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Old 07-03-2013, 09:17   #1
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Liveaboard Advice for New England

I've been dreaming about living aboard for quite some time, but I've always been too scared to uproot and move to an entirely different lifestyle and all of the normal "what if" questions have run through my head. Fast-forward to the beginning of this year. I've become dissatisfied with my current employer, friends are all having/planning kids, and I need a change of location to breathe some life into me.

I started my job search last week, and already got a bite. Now I'm not putting too many eggs in the basket, but that bite got me extremely excited because the pay and location would allow me to finally have an opportunity to live aboard full-time.

I would end up in Boston, MA. Looking through the forums, I've seen that the recommended Live-aboard marinas in that area are Constitution Marina or Captain's Cove just south in Quincy. Surprisingly, it looks like Constitution Marina is the cheaper option of the two, and additionally I've seen a few posts by folks who do/have lived there talking about a lively liveaboard community, which is exactly what I'm looking for.

Rent in Boston is around $1600+ for a 1 BR apt. as far as I can tell, and that's before utilities. Searching and finding a deal may be possible, but my first limitation is that I have dogs. 2 dogs. Both labs weighing in at 90 lbs, so I can't be too picky with trying to find the lowest price possible.

I suppose before I start rambling, I should jot down my questions and then just fill in details if people ask.

For Boston MA Liveaboards:
Which Marina did you choose and what was your major tipping point in your decision? Do you have dogs? How many/size? I saw that Captain's Cove says "Pet Friendly" right on their webpage but didn't see anything on Constitution. Are they "Pet Friendly"? I saw that Captain's Cove has a grassy area nearby on the satellite photos. Constitution Marina is close enough to a dog park (Zero New Washington Dog Park) during Spring/Summer/Fall, but Winter could be a toss up. What do you do in the winter?
How is the WiFi in either Marina? Is the signal good? How is the bandwidth? I'm a cord cutter, so I do stream video when I'm watching TV, would that be possible, rude to others but possible, or not possible due to technical/rules?


For NorthEast/New England Liveaboards:
How cold is it in the winter? I heat my current house almost exclusively on wood, and I'm comfortable keeping the house at 63 degrees, and can deal with 56 to 58 if I dress appropriately. Too much under that and I start to get uncomfortable.
What do you use to heat your liveaboard? With no insulation between the boat and the elements, I'd think heat would leak from the boat like a sieve, especially below the water line. I've seen posts on forced air, water, and diesel heaters...with electric being mentioned as mainly a dockside luxury. Being used to a wood stove in the basement, I enjoy the warm floor, similar to radiant heat, however it seems to me that a forced air system would be best so I could have A/C in the summer for the dogs while I'm at work. Does anyone have a dog inside their liveaboard in the summer with A/C, or does active ventilation seem to work fine?

Does anyone have experience with 2 dogs of that size (90 lbs) on a liveaboard? I've seen the suggestions on boat size for people. I'm a "loner" in that I enjoy the company of others, but I don't want them living with me (i.e. no roommate or wire or kids now or in the future, but I enjoy having visitors over). I know boats are different sizes and shapes, and there's no way to tell someone what is right for them, but I'd appreciate some pointers of what size I should be looking at. I was thinking a 40 foot monohull would work, as long as the salon had room for the dogs to stretch out. I'm not very experienced with sailboats, and less so with liveaboards, but I looked at pictures of a Hunter 36 and a 42' Catalina MK II, and the Catalina just LOOKED like it had a much larger salon (in photos), yet the beam is only ~2 feet larger on the Catalina. So back to the question, would living with 2 large dogs on a boat be uncomfortable in the 36 to 42 foot range?

My current plan, should I land this job (which I'd give myself a 5% chance of, but I do like to dream) is to move to Boston and into an apartment, return "home" on the weekends (about a 3.5 hour drive) to fix up my house and get it on the market, hopefully selling it to get out with what I owe or maybe a little more by next spring ( bought it 3 weeks before the housing bust), if not, rent it out to pay the mortgage. Then next spring/summer I'd buy my liveaboard and move in. I would also make sure to have a little extra money to buy a smaller sailboat for some day sails so I could learn more without endangering my home.

