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Old 01-07-2020, 13:33   #1
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Is my live aboard dream possible?

Thanks for taking the time by saying that I have never spent any real time on the ocean and my only boring experience is from 30 years ago with my parents 18ft ski boat. Lately I have realized that I donít want to continue that traditional living to work lifestyle.
Talking with my wife we are both falling in love with the ideal of buying a live aboard to spend 6-8 months a year cruising the Caribbean and Mexico. Then during hurricane season come back home to the Midwest and work for a few months a year.
We would have about $150K to buy/outfit a live aboard including all needed repairs and initial Maintenance. Taking early retirement my pension would only be $2,000 a month and health insurance included. Our off season home will be completely paid for so we would both be able to work those few months making approximately $6k a month (plus my 2k monthly pension) if we both worked 3-4 days a week. So a total yearly income of $55K a year with health insurance.
I am confident that I can handle nearly all needed maintenance with a little training in the specific systems combined with my decent mechanical skills.
We have no desire to sail around the world or do major crossings. We are more looking to cruise to the Caribbean or South America and spend the winter months exploring new areas. So I think a older motor yacht would fit more what we are looking for, something along the lines of older 70-80s 53ft Hatteras. It would mostly be my wife and I and our teenage son (other kids will be grown and in their own) with the occasional guest so a 3 cabin seems to fit our needs.
I guess my question is would this dream be possible? Would $3-4K a month be enough to cruise for a 6 months a year including maintenance and fuel?
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Old 01-07-2020, 14:57   #2
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Re: Is my live aboard dream possible?

Quite a first post ! First of all, if you fill out a tiny bit more info in your profile, people would be able to work out where you are and not ask or guess.


It sounds like you have a pretty significant budget to work with. Think carefully about the engines on your likely candidates. CAT / Cummins are likely newer, but parts are large and expensive and could be out of scope for an owner to work on. Detroit diesel even more so, and they are thirsty (high fuel consumption). Volvo Penta expensive parts. None will be cheap, but Yanmar, John Deere, Beta are more modern motors, often smaller and more feasible to work on yourself. Some Bayliners have Toyota Hino engines (4 cylinder) another good option that seem to last well.


A lot of the rest of boat ownership is the same. Replacement of damaged core on decks and roof, leaking windows leading to possible core damage and damage to interior wood. Transmission, shafts, shaft seals. Sometimes osmosis repairs on boats built in the 70's. Internal plumbing and wiring can always be a crap shoot.... At your price point you better be working with a surveyor who should be able to help you avoid major train wrecks.


Think about what you are expecting you life aboard to be like ? Unless you get an annual slip, tying up to a dock can be expensive, some places over $1500/month or more than my home mortgage as a transient. There may be additional fees for living aboard or you may not be allowed to do that at all in many marinas. There may be cheaper options like moorings and using the dingy to get ashore but that then precludes 110V power and air conditioning and you will likely be schlepping water.


If you truly cruise around, you will spend more time offshore in cleaner water, could use a watermaker for your fresh water supply and not be needing to pump out a black water tank. But you would want to try to maximize your solar PV installation so you have adequate electricity at anchor without having to run the engine. This could let you run AC also, especially if you splurge on some Lipo batteries to store some of that energy for nights. Spending more time on the hook may also dictate a different tender to keep you dryer in less than mirror calm conditions. Safety can also be a consideration.
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Old 01-07-2020, 15:36   #3
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Talking Re: Is my live aboard dream possible?

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Quite a first post ! First of all, if you fill out a tiny bit more info in your profile, people would be able to work out where you are and not ask or guess.


It sounds like you have a pretty significant budget to work with. Think carefully about the engines on your likely candidates. CAT / Cummins are likely newer, but parts are large and expensive and could be out of scope for an owner to work on. Detroit diesel even more so, and they are thirsty (high fuel consumption). Volvo Penta expensive parts. None will be cheap, but Yanmar, John Deere, Beta are more modern motors, often smaller and more feasible to work on yourself. Some Bayliners have Toyota Hino engines (4 cylinder) another good option that seem to last well.


A lot of the rest of boat ownership is the same. Replacement of damaged core on decks and roof, leaking windows leading to possible core damage and damage to interior wood. Transmission, shafts, shaft seals. Sometimes osmosis repairs on boats built in the 70's. Internal plumbing and wiring can always be a crap shoot.... At your price point you better be working with a surveyor who should be able to help you avoid major train wrecks.


