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post #9 of Old 05-11-2003
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Living aboard? Where to start?

Go for it!

As far as the boat search goes, I have a couple of suggestions. One, get a copy of Nigel Calder''s "Cruising Handbook". It was really valuable to us when we were boat shopping to guide us in what to look for in a good cruising boat. ''Course, you will take everything with a grain of salt since some things apply to new, bigger boats, but the basic advise is really valid and useful. It''s also just a really good primer on living aboard/cruising.

Two, you might consider working with a broker. You know how you get a "buyer broker" when you buy a house? You can use a boat broker the same way. They cost YOU nothing, taking their commision out of the sales price (ie seller pays). The MAIN ADVANTAGE to doing this is that you''ll have a professional, knowledgeable person to steer you in the right direction and give you advise about which boats are appropriate for what you ant to do, and which are not. (If you think you might go offshore you really DO NOT WANT a very lightly built coastal cruiser, no matter how spacious a liveaboard it might seem to you...) Now, there''s a good chance you''ll end up buying a "for sale by owner" boat at your price range, but that''s OK. We worked with a broker buying our last boat and it was SO helpful. Here''s how it worked: she brought us listings that she found in her broker network that she thought would suit us. Also, as we found (brokered) boats on line ourselves, we asked her about them (ie "IS a Westsail something we should consider?") If she thought it was, then SHE called the listing broker and got more info, and set up appointments for us to see the boat. Now, when we found For Sale By Owner boats, we did it all on our own, since she would not get any commission out of the sale.

We ended up buying a boat she helped with (from a broker) and she was INVALUABLE in closing the sale. Really, she was a tremendous resource. If you''re in maine, she was Annie Gray at Gray & Gray in Kennebunkport.

What we did initially, after reading Calder''s book as well as books like "Favorable and Unfavorable Characteristics of Offshore Yachts" (the CLASSIC), Handbook of Offshore Cruising, etc, was to make a list of all the characteristics we wanted to find in a boat, your list might be something like:
-standing headroom in main salon,
-galley with oven (or easy to retrofit),
-adequate fuel and water tankage (or easy to add),
-well-built, solid fiberglass hull,
-good hull-to-deck joint throughbolted,
-reasonably new sails,
-roller-furling headsail,
-self-tailing winches,
-atleast two deep reefpoints in mainsail,
-reliable engine (diesel a plus!!!!),
-holding tank for head,
-self-steering windvane and/or autopilot,
-adequate electrical system/batteries for longterm cruising,
-supplemental power: solar/wind?,
-liferaft, EPIRB safety equipment,
-VHF, SSB or Ham radios,
-depth sounder,
-storage space for clothes, food, books, etc.
.....or whatever.....

Then, each boat we looked at, we evaluated in terms of: did it meet our criteria? If not, how much would it coat to upgrade to meet the criteria? Would it still be within our budget? (It''s shocking how much it costs to upgrade a boat for offshore sailing!)

Of course, you need to evaluate what you think you need. Some people a re perfectly happy living aboard/cruising long term with a very spartan, "camping out" type of lifestyle (cooking over a little one-burner alcohol stove, not caring if the engine dies, taking more risks like not having a liferaft aboard, etc.)The other end of the spectrum wants TV, Air Conditioning, brand new electronic instruments, etc. I think the advise of trying it before diving in is good. See if you can borrow a friends smallish boat and take a long weekend cruise. See if you and your wife are comfortable aboard. think about the fact that when you are living aboard, at anchor (marinas are WAY too expensive) you won''t have the shower at home at the end of the weekend. On an under 30-footer you will likely be taking "sun-shower" showers on deck. Stuff like that. Notice the V-berth cushions and when you''re looking at boats think what it''ll be like to sleep on them every night. Will you need to get new cushions if they are too worn out? Stuff like that.

Your question re: types of boats for offshore or coastal. Personally, I would want a pretty offshore-capable boat to go to the Bahamas in, although folks do it in lightly built coastal cruisers all the time. But sailing down there from Maine.....well, it would be better to have a better-built boat. And ESPECIALLY if you are thinking you might want to go to England, Hawaii, etc. you need a REALLY strong boat. By lightly built coastal cruisers I am talking about boats like Hunters, Irwins, later CAtalinas, most Morgans, McGregors and other "trailor-sailors", etc. Some more well-built boats that I think could go offshore if they were thoroughly surveyed, upgraded as needed, and had new rigging, etc: Tartan 30, Tartan 34, Sabre, Bristol, CApe Dory (??maybe), Allied Princess, some older Pearsons.... I''ll think of more later I''m sure.

In your price range you will probably be able to get a better-built boat if you look at older boats. In the 60s and 70s lots of boats were made by tartan, Pearson, et al, with solid glass hulls and better build quality. However, they''ll likely need new rigging, interior cushions, sails, etc. so you need to budget for that.

Depending on the level of "creature comforts" you need and the size you are comfortable with, I think under $30k for an under 30-ft boat capable of going offshore is doable.

As other folks have said, cost per month varies widely. At your age and with an inexpensive boat you might not care about having health/boat insurance, which saves a lot of money. Or you could just get Travellors "Major Medical" insurance which is cheap but helps in a major catasptrophe. Also, the age of your boat and your ability to do your own repairs will affect what you spend. Stuff will break all the time, and if you can''t fix it yourself you''ll spend a lot more.

We are leaving on a long (1-2 yr) cruise soon. Two adults, one child on a 39 foot boat that we are renovating ourselves (which is to say that most everything on it is new, and when stuff breaks we''ve done all the work ourselves so are very familiar with the systems and can fix ourselves). On land we live a cheap lifestyle: we do not eat out very often (maybe a pizza and a couple sandwiches per month), don''t go to bars (wine at home), don''t go to movies, etc. (Basically we work on the boat ALL THE TIME!) So, when we move aboard, we won''t have to drastically reduce our standard of living in order to live cheaply. We WILL carry insurance, but that is not figured into our monthly budget of $1000/month. That''s for food, water, fuel, fees/permits for checking in/out of each place, a few cheap meals ashore, basic boat maintenance, etc. We''ll have a $10k emergency fund in case of a major problem, and to help us when we get back, since we''ll quit our jobs soon and have to start "all over" when we return. We are open to stopping someplace and working for a while to fund the crusing kitty if the opportunity arises. My sense is that if you''re younger (we''re mid-30s) and can bear less comfortable conditions, you can do it on a lot less. Though we are planning to spend a lot less than most of the retired folks out cruising are spending....

Whew!!! That was a long post! I hope that it answered some of your questions. It''s Mothers Day and I have the luxury of a lazy morning in front of the computer, so I got a little carried away!

If you''d like to see our boat and story, here''s our web site:

Good luck and have fun!
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