Boat or home? 5 things to know if you want to live on a boat


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The boat/owner relationship is something much deeper than we think. It is a special bond that only those who have experienced it can truly understand. And those who love the sea and boats will certainly have cherished-at least once-the idea of living on the boat by making it their home.

“How beautiful it is to live in the middle of the sea” “How I envy those who have made this choice” “If only I could, what a sense of freedom!”

This is what many people think referring to those who have made the choice to move aboard. But all that glitters is not gold, and for the many positive aspects that there may be there are also 5 factors that you absolutely must not underestimate if you want to move from the “terrestrial life” to life on a boat.

The first thing you will notice is the lack of space on board.
It is true that boats nowadays are increasingly “open” and volumes have increased, but be aware that if you plan to spend long periods on board, the luggage you pack will occupy at least the entire area of any free berth. Here is demonstrated in a few words and with a small but fatal experience what lack of space in the boat means. You will need to be as “spartan” as possible.

motor boats maxi dolphin

2.THE BOAT MOVESThe second thing impossible not to perceive immediately is that the boat is moving, always, constantly. Although, as is the case most of the time, she is comfortably and surely docked at her berth in the heart of Italy’s safest marina.

But that’s not all, even if the sea is calm and the movement is still slight, the mere passing-by – done, moreover, at very low speed because we are in port – of another vessel that is entering or leaving its berth will be enough to cause this movement to increase significantly.

In short, we should immediately and as soon as possible familiarize ourselves with the perpetual motion of the sea, also because in the vast majority of cases, our finally accustomed body will perceive it as a gentle roll or a pleasant lullaby. Of course, one also quickly learns that there are a number of practical factors that affect the greater or lesser perception of sea movement from the boat: such as the degree of shelter and protection from winds and tides that the chosen marina offers, or such as the direction of the boat’s bow itself with respect to the direction of the currents and wind.

And for a long variety of reasons: you will quickly learn to understand “by ear”
, that being on board one has to familiarize oneself with a strange series of sounds (often caused by the wind or the collision between boats and elements of the dock and dockyard) that in many cases are reflected and amplified by the particular construction structure of the boats. Sound, in fact, any kind of sound is scientifically proven to travel well along water.

In this regard, there is a legend-but at this point perhaps only a truth rigged as a legend-that is often told to those who arrive for the first time, by boat or otherwise, to visit the city of San Francisco in California, United States. As some may recall, for many years on a small island in the bay facing this very famous American city, the infamous Alcatraz prison was in operation (it is now a museum…).

bell boat

Well it is said that one of the reasons that made being locked up in this fortified prison much more harrowing than normal was the fact that, thanks to this very property of sound transmission over water, the prisoners could distinctly hear the sounds coming from the many parties held on the premises located on the seashore of San Francisco, which has always been famous for its social and vacationing vocation but is more than a mile away from the prison as the crow flies.

Be that as it may, speaking of boat noises, one will also find that the water itself and the waves produce a remarkable variety of sounds, breaking against the hull of one’s boat and the structures of the marina and the nearby dock.

Multiply this by the number of boats in the harbor. And add to that the noise (and stench, but we’ll talk about that in a moment) caused instead by the ignition and use of the thrusters of all the motorboats possibly always moored in that marina. Of course, one can always argue that staying to live in the city, the sounds of horns, ambulances, police sirens, street cleaning and whatever else you can think of, which are usually heard almost continuously also are certainly not more pleasant. In fact.

But we are in fact just trying to show that going to live on a boat means not diving into a silent middle age but learning to know, recognize, accept and endure a whole new set of sounds and noises to which our city ear is not at all trained. That they are then less annoying or invasive than those of firemen, clanking streetcars, and police is self-evident.

Finally, there is another more peculiar category of noises, those caused by your mooring neighbors and therefore classifiable as “human.” Sounds testifying to arguments, late-night chats, pleasant (for them) intimacy, early-morning deck cleaning (no, usually without vacuuming, but don’t defy the cabal), dinners and evening parties with large groups of friends. The solution? The habit-and getting invited to parties and dinners so as to pass “on the wrong side” but to enjoy them as well.

All kidding aside, this is normal civil coexistence, like that which is also practiced by living in a city apartment building, but mitigated by the fact that by getting more easily acquainted with boat neighbors (if only by the fact that they are more easily visible and crossable than city apartment neighbors) it is also easier and more normal to respect each other’s sensibilities.

4. THE SMELLSFourth on-board sensation that needs to be properly prepared for is the one involving smells. In short, there are five senses, and did you think you would get away with the one that often causes us the greatest reactions of annoyance, not to mention disgust? As we have just seen, it is certainly not that living on a boat can completely isolate us from the noise of the world.

One will simply have to get used to knowing and sharing a different type of sounds produced by nature and man or both together-with the variable, however, that the smaller and more isolated the chosen marina, the fewer and louder these noises to be heard. And as in the case of sound, the smell in the boat also comes from one’s own or others’ boats and the surrounding nature and dock.

Any examples?

Generating odors (which are usually not really smells but real annoying stenches) are first and foremost the sea and the things that live (or lived…) in the sea., then, in no particular order, other boats and their kitchens, toilets, engine fuel (and especially diesel fuel), black water drain pipes, engine fuel and oil tanks, silicone and fiberglass mixed with salt, mold, and, as is always the case, yourself and your neighbors.

Of course, many of these odors can be safely managed or just neutralized (later we will see how…), but with others you will have to learn to live with. To give a practical example, even simply filling up your car with gasoline at the gas station below your home you will have noticed that spilling a little diesel fuel on the bodywork or your hands will then obligate you to smell it in your nose for quite some time to come.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, then, many of these foul smells depend on the behavior and education of the boat inhabitants themselves.

Emptying and flushing the fuel tank for your engine directly into the waters of the marina in which you find yourself moored for example is the classic way of giving rise to a number of foul odors that will emanate from the sea itself as it is turned into a putrid stagnant liquid. Explain to them when possible and in proper ways that this is a no-go.

Fifth and final crucial finding: the boat is not waterproof, at least not totally. Do you want to know what degree of water-safe insulation a boat typically has? The answer is very little. But let’s explain further. Almost all modern boats are built of fiberglass sandwiches that are not meant to be insulated, as the thick walls of an “old” house built with solid brick may be.water boat

All of this practically means that the moment the weather conditions for example worsen and the cold sea water spreads over the outer parts of the deck and hull, the inner surfaces of the hull and cabins will also tend to cool significantly.

There are very effective heating systems, but we just want you to become aware that problems related to weather, temperature, and cold (and the resulting condensation that forms below deck) may be the order of the day. Especially if your marina is in Veneto and not Sicily.

In short, a little mental training is needed to deal with these kinds of situations, which, in any case, in themselves are certainly not capable of endangering anyone’s life or even health. Habit is important: but just as you will get used to lounging on the deck, mojito in hand, enjoying yet another spectacular sunset over the sea, you will also be able to put up with the occasional discharge of your mooring neighbor’s black water (though you shouldn’t have to!). Otherwise, go back to the truck drains that haunt your city apartment, summer and winter, you are free to do so!


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