Please excuse the rambling nature of this post, I'm trying to get my head around the possibility that I very well could start on the path to finally living my dream. If something I've asked has been discussed to death, please point me to the thread and I'll gladly read. I'm mostly a Lurker anyhow. :-)
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Old 07-03-2013, 10:35   #2
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Re: Liveaboard advice for New England

Lots of questions. I will try to fill in some where I can.
  • Captain's Cove vs. Constitution Marina (for winter) - No contest. Constitution Marina lives hands down. I have a friend that is living at Captain's Cove right now. No dockside water, no bathrooms, no showers. At Constitution Marina, they have dockside water for refilling your water tanks, big, clean bathrooms with showers and from Friday night through Sunday they open the heated outdoor pool. Lots of people living aboard there with a great community.
  • Live aboard for summer - While they don't advertise it, all marinas in the area will allow it (just don't come straight out and say it). So a common thing is people will live aboard at Constitution for the winter and elsewhere for the summer.
  • Cost at Constitution Marina - They charge $45 per foot of length of your boat for the winter plus metered electric. For the summer it's $179 per foot plus electric. If you do year-round, they just average it out and charge you the same cost every month. Other marinas in the area may be as cheap as $95 per foot for the summer.
  • Heat - Our friends at Captain's Cove are only living aboard for this winter in New England. By next winter they plan to be way south. So they are just using an oil-filled radiator style electric heater. But during the blizzard a couple of weeks ago, they lost electricity for about 24 hours. The point being, you really need a heating source that does not depend on shore power. I plan to add an Espar Aritronic D4 diesel forced hot air heater to my boat for when we begin living aboard full time. There are many different posts on heating, just search the forums.
  • WiFi - Most live aboards end up adding some sort of a WiFi antenna to bust the signal. Again, lots of discussion just do a search.
  • Clear Shrink Wrap for the Winter - This will help with keeping a better ambient temperature and will essentially double your living space. I believe Tim R has a blog posting about it and was interviewed by his local TV station about living aboard in Maine where he talks about it. Do some more searching.
  • Dogs as Live Aboards - Our experience is that dogs adapt very quickly to boats at the dock. We keep our boat at Hingham Shipyard because they are dog friendly and there is an off lease dog park right next door. (This is also a good spot for working in Boston because a commuter boat leaves from here. Summers only though.) Most mornings I make a cup of coffee and then take the dog on a dinghy ride to the park so she can run and do her business. There are several people that live aboard year-round at Constitution Marina with dogs. They are pet friendly.
  • Dogs on Boats - Again, there are lots of posts on this. Here is a good one. And here is a post on my blog about this.
  • Boat Size and Choice -This is too big to really discuss quickly. You need to spend a lot of time looking at boats, both in person and on the internet, to find what you like. Everyone has different tastes. What I can tell you is that you are comparing apples and oranges so far. A Hunter 36 is nothing like a Catalina 42. In boat world, 6 feet of length and 2 feet of beam is a big difference! My wife and I are comfortable on a 31 foot boat with our dog. But there are 36 foot boats we have been on that are not as comfortable as our 31 footer.
Good luck with the job and your quest to become a live aboard.

Jesse
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Old 07-03-2013, 11:02   #3
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Re: Liveaboard advice for New England

Why don't you read this book first....all the answer are there.....as the guy is living in boston....

Essentials of Living Aboard a Boat, The: Amazon.ca: Mark Nicholas: Books

second, I hope your dogs are really mellow or it will be hard to move around for you....
Third, dogs are subject to be sea sick like humans....not so nice to comeback home and find out they puked everywhere....
Last, main issue with living aboard in cold climates is condensention....they dogs will make a lot of that so you will have the keep the place pretty warm and or well ventilated, a dehumidifier would be a good idea too.....

Good luck, hope it helps too..Im planning on doing the same thing too but in Canada....only colder!!!
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Old 07-03-2013, 11:13   #4
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Re: Liveaboard advice for New England

Thanks for the mention Jesse. I think you covered all the OPs question but I will chime in about the heat and dogs.

We have a diesel fired heater that keep the boat as warm as we like. It is completely 12v driven so no worries about AC power loss. One of the reasons I opted for this heater was to extend our cruising season. We cruise from 5/1-12/1 and the heater comes in handy to keep us warm at anchor. Our boat has a 210gal fuel capacity which usually gets us through the winter. We spend about $800 per season on fuel for heat.

We also have a dog. A 60lb pure bred mutt. He has been sailing with us since 2006 and living aboard with us since 2010. He has not issues and is just as comfortable on the boat as he was on shore. Most dogs will adapt to most anything just to please their master.

