Living aboard: one year later

We’ve been living aboard for just over a year now, and are absolutely loving it. What started out as an experiment ended up with our selling the house and car and becoming permanent liveaboards. We had a number of infrastructure issues to solve when we first moved aboard, and most solutions will carry forward to the new boat.

Connectivity was our first challenge. Bell Harbor Marina, where we moor the majority of the year, does have WiFi. But connectivity is intermittent, even with a large WiFi antenna. We instead purchased Clearwire. The 3G bandwidth (up to 2 Mbps) was workable, but not close to WiFi speeds (6-10 Mbps). A recent upgrade to 4G WiMax (3-6 Mbps) has improved speeds considerably. And Clearwire works throughout the Puget Sound area, so we’ve got reasonably connectivity for local cruising as well.

We’d been planning to buy bicycles when we got the new boat, but decided to get them right away that first week at Bell Harbor. We wanted something that would work well around town, but also that we could take on logging roads along the coast. We spent ages talking with Aaron at the excellent Velo Bike Shop in Seattle and left with two Giant FCR 2s. The lightweight aluminum frames make them easy to lift and carry, and their 27 gears are ideal for travelling around hilly Seattle. The bikes have been invaluable for living without a car. We can easily travel throughout the city, either completely by pedal or by bus using bus bike racks. James rides his bike to work downtown and Jennifer rides & buses to Redmond. And with bike racks installed, we can carry a huge amount on them. Some of the crazier things we’ve brought home include a full-sized dehumidifier and two 600′ spools of line.

Pump-out was next on the list. We opted for and continue to be happy with the service. We’ll definitely be using them with the new boat.

For mail, we rented a large box at the UPS store in downtown Seattle, about a mile from the marina and on the way to James’ office. This gives us a regular street address, not a P.O. box, so couriered items can be delivered. And someone is always there to sign for a parcel, which is a nice plus. And we get lot of parcels–with no car, we rely heavily on mail-order. Amazon Prime has worked out particularly well for us. With free two-day shipping, it’s barely less immediate than going to a store. Our initial plan was that James would pick up the mail on his way home, but with the bicycles, either can easily do this. To reduce the amount we had to carry home and store aboard, we opted for paperless billing and statements wherever possible, and requested that any mail-order companies we used stop sending catalogs. Initially, we just forwarded our mail from the Post Office to the UPS box, but changed our address to the box once we decided to move aboard permanently. We’ve just renewed the box for another 15 months.

Laundry was another big challenge. Bell Harbor Marina was designed for transient boaters and has no laundry facilities, and none are nearby. The only laundry capability our current boat has is a hand-wringer. While this works well for us when we’re on extended cruises, doing laundry by hand while working full-time was out of the question. And even if a laundromat were nearby, a weekly laundry trip wasn’t appealing either. We eventually found an excellent solution with University Laundry Center. Every Monday morning we put out a big, red bag of dirty laundry, and every Wednesday that bag is returned with the laundry washed, dried and folded. They charge $1.10 per pound, which for us works out to a reasonable $120 per month. The service and results have been excellent, and is wonderfully convenient. But being an industrial laundry, it is a bit tough on the clothes, so we are looking forward to the washer and dryer on the new boat.

Bell Harbor Marina does, however, have excellent shower facilities. But we prefer to shower aboard. Our 10-gallon hot water tank limits the water consumption, but we still need to fill our 77-gallon water tanks twice a week to support that usage. This so far hasn’t been too much of a hassle. We could attach the hose permanently to the boat, but we’re not confident that the bilge pumps could keep up should we have a leak. On the new boat, we’ll have sufficient bilge pump capability that this would be less of a concern, but we may just continue to run off the tanks anyway.

Cleaning dirty dishes is one of the few problems we didn’t find a good solution for. As with laundry, we generally don’t mind doing them when we’re out cruising, but it’s more of an imposition when we’re working full-time. We could use disposable place settings, but that would generate a lot of garbage. The marinas supports paper and plastic recycling, but everything else, including food waste, goes in the garbage. So we currently wash the dishes by hand and the new boat will have dishwasher, so that problem eventually will be solved.

For groceries, we initially shopped at the Pike Place Market and Kress IGA in downtown Seattle. We purchased two Ortlieb bicycle panniers and brought them home full almost every week. The IGA has a good selection, but we did miss a number of products that we purchased at QFC, notably Boddington’s ale. Jennifer’s bus stops near the QFC in lower Queen Anne, so we began shopping there instead of the IGA. After a few months, AmazonFresh began delivery to Belltown, so we primarily use that service and supplement with QFC for those few items that aren’t available or come in larger quantity than we want. And we still shop regularly at the Pike Place Market as well.

Filling the propane tanks is about the only thing we’ve not been able to manage by bike. For those few times that we do need a car, we’ve joined Zipcar. We’ve only needed to use it a few times, but it’s worked well.

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2 comments on “Living aboard: one year later
  1. You really bought a humidifier for the boat ? What a crazy idea lol.
    But how does it work ? Going well and worth the money ?

    • Susan, I hear on a humidifier being about the last thing you would want on a boat. What we had was a dehumidifier which worked very well on the previous boat that wasn’t as well insulated the Nordhavn is. On the new boat, we found we weren’t using it but kept it around. After a year or so we found the unit has been recalled so we got rid of it. This boat doesn’t seem to need a dehumidifier and we no longer have one.

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