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Old 27-12-2011, 20:56   #1
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Liveaboard Noob Needs Advice

Hello this is my first post. I am hoping you guys can give me some advice on my plan. Im planning on purchasing a boat in the 28 to 32 foot range that i can liveaboard and use as a cruiser and later as a blue ocean vessel. I will be making the purchase in about a year and a half and by then i will have about 20 to 30k saved. I am planning on an initial payment of about 10 to 15k for the boat itself and maybe 5k in repairs and upgrades (all done by me). As of now i do not know anything about sailing but will be taking some sailing courses this coming summer.

1) does this sound reasonable for a boat of this size? I have been looking at boats like the alberg 30, pearson triton and cape dory 30


Once i have the boat i will be living on it in a marina with me sister for a few months while learning how to sail and fixing up the vessel. When i am confident in my skills the plan is to mostly live on the anchor in various places in the Caribbean. The goal is to live as cheaply as possible, i have many skills including welding, mechanics, fishing and i can fix just about everything.

2) Will it be possible to live off what i can make while on the boat? Like cleaning peoples boats selling fish and other things like that. I dont need many luxuries aboard and will be eating alot of caught seafood and produce from local places.

3) What other costs besides boat repairs, insurance, mooring, food, water, fuel do i need to consider? How much will insurance cost for a first time owner thats 21 for a 30 foot boat?

4) does this sound like a plausible plan and what are the dangers and risks involved? How hard is sailing?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks
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Old 27-12-2011, 21:03   #2
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Re: Liveaboard Noob Needs Advice

Welcome aboard. Considering what you wrote about your handyman skills, you should be able to do what you are thinking.

I would suggest while you are prepping for your dream, you go sailing on other people's boats as much as possible. Yacht clubs always have people looking for crew on club races. Just walk in and ask about it. Also take some basic sailing and cruising courses, along with a Power Squadrons basic boating course (which will teach basic navigation and on-water safety).
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Old 27-12-2011, 21:19   #3
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Re: Liveaboard Noob Needs Advice

Thanks for the quick reply. Like i said this summer i will be taking a basic sailing course and advanced sailing course. I like the suggestion about the club racers but i am always at work and i live kind of far from lake michigan. Lets say i just take the courses would i somewhat know what i was doing on a boat of my own? Is it as easy as it seems to go out and buy a boat and live on it?
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Old 31-12-2011, 15:58   #4
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Re: Liveaboard Noob Needs Advice

Short answer, no. I'm on the west coast, and most marinas aren't too excited about live aboards. Some have a waiting list.......

I had a Catalina 30 for 21 years.....great space, middle of the road boat, and available at a good price. Check them out on Yachtworld.com. Then start looking for a slip. With my first boat, I paid for an empty slip for two months before I got a boat.....and it was worth every penny. Even just looking will help you get a feel for what you're getting into. Enjoy the process! Eat beans and rice, and save, save, save. It's worth it.
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Old 31-12-2011, 16:37   #5
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Re: Liveaboard Noob Needs Advice

I think you're on a fine track but a lot will depend on how your feelings change and some unknowns that you really can't prepare.

Getting a slip can be a pain in the ass but you can also be lucky. Here in San Diego there are slips available, in 2007 everything had a ~6 month wait, and now we're getting more to a position where the nice marinas with the lowest cost are packed and you're left with more pricey options and places that don't really want to deal with liveaboards. The kind of places you'll pick because you have no other choice and you're waiting to leave.

A lot of people on the water are wary of new folks. I'm really not trying to sound like an elitist prick but most of my friends on the water are folks with some experience under the belt: it's just easier to relate to them and our reality about the water is generally the same.
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Old 31-12-2011, 16:45   #6
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Re: Liveaboard Noob Needs Advice

Regarding money I don't know what job you already have but you should probably try to stick with that. Wherever you go there are local people who clean boats, sell fish, dive bottoms, etc. You showing up and disrupting that flow to pay for your provisions to the next port doesn't really go over that well, and honestly a lot of marinas won't even let you do that since you're not insured (yes, really they want all workers to be insured).

Not trying to discourage you, just trying to set some somewhat accurate expectations.

