Why when I say we retired and are going to RV does it bring up negative connotations? You instantly picture Stan and Marge in the 45 foot behemoth on the freeway in front of you that go from RV park to golf cart. If I said we are retired and wandering about in a boat it sounds more romantic and folks are more in awe. So I ask why is that?
I grew up boating. I remember crying because we had to spend 3 weeks on the boat in Desolation Sound and everyone else in the whole world was going to Hawaii. The horror of it all! My temper tantrum did nothing and we set out every year for as long as I can remember for at least 3 weeks on a sail boat. 4 of us and a dog in 24 feet of classic teak racing sailboat (a T-Bird called Un Bel Di). My dad was a racer and he loved his boat.
Looking back it was an amazing experience and I saw a part of the world that not many see. Orcas, eagles, otters, seals and jelly fish were my entertainment. Bathing in waterfalls and rowing around different bays. Learning to take orders unquestioned, as missing something could put everyone in a dangerous situation.
Now all that is quite romantic, but lets talk the support structure. The head or bathroom was under a cushion between two beds. The galley was nice and had 1 ice box — yes chilled with blocks of ice. Spam and instant milk made regular appearances in our meals.
But oh the sunsets, the totem poles and adventure. Adventure came from broken parts (both body and boat) and weather issues. Bad weather in a boat can be a big deal. 24 feet of boat translates into about 12 feet of sharable space – a table and some bunks filled with sail bags. And everything is damp ALL THE TIME. There is no ‘dry climate’ boating. It doesn’t exist.
So fast forward a number of years and I find myself with a land loving man with an equal sense of adventure. But boats, oh no, we are backpacking, car camping and finally graduating to an RV.
While I have held off on the spam, instant milk and instant meals have crept into my diet on occasion. The farther and longer we travel from home the more conveniences we crave. For instance the bathroom actually has a door. Between solar and generators we have lots of luxuries including a shower and a convection oven. Weekends have become weeks and months that we can enjoy our mobile home. And we continue to see sights that many have not seen – finding places to go off the beaten path. Climbing up waterfalls, watching the whooping cranes launch in the wee hours of the morning and seeing sunsets from just about every angle and elevation. Hooking up with friends far and wide, new and old to taste microbrews from all over.
So lets take a closer look at how boating and the RV life really stack up against each other;
RV Parks / Boatel Resorts – RV parks and boatel resorts are similar and both come in a with a wide variety of amenities and parking situations. You will most often find showers, laundry and open grass areas. Sometimes small stores and even swimming pools. However, the boats will always be parked right next to each other (such as Roche Harbor Resort). Sometimes even ‘rafted’ which is tied to one another for access to the docks. While some RV Parks will be close quarters (such as Happy Traveler in Palm Springs) most will provide an outdoor area of your own and even a picnic table, grill stand or fire ring. Amenities and space you will never find on a dock.
Fees Charged at Boatels – While most RV parks charge by the site a flat fee, boaters are charge by the length of the boat. So fees can vary widely between the two. The most expensive place we have ever stayed was $48 per night. While boating can run $2.50 a foot at Roche Harbor to $8.25 a foot at Marina Del Ray. For our land yacht that would be $75 to $247.50 a night – Yikes!
Many of the boatels also have an opportunity for boaters to anchor out. That is free parking just outside the resort. So no fees incurred and the ability to come in and use the store, showers and such. This is not an option for RV parks. I think if you parked just outside the gates of most RV parks you would be quickly ticketed for illegal parking.
National and State Parks Sea – National Parks in the islands are often accessible only by water. Once there you typically find a single dock that can hold a few boats and a dinghy docking area. Sometimes there are buoys (permanent anchoring moorage in the harbors). The dock and the buoys are available for different fees. Availability is on a first come basis and only available for smaller boats. Anchoring out is cheaper. Neither option includes electric. The dock often has potable water. The parks have trails and sometimes garbage/bathrooms and tent camping sites (Sucia Island).
National and State Parks Land – A wide variety exist from seaside accommodations to rural forest and structured full hookups that include water, electric and waste dumps. Prices can vary from $20 – $30 depending on the level of services. Onsite showers, recycle and garbage service are normal. Parks typically have networks of trails and even regular hosted ranger walks at some (Usery Park).
Free Anchoring / Camping – Anchoring is allowed just about anywhere. The biggest drawback to anchoring is safety. Is it too deep, too much current (speed of the water), bad sea floor that won’t hold the anchor, or even too windy. There are no time limits on anchoring except in some private harbors such as Newport Beach.
RVer’s face a few more regulations and restrictions to ‘free camp’. Open land managed by the Bureau of Land Management allows free camping in designated areas. Within the areas the number of days you can stay varies between long term stay areas and dispersed recreation areas 14 day stays are typical but regulations and permits change state to state. Permits are required for the long term stays. Everything you bring in, must be packed out.
Variety of Vessels and Vehicles – Both offer a variety of options. For boats the range includes sleek and simple racing sailboats to the behemoth yachts complete with helicopters and everything in between. It is not uncommon to see something tied together with duct tape next to a million dollar yacht with crew standing at attention. With the RV we are limited to 45 feet and everything that exists in between. Amenities and furnishing are just as varied from iconic Airstreams to plush custom Prevost coaches. Towables to custom made conversion vans, the variety is everywhere. When we had our Pleasure Way Sprinter Van the interior felt just like the boats I grew up in with beautiful cherry cabinets and we enjoyed wonderful German engineering.
People – The face of RV’ing is often thought of as old Stan and Marge but that is changing. Statistics show that the largest number of RV buyers are in the age group of 35-54 according to the Recreational Vehicle Association. I wasn’t able to find any statistics on the age of boat owners, but a stroll up and down the dock will tell you that it is an active and able crowd. For those that are not able, a hired crew is not uncommon. Boating is a physically and mentally demanding. Of course, so is driving but that doesn’t seem to limit everyone. It is not often (or ever) that I have seen a crew in an RV. But I am holding out hope for a housekeeper to show up one of these days.
So I ask again, why is the boat so much more romantic and the RV so dissed upon?