The Amazing Good Deal Of Living Aboard In Baltimore

18 Feb

Each day after waking up, having some coffee, and checking the internets for the newest developments in the world, I open the hatch and leap effortlessly onto our finger pier. I walk down the dock towards the key card gate and push it open, to the right I see the racks where both my and Rachel’s bikes sit locked and ready to go. As I enter the large parking lot in front of the marina, I pass my car on the way to the bathrooms and laundry. Past this is a large security gate the opens into downtown Fells Point, everything I need at my fingertips. 

I find it quite amazing that all this is available for $515.00  a month. Comparable rents just a few feet away in the snazzy new condos that went up a few years ago fetch $1700 plus utilities (1 bedroom studio, the 2 bedroom options fetch about $3500!). Did I mention $515 a month includes electricity, water, and parking? We don’t even have a big boat, some of these houseboats around us are even more like an apartment and they’re paying the same as us! 

I guess the obvious downside is you have to live on a boat. Perhaps that carries a stigma. After all, most of these Baltimore downtown marinas are not chock full of shiny well-maintained boats. It’s mostly run down, old fiberglass relics of the 70s and 80s or some unmaintained pipe dream from 10 years ago. Ultimately, it’s an individual decision about what your priorities are. We like living on our boat. It’s a space we’ve lived in for almost two years and feels more like home than some of the houses I’ve built and lived in for just as long!

There are also a few annoying things about living aboard. (I’d also like to say that I just wrote that sentence and must be getting soft – living at a dock is SO much easier than living on the hook). Unlike in the $1700 apartment, I have to fill the water tanks and replace the propane every few weeks. When it’s windy, the boat tugs at its lines and is much more annoying to be aboard. Finally, there is the reality of dealing with the shitty marina wifi. As regular readers know, one underlying theme of this blog is complaining about the lack of fast internet – I won’t disappoint you. This marinas wifi is absolutely terrible. Even worse is I can’t even buy good internet if I wanted to. The only option is to use cell service which is just not practical for two people who make their living from the internet. We continue to deal with this and count it as the only major drawback to our current situation. 

But all the things listed above are actually extremely small inconveniences when saving so much on housing. In this day and age when even the smallest inconveniences are magnified into life-shattering emergencies. It’s nice to remember for about 30 minutes of additional work per month you save $1200. You’re basically getting paid $2400 an hour to get a little exercise and vitamin D! 

The top question we get asked is “is it cold?!”. No, it’s not cold. We’ve got heaters! In addition, its a very tiny volume you need to heat in the first place. Another factor is that 50% of the cabin sits under the water. The water acts as a great insulator and stays consistently around 45 degrees. We haven’t had any sub zero days yet and these Chesapeake winters are pretty mild compared to say living aboard in Boston.

The living on the boat idea gets even better when you equate in the fact that we would still have to store the boat somewhere even if we weren’t living on it. That’s between $150 – 250 a month depending on where you keep it. (I’m planning on putting down a mooring in the near future, more on that soon.)

Have I convinced you to sell your house and come join us? Good! Come be our neighbor!

Also – the episodes of the new podcast I host, “Sailing Stories” are rolling out every Thursday! Check them out here!






This article was syndicated from Cruising – Beautiful Crazy Happiness


  1. Anne

    I am very interested in living on a boat year round, but I don’t own a boat. Do you know of anyone renting their boat, for someone who wants to live on the water?

  2. W. Brady

    Lee & Rachel, I’ve never lived on a boat before, but iam interested. I would like more info on boat life, possibly even a tour.

  3. R Geoffrey Ferrell

    “shhhhhh!” careful, if the word gets out they might raise the rent.
    Geoff (on land, in DC)

  4. Picavet

    Seamed to be a worldproblem, wifi, internet in Harbors. Heer in Europ it is the same problem to get good internet connections on the boat

  5. Lee & Rachel

    Hi Mark,
    It’s only gotten into the 20s (Fahrenheit) a few times in Baltimore this winter so we haven’t had much condensation to deal with. We use two electric radiator heaters to keep the boat at a base temperature and then use our Dickinson diesel heater when we’re aboard. They’re both dry heat sources so that gets us a little ahead of the game. No insulation to speak of on the boat but the Tayana 37 has a good bit of its cabin below water level so we benefit from that.
    thanks for reading!

