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rmbjspd 08-05-2006 03:54 AM

a small question
hi all,

my first post on the site. i have a question for all of you.

my son, who is pretty experienced with sailing -- much more than i am -- but doesn't have much experience with big live-aboard ones, wants to strike out on his own and live on a boat. i envy his decision, and admire his enthusiasm, but want to make sure the details of the move are informed.

therefore, i'm asking all of you your opinions. Could this work? if so, what kind of boat should he get? he's on a meager, but sufficient, budget, and so is looking for a used, fixer-upper but seaworthy (if not immediately sail-able) boat anywhere from 27 to 40 feet. Any bigger than that, and he figured that marina fees wouldn't be cheaper than rent.

What models / brands of boat do you all suggest? it doesn't have to be the fastest boat in the world, but it should be livable, comfortable, and able to make relatively long journeys, say, the length of the chesapeake. i don't see him getting much more ambitious than that anytime soon. he's had his eye on some double-ended boats in the 34 foot range, but has yet to pull the trigger on any. also, what good, reliable online resources are there for finding used boats?

thanks for your advice!

sailingdog 08-05-2006 06:18 AM

What area of the world is he going to be in. Some parts are fairly expensive, and living aboard even a 28' sailboat is going to be at least as expensive as a small studio apartment.

This is possible, especially if he is in one of the more southern, warmer climes, less so if he is north of the Mason-Dixon line. The main reason I say this is that living aboard through a cold winter can be very difficult without a well-equipped boat.

Also, what kind of skills, aside from sailing ones, does he have. Can he do fiberglass repairs, electrical work, etc. If he does not have the mechanical aptitude and a can-do work ethic, then fixing up a boat may also be well beyond his abilities.

How old/mature is your son? This is a lot of responsibility, and many who think of doing this do not have the maturity or level of responsibility to handle it. It is far more responsibility to live aboard a sailboat than it is to live in an apartment. There are additional risks and challenges to living aboard, that do not exist when living in terrestrial housing—like storm preparation, etc.

What is his budget for purchasing/maintaining a boat? That will often determine what boats will be available to him.

A few good smaller boats: Contessa 26, Cape Dory 25, Alberg 30, Pearson Triton.

Just remember that the costs on a boat go up with the length. Moorage, docking, storage, and maintenance-related fees are all generally charged per foot in some way. Also, the cost of the equipment, such as sails, running rigging, standing rigging, winches, also are generally higher, as larger boats have larger sails, rigs, and winches. Maintenance-related costs also generally go up with the size of the boat—power washing, hauling out, amount of paint needed, etc.

eryka 08-05-2006 07:10 AM

I'd echo everything SailingDog asks, good Qs. Buried in the post, he's not expecting to leave the Chesapeake. Lots of people are living aboard here, and if you stay out of the high-rent areas a slip for a boat in the low 30's can be <$3K - $4K/year. Offshore systems are part of what makes a boat expensive, and in this case he doesn't need SSB, alternate power sources, etc, or the durability of offshore-capable boats. For budget, might also consider older production boats in the 27-33 size range - Hunter, Catalina, Beneteau - light enough to be enjoyable sailing in the often wimpy winds we have here.

sailingdog 08-05-2006 09:38 AM

hmm... seems most of the ones I listed are bluewater capable boats.. good point Eryka. :D

One other point—maintenance costs can run about 10-15% of the purchase price of the boat, and more so if the boat is an older one...

Although it says the length of the Chesapeake in the post, I wouldn't assume that he will be on the Chesapeake until stated otherwise. Many people are familiar with the Chesapeake in terms of size, scope, and may use it as an example, especially if they live or grew up there. However, that may not be indicative of where her son lives/sails.

chuck5499 08-05-2006 10:02 AM

rmb -- sailingdog pretty well covered it - but don't forget about insurance -- you say he has a lot of experience so i assume he has a fair sailing resume that will help. but the farther south the higher the insurance -- real issue is were does he want to live.
chuck and soulmates

sailingdog 08-05-2006 10:16 AM

Ahh, yes, the insurance issue.

