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Old 11-08-2018, 02:03 PM   #1
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Liveaboard retention rate and duration

Anyone have any data on how many people that choose to live aboard, actually stick with it for more than a a couple of years? Also, anyone know what the typical duration is for living aboard (I realize it's almost the same question...)?

I'm trying to make realistic plans for my hard to replace possessions for when we take the plunge... I have no intention of selling my tools or heirlooms, but not sure about other stuff. I hate the thought of having to buy a bunch of stuff all over again if this does not work out.

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Old 11-08-2018, 02:30 PM   #2
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It's not as high as many think....but I have no source for hard numbers as I doubt there's any census on the numbers that try living aboard.

I am on my third stretch with coming up on 14 years aboard stretched out since 1981. In Ft Lauderdale, Annapolis and New Jersey.

Those that have done it for any stretch of time will tell you everything from it's hard to it's great to whatever, but my guess is that if the surviving numbers past 5 years aboard being more than 10 percent that try it would flabbergast me.

The survivors tend to be gung ho and on boating web sites a lot, the other 90 percent if I am correct...a few stick around as serious cruisers...but the vast majority are never heard from in boating circles.

There is a wide variety in living aboard, do to make it work just depends on a lot of things so keeping or selling stuff is really a roll of the dice.

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Old 11-08-2018, 04:31 PM   #3
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Why would what other people do (or don't do) indicate what you'll do? If you're not sure that living aboard is for you, I suggest you work in some realistic trial periods before eliminating the option of returning to a dirt-based life.
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Old 11-08-2018, 04:59 PM   #4
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Don't ask me. We started living aboard in the mid 90's when we still owned a house. We came home from I thought was a short trip and the neighbors had mowed the lawn. We took the hint and sold the house in 1997. With the exception of changing boats 11 years ago, we've been full time with no land base. It works for us but we have watched a lot of people sell/liquidate everything and after a year or so they're divorced or the boats for sale.

At some point we'll have to swallow the anchor and become a clod. We're thinking about it but its pretty far off as long as we stay healthy.

Full time is not for everyone. We have friends that do 6 months on/6 months off. A question to ask your self is what about the grand kids? Family can be a strong pull and airline tickets/car rentals can be expensive. Good luck on your decision.

Clod = cruiser living on dirt
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Old 11-08-2018, 06:36 PM   #5
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I know three couples who lived aboard 10-12 years before health issues pushed them back to dirt. My wife and I are working on a plan to go back to dirt after living aboard (11 years next month).
When we moved aboard, we sold the house and everything what would not fit on the boat. It was enlightening how much "stuff" we had and did not really need.
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Old 11-08-2018, 06:51 PM   #6
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Just me, but I needed a reason. I worked for an electric utility in Tn that had facilities along the river. It was convenient for me to live aboard my houseboat and follow the work from unit to unit. I lived aboard for 8 years. It was great in mild weather, but challenging in winter; not just heat in the boat, but long walks across icy deserted docks to the parking lot, limited dock services.... Then I got retired, and coincidentally got a nice offer to move ashore. Never regretted the experience, but my boat had become my home and I treated it as such - never away from the dock unless moving to the next job. Sold my liveaboard and bought a boat; working well so far.
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Old 11-08-2018, 06:55 PM   #7
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The term "liveaboard" has many variants. At one end of the spectrum is the globe-trotting sailboat crowd that follow the seasons though many countries always on the move. The other end is the "alternative housing" crowd where running motors are optional and only used when forced to move. A tow to another anchorage is good enough.

How do you plan to use your boat?
1984 Monk 36 Hull #46
Currently in New Jersey.
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Old 11-08-2018, 07:07 PM   #8
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Most leave. I've been living on the water, off and on, for 60 years. It depends on the people. Those too concerned with comfort, ease of life, and acquiring too many material items usually can't make it work. Men like living aboard more than most women. Men are dreamers and women are practical. Men will put up with discomfort for the dream. It also depends on how work is shared. And a couple is much closer together (all the time) than what you had in a house.

