Can we live on a Boat?

Though most people choosing the off-grid lifestyle go for a RV or a tiny house on a hill top, but boat is also a viable option that often goes under the radar of many.

In this article, we aim to explore the option of living full-time on a boat (called liveaboards). We will also try to answer some related questions, such as:

  • Can you live on a boat in the ocean?
  • Can you live on a boat in a marina?

Though living on a boat seems like a romantic idea from far – open seas, fresh air, sunshine, complete freedom. But devil is always in the details. Our aim is to provide you a balanced view, present in front of you both pros and cons of boat life, so that you can avoid any unpleasant surprises once you take the plunge. It will help you make an informed decision.

Table of Contents
  • Benefits of living on a boat
  • Disadvantages of Boat life
  • Where can we dock our boat?

Benefits of living on a boat

Well, most of the benefits are pretty obvious:

  • Absolute freedom, especially if you are in the middle of a sea.
  • Awesome views, fresh air, and a sense of adventure. The kind of sunrise and sunset you get to see on high seas is unparalleled. If that fails to have an impact on you, wait till the nightfall. The clear night skies will take your breath away – I bet you will never see so many stars in cities. And the wildlife you will get to see – priceless! You will be closer to nature than ever.
  • Mobility to move from one town to another, or live far away from any inhabitation. Boats are the RVs of water world after all.
  • Your diet will change a lot – a lot of fresh food, fishes and canned food; less of fast food and processed food items.
  • You will lose a lot of weight and your muscles will get stronger. No need to join a gym. Your lifestyle will have all the exercise embedded in it naturally. This is truer for some manual kind of boats, such as sailboats.
  • Tanned, rugged skin. You may use SPF to avoid sun burns though.

All in all, a dream life. However, every coin has two sides, and boat life in no exception to this rule.

Disadvantages of Boat life

Expertise required

Just liking the boat life won’t be sufficient for you to live this lifestyle in reality. Like any other endeavour in our life, we need both will and skill to pull this off.

If you are a novice, you will need a lot of training just to learn the basic skills. To gain any shred of expertise, you will have to invest at least a year or so. And if you are aiming to live full-time on a boat, this is something that you will definitely need.

You cannot just buy a boat and venture into the sea. This may work with a RV to some extent, but not with a boat.

Pro Tip

Before taking the plunge of buying a boat and start living full-time in it, you should test the waters with some dry runs. Rent a boat for a few days and live on that. See if you are cut out for this lifestyle, if you enjoy it.

Imagining a fantasy life is easiest to do. You start learning about various potential problems once you start researching and reading about it. A pandora’s box will open once you experience it – one issue after another. Some you will face on the very first day, some on the second day, and with each passing day. See if you can handle these. If you find these manageable, and the bliss outweighs the banes, definitely go for it.

Not that cheap

Though living on a boat may seem cheaper than living on a brick-and-mortar house, and it is, but there are many recurrent running costs that you will have to face.

  • If you are docking your boat at some marina, then you will have to pay liveaboard slip fee. This will probably be the biggest expense you will face on a recurrent basis.
  • Your boat insurance costs will go up if you are living on it full time, or if it’s your primary residence.
  • There will always be something that you need to fix. So, maintenance costs get higher when you start living full-time on a boat. The more you can maintain the boat yourself, the more you will save. If you are hiring people to do all things for you, your bills will sky-rocket very soon.

Limited space and amenities

In most of the boats there is a limited space. So, you have to be minimalist – keep only the very basic things and commodities with you.

This may mean – no dishwasher, no washing machine, etc.

The on-board fridge on a boat will be much smaller than you are used to (and probably of top-loading type). Though you can always fish on high seas, can’t you? Well, unless you are a vegan.

Of course, if you can afford a large state-of-the-art yacht, you can live life king-size even on high seas. So, all this does not apply in that case.


Fresh food gets bad much faster on a boat, due to compact storage facilities, and humid conditions – ideal for bacteria, moulds and yeasts.

