Monday, February 27, 2012

Ten most common questions asked of liveaboards

This blog is about living aboard a boat in Puget Sound.  Since most folks consider this to be an unusual lifestyle and are curious about it, inevitably questions arise.  Below I have tried to put answers to the ten most common questions we have received over the years.   They are in no particular order, except that #1 is by far the most common question.


  1. Don't you get cold in the winter?
    No, we don't, because our boat is heated.  In fact, in this climate any liveaboard boat will have some form of heat.  On Eolian we actually have two heat sources:
    • An electrically powered heat pump that we use when we are at the dock and plugged into shore power (it has a thermostat and everything, just like your house), and
    • A diesel-fired heater which we use when we are off the dock

  2. Isn't the boat always moving?  Doesn't this bother you?
    Yes, the boat is always moving.  And no, it is not a problem.  The human body is amazingly adaptable...  so adaptable in fact, that when we are hauled out and the boat is stationary on stands ashore, it is the lack of motion which is discomforting.

  3. How do you sleep in all that wind?
    In light to moderate winds (up to say, 20 kt), we sleep just fine (see "adaptation", just above).  But in a heavy blow, well, we don't.

    And when at anchor, we don't sleep well when the wind goes above 15 kt.

  4. What do you do with your *ahem* sewage?
    This is an uncomfortable topic which folks ashore can mostly ignore, except when paying their sewage bills, of course.   The short answer is, "We carry it around with us."

    We have a tank onboard into which our sewage goes.  When it is full, it must be emptied before the onboard "facilities" can be used again.  There are a couple of services (we use SS Head) which will periodically come to your boat and empty your holding tank.   Also, most marinas in the Sound have facilities to pump out your tank.

    The sad and frustrating part of all this is that the carefully managed and collected sewage is then deposited into Seattle's sewage system which, thru a series of design decisions made long ago, overflows raw sewage into the Sound thru "Combined Sewage Outflows".  Thankfully, that only happens when it rains.  And we all know that never happens in Seattle.

  5. Where can you "park" your boat?
    The short answer: "Pretty much wherever you want."

    But that is an over-simplification.
    • You can tie up at any marina that has space on their docks.  For a fee, of course.   It's been a while since we did this, but I think the going rate may be running $1/ft, which means it would cost us $50/nite to tie Eolian to a dock.
    • With a few exceptions, you can anchor anywhere.

      But the preference is always to anchor somewhere where you will be protected from wind and waves.  This means in a bay, inlet, or harbor.

      Also, it is desirable to have water that is not too deep (we like to anchor in less than 30' if possible) or too shallow (Eolian needs 6'... at low tide).  And the bottom needs to have good holding characteristics - that is, the anchor will get a firm grip on the sea bottom.
      Beautiful surroundings are nice.  Thankfully, these are common in Puget Sound, the Gulf Islands, and the Inside Passage.

      As far as I know, there are no fees to anchor anywhere in Puget Sound.
    • You can tie up to a mooring buoy.  Washington State Parks maintain a whole host of Marine State Parks, each with mooring buoys.  Last time we tied up to one, I think the fee was $10/nite.  It may vary with location.

  6. Where do you park your car?
    We park our car in the marina parking lot.

    When we have the boat away from the dock, we simply do not have a car available to us.

    This means that we prefer to frequent places which have stores, pubs and restaurants that are with easy walking distance of the shoreline.  For example, there is a very nice grocery store within easy walking distance of the dinghy dock at Eagle Harbor.  But sadly, in Gig Harbor, the nearby grocery store has closed.

    Some boats carry bicycles.  These would extend the range a lot, but the carrying capacity not so much.

  7. What is it like when it rains?

  8. How do you live in such a small space?
    This is a big topic.

    We are all, every one of us, pack rats.  How else to explain the profitability of all those self-storage places out there?  It seems that we will fill the space available to us, with things that we "might" need at some point in the future.

    Living on a boat forces you to face up to this, up close and personally.  For example, before I got my Kindle, if I found a book I wanted to keep, I was forced to make a decision on which book I was willing to discard to make room for it.

    But even tho you start with more available space ashore, you will eventually be faced with the same decision:  Can I afford to store this (object) somewhere?  Living on a boat, you just reach this point sooner.

    Of course, many liveaboards rent those self-storage units.

  9. What do you do for electricity?
    This is another big topic.

    When we are at the dock, we have a cord which plugs Eolian into the electrical grid.  Thru that cord, we can get up to 30 amps.  How much is that?  Is it a lot?  No - it's not much at all, compared to the 200 amp service you probably have at your house.  But it is enough.

    When we are away from the dock, we have far less electricity available to us.  We have a diesel generator onboard, but it is noisy, so we avoid running it as much as possible.  We carry 8 large batteries in our bilge which provide us with most of our electrical needs.  Of course, these are storage...  we must refill them with electricity periodically (there's that generator again).

  10. How do you get your mail - at the marina, right?
    Until recently, the answer to that question was, "No."  The marina provides no mail services, so we kept a Post Office Box near where I work.  But that all changed a year ago, when Angela on s/v Ghost across the dock started Dockside Solutions.  What a wonderful blessing that has been!  Not only does she do the mail and USPS packages, but also UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc. packages as well.

If, after reading thru this, you have a question about living aboard a boat that I have not answered above, please put it in a comment, and I'll try to answer it  (to bloggers, comments are like candy!).


Scott Meilicke said...

Bob, I really enjoy your blog. To someone who is thinking about about living on a boat, it has been very interesting. Thank you.


Robert Salnick said...

Scott -

Thanks for your kind words!

If you're ever down near Shilshole, be sure to stop in!


Anonymous said...

Having lived aboard since 97, I'd say you did a great job of explaining the nuts and bolts!!
thom aboard the Rula M

Robert Salnick said...

Anon -

Glad to hear you say that. And what a coincidence - we moved aboard in 1997 too!


courtney said...

Common questions indeed. You addressed them nicely.
Where are your favorite spots to anchor? I'm looking to plan my summer cruising schedule and would like to avoid dock fees whenever possible.

Robert Salnick said...

Courtney -

Coming from a writer, I value that greatly. Thanks!

Favorite anchorages... Big topic.

Close by:
Port Madison
Manzanita Bay
Eagle Harbor
Blakely Harbor
Poulsbo (Hi!)
Blake Island (anchor when condx are benign)

Are you going North or South?


Courtney said...

Hi Bob,
I'd like to go north, but by the list of your favorite spots, it would seem I'm already in the zone. I think I'll spend some time in Eagle Harbor and hit up Blake again, but my dream is to go to the San Juans. I was up a few years back and thought it was gorgeous, even considered moving to Friday Harbor. Now that I live on a boat, I'm eager to "live" there for a week or two.

Next time you're in Poulsbo, send me an email!

Robert Salnick said...

Courtney -

Cruising to the San Juans is a noble goal, and one which is well within your reach. You will be delighted when you do so!

Previously, I gave you a list of our favorite nearby destinations. Here is a list of Northern destinations (in no particular order):

o Echo Bay, Sucia Island
o Ganges, Saltspring Island
o Montague Harbor, Galiano Island
o Friday Harbor, San Juan Island (anchor, not dock)
o Blind Bay, Shaw Island
o Parks Bay, Shaw Island
o Center Island
o Roche Harbor
o Reid Harbor, Stuart Island
o Jones Island
o Port Ludlow
o Spencer Spit

We've anchored in a lot of other places, but we seem to always return to these


LARRY said...


CherylAnn said...

So exciting to find your blog. I am presently looking for a boat to buy to live aboard. I am so looking forward to downsizing, no storage units for this girl. Life is moving so fast it will be a joy to slow it down. Thankyou for your reflections. Cheryl

Robert Salnick said...

Welcome to the life Larry! If you're ever up north, please look us up!


Robert Salnick said...

CherylAnn -
Thanks for your kind words and I hope you are able to make the transition to life aboard! If you're ever in Anacortes, please stop by Cap Sante Marina, slip D-51.


ADHIRAJ said...

Your blog is really awesome, thank you so much for sharing with us this valuable information.

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