I always tell people it's a hard life, but with uncommon rewards. Everything has to be hauled to and from the boat, groceries, laundry and other supplies. Usually carried much further than when living in a house or apartment. Carried in the rain or snow in the PNW. And you can have frozen or slippery docks. The galley, reefer, cabinet space and closet space is 10% or less than in a house (in most boats). There is little room for most kitchen appliances, pots and pans and other specialty items that make cooking easier.
If you don't have a good heating/venting setup in the winter in cold places, your clothes, bedding, other cloth can become damp or mildewed. Cheap zippers and snaps will rust. After awhile, you may smell different than your city counterparts. I don't care, but you may.
On the other hand, if you're smart enough to buy a big boat instead of the new, cutest, socially in demand boats, you can take most or all your personal possessions with you. The only things that don't fit are large furniture items and things you no longer need like lawnmowers, rakes, hedge trimmers, etc. With a big boat you also get more safety and comfort in the ocean, room for regular appliances, storage, apartment sized or larger galley, and the room for house like climate control, laundry on board, a dishwasher and a place for your tools. I have all of that, a triple roll around tool box, about 20 power tools, 5 ton air compressor, laundry, double door reefer, dishwasher 2 couches, 2 freezers and so on. I thought of a hot tub. What I don't have is the latest yuppy/millennial boat or any payments.
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Old 11-08-2018, 10:22 PM   #9
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ASD is a full time cruiser, not livaboard. We have been since 2014.
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Old 11-09-2018, 06:55 AM   #10
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If the boat is well designed and equipped for the real winter , living aboard ,only residence ,is a great lifestyle.

I went almost 23 years , working , cruising and enjoyed every second.

The key is the vessel, lots of water and heating fuel aboard .

If the boat could anchor out easily all winter , and the only use for a marina is mail, parking and easy access to services , its a grand lifestyle.
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Old 11-09-2018, 08:13 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by GregBrannon View Post
Why would what other people do (or don't do) indicate what you'll do? If you're not sure that living aboard is for you, I suggest you work in some realistic trial periods before eliminating the option of returning to a dirt-based life.
Coming from someone who is semi-interested I care alot about the percentage of people who quit short term.

Selling the house and liquidating everything you own is a huge deal. Doing all that only to move back to dirt after a year is even bigger.

If 10% of people make it long term the odds are against you and maybe show that you should ease into it rather than dive in like you said.

I personally think it's good info to know but there's so many variables. I do know ever time I see someone at my dock attempt it and struggle I know i'd need a bigger boat than I want to handle.
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Old 11-09-2018, 08:31 AM   #12
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First off, I am quite sure that no one has ever compiled any meaningful, broadly applicable statistics about this. Second, just a brief look reveals that for a fair number it is an extremely short period of time, and for a different but equally fair number it is an extremely long period of time. The variation is so great that the only logical conclusion is that it is a very personal thing. Meaning that the "average" will tell you almost nothing about yourself.

This is a bit like asking what is the "average" amount that people pay for a liveaboard/cruising boat. It doesn't take more than a few minutes of perusing this forum to see that there are a bunch of people who spend upwards of millions of dollars on their boats, and there are just as many on the other end who get by on very little. Taking an average of those widely diverse data points will tell you nothing useful about what YOU will spend on YOUR boat.

I would end by saying, simply asking this question indicates that you have doubts. If that's the case, then don't be in a big rush to sell things that you won't be able to easily replace when the time comes. Keeping a TV makes no sense as it will be obsolete in a few years anyway. Keeping a valuable, antique dining room set, though, that's a different matter.

Good luck.
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Old 11-09-2018, 09:16 AM   #13
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Starting from scratch to out fit a house or apartment costs a fortune if not fully or partially furnished.

Then again, outfitting a boat from scratch does too....

Choose wisely!
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Old 11-09-2018, 12:10 PM   #14
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I think that the most important consideration when deciding whether to live aboard full time or not is the selection of the right boat. Things that are small annoyances for weekend boating or short duration cruises, can become a constant thorn in the side on a day to day basis. Perhaps the best example of this is the size of the refrigerator. Most boats under 50' will typically have a refrigerator that is no bigger than 12-13 cubic feet with a very small freezer section. They may have a secondary freezer or drink chiller located elsewhere, but the overall effect is more like camping out where you are making do because you are living on a boat. Having less food storage capacity impacts meal planning, results in more trips to the grocery store and the associated cart trips from the car to you slip. It is probably a combination of factors like this that ends the live aboard experience for most couples.

