Thursday, August 8, 2013

I am not a liveaboard

Never tell anyone along the coast of Florida that you live on a sailboat. They immediately think of you as they would think of an unwashed homeless person with Indian corn teeth asking for a handout. Well, that's what I think they are thinking. I'm not sure what their mind says about us, but I know from the look on their face that it's not admiration.

I went to the dentist a few weeks ago, and the usual questions came up. Eventually I got around to telling them we sailed down here from New York. I was told how cool that had to have been, and then they asked where I am living currently. "We're still on the boat. It's our home."  Wasn't long after I said that and the surgical masks came on. I was cleaned up, shaven, and dressed rather nice I thought, but still they became standoffish. I suppose they expected some major gaps in my dental work, and maybe some infectious skin rash or something, but the more we talked and laughed, the more they realized that I wasn't some crazy person living under a tarp on a moldy boat that has not moved in twenty years and has a window air conditioner jammed in it. Now don't get me wrong, we have some very nice people living in this marina under tarps in moldy boats that have not moved for over twenty years. I don't have a problem with it, except when the wind is blowing their cigarette smoke down my hatch. Seriously, you can afford to chain smoke, but you can't manage to buy a bottle of soft scrub for the green deck?  My lovely neighbors find their amusement in watching  me wash my boat. Really, they watch me through the one open port, each with a hand sticking through it holding a cigarette. They are keeping the smoke out while staying cool. I imagine a gravelly hoarse voice saying  "Look, he's polishing the stainless now. In this heat! Crazy Yankee bastard."

So, liveaboard is a bad label that will not get you any respect down here. When we were looking for a marina in Jax, we looked downtown at one of the nicer locations. I popped into the office had a chat about the place, then I made the mistake of saying we'll be liveaboards, and the manager immediately said we do not allow THEM. What? I look out and I see about twenty open slips. Sorry buddy. No liveaboards. What the hell! I ended up walking out of there a little pissed off.

Recently I read a cruiser's blog where they stopped in Jacksonville at that same marina downtown to live for a while to increase the cruising funds. What? They got in, we didn't. I figured out that if I had said we are looking for a TEMPORARY residence for our yacht while taking a SHORT break from CRUISING to replenish the kitty, we would have been sitting pretty in a downtown slip. It probably didn't help that I was sweating like a beer bottle on a hot picnic table, and I managed to select the shorts with the ripped leg that day I talked to them. I know the manager was imagining me crawling out from under a tarp in the morning in my boxers, scratching my ass and dumping ten bottles of Bud in the garbage on my way to the showers with a cig and a stained coffee mug.

We are so quick with the assumptions and labels aren't we? First glance at my neighbors, Joe and Jill Camel, and their tarp covered, chalked up, moldy green sailboat with a window air conditioner jammed in it and you immediately assume poor, dirty and near homeless but cool wretches. On closer inspection you see a pleasant, clean, friendly couple, engaging in conversation with each other every day, when they are not on their iPads, iPhones, or riding their four hundred dollar bikes around town, or rowing their classic Dyer dinghy. Interesting eh? You just never know about people.

Debra was reading in the salon one late afternoon, and I was looking up an anchorage on the charts in the aft cabin. I noticed movement outside, and here is a pair of legs. There is this guy standing there looking at our boat. He had long clean hair, a long sleeve thermal shirt, jeans and sneakers.  He looked like a NY dock worker. He started doing some stretching yoga thing, then waved at some passing boats. What the hell? I wanted to immediately run up on deck and give him the "Hey buddy, can I help you?", but I let it go. He seemed off center a little, or possibly crazy, but not really a wacko give me money for booze kind of guy. He could possibly live on a tarp covered, chalked up, moldy green boat with a window air conditioner jammed into it on the other end of the marina for all I know. Everything may be right for him in his world, and I am out here judging him based on his appearance and not acting "normal". He could be just like the Camels. Perfectly self sufficient and just living a very simple life. I was mad at myself for being so judgmental.
Debra saw him the next morning, crawling out from under the restaurant next door.

So, I guess my point is that you never can really tell what a person is about based on appearance or on where, or how they choose to live. So why do liveaboards have such a stigma? Is it because of people like the Camels next door? Do we look disheveled? Smell funny? Does it piss people off that we are not acting "normal". Maybe they think we're a little touched to be living the way we do.

We have a boat club in the marina, and many families come by at all times of the day. I have to walk by them at times, and at times I don't look or smell too pretty. When I'm working in the bowels of the boat all day, and I need a tool from the van, I'm not going to shower and put on clean clothes before I walk by Ken and Barbie. Imagine what they are thinking. I must look homeless to them. Maybe I should get overalls with the boat name on it. Professional looking, and garners respect.

To avoid the stigma of being a liveaboard, I will now tell folks that are curious about how we live that we are just passing through Jacksonville, on our way to wherever we please. We are cruisers! We have jettisoned our previously materialistic, corporate life filled with wants and needs, to a much more simple life of exploration and self sufficiency aboard a yacht. How about that?

"Yea, but you smell like a damp couch a dog slept on. Damn boat hippies."

Peace and Love,


  1. Thanks for the tips We too will participate in the just passing through!!!

  2. Timely post! And so very true. Just like a gift, the 'package' we present leaves a lasting impression. It's too bad when people don't open the box and take a look. But, seriously, people like the guy in the slip next to us would make a big difference for us all if they would just take 20 minutes and take all their 'empties' up to the recycle bin instead of leaving them in the cockpit to collect algae for months. His boat has a veritable reef of marine life attached to it, both above and below. People notice his boat because it's seriously ugly and filthy. They don't notice all the other liveaboards on the dock because there is nothing to notice except their plants on the deck.

    1. Ugh, that would piss me off having those empties laying around. Deb reminded me that I have the old bladder waste tank still folded and laying on the end of the doc. Doh! It's practically brand new, but still. My bad. Guess I'm not helping with our image problem.

  3. Great post! We're not liveaboards just yet, but I often run errands in my old clothes (why wear my good ones for that), no makeup, and hair pulled up .. I can feel the false impression that I must give. We're not rich by any means, but we're hard-working, college-educated, honest folks who have planned and sacrificed for a long time.

    Sad that society thinks those with the fancy clothes and cars are the "hard-working, honest" types ... not always true!

    1. I think the fact that we're in a big city doesn't help. maybe when we visit smaller coastal towns it will be better.

      Imagine what they think of me in my rusted minivan with the side mirror sheared off, and filled with tools and boat parts. I still can't believe that van made it all the way down here last January.