Living On A Boat – The Good, The Bad, And The Beautiful

Interested in living on a boat? Today’s article will show you what I think about living on a sailboat. “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than those you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the wind in your sails. Explore….

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 24, 2023

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase via my links, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. See my disclosure for more info.

living on a boat

Interested in living on a boat? Today’s article will show you what I think about living on a sailboat.

“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than those you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  – H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Wow, it’s crazy to think that we’ve been living on a boat for over a year now! Just a year ago, I was pretty much a complete newbie to sailing. I had no idea what I was doing, and at times, I was wondering what the heck I had gotten myself into.

You can read all about our start in Welcome To Paradise – We’re Living On A Sailboat!

In the beginning, I shed a lot of tears, was stressed out, and occasionally wondered if I made a huge mistake.

But, I also pushed myself, learned a ton, and was rewarded with each new accomplishment. I’ve even received compliments on my docking, line handling, and sailing skills from other sailors, and that is so nice because it helps improve my confidence with this never ending learning process. I know that I am not perfect, but I know that I am trying my hardest!

We had so many people tell us that they were excited for our new journey, but we also had just as many people tell us that we were going to die and/or not make it.

So many people told us that the first year of sailing and living on a boat would be the toughest, and we’ve personally met many people who quit just a few months into the sailing life due to that.

While I am still no expert (learning never ends when it comes to sailboats), I am very proud of what I’ve learned this past year – not just about sailing, but pushing my own limits as well.

While the first couple of months living on a boat were the hardest, the recent months have been absolutely amazing.

There have been amazing sails, beautiful sunsets and sunrises, great snorkeling, fun dinghy rides, so much incredible sea life, fun visits from family and friends, and more.

I love being on our boat and I’m sad whenever I have to leave it. I love sailing, I love the planning that goes along with it, I love going to new destinations, I love being on the water, and more.

It’s crazy to think back to the start of this past year and realize how much I’ve grown and learned. It’ll be interesting to read this post next year and do a second year update.

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Recently, I posted the following question on Twitter, and between the responses there and the questions I’ve received via email and Instagram over the past year, I have a lot of things to talk about today.

So today, I am going to answer your questions about living on a boat and how to live on a boat!

What it’s like living on a boat.


Did you quit RVing because you didn’t like it?

Oh, have I heard this question so many times…

We did not stop RVing and switch to sailing because we didn’t love RVing.

In fact, we loved RVing a TON! We decided to start sailing because we wanted to learn something new and go on a new type of adventure.

While we sold our RV last year, we haven’t finished our RV adventures.

I recommend reading 11 Reasons to Choose RV Life.


living on a boat in Florida


Is living on a boat as perfect as it looks on Instagram and Youtube?

Things aren’t always picture perfect like on Instagram – cruising on a boat and traveling with your home is a lot of work.

One of the things I hear ALL of the time about sailing is “the highs are high and the lows are super low.”

That is the truth.

The hardest part for me about living on a boat is the fact that I enjoyed RVing sooooooo much, and I sometimes miss the adventures we had on land – rock climbing, long hikes, cycling, and more. While this is possible to do while living on a boat, it is a little more difficult as you can’t exactly park your boat at the bottom of a mountain or carry a bunch of outdoor gear on board. In fact, we can barely find room for our folding bikes on our boat, let alone a mountain bike.

RVing had gotten so easy and comfortable. There really weren’t any super lows – everything really was amazing.

But, we had wanted to move onto a boat for quite some time. Actually, we wanted to live on a sailboat before we even started RVing.

We made the switch to a sailboat because we wanted the challenge, to gain new skills, and to try something different.

And, living on a boat does bring lots of new challenges, like dealing with the weather, fixing broken things, staying safe, it being expensive (boats are expensive!), and more.

I talked about the subject more in my recent blog post Is Full-Time Traveling As Good As It Sounds?

Still, sailing is great and the highs are amazing! I would never trade all of the hard things in for all of the incredible things we’ve been able to do – sailing to new locations, spending time exploring beautiful islands, being able to moving our home with just the wind, being able to make our own water, and more. There really are so many great things about sailing that you just can’t do while RVing.

Related: Living In A Boat Or RV? What Is Better?


What did you do the first year on your boat?

