Monday, June 18, 2012

Calling All Florida and Georgia Liveaboards

If you live on your boat in Florida or Georgia, or want to, I want to hear from you.

Living aboard your boat for more than 30 days in a calendar year is now legal in Georgia.   All you need to do is to find a certified marina and fill out a simple form.  As of today, there are five certified marinas in Georgia; Isle of Hope Marina and Bull River Marina in Savannah, and Brunswick Landing Marina, Golden Isles Marina, and Jeckyll Island Marina in the St. Simons area of southern Georgia.

Here's my thoughts, but I'd like your input as well.  

I haven't been there yet, but I've heard that Florida isn't really all that boater friendly (it's an internet thing).   The attitude towards liveaboards is that there are too many derelict boats there and so many municipalities are discouraging living aboard by passing restrictive laws.  Why go where you're not wanted?

Georgia is a place that many boaters have traditionally bypassed.   They had a 30 day maximum annual liveaboard law, and their portion of the ICW is said to be unmaintained and shallow.  That's changing.  Thanks to GAMBA (Georgia Marine Business Owners Association) you can now live aboard your boat by simply applying to do so (I hate paperwork and it's an easy process).  And talking to transients heading north, the ICW really isn't a problem if you pay attention to the few problem areas and watch the tides.

Pam and I arrived at Isle of Hope Marina in February.  We loved it here and stayed.  I was planning our trip back to the Chesapeake and in researching weather found that Georgia gets hit by hurricanes less frequently than the Chesapeake does.   It's really not much cooler on the Chesapeake than Georgia.   Why make that trip, and spend all that money on daily transient rates and fuel?  Why not stay here?

Sure, you can make the argument that the Chesapeake is a great cruising ground, and it is, but Georgia is also a lovely place.  The people are friendly and the beaches are wonderful.  If you're living aboard your boat, why go through the expense of commuting between Florida and the Chesapeake?

So my thought is to compile a list of marinas in both Florida and Georgia (now that they accept liveaboards) and compile a list of data-  rates (and whether it's based on LOA or LOD); cleanliness; present number of liveaboards; number of washers and dryers; number of heads and showers; if pet friendly and if so, is there a place for dogs to run off-leash?; proximity of grocery markets and restaurants; pump-outs at your dock?; quality of the cable TV and wifi (if available); swimming pool; if there is a liveaboard fee?; and so on.

I'm thinking of compiling all this data and posting it on a website where a liveaboard family can find it and decide where to locate.  I think it would be beneficial for not only the liveaboards, but also for the marinas.  Think of it as a dating service, sort of, in making good matches between both parties.

So if you are presently a liveaboard in Florida or Georga, or are considering doing so, either email me directly ( or post a comment here with your thoughts.  If you were looking to live aboard in the deep south, what are you looking for?  What is important to you?  Cost?  Amenities?  A place for Fido to run?

Let me know.

Another question.  Is liveaboard/live aboard one word or two?


  1. Hi Dave & Pam! We live aboard sv Winterlude, a Passport 37, for six months a year in southwest Florida. Hopefully most of that time we're "off cruising", but the reality is we like the marina and enjoy spending time there too. Burnt Store Marina, official address Punta Gorda, FL, but it's situated halfway between Punta Gorda & Cape Coral on Charlotte Harbor.

    Originally we picked Burnt Store because there's no lengthy channel or ICW before it's open sailing. Charlotte Harbor is 10 miles across and 10 miles north -- 10 miles across is Boca Grande Channel - if you hang a left you'll be in the Keys in 26 hours ... less if you have a boat that goes more than 5. :)

