When people think about tiny living, they always think of tiny homes well that is not the only way to live tiny. There are tiny homes which can range from as little as $25,000 to 150,000 and up. Another way to live tiny is in a van or an RV. But the way we live tiny is by living on our 44ft steel sailboat.
We have been living tiny for the past 4 years on our sailboat. For the first 3 years we lived on anchor which was good and bad. The great parts living tiny on anchor was that it is free!!!! Yes, I said free. Some other great things are that depending where you are you can wake up by sitting on your deck watching the sun come up every morning and sun going down every evening. Another great thing which my favorite was is that at night when the water is calm, I love sitting out just staring at the water. A great advantage is being able to just pull up the anchor and taking the boat out sailing. Lastly, we lived off grid by using only green solar energy.
The bad parts of living tiny on anchor would be the weather storms mostly in the winter. The other disadvantage is that you must run a generator for AC and heat. Water can also be an issue we really don’t have that issue since our boat holds almost 400 gallons of water.
How are we living tiny now? We live inside of a marina. What are the advantages of living in a marina? Well I have a few the first one is that we can have AC and heat without running generator. We don’t have to worry about holding as much water onboard because we can just fill it up. Internet is not a problem well at this marina anyway not only do we have free WIFI, but we just added internet line from century link. Lastly the advantage especially this time of the year with hurricane season being in a marina adds a little security. I guess it would depend on your insurance on what they want you to do to protect your boat.
The disadvantages of living in a marina is privacy you no longer have any. You must be dressed and don’t have the freedom of no neighbors next to you. Another disadvantage of living in a marina is that any time you want to take a boat trip you have to disconnect everything to go out.
What is some hidden cost of tiny living especially on a boat? Some of the hidden cost in a tiny home would be the land that you keep your home on. You many also have utility cost of you do not live off grid. The hidden cost associated with a van or RV may also be rent or utility cost too. Laundry is something that might be a cost if your tiny home does not have a washer/dryer. I don’t personally know most of the hidden cost associated with other tiny living, but I do know a lot about tiny living on a boat.
Hidden cost with living on board a boat. A large hidden fee with boats is having the bottom cleaned and having the boat hauled out to get painted. The cost ranges from the haul out, sanding, pressure washing and paint. Boat can have pump out fees too if you don’t have compost like us. Laundry is something most tiny homes no mater what they are might have cost related to them. Even showers could have cost which is mostly included in a liveaboard fee. Maintenance items can be something that you never think would be so much but its something you really need in your budget for sure. One of the things I never concerned paying for was a mailbox. We used to pay up to $30.00 a month for it.
Lastly something you will pay for that no matter what kind of tiny home you have is insurance. I know boats have huge premiums especially if you want to take it in the hurricane areas or the Caribbean.
I am often asked if I would consider different forms of tiny living. The answer is I would be willing to live in a tiny house or van. My hubby would never be willing to do that especially an RV because he might have to drive.
Here is a small look at alternative tiny living. Thanks for checking out my blog. Remember to keep living the dream but tiny.
let's talk about the elephant in the room. When we started looking for a boat to liveaboard there was always one thing that stood out amongst everything when we went to look at it. That would be the unmistakable smell of liquid poo lofting in the air as soon as you walked in.
As some of my friends know, (and if you don't you will know now) I am a bit of a poo-a-phobic and the sheer thought of having to pump out poop and risk some of it dripping on me would be traumatic. Also unclogging and ripping apart a head changing hoses, diaphragm and vents is something I did not look forward to doing at all.
I have been around boating for a long time having spending 10 full summers on my parents’ boat one thing always came to mind, my parents never let us poo in the head. You ran down the dock like your life depended on it before ever dropping a deuce in the head.
Because no matter how many times you rinsed the tanks that smell lingered for months reminding everyone of what you did along with the constant complaining of my mother to our father to do something about the smell.
While searching for a boat the last thing I wanted was our new home to smell like a shit factory. After finding a boat in 2015 one of the first tasks to do was to remove the black water tank and drop in a compost. It was one of the worst jobs I had to do on our boat even though it was months since someone dropped one in the tank the smell was unbearable.
So why a compost?
Other than installing a uber expensive sanitation system like a hold and treat system I felt I had no other choice other than installing a compost head. As long as you have proper ventilation, a semi-dry compost medium (meaning separation of the pee from the poo) the head should stay relatively smell free.
The good the bad and the ugly...
So, over the past 3 years we have lived on our boat on the hook. (for you non-boaters that means that we were anchored out in Open Water away from everything). For the most part the composting head has been a godsend very, very little smell other than the smell of wet soil. I'm not going to mislead you don't think that a rainbow is going to come out of it every time you open the lid but for the most part as long as you stick to a certain amount of guidelines it is pretty darn close.
