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Old 18-08-2013, 08:19   #1
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Soon to be liveaboards

A few years ago my wife and I decided that when we retire, we're going to do so on a sailboat and become travelers. So I've spent a fair bit of my spare time in the last few years researching everything I could on sailboats and the liveaboard life. I've been perusing forums like this one for a while and recently joined up (to get rid of the ads). So this is my first post and I would like to invite opinions on our plans.

I've been around boats most of my life and we both love boating. That said, neither of us have very much experience on sailboats. In fact, just about the only real experience we've had was last year in Jamaica when we discovered the resort had Hobies that we could take out by ourselves. We had the time of our lives and tooted all over the place every day.

Maybe a little more about us. We're nearing retirement. We hate winter, love summer. Fall and spring are also pretty good, but winter, shoo. So one way or another, we were destined to be snow birds.

We live in Southern Ontario, not far north of Lake Ontario. So our sailing, for the first few years, would be just in Ontario, probably Lake Simcoe and then along the Trent/Severn either to Lake Ontario or the other way to Georgian Bay (which we love). We'll learn the ropes and practice anchoring, etc, where it's easy to do so. Then once we retire we'll head south.

So, much of our traveling will be on the ICW and then on through the Bahamas, eventually the rest of the Caribbean, and then possibly beyond (each year taking it a little further, if we feel like it). But we intend to come back home for the summers as this is where our kids are.

I don't have a real price range in mind for a boat. I could say somewhere between $40,000 and $200,000, but it will probably be somewhere in the middle (it will coincide with the sale of a house and purchase of a smaller, more rural house, so it's kind of in the air right now). Our monthly budget, when we're finally living on the boat, will be fairly decent. Probably in the $4000 range, and that will include everything, ie: food, gas, insurance, maintenance, etc.

We tend toward introvertness (is that a word?) but I have no problem meeting new people and getting out there. But our evenings are often cuddling up in front of a movie, rather than seeking out some kind of nightlife. Not sure if you needed to know that.

With all that in mind, here are my thoughts regarding our purchase of a boat:

Must Haves
Monohull
Rig - Cutter or Sloop
Headroom - I'm 6'0" and I want to stand tall everywhere below decks
A good, roomy bed - Also, I don't want to have to crawl to get into bed
Adequate draft clearance - I understand the ICW and the Bahamas limit me severely here. I'd like to hear opinions on what this number should be. I've heard anywhere from 4'6" to 6'0".
Decent speed - I don't want a racer, just something that moves decently. Is it unreasonable to hope for 7-8kts with a good wind?
Bridge clearance - Again, I don't know what this should be.

The above things are mandatory and things I can't change once I own my boat. There are a bunch of other things I'd like, including a step or diving platform at the stern, adequate tankage (which I assume I can change), comfortable/spacious cockpit, comfortable/spacious cabin, a real nav station, etc. Also, I'm not big on maintenance so I'd prefer a newer boat with less wood on deck.

A few other items.

I never want to have to worry about how much water I'm using, where I'll get water next, or how good that water will be. This is something I would stress mightily over. So I'll be getting a watermaker. And my plan is to get a boat without a watermaker so I can buy and install it myself and I know it will be in tip/top condition from day 1, and also understand how it works.

Similarily, I never want to have to worry about how much electricity is left in my batteries, how much power I'm currently consuming, and how I'll recharge them. So I'll have an adequate solar power system I'm installing. This is an easy one, my business is solar power. Right now in my house I have a backup system that consists of 2kW of panels and 28kWh of battery (FLA) power. (For those that like to deal in amps, that's 233 amp hours at 120V, or 2333 amp hours at 12V). Not to mention another 40 panels that's pumping power straight into the grid and generating me money. Sorry, I could go on.
My boat system will be much smaller (but how much? Heh, we shall see).

Well that's a lot for now. Please, I'd appreciate any comments/thoughts/insights on our plans, including any type of boat you think would fit my bill. Thanks in advance.
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Old 18-08-2013, 08:32   #2
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Re: Soon to be liveaboards

Welcome to the forum.

Bridge clearance? Really?

