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Old 16-08-2017, 22:38   #1
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New to Living on a Boat

Hi everyone,

I am looking to purchase a sailboat to live in. I am new to boats. What should I look out for when purchasing a used boat? Are there any prerequisites I need to meet before making my purchase (boat license, boat operation, etc.)? I don't know how to operate a boat, I only plan to live in it and learn to operate it from experienced sailors in my free time.

I live in Portland, OR. I am concerned about storms, and harsh winters.

Thanks for all your help!
- Kevin
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Old 16-08-2017, 22:50   #2
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Re: New to Living on a Boat

A catamaran , @ 38 ft , would be my advice ,,, which one depends on your personal financial situation
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Old 17-08-2017, 00:21   #3
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Re: New to Living on a Boat

Portland, eh? Storms, cold, rain, wind, yeah, you got it!

You may want to consider something with an insulated hull, stability and a good deal of internal volume, but you have a great deal of investigation to do still before even going there. A live-on can be inexpensive (relatively) all the way to the cost of a house on dry ground (or more) depending upon what amenities are "requirements" for you to be happy. Are you going to be alone? Are you working on land and needing transport back and forth? Are you using a marina? Are you thinking the inland waters are going to be acceptable for hooking the anchor in instead (consider currents here)? Have you a budget for marina fees, repairs, and assorted trades you will need to learn or hire out to handle the offsets to cost your boat will likely have based upon sale condition at the time you purchase it? Many boats can be obtained less expensively if you know what is wrong with them and have or can gain the skills to handle repairs yourself, but some repairs are actually cheaper to have a specialist do (because of tools you would not otherwise ever use, skills you won't ever otherwise need, extra materials you have to obtain that won't be useful later if you change your mind and move back to land, etc.).

Give more details, and the folks here will offer more information. Are you planning to do more than live on it in one place (and then a barge becomes perhaps a better solution) and what sort of budget have you in mind?
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Old 17-08-2017, 03:39   #4
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Re: New to Living on a Boat

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Kevin.
Gord May
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Old 17-08-2017, 10:36   #5
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Re: New to Living on a Boat

With this level of inexperience, it's probably a good idea to try out the lifestyle on somebody else's boat before buying one. It's not for everybody.

The only credential that you are required to have is an Oregon Boater Safety Certificate. You can take a course or do it on line for a few bucks. Seriously - this isn't just bureaucracy. You might look out at the river and see a mile-wide stretch of water - but some of that is only a few inches deep. Do you know how to find the safe channel? Stay out of the way of commercial shipping? Get the railroad bridges to open for you?

Beyond that, there are numerous organizations that offer sailing lessons in the PDX area, at various cost points. You might spend a few hundred bucks, but again, you get to try it out on someone else's boat before making a big commitment. (edit: some of these courses also include the safety certificate.)

Also, before you buy, where do you want to live aboard? Not many marinas allow live-a-boards and they are expensive or remote and may have waiting lists. You can anchor out in some backwater like Multnomah Channel for free, but you must be totally self-sufficient and you must move to a new location every 30 days. And you will need to be able to at least sail or motor the boat to a pump-out station every few days. Or alternatively carry your waste off in a bucket.

Winters are rarely very harsh around PDX, but an un-insulated boat can get very cold. Some kind of reliable and safely-ventilated heater is needed. River levels can fluctuate dramatically in the winter, and a poorly-moored boat can break free and get into trouble in a hurry. And of course, there is the rain.

Most old boats have deck-leaks which you will have to be able to fix - nobody wants another monstrosity draped with blue tarps that don't really help. Of course, if you are willing to spend money, all this can be taken care of for you.

If you are serious about this, there are numerous books on how to buy and maintain old boats. Get yourself over to Powells and find a comfortable chair to settle in around the far corner of the Red Room.
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Old 17-08-2017, 10:38   #6
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Re: New to Living on a Boat

Funny, my brother lives in Portland & he wants to do the same thing. I explained to him that a trawler would be much more comfortable & spacious. It also makes a lot more sense for river cruising.
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Old 17-08-2017, 10:51   #7
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Re: New to Living on a Boat

I would not recommend buying until you are sure you want to do this. Most every marina will have a multitude of boats sitting around with little use. Place an add on their board that you will boat sit and pay part or all of the moorage as rent. This will give you the experience you want and you can find folks going out that will welcome inexperienced crew. Join a sailing club and you will also meet folks willing to give a hand and advice. Be available for dock watch and give a helping hand when ever you can. Don't be in a rush as this is a major decision. You will like the freedom of living on a boat but it comes with a price of downsizing. Some folks can't handle that. I myself have a hard time getting rid of my treasures. So I have to rent a storage locker. What ever you do, KIS. Monkey, for your benefit, that's keep it simple.
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Old 17-08-2017, 11:01   #8
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Re: New to Living on a Boat

Weather need not be a show stopper. People live aboard full time in Maine. You need to start by thinking through what you want and why. A boat is a poor choice if you go to work in a suite and tie. Closet space will be tight and salt air is unkind to leather shoes. Even large boats are small compared to apartments. Can you live in tight quarters full time? Of course financials matter. If you want a dock queen that is not fit to move more than one marina to another you can save a lit of money but forget fixing her up to sail. Also owning a boat means maintenance as well as operating costs. No calling the super when the toilet won't flush or the oven work. Are you a good do it your selfer? Do you enjoy that kind of work because marine labor is expensive. After deciding on reasonable search parameters you could begin by walking docks and interviewing owners, especially live aboards. Ask lots of questions, most folks will be happy to share their experiences.
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Old 17-08-2017, 11:10   #9
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Re: New to Living on a Boat

Get some old 30 foot inexpensive boat. Live on it a while and learn then get rid of it and get a real boat. There's no way you are going to pick the right boat the first try. Hell you will never have the right boat just maybe the best compromise boat in the end.
jobless, houseless, clueless, living on a boat and cruising around somewhere
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Old 17-08-2017, 11:26   #10
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Re: New to Living on a Boat

Originally Posted by Sea_born View Post
I am looking to purchase a sailboat to live in. I am new to boats. What should I look out for when purchasing a used boat? Are there any prerequisites I need to meet before making my purchase (boat license, boat operation, etc.)? I don't know how to operate a boat, I only plan to live in it and learn to operate it from experienced sailors in my free time.

