Choosing a Liveaboard Boat

When I first started looking to move aboard a boat in 1998, I didn’t have a clue as to the difference between a liveaboard boat, and those primarily used for weekend cruising and short voyages.  I used the internet to start asking what makes a “liveaboard” boat, and these are some of the responses that I received:

Usually in creature comforts like a working fridge, an internal engine (usually diesel), and a lot lower waterline.

- Doug Abbot

It depends, if you want speed or stability. Each cruiser has her particulars. Our vessel is 3/4 keel, with furling sails, making it easier to handle.

- The Lillie Family

If you truly want to live aboard a boat and also go sailing you would be better off getting two boats. Get an old roomy powerboat for office and living, and get a functional cruising sailboat for serious sailing. Cruising and living aboard dockside are totally different, what is needed for one is a detriment to the other. With a compromise boat, you end up with one that does neither very well. Old powerboats are cheap and very dockside livable, a good SAFE cruising boat, makes a horrible office and a lousy long term dockside home, and you will never go sailing because your dockside liveaboard stuff is too much trouble to get out of the way, Good Luck!

- Gary W.

 Ours can be sailed single handed, and we’re an Islander 44 (masthead sloop), but you may not think we have enough room. Islander Freeport 41 makes a nice liveaboard, but may not fill your sailing requirements. You’ve sure got some shopping to do! Best of luck.

 - Potterkat

A liveaboard boat must allow you to carry out your normal day to day living activities in a way that will not make you feel like you are camping out. These considerations include storage space for clothes, head/shower functionality, adequate interior lighting, workable galley, and comfortable sleeping arrangement. Remember, on a weekender, you are never forced to get into a routine, you don’t have to worry about groceries or hanging up working clothes or space to set up your computer and printer. Most importantly, even when the boat is “loaded down” with all of the liveaboard stuff, you still want it to be easy to sail without having to spend an excessive amount of time stowing stuff.

- Tracy Watkins

Fitting out a boat for living aboard in a marina is rather different to buying and fitting out a boat for living aboard while long-term cruising. If you are interested in the latter, you might mike to have a look at the web site I put together about my own preparations for long-term cruising, and about the trip itself. It is at http://www.geocities.com/TheTropics/Shores/6076. I hope this helps.

 - Phaon Reid

Biggest difference is probably the size. Most weekend cruisers are in the 20 – 30 feet range. A weekend cruiser can have all the comforts of a liveaboard or very few depends on the boat and owner.  Don’t compromise on the amenities. For example, a small shower stall will drive you nuts in about a month. Look at multihulls (catamarans). They offer a lot more living/working space. They also don’t heal very much, important if you don’t want your laser printer on the floor.

- Stuart L. Jantzen

What I decided (1998):

After carefully inspecting 20 boats or so, I began to develop a sense for what makes a boat liveable. Some of the boats we went aboard are practically “floating condominiums.” They have beautiful interiors, and all of the creature comforts of home (Island Packet is a boat that falls into this category). These boats are made to be easily maneuvered, so their keels are relatively short. These boats also tend to be considerably lighter (i.e., they displace less water) than their ocean-going counterparts. Many of them tend to have large ports that let in a lot of light (but could also, potentially, let in a lot of water in heavy seas).

Ultimately, I decided on a 38′ Hans Christian sailboat. She has everything that I need to live my daily existence, and she makes it very comfortable. There’s plenty of headroom all throughout the boat. I can stand to cook my meals, entertain my friends in the saloon, and take a piss in the head. Not having to crouch throughout the living space is a very important issue in any home! She also has a full galley (kitchen), with plenty of storage for food, a working refrigerator, hot and cold running water, an oven, and a three-range burner. There are hanging closets for my work clothes and play clothes. Plenty of drawer space for my socks and underwear. The head is spacious enough so that I can read a newspaper while doing my business, and it has a separate shower. Hell, the boat even has a separate guest cabin for the folks I don’t want to sleep with!

While she does have a lot of amenities, the Hans Christian doesn’t have a lot of room in the interior, which will take a bit of adjustment on my part. There are no wide-open spaces in which to entertain guests (even the cockpit, which is outside, is small).

Thoughts from 2000:

Now that I’ve lived aboard for nearly two years, I’ve been on a LOT of boats. There are some HUGE differences between weekend-cruisers and a boat designed for full-time living aboard (like a blue water cruiser).

I thought when I bought the boat that she was relatively small. But I was comparing her to the spacious 1,200 sq. ft. apartment I used to live in. That apartment was ridiculous in its accommodations. A huge fireplace, 16′ vaulted ceilings, a separate office, two spacious bathrooms, an island kitchen, a balcony, etc.

For those of us who can’t afford multimillion dollar yachts, our way of thinking about space has to change when we move aboard. It is true that many of my friends asked, “Gee, won’t you get claustrophobic living here?” Well, yes, I would if I were in their mind-set. They live in big houses with a lot of the amenities my apartment had. Today, I live in a space that I estimate would translate into 300 sq. ft. of a normal house. That’s 1/4 of the area I used to have!

