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anewsailor 05-01-2009 04:54 PM

A green sailor!
Hello everyone,
First off, Iíve been patrolling these forums for quite a while now and have obtained some very useful info, Thanks!
Ok, down to it. Iíll extend my knowledge of sailing to ďI was on one ONCE when I was around 6 years old for about 2 hours.Ē yet I will say Iím quite seaworthy. Iíve always owned boats. Spent nearly my entire young life ďDown the RiverĒ at a family camp, and would do anything to have that or something comparable again. But to sailing: Iím hopelessly green. My job takes me all over the country (predominately gulf coast) for about 6 months out of the year during storm season (enough thought and youíll probably figure out what I do.) Due to this, Iíve remained relatively single and never purchased a home. I have never felt the desire to deal with maintenance while away and would rather rent everywhere I go. Also due to this, I am used to living in confined spaces, keeping a low amount of personal property, and have little invested in ďstuffĒ.
Reasons why Iíve decided living aboard might be an excellent next step:
-I absolutely love being on the water and miss it dearly
-I do not own a home
-I am 25 years old, unmarried with no kids.
-The likelihood of me being able to use my boat as a portable home along the gulf coast while working is a wonderfully novel idea
-Lower cost than maintaining a home year round (?) (maintenance, slip fees, insurance..Etc.)
Main questions:
Suggestion on size boat?
Iíve looked at everything from 26-50 ft boats and Iím thinking somewhere in the 30-34 ft range should be adequate for my needs. Would a 34 ft boat be too much to handle as a 1 man crew? Will likely be used mostly for gulf activity. Possibly Florida/Atlantic and even east coast way down the road. (I mean after years of experience, of course ;) ) She will likely be docked on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana.
My price range will be in the 15k-20k range. Iím afraid to go much further over that just from a lost investment stand point. (Keep in mind Iíll also be able to invest a lot of time and addtíl funds if necessary) Iíve read a lot about good deals on older boats and I believe that is the route I should take.
Good idea?
You can be brutally honest here. If you think I should just run the other direction, say it. Iíll take every comment into consideration. Anything that someone with so little experience NEEDS to know before shooting for a pipedream. Keep in mind, I will be taking sailing lessons and that will be the final deciding factor for me I believe. Iím not so naive to think Iíll just go buy a boat and be zipping across the Atlantic next week.
Please, I know that is a lot to ask but I would appreciate any eggs of knowledge you guys can throw at me.

First post,

St Anna 05-01-2009 05:17 PM

Hiya Anewsailor,
We all start somewhere - and these guys will give you good practical advice like go for a sail on someones elses boat before you jump in the deep end. (but you'll love it)

So go for it - sounds a good philosophy. a low 30's footer will be plenty big and not too daunting.

sailingdog 05-01-2009 05:22 PM

Welcome to Sailnet. I'd highly recommend you read this POST to help you get the most out of sailnet.

A couple of questions....

First, how much sailing experience do you have?? From your OP, I am guessing you have little or none. Taking lessons is a good start... as is spending some extended time on boats. Finding out if you're prone to seasickness is something you'd rather learn sooner, rather than later...

Second, how much do you know about what is required in maintaining a boat and what kind of skills do you have towards that end. Given your OP, I am guessing that your funds and income are somewhat limited... I would also point out that you should generally reserve about 15-25% of your purchase price for upgrading, refitting and repairing whatever boat you get. While this may sound a bit high, getting a boat to fit the way you want it to be is not an inexpensive process.

If you're single, I would look more towards the 30' end of things... The reasons for this are simple. First, you're far more likely to get a decent boat in decent shape than if you go larger. Second, you really don't need much larger a boat if you're serious about living aboard as a priority. There is a blog,, which is about a family which started on living aboard on a Alberg 30, as a couple and a toddler, but has since moved to a larger boat, due to having another kid or two. Third, the slip/moorage/maintenance/haulout fees will all be lower with a smaller boat.

I would highly recommend you look at James Baldwin's Boat List. He's got a lot of nice boats listed there that are very capable, and reasonably inexpensive. There are many coastal cruiser type boats that you could also pick from, but if sailing is your priority, I'd go with one of the beasties on James's list.

I'd also recommend you read, which is the blog of one of the members here. :)

Finally, I'd recommend you purchase David Seidman's book, The Complete Sailor, which is about $16 at the local bookstore. It is very well written, has good illustrations, and covers a wider range of sailing related topics than most introductory books.

marinegirl405 05-01-2009 09:44 PM

Wow. a lot of stuff there.