Think about what you are expecting you life aboard to be like ? Unless you get an annual slip, tying up to a dock can be expensive, some places over $1500/month or more than my home mortgage as a transient. There may be additional fees for living aboard or you may not be allowed to do that at all in many marinas. There may be cheaper options like moorings and using the dingy to get ashore but that then precludes 110V power and air conditioning and you will likely be schlepping water.


If you truly cruise around, you will spend more time offshore in cleaner water, could use a watermaker for your fresh water supply and not be needing to pump out a black water tank. But you would want to try to maximize your solar PV installation so you have adequate electricity at anchor without having to run the engine. This could let you run AC also, especially if you splurge on some Lipo batteries to store some of that energy for nights. Spending more time on the hook may also dictate a different tender to keep you dryer in less than mirror calm conditions. Safety can also be a consideration.
What a great concise post , brovo sir !
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Old 01-07-2020, 16:11   #4
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Re: Is my live aboard dream possible?

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I guess my question is would this dream be possible? Would $3-4K a month be enough to cruise for a 6 months a year including maintenance and fuel?
Yes without a doubt!

Enjoy your travels.
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Old 01-07-2020, 16:38   #5
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Re: Is my live aboard dream possible?

Hello, Scar,

We've met power boaters who spend $4,000 US on fuel for one weekend, so get someone here to tell you what the fuel consumption is likely to be for your proposed Hatteras. It will surely be less than that, but perhaps a major factor, once you start thinking about South America.

Other than fuel and health care insurance, the budget sounds okay. Mooring costs vary considerably, plus some people like living at anchor, others do not.

Ann
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Old 01-07-2020, 17:54   #6
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Re: Is my live aboard dream possible?

Was there something specific that took you to a 53' Hatteras ? That is a lot of boat to handle and to pay for slip rental ? They say that expenses for a boat are proportional to the OAL^3. thus if you compare the owning and operating cost of a 53' boat to a 32' boat, it should be 4.5x the cost.



This class of boat, a so called express cruiser, they all have a tremendous amount of internal space for a given OAL compared to sailboats. A 32' sailboat has very little internal room at all, since the beam may be 8-9' and it is narrow at both ends, so neither end has a lot of useable space. By comparison, if one takes the Bayliner 3270, also 32' oal, it has an 11'6" beam and the stern is full width. Displacement 12500lb without a lead keel... Probably 3x the internal space than the sailboat.


The 32' Bayliner gets away with 2x 110-150hp Hino diesels and can cruise at 14kts getting 1.67nm/gal. The 53 Hatteras has 2x 400hp Detroit 8V71TI's and at 9kts should get you about 1nm/gal and at 18kt less than 0.4nm/gal. Overhaul cost of the motors run $15k each and up. TBO approximately 4-5000 hours.


I would strongly suggest you step aboard different boats and try to determine just how big you need to go because you seem to be suggesting mainly coastal cruising which doesn't require a huge boat. If you want to have the ability to take a lot of guests that puts a different spin on the discussion...
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Old 01-07-2020, 18:03   #7
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Re: Is my live aboard dream possible?

Thanks for the input so far. We would mostly want to stay on anchor. I saw a 53 Hatteras and realized how spacious they are. We will be living on board for 6 plus months a year and want a home not to feel like we are staying for a weekend. Cheaper boat with cheaper fuel costs would be great but not at the expense of comfort. But that I said I am so new I donít really know what I am talking about. Haha
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Old 01-07-2020, 18:27   #8
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Re: Is my live aboard dream possible?

Cart before the horse warning.

You would be better off learning that the dream of living aboard differs substantially from the reality. It isn’t all pretty sunsets and a steady breeze in calm water while everything is working properly and the head didn’t just erupt.

Life onboard isn’t a movie.
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Old 02-07-2020, 05:48   #9
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Re: Is my live aboard dream possible?

Scar, you'll get better input on trawlerforum.com (sister site). Several Hatt owners there...

Ditto ref DD engines. Which aren't all that uneconomical, in the grand scheme of power boats. Run the boat at lower than max theoretical hull speed and fuel will not be your largest expense. I think that might approach 1 NMPG, maybe a bit more, but I'm just guessing a bit compared to our engines and what I've read about DDs. Yes, newer engines from Cummins, Volvo, etc. can be even more economical, but decent DDs will apparently last forever, parts are apparently cheap and easy to find, maintenance/service isn't hugely difficult... and old engines already installed won't cost you an arm and a leg as would new Cummins QSCs or Volvo D13s (for example).

