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Old 27-06-2017, 19:39   #1
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Family of 4 in a Small Liveaboard, Courting Disaster?

I've read posts from people about small liveaboard situations. I'm curious about the experiences who have done this with a family.

My situation, as succinctly as I might put it. I have a wife and two kids(11 and 13). We live in a small house (700 sq. ft.) and have room to spare. We're not big and we're not terribly indoor-active.

My wife has been pushing me to buy a vacation home in Florida (an idea I'm not fond of) so I suggested we look into a largish sailboat instead to put into a marina some part of the year and use in the same way. To my surprise she's totally on board, eager even.

And now, since I've been talking about this as a possibility, an uncle who owns a self storage facility in Savannah has offered me a Morgan 34 he has in covered storage. The owner died 8 or 9 years ago, nobody wanted it and eventually the probate court signed the title over to my uncle. A year ago, he was going to sell it to a guy and let the guy tinker with it while the man came up with the cash, but instead, the guy took the engine out and tore it down then decided not to buy it. On my last visit I bought a new head gasket and put the engine back together and got it to run on a pallet. It seems to run fine. I'm reasonably sure I can figure out how to get the engine back up into the boat.

Cutting to the chase I guess ... It's a damn pretty boat. I want it to work out for us but if I screw this up the first time, convincing the family to try again will be that much harder. Also,I think it would strain my extended family ties if I were to take this thing then turn around and sell it a year later. I'm not sure why that should be ... but that's kind of how my family is.
  1. Is it really too small?
  2. 2 adults and 2 tweens for 4 to 8 weeks at a time? Maybe longer?
  3. If the consensus is really that it's just too small, is there a way to throw money at the problem? We were budgeting to buy in 2019 with $15-20k to spend. This option is near free and I could throw $5-10k at it this year if that would make it more habitable. I know the laws of physics determine how much room is in the boat, but maybe someone knows the secret?
  4. The boat is all there but it's completely unrigged... derigged... I don't know what you call it but I'm certain everyone here knows exactly what I mean. If I want to get a quote for someone to put the mast and such back up, what do I call that? Ballpark of what I should expect someone to charge me for this?
  5. I'm not a complete neophyte, as a teenage I would crew a friends yacht on the mackinaw race out of Chicago every summer, but it's been a while. This doesn't look like too much boat. Am I wrong?
  6. Kind of veering off the liveaboard theme (sorry) but overall impressions on this boat's reputation? It's a 1969 Morgan 34 with shoal draft. There is a crate in this storage unit with literally hundreds of empty rum bottles from the Bahamas to Turks.

If I'm courting disaster, trying to pack this many people into this thing, I want to know. I will put it off and keep to the plan of finding something bigger. On the other hand, this would move that date up by more than a year.

Thank you all so much in advance. I'm sorry I don't know how to organize this question better, it's run a bit long as it is.
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Old 27-06-2017, 19:56   #2
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Re: Family of 4 in a Small Liveaboard, Courting Disaster?

On the space issue, go for it, start with 2-3 day sails then back for shore leave, see how it goes.

On money, I dunno, but really do your due diligence, easy for repairs to cost more than buying one ready to go.

Many boats available for a dollar are no bargain
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Old 27-06-2017, 20:19   #3
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Re: Family of 4 in a Small Liveaboard, Courting Disaster?

Here's the questions you need to ask yourself and to find answers to determine if the boat makes financial sense.

1. How good are your DIY skills in plumbing, wiring, carpentry, fiberglass, rigging? If you don't have a skill how good are you at learning a new one?

2. Which do you have more of or which can you afford most, time or money?

3. Are you willing and able to devote many hours to fixing this boat? Will that take away from income earning?

If you answer all the above correctly then this could work. If you have to start paying people to put the boat back together it will cost you more than it's worth. If you take too much time away from earning income to work on the boat do the math and figure how much you're losing.

As far as space, a 34' sailboat is a lot smaller than a 700 sq ft house plus if you're cruising there will be times when you can't get away. You will be literally in each other's laps. Not familiar with the 34 but assume it's standard layout IE aft cockpit, main cabin, forepeak. So where will everyone sleep? Mom and dad take the forepeak, one kid on the port settee, one on the starboard? If the boat has pilot a pilot berth or two that would make it a lot better.