Owning a house, v. owning a boat - hmm... We'll I'm in the later camp, but you have to realize that boats pretty much always depreciate, and houses (with the odd hiccup) don't. So you will need to factor in depreciation.

Then again it's unlikely you can purchase a $20K house - but you could certainly rent one for a couple of years with that... So rent for 2+ years, or buy a boat and not care if you loose it all? Yeah, I'd go with the boat.

Boat Living Costs involved
* Insurance - getting harder to get - don't sign on the dotted line until you understand you can get insurance (most Marinas require some minimum levels)
* Property tax (varies by state/county/area)
* Marina Dockage and power (a long term contract gets cheaper rates)
* That might be about it (I assume you already have a cell phone)

So you can't sail yet? No big deal. It sounds like you already know the rules of the road and how to use the VHF from your power boat days and a sailboat of that price will have a motor - so you can take your time to learn to sail. The biggest issue will be that sail boats only go slow, and at slow speeds (like at the dock) you'll find the poor maneuverability an issue (but you want to go slow so if you hit something it won't damage anything, but the dam boat won't turn if you are going slow.. Hmm). Here is a good time to use the VHF and ask the dock hands to come out in force while you are learning (of course they'll expect a tip). Also ask for an end dock (or not too far up the fairway) if you are a new boater - as this will be easier to get in and out of. Once you have a boat and a place to keep it - then you start getting lessons.

There are lots of packaged courses with nice certificates at the end of the day. I think your best bet for learning to sail will be a one on one and on YOUR boat - Hire an old salt to take you out for a weekend (2 days of sailing), and to come around before and check over the boat to make sure everything is in order - if your missing some basic stuff, you will still have time to go shopping before your 2 days of sailing practice - it is really a waste if you spend the first half a day working out where all the lines are.

Here are the things I'd expect to do
* Practice maneuvering the boat (I approach and stop just before a dock or better still a nav marker - from all directions and current/wind conditions - in forward and in reverse. Once you understand how she turns, and how fast she responds at various speeds, life will be much easier. If you can get the boat where you want it at slow speeds - docking will be much easier.
* Hoisting / reefing / Changing sails (if applicable)
* Tacking
* Gybing
* Heaving to
* Anchoring
* Docking
* Picking up a mooring ball on your own (if they have them in your area).
* And if you now feel really good - practice tacking up a narrow channel (or fairway) and possibly even docking under sail

Of course you can always join a sailing club too, or just attend classes at the local college.

I don't think there is anything wrong with your plan. I doubt very much that the boat you buy will end up being the one you want in 3-5 years time, so don't sweat about getting the "perfect" boat.

Whatever boat you get, there is bound to be some member forum you can post for tips and questions. The previous owner may well be prepared to sail with you after the purchase (if not, actually, either way, make the most of the "Sea trial").

I think the biggest issue might be the odd Hurricane - if you are working away but you need to move the boat, it can be a real hassle. Some Marinas/Yards you can sign up for haul out automatically if a named storm is heading your way - some will even move it for you - but I'd ask around and see if this is something you need / is available. Then of course you need to find somewhere to stay - the yard is unlikely to let you live aboard if a hurricane is on its way.

CaptainForce 05-03-2009 05:48 PM

All good advice above. I would add one more concern about your expaectation of your mobility to allow living aboard to match the movements of your employment at different locations on the Gulf Coast. You may be disappointed in the availbility of liveaboard slips at quick notice in some areas,- particularly in the more popular "resort" areas. 'take care and joy, Aythya crew

nailbunnySPU 05-04-2009 11:40 AM

Go for it. I'm on the same path, six weeks ahead of you, i just bought it yesterday. I'd recommend boatus for insurance. I can't recommend the credit union i used for my loan.

30 feet is good, can get you 6'4" headroom, a head, shower. 27 is tight but doable depending on the storage space of the boat. I'm seeing decent 30' 's going for $9000.

I'll agree with previous poster that The Complete Sailor is a good book to start with. One maneuver I'd suggest practicing early on is the man overboard drill.

A sailing course may be a good idea. They showed me neat stuff I'd never have tried myself like docking under sail. Some can help you get ASA certified which makes it easier to charter a boat.

As for singlehanding a 30 with little prior experience, I can't see it. You'll need friends to run up the sails while you hold the wheel/tiller, and to (attempt to) push you away from pilings when you're docking. If you want to go it alone once you get the hang of things, look for boats with roller furlers, auto pilots and halyards run back to the cockpit. These things help you keep the boat pointed into the wind while you're messing with the sails.

smackdaddy 05-04-2009 11:47 AM

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nailbunny, dude, very cool avatar! What the hell is it?

