Living in a Marina!

Initially you don't think about living in a marina its only a place you will visit on rare occasions ...that is what you believe when you decide to go cruising. You envision quiet anchorages in idyllic locations for relaxation and exploration.

So why do so many that go off with this dream end up living aboard tied to shore? 

The reasons, challenges and the rewards... what’s it really like?

Once thought of as second class citizens, water gypsies, now we find a very diverse lot of people take up living aboard a yacht.

What kind of people are living in a Marina?

From the professions to the trades people, welders, teachers, engineers, painters, photographers, shipwrights, writers; I have met all these when I have lived aboard and I too worked in a profession when I lived on my yacht.

If your work can handle the location and you don’t need special requirements then there is little difference in living in a land based home to on a yacht.

Age is not relevant the young, including families, a couple well into their 80's I have met as liveaboards. Single men, single women (in the minority), couples and divorced men ... they got the boat and often the dog ... she got the house!

The yachts they live on:

It’s a funny thing but as long as you are sailing or swinging off an anchor your yacht whatever the size is fine ... but as soon as you spend time on a jetty it begins to shrink in size".

It really does not matter how big the boat of your choice is it will be smaller and less comfortable compared to a house.

Living in a marina on a sailboat cannot be anything other than a minimalist lifestyle and this often means giving up possessions, or keeping extra things in a rented storage shed. So why live this way?

Often the answer to this question involves adventure, romance, and freedom. These are certainly part of the lifestyle. You can live in some marinas on a tight budget and in a tiny boat with none of life’s essentials, like showers, decent galley or heads.

I met a couple that lived aboard their 18 foot yacht with two dogs; their dream boat was only a few feet longer.

On the other hand some yachts; maybe the one moored across the way has more conveniences in a compact package. A galley with dishwasher, and water maker , microwave, complete refrigeration, and a washer-dryer. An aft cabin containing a queen-size bed and en-suite with shower, a main cabin with colour television and stereo equipment.

There are people who are living in a marina aboard a variety of boats from the mono hull yachts, roomy catamarans, and motor boats of all descriptions and sizes.

Many allow house boats too, and these can range from the equivalent of a caravan on water to the super luxury accommodation of a floating apartment.

Heating and air conditioning in some climates are essential whatever the size of your boat and both of these are easier with shore power.

The reasons given for living in a marina:

  • The main reason is they need to work or to replenish the cruising kitty.
  • Health reasons can force some into a safe harbour until it's sorted out.
  • Some initially come in to escape bad weather or sit out the cyclone season.
  • When work needs doing on your yacht whether you do it yourself or hire someone.
  • Some just absolutely love the lifestyle, the location and the friendly social life.
  • Others say they live aboard to protect and look after the boat and it’s the best way to do it.
  • Or they are selling the boat and need to be near a good brokerage.

And most of them wouldn’t have it any other way and will even stop at marinas along the coast while cruising.

A solo sailor, John, who I first met in Keppel Bay and then Mackay Marina in Queensland, Australia, has been doing it for 22 years because of the convenience of a floating jetty and the social life.  He does yachts up and on sells them as a way of keeping himself in the life style he enjoys.

Challenges of Marina Living:

  • If you don’t have a shower or holding tank for the heads on board the often long walk to the facilities … especially in bad weather.
  • Carting a load of dirty laundry up to the Laundromat ... going back for it ... putting it in the dryer and another couple of trips latter bringing it back to the boat to put away.
  • Parking your car sometimes in insecure parks and having to lug shopping, or other ‘stuff’ up and down often steep ramps ... Tide always seems to be low on floating jetty when you have a heavy load to carry; or all the marina trolleys are out!
  • The next door boats rigging making a racket in the middle of the night or some ones wind generator keeping you awake.

Like everything in life it is your perception and response to a challenge that is important. All that walking up and down the marina, and it can be a ‘hell'ova’ long way, to facilities and Laundromats and car parks, up and down steep ramps.... is saving you a fortune at the gym and keeping you fit and agile for sailing!

Live aboard partners, how does that work?

Yes the ‘mars and Venus’ ... Sailings His dream but what about her dream thingy can come to the fore here! On a boat, one is in continuous full contact. The effect may be a profound deepening and enrichment of the relationship or it may destroy it.

One of the biggest challenges can be the different outlook and perception between partners; this is especially true of some of the differences in gender roles that can influence us in ways that interfere with our enjoyment of living aboard.

Some of these challenges can occur when the male is attracted to an adventurous lifestyle with very few possessions.

Living in a marina aboard your boat is very much like traveling around in a travel trailer or camping with similar challenges.

What is considered essential by the female, who has a list of required conveniences and home comforts, may or may not be practical with the lifestyle and living in a marina.

It can make matters worse, if this is not discussed ahead of time and if the male has been the main decision maker ashore he can often become a tyrant aboard the yacht.

The reverse can also be true I have seen men so dedicated to adding one more piece of equipment or doing one more ‘thing’ to a boat that the couple never go anywhere.

The differences in marinas:

Some marinas do not allow you to live aboard or they have severe limits on the percentage of live-aboard and there are waiting lists. Often you get treated like second rate citizens in these marinas ... Not a good atmosphere you find!

Find a marina that not only suits your budget but one where you like the people and the environment also. While most marinas have good shower facilities and Laundromats not all will have telephone connections some have questionable electrical supplies also.

Before you make a commitment check it out by asking some of the sailors who live on their boats if they are happy with the services, that will also give you an idea of what to expect from the community there.

If you can ... look for a arm with a good breeze, little or no wake, easy access for sailing in and out and getting around, sometimes this is not possible because of availability.  But if possible it makes living in a marina more comfortable.

If you haven’t got a car how far is it to the shops or transport? The marinas I’ve lived at in both New Zealand, the Gold Coast and Mackay in Queensland have a very strong social life, with coffee shops, yacht clubs, and take away food outlets, a meeting place for liveboards to bond.

I find it really fantastic the way a certain community develops with folks who are living in a marina on their boats. I miss my days of living on my yacht and the like minded friends I made in these places.

Yes it always took longer to walk up and down the length of the jetty chatting and maybe stopping for coffee along the way.

I also enjoyed sharing a glass of wine with other cruisers at the yacht clubs, or Sailz in Mackay, some passing through on new adventures. The endless stories exchanged over a drink, quickly replaced by new sailors with new stories and new destinations.

But I have also lived in marinas that have their clicks and gossips which lead to an unpleasant atmosphere.  But these are few and far between.

Living in a marina for has many advantages ... so what about the dream of being at anchor in a tranquil bay? 

A marina is the gateway to the world, a yacht a holiday home at any exotic landfall!


Liveaboard at Anchor             Eye of a Cyclone                Sailings His Dream




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