If the plan is to head south, it seems silly to purchase a boat to be ICW compatible. The ICW is just a driveway, not the main road. Get yourself a seaworthy vessel, and you really aren't going to need the ICW at all. It's a great roadway for bass boats and jet skis, but....
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Old 18-08-2013, 08:54   #3
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Re: Soon to be liveaboards

+1 on the seaworthy vessel, that should be high on the list.

I think another factor to consider is size. You suggest you don't want to crawl into bed ( I think you mean into a double bed with your wife) however that can be hard to come by on a boat of sufficiently small size to be easily singlehanded. Forty feet seems to be a good size for many people when speed, cost, and accommodation are considered.
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Old 18-08-2013, 08:58   #4
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Not sure if i missed it but i would highly recommend going on a charter for a week, charter a mono first than do a catamaran. Its great to have a dream but often your first live aboard boat may not always be your best / last to meet your needs. We started out with a mono ended up converting to cats, (days on end at 15 degrees and the constant rolling at anchor etc etc etc made is happily convert)
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Old 18-08-2013, 09:08   #5
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Re: Soon to be liveaboards

BattleDuck, Welcome to the community. I noticed that, while reading your post, much of what we are accustomed to as liveaboard/cruisers matches your expectations. Well, maybe I do crawl in and out of bed....

We are not "snowbirds" as I grew up in Florida, but we fly with the same flock, as "hurricane birds" and up to Maine in the summer, then down to the Bahamas or Keys in the winter. We frequent some areas of the intracoastal waterway from the Chesapeake south and take advantage of our shoal draft and bridge clearances.

I can see easy opportunities for compliance with all your "must haves". We also have a larger bed in our aft cabin, but we chose our V-berth by our custom. We had our two teenagers move out of our aft cabin fifteen years ago, but we keep it for guests. For our electrical needs we use a wind generator and solar panel as a means to maintain our anchor/nav lights and basic house bank draw for water pressure as well as 80% of our refrigeration needs; however we also make free use of our 7KW generator and the alternator chaging from our propulsion engine. We do not have a water maker, but we rarely spend more than a month away from an easy good water supply to fill our tanks. I still favor your water maker plan, but more important to that plan is your insightful thought that installing it yourself will make you more competant. This ability to work on your boat's system will not only keep you knowledeable, but safer and wealthier!

I would question what the thought of the "real nav station" would be. It seems to me that the days of benefiting from a nav staion below have dwindled with the ability to have all the features at the helm. The VHF, radar, and chartplotter are much more functional at the helm. We keep a dry cockpit in most all conditions and electronics that remain sound in our conditions. I would add that, though we have be cruising and living aboard for more than forty years, we are "cockpit potatos", underway only in the best weather along the easiest paths.
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Old 18-08-2013, 09:09   #6
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Re: Soon to be liveaboards

Hi, thanks for the replies. Yes we definitely want a blue water boat, no question. And about 40' is approximately what I was thinking too.

I figured we'd be taking the ICW for the first few years as we headed south for winter and north for summer. What are the alternatives? A long ocean passage? Didn't know many people did that. But I am still learning.
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Old 18-08-2013, 09:14   #7
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Re: Soon to be liveaboards

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Originally Posted by Bash View Post
Welcome to the forum.

Bridge clearance? Really?

....
The capability of clearing fixed bridges has been part of our hurricane strategy that has allowed us some added safety while crusing in hurricane zones since '71. Our ketch rig allows us under 55' bridges for much of the tidal range, but a clearance under 65' would add a lot of opportunity.
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Old 18-08-2013, 09:15   #8
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Re: Soon to be liveaboards

CaptForce, thanks for the detailed, thoughtful reply.

The bed thing, yeah as we get older the bed situation becomes more important, I find. Easy in and out and comfy in between with lots of elbow room. I've seen some boats where you convert a setee into a bed every night and back every morning. That seems ridiculous. I do like the idea of having a spare for guests.

I have to look into wind generators, I really have little experience with them. My main concern is the noise they produce. I want to relax to nature sounds, not a constant buzzing/whining.

