Introduction to Boat Maintenance

Many people have asked me what it takes to maintain a liveaboard boat.  They want to know if it’s more involved than maintaining a house.  They ask about the differences between house maintenance and boat maintenance.

I’ll be up-front by explaining that I’ve never owned a house (Candide is the first place I’ve lived in that I can call my own).  However, I did grow up in a normal three-bedroom, two-bath house with a two-car garage on a half-acre of land.  I also grew up with ruthless parents who, from shortly after I learned to walk, expected me to perform nearly all of the maintenance on this house.  I jest, of course, but I was expected to pull my weight by taking out the trash, mowing the lawn, painting, performing minor plumbing repairs, maintaining the lawn’s sprinkler system, etc., so I know a bit about what it takes to maintain a house.

I will state unequivocally that it takes more effort to properly maintain a boat than it does a house.  The reason for this, I believe, is because boats are constantly in a very harsh environment…water.  On a boat, you’ll constantly be doing battle with Neptune as water seeps in through the roof or propeller shaft.  You’ll have to deal with water-based varmints like barnacles.  Unlike a house, your boat will most likely need new paint every year…at least under the waterline!  If you have a boat with lots of varnished teak (like Candide), you can expect to do a bit of sanding and varnishing every week during the summer months!

As with a house, there are some obvious (or at least, SHOULD be obvious) tasks of taking out the trash, cleaning the toilet, and keeping the place vacuumed.  There are other things that I’ve discovered since moving aboard four years ago that aren’t quite so obvious.  I’ve divided these into four categories:

  • Continuous Maintenance.  These are the things that must be done on a regular basis, even if the boat never leaves the slip.
  • Periodic Maintenance.  These are things that must be done from time-to-time, and probably more so if the boat is regularly taken out on the water.
  • Painful Maintenance.  Many boat parts have limited life spans.  Some things last for a year or so, while others will last for 15 or 20 years.  This section explains about these generally big-ticket items that must be replaced or repaired if the boat’s to be kept in working order.
  • Catastrophic Maintenance.  There are a few things on a boat that may eventually require considerable expense and trouble to repair.  This category includes things that generally cost MAJOR bucks to fix.

So follow the links on the right side of this page to learn everything you want to know about properly maintaining a liveaboard boat.  As you’ll see, this section of the website is very comprehensive.  My goal is not to scare you with a sense of overwhelming tasks, but to be honest about what it takes to keep a boat in proper working order.  So, grab a glass of wine and happy reading!

  • John Buckland April 25, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    can you post or email your views on both painful maintenance and catastrophic maintenance. I really enjoy your site, gained invaluable knowledge as I prepare for purchasing a 40 foot live-aboard. I am sure I will have a thousand questions.

  • Powrtran November 8, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    This is an amazing resource do you mind if i share it with my users here ? We often have just these types of questions about boating.

  • Post a comment

    Threaded commenting powered by interconnect/it code.