So with all that in mind, could you deal with the space? I know it can be done. I once met two couples that sailed from Europe and were cruising the Caribbean on a 27' boat but I suspect they were all very close friends.
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Old 27-06-2017, 20:28   #4
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Re: Family of 4 in a Small Liveaboard, Courting Disaster?

This sounds like a project boat.

If you like projects, and if the family will tolerate you doing the project, then there is hope.

I have know people doing world cruising in smaller quarters than what you are talking about. They were motivated. They wanted to be out there, and the quarters did not matter that much to them.

If the teens want to do it, then it is possible to make it happen and actually enjoy it. If the teens are not interested, then it will be an uphill battle.

Living a such a small space can work if everyone is on board the idea.
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Old 27-06-2017, 22:13   #5
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Re: Family of 4 in a Small Liveaboard, Courting Disaster?

Awesome answers so far, thank you. Here's a little more info about us and the boat in case it makes any difference.

Quote:
How good are your DIY skills in plumbing, wiring, carpentry, fiberglass, rigging? If you don't have a skill how good are you at learning a new one? [...] Are you willing and able to devote many hours to fixing this boat? Will that take away from income earning?
I feel on firm ground on this one. I spent 10 years as a heavy machine mechanic, and another 5 as a machinist. The last 10 years I've been self employed as a prototype fabricator, mostly building one-off aircraft hydraulic manifolds. I've also renovated 2 homes that I now let out as rental property. I have a very good machine shop and a modest wood shop, albeit in Michigan. With a few exceptions, I usually only schedule 4 months of shop work each year. I'm wrapping up the last home remodel now; which prompted the talking of a new project in the first place.


Quote:
Not familiar with the 34 but assume it's standard layout IE aft cockpit, main cabin, forepeak. So where will everyone sleep? Mom and dad take the forepeak, one kid on the port settee, one on the starboard?
This is exactly the layout it has. But some of the literature I found with the boat showed different layouts, perhaps different model years or options (?) one has the forepeak V, then a dinette (settee) that can drop into a double berth, opposite that is the kitchenette (where the boat I'm looking at has a single bunk/couch), then on one side of the steps to the aft cockpit is storage, and on the other is a berth kind of half tucked under the cockpit. Another floorplan is just like the last one I described but with two of the little berths at the back of the boat. I've found photos online and other Morgan 34s for sale with this layout. A layout like this would be ideal(either of these but ideally with two of the little bunks separated by the cockpit). I don't know if a boat can have it's interior design redone or if it is like trying to add cruise control to a car, you have to get it built with cruise control or you don't get cruise control. If the interior layout can be pulled out and put back in willy-nilly, I'm sure I could do the work. But if this sort of thing is more like altering the load bearing walls of a home then I will probably leave off.

Quote:
Many boats available for a dollar are no bargain
Yes, this is my thought that is playing on a loop. It's fun to roll through craigslist and imagine landing a 42' boat for $3500, but that's what I'm trying to avoid as well. To the boat's credit, the probate court paid to have it surveyed to determine value and condition. This was 8 years ago and the boat was already out of the water and up on a crate stand at the time, and it didn't have the mast up. The survey set its value at $6000 but everything the survey could check was rated as being in good shape. Fresh paint, solid hull, hard solid throughout, brand new sails. But being out of the water and not having a working engine and the mast reclining on a frame behind the storage facility I suppose they can't be considered. Yet I've already got the little Yanmar chugging away after an afternoon of tinkering and I'm actually inclined to believe my uncle when he says that all the rigging is there (I've pulled out and checked 5 different sails ).

Another issue that just occurred to me would be the expense of getting it to Naples. Our Florida friends there have a slip we can use. I just sort of assumed I could sail it there, but now that I've actually looked, that's a lot more sailing than running the Mac.
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Old 27-06-2017, 23:17   #6
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Re: Family of 4 in a Small Liveaboard, Courting Disaster?

Spend a little more and buy something in good shape and larger.
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Old 27-06-2017, 23:36   #7
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Re: Family of 4 in a Small Liveaboard, Courting Disaster?

