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Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
One of the most popular destinations in the US that are perfect for year-round living is the Chesapeake Bay. The location boasts a mild climate, great fishing opportunities, a relaxing environment, and friendly people. You can choose from a large range of marinas around the bay depending on where you prefer to live. As a plus, Chesapeake Bay offers protection from harsh winters and sea storms that plague most of the east coast. In addition, it offers rich biodiversity and stunning spots for sailing.
Depending on where you choose to dock and how close you want to stay to urban destinations, prices can vary. Typically, you may have to pay $300 in marina fees but the rates can go up from there.
San Francisco Bay, California
There is no doubt that you have seen gorgeous vistas of San Francisco Bay when looking for the best spots to liveaboard in the US. San Francisco Bay is a paradise for sailors and offers a diverse range of stunning scenery and conditions from the Tiburon Peninsula to the Farallones that can make it one of the most ideal destinations in the world.
Although the weather is not that warm, you can wrap yourself up well and have the most fun here. In addition, the site offers you plenty of areas for eating, shopping, and going out for a drink.
If you are looking for a place that is budget-friendly, the Oyster Point Marina can let you live there for a monthly fee of $350 plus a liveaboard fee of $200. You will also notice that the harbors will become less expensive the more inland you go. Vallejo and San Rafael are also good places to dock your sailboat.
If you love to spend your weekend cruising, I strongly suggest you pay a visit to the Napa Rivers or Angel Island. If you are there to stay for a longer time, it is also worth your while to travel to Monterey or Half Moon Bay.
Tampa Bay, Florida
If you want to sail in fair weather, then Tampa Bay is an excellent choice for you. Since you are in Florida, you can expect warm and sunny weather all year round, even if there is a forecast of a tornado or two. For sailors, one of the biggest advantages Tampa Bay offers is that there is no income tax in the state which means you can earn more. However, the marinas are pretty pricey there but you can still find places willing to dock you at $500 per month for a 40-foot slip.
Some of the factors that attract a huge amount of water traffic to Tampa Bay are that it has a very well-developed waterfront with plenty of shopping, food, and entertainment options. This means you do not have to commute miles inland to find something fun to do.
However, the cost of insurance in Florida is quite high and you have to jump through several hoops in the local law if you want to liveaboard. If this is not too much inconvenience for you, Tampa Bay is one of the best and most beautiful destinations to stay at.
Hawaii is an amazing spot for sailing and living aboard and the island of Maui is considered to be one of the most wondrous sailing destinations in the world. Although a lot of people pick Honolulu to dock their boats, there are several great options on the island that offer you beautiful and aesthetic alternatives.
Since Oahu is one of the most coveted destinations in the world, be prepared for a long wait and some challenges when it comes to finding a place with long stays. Some of my favorite places include the Haleiwa Harbor on the North Shore, which is the only safe harbor on that shore and hence has an astronomical waiting time of 20 years — so it is understandable if you can’t wait that long.
However, if you do find a space in Hawaii, it is well worth all the effort. The state is a wonderland of biodiversity and offers some of the best diving and snorkeling opportunities in the world. If you truly want to enjoy your summer, I recommend you sail to Waimea Bay and shore up for a romantic weekend.
If you love a little challenge, the notoriously high winds are a great opportunity to help you stretch your muscles and ensure that you never get bored.
Corpus Christi, Texas
A coastal city poised on the Gulf Coast, Corpus Christ offers you quick access to South America as well as some truly great food and competitive pricing. Flanked by the Padre and the Mustang Islands, the waters of Corpus Christi are home to sea turtles and beautiful migratory birds.
The waterfront is recently designed with state-of-the-art facilities but is not as expensive as other highly-developed and popular locations. The city is safe and has a relaxed environment if you are looking for an enjoyable and easy lifestyle. Currently, docking at a marina can cost you about $150 for a 27-foot boat and $260 for a 4-foot vessel, making it much less expensive than Tampa Bay.
Moreover, it offers a lot of exotic food, including authentic Mexican cuisine. If you think the experience is not genuine enough, all you need to do is to sail out to Mexico which is not that far.
Although the Bahamas are more suited to passing through rather than a place for extended living, I believe that not mentioning the most coveted cruising grounds like the Bimini Island and the Exumas would not be fair.
The archipelago has gorgeous balmy, tropical weather all year round. You can rely on the wind to blow steadily from the east, which is excellent since the island spans from north to south, which means you can easily travel in any direction you want on any day.
If you are a fan of oddities, you can take a trip to Big Major Cay, the island that is famous for its huge swimming pigs. These pigs will swim up to your boat to get food and some will even try to leap aboard your vessel so just be careful of that, otherwise, you can get punctures.
Mallorca is one of the most coveted honeymoon destinations for people in Europe. However, this beautiful gem-like island is also a perfect spot for liveaboards from all around the world.
The island is surrounded by high mountains and has crystalline water and high-functioning marinas everywhere. Whether you want to stay in a hip and happening town like the Palma Nova to just cruise around the island, nothing can get in your way. If you are fond of trail running, you can capitalize on the mountainscape and explore them all day. One of my favorite places to run in is the 68 miles long Serra De Tramuntana which is a great place for trekking. You can also rent a car to travel across the island since the rates are cheap.
Even though the place is very popular with tourists, it is still fairly priced so it can be a great location for you to dock in for longer stays.
Cape Town, South Africa
South Africa offers a lot of diversity for sailors and Cape Town is one of its more famous sailing liveaboard destinations. The harbor city offers you a lot of opportunities to connect with nature as you can see everything from majestic mountain tables to great white sharks.
If you are a wildlife enthusiast like me, I strongly suggest you venture to Kruger national park to watch elephants, rhinos, lions, and all sorts of exotic animals. A road trip across this fabulous country is worth your while.
There are also some places that are not safe for you to venture and you can easily come by this information just by mingling with the locals, who are extremely friendly and offer sound advice.
Other than that, Cape Town as well as South Africa do not have a lot of restrictions and is free to explore so you should definitely take this into consideration when making the choice of place to liveaboard a sailboat.
Long Island, New York
If you are one of those people who love to live aboard and sail up and down the coast but are not ready to entirely give up your urban city lifestyle, then living aboard in Long Island can offer you a good balance of both these things.
Close to New York, you can easily access the urban city as well as find plenty of destinations to sail. You can sail to New England and head to Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, all on the same day. Don’t forget to pop in at New York City as well. If you are looking for some challenge, sailing through Manhattan can offer you a fun-filled experience with plenty of stunning views along the way. Want to see how big-city dwellers live? Head to The Hamptons to witness an upscale and high-end lifestyle.
The island itself is 100 miles long and has a lot of bays and inlets which open into the wide ocean. This makes it an incredible place for sailing, cruising, sightseeing, and of course, living aboard.
With all these benefits, it is no surprise that prices are much more expensive than some other places in this list at around a monthly $600 for a 40-foot slip.
The British Virgin Islands
As you very well know, the British Virgin Island is one of the most popular cruising destinations in the world, with a combination of remote spaces for some “me time” and a proper busy infrastructure.
The island boasts stable and steady weather year-round with the exception of hurricane season. Since it offers a well-developed sailing infrastructure, there are marinas everywhere that can offer you safety from the weather.
The world-famous islands also have an abundance of sun-kissed beaches, vibrant theme bars, and mysterious shipwrecks to dive on. Combined with the mouthwatering French Caribbean cuisine in the area you will never want to leave.
The British Virgin Islands were hit hard by Hurricane Irma in 2016 but have bounced back since then with many volunteers working to remove debris and trash that had blown into the sea and onto coral reefs.
If I wanted to list down my top five countries for sailing and living aboard, Colombia would be on that list. The city of Cartagena can be a bit of a tourist trap but once you start living there, you will come to love it.
The place offers some of the spiciest and delicious food in the world along with a whole host of fun activities, including exploring ancient castles. Whether you want a languish on the beach or are ready to party, Cartagena offers you all that and more.,
Since the city is located on the Caribbean coast, be prepared for a lot of reggae vibes around the area. And if you have set anchor there, I would strongly recommend you visit places like Cali, Medellin, and the beautiful mountains of Nevado del Tolima.
As with exploring a new culture, it is always a good idea to mingle with the locals and talk to them. This way, you get to know some amazing history and share exciting stories about the destinations. Cartagena also offers a huge array of marinas that are fairly priced. If you are there for transit, you can just anchor outside but for a longer stay, you will need to get a nice and quiet marine slip since the port is filled with action with people zooming around in jet skis, powerboats, and water taxis.
How to Choose the Best Places to Live Aboard a Sailboat
Before you choose to live aboard, there are certainly logistical challenges that you will need to address. Here are some factors you need to consider:
The Weather and Climate
When you live onboard a boat, you will see that the weather will impact you more than when you were living all sheltered and cozy in a house. From dangerously hot to drastically low temperatures to seasonal storms and hurricanes, you and your boat will definitely be impacted.
You might experience cold snaps or heat waves, flooding, hurricanes, gales, and many other climate and weather issues that can pose serious challenges when your boat is tied up at a marina.
If you choose to live in a place that has extreme weather, make sure you have a place to retreat to on land. It could be a hotel or a home of a friend or relative. However, in most places, you can safely live aboard a boat 365 days a year.
Type of Water
If you love freshwater fishing, then living on a big river or lake is a good choice. If you love cruising through the open seas or like deep-sea fish, then you belong on coastal waters.
Living on one type of water body can be drastically different than living on other types of water. Depending on your preference, you can choose the type of water you love and then look for places that offer that.
Living on a boat can be quite pricey. However, in my experience, if you can sacrifice some of the creature comforts that you are used to having on land, then a boat life can be cheaper than living on the land — particularly if you live on the boat.
However, depending on where you choose to live, the cost can vary greatly. For example, the state of Florida charges a high amount of fees for liveaboard arrangements. Meanwhile, you may be able to avoid such high fees in some parts of the Pacific Northwest.