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Date: 19 July 2015. Finding Your Boat (part 1)

© janice142

An online associate named John recently wrote, asking if he could buy a boat for $5,000 and live aboard her in a style similar to mine. The immediate answer is "yes" however there are caveats. For that amount of money you're not going to have the amenities I have now, though you will be on a par where I was seven years ago. And you can make her better with time. Here's how.

Absolutely you can get a boat capable of sustaining a reasonable
quality of life for less than the "experts" will tell you is necessary.

That said, you're not going to buy a yacht for that amount. Yours won't be capable of crossing oceans. And there will be deficiencies you'll need to address immediately after purchase. However that does not mean you should not proceed, albeit with caution.

Additionally, few of us ever leave sight of land. All too many find great pleasure exploring places close to home. Coastal cruising has a lot to be said for it. One of the best parts is discovering all the wonders right around the next bend in the river.

Fun does not have to mean crossing oceans. It isn't measured in miles underway but instead in experiences had. The unplanned is often the best part of this life. For instance, I made great friends By the Shipyard. Another fellow brought me fresh cooked boar that he'd hunted near the place I'd anchored in Saul Creek.

Saul Creek is a wonderful quiet little spot with plentiful stars and natural beauty.

GPS coordinates at anchor down: N 29 47.427  W85 02.947




Yes, this boat is beautiful. My cabin was on the port side, just behind the dinghy on the bow. It looks like my hatch is open too.

She wasn't always a yacht-boat though. The photo on the right, below, shows her at launch. My home came a long way, eh?

And for that precise reason I am aligned with those that say buy a boat you can make better. One fully outfitted is great if you have the wherewithal for same. Otherwise, know that with time, effort and some dollars yours can become fabulous.


If you own a boat enough years you make changes. Improvements will change a boat and yours can be much better later than she is at purchase.

My Seaweed is now outfitted for life off the grid. That was not true at purchase. Your newly bought used boat can also be improved.

The article What Used Boat? discusses some of the things I've done thus far to make Seaweed better suited for the decadent life I aspire to achieve.

You might be surprised what all can be accomplished with time and a small budget.


I did it and you can too.


John wrote: You are living the life I covet. I receive a VA pension of about $1000/month. But my pension isn’t enough to survive here in Southern California… So, I have been living in my van… And actually been able to save some money.

Seriously John, you've got a great start on this boating life. You've already pared down your goods and that's generally the hardest thing for folks to do. I've written a whole series covering that topic with more to come. It can be found on the Becoming Clutter-Free page.

And too you're living in a 12-volt environment. Managing power resources you deal with every day. Knowing that gives you a leg up on others. That said, it's entirely unnecessary at your income level, at least initially. That's because I envision you staying in a marina while you gain experience and learn about your boat.


No you will not be staying in places like Fort Lauderdale, St. Petersburg, Savannah or other high-dollar marinas. There are a lot of smaller out-of-the-way places that are absolutely wonderful. And they are not costly either.

C-Quarters Marina in Carrabelle is one place with friendly folks and low rates. Talk to Kim. She's the best!

Kim's hubby Harold is great too. He does boat deliveries across the Gulf of Mexico and beyond. Additionally, Harold could help a local beginning boater learn how to maneuver his boat, do routine maintenance and more.

Captain Harold


Frankly I'm not familiar with the west coast however all I've heard has led me to believe it's beyond my budget. This coast, along with the rivers of the *Great Loop and beyond? Well, know that there are enclaves where prices have not yet gone past what those of modest means can afford.

*Great Loop: The circumnavigation of Eastern North America by water is known as The Great Loop. The trip varies from 5,000 miles to 7,500 miles depending on the options used. Many boaters join the America's Great Loop Cruisers' Association aka AGLCA [http://greatloop.org] and if you too dream of "doing the Loop" you might consider the same.

First though you need to find your boat. Of course Yacht World has lots of boats and ought to be a regular place to check and learn about a variety of vessels. Too Google has images of boats if you have a brand and size.

For many years, I've had the largest online repository of boats capable of supporting life afloat that are under 30' in length. That page is the Boat List and it's always growing. Primarily sailboats, the website page is my working files from when I was boat shopping. I welcome photos and schematics of boats as long as they meet two criteria:

  1. Capable of supporting life afloat. Specifically, there should be room below for a shower, head, galley and bunk, plus a place to eat, spread out a chart, etc. Those spaces can be combined however if a squirrel cannot turn around without bumping into it's tail, it's too small.

  2. Must be less than 30' in length.

Power or sail, it matters not to me. And frankly the list is seriously lacking powerboats, houseboats, catamarans and trimarans. Please feel free and encouraged to send your photos to me at janice@janice142.com. Thanks.


Finding the boat you lust for is one thing and the previous three links can all accomplish that. That's not a bad thing because you will learn what pleases you and what does not. Both are equally important.

To reiterate:

  1. Search Yacht World under 30' or 35' if you must have larger.

  2. Search Google images "small trawler" "inexpensive houseboat" "shantyboat" etc.

  3. Visit Boat List to learn about various boats, including many European vessels.


Just remember this:

Whatever boat you chose will require improvements.
That's part of the fun of ownership. Enjoy!

Also, whatever you wish to do does not have to be done immediately. The safety stuff does, and Don Casey's This Old Boat will be a big help in that regard. His book will teach you prioritizing, and how to fix what's wrong. Ditto Calder's Mechanical and Electrical Manual. Both ought to be in your arsenal of Boat Books once you get serious about this buying thing.


And get the latest versions of both. Buying through my link costs you nothing and helps my cruising kitty too. (That's a hint!) Yes, I recommend these two books quite often. Truly I know of no larger boat owner that doesn't have Calder's onboard. Mine I refer to often. And for folks inexperienced with boat repairs and maintenance, Don Casey is just the man to explain it all. He tells you how to fix stuff too. I like both.

My copy of Casey's This Old Boat went south with a fellow who borrowed it rather more permanently than I had intended. It's on my list to replace eventually. Too many other things take priority at this point, such as the engine fiasco.


Part Two, in a couple days.

For those of you wondering if the time is right, the Time Stopped article should be read. It speaks to that phenomenon. Don't wait too long...

If money were no object, what boat would you own?
Given a choice between having it all later or buying now "as is" which would you prefer?


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Categories: Anchorages, Boat Talk, Books, Characters, Locations, Recommendations

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