So the stench associated with a black water tank comes from the fact that the urine and the poop mixed together in the tank making a sludgy stinky soup that when it breaks down gets even worse. A composting head (a good one that is) will separate the pee from the poo and allow the natural decomposition of the poo in the medium without any smell.
The medium we use is a Coco coir. Some folks use sawdust or peat moss as their medium. We chose Coco coir because that is what the Nature's head recommended we use and have had fantastic results with it.
Whatever you use make sure that it is not treated with any chemicals and is bug free. This is very important. If the medium is treated with any chemicals it will keep the good bacteria and natural enzymes needed to break down the poo and it will stink and be a mess to clean up.
Ventilation is key to good composting and reducing smell. Our composting head has a built-in 12-volt fan that runs 24/7 we also have a Venturi Style vent on the outside of the boat to draw when the wind is blowing. When our fan is unplugged or the wind isn't blowing we notice a slight smell of damp wood or a forest smell. Our Nature's head also has screens on both sides of the ventilation one on the intake and the exhaust to keep flies and bugs out of the compost (more about that later).
Our composting head has a built-in tiller to turn over the compost. We turn the handle around once a day and after a poo to keep it all covered up which allows the composting to take root. Once again, I think this is one of the many benefits of owning a Nature's head composting toilet. There really isn't a need to adding anymore medium in once you place the initial Coco coir into the toilet.
Using the proper paper in a compost is very important as well. We use two different types. One for the ladies go to pee. That is regular toilet paper and gets thrown in a trash can. And then poo paper. The poo paper is marine or RV grade toilet paper. it is meant to break down easier than regular paper and that gets thrown into the potty. Now some folks don't throw any paper into their potty and throw it into the trash. We don't do that with a fear of the trash smelling.
About every 3rd day we change the pee tank out. We have 3 tanks now and makes a world of difference when you really have to go and don't have the time to go dump it before using it. Our Nature's head is very simple changing the Pee tank out there are two hinges on the side flip them open lift the lid pull the tank out drop a new tank in. it's as easy as that. We drop in a bit of Lemi Shine into our tanks. It keeps down the scale and smell if you let the tank sit to long without emptying.
After about a month, month-and-a-half you will notice the handle for the aggregator to get stiff that is when we usually change out the compost. Any longer than that and it will get too full and you will start to get some smell.
The Nature's head composting area is part of the base of the unit so in order to change out the compost you need to pull out the pee container remove the top part which is hinged on disconnect the two base holding screws.
We then stretch a composting bag over the top and then flip the whole unit over emptying the contents into the bag. You can then dispose of it in the trash or on a flower garden.
Also check to make sure that your fan is working by plugging it back in and look to see if it works properly.
We usually just rinse it out with some water allowing it to air-dry. We don't use any chemicals to clean it because that can cause it to not properly compost if chemicals destroy the enzymes and natural bacteria.
We then put it back together and add compost medium. The Coco coir that we get is usually a dehydrated block. We pull off pieces of that block and then rehydrate it slightly till it's only at the consistency of potting soil. Make sure that you place enough medium into the compost but don't overfill it. We usually put enough just to reach the bottom of the tiller.
Now onto the bad and the ugly
Over the past 3 years we ran into some snags with the compost that turned disgusting. Our compost has a sliding door for number two and if it fails to seal and allows pee to enter the compost it will destroy the balance within the compost. This has happened to us and created a stinky sludge stew in our compost with a horrific smell. I couldn't even be in the boat while my wife changed out the compost. It had basically turned into a holding tank. If this happens contact Nature's head they will send you a new sliding door to replace it at no cost.
Make sure that no flies can get into your compost. That means a really good seal and some type of washable filter to put on the intake and exhaust of the composting bin.
Last Summer we had one of the screens rip and fruit flies had gotten into our compost. It was a disaster they had laid eggs in there and we're spawning flies for days. The only way to get rid of them was we sprayed some natural permethrin around the inside rim to kill them.
Just changing the compost didn't get rid of them.
Don't let your pee buckets sit too long with urine in them. The urine will start to break down and bacteria will make the tanks smell really bad. They will also get a calcium buildup on the inside which will also add to the smell. We recommend adding some Lemi shine after each tank change to keep the bacteria from growing and the calcium from building up on the sides. It is made of 100% citric extract and is natural. It is biodegradable non-toxic and is phosphate free.
Check the pee bucket before use. Our nature's head is designed so you can see the tank in the front but on one occasion in the middle of the night it was full and both Joan and I used it. A very stinky mess.
