Tiny House vs Boat

Considering going minimalist? Tiny homes, RV’s and even converted buses are becoming more mainstream alternatives to conventional houses and apartments. However there are unseen pitfalls to these trends and to life on wheels.

Photo by Seb [ P34K ] Hamel

First off, you need a place to go, there’s no such thing as free dirt after all. Unless you own land, you can’t just park and live wherever you want. Even if you plan on living in the city, there are zoning laws to consider. Most residential  zones have laws prohibiting buildings of certain sizes, or have strict infrastructure standards.

Photo by Katie Barrett

Beware of these picturesque images of a more simple existence. It is fantasy. Most of us in the modern world depend on a little something called electricity. How do you clean your clothes, power your computer, light your bedroom or keep food cold? Electricity is everywhere and not everyone can do solar power. Not just because of climate, but also because of the expense. It’s true, the panels themselves are becoming more affordable and may only cost you a few hundred, but the rest of the solar equipment can be costly. Batteries and converters alone can be priced in the thousands. If you really want to go the solar route check out my post about going solar.

Photo by Miryam Leon

Speaking of fantasy, ever seen one of these modern minimalist tree houses? Ever wonder where the toilet is? Yeah me too. The thing is, running water is just a part of life for most of us. Most of these tiny houses in the middle of nowhere or shipping containers with futons set out on a cliff aren’t actually practical. When you live on a boat in a harbor, the Marina handles all those things, often with facilities like showers, toilets, sinks and laundry rooms.

Where are these people anyway? I can never seem to figure out where exactly these tiny houses, buses and recycled urban shed people live. It always seems to be under the premise of “off grid” or in some hidden corner of the world paradise. I don’t know about you, but I like having visitors now and then. I like being a part of society (most of the time) and I find value in things like grocery stores and coffee shops because I don’t want to grow my own bananas and sometimes I just really want a nice foamy latte while I soak in the free wifi. But that’s just my way.

Photo by Benjamin Zanatta

Life on the road works for a lot of people, it’s just important to understand the realities. Every way of life has problems that need to be solved. There is value to living in the suburbs like there is value to living in a city high rise, there is no value in painting a false picture or choosing a path that’s not your own. There are easy ways and hard ways but the best way is always your way.

7 Signs You’re Secretly a Sailor

Some of us were born to drive, some were born to drink copious amounts of coffee, and others to sing. Here are seven signs you were born to sail.

1. You could never live far from water

Does living far inland, away from oceans and lakes and rivers make you cringe? Me too. There’s just something about water that’s- oh I don’t know, 70% of my being. Swimming in a chlorine pool just doesn’t compare to a cool freshwater stream on a humid summer day. The air while sunbathing on the beach practically purifies your soul after traveling over countless miles of empty ocean to reach your lungs. The exhilaration of rafting down a rushing river could never be replicated in the flat plains of the midwest. Not everyone shares this love of natural bodies of water, it’s special, and a sign you were most definitely a sailor in another life.

2. You Swear… a lot

Are you going broke throwing away your nickels and dimes in the damned swear jar? If your life were a TV show, would most of your lines be beeps? It’s all good, it turns out swearing is actually good for you, science says so, so cuss away! Well, maybe not if the swear jar collector is around.

3. Listening to Your Gut is Easy

Sometimes, you just have a feeling about something or someone. Maybe deep down something told you not to eat that potato salad, and now you’re watching your co-workers drop like flies after the company picnic while you’re feeling great and digging into the leftover ribs.

4. You Respect Nature

Ay- mother nature, she’s a real b*tch. You know she’s not like any kind of mother you’d want to cross. A sudden change of winds can rip apart sails or send you into a swell faster than you can sing the alphabet. You’re the kind of person who would never leave home during a scorcher without water, and that packs the tarps to go camping just in case, even though the forecast says the chance for rain is only a 10% likelihood.

5. People Say You’re Just a Little Crazy

Or they say you’re quirky, eccentric, or just plain odd. Sailors are a bit different from your typical land human. They might not have many friends, or they have just a few trusted loyal friends that make up their crew. We don’t mind time alone, but it certainly can make us a little crazy. You do things just because, you talk to the moon and you can hold a great conversation with yourself in your head. Embrace it! Who wants to be average anyway?

6. You’re “Practical”

You don’t need new shoes, yours only have one hole so far. Buying things is for suckers, and paying for services is too. You are self reliant and really weigh in the practicality of each thing you do spend money on. Maybe you’re even known to be a little frugal, and have even been called stingy once or twice. Penny pinching comes naturally to you, and its not often you are tempted by the latest craze or must have knick knack.

7. Superstitious? You? Never!

Do you knock on wood to keep from jinxing yourself? I bet you do that thing where you cross your fingers while you wait for good news, or maybe you can’t prove it, but you’re pretty sure that receptionist booked you a room on the 13th floor to kill you. If you’re secretly a sailor, you might be suspicious of new people, and avoidant of certain situations- but hey! They can’t prove eating bananas won’t ever sink your ship!

55 Little Reasons to Become a Minimalist

There are tons of benefits to living minimally, here are just a few reasons to get you started

1. For a sigh of relief

Stress starts to melt away when you have less to worry about, when you leave what worries you behind you never take that deep breath of relief for granted again.

2. To get your priorities straightened out

If affording your rent tops your list of priorities you’re doing it wrong.

3. For room to think

Less means more brain capacity freed up for more important things.

4. Time to relax

If you can’t remember the last time you slept in, or the last time you had nothing to do you might be exerting to much energy into cleaning and maintenance. The only thing we really have to spend is our time.

5. To have energy for the big ideas!

With all that extra time and relaxation, suddenly you have the motivation to go for what you’re passionate about.

6. Space to forget

Forget about your unhappiness, your life “fillers” and your regrets. Those things don’t move you forward and only serve to keep you hung up on the unimportant details.

7. To save your hard earned money

What is it that you wish you could save for instead of spending it on your water bill? See my article on how much it costs me to live on a boat.

8. Working less

Don’t really have many things you need all those hours for except to pay the bills? Maybe you really want the time to have fun instead? Reducing your living expenses may just be exactly the thing for you!

9. To break out of your shell

When you don’t spend half your time at work and the other half at home, suddenly, you have to meet more people and do more things than just sit alone at home on the couch.

10. Appreciation of the outdoors

If you live in a 30′ by 6′ rectangle, you probably don’t want to hang out there all the time unless you want to have cabin fever! This is where your relationship with nature begins.

11. So people quit buying you stuff

Do you enjoy spending time with friends and family but hate birthdays and holidays like Christmas and Valentines day? That might be because you don’t have the materialistic bug, which is great for a minimalist lifestyle. Now you have the perfect excuse to tell people not to get you anything; you literally don’t have the room for it!

12 . For more time to play

Quit flaking on your friends and partners, have the time to go out and have fun instead of working extra hours to make rent or spending your entire Saturday organizing and cleaning.

13. Getting comfortable with yourself

When you stop filling your life and your space with endless distractions, you’re forced to spend more time with yourself, and more time on yourself.

14. Making more friends

Not enough happens to you when you’re stuck at home. You miss out on meeting all kinds of people, and miss out on connections you won’t make otherwise.

15. Less time spent with your TV

Cable, Netflix and movie binging is a great way to check out of life. How many hours per day do you spend in front of a screen? What about in a month or a year? What could you spend that time on instead?

16. For your health

Some of the major causes of death in our country, like heart attacks, cancer, stroke and diabetes type 2 are heavily impacted by a sedentary lifestyle. Want to live longer and healthier? Minimalism helps contribute to an active way of life.

17. To find yourself

18. To really see whats around you

Open your eyes, look around yourself and be a part of it all

19. Inspiring your sense of adventure

Putting yourself in a different environment makes you an explorer of the unknown, who knows maybe you’ll get a taste for it!

20. Confidence

Feel empowered about your decision making, your capability and your potential to do anything you put your mind to

21. For your family

Be more present and have more time and energy for your family instead of putting it towards stress and worry.