Generally, liveaboards need to have a more expensive policy than non-liveaboards. The liveaboard policies also act very much like homeowner's insurance, and generally have a personal liability section, that covers things like if your son's dog bites someone at the marina, that a non-liveaboard's policy would not cover.

Also, most marinas require a certain minimum liability coverage for any boats kept there. Usually it is $300,000 or so, at least from the marinas I looked at before putting my boat in the water. Without this, it is very unlikely that he will find a marina that will accept him.

I would also go for a full-yatch type marine insurance policy, rather than a consumer boat policy. One of the primary differences is that a yatch policy is usually all-risk and provides agreed value coverage, rather than actual cash value coverage. On an older boat this isn't as much of an issue, but on a newer one, or one that is being upgraded, it can make a huge difference.

For instance, if your son installs a new GPS Chartplotter. Under an Agreed Value policy, if the Chartplotter is stolen, it will be replaced for full value, less any deductible. In many yatch policies, you can get a rider to give you a lower deductible on electronics or personal possesions. Under a consumer-type boat policy, it would be replaced for the ACV, which is usually significantly less than the replacement cost, minus any deductible.

But, once again, you really need to have your son check the specifics of any insurance policy he gets.

One other point. If your son has never owned a sailboat before, it may be difficult for him to get insurance coverage on vessels over 30' long. That has been an issue mentioned by other posters on this website, so it is something for him to keep in mind when deciding what boat to get. I specifically remember one poster saying that they had bought a 32' or 34' boat and had a lot of trouble getting insurance, and if they had gone any larger, it would not have been possible. Also, they said that if they had gone less than 30', it would have been far easier to get insurance.

Jeff_H 08-05-2006 10:21 AM

Having lived on a 25 foot folkboat when I was in my early 20's, I have concluded that, while it is possible to live on a small boat, it becomes much more difficult to maintain a something resembling a 'normal' life in smaller boats; as in not showing up at work or a date looking like a homeless person.

With all due respect to SailingDog, I disaree with much of what Sailingdog has proposed. Having lived on and sailed the Chesapeake for the past 23 years, the Chesapeake is a wonderful cruising ground that very much rewards boats that are good boats in lighter winds and boats with enough speed to have a reasonable range in a day. For that reason I suggest that he focus on sellecting a displacement range that is adequate to support a liveaboard lifestyle, and then look for boats that are on the long side for that displacement. I would suggest a displacement of minimally around 8400 lbs, with a displacement in the 10,000 to 11,000 lb. range. I would then suggest that that should translate to a 32 to 36 length.

To a great extent boat prices are set more by displacement and age rather than length. While it is true that some costs are related to the length of the boat, most of the costs listed in SailingDogs post (cost of the equipment, such as sails, running rigging, standing rigging, winches) are much more related to the displacement of the boat than its length, and if your son does most of his own maintenance, a lot of costs such as the cost of bottom painting, is more related to displacement than length.

Similarly, more and more marinas are renting slips by the slip length rather than boat length. But beyond that he would save a lot of money of he can find a private slip and private slips are almost always rented by the slip length rather than the boat length. (For example I typically rent my 35 foot slips for $100 per month, a more with liveaboard electricity whether the boat is 25 feet or 35 feet) In other words a few feet of length one way or another should not add significantly to his costs, but it will make his life aboard a lot more comfortable and his sailing experiences on the Bay a lot more enjoyable.

One last point, most double enders tend to be at the heavier end of the weight to length spectrum which would mean a whole lot more motoring to sailing here on the Bay. Also they typically offer significantly less usable space for their length than a transom boat.

I am suggesting the boats on the list of suggestions below with the intention that that each represents a reasonable balance between accomodations, build quality, cost and sailing ability, with individual boats biased one way or another.:

Beneteau First 305: These boats have a great layout down below and seem to have held up very well.

Bristol 34 (1970's): Good sailing comfortable boats all around.

Cal 34 (1960's through 1980's): These boats are everywhere. They sail well, have reasonably good construction and would be near the top of my list for what your son wants to do. You can find them for sale between $12,000 and $25,000 with the older better maintained ones selling for $15K or so.

