Dock Life

When I first moved to my sailboat, I was anchored out, or “living on the hook.” For winter, though, I’m living on a dock. Like anything, it has benefits and drawbacks.

The Good


I have absolute power. When I first docked and hooked up to electricity, I ran all the lights, turned on my computer, blasted music, and reveled in all the power. I was drunk with it. It gets cold here in winter, so to really take advantage of my non-metered power (you read that right!) I went to Wal-Mart and bought a small space heater. My boat is now one of the warmest places in the Pacific Northwest, and the heater also manages to cut down the moisture in the boat, as well. Double score. I pulled my tiny Mr. Coffee from an out-of-the-way cranny of my boat and plugged that baby in for some freshly brewed coffee. Then I went crazy and dug out my toaster. Oh yeah, I’m living wild!

When it’s cold and wet outside, the last thing I want to do is haul ice into my boat to keep my food cold. I figured I spent about $7 to $10 a week in ice, and since I had all the power I could ever want, decided to live it up and buy a small refrigerator (about $100). The box is the tiniest they come, yet it managed to displace my whole port side setup. After rearranging for a few hours, and stocking up my milk, cheese, eggs, and other cold stuffs, the fridge grew on me. It’s pretty nice to just open up the door and grab the milk for my cereal. The long term goal is to purchase a NorCold unit, but until I can afford it, this little fridge is working just fine.

My fridge with a Hogwarts magnet, and my space heater, which has a red light at the top, reminding me of the cylon centurions.


Riley loves living this close to shore, as he gets to do his thing more often than before. A patch of grass isn’t that far away, and even mommy enjoys strolling through town a few times a day, whenever I want. Conveniences really are convenient when you’re living on shore. You can live spontaneously instead of planning your life around when you want to hop into the dinghy to go get something. If you forget something in your boat, you just turn your feet around to go and get it, no exasperating because you forgot your car keys and have to get into your tender, burn more gas, and skip across the bay to retrieve them.

Less Motion

A boat moves. Docked, though, she moves very little. In strong winds, which we’ve had for a while now, the boat hardly moves at all. Little ripply waves make their way across the port’s waters, as whitecaps ravage out in the bay. When strong winds come up, I can tuck into my boat, turn on all my lights, and feel so cozy it’s idyllic.

Friendly Neighbors

There’s a liveaboard here who cooks the best food, and is always trying to give it away. I’m a freeloader when it comes to food: I’ll do a shocking amount to get myself some free food (within reason), and since I’ve lived here, I’ve only cooked a handful of dinners, mainly because I haven’t needed to. I’m not much of a chef, but a great eater, so I’m always happy to help consume some delicious meals if they’re presented to me without too many strings.

The Bad


Privacy is a commodity that’s hard to come by, at least when the weather is still somewhat favorable. To keep my cockpit and companionway free of treacherous weather, I have my stern toward the dock, bow out into the water, facing south. So when passerby are, well, passing by, they can look into my boat (if I have it open) and watch as I drink milk right from the gallon. Nice. Don’t pretend you don’t drink milk right from the gallon, too.

People are a fascinating species, and I love nothing more than to sit and watch them. It seems like people who live on boats are a special kind of people, never moderate in anything they do, and always looking for something to do. Most of the liveaboards on our dock are retired folks, eager to see what’s going on and how they can somehow “help” anyone who maybe outside doing anything.

Example: I had “tied” a spring line for my boat, but knew I’d done a poor job of it. When I purchased my life vest, I also got a handbook on knots. Well, no sooner was I outside with my book of knots than a fellow liveaboard (retired) came over to tell me all about knots. I told him I wanted a rolling hitch and also requested that I tie the knot myself (how am I to learn if I just watch?), but the rope was taken from me and the knot was tied without the aid of my own fingers.

Anytime anyone is outside working on anything, a gathering forms. Typically two to three people will congregate around the doer-of-things and ask what he’s doing, what he’s doing it with, how long he’ll be doing it, and if he needs any help doing it. The doer-of-things will also receive non-solicited advice on doing whatever he’s doing from the curious congregation, or worse, be treated to non-solicited “help” with the project. This is not always a bad thing, when you don’t know what you’re doing and need help. But more often than not, help isn’t required, people are just bored.


