Living On A Sailboat - Pros & Cons

Living On A Sailboat - Pros & Cons | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Beth York

June 15, 2022

Living on a sailboat is an adventure which requires a complete lifestyle change for most people. So, what are the pros and cons of living on a sailboat?

There are many pros and cons to living on a sailboat. Hopefully you’ll find that the pros far outweigh the cons. Pros such as privacy, freedom, and adventure top my sailboat living list. Some cons are cramped living space, having your home rock when the weather turns nasty, and small living space.

There are many variables to consider when creating a list of pros and cons for living on a sailboat. Whether you live at anchor or at a dock, one con for sailboat living is the general lack of space. There are no walk-in closets on your typical sailboat. However, this can be seen as a pro if your goal is to minimize your belongings. Being at the mercy of the weather is a con which affects boats at anchor far more than docked vessels. Again, this can become a pro as your understanding of weather patterns will improve.

Although living on a sailboat is a big change from living in a house, there are so many pros to boat life that the cons seem inconsequential. I’ve been living on board my 30ft sailboat with my family for 3 years and for the most part, we’ve really enjoyed it. My biggest con on board my boat is lack of storage space. That’s due more to the length of my boat than to general sailboat life, though. If you’re an adventurous person looking to get away from your land based lifestyle, I definitely recommend sailboat living.


Table of contents

The Pros

Let's start with the positives, shall we? I always like to focus on the good, whenever possible.


When you live at anchor on a sailboat, you get to experience whatever level of privacy and solitude that you prefer. There are anchorages that are quite crowded and boisterous, but you’ll also find anchorages in which you are practically the only boat. You get to decide the level of privacy you want to enjoy.


I think one of the greatest pros for living on a sailboat is that it’s fun. It’s fun to sail around, and fun to wave to other boaters and people on land as you navigate the waters. Living on a sailboat is exciting, because every day is different and you never know what might happen next. There's very little ‘hum-drum’ in the life of a sailor. There's an endless list of projects to work on, activities to enjoy, and fellow sailors to socialize with.

Your Home Can Travel

This is one of the biggest pros for many sailors. So many of us have the permanent travel bug and it’s liberating to know that if you want a change of scenery, it’s as simple as lifting the anchor or throwing the dock lines. Within a few hours, you’re in a new place with new people and new opportunities.

For people with wanderlust, having a home that can travel is invaluable.

If you find that you don’t like the people on the boat anchored next to you, you can move your boat! Unlike living on land, you aren’t stuck with your neighbors.

Minimalist Lifestyle

It’s inevitable when moving onto a sailboat to have to get rid of a great deal of one's belongings. This forced purging gives one a new perspective on wants vs. needs. When you’re forced to par down your earthy goods to what can fit into a 30/40/50 ft boat, it allows you to see what you really need and get rid of the excess that is so common in the American lifestyle.

You value what few belongings made the cut and enjoy them that much more. It’s very freeing not to be weighed down by a garage, attic, or basement full of stuff that you don’t need.

Virtually Endless Adventure

There are so many fun activities that can be done while living on a sailboat. Besides the obvious one - sailing - consider these enjoyable pastimes:

  • Swimming
  • Snorkeling
  • Scuba diving
  • Kite surfing
  • Windsurfing
  • Fishing
  • Kayaking
  • Paddleboarding

Typical hobbies are easily enjoyed on sailboats as well. I’ve known sailors that sewed, painted, carved, wrote, took classes, on and on. The activities available on a sailboat are limited only by your imagination and obviously by the space available on your boat.

Strong Community

It's hard to beat the sailing community when it comes to helpful, caring people. Any time I have ever needed help or advice with any boat maintenance issue, fellow boaters are always more than willing to contribute in whatever way they can. Whether it’s offering up a spare part when you’re far from civilization, helping diagnose an engine issue, or just being there to give their 2-cents, the boating community is one of the most helpful around.

I’ve had someone come to my aid when my anchor was dragging in the middle of the night and I ended up on the rocks, shared a much needed spare impeller when my water pump failed, and been given mountains of advice about weather, routes, or favorite anchorages.

You never feel alone or unsupported when you’re a sailor in need. If there is a fellow sailor around to help, they most certainly will.

Many popular anchorages have a cruisers net that meets every morning at a certain time on a particular marine radio channel. Events are stated, as well as news and needs of the local cruising communities. It’s a great way to meet friends, find spare parts, or sell unused gear.

Unique Lifestyle

If you’re someone who has always enjoyed living life differently than everyone else, then living on a sailboat may be a good option for you. There are upwards of 100,000 people in the US living on sailboats which is a drop in the bucket compared to the 331,349,281 landlubbers. People that don’t live on boats are often baffled by those who do. Some are in awe of a water based lifestyle while others are certain they couldn’t do it themselves.

There's something rewarding in knowing that you’re breaking out of the ‘norm’ and forging your own path. Living on a sailboat can be a great jumping point for your unique lifestyle.