There's a saying (that I'm butchering) that goes something like "A person's excitement about a subject is inversely proportionate to their knowledge of it." Successful boat people get the knowledge and despite the excitement dropping off the reality is still something they want and outweighs (over time, we're talking net here) the problems.

Good luck man. You've got a great idea, just need to shape it a bit.
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Old 31-12-2011, 16:52   #7
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Re: Liveaboard Noob Needs Advice

Everything has a place, everything in its place.
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Old 02-01-2012, 13:00   #8
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Re: Liveaboard Noob Needs Advice

Thanks for the advice. Currently i am working at an automotive trim and upholstery shop but we also do boat seats, covers and stuff like that. Would it be worth it to bring a sewing machine with, would people be interested in stuff like that possibly even sail repair and canopies? I really want to be able to live on what i can earn at sea and not have to dip in to savings every month. Where are the cheapest marinas located?
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Old 02-01-2012, 18:49   #9
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Re: Liveaboard Noob Needs Advice

Quote:
Originally Posted by kevbot9294 View Post
Thanks for the advice. Currently i am working at an automotive trim and upholstery shop but we also do boat seats, covers and stuff like that. Would it be worth it to bring a sewing machine with, would people be interested in stuff like that possibly even sail repair and canopies? I really want to be able to live on what i can earn at sea and not have to dip in to savings every month. Where are the cheapest marinas located?
My wife does marine canvas work including upholstery, but I just talked to her and she said there's definitely a specific niche market for marine upholstery specifically and outside the range of what most canvas people do (working with vinyl in particular).

Cheapest marinas are, generally, in the places with the worst weather and the least amount of boats (they tend to happen together). Southern California is probably the most expensive, Florida and the "the south" in general is pretty cheap (compared to San Diego), and the Texas gulf area isn't too bad. To put some numbers behind that I had a friend spending $3000 a year in Texas for a boat that he was spending ~$800/month on here in San Diego. So that's about 1/3 the cost of San Diego.

Of course the problem is that the gulf can (in addition to generally reprehensible weather) get cyclones that can really trash boats, beyond the fact that it's sort of gross there anyway (I'm sure I'll get some argument out of that from folks and I don't mean to insult anyone).
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Old 02-01-2012, 20:26   #10
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Re: Liveaboard Noob Needs Advice

So you're saying that there's a decent demand for vinyl work? I am pretty familiar with vinyl seat upholstery and sewing. Would it be reasonable to think i can make some decent money doing something like that, and welding little things here and there? What I'm really trying to ask is: is it possible to make enough money working off my boat and doing odd jobs to sustain general living? I would like to anchor down as much as possible in various places in the Caribbean.
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Old 17-01-2012, 09:47   #11
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Re: Liveaboard Noob Needs Advice

