I'd like some input on what boats you would consider make a good liveaboard sailboat in the 28 to 35-foot range. I'm particularly interested in baots that have a good shower set-up. I'm will primarily be sailing on lakes. Can you assist me?
Mark Matthews responds:
Thanks for the question. There are a number of factors to consider when it comes to choosing a boat, especially one that will become your home. Will the boat be solely your domicile; and do you entertain the thoughts of having a mate on board down the road? Also, if you'll be living aboard with someone else, does that person have a list of priorities that need to enter the equation? You also have to determine where you'll be keeping the boat. Will you have it dockside, and will you be daysailing it, or cruising on it, and if so, where would you like to go? And you'll want to keep in mind whether or not you'll have guests aboard periodically?
I would also advise you not to overlook whatever requirements you have in mind regarding beam, draft, and sail plan. Also, how important is windward ability to you, and what sort of price range do you have in mind? Do you have the skills, tools, and time to invest sweat equity into the boat or are you looking for something that is ready to go upon purchase? And how big is the lake and what are the chances of encountering gear-breaking weather?
Keep in mind that the more a boat becomes like a house, the more complicated its systems are likely to be and the more demanding it can be of its owners. Consider your requirement of an onboard shower, for example. A good shower set-up will mean water-pressure pump and its attendant circuit breakers, fuse, wire, hose clamps, and hose, as well as the hot-water heater. You can achieve this by connecting the system to the dockside 110-volt power or it can be plumbed off the engine’s heat exchanger, with the possibility of including an accumulator tank so that the pump won’t have to be constantly running. Of course there's also the issue of drainage—you don’t want what would go down the drain to simply enter your bilge as it could clog the bilge pumps, so you'll need to make sure there's a separate sump for the shower, along with its pump, hoses, and thru-hull discharge.
Now, if you suffer one snafu in the system—a clogged heat exchanger, a leak in a hose, a torn diaphragm in a pump, or a circuit breaker for whatever reason that keeps tripping—that could mean that you'll be on your hands and knees with a voltmeter, flashlight, and screwdriver trying to assess the problem.
If space is your biggest concern and leaving the dock from time to time isn’t a priority, some sailors have found that broken powerboats make the best type of liveaboards. These vessels are usually cheap, spacious, and abundantly available. If you want the satisfaction of sailing around the harbor or heading off for distant locales, however, there are veritable fleets of good pre-owned sailboats that would fit the bill. Albergs (the 35 in particular), Ericsons (the 38 and the 35), Pearsons (the Triton, the Vanguard, the 323, and the 35) are among them, along with, Catalinas, Morgans, C&Cs, and Westerlys.
Those are just some of the boats that spring to mind. Be sure to take a system-by-system approach in developing your criteria for assessing the right boat. Of course other vital considerations include what equipment—the engine, rigging, sails, electrical, plumbing, and safety items—that comes with the boat. To find out more about specific models of boats, you might want to post a message on SailNet's e-mail discussion lists and see what other sailors might have to say. Just click here, E-Mail Lists. I’d also you encourage you to check out our Buying a Boat section of the site.
I hope this infomation proves helpful.