Another consideration is storage. Are there enough lockers, drawers and cabinets to put the "stuff" of everyday life away. I always chuckle over the ads for new boats with the beautiful uncluttered interiors and the obligatory bottle of wine with two glasses waiting on the table next to a vase of flowers. Just because you are living on a boat does not mean that you get rid of everything from your past life on shore. We still have suitcases, a set of golf clubs, a small Christmas tree and other holiday decorations, wrapping paper, stamps, greeting cards and stationary, printer ink and paper, books, photos, personal papers and documents, etc. Add to that the things that are boat specific like charts, guide books, hand held radios, survival gear and life jackets, dock lines, power cords and adapters, boat hooks, binoculars, etc and you have quite a lot of "stuff" that has to be dealt with. Full Disclosure: We have a 5' x 10' storage locker in MN for the rest of our personal "stuff" that is not onboard.

My wife and I have been living full time on Semper Fi for almost four and half years and during that time we have cruised over 6000 miles, so I feel somewhat qualified to express an opinion on this thread. For us, the right boat was only 37 feet in length, but it packs a lot of punch in that 37 feet. Starting with the galley, which is really much more like a kitchen you would find in a condo. The overall dimensions are roughly 10' x 7' and in that space we have a GE double door 23 cubic foot refrigerator with ice and water in the door, a Fisher Paykel dishwasher, a standard sized double bowl sink, a convection/microwave combo oven and enough cabinets to store everything my wife needs to prepare and serve delicious full course meals. When fellow boaters or landlubbers step aboard Semper Fi for the first time, they are always amazed at the layout and the size of our galley.

As to storage, we have the space of a much larger boat. In the forward stateroom alone, there are two 40" hanging lockers, 10 drawers and six additional cabinets. The second stateroom has six drawers and a book shelf. In the lower level there are under deck lockers on the port and starboard sides. Cleaning and laundry supplies, extra foodstuffs and the wine cellar are located in these lockers. There is also a bosun's locker or "basement" that runs the full width of the boat aft of the engine room. It is accessed by a hatch under the salon level. The salon itself has under seat storage and six more drawers. I suppose it is possible to run out of places on Semper Fi to put our "stuff", but should that happen, it would be a warning that we have way to much junk onboard. The exterior of the boat includes voluminous under seat storage on the fly bridge and two lockers on the fore deck.

All of the features described above impart a much more home like feel to our chosen lifestyle. The fly bridge gives us a great area for entertaining, much like a home patio, or a quiet space to disappear to if needed. The head is large and user friendly with adequate storage. We have a Splendide washer dryer combo which gives us flexibility for dealing with laundry and the 100 plus gallon holding tank allows us to go weeks before pumping out if necessary. These are important issues when you are comparing camping out on a boat versus living aboard with home like amenities.

The icing on the cake is our walk in engine room, which provides easy access to all things boat system related. It is much easier to trouble shoot a Vacu-flush pump or fresh water pump if you can duck inside the engine room door to take a peak instead of pulling up the floorboards to go down into the dungeon. This also adds to a more home like experience. I fully understand that there are many factors that go into purchasing a boat, including price, availability and boat location to name just a few, but a workable galley and abundant storage would be high on my list of priorities if I was looking for a liveaboard boat.
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Old 11-09-2018, 12:30 PM   #15
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I have lived on the same dock for 20+ years. It is a dock of 50-60’ boats. My experience would cover the higher end of the liveaboard experience.

The highest failure rate in living aboard comes from those who come down to the boat one summer and have so much fun that they decide the live aboard life is for them. Come December 31, those live aboard are gone. A few make it thru the winter and are gone before the next winter hits.

The recently divorced man live aboard. Usually takes him 3 years to find a new wife and it usually takes her one year to move him off the boat.

