There to Here – Moving Aboard: 12 Eye-Openers

Moving from land to a boat is a major lifestyle change and a huge adjustment. For two workaholics, quitting work, selling off most all of our land anchors and becoming full-time liveaboards was nearly traumatic. We would both wake with a start in the morning, wondering why the alarm clock had not gone off or what deadline we’d somehow missed. It was the old college dream … oh, no … I forgot to attend class all semester and now it’s time for the final exam. Yikes!

It was a slow, but illuminating process working into our new life aboard. I’m not even talking about sailing; I’m talking about acclimation to living on the boat versus living on land. Never having lived on a boat for more than 10 days or so, the full-time, “we don’t own a house any more” concept took awhile to sink in.

Here’s a dozen things that come to mind immediately about our move to and first days of living aboard Nine of Cups:

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1. Stubbed toes, head injuries, cuts and bruises

There are more ways to stub your toes, trip, hit your head and inflict minor injuries upon yourself on a boat than you can imagine … and we found them all. We also have a step mid-ship that provided significant opportunities for stumbling. We gave up immediate complaints and finally resorted to comparing wounds at the end of the day. Lots of black and blues with minor cuts and scrapes and we weren’t even at sea yet. Stock up on Band-aids!

2. Conserving water and the great morning dash

We wanted to get into the habit of conserving water. No running the water while brushing teeth; no letting water run down the drain until it was hot enough… catch it in the teapot. We worked hard to be aware of water usage and waste. We used the marina showers. Remembering to take all necessary shower and laundry accessories with us was a trial. Forgetting the shampoo meant a long trip back down the dock to fetch it, but no big deal. Forgetting your towel or brush was a bit more traumatic. We’ve both gotten dressed wet and slogged back to the boat with sopping, tangled hair on occasion, but we learned quickly enough.

Beyond that, there was no convenient pump-out for the holding tank in the marina and therefore, we didn’t use the on-board head. Trips up the dock to the toilet block were fast and furious first thing in the morning. Make way … woman on a mission!

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3. Dirty laundry piles up more quickly on a boat

On land, I did a load of laundry almost daily. Pop it in the washer; pop it in the dryer and fold at the end of the day. Well, it wasn’t quite as convenient lugging dirty laundry up the dock and making sure to have enough quarters to finish the job. It was warm in Kemah and we were working hard on the boat … sweaty clothes and frequent changes equals loads of dirty laundry. I managed, but griped a bit. It wasn’t too long after that we were at sea or in areas without laundry facilities and memories of having a convenient marina laundromat seemed like a luxury.

4. A place for everything and everything in its place

Even big boats are small comparative to living in a house. The boat seemed cluttered and messy a lot of the time. We lost things constantly (and still do, mind you!). We found that returning things to their proper places (wherever that might be) was the key to finding them the next time you needed them. Marcie is the neat freak and getting used to “projects in process” was a tough transition.

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5. Public transport and walking.

I couldn’t remember the last time I took a bus to get somewhere. We always had a car … in fact, a couple of them. Once in Kemah, close to departure time, we sold the car and then had to depend on public transportation (limited), foot power and borrowed vehicles. Over the years, we became better at using public transport (and chicken buses) and walking a few miles was no travail. In the beginning, however, it was a transition. We were forced to become more efficient and plan our trips more carefully. No quick trip to Home Depot or the grocery because you forgot something.

6. Limited space – less stuff ... and you can’t rearrange the furniture!

We’d reduced our household “stuff” to a small U-Haul trailer’s-worth, but when we moved what we thought was “not much stuff” onto the boat, it turned out to be “too much stuff” and/or the “wrong stuff”. Though Nine of Cups and roomy and has lots of nooks and crannies, we found that having spares and tools aboard trumped having “stuff” that took up space and didn’t contribute to our overall comfort or safety. It took us awhile to figure out just what we needed and offload all the extras … the local Good Will made out well.

7. No TV and limited internet

We had cut the cord on television when we lived in St. Louis by not subscribing to cable. We were never big television watchers, but we always had access to it. All of a sudden, there was no TV. Back in 2000, “streaming” was unheard of and though internet was available, it wasn’t offered as wifi throughout the marina, but rather, an “internet” room or kiosk where you could hook up your computer for limited periods of time.

8. Clothes horses not allowed.

Though we were still working, we found we didn’t need the quantity nor variety of clothing we’d brought along. In the marina, we needed t-shirts and shorts. Silk blouses, tailored suits, anything that needed ironing and high heels weren’t appropriate on the boat and really weren’t necessary for our consulting work. Additionally, we found we needed rain gear and offshore foul weather gear more than sports coats, ties and blazers. Teaching old dogs new tricks was tough, but not impossible. We vowed that with every new piece of clothing that came aboard, something had to go.

9. Kitten aboard!

My Mother’s Day gift in 2000 was Jelly, a grey-nosed, 6-week old kitten from the local SPCA. We didn’t choose her; she chose us. Did it make sense to have a pet aboard? We never really asked ourselves this question nor was Jelly considered in the budget (vet bills, cat food, litter, cat toys?). We’ll talk more about pets aboard in later blogs, but suffice it to say, Jelly was a great crew member, but had her limitations (like the rest of us).

10. Reducing power needs

Though we had shore power at the marina, we were anticipating that we would soon be at sea and that marinas would be the exception, rather than the rule. We tried conserving power by limiting our computer use aboard, making sure lights and fans were shut off when not in use. Our efforts were pretty feeble, it turned out. It wasn’t until we were under way and living the life that we learned the real meaning of conserving power.

11. Galleys are small

Cooking in our little galley for the first few weeks was a challenge. We had a 3-burner propane stove and a small oven. The pots and pans I brought were oversized and I had a tough time figuring out where to put them. We finally ended up hanging them on the galley wall. Remembering to turn off the propane … both the stove knob and the tank solenoid took some effort. I ended up putting a note to remind myself to do it. The fridge was much smaller than a regular house fridge and the freezer wasn’t nearly as efficient nor as convenient. Some of the kitchen utensils I brought were too big for the galley drawers and there were too many “specialty items” that took up too much space. Did we really need a garlic press, a lime squeezer and a spaghetti server?

We also didn’t have room nor the power for lots of electrical appliances … no  toaster, blender, coffee maker … especially if we wanted to be offshore or at anchor most of the time. Easier said, than done, but we managed.

12. Everything on a boat is expensive

Having just purchased Nine of Cups for cash which was a very expensive venture and a huge depletion of our bank account, even though we’d planned it, there was still lots to do and buy. Unfortunately, as any boat owner knows, any item labeled “marine” costs at least twice as much as you’d normally expect to pay for the “land” version. Little things added up quickly. Big things were crazy expensive.

Nine of Cups was outfitted as a coastal/marina boat. We wanted to add solar panels, a wind generator, and a watermaker. We needed a life raft, a new dinghy, more chain, a bigger anchor, storm sails … the list went on and on and the costs mounted up … beyond our planned budget. This was an eye-opener because we thought we’d budgeted conservatively.

Okay … that’s our list of the biggest transitions to living aboard … while still in a marina. All you cruisers out there … what can you add to this list? We’ll discuss living aboard while under way in another blog, but what were the big eye openers for you when you first moved aboard?