What about your Xbox or cable TV, or WiFi?

You will get a decent cell and internet connection till 4-5 miles (7-8 kms) from the shore. But you may find it hard to get once you venture further into the sea – so no texts, no social media, no calls. Some people do like it for small duration of time. But you will have to ask yourself whether you are ready for this for long durations.

Though there are some maritime satellite internet options available, but they may be a bit expensive and you may have to face frequent connectivity issues.

Washroom and Toilet nightmares

On most of the regular-size boats you will have to contend with small size washroom (called the head), barely big enough for an adult. There’s no running water and the number of personal care items you can take on board will also be limited.

Toilet facilities will also take some time for you to get used to. The flushing is manual, wherein the water is pumped into the toilet from a water pump. Toilets on boats are dry, just as they are on an aeroplane, so as to avoid splashing of water as boat rocks on sea water. Though in high-end boats you can have the luxury of electronic automatic flushes that use sea water to flush.

Also, we cannot just dump our waste into the sea water. It is collected in a container on board the boat. We have to get it emptied from time to time.


On boats, it will be a good idea to use bio-degradable toilet paper.

Restricted Shopping Opportunities

Well, it goes without saying that you won’t be able to shop if you are out at sea or somewhere remote on a river stream. So, you will have to plan everything and purchase all essential items beforehand.

But even then, problems can occur:

  • What if you run out of toilet paper?
  • What if you forgot to buy ketchup?
  • What if you develop a serious craving for pizza at the middle of nowhere?

Of course, apart from supermarkets, you will still need to come on land for many other services, such as schools, hospitals, pet-care, etc. But most of the people who choose this lifestyle don’t have kids or pets to take care of anyways. So, this probably is not an issue for most of us. If you are a family man, make sure all members in your family are comfortable with this lifestyle switch.

Pro Tips
  • Store enough drinking water onboard beforehand. In some bigger boats there are large, temperature-controlled water containers, that may ensure water supply for even a month.

  • Stocking up a lot of food allows us to have longer trips, but it also attracts a lot of insects. Do pest-control of your boat on a regular basis. Take the paper labels off the food cans to avoid cockroaches from spreading.

  • No matter what kind of boat you have, make sure you have enough safety equipment on board – life jackets, throwable flotation devices, etc. Sometimes storms come without a warning.

  • To avoid sea-sickness, you may close your eyes and rest from time to time, or maybe meditate. Or you may look at the horizon for some time – it’s the only stationary thing around on high seas and helps us regain balance when we are sea-sick.

Emergency Situations

Any off-grid lifestyle has a grey risky side to it. It’s even more true for boat life, where you are not on land and often mobile.

  • What if you need immediate medical assistance?
  • What if you run into a sudden bad weather?
  • What if your boat’s engine loses power in the middle of nowhere?

However, you may minimize these risks to some extent by taking some precautions. Always keep an eye on the weather, make sure someone knows where you are, or someone you can contact in case of emergency. And as far as possible, avoid venturing out alone for long durations. Boat life is awesome, especially if you have a partner. This will also reduce the risks to a large extent.

Where can we dock our boat?

Living on a boat allows us to travel when we want and explore new locations. However, sometimes we just look for location stability and want to anchor at the same place for some time.

So, where can we do this – at the middle of the ocean, at some marina?

Well, let’s explore all options available to us one by one.

  • If you aim to liveaboard in a marina then you most probably will have to apply for a permit. Sometimes, it takes time as there may be long waiting lists. Also, some marinas don’t allow people to liveaboard.
  • Living it the middle of the ocean is not illegal, nor will you need a permit of any sorts. But it’s risky for sure and definitely not a long-term solution. Moreover, you will have to make frequent trips to the shore on a regular basis – that will increase your fuel costs.

As you might have noticed, the disadvantages of living on a boat are more in the nature of challenges. If your free spirit is sturdy enough to overcome them with ease, the horizon is wide open for you. Go ahead, set sail!

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