22. To try something new

23. Live without fear

Fear of what’s next or the what if’s are what hold you back from taking the leap for your dreams. When you have less physically you literally have less to lose.

24. Breaking away from the norm

25. To find your happiness

26. Putting yourself to the test

You’re stronger than you know, and it just takes a leap of faith to find out just how amazing and capable you really are.

27. To understand freedom

You are not restricted by the confines of the social norm, nor are you bound by the expectations of others, by the cost to live or the things you think you need.

28. Satisfy your curiosity

Nothing is permanent, if you’ve always wondered what it might be like to live with less why not give it a try? You can always go back to the way things were, if you never try anything new you’ll never learn, and things will stay the same.

29. Kill your materialistic and superficial habits

Find yourself hating all the unnecessary junk you buy and collect? Or feel that your status is intrinsically correlated to the things you own or don’t own? Minimalism is a great way to change those feelings and that way of thinking.

30. Be more than a human bill payer

Ever feel like your purpose in life is to pay bills or be a paycheck for someone else? The reason is having a high cost of living, and the only way to stop feeling that way is to live below your means in a way that is still abundant in the ways you care about.

31. Rediscover wild abandon

32. For getting over your writers block

33. To inspire others

I admit, it’s always a bit of an ego boost to tell people that I live on a boat and see their eyes bug out as they start asking me questions like “do you cook there?” and “how do you go to the bathroom?” Just by being different and a more unique version of yourself, you inspire and open up new worlds to those around you.

34. Become the person you always knew your were

Never feel like the life that you’re living isn’t really you. Sometimes when we just go along with what we think we’re supposed to do, we lose sight of what we really want to do.

35. To see clearly what you love

In a life devoid of things, you learn what it is you truly hold close to your heart

36. Gaining new wisdom

37. For finishing off your bucket list

Or to make one if you’ve never sat down to write out your dreams and aspirations!

38. To become closer to those you love

39. Living a life of luxury

Luxury doesn’t necessarily mean million dollar properties, a ten car garage full of hotrods or vacations that cost thousands. Luxury can be things you already have, and is as simple as living a life feeling that you have enough.

40. To travel!

Who would’ve thought? That having less makes it easier to leave everything behind to see and experience what you’ve always wanted.

41. Time to pick up that book you’ve been wanting to read

42. So you keep learning

Feeling stunted? Or like you lose a few braincells every time you have to go through your junk drawer to find a pair of scissors? (You just know you’ve bought like five pairs!) Might be a sign you’re ready for a change,

43. Discover skills you never knew you had

Ever try something brand new, like ceramics, scuba diving or gardening and feel that you were born to do it? When you get stuck in a sleep, eat, work cycle you don’t get to find those parts of yourself.

44. To feel more genuine

45. Letting go of what holds you back

Minimalism is realizing the joy within yourself, rather than seeing it in the things and circumstances around us. You can start practicing this mindset without lifting a finger, by internally letting go of what takes joy away from you, and by finding things within yourself that make you happy.

46. To smile and laugh like you used to

47. Getting over yourself

We are just a tiny spec, on a little ball floating in a big universe. The things that you think are important, are really just a fleeting moment that time will undoubtedly forget. It’s easy to let life pass by, day after day concerned with distractions. That’s what makes living in the moment, and doing the things that bring you joy precious.

48. For sobriety

This one isn’t as obvious as some others, but for those of us that struggle to stay clean, having lots of distractions and ways to numb ourselves to life is what makes it easy to never face the real problems. Consciously choosing to be awake and open to living a life with less of what hurts us is a major game changer.

49. Ditch wasteful habits

50. Stop feeling envious

Comparison is the thief of joy and mother of bitter envy. When you live a life of luxury within your means you stop comparing yourself to everyone around you.

51. A chance to start fresh

Nothing is worse than feeling trapped in your current circumstance. Sometimes what you really need is a chance to start again doing things a little differently.

52. To leave the rate race behind

53. To have control over your life

You are the master of your own universe. No landlord, university or boss should take that truth away from you. You have exactly as much control over your life as you take

54. Because you can

You’re doing something right the moment people start telling you that you can’t. Grit and passion will always accomplish more than passive compliance.