I've seen nav stations tacked onto the end of a setee like an afterthought (the smaller Island Packets come to mind). But really I'd just like a proper desk to sit at, not just for nav/comm related stuff, but for doing other business stuff/computing, small wiring jobs, etc.
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Old 18-08-2013, 09:31   #9
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Re: Soon to be liveaboards

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.............. I figured we'd be taking the ICW for the first few years as we headed south for winter and north for summer. What are the alternatives? A long ocean passage? Didn't know many people did that. But I am still learning.
There's a great mix of opportunity to use the ICW in conjunction with short hops offshore. We are among those that don't frequently do overnights. We have no time constraints and we are not making efforts to arrive at a destination quickly. We have taken as long as four months to travel from Florida to Maine. We always cut from the Chesapeake on the ICW through the North Carolina Sounds that offer much sailing opportunity. There are good inlets that allow hops offshore and choices inside from Beaufort, NC on south. Offshore is safe for us because we are weather concious and choose the best. The ICW is safe and attractive to us,- we love many of the small towns en route. Actually the inlets require the most skill, -more than offsore or in the ICW. Timing with wind and tidal current; choosing the inlets that are safe and navigating with the greater current extremes. A good boat and your learned skills we be essential regardless of your path. There are plenty of ICW crusiers that need to stay there and plenty of offshore cruisers who would not have the skill do well in the ICW.
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Old 18-08-2013, 09:42   #10
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Re: Soon to be liveaboards

Hey Welcome...

Just a few thoughts.

IF your initial purchase is made within a tighter budget, you WILL find yourself spending up to 1/3 of that again getting things right, or how you want them. Do not underestimate the refit costs.

Your budget sounds right on.

I submit that you should be looking at the top end of the production boat spectrum. Your admitted lack of enthusiasm to maintenance issues must steer you away from custom builds. You need a boat that is a series, and has good after sales service, even on used models. You need the support of someone you can email, who has experienced that same difficulty and the solution exists, "off the shelf"

Please look at 2nd hand Amel Maramu / maramu2000 etc range. These boats are very low maintenance. While we are taking care of our boat, the neighbors in the Amel are reading, and watching us.

Finally if you want to come and spend a month with us on board, cruising, and are prepared to share the costs, give us a shout via PM or email.

Prudence and Preparation avoids Problems

Good luck...
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Old 18-08-2013, 11:41   #11
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Smile Re: Soon to be liveaboards

Hello Battleduck, the wife and I (also from Ontario, retiring soon, kids/grand-kids to consider, avid Great Lakes boaters, no sail or salt water experience) are doing the same thing only we are a bit ahead of you. We have already been through the agonizing decisions over what type, size and make of boat to buy and it's docked in the Gulf waiting for us to throw off the lines. At present we are outfitting and upgrading it. Cast off will be in the next 24 months.

Plan is to summer on Georgian Bay so family can visit (our old stomping ground) and winter on the gulf side of Florida. Route back and forth will be ICW & costal on Atlantic side. Our plan is to do this for a few years then head out exploring the Gulf and Islands.

It sounds like you have made up your mind on sail but, like us, be careful your being fully honest with yourself on intended usage. Originally we also figured we had to go sail "despite our lack of sail experience" for reasons of fuel costs and ultimate seaworthiness. During our long period of research we were slowly talked out of sail by "actual" veterans our age who have been doing just this for years and were switching, or hoping to switch to a Trawler. You are likely already familiar with the raging debates on this topic and all are strong valid points supporting both. What swung us to a trawler was two unshakable truths for our situation.

1/ We have a lifetime of experience with power boats and are confident & comfortable with them and fully understand their limitations. I believe we could learn to be good sailors but realistically we are too old (lazy?) to ever become "great" sailors, therefore I become the weak link and the added security of a sound and capable sailboat is lost.

2/ We are not interested in long open ocean passages (where the sailboat is most in it's element). While we are somewhat reclusive like yourself, we enjoy meeting people and exploring the small towns and villages along the way as you would find on the ICW and the countless canals / rivers in the US and Canada. This makes draft and mast height a serious limitation to where we can or cannot go. When it comes time to explore the Gulf & islands, we may not be able to go directly from point A to D via open ocean but the trawler is perfectly capable of safely Island hopping from one to another to get to D.

Once we sorted this agonizing decision out, picking our boat (new home) became fun and the countless other decisions just seem to fall into place. Unlike yourself, we decided not to keep a land based dwelling for economic reasons and as it was one less thing to plan around or worry about. The kids / grand-kids can come visit us during the summers on the Great Lakes, and/or fly out to wherever we may be in the winter & spend their vacations with us.

