Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Annapolis, Md
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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.