Hunter 34 (early 1980's) I know that everyone pans Hunters but the 34 was a very nice sailing boat with good accommodations, a lot of nice features, and Hunters of that era were quite reasonably well built.

J-30: Probably not the best choice on this list in terms of accomodations, but these boats are quite common on the Chesapeake and offer the most fun sailing of any of the boats on this list.

Irwin Citation 34: This is at the more expensive end of the price range. My sense of these boats is that they are not as well as the Hunters, but you sometimes see these at a bargain price due to cosmetics and since they are generally more highly regarded than Hunters in the court of 'general wisdom', I would suggest in someways a fixer upper may be a better investment.

Pearson 323: These were designed as cruising boats and make a very good choice is light air sailing is a lower priority.

Pearson 30: Cheap and common as dirt on the Chesapeake. Good all around boats. Not terribly roomy but because many of them were raced one-design, you can often find them well maintained and upgraded at a bargain basement price.

Pearson 10M: While there are some design and construction details on these boats that drive me crazy, they can often be bought cheaply and are very nice boats all around.

Tartan 30: These are one of my favorite boats of this size, era and cost. They are quite common on the Chesapeake. I just recently looked at one that was in super condition, both in terms of maintenance and upgrades, that was priced extremely cheaply. I walked away thinking what a great boat.

Tartan 34 (1970's): Excellent all around Bay boats. I have aways loved these boats. You can find them priced all over the board, with lovingly restored versions selling for close to $30K but less pristine versions selling for a lot less. One downside, partially offset by the large cockpit, is that these boats do not have much room for a 34 footer.

Good luck

hellosailor 08-06-2006 07:27 PM

There are some costs that he may or may not have considered. Sails don't last forever, he'll need to pro-rate the price of replacements and think of that as an annual cost. And there's the bottom, he'll probably need to haul and paint at least once a year down there. The haul will cost, as will the paint.

Those kind of things can creep up on you. If he hasn't literally gone over a boat (any boat) and listed every item, along with the annual replacement/maintenance/"oops broke it" costs, etc...He may have missed significant dollars.

If you actually make a spreadsheet on the computer, and list prices starting with the asking price of the boat, what it needs, the cost of that, and the LABOR that it will can get that surprise. Especially if you look at labor as a variable, i.e. what a yard would charge ($150/hour?) what you might do it in, and the time it would take if, like most boat projects, it gets harder as you get into it.<G> Whatever he can get paid for his labor elsewhere--that's a dollar figure to put into the budget.
Personally I don't think "liveaboard" is a way to "live cheap" any more, at least not in the US. It may be a way to make a BOAT AFFORDABLE, but unlike a house, the boat will devalue, so it is just shifting the rent to something that needs lots of maintenance. (But can be real fun on a nice day.<G>)

eryka 08-07-2006 08:34 AM

I think you guys are confusing the costs of 'boat ownership' with 'living aboard.' In that one could live aboard a hull docked at a marina and never go anywhere, such a boat wouldn't need an engine, sails, or even a mast, and would be so cheap to buy that depreciation wouldn't be a factor. (You might need to put some $ in tho, for example upgrading from an icebox to a refrig system, etc). OTOH, if he's buying a boat to enjoy sailing and investing in those systems anyway, the *incremental* cost of moving aboard and giving up the house is minimal -- maybe just the liveaboard utility fees at a marina -- instead of the cost of rent plus marina slip. Either of those two scenarios represents cheap 'living aboard.' The place where the best you do is break even, is get into sailing as a hobby for the first time, AND moving aboard.:)

BTW, Jeff H - speaking of living aboard cheaply, where are those $100/month boat slips you mentioned in your post? We can't find a mooring for less than that!

sailingdog 08-07-2006 10:37 AM

I think the OP is planning on living aboard, but sailing the boat a considerable deal, at least locally. So the costs of boat ownership are definitely an issue for him.

JeffH, I'd also be very interested in knowing where you're getting prices like that. That would work out to $1200 for a 30' boat, or a bit more for a 30' liveaboard. I can't find dockage that runs anything less than $80 a foot for the season, which works out to $2400 for the summer season, which runs from April 1, to October 1, and almost $350 a month.

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