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Old 08-11-2017, 02:14   #1
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Best boat maker for liveaboard cruising

Hi guys, I’m new to the site and have only had a minor trawl so apologies if this has already been discussed excessively.
I am a veteran (Navy) looking to move my life onto water and get myself a monohull for permanent live aboard. I appreciate the question posed in the title is extensive and doesn’t exactly have one answer so I’ll explain my circumstances/requirements and then I’ll bend to the opinions of some of the saltier dogs on here.
Firstly experience: I’m light years away from calling myself an experienced sailor. I have done a fair few sailing holidays with friends and i have mucked about in standard 32/36 foot Sloops with one other crew. I have no big passages under my belt but have a good grasp on the theory and am fairly comfortable with the essentials. I’ve completed 8 years as both a Royal Navy navigator/deck officer and then diver and I know the sea pretty well, I understand weather systems and have good knowledge of rules of the road/harbour protocol.
Secondly Requirements: I plan to spend 6 months to a year getting to know the boat and pin balling around wherever I buy it (Med would be ideal, Caribbean perhaps) once comfortable i aim to blue water cruise. Ocean crossings the lot, i can add things like water makers as the requirement arises but the boat needs to be ocean worthy. I need a boat that I can live on fairly comfortable, I was thinking along the lines of dual battery, and I could add small solar panels and wind charge. I don’t need a washer or tv but a fridge would be nice (I do love a cold beer) at least two bunks (I’m a fan of the double up at the bow and two smaller ones port and stand aft. I would also like to host other people (up to two? Three for short spells) essentially I don’t need a luxury yacht but I would also like to actually enjoy living on it when I travel around.
Thirdly (and finally) Preferences: I’ve been looking a lot at the more mainstream companies like Jeanneau / Beneteau / Bavaria as they seem to offer a lot for the money and I figure any common problems should be fixable with numerous reports online as they are mass produced. I will need to be able to sail it single handed a fair bit so wouldn’t say no to a furling Genoa and I’m a sucker for a big open cockpit. I’m keen to not go smaller than 34ft but would honestly prefer about 39ft

All in I aim to spend about £35000 / $46000 but if someone tells me there’s my dream boat an extra 10000 away then I can pause and keep saving a little longer.

Sorry for the essay but anyone who managed to get all the way through I would greatly appreciate the insight. So far been sticking to Yachtworld for ads and I think I’ve seen everything twice over.

Thanks all and fair winds,


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Old 08-11-2017, 03:49   #2
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Re: Best boat maker for liveaboard cruising

Welcome aboard! Really there is no such thing as what you're asking. There are a lot of good boats available and what fits one sailor's sailing wishlist will not for another's. Sail on as many peoples boats as you can.

Your budget is a bit small. I think you'll be looking at boats from the late 1970's to early 80's. 35fters seem to be going for $40k to $60k. For a well taken care of 40fter I'd say $80k. Then set aside $20k for repairs and upgrades. can give you a few models then you can compare on yachtworld.

My dream was similar to yours. Wanted a bluewater liveaboard to start with. I'd have a couple more years of working to afford it. Now I'm looking at solid costal cruisers for around $30k. Live aboard on the east coast for a year then spend two years in the Caribbean and Central/South America. Often time the dream changes the more you learn.

Best of luck.

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Old 08-11-2017, 05:07   #3
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Re: Best boat maker for liveaboard cruising

Hi Mariner and welcome to the forum.

Yes, as you guessed, this is a very common question and has been posed on this forum numerous times. Congratulations on making one of the more complete posts on the subject. It's pretty common to see the question posted in 1-2 sentences that basically say something like "I want to go sailing, what's the best boat?". You on the other hand included size and budget, two of the most important details, as well as type of sailing you plan. If you use the forum search for "what boat" or similar terms that should turn up lots of previous discussions and may help you start narrowing down your list.

It can be quite daunting to sort out all the various models and brands as there are so many. My first thought, unless you plan some very serious (or crazy) sailing like racing around Cape Horn, crossing the Bay of Biscay in January or the Atlantic in hurricane season then most production boats should be adequate structurally. Some of course better than others and to complicate matters even within makers some models are better built than others.

Considering the amenities you mention I think you will need a boat in the higher end of the size range you mention. Solar and wind take a bit of deck space to install and when you start adding water makers, batteries and electric fridge you will need more space below decks. Another consideration, all these things add weight and all things being equal, a larger boat can carry the weight better.

Regarding the accommodations, the two smaller beds you refer to are called pilot berths so that term may help if you're searching boat sale web sites. They used to be quite common but not as much in modern boats. Also, in smaller boats the double forward can be a bit bumpy for sleeping at sea, especially if sailing into the wind.

One final thought, for many a boat is a very personal item. What one person loves another hates. Asking other boaters for help choosing a boat can be a bit like asking friends to pick your wife. Still advise from others can help eliminate some of the bad choices.

Have to go drop the car at the shop but will try to follow up later with some specific recommendations.
The water is always bluer on the other side of the ocean.
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Old 08-11-2017, 05:08   #4
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Re: Best boat maker for liveaboard cruising

You can do it for your budget. Here are my favorite boats:

Moody 336
Athough I’ve never been on one it ought to be a sturdy boat with a very clever layout for living aboard, albeit with only two cabins

Beneteau Oceanis 361 (or 373)
You can get these in 2 or 3 cabin layouts that are excellent for liveavoard. If you want a really great galley then choose the 361 in the 2 cabin layout. I owned a 361 and sailed it 20k miles, twice across the Atlantic. It’s very fast and comfortable but not as sturdy as you’d hope for intensive sailing so you need to find one that has only be lightly used and then resell them while they have still some life in them to a relaxed weekend sailor.

Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 40
Pretty much the same deal as the Beneteau 361 but bigger and with two steering wheels for easier mobility in the cockpit. Get a 2 or 3 cabin version but with only the one head, for great liveaboard amenities.

I think these are 3 boats that fit your filosophy well.

I also like the Etaps because they are strong, unsikeable, and most of all very well insulated which matters a lot if you overwinter in the Med. But they prety much all come in only two cabin layouts, they have a saildrive which is more expensive in maintenance than a shaft drive, their mainsheet ends up in the cockpit which makes it convoluted or impossible to have a good bimini for shade, and the head/bathroom is minimal compared to the other three I mentioned above.

Do get a head that is all plastic and made of a single mold. That’s so much easier for cleaning and avoiding smells. (Beneteau was really good about that but with their latest models they are now cutting that corner too...)
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Old 08-11-2017, 08:02   #5
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Re: Best boat maker for liveaboard cruising

Here she is! Ready to go!


"Take it all in, it's as big as it seems, count all your blessings, remember your dreams" JB
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Old 08-11-2017, 09:13   #6
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Re: Best boat maker for liveaboard cruising

Welcome aboard. Hope you find what you are looking for. Here is a good site that lists the makes the the author believes are truly Blue Water boats. All other responses given were very insightful and good advice also.

Mahina Expeditions - Selecting A Boat for Offshore Cruising
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Old 08-11-2017, 10:03   #7
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Re: Best boat maker for liveaboard cruising

Welcome aboard. Read a lot of different opinions. Get ahold of a Fatty Goodlander book. He is an expert on sailing the world safely in a medium size boat within a budget.
Fair winds and following seas.
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Old 08-11-2017, 10:05   #8
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Re: Best boat maker for liveaboard cruising

Welcome, I loved the previous comment about having your friends pick your wife. I think that is pretty accurate.

As far as "Most newer boats are acceptable for "all" types of sailing. I would humbly disagree.

The distinction here being blue water boats and island cruising boats.

It is true that some folks have sailed across various oceans in nothing but a row boat with a sail mounted, but I would not consider this the average live aboard experience.

Blue water boats tend to have "Full Keels" and island boats tend to have "Bolt" on keels. If you've ever hit a reef, a sand bar or a submerged container with full sail up you will appreciate a full keel.

Unless you are a performance sailor I would highly recommend the Morgan 41 Out Island as it fits all the criteria you mentioned.

Mine is an 84 with a 2008 Perkins 65.

I work off mine ( computer programming ) and it is simply a great boat.
Can be single handed........
Storm worthy
Mast is tall enough to mount a great Wifi antenna on but short enough to get under "Most" ICW bridges these days.
Teak downstairs but not too much on deck.
2 heads both shower equiped
3 sleeping areas
Large cockpit
Mine has a very comfortable aft stateroom with closets, head and cockpit and hall access to the kitchen
Masters station for radios, radar, computers, all nav gauges, wifi,
10 total batteries
and on and on

PM me if you have questions.

Good luck in your search and don't rush. My search took 1.5 years.

There are 2 kinds of sailors
Those who have hit sand bars
Those who are going to hit sand bars

There are 2 kinds of "Old" sailors
Those who have hit sand bars
Those who lie about it.
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Old 08-11-2017, 14:31   #9
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Re: Best boat maker for liveaboard cruising

Check this out
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Old 08-11-2017, 15:43   #10
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Re: Best boat maker for liveaboard cruising

I agree with Thorn that if you want a serious blue water boat go for a full keel with keel hung rudder. I was in the same position as you and spent over a year looking at various designs before going for a Hans Christian 48T. A year into ownership, living on board full time, I’m very glad I did, wouldn’t swap her for anything. Built like a tank, sails beautifully if not quickly in light airs, and with the interior kitted out the way it is you feel like your living in a plush gentleman’s club not a caravan. ( I went aboard a 1 million £ + yacht at the boat show recently that still felt like a caravan, and that’s brand new, just wait until the laminate’s all chipped & scuffed...which will be in about 2 or 3 weeks of setting sail!)
Han Christians come in various sizes, but I’m told the 33 is an amazing boat for its size, search SV prism, there’s a good boat tour and video blogs on line.
For other full keel boats you could just take the advice of the Golden Globe Race who came up with a list of acceptable boats for the 2018 race, all had to be strong full keeled pre 1986 production boats, here’s their list...
Westsail 32 • Tradewind 35 • Saga 34 • Saltram 36 • Vancouver 32 & 34 • OE 32 • Eric (sister ship to Suhaili) • Aries 32 • Baba 35 • Biscay 36 • Bowman 36 • Cape Dory 36 • Nicholson 32 MKX-XI • Rustler 36, Endurance 35, Gaia 36, Hans Christian 33T, Tashiba 36, Cabo Rico 34, Hinckley Pilot 35, Lello 34, Gale Force 34.
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Old 08-11-2017, 16:58   #11
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Re: Best boat maker for liveaboard cruising

One thing to keep in mind is that old style ocean going boats (full keel, deep, dark) are not ideal for living aboard. They are just too narrow and you feel like in a cave. It gets depressing after a while. Modern boats are fine keel, lots of light, fat stern. They are much more suitable to live on. Both types are safe enough but modern designs are not comfortable in heavy seas. The question you need to answer then is what share of the time on the water you will be in F7+ conditions vs. in a marina/at an anchor. Then you can make a decision.
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Old 08-11-2017, 20:32   #12
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Re: Best boat maker for liveaboard cruising

Henry, I assume you are in the UK, where you will not likely find many of the boats that have been suggested.

Here is a good example closer to you, a Contest 38 in your price range:

1972 Contest 38 Sail Boat For Sale -

Here is a Yachtworld search of 35' - 40' in your price range in the UK:

(Sail) Boats For Sale United Kingdom
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Old 09-11-2017, 00:04   #13
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Re: Best boat maker for liveaboard cruising

I (and many others) am not at all part of the full keel school of thought. Pretty much the only reason you’d want one is to mitigate the consequences of hitting stuff. And for just that one reason you’d have to settle with all their disadvantages. It’s not for nothing that nobody manufactures them anymore. Besides, if my primary concern was hitting stuff I’d buy a fin keel Etap rather than a full keel. Even when holed and flooded these boats will keep sailing and right themselves after knockdowns.

You’ll be living aboard. Look at the interior layout first. It has to be practical and give you a maximum of normal home amenities for your money. Full keel boats have awful old fashioned layouts. Sure, you can make do with them, but again you’re going to live aboard, most of the time at anchor or at the dock, or coastal day sailing. If you cross one ocean a year that’s just two or three weeks and boom, it’s over.

Then look at the sail plan which has to be efficient yet easy. Pretty much all production boats of the past 15 years are sloops with all lines led to the cockpit and no bowsprit. That’s also not without reason that it evolved this way. You never need to go to the mast or to the bow unless you want to fly a spinnaker. That’s not only easy but also a lot safer.

So yes, I’m all for modern boats, with fin keels that are very maneuverable in the tight modern marinas, which are built for fin keel’s maneuverability and bowtrusters. And for a select few of the 10ish year old boats, with very clever and comfortable interior layouts that make living aboard so much better.

It wasn’t my intent to relaunch the full keel vs fin keel debate with this post, I just want the OP to be aware that these are just schools of thought and not holy gospel.

I have done all my sailing with Beneteau’s and a very old Catalina. Most of the 35k miles I sailed are offshore Ocean sailing. The boats I bought were always selected on interior layout first since I live aboard. Just sail in the right season and stay away from land when you’re going full speed.
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Old 09-11-2017, 03:22   #14
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Re: Best boat maker for liveaboard cruising

Just an idea (pretty much what I would go for):
1984 Amel Sharki Sail Boat For Sale -
If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.
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Old 09-11-2017, 06:58   #15
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Re: Best boat maker for liveaboard cruising

Respectfully I have to disagree with the full keel crowd. I've owned and cruised extensively on fin keel, full keel and modified fin keel boats. One can argue that the full keel has some advantages in safety however in practice I never experienced a difference. This includes groundings, rudder damage, catching lines and floats from traps, and the other advantages touted for full keel boats.

I much prefer the better performance and maneuverability of a modified fin design.

Also, in the real world it seems that the majority of the boats cruising are not full keel designs. This is my experience looking at boats in the boat yards, boats in the harbors in the Caribbean and from comments I've read, the same is reported by cruisers across the Pacific. If you look at some of the most successful cruisers in recent years including those that sail to high latitudes and in extreme conditions full keels are not the standard.

The water is always bluer on the other side of the ocean.
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