So, some adjustments had to be made. The only “furniture” I have is what’s built into the boat. This would include couches (called “settees” aboard a boat). I have two of them. One on starboard that pulls out to make a full berth and the other wraps-around the table in the saloon. Beds are also built-in. Candide has three official beds (called “berths”). One is in the very peak of the boat, and it comfortably sleeps two (though I was fortunate enough to once sleep with two women up there…but that’s another story). Another is in the aft cabin, which also comfortably sleeps two. The third is opposite the aft cabin (though this berth offers no privacy. It’s a “quarter berth”) and only sleeps one. It’s designed for the captain while the boat’s at sea. It’s very near the instruments and close to the companionway leading up to the deck. Wardrobes are also built-in. Candide has two. They’re located in the vee-berth (the front of the boat), side by side. Generally, I keep my business suits on one side and my play clothes in the other. The boat offers several drawers, which substitute for a chest-of-drawers that might be found in a house. There are four of them in the vee-berth, and three in the aft cabin. This is where I stick jeans, socks, underwear, and t-shirts.

The separate shower in the head is a must for living aboard, in my opinion. A lot of boats don’t have separate showers. Instead, the head includes a “hose” that is used for showering. Water simply drains onto the floor, and eventually is pumped overboard. This is NOT a good design, as you’ll be standing in water all the time as you dry your hair. Read the warning label on your hair dryer sometime. This is not recommended procedure (something about grounding, bare feet, water, electricity, and being electrocuted to death). A separate shower, where the water and mildew can be maintained, is definitely a plus.

Candide has a wrap-around galley, which means that the chef stands in the middle while everything is within arm’s length. At first, one would think, “My God! That’s the smallest friggin’ kitchen I’ve ever seen!” And it is. But, when the boat is at sea, the wrap-around galley is a god-send. The cook can literally strap himself/herself to a special bar attached to the oven and not have to worry about getting knocked around as the boat rocks back and forth. Everything…from raw food, to the refrigerator, to the oven and sink, is all within a couple of feet away. A lot of weekend boats, I’ve noticed, have straight galleys…everything is “lined up.” These layouts certainly have more room in which to walk around, but this is NOT a good arrangement to have at sea.

One complaint I have about Candide as a liveaboard vessel is the amount of light available in the cabin. Quite frankly, my friends have labeled her as “the cave” because there are no large windows letting in copious amounts of light. I admit, that if there was one thing that I could change, it would be the amount of light that gets into the cabin. It’s friggin’ dark in here! It should be noted, however, that this is a life-saving feature aboard a blue-water cruiser. In heavy seas, there are no large windows to break out and let in a ton of water. For me, it’s one of those trade-off issues. I do plan on crossing an ocean one day…best not to have huge windows.

Thoughts from 2003:

It’s been several years since I moved aboard, and I now consider myself an expert on living on a boat. Candide came with tons of amenities that I simply took for granted. Having talked with several of my liveaboard companions, I’m offering a list of things (simple, though they seem) that not every boat has. These simple things, or rather the lack thereof, can cause great hardships and break up marriages…according to the people I’ve come to know. Here they are:

  • Galley Sink

    Running Water.  It seems so simple. On land, you go to the kitchen to cook a meal, turn on the faucet, and don’t give a second’s thought as to whether water will appear. When taking a shower you turn on the faucet and water just magically flows. Most of us take this totally for granted. Now, imagine living on a boat with no automatic water pressure. To cook that meal, you’re going to have to use a manual hand pump (or foot pump) to get that water you need. It’s not an easy task to hold a pot in one hand while furiously pumping with the other! About that shower…well, I personally don’t know how it’s possible to be trapped in an area the size of a small phone booth, and use a manual pump to produce the water flow. It seems to me that a combination of slippery soap, confined space, and vigorous arm movement is just an accident waiting to happen. Yet, some boats don’t have automatic running water. This causes a LOT of problems for people who live aboard full-time. Note, however, that electric pumps can usually be added to a boat that only has manual pumps. So, if you find that dream boat and discover that it only has manual water, think about maybe adding an electric water pressure pump. Guaranteed to make your life easier!

  • Water Heater

    Water Heater

    Hot Water.  So now it’s time to wash the dishes from the meal you made with magical Running Water. The VAST majority of boats don’t have dishwashers, so you’ll be scrubbing them by hand. Experience tells me that hot water is much more effective for washing dishes than cold water. To do this, of course, you’ll need a hot water heater. Afterwards, you may want to take a shower before going to bed. If you only have cold water on the boat, this may induce a certain amount of “shrinkage” in vital (male) body parts. So, you crawl into bed with the missus with a very cold body exhibiting only a fraction of your usual self. This will not make you particularly attractive that evening. So, hot water is a very convenient thing to have for washing dishes, general cleaning, and your companionship. Again, hot water heaters can be added to almost any boat. It’s certainly worth considering!

