27°11’59.1″N 80°15’34.5″W March, 2023
Living on a boat may seem like an exciting and adventurous lifestyle. My time away from the dock is drawing to a close after 3 months in the mooring field (I am moving Strider to a slip in April), and the experience has been interesting and challenging.
Out here, if I want electricity, I have to make it. This can be by (in order of preference) solar, wind power, generator, or auxiliary engine. This requires careful management since I don’t want to burn fuel, preferring to use only sun and wind. Throughout the day while I’m getting solar power, I’m producing more than I’m using, so it is being stored in large “house” batteries. My preferred amount would be 300-400 amp hours, equivalent to 4 normal deep-cycle batteries. Through the night as I’m needing to run lights, small appliances, a fan, I have to be sure to not over-drain the batteries before morning. Deep cycle batteries don’t like to be drained more than 50%. As it happens I have only a single battery in bad shape… yet another thing needing replaced.
If I want water, I have to either make it using a reverse osmosis water maker or distiller, neither of which I have, or I have to haul it in a jerrycan, or move Strider to a dock to fill the 120 gallons of water tankage.
If I want to cook, I use a propane oven/stove. The propane comes from a normal 20 lb tank as you’d find on a typical grill.
During these three months, I’ve come to terms with these facts and have grown to enjoy living on her.
There are other aspects that aren’t really challenges, but different from a normal home.
My floor is constantly moving. Sometimes just a tiny bit, sometimes enough to make me stumble if I happen to be upright. The gentle movement is due to the ever-present forces of wind, current, and tide all exerting their influence. But boats often go by and some kick up quite a wake. If I happen to be broadside to that wake, it can make quite a lurch! But I hardly notice now and have even found that while ashore I’m sometimes a little unsteady because the ground ISN’T moving!
There have been some challenges though. One struggle early in the year until I figured out how to manage it was running out of power. I have some things I must run through the night (CPAP) so this becomes an important issue.
Another struggle has been part of my morning commute to work is by way of an open dinghy. There are mornings when all is still and quiet and I ride in on a whisper. But there are times, typically in the afternoon, when the wind has picked up and I’m fighting current and/or tide and it is quite a hard row for 15-20 minutes to go to or from the dinghy dock. Sitting in the blazing Florida sun, rowing hard, in a life vest… Hot!
The dinghy can get dirty too. Since the dinghy is open, and since the dew is often heavy, and it is dry season, dust settles in and on the dinghy through the day and then gets soaked at night. I sit on a very wet seat on the way to the dock in the mornings, so I can’t wear my work clothes. This means I’ve been essentially living out of my car. I row in and grab my clean work clothes, go to the bathhouse, and get ready for work. When I get back to the marina after work, I change back out of work clothes and head back out into what seems to invariably be a head current and wind. I won’t miss living out of my car!
Another reason I’m moving to a dock in April is that it is getting hotter here as summer approaches. Call me soft… but I want air conditioning! :-). Also as the rainy season approaches it will get more and more likely that my dinghy ride will be in a rainstorm. That would be… unpleasant, especially with the violent thunderstorms that often blow in.
These have been my experiences in my first three months in Florida. So far the weather has been wonderful, nearly always pleasant. But I know summer is coming so I need to prepare for it. Every day is an adventure!