Living Inexpensively On The Sea
By Captain Keith
Like many of you I lived a typical middle class life in a nice house and lots
of toys. The problem was that I only had one or two weeks free to use them. I
was living in a big house, filled with important “stuff” with my wife and two
On a fateful day in 2006 I was struck by an idea so powerful that I stood up
from my desk, walked to the personnel department and resigned. I would sell my
house, the extra cars, all that important “stuff” and live on a boat with my
family, and travel the seas as a free man. Needless to say this “shift” was not
initially accepted by my family. The major problem we faced was letting go of
things that had “positive emotions” attached. You know the trinket you got in
third grade from your best friend that is kept in a box in the attic that you
never look at. Then freeing ourselves of the belief that “space = success”. We
took out a piece of paper and wrote down the “benefits” in one column and “cost”
in another, and looked at our life in detail This was a great exercise. It
quickly showed that the love of material possessions and space had turned us
into wage slaves, and to get free only things we actually used needed to stay
and everything else was to go. Your house, job title, or car does not define
you. You are a perfect child of God. Everything else is fluff. Craigslist and
garage sales had all our stuff gone in a month. Once the house sold we moved
aboard. Expect no support from your family, friends or old coworkers – they will
call you names and pronounce you crazy. Be strong and chart your own course.
Make sure you are ready to fight for your freedom.
After the feathers stopped flying, we found ourselves living on an old 40 ft
racing sailboat. Everything seemed small when we moved aboard with all our
remaining possessions. We downsized one more time when we realized we still had
plenty of stuff we no longer used. Living on a boat was not new to us, we did
this every chance we got for vacation. (If you choose to live on a boat, it is
important you focus on having fun. Remember you are choosing to live this way.
The old wage slave life will haunt you for a while. Soon however the new found
freedom will win out). We cruised the entire summer in Washington State. I felt
as if I had gone to heaven. No alarm clocks, rocking to sleep each night. No
lawn to mow, no property taxes, no gutters to clean. My old corporate life
looked insane. My family has come to love this simple and rewarding
Choosing a boat
We choose our boat because it was the biggest sailboat we could get
for the money we had, and it had three separate sleeping quarters. It
is an old 1966 Cal 40 made of fiberglass. These early fiberglass boats
from the 60’s and 70’s are extremely well built, inexpensive, and easy
to repair and modify. My wife and I have some basic repair skills and
made repairs with sealant, fiberglass, plywood and upholstery. Most of
these early boats have lost their “shine”; if you can live without shine you
will do just fine. When choosing a boat it is important to consider the
- Only spend 75% of the money you have on your boat, the other 25%
will get used in “surprise” maintenance.
- Deal with leaks ASAP, all through-hull valves should easily close
(check before you buy). All deck leaks need to be corrected
ASAP. It is no fun living in a wet boat. Mold quickly becomes an
- Live in a marina for 6 months to get your sea legs, get the boat
problems corrected and meet your neighbors. This is a mental
adjustment period that must be respected. Ask marina neighbors
for cruising advise.
- You need a maintenance fund to paint the bottom of the boat every
two years with antifouling paint to keep barnacle bill and his friends
off the boat bottom. Also you need to keep zinc anodes fresh to
protect the propeller and shaft. Find a yard where you can do your
own work and save a bundle. It is easy to paint on bottom paint
with a paint roller.
Living on a boat has two distinct life styles
The first is living in a marina slip. Most people have a 30 amp power
cord which plugs into your boat and turns it into a mini house. Life is
simple and easy. Most marinas have water at the dock, toilet, showers
and laundry facilities. We use the marina toilets and shower whenever
possible. This is a fun lifestyle since all your friends, stores, and
favorite restaurants are right where you left them. And after the
initial shock, people will want to visit you on your boat. We spend half
our year dockside and really enjoy it.
The second lifestyle is cruising, a much more difficult, inexpensive and
rewarding way to live. This is where you unplug from 110V and live on
12V batteries. We have a five day set up – we carry five days water,
ice (for the ice box), and fuel for the motor. We also have a little gas
generator to get us out of trouble in case we let the batteries go dead.
Seems our laptop computer uses a lot of juice. Usually the motor
charges up our batteries.
We have one toilet that fills into a holding
tank – that’s the law. The intention is to offload your waste to a shore
side facility. The truth is very few shore side facilities exist. The truth
is people pump overboard while motoring in open water. We “go” in the
sea just like all the seals, dolphins, whales, fish, shrimp and crabs. This
is a legal issue however you need to be aware of. Every five days we
find a port city and fill up with water, ice, fuel and food. I often anchor
out and row in with plastic jerry cans for water and fuel.
If you like boats and want to live on the
water – you can truly live inexpensively
Let me offer you these tips:
- The best and most affordable live aboard slips are on Clearlake,
south of Houston. Moorage is about $300 per month and you will
need a liability insurance policy.
- Live aboard boats must be 30 ft or longer – this is a strict rule.
You can easily find a 30 ft boat for under $10,000 on craigslist
from an owner.
- Power boats have more room inside and offer a better view,
however are more expensive to operate. Sailboats are cheaper to
operate because the wind is free and they have small efficient
- You will need air conditioning in the summer – a simple window
model can be adapted to your hatch. Allow $100 extra per month
for your electricity bills in the summer.
- There are lots of temporary employment opportunities in the
Houston area – even in the current economy.
- Once in a while a hurricane whips through and kicks butt. This year
we really got it. My boat stayed safe because I was in a marina
with floating docks and tall pilings, which held together during the
12 ft storm surge and hundred mile winds. My boat survived fine.
Hundreds of boats at fixed slip were drug under water by their
mooring lines. This is important. Floating slips, tall pilings, wind
So you’re liking this “Life Aquatic”
lifestyle – what does it really cost?
30 – 40 ft fiberglass boat $10K to 30K, initial upgrades $1000 to $3000
slip rental $200-$300, electricity $25 to $100/month, laundry, food
boat liability insurance $1000-1800 (only need if in a slip), bottom paint
& zincs ($500-$1000)
30 ft boat, two people, $30,000/yr, in a marina. $15,000 per year
cruising and anchoring.
40 ft boat, family of four, $40,000/yr, in a marina. $25,000 per year
cruising and anchoring.
Solar panels $1500, wind generator $800 each. Small gas generator
$600, 5 gallons of gas for the generator is $10 week. We use the
generator one hour a day on anchor because it is the cheapest and
easiest and doesn’t depend on the wind or a sunny day. We also use it
for movie night.
Living in a boat is a real opportunity to live a great life inexpensively.
Plus many 30 ft boats can easily be prepared for ocean cruising. Have
you considered circumnavigation – you can if you want to. “The view of
paradise is the same from the deck of any boat.” The world of water is
yours for peanuts. Now that is Freedom.
See you on the water living cheap!
Captain Keith and the crew of Kismet