Hey kevbot, I like your style!!! I was in your shoes a few years ago and I may have some great advice for you. First let me tell you what I did, then I'll give the advice...
I had the same goal as you to learn how to sail well and eventually do some bluewater cruising. I don't know what your backround is, but I grew up living on and working on powerboats. So I already had a ton of seamanship skills (volenteered for coastguard as teenager, worked on fishing boats, etc), but had never sailed a day in my life. The appeal is simple: sailing is the most fun and cost effective way to explore, adventure, and live. The lifestyle is awesome! I started about 2.5 yrs ago and I'm 26 now, and since my first day sailing I've logged several thousand miles in some incredible places. I'm also new to this forum, and many of the old salts on here might laugh at this story, but here's how I did it and spent less than $10,000 to date on boats, gear, etc...
First of all, don't waiste your time or your money saving to "do it big". And if you have experience on boats, there's no need to spend money on sailing lessons. I read a bunch on forums like this about what boats are quality well-built boats, and what boats aren't. I took a drive to the bay area (about 8am) in CA (lived in lake tahoe at the time), bought a 1978 23' Ericson sloop on a trailer for $1,500 from a pregnant mother. Since she was pregnant, I didn't want to ask her to get up on the boat and show me how to rig it (mast and rigging were down when I bought it). So I stopped at Barnes and Noble on my way back to the lake and bought the book, "Fundamentals of sailing", by Gary Jobson. I got to the launch ramp at the lake about 4pm just before they closed the gate. I couldnt wait to get on the water, so I launched my new boat with the mast still down an everything. I motored to the closest calm sheltered cove, opened the book, and proceeded to step the mast and rig the boat with my girlfriend while floating. This book had a short section on what is what on a sailboat and combining that with common sense, we figured it out around 7pm. I skipped to the chapter with a diagram of how to set the sails in relation to the wind direction, set my sails, and experienced the sweetest feeling: the wind grabbing my sails, heeling my boat over on angle, and propelling it through the water. 8pm = WAHOO! I'm sailing! ...8:30 wind died, we anchor for the night, and read the book cover to cover. The next morning we sailed all day learning everything from trimming your sails, to tacking, jibing, reefing your main, etc. I later learned that this was the book many of the sailing schools use to teach the basics over several weeks and hundreds of $$ in lessons. We learned the basics in 36hrs with a $15 book. I sailed almost everyday through that whole summer. Stuff on my boat broke, so I learned how to fix it myself. My next big expense was $200 in used books off amazon. I bought books on every topic I might need to learn for bluewater sailing, and again tought myself rather than getting lessons. My sailing library gave me private lessons from the most experienced sailors on the planet, not some sailing club instructor. If you'd like, I can give you a list of the books I found most useful, which cover everything from handling onboard emergencies, to storm tactics, fixing everything on a boat from diesel engines to wiring, provisioning, medicine at sea, cooking at sea, cruising routes, to books of a particular interest to guys like us like "the cost concious cruiser", by the Pardy's.
Books = cheap knowledge. Teaching yourself = making mistakes yourself and learning from them.
I sold that boat for twice as much as I bought it for at the end of the summer and the next year I bought a 30' sloop and sailed from Northern CA to Mexico, trying all of the tactics I'd read about in the open ocean (coastal sailing experience is a must before bluewater). I sailed for 3.5 months on the pacific and encountered everything from 25ft+ seas up near Oregon to 60knot winds in the Channel Islands. I learned how import jack lines are when waves crash over your bow while tending sails; how important it really is to reef BEFORE the wind picks up too much. One more thing, through 2/3 of this trip I was single handling.
Throughout the trip I fixed up everything on the boat I could learn how to do out of a book, then sold the boat in LA for twice as much as I bought it for.
Next big expense... I got my captains lisence online through www.marinerslearningsystems.com . The total cost of the course, plus the first aid and CPR classes, plus the test and all the other BS came out to about $1,200. Now I'm working on a sailing endorsement and starting to log hrs for my Masters upgrade.

Now I know a ton about boats, but I've only been sailing for 2.5 years. Most of my time on the water was ACTUAL cruising, and there's one encouraging thing I learned in my travels for someone like you... For every 1 cruiser out there, there are 100 sailors. These sailers have nice boats that they keep in a nice slip, and some even have a ton of knowledge. But they know very little about what it actually takes to go cruising. They will sometimes be critical of you at the dock, and will most of the time seem discouraging on how hard it is to actually start cruising on a safe boat. They buy a lot of expensive equipment and hardly ever leave the dock in faul weather.
When you start cruising you'll quickly realize that the real liveaboard cruisers are so incredibly nice, helpful, and encouraging. When you meet the guys who are in the midst of a circumnavigation or have the experience of such, they are VERY generous with their knowledge and aid. They get excited when they see young blood that wants to learn and do it on a budget.
There's cruisers who will use niche skills they have to make money while traveling. Yes, this can work in many places. But rebel-heart is correct that some ports are not as freindly on this topic, particularly the more developed ports around major US cities. But in my opinion, those aren't the places I want to spend my time anyway.
There's also the occassional professional, like rebel-heart (I've read several of his posts). These guys have a ton of experience, knowledge, and take a more professional approach to a career in the marine industry. You gotta respect those guys, they do it well. But it's not the only way and it's certainly not the easiest way, and these days it's very competative on the professional front.
At any rate, here's my advice:
1. Buy a cheap (safe) smaller boat and start now. It's cheaper than most would think.
2. Read as many books as you can by the people that have really done it.
3. Learn how to fix everything on your boat yourself, while at sea.
4. Get the right kind of sewing machine, and definitely bring it w/ you.
5. Find some good mentors, show appreciation and latch on to them. Don't let other discourage you.
6. Leave sooner, with less gadgets and less money. You'll be suprised by how much fun and adventure you can have on $500-700 a month with a $10k boat.
7. The safest boat is only as safe as it's captain, be careful and open minded!

