Sailors who live away from the docks call their dinghies their "station wagons," as the small boats do everything needed to sustain life afloat.
The conceit of living away from the land is supposed to represent freedom from earthly cares. It ends up being a round of well organized chores to keep living a life that remotely resembles the comforts of life ashore. So the dinghy is the connection between watery wilderness out there and homey comforts in here...
The dinghy will get you to the library for your WiFi fix, it will take to the grocery store for food, the hardware store for boat parts, the movie theater for the obvious and coffee shops of socializing and bars to relieve the stress of the day. The dinghy is the boat most liveaboard boaters end up using. The boat they live on may be anchored or tired to a municipal mooring but either way it rarely moves.
Below I took a picture of the Key West Mooring Filed where boater spay a few hundred a month to tie to a ball anchored to the seafloor. The city provides a boat to pump out their toilet waste and it also provides a place to dock the dinghy, in this case behind Turtle Kraals Bar. When I lived at anchor my boat was moored on a private mooring under the "P" in SEAPLANE. There is a small island which help protect the boat from north winds and gave me a place to walk the dogs. It was free it was good. It is no longer allowed.
But today's youngsters still dream of a life afloat and there are ways to still do it though your boat may be anchored somewhere else and may be further from Key West's waterfront.
Compared to the sedate tourists who stay in hotels and eat food prepared in a real kitchen the ragamuffin liveaboards seem romantic and impossibly unreal.
But it's all about remembering everything you need and bringing it in with you in an orderly and disciplined manner.
It means making a commitment to a boat and being strong enough to go out to it at any hour of day or night when your business ashore is complete. It can be quite the business crossing the harbor in the dark in strong cold winter winds with spray wetting you down and arriving at your home bouncing on a short leash...
I did it ad I'm glad I did but even now when winds blow at night my wife and I look at each other and are glad there is no chance of the anchor dragging. She will happily tell you the story of us getting back to the boat with the dogs one night in Colombia and me needing to go to the loo in the middle of a sudden powerful storm and how I had to run out of the toilet when our anchor let go and we started to sail across the harbor. We saved the day but that is the night I remember in the pouring cold rain butt naked handling smelly anchor rope when someone asks if I miss living on a boat.
I look at old wooden boats and admire their lines and the dedication needed to keep them afloat. A young woman stepped off the boat standing on the dock line and settled ashore on the dock with the lightness of a butterfly. Good foir her I thought as she swaggered off with a backpack and bare feet.
Then I looked at the lay of the lines and saw one dock line being rapidly chewed apart because it was lying underneath the anchor and I realized I still have the gaze of a sailor sometimes.
And then there are those people who use boats in an entirely different way and maybe that's more the style of my old age, maintenance free fiberglass, big engines and strong dock lines and a deep wallet.