Lake Michigan Liveaboard? - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 8 Old 05-05-2015 Thread Starter
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Lake Michigan Liveaboard?

I'm over the house and yard, with lots of stuff thing. I'm 45 years old and worked 25 years as a paramedic and I have decided to chase my dreams rather than just sit and wish. One of those dreams is to live on a sailboat. I have minimal sailing experience but would take lessons. I have good mechanical skills and I'm an aircraft mechanic so I should be able to handle basic boat maintenance. I'm beginning a new career as an airline pilot and will most likely be based in Chicago.

So here is the questions: Are there any liveaboard friendly marinas on Lake Michigan, and what boat would you recommend?

My biggest concerns are how to handle sewage and the inevitable winter months.

Any advice is appreciated.
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post #2 of 8 Old 06-15-2015
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Re: Lake Michigan Liveaboard?

Before buying a boat, pay close attention to the design. Bigger isn't always more comfortable. The shape of the hull, amount of ballast, the draft, and the keel will play critical roles in how comfortable the boat is when swinging around on the hook or at the dock when the wind picks up or when a boat comes in and creates wake. A round bottom will roll a lot more than a deep, double curved hull.

Some people will tell you that living on a boat smaller than 30 ft just isn't comfortable. They've either been living on the wrong boats, or they feel like they need more than they actually do. Or they're living with a wife or girlfriend, and possibly kids, in which case, they have a valid point. Anyways, a small boat has many advantages. The cost of maintenance and repairs grows exponentially when you increase the size of the boat drastically.

I can't speak of which marinas to check out since I'm in VA, but I can say that you don't have to spend money on sailing lessons to learn to sail. Sailing lessons can get expensive, and you'll need a good handful of them to know what you're doing in different weather conditions. You'll never feel like you learned all you need to know. Once you get your boat, go out on a light day and stay close to the marina. Just a few hours. You'll learn fast. Be friendly with your neighbors in the marina and ask if they want to go out for a day sail. Supply the beer and you'll get lots of "yes" answers. Tell them you're new at this and ask questions. You'll learn a lot by probing around on these forums too. Get books and read them. You don't have to spend lots of money to learn to sail or to live comfortably. You don't need a $20k or more boat to be comfortable. Actually, I would recommend to anyone that gets their first liveaboard boat that it should be something cheap, small, and practical. Something you're not afraid to bounce off a dock on and smudge your paint job. Any boat can be nice inside and out with care and maintenance and quality materials. But a $30k boat that's meant for weekending or piling 8 guests on that has a round bilge and is meant to go fast isn't going to make the best liveaboard. Or even a good one. There are tons of boats to consider, and tons of boats not to consider. Read around for a while. I can tell you that someone on this forum asks what the best boat is practically every day, and its always the same answer. Just poke around and don't rush into buying something right away. With that being said, the boat you choose doesn't have to be the boat you spend the rest of your life on. The beauty of living simply on a small boat is that you've gotten rid of most of your things, so moving onto another boat can be done in a matter of hours if you haven't packed crap into every nook and cranny.
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post #3 of 8 Old 06-15-2015
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Re: Lake Michigan Liveaboard?

Also, congratulations. You'll love it. It's a very free feeling.
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post #4 of 8 Old 06-16-2015
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Re: Lake Michigan Liveaboard?

I have a few decades of experience sailing Lake Michigan, but never as a live-aboard. I'm in Muskegon, Michigan.

I'll limit my comments to living aboard on southern Lake Michigan, and your sewage question. With regard to boat choice and learning sailing and seamanship, those are issues for considerable study on your part. There are plenty of resources available to you, and when you can't find the answer, there's always Sailnet.

Recommending a boat to you, at this point, based on the information you've given or are able to give at this point would be pointless. Example: I live in Michigan, can you recommend a car for me? As difficult as it would be to get that right, recommending the right boat for someone would be more difficult by a factor of 10. For reasons you'll learn as you go along.

