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5 tips for living on a boat full-time

It’s more than just a tiny floating home

boy on boat marina
Dyess Magdalein of @theboatfam taking in the sights of the marina.
Courtesy of @theboatfam

There’s nothing wrong with living life in a tiny floating house (a boat tied to a dock) but Erica and Scott Magdalein along with their two boys Dyess and Lucas Magdalein—also known as The Boat Fam—have taken boat living to the next level.

This 43-foot trawler, called The Wanderer, was built in 1979 and purchased on Craigslist. It started its journey in Florida and has since traveled across the seas, untethered to the internet service, electricity, and water we land-lovers take for granted.

After an eight-month-long renovation and almost one full year at sea, this family of four has picked up some tips on how to fully embrace the perks of boat life.

Create separate spaces for different activities

Within their 258-square-foot space, there are many different nooks and rooms for the family’s day-to-day activities. Most importantly, there are the two bedrooms on either end of the ship, with sliding doors to fully seal each room off from the rest of the cabin.

And in their living space there’s an elevated platform facing the bow that has been converted into a play space for Legos, trucks, or any other toys the two boys get into. That elevated space frees up the rest of the combined living room and kitchen, which gives Scott and Erica a separate space to do whatever tasks they need to tend to.

Think about how you’re (actually) going to use your space

During their renovation process, Scott and Erica took out the table and replaced it with a sliding table that came out of one of their counters. It made more sense for their lifestyle, since they wanted as much living space as possible inside their trawler.

In addition, though the family’s trawler had two bathrooms when they purchased the rig, they decided to revamp one of the bathrooms and turn it into a laundry room, since doing laundry at marinas typically costs up to $6 per load.

Look for boat-specific flea markets for the essentials, then lean into homey items for the ambiance

For the majority of the items in their trawler, Erica and Scott hit up Florida flea markets specifically targeted to boat dwellers. For those who don’t live near boat-specific flea markets, they recommend West Marine, which they dub the “Walmart of the boat world”.

However, one of their main goals was to have their space feel more like a home than like a boat. So, among their very boat-specific wares, they’ve also hung string lights, laid down rugs, and put up pictures and drawings, just as they did in their old apartment.

Expect rocky sea adventures (or stay docked)

Living life on the sea means you have no water source, electricity, and less protection from the ever-changing whims of the weather. In fact, there’s so much of a difference that Scott has put living life on the sea and living life on the marina in different categories of the full-time boating lifestyle.

His advice? If you identify as a little more couch potato and a little less swashbuckler, a docked marina lifestyle may be more suitable for your needs.

Embrace the closeness of living on board

On a boat, there’s a lot more than just a small space that will force you and your boat companions to work more closely with each other.

“In a small apartment, you can always quickly head outside and go for a walk. On a boat that’s a little more difficult,” said Scott Magdalein.

Though they've been married for 12 years, living on a boat has deepened their partnership and relationship with their family.

You can follow The Boat Fam’s adventures on Instagram, YouTube, or on their blog.