A 53 Hatteras is not called an express cruiser.

There are other similar boats, so while the older Hatteras line-up may suit you, you may also find a bazillion other options out there. Back to trawlerforum.

Dockage can be a thing. Daily transient rates will eat your budget in a heartbeat. Weekly rates not much better. Monthly rates, getting warmer. Annual rates, best... but then that probably doesn't match your plan.

Anchoring out can be more economical but comes with issues: need a working generator.... maybe solar would be nice... now you need a dinghy, an outboard, a lift... now you maybe need a watermaker... et cetera.

Some try a mixture of both. Home slip, but then go to the islands for a few months at a time, return to home slip.

Which means hurricane season planning. And so forth.

-Chris
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Old 02-07-2020, 05:51   #10
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Re: Is my live aboard dream possible?

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Originally Posted by JPA Cate View Post
We've met power boaters who spend $4,000 US on fuel for one weekend, so get someone here to tell you what the fuel consumption is likely to be for your proposed Hatteras. It will surely be less than that, but perhaps a major factor, once you start thinking about South America.

But then there are some who spend considerably less on fuel. $4K would likely be more than we ever spent on fuel in any given year, with twin 450s, even counting our trips from MD to FL and back.

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Old 02-07-2020, 09:28   #11
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Re: Is my live aboard dream possible?

There is a YouTube couple who have posted their annual expenses for a similar boat and situation. They live onboard about 6 months of the year. You might see what they show for expenses:
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Old 02-07-2020, 09:36   #12
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Re: Is my live aboard dream possible?

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Cart before the horse warning.

You would be better off learning that the dream of living aboard differs substantially from the reality. It isnít all pretty sunsets and a steady breeze in calm water while everything is working properly and the head didnít just erupt.
Life onboard isnít a movie.
This is a wise perspective and I'd like to echo it by recommending that you make big decisions based upon experience, not dreams.

So if you have a dream to buy a big power boat and live on the hook in the Caribbean, before you sell your house, get rid of most of your possessions, and buy a big boat, do what you can to get experience first, such as chartering a boat in the Caribbean, crewing on a boat, buying a smaller boat for weekend outings, etc.

It would be tragic to pursue the dream and find that the reality is not what you want, which happens all the time.

As a side note, don't look at boat size from the perspective of trying to create a floating condo like on land. If that's what you really want, based upon experience, that's fine. But to be practical, the smallest boat that would allow you do do what you want would be preferable- easier to handle, cheaper to maintain, etc, etc, all of which makes a big difference in practice in the real world of everyday living on a boat.
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Old 02-07-2020, 09:37   #13
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Re: Is my live aboard dream possible?

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Our off season home will be completely paid for so we would both be able to work those few months making approximately $6k a month (plus my 2k monthly pension) if we both worked 3-4 days a week. So a total yearly income of $55K a year with health insurance.
That is a contingency that I wouldn't want to have to count on.

It may well be that you could do that part, but I'd factor it in as a bonus $$$ over and above my planned budget.
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Old 02-07-2020, 09:53   #14
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Re: Is my live aboard dream possible?

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Yes without a doubt!

Enjoy your travels.
Get something with sails and you could do it for half that.
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Old 02-07-2020, 10:22   #15
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Re: Is my live aboard dream possible?

A boat for the Loop or US coastal cruising may not be the same boat you need for the Caribbean. Boats in the 40s make a nice and affordable coastal cruiser. No doubt within you power boat budget.

If you do the Caribbean you need to consider your boat’s range of 1,000 - 2,000 nm. Fuel $3-$5 per US gallons) can be limited and expensive in the Caribbean and sometimes of questionable quality. You need a watermaker, water when available in the Caribbean can cost as much as $ 0.50 per gallon. Dockage can run $2 - $4 per foot per night. Electricity can be as much as half the nightly dockage per day and may only be 50 hertz as opposed to 60 hertz. You will spend more time docked at a marina than you may think.

3’ to 6’ sea swells from the NE are pretty much the norm with trade winds of 15 - 20 knots from the NE, E and SE also a norm with wind waves of 3’ to 6’. There are good weather windows with calm seas and little wind every few weeks however.

What this says about the Caribbean is if you are power boating, 55 feet to 70 feet may be your sweetspot for a cruising couple. Potentially a CE Class A vessel.

My wife and I spent almost 2 years from the Bahamas to Grenada. There were very few couples on powerboats (trawlers, motoryachts) in the Caribbean compared to sailboats and even powercats. There is a reason.

Good luck.
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