55. Because you want to

The biggest reason to do anything? Because deep down it’s something you really want for yourself. Remember you can always change your mind.

The Cost of Living on a Boat

Living on the beach is expensive anywhere. From the cold shores in the Pacific North West, to the palm tree populated coast of So-Cal, renting an apartment is guaranteed to stretch your budget unless you’re sharing the space with room mates. And if you’re talking about owning property? Unless you have half a million for a down payment then forget it.

Rent is an unavoidable cost of living, and if you’re renting an apartment or a house you might at times begin to feel like your purpose for existence is to be a bill payer, that you’re just someone else’s paycheck. At the end of the day, even if you feel you can reasonably afford rent, you don’t own jack.

So let’s break down the cost of living on a boat shall we? There are four main costs of live-aboard life:

1. The Boat, duh

It’s typical for Marinas to only allow live-aboard status on vessels thirty five feet or larger, although if a harbor master takes a liking to you they may allow for a thirty foot boat. I’ve even heard of twenty-five footer live-aboards. It’s important to keep that in mind while boat buying, since it’d be a shame to buy the perfect boat to live in, only to learn there isn’t anywhere for you to put it. The general rule is to stick with the smallest boat you can get by with, not the largest you can afford.

To find a used sailboat in decent condition, a budget of ten to fifteen thousand will get your foot in the door. You should have a few thousand more for costs like pullout, surveying and repairs. It’s not uncommon for a used boat to require a few updates to get her up to code with the coast guard.

The good news is that once your boat is paid for, it’s yours! You may keep it for many years, sell it or include it in your will like any other personal property.

2. Slip Fee

The slip fee usually varies by the size of the boat, the larger the vessel the higher the slip fee, since a bigger boat requires a bigger slip. Expect to pay around $200 to $500 a month for your slip. Cheaper slips are usually on rivers or off the coast in smaller towns. The most expensive slips will be on popular beaches or near big cities.

3. Live-aboard Fee

While you may think you are good to go as soon as your boat is in the water with the slip fee paid, if you start living on your vessel without live-aboard status you are considered a “sneak-aboard”. There are people out there that take this route, however consider that this can get you kicked out of your slip without just 24 hours notice, your vessel impounded, and the loss of any deposit.

A live-aboard fee is relatively inexpensive, usually around $200 a month for one person and an added $50 per month for each additional person. This ensures your status to live full time in your slip and can include access to facilities like private bathrooms, showers, parking and lounge areas. Make sure to ask marinas what amenities are offered, I didn’t realized there was a gym room at my marina for a whole month after I started living there!

4. Utilities, Mail and Insurance

Say goodbye to triple digit water/electricity bills, and neighborhood association fees. I lump these all together because they’re only worth mentioning purely for the fact that the costs are so microscopic. My monthly mail box is just $15 through my marina and insurance to cover your boat in case of damage or sinking is barely over a $100 billed annually.

Plus, since I live in such a small space, it takes significantly less to heat and light it. In fact, the most I’ve ever paid for Electricity is $40 for the coldest February in forty years

So how much do I pay to live with my S.O. on a 35′ boat right on the ocean? With utilities? At the most it’s around $385 a month. Living on by the beach in paradise for under $400 a month is all about not being a human paycheck, it’s about paying off debt and saving my money for adventure. It’s about stressing less and enjoying living.

How about you all? How do you live? Would you live on a boat for the cheap rent?

10 Mistakes all Land Lubbers Make at Sea

Earning your sea legs is most definitely a process of trial and error, but the good news is you aren’t alone! Making mistakes is half the fun, but beware of these ten common pitfalls- 

1.  Forgetting to Ask Permission to Come Aboard

If you’ve never been on a boat, you probably didn’t know that before you board ship you should ask the captain for permission to come aboard. Contrary to many misconceptions, sailors actually do have etiquettes.

