Date: 31a July 2015. Finding Your
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 are 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 is how.
can get a boat capable of sustaining a reasonable
quality of life for less than the "experts" will tell you is
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 is not 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 had hunted near
the place I was 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
This is the boat Daddy built. I told you about her
The Fishing Boat
our boat was beautiful. My cabin was on the port side, just
behind the dinghy on the bow. It looks like my hatch is open
She was not 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 will make alterations. Improvements will
change a boat. Yours should become much better as the years
progress than 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.
What Used Boat?
discusses some of the things I have done thus far to make
Seaweed better suited for the decadent life I aspire to
You might be surprised
what all can be accomplished with time and a small budget.
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 have got a great start on this
boating life. You have already pared down your goods and that is
generally the hardest thing for folks to do. I have written a whole
series covering that topic with more to come. It can be found on the
And too you are living in a 12-volt
environment. Managing power resources you deal with every day.
Knowing that gives you a leg up on many others. That said, it is entirely
unnecessary at your income level, at least initially. That is 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 is 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.
Frankly I am not familiar with the west coast however all I
have read has led me to believe it is 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
*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
World has lots of boats and ought to be a regular place to check
and learn about a variety of vessels. Too
has images of boats if you have a brand and size.
For many years, I've had the largest
of boats capable of supporting life afloat that are under 30' in
length. That page is the
List and it is 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:
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 is too small.
Must be less than 30' in
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
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.
Yacht World under 30' or 35' if you must have larger.
Google images "small trawler" "inexpensive houseboat"
List to learn about various boats, including
many European vessels.
Just remember this:
Whatever boat you
chose will require improvements.
That is 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
This Old Boat, Second Edition will be a big help in that
regard. His book will teach you prioritizing, and how to fix what is
Calder's Boatowners Mechanical and Electrical Manual 4the
Edition. 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
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 is on my list
to replace eventually. Too many other things take priority
at this point, such as the engine fiasco.
For those of you wondering if the
time is right, the
article should be read. It speaks to that phenomenon. Do not wait too
Date: 23 July 2015. Finding Your Boat
purchasing your boat home takes time and there is a learning curve.
Looking online is a good way to get an education without spending
your perfectly good money. Do not be in a hurry. That ideal boat is
not without flaws. One just like it is probably available and for less
money. Tuck your wallet away for the moment.
I know: Women
shop and men buy. At present, shopping is your goal.
fortunate. He has some savings and the desire to live aboard. To
reiterate, he said: 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.
wondered if he could buy a boat, live aboard and do so all on three
times the income I have. I started seven years ago and if I can do
it, so too can he.
I did have an advantage in that I knew and understood what it
required to live aboard. I grew up afloat with less than most
contemporaries ashore. For instance we did not have a refrigerator
until I was a teenager. Ditto, no television. I still do not own a
television, but that is a story for another day...
No boat is perfect,
and the lowest priced boats can be just awful!
So we need to observe carefully. Pictures posted online tell a story.
Being able to study the photos is helpful in determining condition.
The listing descriptions provide an education too. Look and learn
all you can.
A friend was admiring
a boat. She was reasonably priced and he was and is enthusiastic.
Then I looked over his choice. There were a lot of
lovely pictures in the listing. Please examine the following
two pictures from the sale page.
I spotted an aluminum pan (such as you
would cook a
turkey in) under one of the fuel tanks. It was stained. I
cannot imagine why a pan would be there except to catch a
leak/drip from the tank.
Is that a deal killer? Probably
not. But it is something you need to be aware of. Any surveyor
should notice anomalies like that. Additionally surveyors always
miss stuff so there is that too...
And those batteries in the picture
on the right need to be secured. Still, this is a dock queen and for
that usage the batts can be a lower priority than that leaky fuel
Please note: I am not an expert.
I am observant.
Your next step in this education process is to
examine critically the photographs posted online of boats you like. Is
that flaw something
minor or cosmetic in nature? Can you fix it yourself or is this an issue
requiring the services of a professional?
I rely on hired help as I can afford to do so. Saving
to pay for expertise and muscles is a given for me.
I am certain those with physical strength can learn the skills to
accomplish a lot with
Do you have both
the skills and determination to finish the job?
