We’ve always been a bit crazy. And I’m betting if you’re reading this you might be able to relate. But have you ever thought about living on a boat?
Well, picture my husband and I 14 years ago. We had saved up for a deposit on a house but then. Boom! We decided to buy a boat to live on instead!
And not just any boat- a boat we couldn’t even stand up in (it was THAT small!)
For us, it was a way to save some money and live somewhere with incredible views for much less than normal. And because we’ve always been a bit crazy, we were hooked within a week.
Fast forward and we are still living on a boat. We’ve bought and sold several in that time. And because buying a boat isn’t enough, we’ve always gotten them run down. You know, the ones no one else wants. To us, part of the fun is doing it up and selling for a profit.
We’ve owned yachts and motorboats. Our current home is a 58ft motorboat. Would you believe she was 6 feet deep in water when we got her? Admittedly, not the best look for a boat, but we loved her from the start all the same.
Recently, we also purchased an RV–or in my neck of the woods, a motorhome. We’re currently taking it around Europe in order to visit places further inland. In the past 18 months we’ve explored 15 countries and driven nearly 30,000 miles. Behind us, we tow two Triumph motorbikes. These are just another fun vehicle we use to explore.
Of course, after becoming a member in lots of RV groups.…I started getting lots of boat questions. But the main one being:
What’s different about RV life and living on a boat?-everybody and their mother
Here are our opinions.
A boat is limited to the water. Duh.
Alright, this one is puh-retty obvious.
And while we’ve stayed in some INCREDIBLE places in both, a boat is limited to the places you can reach by water. Conversely, an RV can go pretty much anywhere,
Which was our biggest reason for buying one – the ability to explore places inland.
We LOVE waking up by the water. There’s nothing quite like the light shimmering through the windows. But we also LOVE the freedom of being able to camp in our motorhome in the middle of nowhere- we’ve parked next to fairytale castles in Germany and on a river bed in Austria.
Both were utterly breath-taking.
You get there quicker in an RV
If you’ve never been on a boat for more than a quick fishing trip…let me share a secret with you. They aren’t fast.
We love to visit Cornwall, but it’s about 100 miles away from our home port in England. By boat, that takes us about 10 hours. In the RV we can do it in 2, even with English roads not always going in a straight line!
We regularly pop into Cornwall for the weekend now in our RV. If we had tried to do that in the boat, we’d spend all our time at sea!
No seasickness in an RV
For anyone who suffers, you’ll know how MISERABLE seasickness is. I’m ex-Navy and have lived onboard for over 14 years… and I STILL get seasick. I LOVE the fact that this doesn’t happen in the RV.
Yes, the winds can make it rock occasionally, but normally it’s perfectly calm and still at night. Not so on a boat- you’re constantly moving. The weather and tides are changing frequently and there’s always the concern about storms.
Being in the RV is so much more relaxing for me.
RVs are more expensive for the same size
Perhaps this isn’t the case in the US, but in Europe a 8m boat is a lot cheaper than an 8m RV, as long as they’re both in good condition. We also find permanent campsites are more expensive than permanent moorings for a boat.
Having said that, fuel costs are cheaper in an RV than when you are living on a boat. Unless of course, you live on a yacht and sail everywhere. For us, insurance has been roughly the same cost, too. As we travel, we tend to eat at home mostly, so our expenses are about the same too- although we tend to find more activities or places to visit in an RV! This can make RVing more expensive, too.
Living on a boat takes a LOT more maintenance
While I’ve heard lots of RV maintenance horror stories, I still think living on a boat takes the cake when it comes to repair.
If you have a problem whilst you’re out at sea, even the smallest thing can completely derail you. Trust me- we once bobbed around for 3 hours in the middle of one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. All because a seal had given way on our engine. This needed immediate attention and we had no choice but to play buoy until we could get it fixed towed back to port.
This was both both embarrassing and costly.
And while you can get away with letting your RV just sit with the only major problem being it gets ugly, it’s different for boats. Salt water creates a lot of damage and boats need to be lifted out of the water for checks and painting at least every two years. This is a lot more annoying than it sounds. And a lot less fun than going on the roof of the RV and re-sealing every six months or so.
On the flip side, an RV can often be repaired at the roadside. Also, there are usually fewer systems on an RV which can go wrong and you can get to all areas of the RV easily- and without donning a dry suit!
I also find the RV easier to keep clean- perhaps because it’s all carpeted. Of course there is maintenance to do, especially if it’s been parked up for a while, but we seem to keep on top of the RV much better.
Some similarities between RVing and living on a boat
Both lifestyles do have a lot in common.
You can bring your house and all your possessions with you while you travel. I’m sure most nomads love RVing and boat life for this reason. , so once you’re there, you’re set. One of our favorite perks is that we can make a coffee wherever we are. Whenever we’d like!
And of course, both have the downsides of needing to find water, fuel and gas as you travel.
Both worlds include some brilliant people and some snobs. Some campervanners don’t associate wihth motorhomers. And many yacht owners refuse to talk to anyone who owns a motorboat. It’s a weird thing, but very obvious at times, especially when you’re trying to dock on a windy day and only the other motorboat owners come to help!
We find it’s easier to meet people and make new friends whilst traveling in the RV. Whenever we boondock in a remote place, even with only a handful of other people, all speaking a different language, we still all find a way to sit around a campfire and share a beer.
We still own both and we will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
The boat is a perfect base for us in the UK when we return to visit family and friends. We also could never afford a house with those harbour views!
But for me, if we could only have one, I’d pick the RV. I love the speed we can travel, the variety of places we can explore and the people we meet along the way. After 14 years of boat life, I think I’ve been converted.
Unless it’s a flat calm with the sun shining. Then I’ll always be a boat girl. 🙂
Would you ever consider living on a boat?
Kathryn Bird decided to get out of the rat race whilst she was still young enough to enjoy it. Together with her husband, teenage daughter and puppy, she explores Europe by motorhome and motorbike, sharing her experiences on the award-winning travel blog Wandering Bird. In less than two years they have visited 15 countries and driven nearly 30,000 miles in their motorhome- not including the times they were lost!
She is passionate about inspiring others to have their own adventures and experience the freedom of life on the road, whether it’s a long weekend or a month away. You can read more about Kathryn’s adventures, tips and ‘How to’ guides at www.wandering-bird.com