Living on a boat.

I went back to my journal and found this, written on the anniversary of my liveaboard, almost a full 2 years ago. I had been a liveaboard for a full year at that point and here were my thoughts.

A year of living on a boat.

Today is the eve of my first anniversary as a full time liveaboard. A full time liveaboard is one who lives on a boat as a primary home, in my case the only home. My land base home has been rented out exactly a year ago.

This is a longer than usual write up. I have shared many events of my day to day life on Micasa over the past year and today I would like to share with you some of my thoughts in retrospect on what living on a boat is like.

First thing first, forget for a moment the glamour and “high five” good times impression that you may have of such a lifestyle. Yes sure, I have had lots of good times both living on Micasa and sailing her around. The underlying most predominant thing here is that it is a lot of responsibility. Responsibility for the safety of those on board firstly and secondly the responsibility of making and having your vessel seaworthy, as this will ultimately leads back to the safety of all on board.

The sea with all its beauty and magnificence can be a very scary place for us land dwelling creatures (we would have gills otherwise). A calm serene day can very quickly turn into a violent storm. One that can shake both your boat and you to the very core. Imagine your home being thrown around as if it’s in a gigantic washing machine. You as the captain of the vessel can do little apart from the preparation and precautions you may or may not have taken up until then. Going about on the deck, in the fury of a storm, is far from safe and should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. Remember one thing too! You are on your own. Anyone who dares come to your aid will be at the full mercy of the violent sea, at such times. There are no tow trucks and no time out (or reset button). This is real life and you’ll just have to pray and ride it out.

I am no hero and neither do l have a great appetite for risk taking. Everything that I do on the boat is directed towards this one important factor. To reduce the risk of harm to those on board and the boat itself. To ensure that Micasa is seaworthy and that all her critical functions work well enough that when called upon, she will be able to get us out of harm’s way. Much like a chess player, I tend to look many steps ahead these days when it comes to anything on Micasa. Be it a simple repair or alteration, I will, in my mind, run it through the scenarios of potential harsh conditions and question the ability of the repair or alteration to put up with them for years to come. When things breakdown or come undone, it will most of the time, happen during such punishing times. During such times, your plate will already be spilling over the sides and you would want to ensure that lesser is being heaped onto this very plate. This is not meant to scare anyone but to share with you the gravity of potential situations one is likely to end up in, when at sea. Well, It did happened when on one cruise when we were anchored at a river mouth near Tanjung Pinang in Bintan, Indonesia (one of my earlier “share” in Facebook – 1st Nov. 2016). One simply does not blissfully and gaily set forth into the blue sea without good preparations. The sea will very quickly teach you humility and respect for her.

Alright, serious stuff out of the way. Once the boat is kept at a good level of seaworthiness you should go and enjoy what the sea and land reachable by sea has to offer. The thing that always amazes me is the sight that I see when I open my front doors in the morning, when away on a cruise. I am in the comforts of my home, though small it may be relative to most land based homes, it offers me all the conveniences of a real home. Yet, this home can take me to beautiful and exortic, off the beaten path destinations. You literally take your home with you on a holiday. The freedom you get from this, is one which is hard to put down in words. There are many cruisers out there enjoying this on a daily basis. Weather permitting, when you feel you have had enough of a place, you would simply set sail for your next destination without having to sacrifice any of the comforts of home. On each shore, a new adventure awaits.

The boating and sailing community is the other amazing thing. On a shore based home, we would hardly know our neighbours. But not so on the water. It is a true community in every sense of the word. I once wrote that a neighbour offered me a dinner of pasta, fearing that I might go hungry that evening. When help is needed I need not even ask for it at times. Help can offer itself right at my doorstep, at the time of need. It is a close knit community. One that I am truly happy to be a part of. On my dock, a neighbour is always having a barbecue on Friday nights. Invitation is always open to the neighbours. Just turn up with some food or drinks that you can share, is the general rule. Even if I am sometimes caught empty handed, I am still welcomed to share their food and drinks. The warmth and friendliness amongst the neighbours is something that I have not seen in any neighbourhood I have been in, barring none.