  • Toilet and Shower

    Separate Shower

    Separate Shower.  No, I don’t mean “his” and “hers.” I mean that the shower should be separate from the rest of the bathroom (head). “Well, of course the shower area is separate,” my landlubber readers may be thinking. Who ever heard of a bathroom in a house or apartment that didn’t have a separate compartment for the shower, separated from the rest of the bathroom with sliding glass doors or at least a curtain? Well, a lot of boat designers, for whatever reason, don’t feel that it’s necessary to have a separate shower area. Instead, there’s a “shower hose” connected to the sink in the head. To take a shower, one simply walks into the head, turns on the “hose” and starts to lather up. The problem is that water will wind up everywhere in the head…in the medicine cabinet, on the toilet, and on the toothbrushes that were left out the night before. In short, it will produce one very wet bathroom that becomes difficult to use. Far better to live aboard a boat that has a separate shower…separated from the rest of the bathroom with doors or curtains…just like you’d expect to find in a house. In addition, the “whole head as a shower” concept is potentially dangerous at sea. Let’s say you’re on a four-day voyage. Second day out, someone is going to want to wash the salt off of themselves. They use the “whole head as a shower” and leave puddles of soapy water all over the floor. Twenty minutes later, someone goes into the head to retrieve a Q-Tip or whatever. They encounter a very slippery floor, the boat suddenly heals in a different direction, and they slip and bang their head against the toilet. They hire Johnny Cochren, there’s a lawsuit, a big media frenzy…you get the picture. A separate shower is a big plus on a liveaboard boat. And unless you’re a very talented carpenter with a lot of extra time on your hands, the boat has to built with this feature in mind. It’s not something that can be easily added at a later date.

  • His and Her Space. Small boats, by nature, are very cramped living quarters. One of the complaints I’ve heard from couples living on very small boats (say 25 – 30′) is that there’s no way to establish individual territories. I’ve discovered that couples living on larger boats tend to find a bit of space specifically for each person. It could be simply somewhere to sit down, or even a separate cabin…but a place to escape on their own for a bit of solitude. As someone who’s only lived aboard alone, I’m not an expert on this area. All I can do is pass along what I’ve heard from others in this regard.
  • Air Conditioner / Heater

    Climate Control. This site includes a whole section on air conditioning and heating. I knew that this was an important amenity for me personally living alone on the boat, but I didn’t know what a big deal it was for folks living without it. Here in Florida, it gets very, very hot and humid during the summer. Most buildings and cars here are air-conditioned. Living on a boat in sweltering conditions can make life pure hell. Sleep is nearly impossible. Even thinking can be a real chore. In north Florida, it gets very cold during the winter. Sometimes, the temperature drops below freezing. Again, sleep is nearly impossible. During the day, these temperatures aren’t such a big deal. One can go to a library to work or maybe a Starbucks. But at night…well, that’s a different story all together. As a liveaboard, it’s my opinion that you’re going to need some sort of climate control that can handle both summer and winter. Most of my liveaboard friends agree.

  • Refrigerator

    Refrigeration.  Maybe your grandmother had an old-fashion ice box when she was young. Somebody would come by every few days and deliver a block of ice to put in this ancient contraption called, appropriately enough, an “ice box.” The majority of America did away with ice boxes decades ago…but not in the sailing community. Candide, launched in 1985, could store some 250 pounds of ice. This is how food was kept somewhat cool. As a liveaboard, though, who wants to bring down two or three bags of ice to throw in the box every evening during a hot summer? Certainly, not me. Fortunately, the previous owners converted the ice box into a refrigerator. There’s a compressor, evaporator, pump…the whole nine yards. This contraption keeps the old ice box at a temperature of about 36 degrees or so. By putting things directly next to the “freeze plate,” I can actually freeze food (a gallon of water will freeze in about 36 hours). A lot of boats are equipped with separate freezers, which is great but they tend to consume a LOT of electricity. But many modern boats use 100-year-old technology to keep food cool (i.e., the “ice box”). Life becomes much easier for the liveaboard when these are converted to refrigeration.

  • Hanging Lockers

    Separate Closet Space.  Generally, boat closets (called “hanging lockers” in nautical parlance), are very small places. Space within these closets is a very valuable commodity on board. As a single guy living on board, I’m quite happy with the two hanging lockers in Candide’s vee-berth. I’ve noticed an interesting trend with my fellow liveaboards who have only one closet and a wife or girlfriend on board. It seems that the closet space becomes hers, while his clothes get stuffed into a drawer somewhere. This is not a good situation if you have to wear a suit and tie on occasion (though generally, liveaboard guys hate wearing ties, much less suits. You wouldn’t believe what guys were wearing to the funeral of one of our liveaboard friends…though the deceased would not have expected the guys to wear suits and ties and in fact wasn’t wearing one when he was buried…but I digress). The solution is to find a boat with two or more hanging lockers if you intend to have a significant other on board. From what I’ve heard, it will save a few arguments.

