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Old 26-07-2015, 15:59   #1
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GOING NOMAD.. Live aboard in Southern California

Hi folks,

Thanks in advance for any comments or advice.

Just as the title suggests, I have an itch to get off the grid. I'm 25, an engineer, and my jam is surfing, traveling, and building cool stuff.

I've been wanting to live aboard my own boat for quite some time, and with my lease ending at the start of the next year, and an inevitable move closer to the San Clemente area, i think its time. So lets give this a shot.

In the spirit of total honesty, ill lay down a few facts about my situation. Feel free to totally rip my naivety apart. I want to know what i'm getting myself into before i find out the hard way.


1-Sailing solo: ~5 hrs
2-On a boat ~ 200 hrs
3-In the sea = (2hrs)*(3 times a week)*(10 years)[surfing]
4- Monthly housing budget = $1000
5- I do not have a boat.
6 - Savings = $5,000
7- 6 months before lease ends

What i want to know is the stuff that a newbie wouldn't know. Such as:

1. Typical marina live aboard waitlist times.
2. Avg expenses in addition to marina. Required boat length, sq footage, utilites, upkeep, getting started cost, specialty tools etc.
3. What kind of boat should i get??!! LINKS!! best places to look. what to look for.
4. Off the grid locations? such as leasing a private dock from owner??

I dont know anyone who has done this before, so you guys/gals are my only window. Im sure i've missed a ton of stuff, but im just testing the waters.



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Old 27-07-2015, 07:39   #2
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Re: GOING NOMAD.. Live aboard in Southern California

Would you still be working? Do you need internet? At just 25 you really too young to get off the grid. With ACA (Obama Care) they need an address to mail you stuff. To verify your household income etc. etc.

It is not easy to get off the grid. Fed's want tax info, need a driver's license? You can handle banking via 4G, plus pay for your phone under 4G.

Ok...enough of that.

I am currently on the west coast of Florida (75 miles north of Tampa) I found an easy and cheap place to stay on a boat in fresh water. I talked to people in the slips with water/electric hook-ups for $550/mo. One person on a nice clean 41' sailboat with two little dogs. One person on a 36' older cabin cruiser and one person staying for free anchored out in Kings Bay on a really old beat up leaky 24' wooden tri-maran with a big dog.

So you can actually stay on anything that floats and can keep you out of the rain.

I have seen ok 30' sailboats for $5,000. One had new-ish sails. You need to stop at some marinas and talk to the Harbor Master...if you can find him. He will have information on lots of stuff as long as you come off as polite and inquisitive.

I was thinking I would anchor out and for a treat move to a slip for a week. This beat up marina had showers and free pump-out station. I checked out about 5 marinas. All seemed beat up and old. Beware, birds will use your boat as a potty spot.

One person probably needs at least a 32' - 34' foot sailboat with a small head and shower area to be semi-comforable.

Two people need a 36' - 38' sailboat IMHO.

It will not be an easy life as your boat will need to be cleaned continually to keep it looking nice. Gotta keep the scum from the bottom. And if you leave your boat to go to work big birds have all day to carp on it.

I have not made this leap just yet.

Good luck

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Old 27-07-2015, 08:15   #3
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Re: GOING NOMAD.. Live aboard in Southern California

Living in a marina or at a private dock is not "off the grid". You are simply trading one domicile for another. You have to at least anchor out to be off the grid, and even then the only things you are "off" is electric, water, and cable tv hookup.
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Old 27-07-2015, 11:13   #4
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Re: GOING NOMAD.. Live aboard in Southern California

Welcome to the forum digitalnomadjoe.
" Wisdom; is your reward for surviving your mistakes"
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Old 27-07-2015, 11:25   #5
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Re: GOING NOMAD.. Live aboard in Southern California

Hello Joe! Welcome aboard CF!

You have already gotten some good input or advice from others.

Here is my favorite tip to pass to newcomers to this forum, especially if they say that have a lot of questions:

Looking for Quick Answers?

