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tybeefolk 01-31-2004 08:56 AM

cruiser vs live-a-board
would some one please tell me what makes one boat suitable as a cruiser, or what makes a live-a-board suitable as a live aboard.we have been cruising boat adds everywhere and certain boats are advertised as one or the other. since we are planning to live on a sailing vessel with the express desire to cruise to far off places; which of the two will be best suited specifically for these venues? i really don''t understand the difference. i understand cruising qualities and live-a-board qualities are subjective. i''m not asking which boat to buy, i feel you have already provided us with enough information to make smarter decisions about that and we are GRATEFUL;
But is there a real difference between these two boats? or more importantly where do we fit in, live-a-board cruisers or cruising live-a-boards?

Jeff_H 01-31-2004 10:14 AM

cruiser vs live-a-board
I am not sure that the terms ''cruiser'' or ''liveaboard'' are used with any real degree of precision or consistency by brokers or owners. I see these terms routinely applied as if there is no real difference between the two but in my mind there are big differences. In a general sense a cruiser (especially one intended to go distance voyaging) is a very different animal than a live aboard and is optimized more for sailing ability, seaworthiness and accomodations that are comfortable at large heel angles and while under way. A liveaboard is optimized for being spacious and laid out for life in a slip or on the anchor. All else takes a back seat.

To be more specific, if you look at a boat that is intended as a distance cruiser, there will be larger water and fuel capacities because they need to be able to function independent of land for longer periods of time. On a serious cruiser, passageways will be narrower and arranged to provide continuous reliable foot and hand holds. On a serious cruiser all lockers and gear will have positive hold downs and on modern designs these latches will automatically engage. If you are simply living aboard these positive latches are more of a pain to deal with everytime that you want to do something. On a serious cruiser the cockpit is smaller to avoid the dangers implied if the boat gets pooped where as a good liveaboard will have a generous cockpit area. On a serious cruiser the head and galley area will be intentionally cramped so that you can get a foothold and work safely. Berths on cruisers are intentionally narrow so that a sleeping crew person won''t be thrown about. Ideally there is one seaberth for each person aboard located near the center of buoyancy of the boat. These tight quarters are less convenient if you are living aboard.

Serious cruisers tend to have a lot more structural compenents (glassed in bulkheads, longitudinal and transverse frames etc.) and these components take up room and make a boat seem a little more claustiphobic than is preferable if the boat is only intended as a live aboard. Interior volume is most critical to a liveaboard, bulk storage for cruising gear is more important to a cruising boat. Adding to those encroachments into the interior volume is the space occupied by larger capacity tanks, batteries, bilge volumes, and a higher ballast ratio that would be more critical to a cruising oriented boat.

Cruisers tend to have smaller portlights and deck openings and eschew ports in the hull or transom as being vulnerable. Liveaboards often have larger deck openings and portlights placed anywhere that can visually open up an interior.

Heads located at the very ends of the boat are useless offshore. Double queen size berths with open sides, or berths oriented athwartships or headboards facing the nearest end of the boat are useless offshore, but make sense for marina life since they easier to make up and make ''normal life'' easier.

Furnishings on a cruising boat needs to be able to withstand the full force of the impact of a person being thrown against it. Utility and flexibility of useage is more important to a live aboard. Comforts of home with ''captains chairs'' and fully found entertainment centers are important features of a live aboard. These ''features'' simply take up space on a cruiser. High maintenance systems like air conditioning and to a lesser extent refrigeration are less important on cruiser.

Cruisers ideally do not have interior hull liners so that all areas of the hull and components of the boat''s systems can be reached from the interior in an emergency. This is less of a concern in a liveaboard and liners make lockers easier to keep clean and free of odors.

Cruisers often use 65 to 70 cm stanchion heights (roughly 26- 27.5 inches) with addition diagonal braces, while liveaboards prefer the convenience of 23" to 24" height stanchions without the tripping hazzard of the additional braces.

Sailing ability, seakindliness, and seaworthiness is far more important for boat intended to do serious cruising rather than be a liveaboard. As a result,a boat that is intended to be a cruiser will generally have a narrower beam, less freeboard, a lower vertical center of gravity and deeper draft than a boat that is intended as liveaboard.

Purpose built cruisers tend to be more expensive to build and maintain as they generally require more sophisticated structural components, sturdier furnishings, redundancy and better hardware.