I would suggest another survey after sitting dry for 8 years, Wood rot, Termites, Etc, may have moved in, in that time,
Survey will find it, Then get a cost of what it will take to make it seaworthy again, Fully rigged,
Is it still viable financially after that,
Out door kids will love the boat and the challenges it will create for them,
Think as a kid, not as an adult for them,

Bloke and his wife had three kids on about a 40 foot Mono in Vanuatu, Little kids, Sailing around the Pacific, Island hopping,
They did have a full fence around the rails, Just in case, The kids were boat savvy,

House movers are the best and easiest and cheapest way to move boats, They dont need cranes to lift the boat,
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Old 28-06-2017, 00:40   #8
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Re: Family of 4 in a Small Liveaboard, Courting Disaster?

To put things into perspective, you're going to spend $20,000 or so and countless DIY manhours to put a $3,500 boat back in order. Then you'll have a 1969 vintage 34ft boat worth $6,000 on a good day, that's still too small four four people to live on.

Doesn't sound like a good deal to me.
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Old 28-06-2017, 02:55   #9
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Re: Family of 4 in a Small Liveaboard, Courting Disaster?

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, SEALAB.
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Old 28-06-2017, 03:39   #10
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Re: Family of 4 in a Small Liveaboard, Courting Disaster?

My experience has been that at age 9 and 12, my kids were deliriously happy to live aboard our 31-foot boat for months at a time. Now, at 16 and 19 -- meh. Not so much. They want more space and more privacy and more comfort. And I've started perusing ads for 40-footers. . . .

FWIW. Good luck!
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Old 28-06-2017, 04:34   #11
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Re: Family of 4 in a Small Liveaboard, Courting Disaster?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BrightSEALAB View Post
I[*]Is it really too small?
Only you can answer that. My wife and I live on a 43' boat and can't see living in comfort on a smaller boat. What you are going to find is that people with small boats are going to say that a 34' boat is bigger enough and those with a bigger boat are going to say it isn't.
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Old 28-06-2017, 05:00   #12
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Re: Family of 4 in a Small Liveaboard, Courting Disaster?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BrightSEALAB View Post
.........................
...........
My wife has been pushing me to buy a vacation home in Florida (an idea I'm not fond of) so I suggested we look into a largish sailboat instead to put into a marina some part of the year and use in the same way. To my surprise she's totally on board, eager even.
...................
When I look back at this goal to have boat as a vacation home, I tend to agree with Kenomac. Restoring a 34' boat and moving it the distance to Naples seems to be the more difficult choice with added expense. There are more spacious boats with less final expense that are already near Naples.
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Old 28-06-2017, 05:01   #13
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Re: Family of 4 in a Small Liveaboard, Courting Disaster?

I agree with most that the size won't be the problem as long as the kids are younger, but you're bigger worry should be the cost of putting the morgan back together. they're sturdy boats and I have no doubt it can be done but if you offset the costs against the value of the boat afterwards in a crashed boatmarket you're looking pretty thin....

probably better to look at a smaller, ready boat (scratch that, boats are never ready) or a somewhat bigger one and spend time and money on that, so it at least represents the value still.

in my experience kids as in your age will love to go with dad to work on the boat :-)
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Old 28-06-2017, 05:30   #14
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Re: Family of 4 in a Small Liveaboard, Courting Disaster?

Your background looks very strong for this. Without seeing the boat, I can't appraise it at all.

Being derigged is a plus for moving it. I would suggest having a capable sailor look things over and telling you what you have here.

How far is it from where you want it to be? Moving a 34' boat is going to costs plenty.

The size is large enough for trips, bit small for a full time liveaboard.

How is the bottom? Bottom maintenance can be an onerous task even for the very handy. Blisters take significant work and are generally the result of water osmosis into the fiberglass. Find out Morgans reputation for hull integrity. Better yet, find an owner of an older Morgan to tell you the pros and cons.

Internet personas are in love with raining on parades. A running engine is a good start. Sitting out of the water is preferred to sitting in the water. Not unusual for a boat to sit. Though you have no idea about leakage with a dry dock.
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Old 28-06-2017, 05:30   #15
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Re: Family of 4 in a Small Liveaboard, Courting Disaster?

I'll give you 10-1 odds by the time you are done, you will have spent more than if you had just bought a boat in decent shape. I'm betting the thing is a total cluster after sitting for years...as someone said, even if you bring it back to perfect condition it will still only be worth a few thousand.

Of course, your whole budget is way low. $15-20k is likely going to be a project boat if it's large enough for your family but figure another $5k/yr for maintenance and marina fees.

Space could be an issue but is way down on the list of concerns.
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