This is the best and fastest method I have found to the answers I seek here.
Since you are relatively new to the forum, here is my favorite friendly forum search tip: Look at the green menu bar on the forum pages for the drop down "Search" menu. Click on that to drop down a list of search functions. From that drop down menu select the GOOGLE CUSTOM search feature (the second box down) and then enter several different descriptive terms for your topic of interest. That will do a Custom google search of ONLY this site and it is likely to find answers to your questions or results for you. Note: this is different from using the regular forum search box or field. Also note, this is NOT found if you use the CF app. It IS found if you use a web browser such as Safari, etc.
Ahoy All Sailors! Need experienced crew for a passage or delivery in Atlantic, Pacific, Caribbean, Med, PNW, ICW, coastal or across an ocean anytime in 2018? I am available on 24hr notice. See my CF Profile "About Me" page for details. Happy to lend a hand!
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Old 27-07-2015, 11:30   #6
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Re: GOING NOMAD.. Live aboard in Southern California

Hello Nomad,
Southern Cali is probably one of the tougher areas to try and be a liveaboard. It can be done though. Wait list times are going to vary from marina to marina. Not sure where you're going to live near San Clemente. To the north you have Dana Point but I have been told that the wait list for any kind of slip is years, never mind a liveaboard slip. To the south you have Oceanside which is a very small harbor, and not exactly close. Nothing I can think of between the two but I could be mistaken.

As far as the size of boat I personally disagree with the previous poster who said it needs to be 32-34' for one person. But that is largely a matter of personality.

As far as cost, we were pricing facilities for our 33' boat in the SoCal area from San Diego to San Pedro and found that we would be paying around $800-$900 a month by the time you add the liveaboard fees which average $250-$300 per month most places once you get approval for a slip. People sometimes cruise from marina to marina renting temporarily as "transient cruisers" while waiting for a permanent slip. Others, like my daughter's fiance, are what we call "sneakaboards." But that is only the cost of a slip and does not include any boat payment you might have, insurance (which all marina require), utilities, your cell phone, and your boat maintenance.

The cost of the boat and upkeep is something I won't even address as that depends on so many factors that way more info would be needed.
Cruising the waterways and traveling the highways looking for fun and adventure wherever it might be found.
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Old 27-07-2015, 11:53   #7
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Re: GOING NOMAD.. Live aboard in Southern California

Oceanside has a 3 year plus wait list for boats over 29'. Under 29' it's only a few months. Cost is around $12 a foot. Don't know about live aboard restrictions but a call to the harbor office should answer those questions. The harbor will transfer a slip to a new owner of a boat already in the harbor. Seems to add some value to the boat as prices for boats in the Harbor seem to be a bit high.

A boat over 25' is suitable for live aboard in sunny SoCal. It's not going to be spacious but enough room unless you have a pack rat bent and/or like lots of toys/clothes. Have lived aboard a Westsail 32 for several years with my life and labrador and never felt cramped. Stayed on my current boat for months at a time and found I really only used about 15' of the boat for living. The rest was storage and most of that was stuff I used once and kept. Eventually rented a close by storage space to for all the boat detritus, cleaned out the stuff I managed to accumulate and only use very seldom/never. Made actually sailing the boat way easier as it didn't take me hours securely stowing stuff to get the boat ready for a sail.

Unfortunately, you just missed a Tartan 27 with a diesel engine, furler, good sails in good shape for a boat it's age in a live aboard slip at Ocean Side. It sold at a donation auction for less than $4,000. Nearly bought the boat but decided I'm not spending enough time in the area to justify the slip rent.

Living aboard really depends on your mind set and finding a slip. Getting a boat to live on is the easy part. Biggest problem is maintaining a wardrobe if you have an office job. When we were at Long Beach many years ago, the long term live aboards often had some kind of panel truck or van that they used for storage and occasional transport, sometimes very occasional. When I was your age, could fit my entire life into an MGB and still drive it. A Columbia 26 and a VW Camper Van met my needs perfectly.

Peter O.
'Ae'a Pearson 35
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cal, california

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