There’s a crap load of it, way too much of it. I used to say that I’d love to hear about some juicy drama, but I’ve changed my mind. Ignorance is bliss. I’m having difficulty adapting to such a drama-filled area, since I have such a low tolerance for it. My sincere hope is that, as the weather gets colder, people will spend more time in their own boats, leaving everyone else alone. Leave drama to the movie people, people. And no, I don’t plan on writing any of the current drama in my blog, though it would entertain your socks off, I’m sure.

Weirdos, psychos, and awkward people

To be fair, I think anywhere you live will have a fine flavor of freaks, but I’ve never spoken to my neighbors before, at least never in detail (and actually, at my old apartment complex, I had to rescue a little boy from his drug-addled mother and her “interesting” male guests. He was eventually taken from the mother and placed with his grandmother. And that apartment complex was a really nice one, no joke. Imagine if I’d lived in a dive). Here, though, since we all have something big in common–we live on boats–everyone knows everyone else. Some of us drift more toward normal, while others haven’t heard of words like “logic” and “rationality.” Again, it doesn’t matter where you go, there will always be freakazoids, it just seems like it’s highly concentrated here.


I’m having a blast living on a boat. With winter come winter projects, and am working toward fulfilling some of my interior improvements, getting it ready for next summer and cruising. There are always good news, bad news situations with everything, but dock life is still pretty sweet, if not as private or quiet as I’d like.

If you live on a boat in a dock, how do you find it? Do you have any tips for dealing with drama, or helpful solicitors? Can you relate? Do you have some interesting stories to tell?

1 Comment

  1. Cindy October 13, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    So wonderful to read your update! I can relate to what you mean about living with all the power! We have not lived on the hook like you have, only travelled for long periods and been at anchor with the odd treat of staying at a marina once in a while. I would revel in the hot water, the heater blasting away, the toaster & all the lighting the boat has installed! Funny how the little things make you feel luxurious!

    As we have our dog aboard also, time tied to the dock is a wonderful luxury! She enjoys it just as much as we do. I always feel as though I’m adventurous but roughing it when we use the dinghy to come to shore. Plugged into the power, tied to the dock I feel completely spoilt! Something a land lubber just can’t appreciate, knowmatter how you explain it!

    Good for you for getting yourself a fridge & a heater!~ Those are the little things that can make all the difference to getting you through the winter in a positive way. Doing laundry & grocery shopping while tied to the dock are other errands that can be considered easier luxuries!

    As far as the dock life, I smiled to read that you have some well meaning helpers! Dock life can be like that in our experience, but the winter weather will soon come & you will find you get all sorts of alone time. During the winter months, people usually congregate on any given sunny weekend day & you may find by then that you are happy to share that with others. Those sunny days tend to remind all of us of summer’s past & those yet to come. Your unspoken reward for making it through the winter!

    Drama…..not sure without knowing the circumstances what you are referring to. We have been very fortunate wherever we have lived to avoid what I would classify as ‘drama’ We tend to make friends with people who have common interests & stay away from the ones that don’t! Actually where we currently live we have a true liveaboard community, which has been very nice! We are leaving that at the beginning of Nov to move to a smaller, older marina that has more facilities…..pool, gym, hot tub…..I can’t wait! Winter for us this year is looking fantastic & we hope to make new friends at this marina also!

    Living at the dock is definitely a transition & one that I’m sure you will enjoy, aside from the downsides! LOVE your blog & look forward to keeping up with you!

    Embrace the power, conveniences & especially the meal offerings!

    Dock life will certainly have it’s adjustments. A suggestion that came to me immediately reading your post, would be to have your boards changed over to lexan. This is a plastic product that can be sanded to give you privacy, but still lets in lots of light. You can have all your boards in place, yet still leave your hatch above the companionway open to all fresh air. Voila, you have privacy, light & fresh air!

    Hope that little tip helps! I would be happy to give more….keep the questions coming!