In our first year living on a boat, we:

  • Sailed from Fort Lauderdale to St. Pete (we stayed in St. Pete for hurricane season).
  • Went on many day and overnight anchorages at nearby islands to improve our skills and to have fun during hurricane season.
  • Added several things to our boat, such as a Code 0, feathering props, and more.
  • Sailed to Key West on a friend’s sailboat – the boating community is great!
  • Once hurricane season was over, we sailed to Key West and did our first solo overnight sail. It was around 33 hours and was the first time it was just the two of us sailing.
  • Hung around the Keys for about a month.
  • Sailed to the Bahamas and went to so many islands.
  • The first stop was Bimini. Bimini isn’t usually talked about a ton, but we loved this little island!
  • Then, we went to Grand Bahama. We stayed for just a few days to check it out.
  • Afterwards, we headed to the Berry Islands, Great Harbour Cay to be specific. We absolutely loved the community here, as well as the fresh bread delivered to the marina. Yum!
  • Next, we sailed to Chub Cay. We had a visitor fly in to stay with us and we stayed for a while to relax after the busy months we had.
  • New Providence came next, and we loved Nassau! People were friendly and there was a lot to do.
  • And on to the Exumas. We were only able to do the northern Exumas this visit, but it was a blast. We will definitely be back! We snorkeled, saw a ton of sea life, and the blue water just can’t be beat.
  • Then Eleuthera. After visiting Eleuthera by plane the previous year, we knew we wanted to bring our own boat for a visit. While we only visited one tiny spot on this long island, we had a great time.
  • After that, we somewhat retraced our steps and went back to Florida (where we are now) to have some boat work completed.

I ended up with around 3,000 nautical miles under my belt in the first year of living on a boat. I accomplished more than I thought I would, and I am so very happy with how the year went!

living on a boat at sea

What are your future sailing plans?

As full-time travelers, we don’t live by a specific schedule, and that’s because things can change fast. One thing we learned from RVing is that it’s hard to plan even a month out, let alone years.

Our plan right now, which will probably change, includes going back to the Bahamas next winter and exploring the parts that we weren’t able to visit, such as going further into the Exumas, the Abacos, more of Eleuthera, and so on.

There are around 700 islands in the Bahamas, and we loved our time there so much that we definitely want to go back!

The Bahamas are great, especially if you have dogs. The Bahamas are easy to get into and each island is a little different.

Related: Living In A Boat Or RV? What Is Better?


When will you be done living on a boat?

The number one question we got while RVing was “how do you get mail?” The number one question while sailing is “when will you be done?”

I find this super funny because the questions are so different even though they are both about full-time traveling.

I have no idea when we will be done. There are still so many places we want to see and sailing goals we want to meet.


How are the dogs doing on the boat?

For some reason, some of you think that we just gave our dogs away. Haha, that simply isn’t true! I wouldn’t be living on a boat if it meant my dogs couldn’t come. We’ve had them for far too long – we got Sailor when we were just 18 years old, French Fry when we were about 20. They come on nearly all of our trips, and they seem to love it!

We have taken things slowly with them since they are older and didn’t grow up on a boat. Taking it slow is the top tip we’ve heard heard from other people with boat dogs.

They’ve adjust really well, and our dogs can get on and off the boat just fine. Sailor runs on and off without any help and hasn’t fallen in at all (yet).

We had no problems bringing them to the Bahamas, but we did have to get some documents in order to be approved, which wasn’t too difficult.

Since our dogs were used to RV life, they got used to a TON of walks, chasing us on mountain bike trails, hiking mountains, and more. But, that didn’t really translate very well to boat life, haha.

We’ve learned that even though we would love to visit far away islands, our bigger dog just likes walks too much. To keep her happy, and us, we’ve done shorter sails and still walk her about 5-6 times a day.

We’ve met many people who have re-homed their pets due to the reasons above, and others who limit walks. We know some people who literally never walk their dogs, we know some who walk once a day, and then there’s us – walking our dogs about 5-6 times a day. Due to this, we tend to get some weird looks from other sailors.

But, I’m fine with all of this. We still find plenty of places to explore and I just can’t imagine not bringing our dogs with us! While there is definitely more planning required when you have dogs on a boat, we wouldn’t trade it for the world.


How do you receive mail?

Last year, we switched our residency from South Dakota to Florida. We chose South Dakota while we were RVing as it’s a state friendly to full-time RVers (fun fact: it’s one of the top 3 states that full-time RVers tend to choose). Now that we are on a boat, though, Florida makes more sense.

We belong to a mail forwarding company called St. Brendan’s Isle. All of our mail gets sent there, and they forward our mail to wherever we are.


Aren’t you scared of rogue waves, sharks, your boat breaking down, modern day pirates, or unexpectedly sailing into an unfriendly island?

I get asked this a lot, and it’s tough to answer.

These are all things that can and have happened to people while sailing. There are ways to prepare yourself for freak events and ways to be more careful, but in the end, I’m not scared enough to stop sailing.


