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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The free waterfolk



Yesterday it was all about free camping on land. Today I'm going to cover those of us who love life on the water.

In previous posts I've covered living on a boat at anchor. There are free places to anchor all over the world. It's even considered normal. A good boat will have all the things you need to live in relative comfort. As long as you stay out of marinas most of the time, know how to do much of your own repairs, it's a pretty cheap way to live.

What about people in boats considered too small to live on? How small is small? I've a 12 foot Ooze Goose that I've built that has a cabin big enough for me to stretch out in. Even small open boats can be rigged with a bed across the seats and a tarp tent to keep the weather off. I met a guy who was traveling from the Florida Panhandle all the way down to the Florida Keys in such a rig.

Boats that size might be a bit too heavy to drag very far up the beach. If that's the case care must be taken to only beach camp where you'll be left alone. It used to be easier to do that years ago. There's a lot more developed beach front property these days. Places that once allowed beach camping are now wildlife preserves and totally off limits. However, by carefully choosing one's campsites it's still possible to do it.

If you have a canoe or a kayak there's the chance to stealth camp. I've done it myself with a canoe. My dark green canoe blends in nicely with the underbrush. I've spent the night sleeping right under the canoe, but stretching out a tarp over it provides much better rain protection.

I've also camped at remote campsites for free that are not free sites. How did I do it? By camping off season, both before they officially open after they close. While it's technically not legal, I've never been bothered. It's only illegal if there's someone to enforce the rules.

There are large parts of Florida where camping is prohibited. That's where it can get interesting. Once again, setting up camp in the dark and leaving before first light is a tried and true method. One guy got so bold he'd set his tent on random docks along the water. That's not as difficult as it might seem. There are an awful lot of seasonal houses along our waterways. Less bold campers prefer to camp a bit more out of sight.

Campfires are nice, but make sure you are in a place where fire won't attract attention. A lot of people who stealth camp will not cook at all while trying to stay under the radar. If you do cook, a small backpacker stove is just the thing. It doesn't make any smoke and a meal can be cooked rapidly. I like something like a Whisperlight stove that can burn Coleman fuel and regular auto gasoline. Coleman fuel is nice, but auto gas is less than a third the cost.

The beauty of life on the water is being able to go places the land bound can't. If I lived in a city along a waterway I'd make sure to have a small boat. In times of unrest one can quietly slip their boat in the water, toss in a bag of essentials, and glide away.

-Sixbears



10 comments:

  1. I remember a story some years back of a homeless man living in a jon boat under a bridge (I think). Everything he owned fit in that boat and he seemed quite content to live that way.

    I would exercise some caution when using pressurized stoves. The sound they emit can attract the attention of a dog, whose bark can irritate its owner into investigating what is bothering the mutt. :^) The sound also covers other background sound as well.

    Maybe an alcohol stove would be an alternative ? Slower because of the lessened heat, but much more quiet as well, with low light signature and a very common fuel source.

    Camping while using a boat sounds like a great vacation.

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    1. I did not know pressurized stoves attract dogs. Good tip. Maybe I'm overthinking this. A cheap home built alcohol stove might be just the trick.

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  2. Same anon - thinking that 'roar' (pressurized sound of burning fuel) gains the dog's attention. When I cook in backyard, I've noticed our dog as well as the neighbors ears take notice and investigate where that sound is coming from. Dogs are pretty suspicious like that.

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    1. Well, now that's twice I've heard of it. It never came up with me as I was either way off in the woods or cooking on my boat away from people.

      Makes sense to avoid it when trying to stealth camp.

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  3. Sixbears - You did not cover the issue of parking the support cradle for the boat. Where do you get free parking to be able to comeback to it at the end of your escape session with a small boat? Do launching facilities always have free parking?

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    1. If you live on your boat full time there's no need for a support vehicle.

      Sadly, not all launch ramps have free parking, but many do. Here it Florida it takes some hunting to find them.

      Canoes and and kayaks have sometimes been launched in places that aren't actual boat launches. I've portaged a canoes some distance from decent car parking in the past.

      Other times I've had the good fortune to have people who'll come with me when I launch and keep the vehicle at their place for the duration.

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  4. I have often fantasized about living on a small houseboat, maybe on the Mississippi or somewhere. Still think about it from time to time...maybe I read Huckleberry Finn one too many times?

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    1. It doesn't have to be a fantasy. People do it -and love it!

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  5. I watch that show on Animal Planet about people who live on houseboats in Great Slave Lake up in Canada. Looks like a pretty demanding lifestyle.

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    1. I haven't seen the show. It's darn cold up there at Great Slave Lake. That's got to make everything harder.

      I met a guy who lived on house boat in TN most of the year. During the really cold months he lived in a tent in the Florida Keys. He had no complaints.

      I've seen some really funky houseboats in parts of Florida. The living is easy.

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