Living Aboard

December 2013 Industry

By Janet Groene, with Gordon Groene


Earthquakes. Hurricanes. Forest fires. Mud slides. Relief agencies rushing to the rescue. If you want to add Good Samaritan to your list of houseboating skills, there is need for people like you.When you arrive at the scene in your self-sufficient floating home, you bring your own housing while other volunteers must depend on local authorities for food and shelter. Boats were essential in aiding victims of Katrina and the World Trade Center bombing. How can you make the world a better place?

You might connect with a national relief organization such as the American Red Cross or your church and take courses that qualify you to work with them on an ongoing basis. You might also hook up with a temporary assignment through one of the agencies listed below. There may be a project close to your present berth, or plan a cruise around a project.

For example, you could go to the Florida Keys and volunteer at a wildlife rehab center, a nature preserve or one of the museums. At Safe Harbor home in Jacksonville, Fla., at-risk boys learn boating skills while completing their high school diplomas. Could you hang here for a few months to teach boat-building skills or engine mechanics?  Donate carpentry skills at Mystic Seaport? Teach navigation or woodworking to Sea Scouts?

Here are just a few places that use volunteers. Explain that you live on a boat and are seeking a project at or near a place where dockage is available. Contact names change often so, if emails don't work, contact bureaus directly. In some cases a background check is required.


* Passport in Time is an archeological arm of the U.S. Forest Service. Volunteers sign up for five to 14 days at an historic site. Contact 800-281-9176,

* At many government agencies list their needs for volunteers. Dock near the Natchez (Mississippi) National Historic Site, for example, where a variety of volunteer skills are needed for a minimum three-month commitment.           

* At Bureau of Land Management sites, volunteers help in education and interpretation. Contact Michael A. Smith, Bureau of Land Management, 1849 C Street N.W. LS 401, Washington, D.C. 20240, phone 202-452-7722, email

* Deborah Moore is national volunteer coordinator for the National Wildlife Refuge System, 4401 North Fairfax Drive-Room 634, Arlington, VA 22203, phone 703-358-2386, email

* At the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, national volunteer coordinator is Cynthia Akau,

DOI, Bureau of Reclamation, Denver Federal Center, 6th & Kipling, Bldg 67-Room 348, 84-25110 Denver, CO 80225, phone 303-445-2782, email Volunteer opportunities include a water reclamation project at Folsom Dam. Volunteers work the main desk and serve as guides or instructors who teach school groups about water conservation.

* To volunteer with the National Park Service contact Joy Pietschmann, Service-wide volunteer program coordinator, NPS, 1201 I Street NW, 2450, Washington, D.C. 20005, phone 202-513-7141, email

* Barbara Gunderson is the volunteer program manager for the U.S. Geological Survey. The mail address is USGS-Room 7A203 Mail Stop: 119, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, VA 20192. Phone 703-648-5245 or email         

* To volunteer for a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project, contact Carolyn Bauer, manager, Volunteer Clearing House, phone 800-865-8337 or email      

* At the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Michele Eginoire is national volunteer coordinator. The Service's address is 5140 Park Avenue, Suite C, Des Moines, IA 50321, phone 888-526-3227 ext. 102.

* Under the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, volunteers are needed to lead projects for families, 4-H groups and nutrition education. Contact Glenda Moore, Intermountain Region (R-4), Federal Building, Ogden, UT, phone 801-625-5266, email Also Ryan Joseph Schmiesing, national program leader, Families 4-H, and Nutrition, phone 202-720-5075, email

* Go to to search by city and the skills you have to offer. Say you are docked in San Diego, Calif. Put that in the "location" box at the website and "mentoring" or "environment" in the window where you describe your abilities. A list of available volunteer needs in San Diego will pop up.

* Contact the animal shelter nearest you. It's likely they need cleaning help, products, food, funds and people to walk or comfort animals. Simply call and ask what you can do.

* Watch local bulletin boards for one-time calls to action such as a river cleanup or roadside beautification planting. Usually these events are lively social events and a great way to show locals that transient boaters are good citizens.

* Volunteers get a free, one-day ticket to one of the Disney parks in Florida or California for giving a day as a VoluntEAR. Go to The full URL for the volunteer site is very long so just do a search for a phrase such as "Disney Volunteer Free Ticket."

* MMAPS is the Mobile Missionary Assistance Program. Volunteers build and repair churches, youth centers and so on. Hosts provide materials; you bring your own tools.  Go to or call toll-free 866-745-3848.

* Areyvut is a national Jewish organization that needs people to help with mitzvah projects. Go to


Gordon and Janet Groene lived on board full-time for ten years. Contact Janet at 

  • Like what you read?

    Want to know when we have important news, updates or interviews?

  • Join our newsletter today!

    Sign Up
You Might Also Be Interested In...

Send to your friends!