How much learning and training do you need to put yourself (and your husband) through to sail and operate a boat?

Learning never ends on a boat. We did training in June and July of last year and have been doing everything by ourselves since then.

Wes has logged many more miles than I have, and he has several family members who have lots of sailing experience. For me, though, I was a complete newbie.

You can’t really take time off from learning when you’re living on a boat, but I expected that going in. If it were easy, then everyone would do it!


How do you do your laundry?

We have a washer/dryer on the boat. It’s an all in one unit and works very well! The only downside is that our clothes come out quite wrinkly.

Since we have dogs, having laundry on board is really nice since our bigger one gets pretty dirty and likes to roll around a lot outside – we’re constantly cleaning up after her!


Do you think you’ll miss your boat when you move onto your new plane? 😉

I had to include this one. While this person knew I was joking, most of my readers, even family and friends, thought my April Fools joke was real. Ha!

So no, I’m not moving onto a plane.

You can read more about this here: We’re Moving Onto A Plane!


What’s the biggest difference between living on a boat and an RV? In terms of actual living space, etc. Obviously not just the fact that it’s in the water versus on land.

Because I’ve received hundreds and hundreds of questions about RVing versus sailing, I’m going to write about this more in-depth in a separate blog post.

RVing and sailing are similar in a lot of ways, yet they are different in a lot of ways too.

With both options, you are traveling with your home and bringing it to new places. You can bring both of them around the world (yes, you can bring your RV around the world – people do it all the time), you always have the comforts of home with you, some of the systems are similar (such as how you still need to dump your tanks, fill up water, solar, etc.), boondocking is similar to anchoring, campgrounds are similar to marinas, you’re living in a small space, there’s lots of planning that goes into where to travel next, and more.

But, of course, they are different too.

Differences between sailing and RVing include:

  • Our living space is MUCH bigger on our boat, and that means we can host guests much more comfortably. But because of the layout, the boat has less storage space than the RV. I know that doesn’t make much sense, but that’s just the way it is.
  • Living on a boat comes with more daily and weekly chores than living on an RV. That’s because, on a boat, you are fighting so many elements since you are dealing with both the water and the wind.
  • You can go a lot faster in an RV. We could easily log 500 miles in a day and still feel great. Our last RV drove like a dream. In the boat, though, sailing 75 miles in a day makes for a really long day.
  • Being on the water, even in a marina, is absolutely beautiful. I love just being able to go outside and see the beauty around me. Yes, RVing is great too, but being on the water is a much different and wonderful feeling.
  • When you are sailing, you get to see so much amazing sea life from your boat, even when you’re in the marina. Right from the helm seat while sailing, I’ve seen sharks, dolphins, schools of fish, sting rays (we even sailed through a “fever” which means that there were over 1,000 rays and we were surrounded by them!), sea turtles, star fish, and more.
  • Paying attention to the weather is very serious when you’re living on a boat and sailing, while it’s not nearly as important when living in an RV.

The list goes on and on.

Both are great and they both have their positives and negatives. It’s hard to choose which one is better because they allow you to do slightly different things.

We have met many RVers who used to sail, and many sailors who used to RV. The type of people are actually quite similar – whether they want to admit that or not (there’s definitely a rivalry that goes on amongst sailors and RVers, which I’ve learned about over the past year, haha).


What is the best and worst thing about living on a boat?

Best – being able to travel, sail, see ocean life, and explore. Our boat is fairly self sufficient, and that is an amazing thing. We have solar panels, we can make our own water, and we have sails to move the boat. Sure, we do use our engines, but we really haven’t used too much fuel in the past year.

Worst – the amount of planning, breakdowns, and bad weather. While our Lagoon 42 has been solid, other items have broken or failed us, such as our solar panels, watermaker, we had a prop fall off as we were docking, and more.

And, that’s just completely normal for #boatlife, haha. They say traveling on a boat is simply fixing a boat in exotic locations – ain’t that the truth!

I hope you enjoyed today’s blog post about the reality of living on a boat. I feel like I have so much more to talk about, so I will be doing this again for sure!

What other questions about living on a boat do you have for me?

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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. The good news about living on your boat is at least you don’t have to worry about noisy next door pain the rear neighbors and having to pay a mortgage. 🙂

    1. People often still have loans on boats and neighbors can still be an issue 🙂

      1. this is very true!

  2. Amanda @debtfreeinsunnyca

    BOAT – Bust Out Another Thousand! Haha. Great post! I love reading about your sailing journey and can’t wait to start taking lessons.

  3. Wow, I just love the list of places you visited just in the first year. Amazing.

    Do you have to pay some sort of fee to each island you dock at? Or some sort of rent charged?

