Join Date: May 2007
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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.