    1. great harbor walk, unfortunately dogs on leashes
    2. lots of wildlife, dolphins & manatees swim around the boats daily
    3. current rate is $12.50/ft on an annual contract, $14.50/ft for six months. Plus a $150/month live-aboard fee.
    4. marina seems friendly to live-aboards to us -- like everyone else they're cutting back with the economy so the "boater's pool" wasn't really open this year, but they let us swim in the housing development pool across the street from the harbormaster's office which is nicer anyway.
    5. farmer's market in the parking lot on Mondays & Fridays -- the nicest little old farmer with his pickup truck full.
    6. Portobellos ... a good outside deck bar with live entertainment several nights a week and a decent (if early) happy hour. Food is pretty good too.
    7.4-5 washers & dryers, nice laundry facility
    8.6 showers in two different facilities
    9. pumpout available on the dock in the north basin, south basin boats have to go to the fuel dock.
    10. here's my blog post about the marina:
    11. We looked at Brunswick & Golden Isles, but they weren't warm enough in the winter for our taste. We like south florida - the proximity to the Keys, the barrier island right offshore - Gasparilla, Captiva, Sanibel, Cayo Costa, like the sailing, the warmer weather, wifi with an external antenna (or go up to the restaurant), cable tv - no, but we have a Direct TV dish.

    Downside is you do need a vehicle since it's about 8-10 miles either way to a grocery. With a contract, it's FREE library though! :)

    Can't remember what I forgot. If you need more info, e-mail me! :) Cheers! Jan & David

  2. Dave - this liveaboard marina list is a FABULOUS idea! I've been following "looper" and liveaboard blogs for over a year, dreaming of one day following suit. Up-to-date info on liveaboard marinas has been something I've found hard to come by. You have my vote (for what its worth):-))

  3. Dave, some of the info you're looking for is available on two very good sites that Jim and I use a lot as full-time cruisers: and You might also want to look at:

    As cruisers who leave our vehicle in Florida, we also like to know if a marina has a loaner car (which you won't find in Florida). We usually spend at least a month at a given marina so access to a car is important to us.

    It's also helpful to know if a marina sells diesel for the big boat and/or gasoline for the dink. (But I wouldn't even try to keep up with prices)

    I'm sure most if not all of the docks in GA are floating, but many in FL are fixed. It's helpful to know which, as it can make a big difference in how you get on and off your boat, especially with dogs.

    Just a few thoughts, hope it helps. Good luck with it.

    Paula aboard M/V Sea Eagle

  4. Pretty much everything your looking for is located in Active Captain and cruisernet or waterway guide which includes Skipper Bob you can purchase a book of Marinas which has all of this info.

    1. is a great resource and I use it a lot, but it's really only useful if you're a transient boat. Being a long term liveaboard is different and we have different issues. An important one here in Georgia is finding liveaboard certified marinas. I know there are five, but only because of research for a magazine article I'm working on. Which ones charge liveaboard fees? Which ones charge extra for more than one vehicle in their parking lot? What is the liveaboard/washing machine ratio? Stuff like that.

  5. Hi David- We're in Fernandina for a couple days. Thanks for commenting on my blog! We may be heading to Brunswick later this summer - will be sure to look you up. We love your blog! You have a great sense of humor, which seems to be a requirement for trawler ownership :) Cheers, Gary Whiting

  6. Hi David,
    We are at Jekyll Harbor Marina as legal liveaboards. We did the form and the marina office has the reply in a week. The marina here is very nice with helpful staff and a great new dockmaster.
    The rates are good and the beach is a short bike ride away. Loaner car available.

  7. We are legal liveaboards at Jekyll Harbor Marina since last year. The marina is very nice with a great new dockmaster and friendly staff. There is a loaner car and the beach is short safe bike ride on a loaner bike.

    Georgia is not half as bad as some would say. We do need protection from uncaring cruisers that dump in our waters.
    As for the shoaling, if you stay in the channel you won't get in trouble. It helps to have common sense and good navigation skills.

  8. Hi Dave & Pam I think this is a good thing. But also if you could and where other info can be found. I will be retiring next year and am looking into all this live onboard info. now. I like a house boat over a larger boat. but am going to look into both. Thanks Mark