Just registered here at SailNet. I am tired but happy and brand new owner of a tired old Pearson 35. I have purchased this old hull with the intention of reconditioning her and living aboard. She needs to be completely rewired and repowered but her hull and rigging seem sound. I put a 25hp OB on to get in and out of the marina.
What I am looking for is a liveaboard marina in Northwest Florida or Alabama to which I can migrate once I get her to a point where she is liveable. With luck I will have the funds to repower her this winter.
That is a huge area for potential LA marinas. I can give you the places we have stayed and what we thought of them. We are fulltime cruisers and liveaboards.
I forget the marina in Pensacola. It is on the North side. I will try and look it up if need be, but there are a lot of marinas there to choose from. I liked Pensacola a lot. Super, super nice people. Reasonable rates (and in my opinion, the best place east of the Mississippi to get work done on your boat at a reasonable rate). If you do stay in Pensacola, and need a DIY yard or a yard that can work very reasonably with excellent work, I would suggest Troendels. Outstanding work from a F/T crew that have been with him and his wife a long time and they are relatively cheap.
Pensacola has a strip that is fun (Peg Leg Petes is a must see) and a lot of shops. Sailing in the bay is protected and fun. Problem with Pensacola (as well as alabama) is they get a winter. It can get right cold there for my south Florida blood. But like I said before, super nice people, reasonable rates, nice places to cruise to, etc.
We stayed there for a little bit. I think it is a beautiful area. We stayed at the municipal marina on the north side (Panama City Marina). They have built up some new shops north of it and some decent little restaurants. The in/out of it is nice and you can even hop over to Appalachicola with your draft. However, outside of the new development, you are in the slums. The closest grocery store (walkable) is a rough crowd during the day and I would not go there at night. I also did not find it loaded with yards and chandleries. It seems more driven towards the summer crowds and passer-bys. Water is pretty and it is a pretty area... don't get me wrong, but for your use, I would not stay there long term.
Loved it. We were going to be there for a few weeks and six months later, were still there. We stayed at the Harborage. It is a decent marina - however, they are going through management changes now. They do allow liveaboards. Salt Creek is right beside it and has a lot of yards which comete against each other so prices are reasonable for FL west coast. You can walk to the Publix and drug store. They have a farmers market every saturday which is cool. THe downtown area is VERY NEW and modern. You have the Dali museum, the ST Pete Museum, you can ride your bike and watch Tampa Bay play baseball, etc. Not sure what your age is, but you are surrounded by USFSP campus and a very young and vibrant crowd. Coast Guard is also there. Tampa Bay is fun and protected to sail in and there are a lot more anchorages I can share with you that are some of the best I have seen since we started cruising in circa 2000. Only negative is the pumpout is outside of the marina and you have to "motor" to it which is a drag.
Another option is the St Pete municipal marina. It is not as nice (not floating concrete docks) and the facilities are not as nice. People are good there though and it has the same access to everything as the Harborage. Prices are also more reasonable.
ALl comes down to which one you like better and how much you want to spend. DO be aware that north of these marinas are the slums, but we never had a problem there (and I have kids and the funds to go elsewhere so I would not worry about it). THe Harborage does have 24 hour security, which I think is more of a show then whatever usefulness it really is.
I can give you suggestions and areas further south if you would like - right down to Marathon in the Keys. But since you left it as NW Florida, I will stop at St Pete. Personally, I would choose St Pete. EVERYTHING is available (and most of the crap you get elsewhere is shipped out of St Pete) and it is a fun place with a mild winter.