Perhaps to illustrate what I am thinking with a couple examples, I think of a Kelly Peterson 44/46 as the quintessential cruiser, while I think of a boat like the Morgan Out Island series being quintessential live aboards, and the Island Packet series being somewhere in between but somewhat closer to the liveaboard than cruiser end of things.

I am sure that I skipped over plenty here and certainly some of this is very subjective, but hopefully it will at least give you some sense of these terms. If you have "the express desire to cruise to far off places" then a cruising design would probably make more sense. That said, not all boats that are listed as cruisers really are cruisers. Neither does all boats listed as liveaboards make sense as liveaboards.

Lastly, I am not saying that a cruiser or a liveaboard are universally a better boat in all cases. We all approach the water with differing goals and if your goal is simply to live aboard, then it makes very little sense to invest in a purpose built cruiser. By the same token, while you may be able to go offshore in a boat that is better suited as a liveaboard, there will be times when that decision could prove very uncomfortable or even worse.


DuaneIsing 01-31-2004 11:58 AM

cruiser vs live-a-board

You got some fantastic info from Jeff H on your liveaboard vs. cruiser question. That''s another one for the archives.


doubleplay 02-01-2004 09:02 AM

cruiser vs live-a-board
Perfect explanation for cruiser vs liveaboard...
There is a broad spectrum of boats out there and if you look at the popular name builders you will see that most mass produced boats are designed to be on the liveaboard side of the spectrum.
If I may add one more builder that covers a wide range in that spectrum it will be Hallberg-Rassy...
Good Luck

WHOOSH 02-01-2004 09:46 AM

cruiser vs live-a-board
A big missing piece in this fictional but functional ''cruiser vs. livaboard'' characterization is clarifying just what is meant by ''cruising''. While there are large regional differences in weather, living aboard nevertheless remains a fairly clear, constant picture in all our minds: one is aboard and afloat, suffers small spaces but hopefully offsetting positives in lifestyle, environs and perhaps that ''interim'' stage (if only a dream) between the 8-5 Rut and shoving off for good.

OTOH ''Cruising'', it seems to me, has been watered down to such an extent now that it''s meaningless when used as a modifier when discussing boats. (Did anyone else wince at the types of boats CW was featuring in their cover article on small cruising sailboats a few months ago? Apparently, a horizontal surface on which one can lie or place a camping stove makes a boat into a coastal cruiser).

If we use Jeff''s description as a template, it seems to me it fits more or less accurately depending on what definition of cruising we choose to use. E.g. one is truly labeled a seasoned cruiser who wanders up and down the ICW several times, perhaps at some point carefully loping 90 NM across to the Abacos (altho'' this may be trumpeted as "We were in the Caribbean this last winter..."). There are not many folks around my hometown who would hesitate to label that boat''s crew as cruising sailors, but in truth much of the Liveaboard side of Jeff''s template could be quite suitable for that kind of cruising (nor am I suggesting there is anythng wrong with it). In fact, 35-45'' trawlers - hardly seagoing vessels by and large and very much fitting within the Liveaboard category as Jeff describes it - manage in small numbers to occasionally find their way as far south as Trinidad or up the Rio Dulce. They do this mostly by moving in the weak seasons (late Spring and early Fall), smelling few roses, and tolerating lots of rolling.

So as much as Jeff''s template does an excellent job of laying out the continuum and differentiating between two conceptually different types of boats, much (I would claim ''most'') cruising falls into a more modest, compromise category...which, I believe, explains why there is such a huge market for compromise boats that offer liveable quarters and get away with claiming to be cruising capable.


Jeff_H 02-01-2004 10:10 AM

cruiser vs live-a-board
Jack, once again you inject a very thought provoking nuance to this discussion. To some extent you are exactly right about the definition of a ''cruiser''. This was was nudging at the back of my mind while I wrote my post. I found myself using terms like ''distance cruiser'', ''purpose built cruiser'' or ''serious cruiser'' to try to distinguish between boats that are intended to spend time offshore or cruise long distances vs boats that are more suitable as a liveaboard or a purpose built coastal cruiser. But really in the end I only danced around the issue that you so squarely raised, which of course is the on-going blurring of terms.

All to often I see terms like ''bluewater cruiser'' thrown casually about. All too often I see boats that are optimized for a comfortable trip down the ICW or over to the Bahamas called ''Bluewater'' or ''Offshore capable'' when many of the features that make a good offshore boat are absent. Very often I meet people who have years of coastal cruising under their belts who are disparaged for a lack of offshore experience as if that is the only mark of an experienced sailor. They are often disparaged by the so-called experienced cruisers who would no more jump offshore for three or four days rather than suffer a week or two of screwing around in the ICW. There is no right or wrong here and I am not sure that the offshore voyager is any more of a cruiser than the ICW passage maker but it does make it harder to define terms doesn''t it?