Your plan sounds pretty good. A key being that you understand that learning to sail will take time and you should start small. This is how I started(when I was about 8) but many will disagree with my opinion. There are plenty of success stories about buying a big first boat and successfully learning to sail and cruise. I would bet there are more stories that never get told about unsuccessful attempts. Not many go to a sailing forum to tell everyone that they failed and are giving up. The only one i can think of is Glen Damato who wrote a book about his experience(Breaking Seas). Definitely worth a read for someone getting into this lifestyle.
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Old 07-03-2013, 13:46   #5
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Re: Liveaboard advice for New England

For an interesting, entertaining, (and inspiring!) story of an unsucessful attempt, take a look at this thread.

Attempted Trip to Bermuda

It's got a lot of attention.
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Old 07-03-2013, 14:29   #6
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Thanks for taking the time to respond guys....I really appreciate the input!

Jesse - your advice on the Marina makes good sense. Captains cove's website says they have the amenities you mentioned they lack...so its always good to get a first hand view. I'd definately be down with moving from Constitution for some summer savings...I guess that would be a question to cover if I get closer to making the move. Who doesn't want to save $3000+ lol.

The diesel option you mentioned and Tim seconded makes sense to me. I do my own maintenance on my diesel [fuel oil] furnace now so I'd assume it wont be much different as long as there is a good manual included. Apart from a rheostat most trouble seems to be fixed woth nozzles and filters. This site has been a huge help when it comes to tips on diesel heaters and brands folks trust. How do you deal with summer heat for the dogs? I read your blog post on dogs...very informative thanks for the link. Great advice on Hingham Shipyard! that's exactly what I would want...close access to a dog park for the boys to run.

I guess with boat size I was more wondering if anyone had 2 lab size dogs aboard a boat and could tell me their experience. My dogs do like to run and play...but when inside they mostly are lazy. And true to labs...they will eat ANYTHING...including bark on the wood for the woodstove....go figure.

WiFi...I was more interested in if the free wifi they advertise was good and useful, or just barely web surfing and email passable. I'be got a bullet 2 HP and 24dbi dish already...I'm a networking Guy by trade. :-)

Shrink wrap...I'd love to know more on this. All I'm used to is out of water storage shrinkwrap where you can't get on the boat without poking holes. Any ideas where I could find a few pictures about this type of winter addition? Ill google it....but figured I'd ask anyhow. :-)

I am going to have to get on a few boats to look at size. I always figured the extra beam wasn't much, but I guess it must make a difference. Why would you consider the hunter and Catalina apples and oranges? Solely based on size or also amenities?

Kinkajou - I bought that book...gotta love ebooks and instant delivery.... Thanks...ill read up on it. My dogs can be real mellow...or hyper...depending on if its dinner time. They should be ok on sea sickness, I've had them out before without trouble and they're great in the car. I'm glad you mentioned condensation. I forgot about that. I think heat and dehumidifier at shore would be a good combo.

Tim - do you have an AC unit with the forced air as well? What about number of vents? Or location? Do you do all intake on one side of the boat and return on the other? Where is your heater located?

Clever - I read that thread. Poor Guy. Lol. I'm hoping if I end up in Boston to become somewhat of a Marina rat to try and get some experience helping folks doing day sails and maybe checking out different boat setups that people are willing. A second boat to kick around would be great. I almost had a free small sailboat that had broken free of its mooring for the third time after hurricane Irene...but couldn't get permission to take possession of it before it got smashed into rocks on the next storm. Long story.
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Old 07-03-2013, 14:48   #7
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Re: Liveaboard advice for New England

In the summer we have reverse cycle AC to keep us and the dog cool in the marina. Out at anchor, it is usually much cooler and you can usually always anchor in such a way as to face into the wind. Swimming in Maine water is another option. That will cool you down real quick.

The aft cabin has it's own 6000 btu AC unit. The salon and forward cabin have a 12000btu unit. Intake is under stbd settee. Output is above settee and in forward cabin. We usually sit on port side of salon. AC output is on stbd and blows up and cools the cabin nicely.

Heater is in cockpit locker. See my website below for more info and photos.

Here is a photo of our winter sun porch. Heats up into the 80s on sunny days. Reduces the heating bill nicely.

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Old 07-03-2013, 14:53   #8
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That has to be one of the most awesome pictures I've seen. How do you get in and out? Overlapping plastic for a door or is there a special trick? Does. The marina do that for you? That setup means no cruising?
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Old 07-03-2013, 16:58   #9
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I framed out a door with 2x3s near the aft stud side. You can just see the upper corner of it.. I designed and built the cover myself. My wife and I can get it assembled and shrunk in a day. No cruising with that up.
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