Is It a Good Idea To Live on a Sailboat?

Is It A Good Idea To Live On A Sailboat? | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Beth York

June 15, 2022

If you’re thinking about changing your lifestyle but you’re not sure how, consider living on a sailboat. Is it a good idea to live on a sailboat?

If you’re an adventurous person who is interested in a minimalist lifestyle, then living on a sailboat could be a good idea for you. However, if you like to have the floor in your home be steady all the time and you really love your walk in closet, then living on a sailboat is probably not a good idea for you.

Only you know whether it's a good idea for you to live on a sailboat. Living on a sailboat will likely require you to get rid of ¾ of the stuff you own. Storage is limited on a sailboat, so you have to be very selective when choosing what to bring aboard. Also, even when at the dock there is a certain amount of movement that occurs when living on a boat. Sometimes it’s a lot of movement. If you’re prone to motion sickness, boat-living isn’t likely to be in your future. I’ll go into further details ahead.

Growing up, my family of 4 lived aboard our sailboat 3 months of every year. Each summer, we said goodbye to our house and moved onto our boat. It always took some adjusting, but before I knew it, it became home. The past 3 years I’ve been living aboard my sailboat with my own family. Living on a sailboat fit perfectly into our somewhat nomadic lifestyle and desire to decrease the amount of ‘stuff’ that we owned. For us, it was definitely a good idea to live on a sailboat. We love it!


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Who Lives On Sailboats?

There are somewhere between 50,000 - 100,000 people living on sailboats in the US currently. While that is a very small percentage of the population, I’ve got to believe that a much greater number of people wish they could live on a sailboat. Financial, geographical, or personal issues may be stopping them from making the leap into sailboat living.

Throughout my travels, I’ve met many full-time liveaboard cruisers. Across the board, they have been kind, helpful, and unique. While most full-time liveaboards are retired couples, there are certainly younger couples and families out there living on sailboats. It requires a certain amount of bravery to give up your land based lifestyle and transition to living on the water. You have to possess a certain ‘can-do’ attitude. Extensive mechanical or sailing knowledge isn’t required, but being capable of learning new skills and a willingness to get your hands dirty goes a long way.

What To Expect If You Live On A Sailboat

The Good

Obviously, I’m pro-sailboat living. Here’s why:

  • Minimalist lifestyle
  • Home can travel
  • Exciting activities readily available
  • Friendly community

There are many different sailboats out there with a whole slew of various amenities depending on one's budget. I have always lived aboard sailboats under 40 feet. I’ve never had air conditioning, a washing machine, or a watermaker. My sailing style has always been focused around minimalism and simplicity. Please keep that in mind, as there are many boats out there that are quite similar to a floating condo. I simply have no experience with them.

For me, living on board a sailboat has always been a good idea. It just fits well into my lifestyle. I love swimming, sailing, fishing, and exploring new places. These activities are boundless when you live on a sailboat. I don’t get seasick, so rough weather doesn’t put me down for the count. I’ve never cared much for fashion, so I couldn’t care less if I break a nail or have to live a day or two without showering.

I fear stagnancy in my life, and things rarely stay the same for long when you’re living on a sailboat. If you get tired of a town, move onto the next one. Don’t like your neighbors? Move your boat! If you want a change of scenery, you don’t have to go on a vacation to get it. Simply relocate your sailboat. It’s an ideal lifestyle for the eternally restless.

The Bad

Don’t get me wrong, though. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Even an experienced sailor like me can get a little sick of living on a sailboat. Now, keep in mind that I live at anchor full time, but here are some of the downsides that I’ve discovered over the years.

  • Damp conditions
  • Cramped conditions
  • Lack of Privacy
  • Dealing with the weather
  • Expensive repairs

It’s a no-brainer that a boat can be damp inside. It’s sitting on the water, for crying out loud. Some sailboats equipped with air conditioning or a dehumidifier may not find the dampness to be an issue.

On all the other boats, though, mildew thrives. Ask almost any boater about mildew and you’ll get an earful. It’s a never ending battle keeping mildew from growing on wood and fabric.

Cramped conditions are also a given on most personal sailboats. Even if your main cabin is spacious, your bathrooms aren’t likely to be more than a closet.

Lack of storage is a common issue for many sailors, as well. There is only so much usable space within a boat hull. There's no basement/attic/garage to store unused items. You must be fastidious when choosing what to bring onboard your sailboat.

Somedays, it feels like you’re constantly stepping on each other's toes and getting in each other's way. Consecutive rainy days are bound to intensify the cramped feeling on board a sailboat. It can take every ounce of patience and goodwill not to lose it from time to time.

Due to the limited space on a sailboat, privacy is often an issue. This goes hand in hand with the cramped issue. If you’ve just had an argument with your crew/partner/spouse, there are very few places you can go on a boat to get some space and alone time. Sometimes the best you can do is have one person go to the bow while the other goes to the stern. You find ways to make it work.

Being aware of upcoming weather day to day is necessary when you live on a sailboat. If a front comes through, you can find your boat go from a placid, relaxing sanctuary to a rocking shoebox in a matter of minutes. It can be exciting If you know it’s coming, but terrifying if you’re unprepared.

Here's an acronym that I get a kick out of : Break Out Another Thousand. Get it? BOAT? Boat maintenance can be expensive. Repairs are costly if you need a mechanic, and it seems like something is always breaking on a boat. Freshwater boats see less breakdowns than saltwater due to the increased corrosion of the saltwater. If you’re willing to learn how to do your own repairs, though, the costs can be kept at a minimum.

Is It a Good Idea To Live on a Sailboat?
Beth York

Beth York

Beth lives on board her 1983 30ft S2 sailboat with her husband, 6 year-old son, and her two fur babies. She has been sailing and boating for most of her life. Beth has been blessed to experience cruising in the Great Lakes, the Bahamas, and in Alaska. She loves to travel and adores living on her tiny boat with her family.

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