The empty nester live aboard. They are boaters, last kid has left the house, house is to big so they sell it and move aboard. Find that they can now retire early, would cruise to Mexico but need to stay because of grand kids. They usually live aboard until health drives them off the boat. When I say health I mean they can’t make the walk from the boat to the car anymore.

The alternative living crowd. This group seems to be a 5 year and gone group. Boat never leaves the dock. Either the arrival of a child or a job change happens and they are gone. Often the boat stays with a new alternative on board.

The last group is made up of experienced boaters who typically have a 5 year plan. They may have sold a house to start a business, or the boat is an in town condo. What ever the reason they have a 5 year plan.

Out of each of these groups there are a few that just never leave.

Obviously, I am on my 5th, 5 year plan.
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Old 11-09-2018, 12:30 PM   #16
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As others have said, the boat and your relationship are the too main variables.
Marina,, location and career are close seconds. We live year round in a great little town on the water, go for walks every night, hit the gym a few times a month, stay active and do most of my own tinkering on the boat. You don't want to be paying money to winterize the systems or fix the squeaky door.
We travel every weekend until the ice forms and then we are frozen in for months.
Some relationships need their space to vent and get away from each other. Living on a boat may not work so well. Our children and grandchildren love visiting and they get used to the arrangements quickly. No X Box on boat and Wifi and TV are very limited. Lets go fishing !!
Downsizing was not as hard as you might think, we got a storage unit and then after 3 yrs we gave almost everything away, no looking back. Our backyard view is the best and it changes frequently.
Tom and Cheryl
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Old 11-09-2018, 01:38 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by tiltrider1 View Post
The recently divorced man live aboard. Usually takes him 3 years to find a new wife and it usually takes her one year to move him off the boat.

Isn't that the truth for men that like to be led. Usually it starts with whining but ends with an ultimatum. If a man reacts once to an ultimatum their life becomes a series of ultimatums. Seen it too many times in weak men.

They sell the boat, buy a house. Wife screws them out of the house and they're back in 5 years in an older, smaller boat.
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Old 11-09-2018, 02:58 PM   #18
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I think psneeld probably hit the odds pretty accurately. It's a life for very few people. There are no numbers because most of those for whom it didn't work, long ago left any forums. Many of us live aboard when we're not living on land and it's a mix between the two.

You're expressing doubts up front so that makes your odds even poorer than the average. Still none of this says it won't work for you. However, in planning, you need to have Plan A which is it works long term, accompanied by many Plan B's which assume it lasts less than a year, less than 3 years, less than 5 years, etc. Give both plans a lot of attention. If you don't have a good Plan A, no way it will work out. However, the odds are overwhelming you'll need Plan B.

Storage may seem wasteful but if it gives peace of mind, it's worth it. Same with owning a house you're not using. Many rent their homes at least the first year.

Also, consider, if Plan A fails, do you want to return to what you had? I knew a retired couple who started cruising and looping and they sold their home in Michigan before they started. However, that was their decision regardless. They had a 5 bedroom home in Michigan and even if living aboard didn't work out, they wanted something much smaller, much further south in a location to be determined. So, selling their home was in their plans regardless. They also chose a boat they'd want to own regardless of whether living on it full time or just part time.

So that would be my advice to think through and plan all the scenarios so that if it doesn't work out, you're not facing anything you hadn't planned for.
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Old 11-09-2018, 03:13 PM   #19
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Sold the house in 94' when the boys moved out. Sold it as is ... cars, motorcycles, tractor, furniture and paintings on the walls. No regrets at all and they will have to carry me off this boat.

One word of caution ... I sold the house in 94' for $475k. To buy it back today would cost around to $2 million. If you can live with the consequences, go for it. Just know what those consequences may be.
If you can live with the consequences, go for it - wg
Y'am what y'am an' thats' all that y'am - Popeye
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Old 11-10-2018, 01:25 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by boatpoker View Post
One word of caution ... I sold the house in 94' for $475k. To buy it back today would cost around to $2 million. If you can live with the consequences, go for it. Just know what those consequences may be.
Almost any house you sold in 1994 will be cost significantly more now. Same thing goes for cars and pretty much anything else. Compare the list price of cars in '94 to what they are now.

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