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Old 02-08-2014, 11:54   #1
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Lightbulb Advice for Living on a Sail boat

I am interested in purchasing a sail boat to live on. I have only sailed once in my life. It made a huge mark on mind my entire life. I never took the chance and put myself in situations that allowed me to learn the ropes of sailing. I want to now. No better time than now! Maybe someone can point me in the right direction for advice on purchasing, owning, maintaining, and living on a sailboat. Thank you for taking the time to read and I look forward to any advice or information.

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Old 02-08-2014, 12:16   #2
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Re: Advice for Living on a Sail boat

Before you take the plunge, do your research. Do you want to go cruising or just live on a boat at the dock. If you're serious, buy a boat that you can single hand then learn how to sail, motor, dock, anchor, etc. There are a number of good sailing schools where you live aboard and learn to handle the boat. Good luck!

My soul is full of longing for the secret of the sea,
and the heart of the great ocean sends a thrilling pulse through me.
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Old 02-08-2014, 13:48   #3
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Re: Advice for Living on a Sail boat

Some yacht clubs have sail training programs. Check it out.

Do not buy a boat before you find out for sure that you still like sailing. Owning a boat, for many of us means maintaining it ourselves, if you've the money to hire it out, good on you, but then you have to trust their work. There are also berthing costs, the purchase price is just the start.

If you learn well without instruction, just from your mistakes, get a dinghy and teach yourself. You'll know when you're ready to move up to something you live on. One problem with living aboard that people have is that their *stuff* takes over the boat and it becomes a big project to take it out for a sail, just stowing everything. If you are of a Spartan nature, and have fewer possessions, you can minimize that, but you live in a culture that exhorts you to get stuff, so you may find a minimalist life style difficult to achieve.

Ann & Jim, U.S. s/v Insatiable II, SE Qld, for a while
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Old 02-08-2014, 13:54   #4
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Re: Advice for Living on a Sail boat

get rid of most of your belongings and furniture to start with. living on a boat is a huge adjustment from living ashore. the best part is being in the cockpit watching the sunset while drinking a cold beer with your partner alongside. if you are OK with living in a space the size of a large closet then this may be the life for you. perhaps you should try to meet other sailors with boats your area and ask them if you can go sailing as their crew? ask around you may be surprised.
sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most.
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Old 02-08-2014, 14:05   #5
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Re: Advice for Living on a Sail boat

Most marinas and yacht clubs have people looking for crew. Walk the docks and see if you can meet someone with a boat looking for crew. Often people that race boats are seeking individuals they can rely on to show up for a race. Put your name up on the clubs bulletin board as inexperienced available crew. Experience is not needed but some basic understanding of a boat is a must. You could take a couple of lessons for the basics. From there, you will begin to find the answers to questions you didn't know you had.
All the best,
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Old 02-08-2014, 15:05   #6
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Re: Advice for Living on a Sail boat

First thing you need to do is see if you really could live on a boat. Pick a room in your house and only use that room, the kitchen and bathroom as your living quarters. Figure out what you actually need to live and store all the rest of your junk in the rest of your digs. Pick three drawers in your bureau and put only the folding clothes that you will wear in their. Partition off about three feet of your closet and put the clothes that you will wear in that section. Take all the rest of your clothes and cover them with plastic and leave them untouched in the rest of the closet. Cut your kitchen utensils down to a couple of pots, a frying pan and a pressure cooker if you have one. Get a shoe box and put your other kitchen utensils into it. All the rest of the kitchen detritus is off limits and not to be used. Try living like that for a month and see how you get by. Maybe boat living isn't so romantic or, like me, you'll love it. You don't want to drop a bunch of money into a boat and find you really hate living aboard. The above limitations are based on a boat between 30'-40'. If your looking larger that that, you can allow more stuff though not more space. It you'll have to go smaller, cut your space and stuff allowance in half.

As others have said, walk the docks and talk to people. Boat owners and liveaboards tend to be friendly and willing to share their experiences and insights. They'll probably let you go below and see the size of the space that you are going to be inhabiting. Ask them what tricks they are using to get by in a small space.

Question people on the docks about a good broker. Some are just used car salesman trying to sell the latest whiz bang but ugly boat with a big commission. Others may even be living your life style and will be able to give you really good advice and find the right boat for you.

