Adjusting to Life Aboard a Boat

Adjusting to Life Aboard a Boat

How are we adjusting to life aboard our boat now that we’ve spent a little time acclimating to living in a marina full time?

We have now lived aboard our Whitby 42 a grand total of five weeks. With the labor of selling off the stuff, packing what remained, driving that stuff a thousand miles east, unpacking it, and donating still more behind us, our lives have finally settled into a familiar pattern. A pattern that is different than the one we left, no doubt, but unexpectedly easy to fall into.

Life Aboard a Boat Isn’t That Different

It turns out that adjusting to life aboard a boat is less difficult than I thought it would be. From a distance, it seemed so exotic and free. From my high-rise apartment, it seemed like a panacea to a life of go-go-go, work-work-work, spend-spend-spend, drink-drink-drink.

But, the new pattern of wake with the sun, answer nature’s call, walk the dog, make coffee, eat when hungry, do the laundry, shop when necessary.  It’s all exactly the same as it was in Dallas.

Now, to be fair, we chose to baby step this process on purpose.  We decided as part of the Master Cruising Plan to live in the marina for two years so we could learn the boat’s systems, save money, and become competent pilots.  My husband, Greg is a major planner with a minor in persnickety. I’m a “seat-of-the-pantser”. If he had left this adventure to me, we would have bought a boat sight unseen in Greece, because I ache to see Santorini.

We would also have no money, a boat we have no idea how to drive with systems we know diddly squat about. The baby step process, while marginally less sexy than flying off to Santorini, is worth the temporary rut.

Living in a Marina Makes a Great Baby Step to Cruising

I’ve written before about my boo-boos in piloting. But, we learned from that. We learned to always wait until slack tide to leave the slip. Current on a full keel with prop walk that could spin it in a sand dune is not a thing you want to learn in a strange country where you don’t speak the language. Learning that your transmission is a multiple-stage process from forward to reverse is not something you want to learn in a crowded anchorage. I expect that I will learn something every time I take this boat out of its slip or pull up its anchor. If I’m not, I’m doing something wrong.

Last week, we decided to fill our starboard water tank for the first time.  Since we were at it, we also figured we’d replace all the filters on our whole-house water filtering system – which is Canadian. Turns out that you can only buy the ceramic filter at Canadian hardware stores.  Calling the manufacturer from Jacksonville to ship me two is a cheaper lesson than realizing that hitch in Panama or Fiji.

Also, did you know that if you forget to turn off your water pump at the control panel and you remove a sump housing from the system, it will explode water all over you?  See?  When you live on board in your slip and you do something dumb, you laugh and learn.  The stakes are much higher after you leave.

(As an aside, when I told my sister about forgetting to turn off the water pump, she helpfully reminded me that electricity works the same way.)

Baby Steps to Cruising

The baby step process is working for us for now.  No, it’s not that sexy.  We don’t sail every day, the ocean is 35 minutes away by car, the Master and Commander soundtrack does not follow me where ever I go. Heck, we blew off docking practice on Sunday to go see a movie. I hope that’s a habit we don’t fall into. I don’t want to adjust to life aboard our boat to the point we end up turning our boat into a floating apartment. So many here at the marina seem to have become one with the barnacles. Star Stuff needs to stay a working vessel so she will work when we do choose to sail off into the sunset.

So, if you are considering chucking it all and buying a boat, but the potential change is scaring you off, take heart. If you’ll baby-step it by moving into a liveaboard marina, it’s not that scary. It’s not even that hard.  You can read the owner’s manuals about your systems.  If you are handy, you can fix things as they break.  If you’re not handy, you can learn (or you can bring a lot of money).  But, curiosity is an absolute necessity for this lifestyle. That and a love of tinkering will get you far as a liveaboard.