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Old 04-14-2002
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The Basic Liveaboard

I would like some advice on buying a sailboat. I want to live on it with another person and sail in blue water. It must be easy to handle for two and have good equipment at a fair price.

Mark Matthews responds:
We actually get this type of inquiry on a fairly regular basis, and we usually stay away from making recommendations on specific boats due to the number of variables that exist in size, performance, space, price, and so on. Along with those already mentioned, there are a number of critical factors you'll have to consider.

For starters, it's a buyer's market. There are veritable fleets of older sailboats that can be brought up to shape with a little focus and energy. When you say you want to live on the boat with someone else, it's obviously helpful if that person also shares the same desire. You'll want to make a list of priorities between the two of you and there are likely to be some tradeoffs when it comes to interior living spaces, as well as hull type and sail plan. These could include windward performance versus space below, interior layout, and head and galley considerations. Draft will also enter the scenario, as will the length of the boat. The difference of a few feet brings with it an exponential increase in operational expenses.

It'll be helpful to think about the kind of sailing you are doing now versus the kind of sailing you envision in the future. If you're planning on being away from marinas for extended periods of time, you'll want to examine onboard charging capacities through solar and wind generators, and if you plan to be crossing oceans, you'll need the appropriate safety gear such as EPIRB, SSB, and life raft, along with additional stowage space and tankage.

With that said, know too that all the gear in the world won't substitute for the inability to tie a bowline, navigate, change engine oil, or the other critical seamanship and system skills that cruising requires. When the wind starts to pipe up, it's not the time to hit the books. Preparation and vigilance are the keystones to safe sailing. Even in this day of push-button fixes, electric winches, and other modern conveniences that have made blue-water sailing more comfortable and accessible to many cruisers, cruising is still a demanding lifestyle—although the large blocks of unstructured time, beautiful lands, and new friends make it all worthwhile. Know too that making the transition from life ashore to life on the water will offer numerous challenges. And both the highs and the lows are likely to set new benchmarks for you.

Check out the Buying a Boat section of SailNet for more information that can help you determine the boat of your dreams. Then when you determine a list of boats that you're interested, you can see if any of them are included in the owners' reviews that we house in SailNet's BoatCheck. Have a look, and good luck.


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