  6. Mark Bertacchi

    I’m curious what type of heat and ventilation you use and at what temperature do you keep belowdecks to deal with the condensation issues on fiberglass boats? Have you added insulation and where?

  7. Jack

    I lived on a sailboat for two years and loved it. For internet I tethered to my Android for small amounts of work (under 10 minutes), otherwise I picked up and went to a coffee bar someplace to do work. I actually preferred that because I didn’t want to mix boating and working.

    Powerboats have more room if you stay tethered to the dock 100% of the time, but sailboats are better IMO if you actually use the boat for trips and fun.

    I’d add one more downside to living aboard. It seems that 90% of my neighbors who were also liveaboards were quite odd. The exception were those that actually took the boat out frequently. Just my opinion.

  8. Lee & Rachel

    Depends on how you look at it. I’m paying for all the things you mentioned if I live on the boat or if we rent a house somewhere else. That’s why I looked more at the expenses in terms of the monthly amount. Definitely not an exhaustive analysis! It’s all how you look at it and what your priorities are. While living aboard is not for everyone, it could be valuable for people returning from a long trip (like us) that might need a super cheap option while getting back on their feet. Thanks for reading!
    See you out there,

  9. TJ

    As a boater with an annual slip in Baltimore, this sounds like fuzzy math and false equivalencies. Was your boat free? Was everything you did for the refit free? What about boat insurance each year? Yearly maintenance? Add of all those costs up, including your marina fees and then divide by the number of months. I’m sure it’s a lot more than what you’ve started out with in this article.

  10. Lee & Rachel

    Hi Jules,
    We actually have a bullet and an Omni antenna that works quite well for us most of the time. Our main issue is the lack of a good network that we have access to. Verizon just launched their unlimited plan and that seems to be meeting our need night now!
    thanks for the comment,

  11. J. Fairfax

    Order a wifi boooster on the net from CHINA, less than $40.00.
    Then you only need the password from the strongest signal. Hopefully your neighbor will suply it for a fee dinner, etc.

    (Coquina–single sailor now off coast of Yucatan.)

  12. Jane

    Thanks for sharing, and there is nothing quite like living on a boat, surrounded by lapping waves, or a feisty gale and hoping your lines will hold. We lived on our catamaran for many years, better when we could travel south for the winter, but other times due to repairs, docked in Baltimore. As software professionals, Wi-Fi is a must…and we totally understand and empathize with the lack of connectivity at the Baltimore Marinas. It’s fascinating that never seems to improve. However, with that said, boat living is amazing. Enjoy!

  13. Seamus

    Good day. I provide internet in various forms for a living, to commercial vessels. IMHO you need to find a pliable neighbour who will provide you with directional wifi signal and a password. Then you pay them a fee for sharing a fixed amount of their internet. Many local IT integrators will do this for a couple hundred bucks. The other option is a terrestrial KA band connection using a flat panel or motorised dish for several 10’s of thousands.

    There is a company I work with that does wi-fi boosters. Global marine networks, or some such thing. I use them for high-end traffic shaping but they have consumer products too. Whatever you do, hire a good integrator to install it, since it is for professional needs.

  14. Gaétan Huneault

    Dear Lee and Rachel, I used to live aboard in Toronto and I used satellite television and satellite internet. I put the antenna on a piece of wood with the right vertical orientation so I only had to adjust the horizontal orientation; I left the antenna on dock in the winter and in my cockpit in the summer. You can get something with decent speed. It might be worth to investigate if this service is available in your area. I use the same at my country house now and it is decent. Enjoy!

  15. Bill

    I lived aboard my Sunward48 for 12 years at a marina in Canton. Any attempt at having wifi was always disaterus at best. So, most of us opted for cable, although a few adventurous people chose satellite. The result was that you could have fairly dependable wifi. I say fairly dependable because when the system went down it could take days before the fix occurred.

  16. tim

    Im curious to know if there is scrutiny between live aboards in sail or powerboats?
    Sold my Pearson 31 @10 yrs ago that was in Cleveland on Erie. Find myself thinking about another and as a liveaboard that i can relocate more easily than a house full of well …you know…..

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