Incredible Scenery

I don’t know how many times I’ve anchored my boat up in front of multi-million dollar homes to enjoy the same insanely gorgeous view that they do, but for a fraction of the cost. Plus, sunsets and sunrises are breathtaking on the water. It’s fairly easy to find a secluded anchorage in most places, even near bustling metropolises.


Living on a sailboat brings us closer to nature. We tend to go to sleep when the sun sets and rise with the sun. You’re dealing with the weather on a daily basis, whether it’s heat, wind, rain, or cold. You experience weather more intensely on a boat. This causes us to appreciate the good weather all that much more. When the wind blows in the direction you want, when the wind doesn’t blow so you can enjoy a still night of sleep, or when the weather isn’t doing much of anything at all. You simply feel more gratitude and stop taking those nice weather days for granted.

The Cons

There are certainly some disadvantages of living on a sailboat. Trust me, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows blowing out your hatches all day long.

Small Living Space

A 30 foot sailboat averages around 250 sqft, while a 40ft would be around 300 sqft. It takes some time to adjust to such miniature living conditions. But, once you’re adjusted to it, most of us realize that we never really needed more space to begin with. Not all sailboats sport small living spaces. Some catamarans are like floating condos. But most monohull sailboats are pretty tight inside.

The Damp

Mildew is a common issue for most sailboats. There are a number of products available to combat mold growth. I’ve tried multiple over the counter sprays and while they work, the mildew almost always returns. A boat's interior is simply an ideal environment for mold. It’s out of direct sunlight, there's moisture, and there's often wood. Mildew loves wood.

Besides the mildew, there’s a constant dampness to bedsheets and clothing that just never seems to go away. Dampish fabric is something that you get used to and may only realize that you’ve been living with once you get a chance to stay in a hotel or house.

Having air conditioning helps considerably with onboard dampness.

Costly Maintenance

Boat repairs are often more expensive than one might expect. Mechanical parts are expensive and mechanics are even more expensive. You can keep your costs down by doing your own repairs whenever possible, but they don’t say Break Out Another Thousand for nothing. Plus, simple things like dock lines and fenders can really add up.

Having sails or cockpit canvas replaced is something that only needs to be done every 5-10 years. You’re looking at a cost of around $4000 for new sails and about the same for new bimini and dodger canvas.


When you’re living on land, you don’t have to pay too much attention to the daily weather unless you’ve got a hurricane headed your way. On a boat, however, it’s necessary to be in tune with the weather on a daily basis. When you’re living at anchor, you need to be aware of upcoming wind changes so that you can plan protective anchorages accordingly. And for those living at the dock, it’s definitely helpful to know when to double up on your dock lines for a blow heading at you.

If you’re living on your boat full time and cruising in the hurricane zone, then you either need to move your boat out of the hurricane zone, or have a hurricane hole nearby that you plan to move to in case the storm makes landfall near you. Countless boats have been totaled by being unprepared when a hurricane hit.

Limited Resources


Sailboats have a water tank which runs water to the sinks on board. All hand washing, dish washing, and water for cooking comes out of this water tank. Tanks can vary from forty gallons to hundreds of gallons. It’s necessary to be sparing with water usage to ensure that your water tanks will last you until your next fill up. This makes every drop count.

There's no endless showers, or letting the water run while you brush your teeth or wash your hands. My family makes our 40 gallon water tank last about a week before it runs dry. An average american family of 3 would use roughly 900 gallons of water per month in a house.


If you’re cooking and find that you don’t have all the ingredients that you need, you can’t just run to the store to pick up the missing item. Also, many boats only have a 2 burner stove, mine included. This can turn cooking into a juggling act. And if you’re lucky enough to have an oven on your boat, then it’s going to be about a quarter the size of a regular oven and is likely run on propane, which must be refilled on land when possible.


Electricity is also a valuable resource on a sailboat. Some boats rely on the engine's alternator to charge the batteries while others use a wind generator, solar panels, or gasoline generator. Your batteries can die permanently if they are drained too low by items like a refrigerator, air conditioner, watermaker, fans, or lights. It’s not as simple as flipping a light switch and not knowing where the power is coming from. Every bit of electricity is precious.

Living on a sailboat requires considerably more planning and thought than living in a house.

Home Security

In this section, I’m not talking about pirates and thieves. I’m talking about whether your boat is secure in its place in the water. Imagine leaving your boat at anchor, going to shore for shopping and dinner, only dinghy back out to your boat to find that it’s not where you left it!

Boats can drag anchor, have ground tackle fail, or even sink. If a through-hull or sea cock fails while you aren’t onboard, you may come back to a sunken boat. This is not something that you have to worry about with a house. A house will be there when you get back from the store, and it certainly won’t sink into the ground. Well, almost certainly.

Regarding pirates and thieves, there is very little theft on the water. But it’s always prudent to store or lock up any valuable items such as an outboard or generator. There are a few hot spots for piracy around the world, but with a little research, you will surely be able to avoid those areas.

Living On A Sailboat - Pros & Cons
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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