Guide To How To Begin A New Life If You Want To Liveaboard A Boat
So maybe you went boating recently and had a great time on the water...Or maybe it became cold, very cold, with sleet and ice and snow where you live, and you have had just about enough of scraping the windshield in the early morning hours...Or maybe you have always had a curiosity about living on a boat.
Whatever the reason, you are reading this because you want to make it happen, right? I mean, how hard could it be...buy a boat, live on boat. Easy peazy.
Well, not so fast. Buying and living aboard a boat can range in complexity from very turn-key to very complicated depending on your needs. Finding the right boat -- in the right location -- at the right price -- in decent condition… That is ideal but it can prove to be a challenge. Once you begin to think about everything logistically, the process of moving from land to boat can at first seem daunting.
Major Considerations When Making The Transition
1. Do you have a lot of “stuff” ?
If so, what are you planning to do with it? You can’t keep the couch, but you might need the surfboard. You may be attached to your shoes, but you can only fit so many pairs aboard a boat.
Storage facilities can be a good option if you have items that need to be kept, but research the annual cost so that you have it in your budget before making the leap. What about pets? A cat or dog are generally good liveaboard companions, but any other animals may not be suited for life on the water.
2. Boat size / type - Sail
Do you have sailing experience? If not, you are among many liveaboards who have never sailed a day in their lives. Being a liveaboard, especially in a marina, can be a very similar experience to living in an apartment in terms of comfort and amenities.
Moving the boat simply requires a basic understanding of how to operate a motor vehicle (in this case a vessel on the water) and account for the different physics of water versus land. Most who live aboard a sailboat select boats between 24ft and 40ft, with exceptions on either side of course. On the smaller side, your new abode will contain the bare necessities, such as a bed (v-berth), toilet (head), small galley (kitchen), couch (lazarette), and storage.
On the larger side, I have seen queen beds in lavish aft quarters with full showers, heater and A/C, macerators, solar systems, wind turbines, auto navigation equipment, and more. It all depends on your budget and needs.
3. Boat size/type - Trawlers
For those who see more interior space, a trawler (commonly a fishing vessel) can be more suitable. Larger sleeping areas and larger galley areas can make for a more comfortable living situation for the newbie, especially when the thought of learning about everything on a sailboat seems uninteresting.
Trawlers can be a bit more expensive, usually starting at around $10,000 for one which needs some TLC, but in the end you will have a very nice home.
Do you have a location in mind? Does it matter? Or are you more concerned with the experience than the location? If you have a setting in mind, begin to research the marinas and mooring fields in that area.
Marinas can vary greatly with regard to acceptance of any/more liveaboards, or can charge additional fees for living aboard that may or may not be listed on their website. Mooring in a mooring field (on the ball/hook) requires a tender. From Wikipedia: A ship's tender, usually referred to as a tender, is a boat, or a larger ship used to service or support other boats or ships, generally by transporting people and/or supplies to and from shore or another ship. Smaller boats may also have tenders, usually called dinghies.
Tenders can range in price from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, so be sure you have budget before considering living on the hook. Otherwise you will be forced to row to shore in whatever you can find…
In terms of purchasing a boat, you may need to look outside of the location you desire to find the right vessel for your needs. This means that you, a friend, or a hired boat delivery company/expert will need to move the vessel to your ideal location. Be sure to consider these things before making any big decisions.
Living on a Boat [Video]
Let’s start at the beginning of executing our plan. What are you going to sell? What are you going to keep? Ok, now assume you get half that much. What are your current expenses? Which expenses will disappear when you make the transition? Which ones will remain?
Once you have those numbers sorted out, determine how much you have and deduct enough for three to six months of food. Take a third of the remainder and that should be your price limit. So for example, if you believe you have $20,000 once everything above has been calculated, your highest purchase price for a liveaboard vessel should not exceed $6,700. Why you ask? Because it is the common rule.
Between maintenance and repairs, unless you are buying a new vessel, you will need two-thirds of the purchase price in reserve to cover repairs and maintenance. Oh, and that is for just the first year.
You may be able to stretch it, or you may get lucky, but don’t count on it. With under $10K, you will need to make some repairs and boat parts, no matter the size or shape, are not cheap. That being said, if you are not a handy person by nature, you may want to think hard before making the move aboard.
Next Steps: Buying A Boat
Now that you have checked all the boxes for the considerations above and sold your precious belongings (or stored them away somewhere), you are ready to start your search. Several sites are at your disposal when searching for boats to purchase from owners (and dealers. For this article we will focus on used boats).
Craigslist, Yachtworld, Sailboatlistings are a few of the more well-known websites. If you live near the marina where you want to live, definitely go there and look. In many cases, sellers do not advertise online (at least not at first).
This is probably because they want serious buyers, those who are already in the boating community or are referred by someone in that community. It makes their selling process easier if they can avoid answering what they sometimes consider to be “landlubber” questions. You can actually hear their eyes rolling over the phone as they take a deep sigh and muster the patience to reply.
Some marinas have a billboard with posts of boats for sale. And be sure to ask the dockmaster if they know of any boats for sale that fit your needs, they usually see most marina residents several times a week and know the business of the day.
LIVING ON A BOAT - A Day In The Life! [Video]
Questions To Ask A Boat Seller
You can also go to your local marine brick and mortar retailer to see if there are any posted boats for sale, or ask the employees if they have heard of any. Several options exist to help you locate the boat you desire.
Once you have found her, however, you should be cautious. Try to avoid falling in love at first sight, as there are many layers to this onion, and you want to discover as much as possible during due diligence so that you can avoid costly repairs later. As honest as seamen may be, when it comes to divulging secrets, you often need to pull them out like stubborn teeth.
Be direct, ask what problems the boat has (she certainly has a few, I guarantee it). Ask what has been repaired or upgraded. Ask about the motor, is it gas or diesel? How many hours on it? Any leaks or smoke?
Get a sense of how the owner has used the boat. If they have only used it as a liveaboard abode, the rigging and sails may be questionable. If they are an avid sailor, the gear may be good and therefore the asking price may be higher. Read more in our guide to buying a boat.
Onwards And Seaward!
In general, you get what you pay for in boats. The same year/model sailboat with good rigging, solar system, wind generator, etc that has been well-maintained may fetch many thousands more than a sailboat which is not seaworthy. Due your homework and stick to your budget. Believe me, you will need it.
Also, it is not uncommon to offer seller financing. In this case, you could put down less than the full asking price and pay some interest over a short term payoff of the remainder. Be fair with your offer, but it is acceptable to offer less than the asking price if you have done your homework and feel that comparable boats are being priced for less. But also bepleasant, this is very important.
Boaters, and especially liveaboards, come from all walks of life and generally have built high levels of character through the challenges they have faced. They can sniff out insincerity quickly and they value their time, so be direct and honest if you want the deal to go smoothly. Fair winds and hop to it !