This May marks our 5th year anniversary of living aboard Blue Turtle. Hard to believe that 5 years ago Randy and I brought Blue Turtle home and moved aboard to live full time. We were complete noobs and had no idea what we were in for. Everything was a learning process. We joke about the fact that we were into our second year when we took the boat out for the weekend to anchor and returned to the marina cheering that nothing broke on the boat while we were out. Those first couple of years were a little stressful while we continually worked on Blue Turtle to get her into live aboard shape all while learning the ropes of cruising and maintaining our trawler and its systems. We got into our groove at the end of our second year when we made our first big trip to the Dry Tortugas. We had a fuel issue on the way there that might have ruined the whole trip but Randy had learned enough about the engine and how to fix it that we were up and running the next morning. The trip was amazing and it really boosted our confidence that we could go anywhere. Projects continued in the third and fourth year and Blue Turtle just became better and better with each year as we took our second and third trips to the Dry Tortugas and Keys.
We’re five years into it and Blue Turtle is just the way we want her. Sure, there’s always things to fix and replace but she’s outfitted and comfortable for us. She’s been a great live aboard boat so far and has brought us many amazing memories. Most of these amazing memories never would have happened if we lived on land in a house. We would have missed all those wonderful trips on Blue Turtle and wouldn’t have met so many great folks that we’ve had the opportunity to get to know. We also probably wouldn’t be as close of a family because living aboard a boat that is less than 300 square feet really makes you get to now each other and get along at times when it may be difficult. Living aboard has given us so much opportunity to lead a more fulfilling life. We’ve learned so much in the last 5 years about the mechanics of living on a boat but also about our chosen lifestyle. So, without further adieu, here are our 5 year observations and reflections about living aboard and cruising.
Observations and reflections on living aboard a boat
- Things are always broken and there’s always something else to be fixed, so don’t wait until everything is perfect to start cruising. We’ve cruised with fuel leaks, a broken generator and with one AC in the summertime. Don’t let every little thing keep you at the dock.
- Don’t get upset about the small stuff. You can really get yourself in a tizzy every time something breaks or doesn’t go as expected, but in the grand scheme of things, you’re on a boat, surrounded by beautiful scenery. Trust us, it could be much worse.
- You have to be willing to try to fix things yourself on the boat yourself or be prepared to pay a lot of money to someone to fix it. It makes more sense to learn all the systems on your boat yourself that way when you’re cruising and it something breaks, it doesn’t ruin your vacay. You can troubleshoot it and fix it and move on with your trip.
- If you plan to live aboard longer than a year or two, get rid of everything and don’t pay for a storage unit. It’s wasted money when you can re-buy those items if and when you move back to land rather than paying that monthly expense.
- We really don’t miss any of our house stuff. I mean, we filled our home with decorations, pictures on the wall, vases with fake flowers, etc. When you move aboard, you have no need for that stuff. And, it’s just stuff. On a boat, your world is within 300 square feet, and really don’t have the room for items without a purpose. It’s just stuff people! Really, we got rid of all of it and have never looked back.
- For me, I shop less. Of course, we live on a island so it can be a pain to go shopping. We used to live across the street from a giant outdoor mall. I would shop on the weekends out of boredom and buy stuff for the home that served no purpose. Now, when I shop I’m super selective since we don’t have a lot of space. I buy less and I save more which in turn allows us to save money or buy nicer things that I couldn’t afford before (like a great SLR camera, etc.)
- Things wear out faster on a boat. Like crazy fast. I’m not only talking exterior wood and canvas, but interior items like rugs, pillows, towels, etc. In a home, you may have several rooms in which your family spends time in. That time is divided over those various rooms. On our trawler, we have 3 cabins: main salon, Corey’s v-berth room and our aft cabin. The two sleeping cabins are really only used to sleep and change clothes. We spend the majority of our time in the main salon which is roughly 150 square feet. This space is heavily used and trafficed and when we are cruising, items get really worn out with the sand and salt. I change out all rugs and throw pillows at least once a year. For me, When it’s that time of year, it’s really time to “redecorate”.
- The boat gets crazy dirty—inside and outside. But really during the winter when we leave the doors and hatches open, it’s ridiculously dirty. This is the time of year you discover the mold and mildew and when dust and dirt blow through the cabin like the wind. Also, like the above bullet points out the interior gets a lot of traffic. Want to know what a week’s worth of shedding dog hair looks like in 150 square feet? I wouldn’t know, I vacuum every 2 days at least. It’s a small space, so dirt and hair will take over if you’re not proactive.
- You have to be flexible with your time and don’t get worked up if things get off schedule. Dock parties and dinners with neighbors always pop up at a moment’s notice. This isn’t like a neighborhood get together planned weeks in advance. Most folks in our marina in the winter time are retired, so they’ll gather around for happy hour or pot luck dinner without much notice. Being spontaneous is a good thing. There’s been many times I’ve had the crock pot on or meat thawing, where I just shove it in the fridge for another day in order to get together with our friends and neighbors.
- The main theme of our entire lifestyle is about fun. Even though we work full time and Corey goes to school, every day is about getting the most out of the day—if it’s the gorgeous weather or the company of great friends, we plan to to have fun. Nothing is ever monotonous, every day is different and that in itself is the great thing about living aboard.
Thank you readers for following us this far. It’s been wonderful to document our adventure of living aboard and cruising and we look forward to many years of this spectacular lifestyle that we are so lucky to enjoy.