  • Shelf Space

    Shelf Space.  I’m not an anthropologist, but I’m pretty sure it’s a human trait to collect nick-knacks. At least, it certainly is an important aspect of Western civilization. Eventually, most liveaboards will collect books, CD’s, more books, photographs, and one or two more books. Most of us want easy access to these things, without having to dig around for them at the bottom of drawers or stuffed into cabinets. So, most boats come with convenient shelves that eventually get stuffed with all sorts of items. Generally, the more shelf space a boat has, the better. Of course, these shelves should have some sort of built-in mechanism that holds items in place while under sail. Otherwise, all of your nick-knacks will wind up on the cabin sole during rough weather.

  • Gas Range (Oven Underneath)

    Gas Oven and Range.  Candide is equipped with an oven and three-burner gas stove. I’ve never paid a whole lot of attention to it. I know that it will cook frozen pizza, heat up canned soup, and allow me to make spaghetti when I need it. As a single guy who never really learned how to cook, I eat out most of the time and really never gave the oven/range a whole lot of thought. It’s always there in the rare cases I need it (though it is used extensively when we’re away from shore…but the crew generally prefers that their Captain not cook. They’re always eager to do it themselves. I’m not sure why). In any case, I’ve noticed that a lot of my fellow liveaboards have only one or two burners (with no oven) that use alcohol as a fuel source. This is often the largest complaint they have about their boats…they can’t cook a decent meal. So, if you’re a chef or wanna-be cook, I highly recommend having a gas oven with two or more burners. Gas, by the way, is preferable to alcohol. From my understanding, it burns hotter and more evenly than alcohol and is less temperamental.

  • A Bit Dark Inside...

    Ample Lighting.  Some of my friends and fellow liveaboards refer to Candide as “the cave.” The windows (called “portals”) are very small. This is very good in rough weather at sea, as it’s unlikely that rough waves will break them. Not so good at the dock, because they let in only a small amount of light. It’s true that Candide has a very large butterfly hatch in the saloon, but it’s usually covered by the dinghy which I store on deck. As the result, Candide is dark on the inside, even during the day. This is good because the darkness conceals a lot of the dirt, dust, unwashed dishes, etc., but not so good when it comes to light-dependent activities like reading. As Candide serves as both home and business office, I’d like to enjoy more natural light during the day. Hell, I might as well be stuffed in some corporate cubicle somewhere for all the natural light I enjoy during the workday. Nonetheless, the long-term goal of crossing oceans, and the safety provided by small portals, outweigh the desire for lots of daytime light in the cabin.

  • Using an AC Outlet (yes, I know the outlet's upside-down!)

    Inverter.  When I lived in an apartment, I had a lot of different appliances that used electricity; a coffee maker, hair dryer, iron, lamps, stereo, television, microwave…you name it. When I moved on the boat, I took a lot of these things with me. I found places for them, figured out how to secure them so they wouldn’t spill onto the cabin sole while underway, and simply plugged them in. They work fine, and I’d never really given the whole process a second thought. This is because Candide is equipped with a wonderful device called an “inverter,” which converts D.C. power to A.C. D.C. power, of course, is provided by batteries. A.C. power is usually provided by an electrical utility company. An inverter allows me to bypass the electric company by converting the D.C. power stored in the boat’s eight lead-acid batteries into “normal” A.C. power that runs my television and microwave. This is very cool, because I can watch television and nuke my food even during power outages (and, unfortunately, marinas tend to experience an abnormal amount of these). There are a lot of boats that have no A.C. power whatsoever. This makes liveaboard life tough, because most appliances from the local Best Buy require A.C. power. So, if you’re looking to live aboard and want to keep your cappuccino maker, I highly recommend finding a boat with an inverter…or at least plan on installing an inverter after the fact.

  • Hot Tub.  OK, just kidding about that one. It’s something that I’ve always wanted…but simply can’t have on board Candide. If you live in the Jacksonville area and own a hot tub, I’ll take you for a sail in exchange for some time with your relaxing water jets.

Thoughts from 2012:

I have now lived on board Candide for longer than I ever lived in any single land-based domicile.  I know every inch of this boat, and I’ve been aboard dozens and dozens of other boats…both liveaboards and otherwise.  If you are looking to buy a boat to live on board, here are some general guidelines formulated after 14 years of personal experience:

  • Avoid Wood.  Water and wood do not get along.  In a fight to the finish, water will always win.  Candide has acres and acres of teak, which is certainly beautiful and even functional (provides a great amount of friction for your feet when it’s wet).  It’s also a tremendous amount of work to maintain.  The varnish above and below decks has to be sanded and re-coated on a regular basis.  Below deck, especially in cabinets and the bilge where there’s little air movement, wood rots.  And rotten wood has to be ripped out and replaced.  This can be quite expensive and/or time consuming if the rotten wood is (was) structural.  Teak decks have a life of about 25 years before they have to be replaced.  It’s about time for Candide’s decks to be replaced and I got an estimate last year for the cost…$45,000 if the work is done in the U.S. (I’ll sail her to Central America before paying those prices…labor and teak are much cheaper there!).  Keep in mind that Candide’s hull is made from fiberglass; all of the external wood is above the waterline.  I cannot imagine the amount of work involved with a wooden-hulled boat.  I strongly suggest avoiding an all-wooden boat unless you have a tremendous amount of money or a lot of time and carpentry skills!
  • Avoid “Fixer-Uppers”.  All boats require tremendous amounts of time and money to keep in good working order.  I have watched people buy a wreck of a boat (or get one for free…I even knew a guy who traded a bottle of rum for his boat!), thinking that they’ll fix it up themselves.  I’ve yet to see anyone complete such a project.  Heck, Candide was in really good shape when I bought her…and it’s just about everything I can do to keep her that way!  If you’re thinking about starting with a “clunker” and making her into a comfortable home…at least consider living on land while you’re making her inhabitable.  It’s really tough to live on a boat that is undergoing major renovations.
  • Keep Her Seaworthy.  I’ve seen many liveaboard boats that never go anywhere.  They often have too much crap lying about the decks (e.g., potted plants, bird cages, lawn furniture, patio grills, plastic pink flamingos, etc.) and are sometimes disasters down below (e.g., engines half-removed, electrical wires strung about, no running water, etc.).  This is a big peeve of mine and many of my fellow liveaboards who take pride in their vessels and marinas.  There are much cheaper ways of being “trailer trash” than living on a boat!  Sorry if this sounds a bit harsh…I guess I’m getting to be a bit of a curmudgeon in my middle years.
  • Budget for Maintenance.  Boat are expensive to maintain.  They sit in water that will attack whatever they’re made from–be it wood, metal, fiberglass or cement.  Electrical wiring will corrode, engine parts will fail, water hoses will deteriorate, sails will rip.  Every boat should be hauled out of the water every other year or so for inspection.  All of this will cost money.  It is impossible to say how much it will cost to properly maintain any given boat, but a good rule of thumb is to set aside around 10% of the boat’s purchase price, per year, for maintenance.
Comments
  • Cindy January 31, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Great read. Enjoyed and educated myself a bit. Thansk

  • Stephen K. February 13, 2012 at 12:42 am

    Great read indeed :-) ! Found myself laughing out loud several times. The liveaboard idea has popped up several times in my life and still on the radar. I did live and travel full-time in a fully functioning 23′ Indian Winnebago for 3 years and learnt many of the similar lessons you mention. So the expression can be revised to, “if it’s got sails / wheels / a motor or tits , it’s gunna cost you money ! Cheers !

  • Scott February 24, 2012 at 10:38 am

    Nice site. The family and I are considering moving aboard, and I have found your site to have unusual amounts of detail. Thank you!

  • Mark March 11, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    I completely agree with avoiding a fixer-upper. I bought an HC43 for $57K and have put $400K into getting her sea worthy over the past 3 years. It also couldn’t have been done while living aboard.

  • Kevin March 20, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    Good stuff! I am making plans to move to a sailboat in the near future. Your blog has been great! Thanks for the info!

  • Marcia and Kenny April 21, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    So you didn’t like Mr. Flamingo? Hello, our friend. We wish you fair sailing. We’re back in Fernandina from the boatyard with our fixer upper, and the FreeBird now sails.

  • Gari June 9, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    My search is underway for my new home. Thanks for the pointers and your humor. Well done!

  • Bill July 19, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    Enjoyed the read. I have my eye on an older Gibson houseboat I would like to purchase as a liveaboard, she is an older boat and needs some deck work but I am ready to give it a try. Thanks for the info and insight. :)

  • Roger August 6, 2012 at 10:38 am

    Thanks for the amusing as well as highly informative first-hand account, with follow-ups(!), about moving into and living aboard a sailboat. You provide that extremely valuable voice of experience which will help us avoid making at least some of the same mistakes. We’ll have to make new ones! I hope to find and move into something by next Summer.

  • Jack Stub August 18, 2012 at 1:49 am

    As a liveaboard myself, in a much, much simpler boat, I appreciate your thoughts. You have a beautiful boat.

    • Capt'n Doty August 27, 2012 at 2:50 pm

      You’re quite welcome!

  • Mike 'B' September 24, 2012 at 5:15 am

    Well done and thanks for saying how it is. I’ve been a dreamer for too long and it’s about time I did something about it and find a way to make it happen. I found most of your hard hitting blog truly daunting, but with luck I will join up some day PG.

  • rag September 24, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    hi,
    my friend has an old sailing boat which he want to sell..
    This boat is only good for a person or couple who want to do extensive offshore cruising. Designed by a top naval architect and in excellent condition. See her at http://www.saga48.com
    if your org is interested in buying it plz mail us…

  • Jan D October 27, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    My husband and I have decided to buy a motor yacht instead of a sailboat as our live aboard. We can sail a small trimaran but haven’t enough experience to sail a large enough boat we could live on. We’re eyeing a Carver 44 because we know we need storage space, personal space, and entertaining space, and we’ll enjoy living on the water here in San Diego. That way we can kayak or paddleboard off the boat whenever! We also want to buy something in good shape and not spend all our free time doing repairs. I so appreciate your blog and all the comments – nothing substitutes for experience!

  • Ken O October 30, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    Great article. My wife and I are embarking on a similar journey. Don’t worry about your receptacle being upside down, most electrical codes are changing to the “upside down” receptacle as it could be a little safer; a metallic object leaning against a partially exposed power cord will be touching the ground prong rather than the live prong.

  • Jan D October 30, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    Thanks – think we’ve pretty much decided on the make and size – now just waiting for all the pieces to fall into place. We’re very excited. Where are you and your wife located? We’re in California part-time & AZ full time until we sell our home.

  • steve November 3, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    Thans for your place, i have just got a 37 foot fishing boat to convert to a live aboard, your place has given me food for thought, Thanks again.
    regards

    steve taylor

  • Ron S. November 20, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to post the great insight! I am coming out of a 3k sg ft house in Cape May NJ after my wife of 43yrs died. I am a beach bum but know nothing about boats. I am in Charleston SC so this may be a great alternative lifestyle. Just trying to educate myself. Again, thank you! I appreciate your unselfish approach in posting this info. Ron

  • Mark DuPriest November 24, 2012 at 12:15 am

    Never been on a sailboat, been looking at powerboats. I’ve owned a windsurfer once (Bic Dufour?). I live in Brazil (am American), completely alone. Considering a sailboat. Lived and work on the water, have a bit of $$ now. Looking for somthing and a reason to get up everyday. Why not? Thinking 30′ft a good starting place. Comments? Estou Americano.

  • Ray February 7, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    Thank you for the information and insight I plan to live aboard a SeaRay 415 Flybridge in the upcoming years and doing all my homework you have helped immensely, have you any links or insights to the powerboat side?
    Cheers
    Ray

    • Capt'n Doty February 8, 2013 at 12:15 am

      Hi, Ray! Actually at my current marina, most of the liveaboards are on powerboats. I’ve been invited aboard several of them, and there are some differences between power and sail (of course). When I have some time, I’ll write about my thoughts and post them.

      • Ray February 8, 2013 at 7:19 am

        I look forward to reading them. I will be interested to find out how many leave the marina to go on trips say to Bahamas etc.. and what kind of costs they are running into.
        Cheers
        Ray

    • Hunter Houle March 29, 2013 at 11:59 am

      I totally agree with you. NOBODY does any power boat live aboard articles!

  • George March 3, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    I’ve been steadily living solo on small sailboats since 1978. I lived ten years on a Columbia 26 MK II that I sailed to Mexico from SoCal for a year. Wish I was still there. Have sailed from Puget Sound to Juneau. For the last seven years my home has been a Cal 29 that is too big and too complicated. I want to take my boat with me when I travel; my next liveaboard will be a MacGregor 25 or 26. What makes it all happy is the solo part. I’ve met some wonderful women and always look forward to the next.

  • peter April 11, 2013 at 5:39 am

    This is a very conventional if not upscale rendering of the liveaboard lifestyle, and it is very balanced and accurate, IMHO. The HC 38 is the nautical equivalent of a mid-range house–big, elegant, stable, expensive to purchase and maintain. In that sense, it is a lateral move from the landed domestic life to the nautical domestic life, a life that more most of us who are reading this is certainly preferable to the doldroms of land based living. But it is complex still, and for most of us it is by no means a simplified approach to living (necessarily).

    For me the HC33 or HC38 are on my shortlist, but I’ll most likely go simpler with something like a Shannon 28, which is “roomy” compared to my present Flicka. When someone gives me 200k, I’ll start shopping for an HC! For the majority of us, I’m guessing that the transition to living aboard is at least somewhat based on economic values; ie, saving money, maximizing income, and enjoying life a bit more (experiencing beauty and freedom and so on).

    But here’s the rub..
    Why not take the attitude of adapting your lifestyle to the boat at hand–the one you have, can get cheaply, or can obtain without selling your first born and incurring huge yard bills and maintenance costs–which will tie you to the dock and to the land you long to escape from? To make some sacrifices.., rather than spending a lot of money on a boat that will allow you to live as a landlubber does? To simply use what you have and go, or get what you can and learn to live with it. I’d sooner take pot baths in the cockpit and keep all my stuff in a few duffle bags and be ready to sail anywhere at anytime for any reason than to risk getting “Stuck” in the old lifestyle of problems and related obligations. Afterall the whole concept of living aboard is tied to the “go simple, go now” manifesto, of a way of living closer to nature, living simply, going green, reducing your carbon footprint, and at last, enjoying the wind and the moon and the stars and the distant lands you aspire to see. Isn’t it what it’s all about in the end? That impedimenta always stands between us and the experiences we so crave? Less is more. What’s that saying…the sunset looks the same from the deck of a gold plater as it does from the deck of (fill in your boat’s name). It’s about what you are willing to give in order to get what you want to have. The rest is just hardware.

  • peter April 11, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    ….and I thought about this a lot today at work (sailing is my mental screensaver) and decided that the question “What is a good liveaboard boat?” or, indeed “What is the best liveaboard boat?” are lovely questions that generate wonderful answers all, but the question itself is essentially a naive question (I say this affectionately). It comes from a base of blissful ignorance (again, affection), rather than of experience with many boats. IOW, one extremely familiar with boats would most likely not be the one asking this particular question (is my logic still sound?) because they would have been armed with answers they had generated themselves. Anecdotal inquiries amongst the true salts (those heavy ballast bodhissatvae) continues for many reasons of course, addidng spice and interest to the discourse. (We are smug and indulgent things, we sailors!)

    This is the wonderful thing about forums and websites like this one: they provide so much input. But alas, grasshopper–the answer (as ever) lies within, and guys like Candide’s captain (sorry mate I missed your name) are happily sharing their gifts and good fortune to the rest of us.

    Moving gleefully to the opposite end of the spectrum, the specific response to the “Which is a good…”and “which is the best” question, the response, “Hans Christian 38″, is a very, very sophisticated response. It is one that I think perchance, that many of us in the bush league cannot especially grasp. Most of us will fall, ultimately, between the bloke with the McGregor 26 and the other guy who spent 400k post purchase on his own HC (I can’t imagine the rationale there, but long live the king, man). I will be among the groundlings.

    In the final analysis, we all realize that the best liveaboard is the EXACT boat that will make us the happiest we can possibly be…and because the pursuit of happiness is probably endless, the best boat is the one that makes us happy at the moment. She’s out there, no doubt…and when you find her, you’ll know it, and you can just clap your hands…

    Tell me, what will make me happy?
    Visualize her, and she will come to you.

    • mike April 24, 2014 at 12:43 pm

      Clap clap… hahah Great response!

  • Shaun April 12, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Hi, loved reading about your experiences, thank you for sharing your experiences and humour.
    I’m interested to know if you have any comments or advice about a catamaran a a live-aboard compared to a mono-hull. The cat certainly has more space but I’m not sure about maneuverability and mooring costs.
    Any comments from anyone would be appreciated.

  • John April 13, 2013 at 12:31 am

    Great little article we are shortly setting up a chat room on our boat sales site and will include links to useful sites like this as live aboard boating is on the increase. good luck

  • Neal April 15, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    Good article, I am just starting to look at boats now. I would like to live aboard and eventually sail around the world so I have a lot to think about and learn.

  • Matt May 24, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    Great opting over years. Great info. Appreciate it!

  • Dini June 21, 2013 at 7:42 am

    Love the read – on our search for a blue water cruiser atm, so invaluable your thoughts, thanks! Curious to see where we’ll end up, teak deck (in love, but know its downsides as have been crewing – and scrubbing – on many Perinis…) or not and all the other zillion questions to consider.

  • streetdirectory July 4, 2013 at 6:44 am

    It’s hard to find educated people on this subject, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about!

    Thanksstreetdirectory

  • Jessica July 11, 2013 at 10:08 am

    Thanks so much for the great insights. I was about half-way through the 2003 update when I started wondering if you still lived aboard. I couldn’t believe there was another update after 10 years! I am looking at moving to Saucalito, CA from South Carolina. Today was my first search for info on living aboard. I was a charter boat captain in Hawaii on two different 50′ boats over a 15 year time span (Columbia 50, and Hunter 54), and have wanted to make a boat my home since, but wondered how much smaller I could comfortably go. I’m also inspired to start my own blog thanks to you!

  • Bones August 20, 2013 at 1:24 am

    All the info, warnings and humor I needed to get a sense of liveaboard conditions. Much appreciated!!!

  • Richard Piers September 12, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    I converted a dutch barge and lived on it for several years throughout Europe, and agree with all you have said.
    Space is important, there were 2 of us. Use domestic equipment, not marine, cheaper and more reliable, plenty of high grade insulation, topsides just off white to reflect sun (huge difference) but not brilliant white it will blind you, decks non slip but not wood, plenty of stored water and fuel but water maker gives you independance, ‘ware gas small quantity big bang, good ventilation especially in to the bilges out is easy, external blinds to keep out sun ( much easier and cheaper to heat than cool). KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid (cheaper & more reliable)
    It’s a great life and you meet lovely people. Go for it.

  • Chris September 20, 2013 at 7:49 am

    Best read for a liveaboard. Shows the (rare) perspective of someone in the market, to a new owner, to a few years down the road to a decade plus…well done Sir. This has helped me in my journey towards a liveaboard.

  • Myles Garber October 15, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    Well I brought a Bluewater 47 foot boat 9 months ago and put 40 grand into it The owner before me put 230000 into the boat in 2008 total redone. This is a new world for me. The boat is like a high end condo on the water. I can see however that even though I am paying much much less then renting a house The cost of living on the water is NOT CHEAP. You have to maintain the boat and the several systems on the boat . It is a daily issue thinking about the next thing to be done. But it is a great way to live

  • Stewart & Nancie December 17, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    ‘stumbled upon your site again. I still recall you standing next to me by the “thermofax” machine at the Ed White science office and asking me if I’d heard of the comming “Internet”! We’re in a slip at the former “Whitneys” and southbound in January. Look for us,- still thrilled with living aboard for 42 years now. ‘take care and joy!

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  • Shane April 1, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    Thanks feller, I’m into my second year living onboard my 25footer after surviving one of the Uk’s worst winters to date! And i have to say it was’nt to bad, so now i feel broken in and not so fearfull of future winters.. Although my oil filled mobile radiator was worth every penny at £29 to make the boat snugg and warm even when the outside temp dropped to zero! It also kept the condensation to a min by default.I to could also write a fair bit about my experiences so far but to be fair your writing on the matter pretty much sums up the whole liveaboard living and the adjustments made that one has to do to cope,ie: water/power/storing etc etc.
    Great read and very truthful about life onboard..
    Thanks Shane ; )

  • John Buckland April 25, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    Ah Cap’n , Forgot my email-johnsbuckland@yahoo.com. Also, what is your opinion about center-cockpit versus aft-cockpit vessels??

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  • Yvonne June 22, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    What a great read! So helpful! I’m thinking of becoming a live aboard and this went a long way to help guiding what I need to consider first. Thank you! And, please write more!

  • John Welsford July 4, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    I’m coming up to my first year living on board. I looked hard and long before buying an older 40 ft motor cruiser, more than capable of long range coastal cruising. She’s my home, my office and has space for guests as well, and I kept my little 20ft gaff sloop for when I want to go sailing. Its a perfect combination, especially in the light of my boat design business.

    I was though very lucky to get a dock with a boatshed workshop as part of the deal, that workshop makes a huge difference to the lifestyle. Storage, deepfreeze, workspace, and a place to be when “the ship” feels a bit confining.

    I’m enjoying it, works for me.

    John Welsford

  • Bob Shannon July 11, 2014 at 7:40 am

    LWO’s I am beginning my fourth year on board my Shannon 28. St Mary’s City down the ditch to Naples, Fl. Lively life events nothing quite as fullfilling one continous happy moment. Stuff ? Nah not really. Stuff becomes quite funny actually take care see you all on the edge…….

    • jim wyatt July 18, 2014 at 8:22 pm

      Bob, just started thinking about this “see my post above” and have made the decision to start looking for a boat. i want to put it in on Wednesday and go on four day fishing trips. I’ve never liked staying away from home more than 4 days my whole life, so I want the boat to be reliable at slow speeds, roomy, heated and cooled for bad weather. Do you have any advice that you could help me with. I have a 2001Triumph 185 “roplene” center console fishing boat with Yamaha 150 outboard i am plannig to sell for 20- 22,000 dollars. I would like to complete for not a lot more than this.

  • jim wyatt July 18, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    Great reading !I want to buy a boat, no more than 30 ft. with the boat being like a big box with a big fishing area in the back. I want to remodel it, with heat air and running water. i want to subcontract the construction as I am partially in a wheelchair and handicapped. I am also 70 years old. I know, “find a rocking chair and forget it”. Ive been stubborn all my life and found ways to make things happen. Does anyone have suggestions that I should consider. Thanks!

  • Sal August 2, 2014 at 11:55 am

    Does anyone know anything about those floating cottages/houses?

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  • Verona August 16, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    Love the fact you have a double ender! Ours is much smaller, but I approached my website in the same way you did. Going over, what I think works and admitting what doesn’t work and what would work better. One thing we are missing is hot water and we don’t have anywhere to add a heater, so have a portable hot water heat for showers. I have a kettle which works fine for heating dishwater. Our head works fine in dual capacity because it has teak grids on the floor! Water runs straight into the bilge and leaves it smelling of mango, cherries or whatever shower gel I fancy to use at the time. Plus it cleans up the area from the nastiness that males do, when they miss the bowl and splash surfaces. Otherwise, I agree with a lot of your statements and concerns about live aboard boats. My two burners on my oven/range work fine. I re-introduced something of the past to my meal prep, a double boiler. That gives me the notion of a third burner. Note to Jim Whyatt…. I have never seen a sail boat equipped for those in wheel chairs except small racing boats which you can get in, sail and then return to the dock where your chair is waiting for you. A small wide boat with open concept might work and be adapted for living aboard. Our Vancouver 25 works for those with some movement, but I would never want to sail a boat without some use of my legs. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. Adapting boats are risky, as bulkheads and such are there for a purpose. Having a companionway that you can get down and then adapting stairs might be all you need. Good luck!
    veronaleslie.wordpress.com

  • Scott Burrell August 18, 2014 at 4:09 am

    Good stuff Great advice I was intrigued with the AC and Heat Question and I’m glad I asked. thanks./ Scott

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  • Stifled Wunderlust September 2, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    Great blog! My wife and I have seriously been considering the liveaboard lifestyle. However, we have three small children, 7, 6, 3. So space, cost and safety helped us make the decision to wait until they leave for school. But if the economy is anything like the way it is now maybe it would be when most of them leave for school, lol. Anywho your blog answered a lot of questions we had and gave us some tips to keep in mind on our long journey to start a long journey as liveaboards. God speed.

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