Anyone can start a project. Completion is the key to success.
shopping need to invest in two books prior to
purchase and one afterwards. These are my recommendations:
This Old Boat, Second Edition. Yes,
you do need to have the most up-to-date version available. This
will help guide you as to what repairs need to be done, in what
order, and provides instructions on how to do so.
To spark the imagination,
Why Didn't I Think of That? is
terrific. I still reference mine. And it has notes in it too as
I adapt new ideas to my Seaweed. Though primarily for sailors, I
find it a useful and regularly suggest it to friends.
AFTER purchase then buy
Calder's latest edition.
Seriously, it is a scary book. I pull mine out when I have a
problem, then read. I like his checklists. It is overwhelming
though... so complicated on first read as to intimidate all but
the most experienced. I always have to read through more than
one time to fully comprehend though I suspect fellows will find
it far less intimidating.
This Old Boat, Second Edition: Completely Revised and Expanded by Don
Why Didn't I Think of That? : 1,198 Tips from 222 Sailors on 120 Boats from 9 Countries
Calder's Boatowners Mechanical and Electrical Manual 4the
Affiliate Links ↑
Craigslist can be your friend. Check boats for sale. Last week
there was a houseboat, 30' long for sale on a trailer for less than
$2,000. Is she perfect? No. Is she capable of supporting life
tomorrow? Yes, provided you can live short-term in a war zone while
you tidy up the interior.
And no, this is not a blue water
world traveler. Instead the houseboat is an inexpensive coastal cruiser. With
some investment of time and effort you will have a comfortable
has boats for sale. Just look, and look thoroughly and carefully at
the pictures provided by the sellers. Learn to spot minor and major
problems in the boats you like.
Skipper is next to my
Boatowners by Calder.
Refer often to these two books to
determine if you can fix-it-yourself.
Don Casey's This
Boatowners Mechanical and Electrical Manual
And do not worry that Calder's is
too complicated. It won't be... not always. Sooner than you can
imagine you will be flipping through the pages, skimming for answers
and following the how-to's laid out in that book.
Like anything, we learn with
experience. I knew some but had forgotten tons and tons. Anyone
capable of learning can make this life a reality. A previous
Capable of Learning,
covers that topic.
Norman Rockwell's Daydreaming Bookkeeper speaks to the urge some of
us have. The possibilities are endless.
At this point it is a good idea to
get a couple of wish books. You'll want to know what things cost at
have catalogs filled with boat stuff. Both are valuable.
West Marine is great because if
there is boating in your area, they have a store. Defender is
primarily mail order and offers wonderful prices on new gear. I
bought my windlass and chain from
The Rocna anchor came from
My copies of the Defender and West
catalogs have seen a lot of use:
Mostly, at least at my economic level, I
am not paying retail. Buying
used items at consignment shops and from marine flea markets and
swaps is sometimes a real bargain. Or I trade.
A while back I swapped some stainless hinges
for five sockets and ten LED bulbs. Both Guanahani and I won,
and that is how all great trades are. The lights are very low
power consumers and the one by my bunk is just perfect for
Another one I installed in the galley. It is on
24/7. With a power use of just .01 amps I can run the LED for
four days before using one amp hour. I also made a light for
Algae using the same bulb. It's described in the
Anchor Light for Dinghy
Algae's anchor light
In the meantime, horde your pennies. Part 3 is upcoming. You're going to spend some money
the drive to find the perfect boat at a price you can afford.
Perfect is of course a relative term.
Whatever boat you
chose will be a compromise between
your desires and the funds available to pay for same.
Date: 26 July 2015. Finding Your Boat
This is the
third part of the series about how to locate an inexpensive boat to
A Nordic Tug is a lovely boat to live aboard and
cruise. She is a Dream Boat.
A fellow I have been corresponding with wishes to live aboard a
comfortable boat and asked advice. John wondered if it was possible
to do so with limited resources. Fortunately he has a good income
($1000 per month) and will be able to upgrade his choice of boat,
once purchased. First though John's got to locate that diamond in
the rough. Here is how I would accomplish that.
Never look the part of a yachtsman
on the prowl, looking to spend big bucks on a rust bucket. You have to look like you
are a guy or gal without a lot of wherewithal or
the price will go up. Drive into a place in a Mercedes and you will be
treated to one price. Arrive in an older Ford Escort or a Toyota
Corolla and you are
pegged as economical/thrifty.