And welcome to you and anew!

nailbunnySPU 05-04-2009 12:25 PM

Thanks mang. It's my namesake, from the comic book Johnny The Homicidal Maniac, which is sort of like a twisted dark bloodthirsty calvin and hobbes by the guy who did the show invader zim.

Good on ya for your avatar btw. "Your little car's gonna drown. And you're gonna die, wearing that stupid hat. How does it feel? "

smackdaddy 05-04-2009 12:54 PM

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BTW - I've had people say very similar things to me about my boat and sailing ability!

JeffBurright 05-28-2009 02:30 PM

Hi anewsailor,
Your circumstances and motivations sound similar to mine a year ago (26, traveling job, didn't want a house, love the water), and I've been happily living aboard a 30'er since last fall. When all was said and done I spent about 15K to have the boat in the shape I wanted and in its slip, with help from a small loan from a local credit union. Since then I've nickel and dimed myself into more expenses and sweat labor, but it's out of love so who's counting. . .

I was going to add a few things about the lifestyle but it went and turned into manifesto length. C'est la vie, make some popcorn. First with the general/financial:

--The insurance suggestion is key. I've found that marinas want proof that you're covered before they'll let you moor there. I also found luck with BoatUS where others wouldn't cover me based on my lack of sailing experience (we had power boats growing up too but it didn't translate over).

--Also to echo another comment, liveaboard moorage can be hard to find so it may end up being your biggest headache if you want to move the boat around much. In Seattle there's a 10% liveaboard limit at all marinas, so I had to sublease someone else's slip for 6 months and make friends with the marina manager to get my foot in the door to my own lease. I recommend this approach to cold-calling marinas -- many have bulletin boards showing sublets or you can keep an eye on craigslist too.

--The bank told me that if I'd wanted to buy a house instead they weren't sure they could support it based on my lack of long-term credit history (no car payments, but many years with a credit card). It's interesting that one needs to make large purchases in a certain order - so in a sense I feel like I'm not only circumventing the system, but improving my chances to buy into it later if I wish.

--A good marine survey is worth its weight in gold. The $400 I paid for mine identified rot in the floor timbers that cost me around 8K to have repaired. Because I knew early, I was able to negotiate with the seller in such a way that I ended up paying exactly what I wanted to spend on the boat.

--Boats take a lot of maintenance, though I can't compare it directly to a house. My list of little tasks and improvements has only grown the more I understand my boat's design and systems, no matter how many evenings and weekends I dedicate. That said, I find it very satisfying to have picked up a number of new skills (sewing, mechanical, plumbing, electrical, etc.) and I'm a constant forum lurker in search of more knowledge. Be prepared for the boat to take lots of your time.

Now on to the saily stuff:

--I'd only been out sailing with family friends a few times before taking the plunge. As one of them put it, "It only takes you about 2 hours learn to sail, but you'll spend the rest of your life learning how to sail correctly." It doesn't have to be a barrier to your entry if you're willing to be a slave to the details and be smart about the progressive risks you're willing to take.

-Books are good. Having a partner is good (for reasons already mentioned which I second). Being a patient learner and teacher is good. Having a GPS and charting program is good. Having someone show you how to maneuver a sailboat into the dock is very good (it surprised me how differently they turn compared to power boats and how that impacts your timing/choices). All the rest is just pulling on ropes until you like what you see. I say this being a mostly fair-weather sailor, so apply the grain of salt here.

Final thoughts:

--When I was still in the considering phase, my best friend put the question to me this way: "Suppose you buy the boat and it sinks within a year or you just don't like it anymore. And if in the end you lose that money and have just **** in your hand, will you still be glad that you chose the experience?" So far I'd still say yes, and the switch from apartment to moorage fees cut my rent in half so I can convince myself that it's paying itself off. Math is fun.

--Living aboard feels surprisingly normal within a short amount of time. Now I have no problem plodding up the dock to the shower in my bathrobe, I've gotten used to rearranging the whole boat in order to get at that one thing you need, and I've even grown to like the slight boaty smell. I'd find it hard to share, but 30' fits me very well.

--Things that suck include ironing your clothes, trying to get intimate in a low-ceilinged v-shape bed (sorry, true), the fridge that's never quite cold enough which leads to lots of soup, sandwiches, and pasta onboard, and finding a place for shoes and tools (I just use the head as storage when at port). But hey, as long as I can boil water and use the Internet, I'm largely happy because I come home to a freaking boat!

Good luck!

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