The live-aboard’s.

Title photograph : Calstock Boatyard, unknown boat.

This is the second post in the live-aboard boat series and once again it’s mainly intended for a non sailing audience.  In this post i am going to take a look at some of the different ways of living a liveaboard life and talk about some actual liveaboard sailors that i have known and do know today.        Right at the outset i want to point out the very colourful French boat in the title picture, that is a steel yacht of around 40 feet owned by a lovely French couple with a young child who were passing through our area and stopped at the yard for a while.  This boat ‘La Desirade’ is a steel Colin Archer design, simple but rugged looking and a decent size for a young couple with a child.  The family are essentially in a long term cruising stance and when i met them had just done a long (40 hour) slow crossing of the channel under sail due to the boat having engine problems. I spoke with Michel, the owner, briefly but didn’t have the time with him to really talk about their long term cruising.     It will become apparent that i have a lot of respect for any young couple that can get a boat together, get out there and have a big old life adventure into the bargain.  I suspect that La Desirade was probably found rusting away at the back of a boatyard somewhere and needed a total refit to get her on the water.  Anyone that does that usually becomes a competent boatbuilder/mechanic/electrician and rigger along the way.

La Desirade.


This post will mainly focus on the side of boats that i know something about ie sailing boats and cruising although at the outset i want to quickly return to a subject which came up in the first post.    In that post i didn’t particularly focus on sea-going or inland boats but just gave an introduction to both as places to live aboard a boat.  That post strongly hinted at a problem within the inland waterways boating way of life and it stems from the licensing and new regulation of boaters , specifically the ones who have a ‘continuous cruising licence’ rather than an established ‘home’ mooring.  The situation with being an inland boater is that the boat owner has to have a licence from the regulatory body to operate a boat and many boaters chose to have only the continuous cruising licence.  The principal there is that the boaters with that licence should be ‘cruising’ the waterways and not setting up permanently on a stretch of canal or river-bank which has been the actual case for many years.    I understand that the way the cruising licence is being regulated is that the authority have introduced a minimal movement distance and that the boat should be moved a reasonable distance every 14 days.  What has happened though is that many of the boaters haven’t or won’t comply with that and some have had their licences revoked….essentially forcing them off the water.  I can see both sides, i’m not impressed at all by the state of some of the ‘permanent’ boaters but neither am i particularly impressed by the attitude of the organisation that regulates the inland waterways.  It hardly matters to me though in that i am a sea-going sailor and not an inland boater…….except that i might in the future do some travelling on the inland waterways with my small boat as part of my voyages.  At the end i will give a link to a video from the excellent Dylan Winter who shows the transition from sea to inshore.

This is of course a video from Dylan Winter’s series ‘Keep turning left’ , as well as giving a good take on the cruising transition from sea-going sailing to inshore boating it shows he kind of thing that i am doing with my own boat…..our boats have the same hull but a different rig btw.

Why i have included all of this is to point out that there is a way of living on the inland waterways that is also a form of long term cruising.  This is similar to many sailors that i know are living a life of continuous or near continuous cruising at se and that is a very valid way of living aboard a boat.   In the sailing side which i know much better than the inland cruising scene the boat is both home and a vehicle for travel and adventure.  Often the boat is the only home although some long term sailors do also maintain a small base on land.  This series of posts from now on mainly focuses on the boats and people that are engaged in long term sea-going cruising and from solo sailors to couples and families.

One of the very few liveaboard boats in this area….seemingly at permanent anchor in a stretch of river nearby.  I used to see this boat out cruising frequently under her former owner… she looks scruffy and uncared-for.    While it is very tempting to start to talk about specific liveaboard boats, this one for a start what i would like to do first is talk about how their owners/crew get it together to live that way on a long term basis , for example the kind of work they do to finance the cruising.

Shandoo….what a mess.