At this price range ($5000 or
thereabouts) you might be considered a tire-kicker/dreamer. I was!
Brokers would not answer correspondence as I was signing my letters
Janice. So I began to sign Janice (and Frank) ...
Frank, because frankly I was tired of being ignored. I know single
women are not usually boat buyers so I adapted.
However, before you go boat
shopping, you should have studied thoroughly
Don Casey's This
Old Boat and have read lots of articles about boats, boats
that broke, what it takes to fix said item, etc. You have some
book learning in you.
If you are particularly fortunate you
have made friends
with live-aboard boaters. Perhaps one will be able to mentor you while
you seek the ideal vessel in your price range. Most of us, curmudgeons
excluded, like sharing
details of what went wrong, and right on our boats.
Shy Anne and Skipper, sitting on the laps of the owners of M/V
The experienced fellow with lots of time afloat
is ideal. You want him to have a good working background.
Specifically, he did not merely write checks. Instead, he
either did the jobs himself, or knew how to do so and opted to
hire the muscles.
I have been blessed with
a series of mentors over the years of the engine swaps.
Three engines in two years is a bit excessive. For
certain, the mechanics of engines are not my strong suit.
Captain Will of Beachcomber was extremely helpful in
determining the why's for BOB's failure. The
Diagnosing a Blown Bearing
article describes that.
And recently Stu shared a great idea. His was
to use a
There have been other
mentors to whom I am grateful. Boating is like that. We help
each other, and that is one of the best parts about this
Sometimes it is not the
big things but something little that was not considered that
makes all the difference in the world. Listen to all you can
and learn to make judgments on what you hear. The
vignette speaks to that and should be read as a refresher when
you start your boat shopping expeditions.
mentor may suggest:
Adequate access to the
engine (all sides thereof) and all mechanical components.
If you cannot get to the parts, you will not do routine
maintenance. And the previous owner will not have done those
things either. No matter how much we think "I will do that"
if it is difficult to get to, most of us will procrastinate. Other items will
take priority and that is never a good thing in the long
Solid structure, including
beneath the waterline. You do not want to start with a boat
that leaks like a sieve.
An engine that runs well.
Or a boat that could accommodate an outboard for propulsion.
Trust me: having a boat that
does not move under her own power is not fun. It is a feeling
of powerlessness, and dependency. And worry too: what if a
storm comes and I cannot move my Seaweed to safety?!?
That is just three. Others will have
good ideas to add to the
list. For me, my ideal boat included a private cabin for sleeping. I
also wanted a shower separate from the head. And too, I wanted her to
So, you have refreshed your memory on the previous articles. Good
Next, go online and seek every
boatyard, marina, and boat storage place within a three or four hour drive of
home. The goal is to find boats where they are essentially
abandoned. Finding the ones that are not listed on
your goal. These are the rejects and that is where you just
might find your dream boat.
Your chances of finding one like
the blue sports fish in this photo are two: Slim and Fat!
Lady Pamala IV is a 48' Hatteras and she is a gem.
Beautiful, and well above our savings.
Whatever vessel you find will be a
your Dream Boat and the funds available to pay for same.
It is easy to have fun afloat,
regardless of the price of your boat. We are sharing the same
environment. The difference is in the amenities. A spiffy yacht will
have "The Works" whereas a boat like mine will not. At
least she will not at purchase. Given time however...
If you're willing to go at the
improvements slowly, even an inadequate boat can become superior
with time and effort. Plus cash. You cannot do it for nothing. My
Seaweed still is not done seven years into ownership. She is closer, but
there is more to do.
I aspire to
decadence afloat. So far, so good.
Next, stop by your local five and dime store. They are called dollar
stores nowadays. Buy a package of those little spiral notepads. You
want the small ones that fit into your pocket. The idea is to look
poor, unprepared, but interested. As much as I love my boat cards
Intriguing Possibilities (boat cards)]
a friend suggested they are too fancy for boat shopping.
Plus too, you can take notes about
the boats you see on the notepads. Take pictures with your cell
The ideal boat
sleeps two, feeds four and drinks six.
At the lower end of the financial
spectrum, bigger is not better. A larger boat will require more
bottom paint, larger anchor, bigger dock lines, longer wire runs and
with larger cables, plus any number of things. Smaller is definitely
better for those of us pinching pennies.