I'm currently in NY and I'm leaving in a few weeks to sail south. I'll be headed through the Bahamas and Caribbean, and down to either Trinidad or Costa Rica for the Hurrican season. Hopefully I'll see ya down there sooner rather than later!
And sorry this post turned out to be so rediculously long, I'll shut up now!
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Old 17-01-2012, 09:56   #12
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Re: Liveaboard Noob Needs Advice

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Originally Posted by kevbot9294 View Post
So you're saying that there's a decent demand for vinyl work? I am pretty familiar with vinyl seat upholstery and sewing. Would it be reasonable to think i can make some decent money doing something like that, and welding little things here and there? What I'm really trying to ask is: is it possible to make enough money working off my boat and doing odd jobs to sustain general living? I would like to anchor down as much as possible in various places in the Caribbean.
To directly answer your question... it depends on your cruising budget and how much you want to hustle/work.
Many cruisers live off $500-$800 a month. All you have to do for that is one or two canvas/vinyl projects a month and the occassional welding of someones broken stantion or bow rail. Welding and sewing are some of the best skills to have while cruising these days, along with knowing marine plumbing, refridgeration, and A/C. There's a lot of folks cruising the caribbean on nice yachts. They don't like going without their air conditioning and refridgerators! Keep an open ear, be nice to people, and don't look homeless. And don't be afraid to mention your skill sets. You'll be invited onto more yachts than you'd think to help the retired crusing couples!
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Old 25-01-2012, 15:14   #13
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Re: Liveaboard Noob Needs Advice

Nice reply Shartel. You focused on safety, education, practice, and skill-building. You made some outstanding points that apply to so many areas of life, including how important it is to be presentable in our appearance and our manners. We don't have to spend a lot of money or be wealthy, we simply need to work hard, be kind and gracious and take pride in who we are and what we are capable of doing. Encouragement and exhortation is so important in life. Kudos!
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Old 27-01-2012, 12:13   #14
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Re: Liveaboard Noob Needs Advice

Florida has the cheapest boat prices, my plan is to use an RV to live in and then just scope out the yards like at Tampa bay, not just any boat listings but just asking around, I have seen many a royal sweet deal of a blue water sailboat being almost given away.

Myself I am in Alaska and I don't work during the winter so taking off for Florida is ideal. As far as getting an RV they are going dirt cheap as well, I would be bragging but I did buy one yesterday, a big one, it belonged to the owner of my company, I completely overhauled it and then he drove it to Arizona, and then we made an agreement yesterday and I will be buying it.

Then when I go off season I will head down there and drive it to Florida, make a base of operations like a good storage place or just a garage rental for the summer while I work in Alaska.

I originally thought of keeping it on the west coast but almost anything cost more, lodging, boat parts and the regulations can be absurd about liveaboards. Another great place is Galveston Texas, I hear its dirt cheap there.
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Old 27-01-2012, 12:46   #15
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Re: Liveaboard Noob Needs Advice

Shartel - superb advice, Kevbot, you need read no further, Shartel has nailed it. Take his advice. For a young man, he knows what he's talking about.
I had the chance when I was 21 to do what you guys are doing. I didn't, and and the next 28 years were interesting, but it wasn't until I was 49 that I finally cut the docklines and took off.
Shartel, I learned to sail my first boat the same way you did - took out every book the local library had (14) and read them, then went sailing, read about what I'd done wrong, then went out again. Should have bought those books, the late fees were darn near more than their value by the end of that summer.
Nothing wrong with taking lessons though - they can get you up to speed a lot faster and keep you from ingraining your mistakes.
Go for it guys, there are more than a few here watching, and envying the choices you are making, wishing they'd made them years ago.
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