If living aboard a boat was easy and convenient, everyone would do it; but we love it for this chapter of our lives. Some of the ingredients of a happy live-aboard lifestyle are: the boat, the marina, the location, and the neighborhood. All of these are controllable, so chose wisely. Living aboard either calls both of you or it does not. One recipe for disaster is one person is called to it and the either is not. At the end of the day, the arrangement has to work for everyone, otherwise, what is the point? Living aboard has its own share of compromises to make and inconveniences to tolerate and those need to be embraced and accepted otherwise, like a bad toothache, it will color everything else. For some, living aboard costs less; while others will say it costs about the same as living in a dirt house.
There are books on living aboard but our notion here is to give ideas, what works and present some of the lessons that were learned and like most of the pages on this website, this is a changing document.
Fueling, Stabilization Additive and Filtering In a typical cruising year, Tribute will travel about 600 to 800 miles and we cruise nearly year round. The generator and the Hurricane Hydronic system both pull fuel from the same tank as the engine. Tribute has a pair of stainless steel tanks that each hold 335 gallons that includes a gap below the top of the tank. We get fuel once a year and found that fuel services that are operated by incorporated cities in Washington State will have the best price because they get their fuel cheaper than retail stations or marinas operated by port districts. Our two favorite fuel locations in Puget Sound are the City of Oak Harbor and the City of Des Moines. The tanks are filled during the fall so the tanks stay relatively full over the winter when colder air can cause water condensation inside the fuel tanks. A fuel stabilizer is added and Stanadyne is recommended for the John Deere engine. (See the attached photo.)
There are two schools of thought about sizing the fuel filters when there are two sets of fuel filters, one on the engine and another is wall mounted. Fuel goes to the wall mounted filters first and then the engine mounted filter. One school of thought is using the same filter size for both filters. With Tribute's John Deere engine, fuel should be filtered used 10 micron filters. The second school of thought is what is done on Tribute: the wall mounted filters do the hardest work by having 2 micron filters and the engine filter is 10 microns. In this sense, the engine mounted filter is like a back-up filter. On Tribute, only one of the pair of wall mounted Parker filters is working. When the vacuum gauge rises in pressure signifying that the filter is near the end of its life, the yellow handle is turned and the adjacent filter goes to work. The filter replacement takes about 3 minutes and is very easy to do. (See the following photo)
A Personal Cart - helps make one inconvenience better Using a cart is easier on the hands and the shoulders than carrying sacks of goods to the boat. Sometimes that trip can be long depending upon where the car is parked. Rather than relying upon the availability of a clean and dry dock cart, having our own has been really useful. From the photo, you can see that this is a two-part arrangement, the folding and collapsable cart is available on-line and sometimes can be found at the the big box stores. The second piece is a clear plastic box with lid and is a good quality one. This one came from Staples. We got the biggest box that can easier store in the car. We have two cars, so each has a cart and a box and they store there easily. When there is a huge load, we use both carts. For some mysterious reason, a shopping cart of groceries will nearly fit in the plastic box when the packaging is removed. Easier to throw the packaging away at the store or at the marina than filling the garbage sack on the boat. With a good lid, the contents stay dry and other goods can be carried on top. The cart and box go back to the car at the next trip. Leave the dock carts for somebody else.
Fighting The War On Condensation Condensation causes mold which causes damage and is the battle that most boaters have to wage. Living on the boat will cause more condensation. Condensation is simply water vapor turning to a liguid when the vapor contacts a colder surface when there is a large temperature difference. The war on condensation employs three principles that are used together: venting, lowering the humidity and raising the inside air temperature. Cooking and showering will add huge amounts of water vapor very quickly. Using propane will unleash water vapor. Water vapor also comes from the bilge, so find the reasons and keep the bilge and hold clean. Ours is wiped clean once a month. Here are three examples of venting: a solar powered fan in a hatch; a plastic mesh material under the mattress, called hydro-vent, and a cracked window in the head.
When the humidity is about 50% or less, the battle of condensation is being won. Monitor the humidity level, a dehumidifier that has a larger internal bucket and the option to drain into a sink and the desired humidity is programmed and for special spot areas like closets of clothes, a container of crystals that is emptied once a week or so.
At the dock, Tribute is heated with both oil filled heaters and the diesel fired Hurricane hydronic system. The electric heat can maintain a difference of 20-25 degrees between the inside and the outside. The heat setting is carefully monitored when it is near a wall - if the wall is only warm to the touch, we are comfortable with the setting. The Hurricane system is used in the morning and after returning to Tribute to jump-start the heating process. Simply there is no good reason to be cold on a boat.
Tools On each of our boats, the amount of tools needed was different. As the systems grew in complexity or the access to systems was more difficult, different tools were needed. Also, the method to store and organize the tools was evolved. Tribute has a wonderful engine room that is high enough to stand up at the front of the engine. Without stabilizers, there is space for a compact workshop and storage. Tools are kept in three soft-sided carrying bags and organized by function: general hand tools, electrical tools, and mechanical tools. Nearly every tool is visible and each has a specific place. Yet, the bags are not overly heavy.
One of the most useful tools is trouble light with a 25-foot cord on a retractable wheel. Additional light is easy to add to almost every place.
When It Is Too Cold Living aboard in the winter of Western Washington has its own set of challenges. 90% of the time the weather is very acceptable for boating with cloud days, highs in the 40's to 50's and rain showers that come and go from November through April. Snow is the exception rather than the rule and when it does snow, it is usually in inches and does not last very long. The cold arctic blast can last for a couple of weeks, if it comes at all.
The inside temperature of Tribute is kept in the high 60's by two oil-filled electric heaters, one int he salon and one in the stateroom. These are very good at keeping the temperature 20 degrees above the outside temperature. More than that, the Hurricane hydronic system does the rest of the work. This is a diesel fired furnace that heats fluid and is pumped to thermostatic controlled registers through the trawler plus the hot water tank. Normally the hydronic system system is run in the evening hours but when the outside is less than 45 degrees, the system is run all the time.
If the snow comes, the canvas cover over the flybridge is watched for weight from the snow that can damage the canvas or the frame. The water line is disconnected from Tribute to prevent freezing coming into the boat's copper lines. A small flat shovel is kept to clear snow off the dock and the entry/exit from the boat. A de-ice crystal product is used to keep the dock safe. We use the swim step to step on and off the boat and a rubber mat is moved there for safety. Freezing temperatures means no water from the dock, so the 300 gallon water tank is kept full and that will easy last the time the marina has shut off the water.