The Reality of Moving Aboard a Sailboat

The Reality of Moving Aboard a Sailboat

We’re not very far along in our liveaboard sailing life but there is one thing I am certain of, sailing and boat ownership is not for lazy people.  Unless your rich, then you can pay other people to do all the work for you.  However, then you wouldn’t really be a sailor anymore, you would be a passenger…but I digress.

I didn’t have any major expectations about what moving aboard a sailboat would be like but I knew the lifestyle in general was going to be more work.  Yet, somehow, I didn’t expect the organizing, outfitting and beginning maintenance to be quite this exhausting.

Honestly, it should be a requirement that the boat brochures and cruising magazines have a least one real photo.  One where the sailors have bags under their eyes, blisters on their fingers and someone is fixing something broken.  Yes, that would be much more accurate than the typical sunset-calm-water sail that’s often depicted.

What’s even more interesting is despite the amount of work, our excitement for the lifestyle continues to build.  Sure, we bought a well maintained boat and could have jumped in the boat and taken off.  Instead we’re working hard to cross our t’s and dot our i’s.  We will have plenty of fun surprises in our future but we would like to be somewhat prepared for as many of them as possible.  Which is what we are busy doing now.  Getting to know our new home on water, learning what it takes to keep her floating and settling into the realities of being liveaboard sailors.

It’s going to be fun to look back on these videos in a year, two or three from now and poke fun at our newbie selves.  There’s just so much learning to do, and we realize we’ll never stop learning!

As we are slowly adjusting to our new lifestyle we can’t help but compare it to our previous one.  Apparently, neither can you.  We have gotten so many RV vs Sailboat type questions!  It really is an interesting contrast yet so many things are related.  Each lifestyle presents is own set of appealing ups and downs.  We’re not far enough along in our journey to form a lot of opinions yet but here is what we’ve found so far:

RV Travel VS Sailboat Travel

With the RV, we had a wide variety of clothing, supplies and gadgets for a wide variety of environments.  Moving at an average speed of 55-65 mph we could cover a lot of ground and be in a completely different climate within a few days.  For example in 2015 we started the year out swimming with sea cows in Florida, spent our summer climbing glaciers in Alaska and by fall we were wild camping in the desert of California.  We were always prepared for most any adventure no matter where our wheels might take us.

Sailboats on the other hand, travel at an average speed of about 5 to 10 mph but never have to worry about getting stuck in traffic.  We’ll be taking our time getting to know the coastal areas, tiny islands and local life.  Our travel pace will be much slower and we will have lots of time to prepare for any major changes in climates or weather.  For example, we will spend this summer exploring the Florida Keys and spend the fall/winter getting to know the Bahamian islands.  We’re most likely not heading to any glaciers anytime soon so, we won’t be needing our space heaters, winter hiking boots or mittens.  The sailboat also comes with it’s own waterfront lanai (cockpit) with built in seating so we won’t be needing our outdoor RV furniture either.

sailing vs rving
It takes about 3-4 hours to sail from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami. It takes less than an hour to drive there in a car or RV.

RV Storage VS. Catamaran Storage

It’s crazy because the boat seems way larger than RV, yet it seems to have less storage space.  The boat is 10 feet longer, over 10 feet wider and has 2 additional bedrooms (cabins) and bathrooms (heads).  It’s bright, airy, open and very spacious.  If I am completely honest, it feels a little gluttonous and overkill without others occupying the extra cabins (but we’re hoping to have a regular rotation of guests soon). Yet somehow with all this living space, there’s very little closet or cabinet space.

The RV was much more closed off but there were cabinets everywhere and we had a residential refrigerator for Pete’s sake!  It may have been a rolling rectangle (RV’s need some serious design help) but it’s rather incredible how comfortable and spoiled we were in our 300 square feet.

The boat has hatches and crash lockers for storage which are somewhat similar to the RV basement storage.  In both the RV and the boat, there are lots of awkward shaped compartments which makes organizing a challenge.  We’re also being pretty adamant about keeping things simple and slim.  We don’t want to cram every nook and cranny with stuff and want to be very conscious of the physical weight of our stuff for optimal sailing performance.  I’m so serious about minimizing, I ditched half of my already slim shoe collection.  I mean, this is probably the least amount of shoes I’ve had since I was six years old!

living on a catamaran
Singa occupying the guest cabin but not thrilled about the addition of a shark.

Sailboat Maintenance & Upkeep

RV’s are, for the most part, cheaply built toys.  Houses are built to last a lifetime while RV’s are built for weekend recreation. It’s amazing at what will hold together while driving 60mph down the highway.  Because RV’s are built light things break or jiggle loose often.  There is always something that needs to be done and buying a new rig doesn’t exclude you from the RV repair club.  RV engines are not always easy to get to and some require a lift, computer access or at least a well equipped shop.  Some RV’ers go the DIY route while others just save up the issues for their yearly service appointment.  We would tackle small jobs ourselves but saved all our major jobs up for one (or two) yearly service stop.  Unless it was a big issue, then we would call up AAA, hitch a ride in a tow truck and live at a service center for a few days.  Overall though, we really didn’t have to work hard on our RV and if you only washed it three or four times a year…no big deal.

Most bluewater sailboats are built sturdy and are made to last.  However, boats have the salty sea to contend with and lets just say Poseidon shows no mercy.  A small leak with a seemingly harmless few inches of water turns into a salt cake that requires a chisel within a week.  Metal rusts and white decks turn brown and unappealing every few days.  We’re still trying to put together our ongoing maintenance calendar.  Some things need to be done every few days, some once a month, others once or twice a year.  Overall, sailboat maintenance and upkeep is an ongoing task if you want to keep your ship in shape.

living on a catamaran

Thanks for watching, reading and following along…even when its not all sunsets and cocktails on the deck (but those days are coming too).

If you have any sailboat maintenance tips, a story to share or even a cocktail recipe to ease tired muscles…tell us about it in the comments below!