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post #7 of Old 07-30-2009
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Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Washington, DC
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I've lived in DC for about ten years, and had a sailboat for the past three. I have not lived aboard, so I can't speak to those specifics, but I have done a lot of research. So here are my thoughts:

Originally Posted by svartsvensk View Post
How long does a 15 gallon holding tank take to fill up? Anyone have any experience with treatment systems? Are they a real bear to integrate? Are they really sanitary/environmentally sound?

15 gal. won't last long with two adults and a child living aboard. It think a full week is pushing it. Treatment systems do work (such as Lectrasan) and are sound, but they require electricity and salt water. If you are in DC, the water is almost fresh.

Any suggestions for vaccum cleaners? I was thinking a mini-wet/dry shopvac. With our dog, it's a necessity.

That would work, but not on the hook unless you are running a generator or have a huge battery bank and an inverter. 12 volt vacs are fine for light cleaning, but probably won't handle the dog hair.

Aftermarket shipborne heaters and AC - what sort of price range can I expect to find on these? Where can I begin looking? Are there any used ones out there?

Couple thousand for the AC, maybe another grand for the heat. Install can be a rather simple one day job (assuming you already have a thruhull for the AC water supply) or a several day project that requires tearing appart the interior of the boat - depends on the boat and how you want to run the vents. Check any online chandlery, including Sailnet for prices. I would't go with a used AC, maybe a heater, but not AC. Plus, it would be hard to find one as people don't usually just tear them out of their boat to sell. I will say that AC in Washington is a must, and you will need to be at a marina to run it (or you will be running a generator 24/7).

Speaking of heating - I've read that most people use propane, electricity, and diesel heaters. No love for the old fashioned wood stove? Does this have more to do with fuel storage than anything else?

That and an open flame, I don't think most insurance companies would be happy with wood. Also, in DC good luck finding firewood - only source I know of is expensive delivery or those small packs at the grocery stores (very expensive).

Sailing to DC - the boat I'm hoping to buy is in Florida, and I'll have to sail it there. I won't purchase it unless it's up to snuff, but it was surveyed a year ago and since, well maintained. How can I find bridge clearances for the Chesapeake and Potomac?

Look at charts (including the free NOAA ones referenced above). However, you really need to think about the wisdom of buying an amost 50-year old wooden boat in FL then setting out for a 1220 mile trip to DC, most of which will be running the motor on the ICW. If the boat you are looking at is the one in Naples on Yachtworld, I'd keep looking. Wood is beautiful, but a ton of work and expensive to maintain. I know you have time, but I think you would do much better with fiberglass. I'd also be worried of taking that boat in bluewater once you are ready to cruise. I know you like it , but I would keep looking

Speaking of the boat I'd like to buy, anyone ever lived aboard a Kettenburg 40'? Anyone in the Tampa Bay area feel like having a look over it with me when I fly out? Know of any good third-party surveyors that I can trust? If anyone wants to sail to DC with me, I'm open to the suggestion, and could sure use the company!

See above comments.

Home-entertainment systems - I'm lucky to have an HD projector and awesome surround sound here in my apartment, I know those will have to go. ...but has anyone set up a flat-panel HDTV and small surround speakers? Any suggestions about what's better in the confined spaces of a boat?

Yes, you can probably find a small 12volt tv, but remember that it will use lots of power (again, need to be at the dock or running a generator). I'd consider using the laptop with a couple small speakers.

Computers - should I stick with my laptop only? Or try to integrate a desktop in somewhere, using the TV as a monitor? Should I chuck my Playstation3 in favor of a blu-ray drive for the computer?

Stick with the laptop, takes less space and much lower power usage.

Mooring in DC - Eventually we'd like a slip, but we're willing to live "on the hook" for awhile until we sort that out... I read here that you can moor for free or very cheap for up to two weeks at a time off the gangplank marina; does that mean we'll need to find another place to stay for one or two nights a week? Where else could we moor in or around DC?

Mooring in DC isn't a long term option. With the amount of law enforcement around here, they will quickly catch on if you are just moving the boat every few days. Also, assuming your wife will need to wear normal DC business atire for work, is she really going to want to shuttle back and forth in a dingy every day to get to and from work? How about in the frequent thunderstorms we have in DC? Gangplank is about the only live aboard in DC (others are further out), but liveaboard status is quite restricted, the waiting list is years, and it is very expensive. My wife and I looked into it several years ago and we determined that with all the fees we would proably be spending almost $1000 a month just for the marine (they do include parking for one car, which would normally cost $200 to $300 a month in DC. Because of the waiting list, most people get liveaboard status by purchasing a boat that already has it. Also, you won't be doing any real sailing from DC on a large boat - it is too shallow and the chanels are narrow, unless you motor miles down river. If you really want to live on the water and put money into something, look for a houseboat at Gangplank to go up for sale, then sell it and buy a sailboat when you are ready to cruise. However, even then, it will still cost close to the price of a small apartment. You should also be aware that there are several nightclubs around the marina, so it can get very loud and rowdy at night.

Toolkit - I'm going to need to pair down my set of tools. What do you think are the essentials I'll need to bring? (preliminary list: Sander, drill, circular saw, reciprocating saw, jigsaw, worklight, wrenches, drivers, planer, torque-wrench, hammer, ball-pein hammer, rubber mallet, steel drift, wood chisel)

Depends on the boat, but a wood boat will require more tools and storage is always at a premium.

Any good car parking solutions in DC or Arlington that don't require a slip at the marina?

Yes, for a couple hundred a month.

Any good DC area DIY yards where I can haul her and work on it when I need to?

Not really, Ft. Washington about 20 miles down river will haul and let you do some work, but they are expensive and it is really shallow getting to the lift. Other than that, you need to head about 70 miles down river.

Building a bimini - how hard is this? Anyone done it? I'd like to give it a go, any advice?

Not too difficult, I'm building one now. Look at - they sell kits. But a good stainless one, even do it your self, will cost close to a thousand for all the parts, not including the sewing machine.

Dinghy's - is sail/row ok? Or is something with a motor really that crucial?

Depends on how far you intend to go and in what weather. We have a motor on ours and it is very nice to have.

Winter - Ice. Freezing river. What, if any, mods do I need to do to my boat to account for this?

None, most large marinas have deice systems here. if they don't you would need to get a bubbler and keep it pluged in to shore power.

Firearm safety and storage aboard - where are the best places to keep the ship's armory?

In storage, off the boat, particularly if you set foot in DC.

Ok, I think that's about it for now. Sorry for the massive list. If something has been discussed to death on another thread, feel free to refer me or let me know what to search for. There's lots to wade through, and though I've found answers to many other questions already, I'm striking out on some of these.
Look, you have a great dream and plan, but you really need to think this through. It is not as easy as you might think, and DC isn't really live aboard friendly. I love this city, and highly recomend you take the opportunity to live here, but I think you may be better off renting a small appartment and saving for the boat. If you can live frugally on land you will save money and it will be a good way to prepare for life on board. And if you live in the city, ditch the car and walk or use metro - you can always rent a car if you need it or join something like zipcar. Just my two cents.
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