You should never board a vessel without the presence or permission of the captain! Boats are considered private property, and walking on the finger of its slip or on deck is trespassing. In fact, the docks of most Marinas are only accessible by tenants, their guests, and those who have checked in with the harbor master. 

2. Treating a Vessel Like a Building

You know how it’s totally cool to leave a half full mug of coffee out on the counter at your place? Not such a good idea if your house rocks and is made of wood and fiberglass. Like to procrastinate the dishes till the morning? No big deal in a house or apartment with big windows or fans, but smell sinks into small spaces quickly. Boats are already hard to keep smelling nice, considering the bilge, the head and the engine (especially if it’s diesel!). What about lighting a few candles to set the mood? You’d think fire would be the least of your concern living on the water, but fire is actually extra hazardous on a boat. Primarily the worry lies in sinking, and in boats that run on gas, due to the risk for an explosion if the fire were to reach the gas tank or fuel line.

3. Moving Quickly

The best way to injure yourself aboard a vessel is to move too quickly. Above and below deck are places for the surefooted, and even they will be swearing like a sailor after stubbing a few toes and knocking their head on wood. Being cautious is an important part of staying safe when a wrong step could put you in the ocean or down a flight of steps into the corner of a table.

4. Being Distracted

It’s so annoying to get all the way out the door and into your car only to realize you need to go back inside because you forgot something. It’s even more annoying when your door is three stacking pieces of wood and your driveway is actually a walk all the way down the dock, up the bridge and onto shore. Being distracted is a major part of forgetting the essentials, like turning the water off as you leave or making sure lines are tied off right.

5. …Or Being Unprepared

Showering isn’t a matter of just being cold as you dash across the hall because you forgot your towel. It’s more like shaking the water off like a dog and wiggling back into your skinny jeans to walk your damp ass back home to finish drying off, I guess you could try the napkin dispenser too but then you’ll smell like recycled hand towels. The effect is amplified further when say, you leave shore unprepared without something essential as drinking water or your radio.

6. Also Over-preparing

The main thing about boats is that they can’t hold all the shit you’d normally pack a house with. By over-over-preparing I mean having your set of ten knives, your collection of snow globes or those three different fish poles. All that stuff piles up— eventually your boat will be so full that you wont be able to go anywhere at all for fear of being crushed as you bounce over your first wave.

7. Not Respecting the Water

Sailors are infamous drinkers, and vacationers everywhere enjoy renting out boats and jet skies while staying by the water. It’s important to be aware that most cases of drowning occur from being on the water and intoxicated, from leaving children unattended and from overestimating one’s own swimming ability. In most instances, drowning victims are found without a life jacket on. Wearing a life vest, on fresh water or salt water, whether on a raft or speed boat, increases your chance of survival should you fall or be thrown into the water.

8. Being Oblivious to the Weather

“Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning. Red sky at night, sailors delight”. You should never take weather conditions for granted. When you’re out on the water anything can happen. The wind can turn on you in an instant, the fog could roll in or lightening could strike. It’s a good idea to watch the forecast before setting out, and to keep a watchful eye towards the sky.

9. Disregarding Marina Rules

As a tenant of a Marina, you don’t have the same rights as a tenant of an apartment or building. If you cause trouble or drama living alongside other boaters, or if you disregard waste disposal or other coast guard regulated safety standards you are in danger of losing your spot in your slip. The harbormaster has total control of who stays and who goes in the marina. It’s always a good idea to be on her or his good side. Make sure to comply with the rules of your marina and be friendly with your fellow boater neighbors. It pays off in the long run, and provides you with more staying power.

10. Cursing Your Boat

Beware landlubbers! Your vessel can acquire nasty curses if you disregard sailor traditions. The most common way is renaming a ship improperly, never rename your boat without first sailing her backwards and calling out the new name to the sea three times. Certain days are bad for sailing too, like the last day in December or the first day in April. Also Thursdays and Fridays. Just to be careful, you should also eat your bananas on shore, there’s just something about them that makes ships disappear never to be seen again. 

Live-aboard life is all about learning as you go and doing your best not to make the same mistake twice. Remember everyone starts out a novice, and everyone has to earn experience.