, with occasional cold and snow, perhaps 8 - 10 times a season?
    We're in Maine. Think cold (from 20 F down to -15 F) on a daily basis, with maybe 8 - 10 days each season when the sun comes out and the temp climbs above freezing!
    So staying aboard for the winter is very, very rare. I know of only two boats that do that in this area, and they're considered very brave souls!
    As for cruiser vs Live-aboard, Nicki and I will become "Commuter Cruisers" in August - taking the boat south to Florida and the Keys this winter, returning to Maine and work from May through October of 2017, then back to Sionna for the following winter and time in the Bahamas. We're definitely NOT marina people, however, so I guess we're pretty firmly headed for "Cruiser", if we need a label.
    Fascinating post!

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    1. Yes, the winters here are very wet and cool (but not too cold). We don't see snow at sea level very often, but it does happen (probably 3 or 4 times in 8 years). The biggest issue is condensation. The boat is dripping wet most morning we're aboard and does much better when we pack up and go visit family for a few months.

      Your plans are amazing and a good way to have the best of both worlds. That's one of the things we like so much about cruising and living-aboard -- we can make the experience anything we want!

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  8. No, we don't live abroad or go boating, cruising whatever... we're land people. Being disabled puts sort of a lock on our traveling.... I just read about how other people do it.

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    1. Thanks for logging and taking a read, Marie! We really do appreciate it.

      Cheers!

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  9. Sadly, I've become a liveaboard. It wasn't what we planned, but life got in the way. However, come hell or high water, we'll be getting this boat out of the slip next season.

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    1. Rest assured, if you're not out cruising b the time we come through there in the fall, we're going to hijack you and take you cruising!

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    2. We lived-aboard for the most part in New Zealand and I liked it then (after the first year or so). But once we really started cruising, it became more and more difficult to tie up to the dock. I do appreciate the break during the winter months, though.

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