Decisions about Living Aboard

When you decide to leave your land based home and move into a boat, there are a lot of decisions to make at the beginning that will drastically affect your life on the water for years to come. The biggest decision you need to make is "What kind of boat?" 

The three biggest categories that your choice can fall into are: Sailboat, Powerboat, and Houseboat. Within each of these categories, the choices will be nearly endless, but in a broad sense, these three options will pave the way for a very different liveaboard life.

Houseboats are practically floating homes. They have house sized appliances, and plenty of space inside. If your dream is to live on a boat in a marina, plugged into shore power and water, a houseboat may be the answer. If you would like to take your boat out for the weekend or longer, you might want to keep looking at other styles of boats. Houseboats are roomy, but not very sea worthy. They are designed to be comfortable homes, not capable cruisers. While this is a general statement, and there are always exceptions to the rules, most houseboats fit this mold. Even the houseboats that are marketed as "performance cruisers" can only handle mild seas. 

Powerboats trade some of the comforts of a houseboat for added performance and sea worthiness. Powerboats range a huge spectrum from tiny express cruisers to titanic mega-yachts. Common liveaboard boats are sport fishermans, motoryachts, and trawlers. Each of these types have their benefits and drawbacks, you simply have to see which one strikes your fancy. While living in a powerboat gives you the comfort of space and the ability to go out for a weekend or extended cruise, you will have to pay for it. Powerboats consume fuel to get anywhere, and this means you have to pay to go places. Typically, the faster you go, the more you pay: trawlers typically consume 2 gallons per hour and move around 5 to 6 knots while sport fisherman and motoryachts will consume 40 gallons per hour or more while planing along the surface of the water. If you have places to be and money to burn, a powerboat will keep you to your schedule.

Sailboats are the polar opposite of a houseboat and quite far off from a powerboat. They offer the least amount of interior space while living at a marina when compared to their beamier brethren, and they don't move very fast either. Sailboats have tapering bows and sterns, allowing them to glide through the water more efficiently. This means that the beam of the boat is only the beam at one point of the boat. If a sailboat has a 14 foot beam, that means that the middle of the boat will be 14 feet; as you move forward or aft from this point, the boat will taper down to only a few feet wide. By contrast a powerboat with a 14 foot beam will be 14 feet wide from the stern almost all the way up to the bow, where it tapers to a point. A houseboat with a 14 foot beam will be 14 feet wide from bow to stern, because they are a floating box which offers maximum interior volume.

It might seem that sailboats are the worst choice to live in when powerboats and houseboats are available as well, but they do have one strong point: they can sail! Sailboats are powered by the wind, which is free, giving them a nearly unlimited range. What sailboats lack in interior space they make up for with travel space. Sailboats can take you to countless places, letting you explore new waters and voyaging off into the distance.

If you plan to stay tied up the a pier and never leave the marina, a houseboat might be your best bet. If you want to take your boat out of the slip from time to time, a powerboat will grant you that versatility for a price. Lastly, if you plan to travel a great distance and don't want to pay for fuel, a sailboat can take you there!

On a less "performance" point of view, you should also live in a boat that you like the lines of. If you think houseboats are ugly, try a roomy powerboat. If you like the look of a sailboat and are willing to sacrifice interior space, get a sailboat! It should start with what you want out of the boat and then move towards what you like best in a boat.