You’ve probably heard someone in your life say that you learn by doing. This is axiom is definitely true about boats. I’m living proof that you can read, you can watch videos and you can hear other people talk about boating and living on a boat for over two years and still not really understand what it’s like to be on a boat.
So what’s one to do if you’re interested in boat living and have no real experience with watercraft? Am I saying you shouldn’t even entertain the idea?
Absolutely not (or “knot” as my nautical friends would say)! Even if you are “dry” behind the ears, there are a few things you can do to ease yourself into spending time and even living on the water.
Take a class:
The number of sailing classes available is endless. You’ll be able to find them anywhere there is a body of water big enough to sail on. If there isn’t a lake in sight, you can always travel. It might seem like a big expense just to get a little education, but take my word, it’s worth it. Before we set off on our boat, we took a weekend class in San Diego in January, thinking we’d escape a bit of the Idaho winter and get our first taste of sailing on gentle waters with soft warm winds. Boy were we wrong! Instead, we were treated to one of the roughest weekends in Southern California sailing history. The first day out, my husband had to pull me back by the belt loops to keep me from being pitched overboard. The second day out was so wild, the main office called our instructor to tell him to bring us back in! It probably would have been enough to turn some people off of sailing all together, but we had a blast and experienced something we would never get from a book!
If you do live near some water, there will be people who want to sail large boats and they might need crew. Find out where the boats are. Google “yacht club,” “sailing club,” “marinas.” See who you can connect with and discover what kinds of crew opportunities are available. You might find people who are interested in racing and need crew, which is a good way to see if you have the stomach for the “rough stuff” that sailing can throw at you. Plus it’s just fun! You can even go online and search for folks looking for longer voyage crew. Now that is a great way to see if you really want to live on a boat first-hand!
If you’re lucky enough to have friends with boats, be really nice to them. We have quite a few and it’s amazing how far a six pack and some baked goods go in securing an invitation to a day on the water. For bonus points, offer to help out on maintenance day. This does double duty in getting in the very good graces of your boat-owning friends and learning some things about boat care and repair first hand. This can save you time, frustration and expense.
Chartering a boat for a week or two is an excellent (and extremely fun) way to test your mettle on the sea. This a more advanced option than most brand new sailors would likely be able to handle, but if you find a friend who has some experience, it could be a great way to really get the idea of what it could be like living on a boat. Sure you’ll have an extra person on board which always changes things a little, but a charter trip will give you the kind of time on board to help you really understand what it’s like to live aboard. Or, take some classes, go out for a few day trips, and then charter for a week or two. Isn’t learning fun?
If you have any questions about living aboard, I’m more than happy to help with the knowledge I have! Please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. Fair winds and following seas!
K.A. Lewis is a boat-loving author and insurance broker, currently land-bound in Louisville, KY.