Diving into the liveaboard lifestyle.
The pandemic put things into perspective for a lot of folks. For Dave and Lynda, that meant embracing what makes them happy (traveling) and turning it into a lifestyle (onboard their Leopard 45). Bluesail was lucky enough to welcome Dave and Lynda to our sailing school where they took their maritime skills to the next level. From there, they sailed away on their catamaran to embark on a new adventure (read our in-depth interview here or follow them on Facebook).
The thought of living onboard a boat full time while traveling is exciting, but it's not for everybody. We asked Dave and Lynda some frequently asked questions about living on a boat full time...with three dogs in tow.
What are some features onboard your Leopard 45 that made you decide this was THE boat for your new liveaboard lifestyle?
When we were looking at boats, we viewed everything through the lens of our expected liveaboard experience: just the two of us operating the boat (usually single-handed during long passages), and with three dogs. We needed to be sure that there was enough room for all of us and the occasional guests. It needed to be comfortable, safe, and not too expensive...there were a lot of factors in the equation.
I (Dave) went to Fort Lauderdale, Florida to look at a bunch of boats of different sizes and configurations. It wasn't until I stepped aboard the Leopard 45 that I finally felt like I found what I was looking for. The forward cockpit adds more living space, the forward saloon door provides quick and safe access to the front of the boat, and the layout of the saloon and galley is spacious enough that we’re not cramped into a small space when it's raining.
It was hard for us to know what we wanted because we didn’t have much experience with catamarans at the time. And, of course, boat designs are always a compromise; yet we feel that the compromises we made are reasonable and worth it.
Wow, three dogs onboard! How does that work logistically?
Our border collies, Beau, Reece, and Moss, have adapted really well to life on board our catamaran. They like that we are together most of the time, and they love going for runs on the beach or hiking on trails. Plus, there are so many smells to explore!
They adapted quickly to "doing their business" on the forward trampoline. When we are at anchor, they can move freely around the boat, but when we are underway, they have to wear chest harnesses and be tethered in the saloon for safety. But in the end, the hard part is keeping dog hair and sand under control. It's a labor of love, for sure.
In your opinion, what technology is absolutely necessary for living on a boat full time?
Technically, we could live without most other things. We have a faraday bag where we put electronics to protect them against a possible lightning strike: VHF radio, cell phone, tablet, satellite communicator, etc. It would be very inconvenient if we didn't have these, and we would replace them if they were damaged. But we could live without them.
We decided not to have propane or gasoline on board, so it's all electric (aside from the diesel engines) for us. Big lithium batteries and solar panels are must-haves for us.
In terms of weather forecasts, we rely on PredictWind, which is a service that we get access to either through cellular or WiFi. If we're far enough offshore, then we rely on Iridium GO! satellite communication device to give us access to that data.
One other critical piece of technology that I would put on the must-have list is autopilot. Hand steering the boat for long hours is exhausting.
How do you choose where to travel next?
It varies. Sometimes this is dictated by weather (if a storm is coming, we might go somewhere with more protection, or out of the path of the storm); sometimes this is dictated by insurance (our policy requires us to be out of the hurricane zone during hurricane season, and prohibits travel to some countries); sometimes we get great intel from friends, or from Facebook groups, about exciting places to go. Sometimes we throw a virtual dart on an electronic map and just go to see what's there.
What's your best advice when trying to find a marina to live aboard your boat?
We generally prefer to avoid marinas. We would much rather be anchored out near a beach with beautiful water. We love any opportunity to swim and scuba dive.
Of course, going to marinas is sometimes necessary. Finding one with available space can be a challenge in some areas. We try to look on the navigation chart for marinas in the area where we will be, then call or radio ahead to see if they have transient berths available. We don't have a home base or marina where we keep the boat, since we are full-time liveaboards.
What's the most reliable anchor you've used?
On our boat, we have a Mantus M1 anchor, 85lbs. We even have a small Mantus M1 (8lbs) for our dinghy. It’s incredibly reliable; almost always we get the anchor to set first time, and we haven't dragged the anchor yet. We have a Fortress FX-35 as a backup storm anchor or stern anchor, but we haven't used it yet.
What's your best advice for anyone looking to liveaboard their boat?
Take as many classes (ASA, NauticEd, RYA, whatever you have access to, preferably multiple of them) as you can as a starting point, then do as much chartering as you can, preferably with an eye toward the size and type of boat you intend to own. Book extended chartering with an instructor captain, not just a typical charter vacation—you want to be the one who is operating the boat, navigating, dealing with logistics, solving problems, fixing things, etc. You want the captain to ease you into the role and look over your shoulder, helping you to avoid risky situations. And, most importantly, if you are embarking on this adventure with a partner, make sure you are both involved in the learning and experience. It's a lot for one person to shoulder, having redundancy is valuable.
Our experience with Bluesail prepared us for this lifestyle; it gave us the hands-on experience that we needed to take delivery of our boat and start cruising with confidence. Remember, you are investing in yourself, not just in your boat!
Inspired by Dave and Lynda's story? Chase your dreams, too!