And too folks at a
different stage in life often will opt for a smaller boat after
years aboard larger yachts. A less complicated boat with fewer
systems appeals to many, even those with deep pockets.
Captain Bob bought the houseboat
Bottom Feeder for a song in Minnesota. I met him cruising in Florida.
You don't need a fancy blue-water boat to have fun
afloat. And houseboats have a ton of useable space.
What you want is a boat that will allow you to become a boater. Just
living in a boat does not make you a boater any more than sleeping in
the garage makes you a car. That comes with experience. Life
afloat offers lots of opportunities for experience.
I hope all your
boating adventures are wonderful.
Part 4 follows. I keep running on
at the fingers...
Date: 28 July 2015. Finding Your Boat
When looking for your budget dream
boat, the usual methods have been discussed. They include shopping
auctions and those advertised in
Trader magazines. Those methods, while effective "miss the
boat" (pun intended) quite often. The least expensive boats are
usually not officially listed anyplace. Here is how to find them.
In the previous article I
suggested you make a list of all boatyards, marinas and boat storage
facilities within three or four hours of your home. Visiting those
places will net you an education in and of itself. Look particularly
for boats with For Sale by Owner signs.
Ideally, what you want is a boat
with a faded For Sale sign. Know that psychologically, a For Sale
sign indicates the owners have already decided to part with the
boat. It is a cry for help. They want someone to come along and buy
their boat. That is where you can help.
You are the solution! Seek those
that no longer please their owners.
Folks buy boats thinking they will use the vessel all the time, then
life happens and the boat sits. It is costing the owner a fee each
month for dockage. All too often owners will look up five or ten
years later and realize they've not been aboard. The boat has
cost them more in storage fees than it did to purchase.
Your job is to ascertain if the
boat is worth anything. Provided she is structurally sound, you need
to know or learn the following:
Does the deck squish when you walk
or is it soft in places?
Is there anything costly that must
be done immediately?
Are the fuel tanks black iron and
Is the motor seized and in need of
Will an outboard push her through
the water okay or must you opt for an expensive inboard motor?
Call the numbers on those signs. Leave a message with
your phone number. Also, take a page out of your notepad and tape it
to the sign providing your contact information and write that you are
interested in purchasing the boat. You might want to bring some
Ziploc baggies to put your note inside if your area is subject to
the thunder-boomers we get around here.
Contacting the owners of neglected
vessels sometimes will elicit offers for you to take the boat off
their hands for free. Not always mind you, but it does happen.
Before accepting a Free Boat, make sure you
have her surveyed. Even free, some boats are not worth owning.
Survey a Free Boat
article speaks to that issue. Be aware.
Have you found a possibility
not displaying a For Sale sign?
If you see no For Sale
sign but recognize what appears to be an abandoned boat,
here is the next step:
Stop by the
manager's office at the facility. Ask him if the boat you are
interested in is for sale. Try to get contact information on
the boat owner. If that is not possible, leave your name and
number to be passed along to the vessel's owner.
Tell the dockmaster you are
actively seeking to buy a live-aboard vessel for when you
retire in a couple years. You want it now so you can start
fixing it up. Ask if any slips have boat owners who might be
willing to sell.
The dockmaster may point you to boats that are
possibilities. Follow up, even if you think the cost will be
beyond your budget. You might be surprised by the asking price. If you
and the boat suits, you could manage to get a
know who owns what. They are a good source of contact
information for boats you are interested in buying.
At boatyards, wander
around. Do-It-Yourself boatyards are the best for this. They are
filled with folks who are attempting to make their vessel
into a better boat. Fellow boaters may know of boats whose
owners have given up and left.
The manager of the boatyard will have title to a few of the
abandoned boats too, or he will be able to get the title. Ask if he
has any suitable for a life afloat.
If so, and even if not, leave your name and phone number on
boats that interest you.
Check at storage
facilities too. The manager there will know what boats in
storage are behind in their monthly fees. Those gals and
guys (the managers) know what is what. Schmooze them, and
leave in the office your name and number in case they hear
of a boat that might suit you.
The idea is to get yourself at least a bit known to those
who have their finger on the pulse of boats that are
available. They have more sources and will hear more sooner than you
ever will. Make a good impression and you will hear about
these boats before the general public.
