Oct 122012

When I tell people that I live on a sailboat in Key West, invariably they will ask me what street I live on, mostly so they can come down and freeload off me while they enjoy their vacation.  I always tell them, “Go to the Atlantic Ocean and turn left, you can’t miss it.”  Trying to explain how you don’t actually have a physical address where you can get things like snail mail is one of the interesting side effects of boat living.  In fact, most marinas, at least the ones where the residents are not the owners, don’t offer any kind of mail or delivery service.  Since the clientele is somewhat liquid in their movements, it can be a pain in the ass to try and find out where any mail might have to go after somebody has moved on.  So, for the most part, if you are a live aboard, you will need to find some sort of alternative to a permanent address.

As you may know, I move a lot.  28 times in fact over the last 40 years I have changed addresses.  And I plan on moving lots more in the future.  Now even though I consider Key West and the Florida Keys to be home base, that doesn’t necessarily mean I will be here all the time.  If I do indeed get the Fritter into some kind of sailing condition I may well take off for ports unknown.  But I will always plan on returning here to the end of the world.

As such, with all this moving around stuff, it makes it somewhat difficult to keep a permanent address.  If I am on some landbased abode, it’s not so bad.  Most apartments and homes I have lived in have an actual physical address.  But if I am looking at short term rental, then I have to get creative with the address thingy.

Let me be clear here and say that I am not trying to hide, at least not yet, nor am I trying to do anything illegal here.  It’s just that life would be so much easier if I could get by without having the need for a physical address.  But, if I want things like a drivers license, and mail delivery, and just about anything else in this world, I will need something more substantial than, ” the third beat up scow over by the mangroves”, for an address.

For years I was able to get by with a P.O. Box.  They were cheap, easy to get and accepted pretty much everywhere, even for the driver’s license.  Then two things happened.  First, the government decided that after 9/11 everyone in the country was a terrorist, all they had to do was find a reason to prove it, or make one up, so they coerced all the States into adopting new and stringent id laws.  One of which was no longer accepting a P.O Box as a legitimate address.  And the other reason is the U.S Postal Service has become one of the worst run companies in the history of the world.  It has been reduced to a bloated and overpaid mass of incompetence and with the advent of the digital age, obsolescence.  So, what are the alternatives?

One, you could lie.  When anyone asks, just make up an address or use some random one that you happened to see someplace.  While this is an effective means when you are chatting up some bar slut that you really don’t want to engage in a relationship of more than a few hours, it is highly illegal and ill advised to lie to entities like the government.  They have ways of finding things out and even more better ways of punishing you for lying.  So no, lying is not an option.

B.  Use a friend or relatives address.  Not an option for me.  I have no friends, all my relatives live 1000 miles away, and as it happens, the only bits of physical mail I get anymore are from said family.

Third. Use a mailbox service.  In my case, I use the UPS store of which there is one right here in Key West in the Key Plaza, handily nearby the new Publix.   The UPS store has the boxes but the address you use is their mailing address with your box number as a “suite” number.  In addition to being able to get your mail you can do other things, ship or mail stuff, get stuff printed if you still use paper, do something called a fax, whatever the hell that is, and in general take care of all the logistics that a person needs to receive and send stuff physically.  It’s not cheap, at least compared to the Post Office.  My little box here on the rock costs almost $200 a year.  But the staff is competent and friendly, and you don’t have that Post Office attitude to deal with.  Junk mail is non existent.  They do a great job of weeding that crap out.  You can get mail forwarded should you wind up someplace else for a long time, and you will always have a home address.  So far, this has proved to be the best option for me.

As I was doing some research for this post I did come across some other alternatives.  The Good Sam Club offers a mail forwarding service.  While they specialize in rv’ers I’m sure one could become a member even though their rv floats.  But Good Sam doesn’t do much for providing an address.

But one service I came across looked very intriguing.  St. Brendon’s Isle, a company based out of a small town in northeast Florida appears to specialize in helping liveaboards, rv’ers, nomads, and travelers with things like mail forwarding, physical addressees. and all the other logistical issues that come with being somebody who is not content to sit in one place all their life.  The pricing looks on par with what the UPS store charges and could prove to be a nice alternative for those in need of such services.

But the bottom line here is the world has changed considerably.  Email, texting, online communications, have pretty much made physical mail delivery a useless and wasteful exercise.  The amount of mail I receive in a year now wouldn’t fill up a legal size envelope.  If I could get some of my older relatives to stop sending cards, I wouldn’t have the need for any mail delivery.  I don’t have any paper bills mailed to me.  And by the way, that is one of the first things you should do when opening any account that requires monthly billing.  Demand email billing only or go to the company website to pay your bill.  Same with things like catalogs or flyers.  All that stuff should be available online.  No sense in wasting paper or postage to get it delivered.

For people like myself who live aboard, or who like to travel around the planet or parts thereof, the idea of a permanent physical address is more of a hindrance than a need.  We ain’t hiding, we ain’t trying to get out of the clutches of government control, we ain’t trying to break any laws, we simply live a different way of life.  With the ability to connect digitally, the idea of needing permanent or fixed address is an obsolete mindset.  But, governments seldom look to the future nor do they embrace ideas that don’t conform to the hive.  So for now, I will continue to use the alternatives that I described above.  It works and everyone is happy.

Capt. Fritter

3rd beat up scow in the mangroves

Atlantic Ocean, Turn Left




  2 Responses to “Living Aboard: Living Without An Address…”

  1. good grief charlie brown.
    i had no idea you could no longer use a po box for an address.
    i don’t keep up with all the rules and regs. too many of them.
    it only raises my blood pressure.
    and now . . . you have to have an id with a picture on it to vote i hear?
    and to get an id with a picture on it you usually have to have a physical address.
    you just can’t get away from ’em.
    they’re everywhere. and they’re watching you!
    and . . . me no doubt.
    since i have recently tic’d off the taliban. oh well.
    makes it more interesting i guess.
    now see . . . if i weren’t a lady and if i were an old scuzzy no-address pirate . . .
    i would have just said . . . “pissed off” the taliban.
    hugs from your stalker,
    from a landlocked boat,

  2. When we lived fulltime in an RV we used a mail service in South Dakota. Then the real ID act said you have to sign something that says that’s where you plan to live when you come off the road. No deal; I am done with winter. Now we have an apartment in Mpls so no longer need a mail service since Dave plans to stay here when I go south for the winter. But, if I ever become a fulltimer again I’ll probably use a Texas mail service.