With the occasional Hiccup and disaster our nature's head composting toilet has been absolutely wonderful and should last us at least 10 years or more without any problems. The initial cost of the unit is very expensive but out of all the composting heads that I researched this one had the best rating and I believe it. To anyone thinking about switching over to a composting system I highly recommended it. Thanks, and smell ya later.
Living on the boat for one year has had its ups and downs. I am breaking down our expenses for one year. Starting with every month’s costs then repairs/large additions and wants/needs. When living in a tiny space the cost can vary. Some may feel it is cheap, but some may not. I feel it might depend on your current expenses and your past ones. For us we will save some money living on our boat but in our son’s case living on his boat it saves him close to $2000.00 a month. One expense we don’t have that other people living on a boat might have is marina plus utility fees. Lucky for us we live on the hook and our son covers the parking cost for our dinghy’s. We have had some cost this year that we wouldn’t have such as marina cost for boat storage during the hurricane and most recently hotel fees for a nasty storm. Luckily, for us our good friend let us stay with him during the hurricane.
Expenses for the year
marina fee for dighnty
water on board
marina fees for hurricane
prep and food for hurricane
emergency hotel fees
As you can see from my chart we did have some huge repair cost as well as some additions they were things like a refrigerator, freezer and many additions we needed for everyday living. One thing I have learned this year is sometimes you need to spend some money to have all the comfort you need for everyday living. If you have any questions or would like information about the products we purchased or repairs, we did let me know. Thanks for checking out my blog remember to keep living the dream but tiny.
Things I have learned from our first year living in our tiny space
1. We do not need as much stuff as you think you do. Having less stuff is better for your soul.
2. Maintaining our tiny house/boat cost so much more than we ever thought. Especially if that tiny space is a boat they are at least 10-15xs more.
3. Having huge water tanks are awesome, that way I always have water.
4. Having large cabins allows use to have real mattresses instead of regular boat beds....
5. Rent is cheap if you live on the hook vs a marina or regular house.
6. Another thing I learned that living on the hook you no longer pay for electric/water or taxes other then taxes you originally paid on the boat.
7. Using the marina or public bathrooms is not fun. (for the tiny living folks) another tip is to join a gym. If you have a gym membership not only can you always have a shower, but you get a workout for a small fee.
8. I really miss my washer/dryer. I do have a washer on my boat but not a dryer. Going to a launder mat is not very convenient.
9. Having a compost toilet is super convenient and is much greener then a regular bathroom.
10. We have learned that fitness and staying healthy is super important. Getting injured on a boat can be detrimental. Injuries can make life on a sailboat very difficult.
11. Solar and batteries are very important for everyday living. Having power is everything. Make sure you have ample power
12. Having a good strong anchor can save your floating tiny house.
13. Living in tiny house or on a boat is not for everyone because small spaces or living on the water can sometimes be very challenging.
Tiny living is not always easy, it can be some what of a shock to the system at first but if you learn to love it and appreciate it then you will be truly living the dream.
Thank you for checking out my blog and remember to keep living the dream but tiny.
What does living off grid really mean? Well in most cases it means not being on the power grid. Instead of depending on the power company to provide you power you provide your own power. One way to look at it is you are not only saving yourself tons of money but you are truly living green helping the environment. Most people who don’t live off grid use over 9000 kilowatts hours of electricity and close to 200,000 gallons of water each year.... This lifestyle is not for everyone. I know this firsthand how this can be a huge lifestyle change. Almost 4 years ago my husband and I moved to our sailboat (tiny living space) living off grid.
We live out on open water in our sailboat so we depend on our solar panels and wind generator to provide power daily. So far we only use our solar panels and have not needed to use our wind generator. When we first decided to do this, I thought there was no way I was going to be able to live like this. I was afraid that I would be missing something. But I don’t miss having unlimited power and have all the power I ever need plus I am saving the planet. We use less water and have a compost toilet but still have all the comforts of a home without being on the grid. Yes, we have to deal with getting our own water and deal with our waste and sewage but it is really worth it in the end. There are some things that are not always easy to deal with for instance the heat in FL can be hard on you and we can’t run an AC on our solar.
We could add more solar but with our present system we can’t so we only use fans. We even use solar panels for hot water with the daily FL sun solar should be on every roof tiny or large. More people are choosing to live off grid by adding solar panel system to their tiny or large homes with the help of Powur advisors. If this is something that you would be interested and need help with your system let us know I promise you will feel awesome being green. If you are not ready to live off grid yet you can start by turning things off when you’re not using them. Turn off your lights, computers and unplug power strips. Thank you for looking at our blog and remember to live your dream everyday but tiny