I've had a lot of people ask me over the last few years exactly how the liveaboard thing works. Where do you get a liveaboard slip? Often I hear that people call around the marinas looking for a liveaboard slip, but are unable to find one. But then they see blogs like ours and know that people are doing it, so what's the deal? I will do my best to explain this often confusing situation.
#1. None of the marina managers trust you unless they know you.
There are a lot of deadbeats and weirdos in this world, and for whatever reason a lot of them end up down near the waterfront. Keeping a vessel in good condition requires a constant supply of time and money (you can make do of lack of one by increasing the other), and by living aboard you add in the variable of your life. Do you date crazy people? Are you addicted to crystal meth? Do you have loud parties?
The marina managers don't know you, and if you're a crazy person, they get to deal with your problems. And it's just not worth the extra $200/month (or whatever liveaboard charge they're putting out). Now most people at this point say "but I'm not crazy!". Sure, you're probably not. But the marina manager on the phone doesn't know that. You could be calling her with a gun in one hand, and a bottle of whiskey in the other.
#2. The 10% thing is a guideline, not a rule.
Sometimes you'll hear people say that marinas can only have 10% of their slips as liveaboards. Not true. If they wanted to they could make them 100%, or 0%. Totally at their discretion. The guideline is 10%.
#3. Your best bet is to park the boat in a marina, and then lobby for liveaboard status.
This way you get a chance for the people to get to know you, and for you to get to know them. It's like moving into a neighborhood. A very selective neighborhood. This might be difficult for you, but it's seriously the best bet. If you're planning on living on a boat anyway, rent some cheap room in town for a few hundred bucks a month. Whatever it is, it will certainly be bigger than your boat, so you can't blame size as the reason for not doing it.
Once you get to know some of the people on the waterfront (it will take a while), doors will open.
#4. The "lists" you end up on are very subjective.
Let's say you call up and end up 3rd on a list. It could be for anything, as you will learn there are many lists. But we'll just focus on the liveaboard list. When a spot becomes available, the manager might be looking at two jerks ahead of you, and then there's you. You've got your boat in the marina, you're a cool person (or family). You're the kind of person people want to have around. Poof walla, somehow you jumped to first on the list. Shaved years off.
Fair? No. But it's also not fair for me to have to live next to some crazy person. So if there's a subjective and somewhat arbitrary system in process to keep crazies away from me, I'm cool with that. If you're really planning on taking a boat around the world or going long time cruising, you'll figure out a way to get your liveaboard status. If you're just a flash in the pan, you'll fizzle out and free up the space for someone with more motivation.
This might sound harsh, and it is to some extent. But it's worth it. There's limited space in the harbor, so the rules are different than in an apartment complex.
I did a one hour audio interview with our marina manager; the very person who decides your fate as to whether or not you'll be a liveaboard and is keeping the "lists" up to date. Give it a listen if you like: