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Old 16-08-2013, 08:54   #1
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Contemplating Liveaboard -- Need Advice

Good morning, all! I'm Kelley, am new to this forum and am contemplating a liveaboard situation in the future (about a year).

I'm not a sailor, but would like to learn, however for my liveaboard I'm thinking motor yacht or a houseboat until I learn how to sail. I love the water and grew up on the Chesapeake Bay, but our family only had ski boats so I'm not entirely familiar with all of the pertinent terminology, nor have I ever driven a boat over 23' in length.

I'm researching buying a used boat (at least 40' in length) and my only real requirements are that it have a stateroom that I can actually walk around both sides of the bed without hitting my head, a shower, a decent sized galley, etc. I know that some boats come with a washer, and/or washer/dryer but if not, I could always rent in a marina that provides this amenity.

Being a 'social loner', I'm confident that the quiet or loneliness wouldn't be a problem. I'm a low-maintenance woman who has lived in small quarters in the past, and know that it would not be a problem. The water would also provide plenty of inspiration for writing (a side profession for now, but I hope this will one day sustain a decent living).

I guess what I'm looking for is advice about where in Virginia (as close to Richmond as possible) can be recommended for a liveaboard marina, and if you can give a newbie any tips or pointers on what to look for when researching used boats for sale. Also financing; I know many companies finance for 20 years (similar to a mortgage), but are there any restrictions/prerequisites as to how big the boat is in consideration of being deemed a home as opposed to a luxury?

Also for long-term living, do you recommend a covered slip or an open slip?

Thanking you in advance!
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Old 16-08-2013, 09:58   #2
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Re: Contemplating Liveaboard -- need advice

If you go to ActiveCaptain.com you can look up marinas on the James River near (and at least one in) Richmond. (You might also be able to see a little about navigation on the James.)

After checking those on line, you could visit likely candidates and have a look at the kinds of boats folks have there... a way to get an idea about what's possible.

For boats, you could look at yachtworld.com, and just search in your area. That can give you some insight into possibilities and potential costs, but also it could give you a chance to see what's easily "viewable" right in your area. If you find models you like, or features you like, you can continue to expand your search to a wider geographical area or to specific models or brands.

For covered vs. uncovered... that's probably an "it depends." In the north, potential snow load on th cover can be a risk. Birds can roost up there, and then offer you various "deposits" from time to time And in the grand scheme of things, covered isn't as common around here, anyway; you might be more limited by what's normal, might not have much choice.

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Old 16-08-2013, 10:05   #3
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Re: Contemplating Liveaboard -- need advice

Thank you, Chris! I really appreciate the thoughtful response. A question I forgot to pose is boat 'material'. I prefer low maintenance (haha, sort of an oxymoron when describing a boat, yes?), but would you recommend fiberglass over wood, or steel, or ???? for a liveaboard?

Also, I would imagine an inspection of the vessel would be recommended. Is there anything in particular that I need to know about these -- like how to find a certified inspector, etc.

Thank you!
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Old 16-08-2013, 10:48   #4
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Re: Contemplating Liveaboard -- need advice

Hey Kelley, I love woodies myself, but you must understand that wood gets old, it cracks, it rots, it needs paint and varnish, and if you want to keep your boat in sea worthy condition, you need to take it out of water every year.... It takes expert skills to repair and paint a wooden boat, and if a boat is 30 years old its engine is probably shot. Wood boats can smell of mould and mildew, and diesel fuel that has impregnated bilge planks.

Most problems occur because a boat has been neglected over the years, because it has not been painted and bedded, because window leaks have not been fixed, because its mechanical systems have not been upgraded.

It does take more skill to paint a wood boat than to clean and polish fiberglass. However, once a wood boat has a tightly clinging coat of paint, once the hardware and deck fittings have been bedded, once corrosion control has been re-established, and once the engine room has been brought up to snuff, most of the problems that can damage a woodie have been brought under control.

Starting from the top, trouble on a woodie is usually first found in the plywood used to build the deckhouse. Water seeps in around poorly sealed windows, eventually causing rot in the plywood side walls. Penetrating rain causes some rot. Sometimes the chine block (timber framing at the chine, where bottom meets the side of the boat) can be the trickiest item to fix with a woodie.

Before buying you will need to get a serious survey from a reputable company. The best way is to do your own research. Once you have your eyes and heart on a particular boat, start searching for problems associated with this boat and even the model and year of construction. You will learn a lot from owners and will be able to tell the survey company the areas of the boat you need a full report of. You want to identify problems -if any- and make sure the surveyor investigates the right areas before writing a cheque!

I am myself looking for a trawler and wonder if I should go for an old woodie or a GRP hull. I havenít made the decision yet. Since I am planning to live aboard and travel pretty much everywhere I have a lot of research to do too! I come from a sailing background and my heart is with a sailing catamaran but my budget so far is still for an old trawler...

Good luck with your research, but as Chris said above, Yachtworld.com is the place to start, using the advanced search to find boats in your area. My advice, do not rush into a quick decision!

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Old 16-08-2013, 11:12   #5
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Re: Contemplating Liveaboard -- need advice

Thank you, JFC! I too love woodies -- they certainly are beautiful! However being that I already have a full time job, and am writing on the side, I don't have a ton of time required for maintenance. I have learned that all boats should be pulled from the water at least once a year if possible for maintenance, etc. Which poses another question -- does the boat have to be winterized even if it's a liveaboard? I'm in Virginia (not exactly the frozen 'tundra', but it gets pretty cold in the winter).

Also, I agree with your desire for a trawler -- just in looking at boats for sale, I seem to lean toward their spacious interiors.

As I read thru responses to my post as well as others', I keep coming up with more questions. If I choose a non-covered slip, there's a possibility for using solar power for interior accoutrement, yes? Does anyone here have solar tips or stories to share? I'm not exactly a survivalist (or extreme minimalist), but the solar power option is attractive to me.

Thanks to everyone for their patience with this newbie. I'm learning a lot from this website already!

You guys are awesome!
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Old 16-08-2013, 11:55   #6
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Re: Contemplating Liveaboard -- need advice

Hi, WaterWriter, and welcome to Cruisers Forum.

There aren't many marinas near Richmond. In fact, there's only one that I know of: Rocketts Landing Marina. (I grew up in Richmond and now live in North Chesterfield County.) Rocketts is a former industrial area that's been recently developed into a trendy residential enclave, but personally, it doesn't appeal to me that much, and it's located directly across the river from the municipal sewage treatment plant. It is convenient to the city, though.

I think the next closest cluster of marinas is in Deltaville, which is about an hour and a half drive from Richmond. Here's a marina search app that will give you some leads: Marinas.com. You can use the advanced search feature to look for marinas wherever you want. ActiveCaptain is a great resource, too.

Best wishes on finding what you're looking for.
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Old 16-08-2013, 12:03   #7
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Re: Contemplating Liveaboard -- need advice

Thank you, Hud!

Yes, I'm quite familiar with Rockett's Landing, and they don't have 'permanent' situations for liveaboards. I have found a couple in New Kent (just a tad closer than Deltaville) online today during my research. Soon, I will put together a list of those I need to visit in person and check them out. I also see there are a few in Hopewell (although I'm not that familiar with that area).

I will just have to accept the fact that I will have a bit of a commute, but with my little four cylinder gas-sipper, it shouldn't be too much of a problem.

Thank you again for the tip!
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Old 16-08-2013, 12:04   #8
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Re: Contemplating Liveaboard -- need advice

Material is another of those "it depends" things, Kelley, and many have their favorites... although JFC's comments on wood hit some points right on the money. Steel generally happens in larger boats, aluminum in both larger boats and actual "houseboats" (e.g., Gibson, Holiday Mansion), fiberglass is fairly ubiquitous, wood tends to be older boats or more contemporary custom builds (with exceptions). Each has pros and most have cons. I suspect once you find the type of boats that attract you, in your price range, you'll end up getting what you get

Yes, solar can augment your power supply, if panels can be mounted (meaning if the boat has "roof" or deck space that allows. Details TBD.

The climate in Richmond is likely bearable, but with winter obstacles to overcome. If the marina worries about freezing water lines, they may turn off dock water... and they may turn off the pump-out capability... so you may have to deal with holding tank issues (or periodic movements to an open pump-out station, if there is one). Icy docks maybe, but only sometimes. And so forth. But if you're there most of the time, there are ways to get by without winterizing. If you haven't already, suggest you read through likely threads in this section for various commentary on issues and solutions. And of course ask specific questions, once you've had a chance to do that. You might find threads by GalaxyGirl and RunningRabbit especially informative. (In fact, one of GG's threads -- mega-pages long -- also contains potentially useful discussion about building materials, too... although her space requirements are significantly larger than what you've described for your own needs.) BTW, they both have blogs... so you might benefit from those, too. RR also happens to be near us, in Annapolis, so her winter-time climate experience may be similar enough to what you'd experience in Richmond. I can tell you I've had to shovel 3-4' of snow out of our cockpit a couple times... but that's rare (remember Snowmaggedon?)... and we don't live aboard, so it wasn't a big deal anyway.

Periodic haul-out is right on the mark, although that doesn't have to always be synonymous with winterizing. For example, we usually winterize the boat in the water, then haul in the Spring for inspection, touch-up paint, new anodes, topsides wash and wax, and any other bottom or underwater hardware work that needs doing. That haul-out usually ends up taking 3-5 days, sometimes dependent on weather (can't wax in the rain, etc.). Usually not onerous.

Usually when you buy a boat you have a marine survey (and inspection of the boat itself, hull, some systems, etc.) and also a mechanical survey (engines and generator, if installed.) Easy enough to find good ones; cross that bridge when you need it. The short version is that you pay guys (NOT guys recommended by the seller or broker) and they tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly. Ideally, you'll have chosen a likely candidate first... so you know up front when to not waste your money.

Your initial statement about a walk-around berth is, BTW, a very good one! I've just been making up our own beds, after a (rare) period with onboard visitors. Our guest stateroom berth is surrounded by bulkheads on three sides; what a pain in the neck! Even the centerline berth ins our own stateroom gets a little iffy up toward the bow... Anyway, postulating attractive features like that is a decent way to shop (although yachtworld's search engine doesn't always make it easy). Essentially, you define the features you like, and then look for all those -- with a boat attached around 'em.

Probably useful at this stage for you to just shop a bit, then hum a few bars about candidates that speak to you.

Unless I missed a question

-Chris
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Old 16-08-2013, 12:06   #9
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Re: Contemplating Liveaboard -- need advice

Thank you, Chris! Again, such insight is really appreciated and I certainly agree with you. I have a while to do this right. I will take that year to research as much as possible.

I forgot to thank you for the note about covered slips and bird 'deposits'. It's the little things like this people forget to consider. I never would have thought of that! I guess both have their pros and cons.

I've only been on the site for a day and am learning a lot. I will certainly check into those blogs. As a writer, I certainly appreciate blogs, and may plan to blog my own experiences with this new adventure.

I just thought of another question -- is there a course (free to cheap) for teaching someone how to drive a dual engine boat? I know there's a boater's safety course, but didn't know how much of it is actual hands on experience on the water. Again, I've only driven single engine I/O pleasure boats.

Thanks!
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Old 16-08-2013, 12:10   #10
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Re: Contemplating Liveaboard -- need advice

Quote:
Originally Posted by WaterWriter View Post
I just thought of another question -- is there a course (free to cheap) for teaching someone how to drive a dual engine boat? I know there's a boater's safety course, but didn't know how much of it is actual hands on experience on the water. Again, I've only driven single engine I/O pleasure boats.

Thanks!

Yes, USCG Aux and US Power Squadron boater's safety courses are great and you'll want to do that... especially for rules of the road and navigation and so forth... but you're right, that's not usually hands on.

That said, it'll be easy enough to find/hire (or bribe) someone to show you how. My Admiral could maybe eventually be bribed

Edit: Most folks find it easier to drive a twin-screw powerboat and a single IO.

-Chris
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Old 16-08-2013, 12:24   #11
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Re: Contemplating Liveaboard -- need advice

That would be awesome, Chris. I am a very visual learner, so classroom environments only drive the lessons so far for me.

I know some basic stuff, but really want a thorough knowledge. Thanks again for the tip! Everyone's been so helpful.
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Old 16-08-2013, 13:02   #12
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Re: Contemplating Liveaboard -- need advice

Oh, and one more thing. I'm a carry on baggage girl, in other words, I don't have a lot. I've lived in houses and apartments on my own, then downsized to renting a room, and so I don't have a lot of stuff anymore. I don't have kids, a significant other or even so much as a goldfish.

However, I imagine that being a dog lover, that once I get a boat I will probably rescue a dog and bring her on board. I know this is premature, but if anyone has any advice regarding that as well, my ears are open.

I'm sure as my purchase date nears, I can pay more attention to these little details, but like I said, I'm about a year out from purchasing my first boat/home, and appreciate having all of the facts up front as to make an informed decision.

Again, apologies in advance for being so verbose before I even OWN a boat, but I'm trying to be smart and practical.
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Old 16-08-2013, 14:24   #13
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Re: Contemplating Liveaboard -- need advice

You could speak with our First Mutt about his experience aboard... and the previous big dogs we've carted around in various boats. 90-lb Golden now, 120-lb Great Pyrenees and an 80-lb Golden before... You can do it.

That said... it brings it's own additional set of a issues. Exercise, walkies -- including the 0500 and 2200 dog walks down slippery docks (icy, dewy, whatever) -- and then the decision about whether you'll stay marina-bound or want to anchor out. The latter in turn may require a dinghy, maybe an outboard to expedite shore trips, a system to mount and carry (or tow) the dinghy, yaddy, yaddy, yadda...

IOW, good to think that through in advance, see what kind of commitments your might be comfortable with.

But Schooner had his late afternoon outies, did his afternoon business, and sleeps at my feet as we speak (as I type), happy as a clam

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Old 17-08-2013, 05:37   #14
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Re: Contemplating Liveaboard -- need advice

Hi WaterWriter! I'm pressed for time but here's a few quick thoughts from a fellow liveaboard writer. Lowest maintenance inexpensive boat for a first boat might be fiberglass? Look around Yachtworld. But, you also might want to expand your search parameters - what you need on land is going to be different than what you need on a boat. For example, as you're thinking about your needs, you say to yourself, "on land I have a 2 bedroom apartment, one bedroom is my home office. So when I look for a boat I need 2 cabins so I can make one into an office." But really, you may find that simply converting a nav station in the main salon will meet your needs ... and set you up to be able to start with a smaller, one-cabin boat.

I'd stay away from the covered slips because it'll be dark and dreary ... hard to find writing inspiration from the water if you can't see the sky, no?

Lots of thoughts from lots of bloggers about living aboard in winter here: The Monkey's Fist: Collecting Cruisers' Perspectives: Living Aboard in Winter
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Old 17-08-2013, 08:11   #15
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Re: Contemplating Liveaboard -- need advice

Wing -- thank you! I've been leaning toward fiberglass and I think I'll feel less claustrophobic in something at the minimum of 38-40'. I have a laptop with a laptop desk so I can write any where.

And I thought covered would be better for boat preservation and I can always take the boat out. But you make excellent points to consider.

I have a lot to think about. Thank goodness I am not in a rush
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