As always, continue to check
plus look for For Sale signs wherever you travel. Someone might have
a decent boat in their side yard, just waiting for an offer. Try to
ascertain why the boat is for sale too. Then tailor your offer to
meet those needs.
If the owners are overwhelmed by bills
and the marina dockage or storage facilities fees are just one more thing, you
will be able to alleviate same and they might even give you the
boat. Make sure you get a clear title. You do not want any
unpleasant surprises later.
Were I boat shopping today
in addition to the big three, plus the local
Trader rags found in convenience stores I would be driving a circuit
around my home. The goal would be to take a year and find The One.
At first look at the expeditions as an education. Any boat you
find, especially one that is free, have surveyed.
To reiterate, the
Survey a Free Boat
article offers a note of caution. Read it.
Before you spend the
perfectly good money for a
survey, take a lot of photographs. Study them in full size for all
the details your eyes missed on the first visit. Are the fuel tanks
leaking? Is there damage inside to the woodwork where water
intrusion has occurred near window frames?
Any boat stored under cover might
be a-okay and dandy. It also might be a damp tub that leaks like a
when it is raining outside.
Your goal in this stage is to go
out and see boats. Get the lay of the land. Be prepared to see a lot
of dregs before you find that diamond in the rough. Depending upon
how rough and your talents at rehab, you may find a boat that is
just right for less than you imagined.
Sea Hag Marina is a busy place on the 4th of July.
Visualize yourself living afloat at
a marina initially. You will need the base of being able to step
ashore, especially in the early stages. I cannot tell you how nice
it is to be able to run into a hardware store when I need some
terminal rings or
butt connectors in the midst of a wiring project. The convenience of having a
store nearby cannot be overstated. (Affiliate links provided in
A friend of mine, Tom, lives on the east coast.
He was given a Bristol 24 by Joe, another friend of mine. Tom wanted a boat
for day sailing with his family. Joe and his wife Suzanne had a spare boat
paying storage on in Atlanta. Now both families are pleased.
Getting the word
out that you want a boat is a good thing.
Total honesty regarding living
aboard is initially unwise in my view. Too many don't understand the
world of boating, thinking you either must be a millionaire or are
destined to become a boat bum. There are plenty of us in the middle,
and we're having a wonderful time.
If a boat interests you write out
a note, leaving your name with the owner. A couple days later again
visit the boat for a more thorough look-see. Bring a friend who
does not love the boat, with a set of skeptical eyes.
Find out from the
owner how much he is asking for the boat.
Do not name your price initially. The first to speak loses. Always.
You have no doubt bought items subject to
negotiation before, so go for it. The worst that can happen is you
not get this particular boat. And frankly, you have lived a long time
without this boat. There are others out there. Your search ought to
come up with a few that meet your needs.
Price, quality, gear, and where
she is all will influence your
decision. Let a good surveyor guide
you. And good luck!
Just remember: no
boat is perfect.
It does not matter if you have spent
one million or two thousand dollars. Something will be wrong that
needs fixing, replacement or changing. The longer you have your
boat, the finer she will become. Make her better than she was, and
definitely make her yours.
The view is the same rather you're on a $5,000 boat or a million
dollar yacht. They have ice though. We will not, at least not at
purchase. With the addition of a $70 Haier cube refrigerator while
staying at a marina we can have cold beverages.
This is not a bad life, and in the
meantime, save your
pennies for those upgrades you are sure to want.
In the meantime, gas up the automobile and wander your
region. Look for old and faded For Sale signs. If you see a boat
that has possibilities parked in the back yard of a house, leave
your name and number on the door of the residence.
You will never know if
a boat is available unless you ask. Asking costs you nothing.
Date: 31 July 2015. Finding Your Boat
final installment in this series about how to locate an inexpensive
boat to live aboard.
Everyone has their own ideas about what the Ideal Boat is. Some
focus on yachts capable of carrying them any place on earth. That is
fine for some, however many of us are quite happy exploring rivers and lakes
along the coast. Our dreams are modest. And implementing them costs
lots less too.
Because we cruise
locally in protected waters, we
can buy a less robust boat and have fun safely.
