One year aboard. Happy liveaboardaversary to me. I only wish I had moved aboard twenty years ago and taken off around the world. But at least I got off the wrong path; better late than never. Living aboard is definitely not for everyone. It presents its own set of challenges and compromises that many would consider far too inconvenient or burdensome. One is either called to it or not. I do it for the love of boating and being on the water. For the love of being rocked to sleep by the sea. For freedom.
Despite my stubborn ability to do whatever I set my sights on (other than financial success), despite jumping into life aboard and making it through the challenges of winter aboard and pets aboard and all the quirks of this lifestyle I have embraced, I am still plagued by guys a fraction of my age acting like I don't know anything about boats and talking down to me. Sigh. I was already a back-up depth sounder hanging over the deck of a 54-footer in the Keys when those boys were in middle school. Every boater, power and sail, still has something to learn to the day they die. I guess I have to stop being so polite and just tell guys who think they are old salts to STFU.
I think the frequency of snobbery and know-it-all attitudes is the biggest drawback to being a liveaboard. Those who take their boats out often look down on the "dock queens." The cruisers think they are better than the liveaboards who either choose to (or have to) live and work in one place. There is so much sizing-up over length, gadgets, miles under keel, et cetera it can be nauseating. It's bad enough in the forums, but I can easily avoid them. It's much harder to avoid the folks who come and go at my marina every day. I definitely won't ever enter another slip lease that ties me down on more than a monthly basis. There's no point to being aboard if I can't change my view and my neighbors quickly and easily.
The process of divesting myself of furniture and other "stuff" ashore continues. I am eager for the stress and expense of it to be over. Adding to the strain, my sister launched some mission to find a place to store my hope chest that I had told her would either be sold, tucked away at a friend's, or chopped up into a boat project of some kind. So I had to respond to unsolicited emails about storage to tell them I hadn't asked for any storage and didn't need any. I figure everyone has enough of their own problems that they don't need to butt into mine or create new ones for me, but I guess not.
But yesterday I made progress, selling the beautiful huge dining table, a credenza, and... the hope chest. They are going to a local artist. I know they will be going to a good home, will be enjoyed and cared for. My grandfather built the chest for my grandmother for her 24th birthday, and she gave it to me for Christmas when I was four years old. I have loved it and lugged it all over the country for decades now. My grandparents wouldn't want me to be held back, anchored down by a piece of furniture. I have the memories of them. I value what the hope chest was and stood for. It has gone on to a new home, where it will be an interesting conversation piece, where it will be cared for and used. Sentimental things are in your heart and your mind, they don't need to be in your house or a storage locker. Letting go of all those "things" is hard, but that is the cost of freedom. A small price to pay.
So, what unsolicited advice would I give new or prospective liveaboards now that I'm a year in? First, never, ever, ever sign an annual slip contract. Yes, you save money doing so. But you lose the freedom the boat is all about. And if you look around and see any empty slips at the marina, you can likely negotiate to get the annual rate even if you are just a monthly transient. Second, just get rid of all the furniture and other trappings of life ashore. All that money spent storing "stuff" is far better spent on equipment for your boat or a great boatwarming party. Yes, it is hard to let go of all those things that once meant and cost so much. But that painful purging is part of the experience of moving aboard and it is better to just rip the band-aid off and be done with it. Finally, trust your gut, your instincts, and bring all your other life experience to bear when tackling challenges. About half the advice others give you will be useful and valuable, and about half will be incredibly stupid, perhaps even dangerous advice. Just because someone has been doing something for half a century doesn't mean they've been doing it right. Trust and believe in yourself and your boat; if you love her, she will love you back.