Great Lakes liveaboard help/suggestions/advice...
This is my first post (of probably many) to a forum that has been a wealth of information. Sorry for it being so long or covering something previously discussed. I am going through the research and planning stage of chasing a dream I have had for a few years now ever since I first went sailing aboard a 42' ketch in Lake Huron.
After trying the whole "American Dream" of owning a home with a white picket fence and all that crap, I want out!! :p I'm only 24 years old, single guy, no dependants, have a fairly solid income, and want a different experience out of life. I bought a fixer-upper house in Warren, MI and, well, it's not working out. Short version: I can't do the addition I wanted to do, don't even have much furniture or "stuff" in it, it's WAY more house than I need, and I feel like it's preventing me from getting away and having fun with life.
So, I'm working on just finishing the house and trying to sell it so I can buy a sailboat and live aboard (timeline: approx. 1 yr unless someone wants to buy a 1/2 finished house... haha). I'm okay with not owning "stuff", I am already an avid camper, and I enjoy the water and would love to just decide I want to spend a weekend on the hook in the North Channel and go. I have little sailing experience (although survived a severe 'white squall' on that 42' ketch) but know I should probably get formal lessons before buying my floating home. I have a high mechanical aptitude and am a do-it-yourselfer.
Most of the posts on this forum seem directed toward east or west coast ocean live aboards, and moving is not an option with my job(s). I am looking for a little help from some GL liveaboards.
So, what differences should I expect with Great Lakes living aboard (besides owning an ice eater for the winter)? Do you have any ship suggestions or things I need to be looking for with fresh water, single-handed, sailboats? Since I have a job to tie me to shore in the Metro-Detroit area, are there marinas along Lake St Clair or Anchor Bay that are known to be live aboard friendly? Are there boat brokers and surveyors that come recommended? Local recommendations for sailing lessons? How does the cost of living compare to other coasts in terms of slip rent, maintenance, insurance, etc.? Probably $25k+/yr of my income goes to my house (note, taxes, maintenance, utilities), should I expect the same or less if I were living aboard on a 30-37 footer? Do you have any other advice for a beginner with the will to live aboard?
Here is what I have come up with for my "dream boat", let me know if I'm dreaming a little too much:
Price: $60,000 or less
30’-37’ LOA (small enough to single-hand, large enough to cruise with some friends)
Fiberglass mono hull
Less than 6’ draft for those shallower/tricky marinas in the GL's (i.e. Blind River)
Rigging run aft or able to be run aft
Radio at the helm and navigation station
Fore and aft berths (6’+ length)
Roomy saloon and plenty of storage
L or U shape kitchen
Shower separate from Head
Minimal bright work ("low" maintenance)
Large port holes and hatches
Aluminum toe rail
Bilge pump w/ backup
Thank you for any help!
There are quite a few livaboards around.
There are many at Emerald City, some at Jefferson Beach and there used to be some at Michigan Harbor, not sure if they are still there.
Also, up on the Clinton river, I think it's Markley Marine and maybe another.
Another good choice is the Detroit Yacht Club. I have a friend who lives full time down there on Belle Isle. He loves it and it's cheap.
There are also some down on Lake Erie but I don't know anything about them.
Jefferson Beach is talking about banning winter livaboard but we'll see, I'm skeptical they will do that.
Your biggest headaches will be condensation, toilet and fresh water.
For condensation you need to insulate the inside everywhere you can. Reflectix is the most talked about solution.
For toilet, most use the clubhouse bathroom with a pee bottle for emergency overnight use. Some have a porta john service come to pump out but that gets expensive.
Water has 2 options; haul jugs or run a hose from the clubhouse to fill the tank. Obviously, you'll need to be close to the clubhouse to do that.
Plan on transparent shrinkwrap to act as a greenhouse. Works well.
In your boat buying budget make sure to set aside at least 10% to 20% for updates. You will probably find 5 times as many projects to do as you think. Also, you need money for survey including haulout. State sales tax, first year dockage, first year insurance. Lots of up front costs.
Sound like fun. Good luck.
I keep my boat at Harbor Nine. No options for living aboard by me. I would stop by the marinas that Xort mentions and talk to those folks. They will most likely be happy to help you out. I think that you would want to be near other folks living the same way. Why "invent your own wheel" when you can learn form someone else.
Most of Anchor Bay is shallow. You might want to stay out of that area completely. A six foot draft would limit your mobility.
The boat show is in town this week. You might find some information there.
I live on the Clinton River & would be glad to take you sailing. I have been sailing since 1971 here on Lake St.Clair. As far as Anchor Bay being shallow I race against boats that draft 8' in the bay & they do not have any problems. Metro Beach has been a problem even for boats with a 5' draft. What is your timing to find a boat?
You're saying that Black Creek doesn't have enough depth to get back into the lagoon for a 5' draft?
That is from some friends of mine who have tried to get in there. I don't have a depth finder on my boat as I only draw 2'9" with the board up. Years ago I went in & out on a MacGregor 65 which draws 8'1". We couldn't stay on the right side of the channel coming in as we did touch bottom. On the left or Soouth side we made it in although many people were not pleased as it was a weekend. I did try to make some soundings a couple years ago & as I rememmber the shallow part is just before the outer bouys to the second set & then it dropped off. I will try to check it again this spring as soon as the ice is out. I tried to get out to the lake yesterday but there was too much ice but I needed some type of boat ride even if it was only in the Clinton River.
That is a tempting offer and I may have to keep it in mind when the ice is gone. What do you sail? How often do you get out on the water?
My timeline is probably a year or more. Like I said I have the house to finish and sell plus I want to put in more time and research to find that right boat for me and know what I am doing (on paper anyway).
Sorry I didn't reply sooner but today was jury duty. Well I sail a Morgan 24 which I have owned 26 years. You can see photots in the racing section of the galleries. As you will see I have added a retractable 6' bow sprit which I fly an extra large asymmetrical spinnaker. I did go for another motor ride today after jury duty. Just had dinner & a free meal at Mariner's Boat Club on the Clinton River for being the 1st boat to stop. My buddy Mike & I got back after dark which was nice to make a run in the dark already. I normally sail 2 to 3 times a week depending on the weather, but any reason to do more is always great.
I sold my house that I remodeled over a few years and bought a Irwin center cockpit 32.5' and plan to sell my Harley to pay for the upgrades needed to go cruising. I just wanted to point out that the more water line you have the more every thing costs. Marina, repairs, insurance, sails, and so on. I love my new boat but looking back on it I could have gone 3-5 feet shorter. Also look in to a full keel for shallower draft, my Irwin is just under 4'. Also several years ago when I decided to do this with my life, just for something to get me through the years I needed to get my bigger boat I bought a 16' Hobie cat that also helped me refine my sailing skills being theres no motor.
Hope that helps,
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