We will always need a place to live and at some point in your liveaboard experience, you will make the decision to move off the boat. This is not like deciding that you want to buy a new house – this is a lifestyle change, perhaps even more difficult than deciding to live on a boat.
The thought creeps in like a rising tide. You notice the dampness; the winters seem longer; and routine maintenance becomes a chore, not an assumed responsibility. And all of a sudden you start pining for a larger bed; a bathtub; being able to sleep through a windy night without worrying about your safety. A Christmas tree. Comfort.
“Maybe I am getting soft?” you wonder to yourself. Ten and a half years without running water, running hot water, a fridge, a bathtub. I was talking to a friend about this and she said, “You know Tara, most people would not consider these things a luxury.” And then, the decision slips off the peak of maybe yes or maybe no, to land firmly on the side of moving off the boat.
A couple we know have been living on their boat for over 25 years. A few years back, he had some heart problems quickly followed by an unexpected and near fatal complication for her after a routine surgery. The combination of these two events prompted them to make the decision to move back onto land. Their sailboat was well kept and would fetch a reasonable sum assuming that it would sell. However, when they looked at real estate prices, it became apparent that they could not afford to buy a condo let alone the house that they envisioned for themselves.
So here’s the thing: boats don’t appreciate. Well, at least recreational boats of our size do not appreciate. Furthermore, they cost a lot of money to maintain. Many marinas require owners to carry insurance and this means that the boat has to be surveyed and be insurable. There is a reason why boat owners joke that B.O.A.T. = Bring On Another Thousand – they are expensive to repair.
Many people who decide to do extended cruising, will rent out their home so they don’t have to deal with real estate sticker shock when they return. If they have equity in their home the rental income might even provide a monthly cruising kitty. For other folks, they have to sell their real estate in order to buy the boat because financing a boat can be very expensive. Banks get nervous about financing things that can float away.
We have made the decision to buy a condo and not live aboard the boat in the winter time. This was not and is not an easy decision. Given that we have entered the winter season and our marina neighbours are hibernating in their boats anyway, the transition has not been too difficult. However, we both know that when spring weather arrives, we will be yearning for the freedom of the boat. We are lucky that we are able to do both.
I am forever changed by the experience of living aboard a boat, but it has not always been easy. There is a price that you pay for the privilege of living on the water and at some point in time, you will decide that the price is too high. I am learning to be a landlubber again, but my heart is that of a liveaboard sailor.