Originally Posted by fishstick
Must have a head with shower.
Must have a functional galley.
I would prefer wheel steering.
I hate small outboard motors, so I would really prefer a diesel inboard.
Needs to be able to sail single handed in a pinch.
Needs to be safe for island passages.
I need the boat to be ready to go for $12,000 +/-
A Head with A Shower
Well the head with a shower is something you generally only see on larger boats. I don't think I've seen one that wasn't owner installed on a boat less than 31'. I also don't think that having a shower aboard a boat is all that good an idea, especially a smaller boat, and given your budget, that is what you're going to have to get—a smaller boat.
Most smaller boats don't have a fully enclosed head compartment, so setting up a shower on one can be problematic. Most have a head that uses a curtain to close it off from the main cabin.
A shower aboard a boat generally requires its own sump, and a pump for it, rather than having the shower drain to the bilge. Having the shower drain in to the bilge will make the bilge a nasty, smelly mess, worse than it already is. It also introduces a lot of moisture into the boat, and unless the boat is really well ventilated, and in the winter time it is hard to do this and still keep the boat warm, it will lead to mold and mildew building up in the boat.
Finally, unless you have a hot water heater and pressure water, both of which are less common on smaller boats, your showers aren't going to be all that useful. If you have a hot water heater, it will likely be an AC/engine powered one. Since you'll be on a mooring, this means you'll have to run the engine just to get hot water for your shower every morning. Running the engine with a very light load isn't all that good for it—and running it just to get hot water is kind of dumb IMHO.
A Functional Galley
Most galleys on smaller boats are far from functional for day-to-day living. Assuming you can find a boat that has pressure water and a propane stove, and refrigeration, which is what most people consider necessary for a liveaboard functional galley. Again, you will run into problems.
First, the water tanks are limited in size. Using water for the showers and doing dishes will generally mean that you will be filling the tanks at least three or four times a week. Water, on a small boat, is a scarce resource. You will also need to pump out the holding tank at least once a week.
Second, you will have to find a good source for propane. The other types of stove are really not all that convenient to use. Alcohol stoves take forever to heat up, diesel and kerosene stoves require alcohol to prime them, and are a pain to use, until you learn their quirks.
Third, you'll be running the engine to charge your batteries quite a bit if you have a refrigerator of any size on-board. Refrigerators are rather rare in the smaller boats... since most of the smaller boats don't have the battery banks required to support refrigeration. Again, running a diesel to just charge batteries is a bad idea...gets expensive in the long run.
Or you could use a big cooler... very 1800's of you. But that entails running out for ice on a regular basis, and hauling block ice back to the boat.
Hmmm... this is really a personal preference...but unfortunately, most of the smaller boats are tiller steered. It's just the economics of the whole thing. They don't need the mechanical advantage that wheel steering gives you, and don't have the space that the wheel steering system takes up.
An Inboard Diesel Engine
Most of the smaller boats have outboard motors for a reason. Space. An inboard engine, whether it is diesel or gasoline, takes up quite a bit of room, especially once you figure in the space the transmission, prop shaft and stuffing box take up. Diesel is safer than gasoline.
Needs to be able to sail single handed in a pinch, Needs to be safe for island passages. I need the boat to be ready to go for $12,000 +/-
Almost any boat can be rigged for single-handed sailing. This is easier on boats smaller than 37' IMHO, but even larger ones can be rigged. There are a lot of small boats that are capable of making safe bluewater passages.
Unfortunately, the characteristics that make these boats safe for making bluewater passages often make them pretty horrible for a liveaboard. They have narrower hulls, with less living space inside. Many have internal space taken up by tanks for fuel and water, instead of having more storage areas. They are designed for sailing as their primary purpose, unlike the more modern dock queens, which are designed to be floating condos.
Finally, not too many boats are going to be in decent condition, and big enough to liveaboard, given your budget. I am guessing you don't want to have to spend the first two months living aboard doing repairs and nothing else.
Just my viewpoint on what you're asking. While, I can suggest some boats that would be in that price range, but the ones that are affordable, may not be capable of making the island passages you want to make. The ones that may be able to make the island passages, may not have the features you are looking for... and the ones that have the features you are looking for and are capable of making the island passages will probably need a fair bit of work.
BTW, I would highly recommend that you reserve a portion of your "budget", usually 15-20% for making repairs, modifications and upgrades to the boat you buy, since most boats will need to have something done to them, especially if you're going to be living aboard it.