Good luck on your quest.
Peter O.
'Ae'a Pearson 35
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Old 02-08-2014, 15:56   #7
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Re: Advice for Living on a Sail boat

Through the years it has been all too common for people to get hooked on the dream, buy the boat, and sometimes even take off without investing in the fundamentals. That is a pretty high risk strategy. My recommendation is to proceed a step at a time with deliberation. The first thing is to learn to sail. If possible join a club that will give you access to a small sailboat (as in dinghy). Or make yourself available as crew. If nothing else buy a small boat and start practicing. But first become a sailor, which is best done on a small boat where it is easier and the mistakes less costly. Then move up to crewing on coastal and offshore passages. In parallel take seamanship, piloting, and navigation courses available cheap from US Power Squadrons and USCG Auxiliary, or for substantially more at ASA. Read a ton of books and this forum . Finally, before putting your life savings into a boat, arrange to charter one on vacation. A flotilla charter is a good way to start as there is some supervision (try Adriatic Greece). Then you will have some idea whether this is for you, and if so, what you would like in a boat.

Asking the forum for specific advice on a boat will likely lead to the usual conversations: mono vs. cat, large vs. small, heavy vs. light, all mod cons vs. back to nature. Only you will know what is going to work for you, but that will take time to discover. It also takes time to build up the skills necessary to sail and maintain a cruising boat. And starting out with a cruiser as a first boat implies a very steep learning curve indeed - why make it so hard?

Of course if you just want to live on the water get a houseboat and maybe a sailing dinghy.

FWIW my parents started sailing with an 8' wooden dinghy in Charleston harbor towards the end of WWII. Personally I learned on what was known as a sailboard (a Sunfish, predecessor to a Laser). Many cruisers started small, and IMHO most of the best sailors started there - because there is a "feel" and responsiveness that is lost as boats get larger.

My intent is not to discourage you, but instead to set you on a course that will reliably get you where you want to go, or at least provide a graceful exit if you change your mind.

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Old 02-08-2014, 15:59   #8
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Re: Advice for Living on a Sail boat

I guess I differ in my advice from others. The first thing I would advise is to buy Cap'n Fatty Goodlander's book Buy, Outfit and Sail. A nice step by step guide to buying a cheap boat and sailing away.

Then google "Compass Marine How To article" and "Maine Sail sailboat owners". Read everything by this guy (same person, great guy). This will give you some insight into what boat maintenance will be like.

From there you can down two different paths: self taught or professional taught. For the professional route, find a place to start taking ASA classes. Good route for many.

But I prefer the self taught. For this route find your local US Power Squadron and take the American Boating Course. It will teach you all the basics like right of way, basic navigation, using the VHF, using a basic GPS, etc. You can take it online too. Now buy a cheap, smallish boat, around 27 feet preferably with an inboard diesel. Start taking it out locally in good weather. Stuff will break and you will have to learn to fix it. That is the biggest thing you need to learn. Sailing is easy but maintaining the boat takes work.

Good luck and fair winds,


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Old 02-08-2014, 16:12   #9
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Re: Advice for Living on a Sail boat

I would try to stay on land while learning to sail. It may be difficult to live in a small sailboat and sail it. But maybe if you get a bigger boat, this stops being an issue.

Sort of like our boat is in either mode. Hence my guess.

Have fun,
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Old 02-08-2014, 17:01   #10
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Re: Advice for Living on a Sail boat

Spydir, most of the above is good advice, but they left out something important:

Your very questions come up on this forum almost every week, literally dozens of times since I have been a participant. The good folks here post and repost their answers, sometimes with great detail and thought. The answers don't change with time, so the threads from past years still contain very good info.

SO, mate, please use the search functions and try simply browsing the posts to find a huge cache of info directly applicable to your situation. After a lot more reading on your part you will be able to post more specific questions, and we will be glad (as a group) to attempt to answer them. But frankly, I get weary of retyping the same old things... it's all been said before, and it is there for you to see and to learn from.

