Before we set off cruising, we started off as liveaboards. To those on land, both of these options sound like someone who lives on their boat. While this is true, to boaters, there is a huge distinction.
Cruisers are those who take their boats places, be it for a day, a weekend, or even years. They are ready to untie the lines that hold them back and set off over the horizon!
Liveaboards are those who never leave their mooring. These can be people who live on a mooring ball, at anchor, or in a slip. The point to them is that they will not move their boat very far because to them it is a floating home.
This distinction goes even further as we delve into it more. All people who live on their boats are crazy, why else would you do it? But there are different levels of crazy in this world, and they help distinguish liveaboards from cruisers.
A cruiser will take pride in their yacht. This is their home and their travel machine! It opens the world up to endless adventures and new destinations. They will keep their top sides clean and their wood trim in good condition. Some go so far as to keep the brightwork varnished and the top sides looking like a mirror! The insides of these boats will be functional, as they live here but also sail it as well. We all have our clutter piles, but the cruisers clutter will usually be stable while heeled over!
A liveaboard will never take their boat out, so the need for efficient sailing dwindles away as they become more emphatic in living functionality. A common sight to see is a window unit air conditioner hacked into the companionway, giving them a comfortable living condition. These boats also tend to be older, and thus have leaky decks. The simplest solution to this it to fling a tarp over the boom to keep most of the rain out of the boat! The cockpit will begin to get cluttered as the insides are full and stuff gets piled on top of other stuff. Since the purpose of the boat is to live in and not to look pretty, these boats tend to be pretty dirty looking.
One last common trait that we have found with marina dwelling liveaboards is a giant TV screen. TVs are a wonderful invention. They allow you to travel the world, into the imaginations of others without ever leaving your couch! You can simply sit there and explore the universe without ever moving. It is very common to walk by a liveaboard boat that is so small and so piled up with junk that you wonder how anyone could live in such a small space, when you hear the TV blaring away. Then you realize how simple the answer is, the TV allows them to live there.
Their boat is nothing more than a floating theater. They can sit and watch the TV for days with a place to sleep and a eat, all within an arms reach. Instead of going out and experiencing the world, they can just as easily flip on the TV and have the world be brought to them.
Cruisers don't typically have a TV in their boat, and if they do, it is a small screen that doesn't take up too much space on a bulkhead. This is because cruisers like to experience life firsthand and a giant TV would just get in their way.
Each person gets to live their life in the manner of their choosing, but there seems to be a huge gap between liveaboards and cruisers. This gap is so large that I have found it comical to listen to others who have lived on boats go to great lengths to clarify that they were cruisers and not just a liveaboard.