How to Live Inexpensively on a Small Boat

How one couple traded in life on land for a small boat in the Bahamas, and learned to live with less.

| July/August 1972

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    Lynn and Bob Monfort talk about life on a 30-foot boat.
    Photo by Lynn Monfort

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Often an incredulous stranger will ask,"You live on a sailboat?" in the same way he might question, "You live in a tree?". . . and we realize that—to many people—ours must seem a very unusual way of life. Yet, judging by the barrage of queries that follow the original, the sea must capture the imagination of many people . . . just as it's captured our hearts and souls.

It's difficult to trace the beginnings of a dream but ours must have started about the time we looked around at the world and asked ourselves what we really wanted. A more simple, honest and natural way of life, surely . . . one that would offer a high degree of independence and self-sufficiency.

It didn't take us long to start thinking of a boat (perhaps the idea was there all along). There was only one hitch: we had no money and no one to loan us any . . . and the thought of saving long enough to buy the kind of blue-water vessel we wanted seemed an unendurable hardship. So we purchased—for a ridiculously small sum—a very old, very disreputable powerboat. We planned to fix it up ("all she needs is a little work") and resell the craft at a profit.

Don't, we implore you, fall into this trap. "Fixing up" an old boat in no way resembles fixing up an old house. It takes an experienced surveyor to detect the faults hidden away in an aging vessel . . . and to estimate the costs of restoring such a craft to seaworthy condition. And—should you actually find a boat with real possibilities—you must then have the knowledge, money and time to devote to its restoration. After many years of careful observation and experience, we can only say that most dreams of fixing up an old boat seem to die right at the dock.

In this particular case, we lived aboard the aging lady for two difficult years . . . during which every spare minute was spent working on the craft. We made a great many mistakes and spent a great deal of money and, although we did eventually sell the vessel, it was for far less than we had in her. If we had it to do over again we would take those same two years, save our money and learn everything we could about boats. At the end of the 24 months we would be both richer and much more capable of making a wise selection of watercraft.

With that albatross finally removed from our necks, we started all over again . . . only this time we knew what we were doing. We bought Aries, a two-year-old fiberglass sloop, in excellent condition. Fiberglass because we have confidence in the material and because we wanted to avoid the work and expense of keeping up a wooden boat.

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