Okay...never mind... get a Pearson 30 from the 80's. Easy, huh? Or, an O'Day 34?

If you're going to be based in Chicago, can I assume that you need to be within a reasonable driving distance of the airport? There will be X number of marinas that are close enough, and then it's just a phone call to ask them if they allow live-aboards.

The sewage thing is simple enough. The boat will have a toilet with a holding tank, and it will need to be pumped out regularly. Motor your boat to the pump out dock and they'll pump out the waste and charge you a few bucks. Most boats have holding tanks, although some have composting toilets or porta potties.

Pumping sewage overboard is a serious offense.

"Gray" water, or water from the sinks and showers simply goes overboard.

After living through 61 winters in Michigan, I can guarantee you I will never live on a boat in this area in the winter. There could be someone who does it, but I would consider it impossible.

Any marina subject to freezing (that's ALL of them) will turn it's water off in the winter.

Many marinas turn off the electricity in the winter.

You would have to use a "bubbler" to keep the water around your boat moving so it doesn't freeze and wreck your boat. That gets expensive.

Dock surfaces are not maintained in the winter so snow accumulation would be a huge problem.

So, forget about living on a boat in the winter. Your boat will be stored at the marina in its cradle in the winter months. Living on a boat on it's cradle in the winter would be rustic at best. Not doable.

Your best case scenario is that you could live on your boat in the summer and find accommodations on land in the winter.

Factoring in spring maintenance you could expect to launch each year in mid May and take it out of the water before November. This year in Muskegon, late May seemed to be closer to the average. There are those who will brag about launching in April, but there's always some sort of maintenance to be done that delays your launch.

Personally, I have too many hobbies that would keep me from living on a boat. I need space. But, that's me. My solution, ultimately, was to build a house adjacent to the marina where I keep my boat. Many people will agree that smaller boats leave the slip more often, so I'm happy with a Catalina 28 that I can dock solo on windy days, and still sail it anywhere on the Great Lakes.

Your solution will be unique to you, and how often you are actually on your boat will be directly proportionate to your passion for it.

By the way, Lake Michigan is a FABULOUS place to sail.
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post #5 of 8 Old 06-17-2015
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Re: Lake Michigan Liveaboard?

Well I do believe there may be some marinas south of Chicago that have bubblers in the winter. I am going by memory here, could be wrong. It will be cold and docks slippery but with good heating system it will be cozy in the boat. The commute may be long though.

Is this a big airline or one of the commuters, if a big one you could bide some time till you can transfer some place warmer. Commuters seem more regional and transfer might not be possible. Certainly not the business it used to be.

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post #6 of 8 Old 06-18-2015
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Re: Lake Michigan Liveaboard?

Quote:
Originally Posted by miatapaul View Post
Well I do believe there may be some marinas south of Chicago that have bubblers in the winter. I am going by memory here, could be wrong. It will be cold and docks slippery but with good heating system it will be cozy in the boat. The commute may be long though.
Hammond does, but they seem "look the other way" liveaboard only. They don't talk about having showers or laundry available, for example. Just the mysterious "late leaver" fee for being in the the water after Nov 1st.
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post #7 of 8 Old 06-18-2015
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Re: Lake Michigan Liveaboard?

Wait - 45 and you are starting a career as a pilot????
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post #8 of 8 Old 06-21-2015
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Re: Lake Michigan Liveaboard?

Quote:
Originally Posted by miatapaul View Post
Well I do believe there may be some marinas south of Chicago that have bubblers in the winter. I am going by memory here, could be wrong. It will be cold and docks slippery but with good heating system it will be cozy in the boat. The commute may be long though.

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I assure you that you will need either:

An insulated boat (not likely)
or
One heck of a heating system. Your boat is going to be sitting in 30 degree water. Every surface of the boat will be at 30 degrees. You can't heat the hull - the entire Lake is your heat sink. So the interior air might be warm, but everything else will be freezing. The only alternative is to find a marina that is in the outflow of an electrical generating plant. There used to be one in Milwaukee but it is now gone.

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