Home Lifestyle Boat vs. RV – Liveaboard Families and Liveaboard Lifes

Boat vs. RV – Liveaboard Families and Liveaboard Lifes

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Which is better, RV or boat? Both offer comforts of home as well as the joy of family travel. However, they have their own advantages.

We arrived at the campground in Middle-of-Nowhere just after dark. We were already feeling frazzled and knew we had violated our golden rule of “Never land at a new location after dark.” Ziva, my 10-year-old daughter, was able to instinctively tell me to hurry up and turn on the power. The adults then set up the stabilizers for the camper and connected the water. We had traveled a long distance from Arizona, and were eager to get settled in for the night.

Ziva proudly declared, “Power is connected!”

“Great job baby!” “Let’s double-check before we flip the switch,” I replied.

We didn’t need a misaligned wire causing a disruption to our electrical system. We both cried as she pulled the outlet cover off and pointed the flashlight at her work. A nest of black widow spiders was just an inch from her hand. It was amazing that she wasn’t bitten. This close call reminded us once more to not break the golden rule of landing after dark. This rule is similar to many others that we use when traveling with an RV. It was not created on land but on the sea.

Our family spent most of their lives in mobile homes.

My husband and I were lifelong travelers before we had children. We took our daughters on many adventures together. Ahava was just two weeks old when her first road trip took her from Monterey in California to Tucson in Arizona. Ziva was just four days old when she flew her first flight. Traveling the traditional way, i.e. You can quickly lose the joy of traveling by dragging your suitcase and crying children through airports and rest stops.

However, my gypsy soul couldn’t stay put in one place, so we had to think of other ways to travel.

We moved to the sailing catamaran “Hakuna Matata” when our daughters were two and four years old. My husband used that boat as a metaphor for “My wife’s midlife crises.” I didn’t know it was my first.

We added baby Samuel to our crew after Hakuna Mata. After that, we traveled across most of the contiguous United States with RVs. First, in a small triangle-shaped pop-up, then in a Jayco Jay Feather Ultra Lite travel caravan measuring 27 feet. Our children are now 15 and 13 years old. We recently returned to liveaboard on the Lagoon450 sailing catamaran “Dawntreader”

With all of our years on the road and waterways we know a lot about campers and boats. Although there are obvious differences, you may be surprised at how similar they are.


Living on a boat is one of the most important lessons you will learn. Full-time RV travel means living in close quarters and having less stuff. This may seem obvious on the surface, but the truth is that clutter can follow you from your larger, mobile home if you’re prone to clutter.

One of my greatest strengths is my ability to fit everything anywhere. This was a result of years of packing all my kids’ clothes and snacks into one suitcase. I could even sink a boat with my stuff, if I had to do it my way. My sweetheart, who is quite the opposite, helped me to create solutions that would allow me to live a minimalist life in both a campervan and a boat.

KonMari is my first and best advice. We read Marie Kondo’s book “The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying up” before we moved to New Mexico. This is how we reduced our size. We learned to follow KonMari and found what brought us joy.

This was crucial for both life on the road as well as on the water. Both cases are the same: clutter on your counters can lead to disaster Anything left behind can pose a threat to your family and home if it is constantly in motion. My husband has the same rule about boats and campers that he does for his boat:

“A place where everything is found.”

Nathan learned this from his parents, who lived in an Airstream trailer in the 60s, 70s and 80s while their doctor-dad provided medical care for remote communities. The family was a Fulltime Family, a popular group of people who live in RVs before “Fulltime Families” existed.

They learned from their experiences on bumpy dirt roads that it was important to put away all belongings when you are done. Or they could become projectile objects. This is something that I and my kids have also adopted. We can add to the boat or camper, but it goes to Goodwill. It’s easier to get on the road or waterways early in the morning if everything is put away at the conclusion of the day. This helps us respect our “don’t come after dark” rule.


Nothing is more humiliating than discovering that your sewage holding tanks have filled up and your child desperately needs to use the toilet. This is something that we have seen in our RVing and sailing experiences. You will spend more time on the water than you would in your home.