First mention should go out to Lyn and Larry Pardey, now both in their 60’s who have only recently retired from a life spent mainly cruising either one of their self-built wooden sailing boats.  Larry Pardey is clearly a highly skilled boatbuilder having built both of their own boats and carried on with that line of work by selling his skills and services to other boatowners during cruising stops.  That is one very good way of making a living during cruising especially in the popular yacht moorings in parts of the world where cruising sailors congregate.  Many boatowners, especially the wealthy ones, just don’t have the practical skills to maintain complex boats….in fact few boatowners have the complete set of skills to do this and often someone who is say a good woodworker isn’t necasarily a good mechanic, sparky or rigger.  All of those skills are in demand in cruising areas.   A top-end boatbuilder, mechanic or electrician can command a good rate for their work and what i said earlier about skills learnt early in a boat refit can pay dividends.    The Pardey’s also made an income through 2 other boat related jobs : one being boat delivery ie moving someone elses boat from A to B and secondly through the medium of becoming sailing writers.  Today there isn’t anyone that i know of who makes a living through sailing writing….although i know a boat-blogger quite well !, rather today the people who are making an income are the you-tubers filming, narrating and selling the dream.        There is one excellent channel that i will keep talking about time and time again and that is ‘Free Range sailing’ (Troy and Pascale) cruising on quite a small boat around the coast of Australia.   A lot of the other channels i can only describe as a same-y formula of beaches, babes and boobs…..and they, sadly are the ones making the money.

Free range sailing :

In this country we have one professional film-maker who tries to cruise in the same way that i talk about and he can’t make enough income through you-tube even to keep up with the expense of cameras.  It has been suggested on here for example that i should monetise the blog and make an income from it.  Personally i know it wouldn’t work because it all comes down to either advertising or Patreon support.  No major company would want to place adverts on a blog like mine that on a good day maybe gets 50 views : it really needs to be in the thousands per post and the posts really need video content.  For me it has to stay as an engaging hobby until i can make a step-change in what i do.

The kind of thing i am looking for.


Taking up the theme of long term cruising and making enough of an income though there are ways of doing it and i have , in the past , worked out viable plans to do it myself and know of others who have adopted similar solutions.

One group of sailors that i meet regularly ‘out there’ are mainly retired middle-aged blokes often cruising long term in smaller boats.  A few years back i kept seeing the same small boat in nearly every anchorage , in France, that i took my boat to and inevitably pulled alongside to talk with him.  He was older than me, 55 at the time, and had retired from a civil service job with a small income.  He had sold a larger house and invested most of his available funds in a small flat and a small boat.  The boat was smaller than i would chose but with it he lived very successfully on his small pension and had a bolt-hole to return to if it all went awry.  Other, similar sailors have property which they rent out to make an income from, that can work but it usually means having the property maintained and run by an agent and balancing taxes and income.  He said that the main trick is to keep the boat small, keep the costs down and get the boat well sorted before setting out…..after that to get out there and just live the life.  His boat was , as i remember it today, slightly smaller than even my little boat.

At the end of this post i thought that a good way to finish was to talk about my own plans for long term cruising/living aboard and how i worked a way of earning enough to buy and run a boat without the work dominating my life.  This is a past example because it’s something i first worked on more than 20 years ago when i was working in the sailing industry some of the time and when it seemed highly likely that i would buy a boat and live aboard it full time.   My job in the sailing industry would never have allowed me to think about owning a boat because i just didn’t earn enough in that job to keep a boat in the area where i was based….ongoing costs being the killer.  My first solution was to work in a very focussed way for a couple of years back in my profession (nursing) and enhance my salary by doing lots of bank/agency work.  Ok so i worked far too many shifts in close order but it did get me out of a financial hole and allowed me to contemplate owning a boat and becoming a long term cruiser/liveaboard.  That first big push would have got me the boat but i knew that i would still need a significant amount of work per year to pay my way.  My answer was quite simple and is a viable solution for anyone who works in a job where agency work, locum work or ‘temping’ is the way that many jobs are staffed.   It’s obviously true that all major city’s and towns with ports/harbours have hospitals nearby and most of them rely on a floating pool of staff.  I worked out, for example, that i could get a short term mooring right in the heart of London and fill my days or nights with full time and lucrative agency work.  The time limit in that mooring was 3 months but in that time i could more than easily earn a years worth of cruising funds.  Another solution and one that became my actual fallback solution is that i maintained good relations with the manager of the intensive care units in Southampton and would often fill a staff ‘line’ on the duty roster for a few months or in case a couple of years.    This same kind of idea i know works for many roles in healthcare which relies on bank and agency staff and i know also works in teaching but i know several other sailors who make their way by doing on/off jobs in several fields.  It’s possible that if my part time substantive job won’t work any more that this is how i might maintain a small occasional income in the near future……ie do shifts as and when i need to.


1 Comment

  1. Enjoyed that Steve — thanks. I fancy myself as the retired civil servant but as I’m neither retired or a civil servant perhaps I’ll have to re-think that one! I’ve got the small income covered though 😉


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