What’s It Like To Live On A Boat in SWFL?

“People live on their boat full-time?!” It was a weird concept for me to grasp when I moved to Florida, even coming from a big boating state like Maryland. Little did I know that in just two years of renting an apartment in Fort Myers that I would become one of those crazy liveaboard boaters in Southwest Florida.

Our First Boat, 51′ Bluewater Coastal Cruiser

Now, after almost two years living aboard, and having sold our first boat for our “forever boat,” I can reverse the question, “Why would we ever want to live on land again?!” It’s certainly not for everyone, but we’ve come to love our floating home and the freedom it offers. As wonderful as boat-life has been for us, it’s not all fun and games, especially in your first few years. There’s some give and take, lots of downsizing, and maintenance headaches.

So, what’s it like living on a boat?

We’re certainly not “old salty sailors” by any means. In fact, we’re probably the youngest liveaboards in SWFL. But the boating community has been the most welcoming and interesting group of people we’ve ever met. Most liveaboards are retired, some are snowbirds, others live and work full-time like us. While living on a boat, you’re certain to meet other boaters with great stories and experiences to share.

Does it rock all the time?

That’s the first question people tend to ask. Our response, “All the time?… No. But often? Yes.” It depends on the type of boat you’re on, and the amount of boat traffic around you. On our 48ft motor boat, we rock whenever a storm rolls through, or a boat goes by with a big wake. It’s something you get used to really quickly. And you learn how to stow things away when it’s time to convert your home back into a sea-going boat for a day on the water.

Our “forever” boat, 480 SeaRay Sedan Bridge

How do you cook?

Most liveaboard boats have a galley with at least a fridge, microwave, and cooktop. Our first boat had an electric stove and oven, whereas this boat has an electric cooktop and convection microwave oven. We use our grill a lot, and also our plug-in electric skillet. While we don’t make Thanksgiving turkey onboard, we can cook just about anything else a “normal kitchen” can handle. It just takes some improvising.

What about storage?

With both of our boats, we’ve had three staterooms available for sleeping and two heads (bathrooms). Since it’s just the two of us and our two cats, we have converted the third bedroom into a closet or storage space for things like cat food, clothes, extra cookware, etc. We keep the kitty litter pan in the shower of our second head. Why do we need two showers anyway?

Did you say cats??

Yes! We have two domestic house cats that love living on the water. While they might miss watching the lizards and squirrels from the window on land, they have plenty of birds and boats to look at on the water. They love to sunbathe in the windshield or out on the bow. You just have to be careful that they don’t fall overboard (which we haven’t experienced, yet), or jump onto the dock and explore other boats (which we have already experienced.)

Turbo cat getting close to the edge

What about TV and Internet?

Why do you need TV when you have gorgeous SWFL sunsets to watch from the fly-bridge? We honestly never watched much TV when living on land either. We do, however, require internet for streaming music and staying connected on social media, after all, we’re Millennials. Most marinas have wifi and cable for boaters to connect, and some boats have wifi boosters and other technology to help get signal when you’re away from the marina.

What about water and waste?

Our boat has a freshwater tank for potable water, and black water tank for sewage. We use a hose on the marina dock to fill our fresh water, and then filter it for cooking and drinking. Most marinas have a pump out station for waste, and some mooring fields even have a pump out boat that comes to you. If you live in the mooring field, like we did for a month and plan to do again this Fall, you have to bring jugs of water back and forth from land to fill the boat’s fresh water tank. That’s a fun chore for Sunday morning.

Unedited sunset from the Fort Myers Beach Mooring Field

Southwest Florida is a great place for boating, whether you live on yours or just take it out on the weekends. We never thought we’d end up living on a boat, but we love sharing our unique lifestyle with others. If you want to read more about our adventures, you can check out our personal blog teamwiff.com. Feel free to email me any questions, comments, tips, and experiences you’ve had with boating here in SWFL! tiffany@mccallionrealty.com.

Tiffany Stokes About Tiffany Stokes

Meet the Marketing Secret Weapon at McCallion & McCallion. In 2015, Tiffany traded the beltway traffic of Washington, DC, for the sandy, two-lane streets of Sanibel and she hasn't looked back since!