These are the top five areas that need more attention in portable homes:

  • Water
  • Power
  • Sewage
  • Garbage
  • Laundry

These will vary depending on whether you intend to be tethered at campgrounds and marinas, or if your preference is to be off-grid anchoring or boondocking.


Boats and RVs can be used in the same way if you have facilities. Most campgrounds and marinas have water and electricity hookups.

As RVs have a convenient sewer connection right at your campsite, I believe they are the best option for sewage. You can either move your boat to another dock that has a pump-out station, or the deckhand must bring the pump-out equipment to your slip. This setup has resulted in raw sewage on our deck more than once. This is a win-win situation for campgrounds.

This is generally a win-win situation for boaters when it comes to garbage disposal. Many marinas have trash bins near the slips. Deckhands will also take your garbage away. Tips appreciated. To keep animals away from campgrounds, large trash cans are often located at a short distance. Many campgrounds take a long time to empty them so you will end up with stinky trash cans and rummaging rats. It is always a good idea to choose an upwind campsite.

It is a tie on the laundry front between marinas or campgrounds. Expect a long hike to the laundromat, high-priced washers/dryers, and poor functionality.

It’s not a fair comparison between marinas and campgrounds. However, if you’re interested in going off-grid, it becomes exponentially more difficult.


As I write this, my boat is anchored in Mount Desert Island, Maine. My children are in bed, and my German Shepherd is by my side. My sweetheart has just brought me a hot cup of coffee and a loon is calling from the distance.

Even though we are in the midst of a pandemic worldwide, everything is fine with me at this moment. Our home is an isolated island that can be used as a retreat for weeks. Similar, magical experiences have been had while boondocking with campers. There are two main differences: the setting (tropical Islands vs. Redwood Forests, for instance) and how long we can stay off-grid.

Water is the most urgent issue because you cannot live without it. This is where I think boats win.

An RV usually has a freshwater tank that holds 20 to 100 gallons. The water efficiency of your family will determine how long you can keep it running for five people. We love to shower daily so we have never gone boondocking more than a few days.

Larger water storage tanks are common on liveaboard boats. The combined capacity of the four tanks on the s/v Dawn Treader is 184 gallons. Jayco’s travel trailer contained a 42-gallon tank. This required us to stop at a place with spigots every few days. These can be found at campgrounds and national parks in the US.

You have two options when you’re on a boat. One is to pull up to a marina and fill up your tank or the other is to use the watermaker, which literally turns seawater into fresh water. Although not every boat has one of these, it can make a huge difference.

We have just discovered that solar power is a game-changer in the power sector. We relied heavily on marinas when we lived aboard the Dawn Treader. But after we sold her and purchased her back, we added 740 watts of solar panels. This allowed us to live off-grid for longer periods and cast off the bowlines. Although it is possible to set up solar panels on an RV, this was not something we did with our camper. It was not practical because of the limited roof surface and the weight of solar storage batteries.

Planning ahead is key to managing your waste and avoiding problems. Both campers and boats have holding tanks to dispose of sewage. Our catamaran has three heads or bathrooms, each with three 21-gallon tanks.

You can always go to a marina or campground, but if your plan is to be off-grid you will need to find a dump site for your RV or “walk the dogs” in a boat. Cruisers refer to “walking the dog” as the act of taking the boat three miles out to sea to empty the holding tanks. This lifestyle is far less enjoyable than the septic and sewer systems of homes on land, but it’s worth the sacrifice for freedom.


One friend said that her boat was more like camping without a watermaker or a daily shower and ours was more like living on an RV. This is an important point . There are many ways to live in an RV or a boat.

These tips are based on my personal experience. Your adventure may look very different.

This lifestyle is all about freedom. You can make your own rules and not follow the crowds. Because I’m called to the ocean, a boat is better for me than an RV. There is a lot to be enjoyed about the freedom and beauty of the open road.

You might consider traveling by boat or RV if you find traditional travel methods too difficult. They offer the ideal way to travel again, but still have the luxury of your home.

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