Pros and Cons of Living On A Boat
The basic premise of the book is about a guy who simultaneously discovered his love of nature while struggling to pay off his student loans and dealing with chronic unemployment. He learned to appreciate a spartan lifestyle that allowed him closer communion with nature on extended trips into the wild. This lifestyle of voluntary simplicity naturally led him to adopt the lifestyle of van dwelling or ‘vandwelling’ as it’s called by its practitioners. By living in his van, he was able to achieve his burning desire to go to graduate school, without going back into debt.
The Pros & Cons of Living in a Boat
(As opposed to living in a van or RV)
Since a liveaboard lifestyle isn’t too different from vandwelling, I was inspired by the book to join the vandwellers mailing list. After an initial solicitation to connect with other liveaboards in my area, I receive the following question:
Hi Chris, Will you tell me what you feel are the pros and cons of living on a boat? What are the pros and cons between the two of living on a boat and living in a van or RV? Which is less cost?
The ProsThe biggest ‘pros’ for me, and this is highly subjective, is the freedom (defined here as lack of other homosapiens), lack of traffic, and the food.
- I thrive on solitude. I’m very cerebral and a natural introvert. A boat works for me because as soon as I leave the dock, it’s all me. The waiting lines, traffic lights, cops, irritating neighbors, and paranoia are instantly gone. Those are land-based things and simply don’t exist on the water. True the coast guard exists, but in five years of active boating, I’ve never been hassled by them.
- I kind of already mentioned traffic, but that is one thing that I think really sets boating apart for land-based travel. There are no traffic lanes. Even in crowded water, the only real ‘rule of the road’ is don’t run into one another. There are no traffic lines, no speed limits, and no need for them. This is as true 100 feet from the marine wall as it is 100 miles offshore. I HATE traffic. This sole ‘pro’ is big aspect for me.
- Food is everywhere on the water. This may not be true all over the world, but it’s definitely true in the Puget Sound. It takes practice and skill to feed yourself reliably out here, but it is possible for anyone. The evidence of this is in the anthropology of the local natives. It’s rare in native cultures to have cultures with elaborate artwork, as time spent doing art takes away from time required to hunt and gather food. The natives of the Salish Sea (Puget Sound & Inside Passage) were renowned for their craftsmanship and woodworking skills. They lived in ornate log cabins, constructed fast canoes, and carved intricate totem poles. Alaskan natives invented the kayak. It’s normal for me to come back to the dock with more food than I left with.
- A big ‘con’ for most people is instability of the vehicle. Even in a bad storm, a van doesn’t do much more than lightly rock. It doesn’t take much bad weather to kill any possibility of sleep on a boat. Sailboats handle bad weather much better than power boats, but all boaters know when the sea is upset.
- I would say that living in a boat is more expensive than living in a van, mostly for the reason above. A van equipped to be stealthy can be lived in year round without ever paying for parking. A boat is very difficult to live in year-round on the hook. If you’re not on the hook, it means you’re at the dock. Someone built that dock and they’ll demand payment. It could also be argued that boats require more maintenance than vans. Salt water is very corrosive, and when you mix in high winds, freezing temperatures, and a lot of movement, things break. Most affordable boats are old, that means the likelihood of leaks and dry rot are high.
There are also several points that I thought of that are ‘moot’ or equivalent.
- A lot of people are afraid of boats because of the ‘oh shit’ factor – breaking down when on a trip. It happens – much more frequently than it does for automobiles. Any avid boater will have tow insurance. These days it’s incredibly affordable at $100 to $150 per year (through Boat US). This is the boat equivalent of AAA. In my opinion, you’re an idiot if you leave the dock without it. Breakdowns happen.
- Size is also another moot point. In my mind a van is equivalent to a 25 foot boat, a cargo van a 27 foot boat, and and RV a 40 foot boat. I’m talking about both square footage as well as amenities. Bigger boats require more maintenance, and I’m pretty sure the same would go for vans and RVs.
Help Me Add More Points
Now it’s your turn. What are the pros and cons of living on a boat VS living in a van or RV? What have I missed? Do you agree with my points or disagree? Let me hear your opinions.