Best of luck, now stop dreaming and do it! We wasted the best part of a decade stewing about this and that, get the boat be it sail or power, you will be amazed how quickly it all starts falling into place.
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Old 18-08-2013, 12:38   #12
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Re: Soon to be liveaboards

BattleDuck, I was just reminded of another cruising couple that we met a few years ago in the Florida Keys. They were fulltime liveaboard cruisers with two modest vessels. One was kept in Georgian Bay and cruised in the summer, but on the hard in the winter. We met them on the way to the Dry Tortugas on their winter boat that they kept inland from Ft. Myers at hurricane protected LaBelle, Florida during the summer.
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Old 18-08-2013, 12:42   #13
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Re: Soon to be liveaboards

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Originally Posted by Bash View Post
Welcome to the forum.

Bridge clearance? Really?

If the plan is to head south, it seems silly to purchase a boat to be ICW compatible. The ICW is just a driveway, not the main road. Get yourself a seaworthy vessel, and you really aren't going to need the ICW at all. It's a great roadway for bass boats and jet skis, but....

Oh I disagree. Stuff happens and you have to come in. MOST bridges you would have to deal with in Florida either open or have 65' clearance at mean high tide. The one exception is one of the bridges on the Cross-Florida Canal. I wouldn't buy a boat just to deal with that one bridge, but you might have truly urgent need to come in.

Sorry, but I think someone was pulling your beginner's leg there.
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Old 18-08-2013, 12:48   #14
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Re: Soon to be liveaboards

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Originally Posted by BattleDuck View Post
Hi, thanks for the replies. Yes we definitely want a blue water boat, no question. And about 40' is approximately what I was thinking too.

I figured we'd be taking the ICW for the first few years as we headed south for winter and north for summer. What are the alternatives? A long ocean passage? Didn't know many people did that. But I am still learning.

You can take the ICW as your "highway," but you'll be motoring a large part of the time. It has multiple sections too narrow to truly sail unless the wind is perfect. You don't want to buy a sailnboat just to use it as a motor boat.

IMO, doing this can lull you into a false sense of security. You need to take that puppy out on the water and learn to sail her there. THEN using the ICW can be a choice -- for comfort, for instance, if the open ocean is rough. You'll need it to get into many marinas.

By the way, I learned a lot about sailing by setting myself a goal of sailing the boat 7 days in a row. That meant I went out on days that were either more or less windy than I was used to, and it was a very good thing to do.

If you're not experienced, take experienced people along with you, but if you're going to cruise, you're going to have to be comfortable sailing the boat under a variety of conditions.
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Old 18-08-2013, 18:29   #15
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Re: Soon to be liveaboards

Hi All, Thanks again for the responses. I'm finding the people in this forum are fantastic for the energy they put into helping folks like us.

Just a few thoughts on some of the thoughts above..

Trawlers vs sailers. I'm aware of the ongoing debate and it's kind of a fun, spirited one. I like trawlers and the idea of motoring in a trawler, and as I said I've been around motorboats most of my life so Day 1 I'd be way more comfortable in one. But we're still leaning towards sailboats as we have since my wife first pitched the idea at me 3 years ago. At the moment we're hoping to (one day) go way further afield (awater?) which can only be accomplished in a sailboat. Plans may change before then, who knows? Nothing is set in stone, no matter who sticks a sword in it. For now let the wind carry us...

The ICW. I'm pretty sure our first trip south will be on the ICW, but again who knows. I'd like the option, though. And I need a shallow draft for the Bahamas anyways. Still, I've yet to hear opinions on what kind of draft I need.

The bridge thing. Still not sure what to make of this topic.

Oh here's a good one. Keeping a boat down south and flying back and forth to another home/boat. I'm not opposed to this, I think it's a pretty good idea actually. The only reason we would still have a land-based home here is because our kids will/may still not have a permanent home in the world and they need a home-base, so to speak. For a while anyway. I like the idea of keeping a boat in Georgian Bay, I absolutely love that area. My Uncle has a cottage not far from Point Au Baril, one of my favourite places.

Again, thanks everyone for the help.
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