Community at home in the water

By Cayla-Fay Saunders

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Graham and Sandra Boyle live aboard their yacht in Tutukaka Harbour. Photo / jJhn Stone
Graham and Sandra Boyle live aboard their yacht in Tutukaka Harbour. Photo / jJhn Stone

Looking for a different way of living?

Think of a 48ft luxury motorboat, with a sizeable kitchen, two bedrooms, a comfortable lounge, and an open-top observatory, with salt air breezes in your face. That has been the life for John Warren for the past six years.

Next door, on their 42ft yacht named Nutcase, are Sandra and Graham Boyle, who have been living on boats for four decades.

Tutukaka marina manager Mr Warren says they have a steady turnover of people coming and going who call their boats home.

About 20 boats are currently moored in the marina with permanent "live-aboards", or people who live on their boats as opposed to in a house, with one person who has lived on board for 20 years.

"It's like a little community, it's completely unlike living ashore," Mr Warren said.

There are advantages to being the manager of a marina as well as a live-aboard.

"You're here 24 hours a day, you see things happen as they happen. Live-aboards add a level of security to the place as there's always somebody to lend a hand in an emergency."

Mr Warren said the number of boats with live-aboards in the marina had stayed fairly stable.

"There's a turn rate of about three a year. Three will leave and three will come in."

But living on a boat isn't necessarily cheaper than living in a house, he says.

Costs can include an annual service fee if you own your own mooring, or between $500-$700 a month to rent one. There's also boat insurance of about $1500 to $2000 year and maintenance costs. Power is the same price as living in a house, although can be free if you harness your boat's power or install solar panels.

However, owning a boat can be cheaper than paying off a house mortgage, although buying a boat can vary in price.

Mr Warren said a comfortable live-aboard can cost about $260,000, but a small yacht can cost anywhere between $20,000 and $50,000.

Live-aboards tended to prefer launches, or motorboats than yachts, which are typically used for sailing. Most probably because of the comfort level.

The Boyles have been living on a yacht for almost four decades, choosing to live on the sea because, as Mrs Boyle says: "I like boats."

Mr Boyle said: "It's easier to shift a boat than it is to shift a house.

"If we get sick of the neighbours here, or if they get sick of us, we just get up and go."

Mr Boyle used to deliver yachts to Australia, and has sailed across the globe. The Boyles think owning a boat can be less costly than a house.

"It's actually cheaper [for us]. There's a power bill but we don't use the power from the marina. We use the boat's power. They charge you a live-aboard allowance of $20 a month."

What can be expensive, however, is pulling the boat out every 18 months to clean and paint the hull. Other than that, living on a boat doesn't present the Boyles with many difficulties.

"There's not really any real challenges living on a boat, unless you get caught out in a storm. It's only a challenge keeping things moving, and comfortable," Mr Boyle said.

"We're so used to it now, I can't really think of any challenges on board. I think the challenge with a house is to keep it clean and tidy," added Mrs Boyle.

They don't exactly recommend their way of life to others, but don't discourage it either.

"I've seen others try living on a boat, it doesn't work for a lot of them. Because when you're on a boat you're together seven days a week 24 hours a day. If you can't live in a small space together, don't even think about it," Mrs Boyle said.

They do a lot of travelling, sailing boats all over the world. Mrs Boyle said she had a one-week ashore maximum stay period.

"If we go into a house and house-sit, about seven days is my limit. Sleeping in a house, the house feels dead. The boat feels like it's living."

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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