Wishing you the best of outcomes,

Jim and Ann
s/v Insatiable back in MBTBC marina, waiting for next eye jobs to be done
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Old 02-08-2014, 17:18   #11
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Re: Advice for Living on a Sail boat

You live in a sailing town, should be no problem finding a boat to crew on. College of Charleston used to have a sailing program, operated out of Patriots Point, adjacent to Chas Harbor Marina in Mt Pleasant. You might check that out, and there are definitely sailing schools, like Charleston Sailing School and Ondeck.

There is a lot to learn, in buying, maintaining, sailing, repairing a boat. Online resources, like this forum, and books like This Old Boat by Casey and Voyagers Handbook by Leonard are examples of good reference books.

Yacht World is where you search different boats for sale, just to educate yourself about different characteristics, and get a handle on the market. Online boat reviews and builder or design specific forums can be helpful.

US Power Squadron is a good place to learn how to navigate. They have a basic boating course to I think, although programming has changed some I think since I was involved. It is affordable, and a good place to meet other boaters, and more opportunities to crew perhaps.
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Old 03-08-2014, 11:14   #12
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Re: Advice for Living on a Sail boat

Think of living aboard as a camping trip. That you never go home from. Hobbies, etc mostly need to go away. There isn't room. You have room for essential tools and, spares, a skillet and a pot, pie plate (best dinner plate on a sailboat!), a coffee mug / beer mug, toothbrush and shave gear, several changes of clothing that don't need to hang up, safety equipment, spare sails, spare lines, maybe a laptop, and that's pretty much it, on boats under 30 feet, which is where you want to be for an inexpensive first liveaboard sailboat. Even so, you have to step outside just to change your mind. When you are working on stuff, you have even less room. And you will pretty much always be working on stuff.

Anyway, my advice, look for a mid 70s fiberglass cruiser under 33 feet. You can pick these up ready to sail for under 10k, and ready to fix up for sometimes almost nothing. I paid 2k for my current boat, dead engine (eventually got it running but now I am replacing it with electric) but ready to sail. Be in the right place at the right time with cash immediately available, and be patient for a good deal to come along. Most of these boats are built like tanks because they didn't know yet how light and cheap they could build them. Be prepared for all plastic and much of the wood on a 40 year old fg boat to disintegrate on short notice. Standing rigging will be ready to replace even if it looks great. 40 year old hoses are your sworn enemy. Raw water piping and fittings, ditto. The head and entire sewage system probably needs to be replaced immediately. This is just to initially catch up on maintenance. You still have the never ending battle of keeping up with it. I don't want to scare you away, but you need to understand that sometimes living on a boat is frustrating. Be realistic in your expectations. Otoh, it can be pretty cool at times.
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Old 07-08-2014, 19:40   #13
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Re: Advice for Living on a Sail boat

Thank you all for the advice. Greatly appreciated.
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Old 07-08-2014, 20:58   #14
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Re: Advice for Living on a Sail boat

There is a HUGE difference between "Sailing" and "Living Aboard".
Very few "Live Aboards" just drop the mooring ball or dock lines and go out for an afternoon or sunset sail! Sure there are those that do...there are exceptions to almost every rule of thumb. But for the most part Living Aboard and Sailing are two totally different things.

When we were cruising for example with the kids we were on a 36ft boat and it was plenty big for us, but once we decided we wanted to "live aboard" we knew right away it would be impossible for us on a 36ft boat, so we bought a 50ft pig of the sailing fleet but King of Live Aboard boats to live aboard in comfort. And if we decided to head out cruising againg tomorrow, I would want that 36ft boat back! It just goes to show I think the different mindset and needs of Sailing, Cruising, and Living Aboard.

PS: The di-hard sailors will despise you as just a live aboard if you don't get out sailing once a week and the cruisers will bad mouth you if you are not moving your location more frequently than the seasons. So lesson No 1, stop giving a **** about what other people think!
Rich Boren Living Aboard in Morro Bay, CA and the owner of:
Cruise RO Water High Output Water Makers
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Old 07-08-2014, 21:11   #15
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Re: Advice for Living on a Sail boat

The couple of liveaboards (couples, recovering from injuries) I've known (other than those in houseboats), stayed at our marina for a year or two between lengthy cruises. Both boats (trawler and ketch) were mid-forty feet or longer in length. Trawler went to Mexico but then became land cruisers (probably due to health issues) while the ketch sailed toward the South Pacific:


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