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Old 15-02-2021, 08:08   #1
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Living aboard in FL in winter and storing on land in summer. Practical?


Long time lurker here and very infrequent poster. Most of the questions I've had have already been answered through search. However, I have a larger question now....

I'm 63 and a lifelong water rat. Sailing, racing, fishing, you name it. My wife and I are both 63 and had the good fortune to retire at 55. We bought a small cruising cat, a Tomcat 9.7 upon retirement. For those of you unfamiliar, it's a 32 x 16 cat that is simple, light and fast. Very shallow draft. Decent bridge deck clearance so it's pretty comfortable even in snotty conditions. We've set it up as a couples' boat with simple systems, a little more water tankage and lots of solar – 700 watts – so we can spend time away from marinas wandering around and exploring.

We live on the Chesapeake and have explored lots of it. Boat has been great for our intended purpose. However, we're realized we don't make the most of it. For most of the sailing and fishing seasons, we split our time between sailing, fishing (on our power boats), road trips (a favorite pastime), grown children and young grandchildren. As the grandchildren came – along with soccer, basketball and baseball games, we spend less and less time on the cat.

At the same time, the pandemic has driven home how much we don't like cold winters and find ourselves “stuck in the house.” I've used the past 8 winters to finish up all my outstanding projects, restored a couple of cars, a couple more boats and build a hot rod. For the ,most part, the projects are now done.

This prompted a thought. Would it make sense to move the cat to Florida and use it as a winter home? My thinking would be to sail it down this or next spring and leave it there. Have it hauled, give it a good clean and wax and have it shrink wrapped. Go back north and have our usual summer on the Chesapeake. In November, drive our big diesel pickup filled with clothes, supplies and totes with my tools. Prep and splash the boat and live on it until the following April. Spend our time wandering around and exploring like we do on the Chesapeake.

For fishing opportunities, I would trailer a center console down and leave it on its trailer to use as and where needed. Might even leave a boat there on a trailer over the summer with the cat.

The thinking is that living on the cat down South would:

  • avoid having to buy another house
  • give us 5 full time months on the boat (versus a sporadic 8 months use now)
  • move if we don't like the neighbors
  • maybe change marinas every year or so to experience new areas
  • get us out of the cold
  • offer a different experience
  • should be a net neutral (give or take) cost wise since we already own the boat and and have marina costs already.

So, what do you all think? Is anyone already doing something like this? Potential problems I can see are:

  • finding a marina that allows liveaboards
  • security of a boat that is unattended and un-visited for 7 months of the year
  • local, county or state ordinances prohibiting what we'd like to do.

Would really appreciate any experiences, wisdom or advice you all can offer.

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Old 15-02-2021, 14:20   #2
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Re: Living aboard in FL in winter and storing on land in summer. Practical?

Thousands of people are doing just that, every year here.

Boats get dropped in Oct or Nov, cruise around, anchor or stay at marinas, but stay as a transient, do not even mention liveaboard.

Boat gets hauled in spring, usually before June, blocked, secured and strapped down. Shrink wrapping is a northern thing, not usually done in Florida. But of course, you can have it done if you wish.

Return in the fall, repeat.
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Old 15-02-2021, 14:40   #3
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Re: Living aboard in FL in winter and storing on land in summer. Practical?

"Is anyone already doing something like this?" - only about a quarter of the Florida marina population. You seem to have thought a lot of this through already, so when are you moving? You didn't mention much about money, so make sure to do your homework on the relative costs of storage, dockage, insurance (south of the hurricane line at the VA/NC line), and other differences. If you leave it on the hard, no prob, but if in the water you'll want (and the marina may require, a weekly boat tender to make sure it's not sunken. I've never seen shrink-wrap in Florida - probably a terrible idea as it would stick to the gelcoat and make the interior an oven. Security may be a thing, but storage yards have fences and guards, and they're aware of the local risks. Marinas in allowing live-aboard, and there's always an up-charge of $100-200 monthly. Electricity is usually metered, and sometimes water. Make up a budget, but it's not out-of-reach if you already used to paying for things.

You'll want to make a hurricane plan, and get over the emotions if it doesn't work and your pride-and-joy ends up tumbling down the parking lot. Southern boaters all have come to the Zen realization that it's just fiberglass, not a loved one.
John Trusty

Better to trust the man who is frequently in error than the one who is never in doubt." -- Eric Sevareid
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Old 15-02-2021, 14:45   #4
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Re: Living aboard in FL in winter and storing on land in summer. Practical?

Definitely a good plan. Not sure you really need a marina, wont you mostly just move around?
Dry store is a good idea and usually pretty secure. I think it's a 90 day limit to stay in the state untaxed, but if you dry store and don't stay over 90 days "or so" while cruising , last I heard they don't go after you as the yard work and dry storage gives Fl business. Maybe someone knows if that has changed.
If cruising longer you can always leave the state and come back. Bahamas!
If temporary, never call yourselves "liveaboards" you are "passing through".
"I spent most of my money on Booze, Broads and Boats. The rest I wasted" - Elmore Leonard

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Old 17-02-2021, 09:46   #5
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Re: Living aboard in FL in winter and storing on land in summer. Practical?

We love spending the Winter in Marathon, FL at Boot Key Harbor. Very liveaboard focused and a good community. Moorings are reasonably priced and include pumpout. Water and fuel are convenient. Bus service up and down the Keys worked and there are reasonably priced rental cars. Taxi service is fixed price and cheap. West Marine is walkable as are Publix and Home Depot.

Cheers, RickG
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Coral Bay - St. John, USVI -- Grenada Summer 2021
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cal, living aboard

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