I live in Portland, OR. I am concerned about storms, and harsh winters.

May be useful to add why you want to do this. That could influence discussion and perhaps elicit better answers...

Selby Bay, South River, Chesapeake Bay, USA.
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Old 17-08-2017, 11:55   #11
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Re: New to Living on a Boat

No one can offer worthwhile advice without knowing your budget. The $5k answer is very different from the $90k answer.
it's not that I'm set in my ways but it's taken me 69 years to get it right and I'm not changin' now !
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Old 17-08-2017, 12:02   #12
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Re: New to Living on a Boat

Great advice on living On board by the other posters.

Get some experience and training thru an accredited or highly respected sailing club. You have no idea how much you will need to know to be a safe and knowledgeable skipper of a sail or motor vessel.

Plus, you will be taking lessons on their boats, and learn about how different types of boats feel to you. I mean a sailing club that has a fleet of boats from 30 on up to high 40 footers. Not dingy sailing. Also take additional seminars like Marine Weather, signal lights and day shapes, rough weather sailing, etc. How about fog procedures, sound signals, anchoring, mooring pick ups, VHF radio and emergency procedures, etc.

Take the lessons, read the manual , pass the tests, and the on board check outs.

Also sign up for the U.S.G.C. Auxillary class.

Then before laying out a lot of cash, do some real sailing. Frankly without knowing anything, you are going to put you, your boat and others into possible extremis. And you may wind up not even liking living aboard and a lot of yankee green out the bilge pump.

Do meed to be aware that not all marinas welcome new or any live aboards.

Plus you need to pump out your holding tanks at a pump out station, or 3 miles offshore. You need to know how to operate your vessel, read charts, understand navaids, plot courses so a coastal piloting course should be included in your training as well.

We have talked about living on board, and we sail monohulls, but as suggested, we would live on board and skipper a trawler, catamaran , or beamy power boat. We would want to live oncomfortably .

Boat systems, you had better learn about them, and when you get ready to buy a boat, go over all of the systems, standing rigging, running rigging, engine, transmission, plumbing and electrical. And for certain have the boat surveyed. gets cold up in portland, so a space heater of some kind will be needed.
Boats do not generally have heaters and air conditioners.

Also, another things is to check out any possible slip for creaky docks, scraping pilings, and even current or wave slap or back surges from tidal changes.

You should also do longer passages with your sailing club overnights , and not just day sails and learn about living on board, sleeping, size of berths and overheads, shower and marine head space, galley and salon tables, room up in the cockpit, dodgers and bimini tops. Cabin lights that actually allow you to have enough illumination at night to read down below.

Also, are there any topside leaks around port lights or hatches, or even the mast if it is stepped thru the cabin overhead.

How about marine head operation and having to pump the head into the holding tank.
That is real fun on a steady basis. But , we do get used to it. Or if a newer vessel it you have aelectric mascerator, but even then you have to go to a pump our station every few days. Unless there is a pump out barge service. Which can be rare.

And, check on Marinas in your area , if they even allow new live aboards.

living on board is like having your own waterfront condo, and that is great. But, it takes some real live investigation and learning . If you do it right.

Add in maintenance , and cleaning, and bottom cleaning, and redoing the teak, and fixing the constant things that will arise.

Oh, and you will get acquainted with West Marine, a supply chain that will eat into your boxes of saved up dabloons, with great smiles and happy greetings.

Now, again , that is how we feel about having been sailing, professionally and having great amounts of fun coming on close to 40 years.

100% agree with putting everything in your favor, and make sure that it is a correct decision.

Do you have to do all the things that have been suggested, nope, you do not.
But in life, we have found THAR AINT NO FREE LUNCH.
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Old 17-08-2017, 12:04   #13
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Re: New to Living on a Boat

If you want to live on a sailboat, before you do anything find an American Sailing Assn or United States Sailing Assn training facility and take at least the basic keelboat class. This will not only teach you how to sail, but also about the boat, its parts, the stuff that can go wrong. You may not like sailing, then a Trawler would be a better choice to live on. There really is a certain level of required knowledge to live on a boat. Maintenance is an ongoing, never ending part of the experience and never forget your "new home" has the ability to sink at the dock due to maintenance problems and "uneducated" actions on your part.

Good Luck
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Old 17-08-2017, 12:29   #14
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Re: New to Living on a Boat

I suggest buying a fiberglass boat. I lived on a 32' steel boat in Florida for a couple good years. The old drunk who bought it was asleep one evening.

He woke up in his rocking chair with the water up to his ears. One of the several patched leaks, stopped "patching". Fortunately the bottom of the basin was only deep enough for up to the neck.

"Why do old drunks usually end up buying my previous projects?"
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Old 17-08-2017, 13:33   #15
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Re: New to Living on a Boat

I don't have much to add to the excellent responses in this thread, except that whatever you end up purchasing, make sure it is well insulated. I lived aboard in Seattle, so I've been there and learned that...
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