So those are some of the highlight moments, but what of my day to day living? Space is always limited. It’s something which I have grown accustomed to. Before buying anything the questions are always, do I have space for it? Do I really need it? Can I do without it? More often than not, it is a resounding “Yes” to the later! A big plus to having a smaller home is that it’ll just take me a fraction of the time to vacuum and mop the floor. In fact I do not even use a mop, just a piece of rug and a small bucket. It is easier to keep clean and tidy, yet at times when something goes missing, it is almost impossible to find despite the small space. Why? Every bit of storage space is stacked to the bream. To take the stove kettle out (when no shore power is available for the electric kettle) for example, I will need to remove half a dozen things before being able to reach it. Every now and then, especially in the earlier months, I will repack some of these storage cabinets and lockers. Placing the most commonly used items within easy reach as the routines become more set. There are dedicated storage for household items and clothing and some are for tools, spares and emergency equipment like spare anchor and chains, emergency tiller and even a sea parachute (this last one you would hope not to have to use). I have always been pleased with myself for having chosen Micasa with all that she came with. She is only a medium size sailboat and yet has a good layout which makes her space very livable. She came well equipped enough to cross vast seas. One of her previous owners has been a seasoned sailor and has equipped her well. Going through the things on the boat even months after I have bought Micasa, I realised how much thoughts and planning have gone into gearing her up. There were many things which I had no idea about when I first saw them during the initial “cleaning up” process. I did not grow up in a sailing fraternity. Despite of the vast amount of materials I have read, consumed and digested in the year or so it took me to find the right boat, there were still much I did not know about when it comes to boats and sailings. I have also taken some Royal Yachting Association courses which included five days out at sea on a sailboat before becoming a liveaboard. After a year of living on Micasa and occasionally taking her out for short cruises, there still remain much to be learnt. This learning process has been an interesting adventure in itself.

Living on a boat has made me very conscious of my own consumption. Water for example, is precious. Electricity is the other that I have become very conscious about. Simply because these things are finite and depend on the availability of resupply sources, which are not always there. I am also buying my groceries in smaller packing size (like toothpaste and coffee for example) simply for the lack of space to store the excess. Strangely, this has also made me more aware of what and how much I am consuming. As of now I am even embarking on a project to go off grid on my electricity requirement. To be self sufficient. Living on a boat has made me a much greener person simply out of necessity.

Yes there are a few more chores and precautions needed on a boat. The water tanks will always need topping up, the air-conditioner needs maintaining for example, and when away from the boat for more than a day, it’s always a good practice to turn off the seacocks (inlet or outlet for water), after all, this home can sink. After a while these become second nature. It’ll come automatically, like taking your shoes off before entering your home. Which I do on Micasa, and BooBee my sailor dog – she gets her paws wiped with a wet piece of cloth soaked in Dettol, after each time she’s been out for a walk. More to come about BooBee the sailor dog, in another write up.

Most other maintenance, such as the engine, the windlass (anchor winch), general plumbing or even servicing of the air-conditioner can be done by professionals. However this being a boat (some refer to it as a yacht which I dare not) everything will cost double if not triple of what a car servicing would cost for example. There are fewer people doing these for boats and they are of the impression that boat owners are able to afford it. True for some but not for all but that is hardly an excuse for robbery. I tend to do all of the work myself, for a few reasons. I do have the time and I am also not afraid to get my hands dirty but these are not the main reason why I do do them. I need to know as much about the boat as possible, as I have mentioned earlier that out there, you are on your own. If your engine breaks down for example, no one can repair it for you until you came back to shore. Knowing your boat better will give you a better chance of fixing thing out there, when required to.

Will I still choose this way of life if I get a reset? Absolutely! Despite of all the hazards and inconveniences, I have had a blast of a year. A year of interesting living where I have looked forwards to each day. Despite of the few extra ounces of responsibility on my shoulder, the highlight times are simply too good to be missed. One year is a long enough period of time to say that I now know what life as a liveaboard is like. For the foreseeable future I will choose to continue having a boat as my home.

I will continue to share my adventure and life aboard and maybe someday even write a book about it. In the meantime, stay tuned and thank you all for tuning in.

Remember to live life in the present – the present will not be around for long!

Published by Ben

Semi retired ex-corporate executive. Now a liveaboard on a sailboat with the Admiral and my sailor dog.

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1 Comment

  1. Hi Ben, after reading your blog, it is not difficult to find you are a fervent and enjoyable life person. Please insist to share your life at sea with more people, it is very rare.

    From Vivian


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