    I know some large yachts park offshore and then have a dinghy to bring them to land, wonder if that would be a cheaper option that paying a dock fee for a large boat.

    1. Thank you!

      Anchoring is almost always free, marinas and mooring balls usually have a fee. You do usually have to pay a fee to clear into a country, but it’s not usually island by island within the same country.

  4. Great article, Michelle. I love reading about your nomadic life, whether it be RV or boat based.

  5. Victor Romero (instagram: victor_what )

    Out of the whole article, I can’t believe somebody had the balls to say you, Wes, and your dogs were going to die from sailing. That’s messed up.
    But, very cool to see your Instagram travel posts! Feels like I’m there sometimes, haha.

    P.S. As your reader, thank you for including the occasional swipe up option for your new blog posts in your Instagram stories! Very considerate and convenient for us! You didn’t have to do it but you did.

  6. The YouTube Channel Backcountry pilot makes me seriously consider living in a plane, btw. But I feel that the learning curve on a plane would be a lot steeper than on our boat!

  7. Beautiful pictures! I think I can live on a boat.

  8. I could do the Rv, but not sure I could do a boat full time. I cannot wait to hear your plane stories!

  9. The biggest question about the boat is internet access! You blog, how do you post things?

    I think I’m going to start living on a boat soon but the two hurdles left for me are:
    – posting (I also blog)
    – my kids being very young (I’m worried my 1 year old will fall overboard every 10 seconds).

    The money part of this I worked out ages ago so that’s done. That was the easy part!

    1. We currently have AT&T for our phones and internet. We used to have both Verizon and AT&T, but we switched to just AT&T and have been really happy with it.

      Even with that being said, sometimes our internet connection is not that great. This means I always try to work ahead as much as I can so that internet does not create any stress.

      When in the Bahamas, I’ve found that the internet is MUCH much better than here in the US. I used MyIslandWifi while there – $75 for unlimited internet.

      1. Oh neat you just sign up for for a phone plan wherever you go and hotspot. I do that when I travel and had never thought it might apply for a boat. That amazing!

        Now I just need to figure out how to stop my 1 year old from rolling off the sides and I’ll be all out of excuses. 🙂

        1. Hahaha! There are actually quite a few families who sail full-time 🙂

  10. Nicole Ocean

    Hey adventurers,

    Check out Virtual Mailbox, it’s a service I’ve used for years where they take a picture of each item you get (the envelope), so you can decide if you want them to just delete it or open and scan your mail, you read it in your iPhone or PC, they can forward mail to wherever you are too.

    I love em!

    Here’s a link:

    Thanks for continuing to share your wonderful adventures with us all too! You both are so brave and inspiring 🤗

  11. Hi Michelle,
    Thank you for this wonderful article, i was thinking about on living a boat, its quite challenging for me but interesting, i love to sleep on the boat while wind is blowing

  12. That is amazing! Keep up the adventures!

  13. Erika Cooper

    In March 2018, we sold everything and purchased a sailboat. It’s a great life and I like the fact that after the initial purchase, upgrades and maintenance, we live on less that $1000/mo. It’s how we retired early. I started reading your site, to help me with my blog However, I have found many engaging topics, including travel and bugdet ideas. Thanks for all the great reads.

    1. Awesome! We love our boat too 🙂 Where are you sailing right now?

  14. Hi Michelle, thanks for the article. It sounds like you’ve been living the dream! The challenges you’ve encountered and the learning experience you’ve gained from living on a boat must be so practical. I bet you have some amazing stories to tell, thanks for sharing!

  15. Steve Watson

    By Reading this Article I got the answer which i was searching from last many years and the Question was:

    “Stuck between I need to Save Money and Only Live Once” 🙂

  16. Jerseypete

    I am purchasing an older 42′ Grand Banks trawler soon. Any thoughts and ideas from veterans at this would be welcomed. Plan to live on it approx 8mos, then spend winter on land with daughter. Based in Jersey and Delaware. Older, plan to spend last years this way. Delaware, Jersey area. Dock near Wilmington, De., near Veterans hospital, cancer stuff

  17. teamwright4

    We are hoping to set sail Nov 1. We have never lived aboard, just week long vacations. Any helpful tips on having a dog? We are taking our 10 month old dog and not sure if we need safety line nets, dog life vest, potty pads etc (our dogs only go on grass at home). Any dog bowl ideas that don’t fly around? I feel like I can manage people needs but concerned about dog needs and not being able to source items.

    1. Awesome! Where are you setting sail from?

      I actually just published this about traveling with dogs –