Good point Jack,
Best wishes,

WHOOSH 02-01-2004 02:19 PM

cruiser vs live-a-board
Jeff and the group:

A while back I offered an informal hierarchy of cruising categories; damn if I can remember the detail of it now. But IMO that''s what''s lacking in any discussion about cruising boats...and I only reintroduce the notion because of the original post, asking about ''cruiser'' vs. ''liveaboard''.

As memory serves, I was trying to slice the cruising pie into the following categories:
A: Daysailing
B: Inshore, protected waters sailing with occasional coastal leg and/or occasional overnight, but close to shore and within a 24-36 hr wx f''cast window
C: Coastal to 1-2 day passages offshore, still within 48 hr wx f''cast window; Bahamas cruising, skirting the Gulf Coast Panhandle, jumping outside to skirt ICW sections, or SoCal Channel transit are examples
D: Offshore for a period in excess of solid wx f''cast period; examples might be returning to a SE or Mid-Atlantic U.S. port from Bahamas, a big leg enroute the Eastern Caribbean (e.g. Georgetown to Provo, T&C), or the first (longest) leg of the Baja Ha-Ha to Bahia Tortugas from San Diego.
E: Offshore for extended period (measured in weeks) with whatever seasonal wx patterns and convective nonsense that are typical

IMO Jeff''s definition of a ''cruiser'' best fits D and E passages. I (and probably everyone else here) would prefer making C passages on the ''cruiser'' type boat, but in reality would mostly (8 times out of 10) be fine doing them in the archetypical Morgan 41 liveaboard-type boat and not suffer the difference. Just about anything would suffice for A and B, not that we would object to a fine sail in a nice sailing sailboat.

The CE ''A'' rated boats we''ve had those tiring discussions about here in another thread are great for A, B and C runs, IMO. D is when one begins to seriously regret the absence of a truly functional galley, or decent seaberths, or when a head up in the bow of the boat causes one to haul the bucket out of the sail locker, or when shortening down sail requires more than just roller reefing a big genoa.


PBzeer 02-01-2004 03:01 PM

cruiser vs live-a-board
To me, cruising is about going places. Doesn''t matter if it''s offshore or coastal as long as you don''t have permanent docklines. An unending journey, so to speak. (Not that one can''t cruise for a specific time frame, but in a general sense, it''s the cruise, not the destination.) And living aboard is part of that.

IMHO, it''s the person that needs definition more than the boat. You can''t choose an appropriate boat, until you honestly define how you''ll use it. Not wishfully define, nor romantically define, but honestly. Once you do that, then put your finances in perspective, you have some useful parameters for searching.

The key, I think, is that "you" have to define yourself, not let someone else do it. And to remember, there''s nothing wrong with whatever definition you come to. You don''t have to sail to Tahiti to be a cruiser, nor do you have to be tied to the big fat yellow cord to be a live aboard. What you "have" to do, is enjoy whatever you''re doing, or why bother.

There is no perfect boat, only the boat that is right for how you''ll use it. Once you know that, you can buy the best one you can find.

Fair winds, and best of luck in your search,


capttb 02-02-2004 01:16 PM

cruiser vs live-a-board
As far as the brokers & builders are concerned the only consistency I can find is the "horizontal surface suitable for sleeping" mentioned earlier. Catalina puts my 27 in their "Bay" category while a 31 is a "Cruiser". This seems based solely on size as the boats are about equally seaworthy. I always associated "liveaboard" as an attempt to describe a boat big enough to live on in some measure of comfort. The big difference is between boats built for speed (racing) and those built for comfort & safety (or something approaching them) while at sea. All sailboats are a compromise between the two, a "bluewater Cruiser" IMHO is probably a full keel design (like Pacific Seacraft) as opposed to fin keel, (I know there are plenty of circumnavigations with fin keels). I''m really reinforcing others in the post that the terms are a lot like Real Estate ads in that the seller will describe what he thinks potential buyers want, and the things that make a boat more pleasant at the dock are not necessarily the things you want in a boat that will be offshore a lot.

Jeff_H 02-02-2004 01:44 PM

cruiser vs live-a-board
Actually, the Pacific Seacrafts currently in production are fin keel with a skeg hung rudders.


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