For some of us, a smaller
inexpensive boat is just about perfect. Even knowing it won't be one
of those spectacular Yachts shown in the boating magazines, we are
satisfied with what we can afford. Also, we know that with time,
effort and cash our boat homes can be made more accommodating. It is
a very good life.
With less money you will need to be more reliant on
yourself and your abilities to fix what is broken. Starting a project
and not finishing it is all too common. Do not let yourself get caught
with a zillion projects underway and none finished.
I would stick with power boats, or outboards.
Inboard-outboards often have lower-unit issues that cost $$$ and/or
sink the boat. I would not buy a boat with that propulsion system.
Sail boats have this mythological
"I am cheap
transportation" aura of them. That is absolutely not true.
With sail, you have two complete
propulsion systems. The rigging and sails are not free and require
expensive parts and maintenance. Sails too are not inexpensive.
Do you dream of sailing? If so the wind is
either on your nose, nonexistent or too strong. Those balmy days
described in the sailing magazines are few and far between.
Power has an engine, and mine
does not run at present. The cooling system needs to be hooked up. But
I will tell you this: for not a lot of money I could have (should
have?) put an outboard on the transom and called it good.
But I did not do that so now I am
struggling. Such was my choice.
When looking at boatyards you will find some (most?)
abandoned boats are dogs. That is perfectly okay. Go anyway and
meander around. Talk to everyone.
Keys to Making a Good
Back in the 1970's a
friend was speaking with a banker. Michael asked what makes a
person a well-liked and was told the following key points:
Always be polite. Say
"yes sir, no sir, please and thank you" when addressing
Be a man of your word. If you say something, do it.
Even if you are doing
them a favor, act like they are doing the favor for you.
Be prompt and courteous
in all dealings, both business and personal.
Respond to mail and
phone calls promptly.
John said: Currently I have about $5000 saved,
$5000 in an IRA. Is that going to be enough to get a
And I answered Yes. Previous
Finding Your Boat (part 1),
Finding Your Boat (part 2),
Finding Your Boat (part 3),
Finding Your Boat (part 4)
give lots of ideas on where to find such a vessel.
While reading those articles,
keep in mind the Keys to Making a Good Impression as outlined
above. You are not doing them a favor by granting your presence.
They are doing the favor for you. Good manners and being gracious
go a long way in establishing and maintaining relationships.
Always be polite and folks will go out of their way to help you
Now a $5k boat will not have solar
panels, a wind generator, windlass, big anchor, etc. However with a
pension of $1000 per month, a person can afford to stay at a marina while
gaining experience and gathering the goodies.
panhandle of Florida some marinas run $300 a month for smaller
boats. Specifically, one such marina is
C-Quarters. Ask for Kim if you call them. She's a great
Some of the smaller
the Great Loop charge even less.
Finding a friendly
congenial place that accepts live-aboard boaters is sometimes
a challenge. There are great marinas though and fellow boaters
are sure to point you to their favorites. C-Quarters is a
special place. I will definitely come back one day.
Kim on the porch at C-Quarters Marina.
John also said I am currently reading
Voyaging on a small income. The thing is… I don’t have a lot of
I am past the
half-century mark. None of us are getting any younger. Steep steps
and heavy lifting (hoisting sails) is not going to get easier as we
get older. I ended up buying a windlass before planned because
hauling in the anchor was too tough.
Physically sailing requires more
strength or costly equipment to compensate for same. Captain Douglas
displayed his strength and navigating skills by landing in Bermuda
in the days before GPS. What a sailor!
When younger we could do a lot of things with
relative ease. Stamina was a given back then.
What I could do
with ease at 30 is darn near impossible now.
Or, if I do manage to do it, I pay for it in aches and pains later.
Thomas Sowell said it best:
More than once, after I woke up some morning feeling like I was 20
again, I did something that ended up with me on crutches or
otherwise being reminded emphatically by my body that I was
definitely not 20 again. Women may lie about their age to other
people, but men lie about their age to themselves.
I will grant that men have testosterone however when
I bought Seaweed I fully intended (and still do) to live out my life
aboard her. She has two steps down into my cabin and one down to
the galley. And there are days my knees say "why didn't you buy a small houseboat?!?" There are some dandy
houseboats if you look long enough for lots less than $5k. And they
are generally on one level without steps.
My neighbor here is looking at a
houseboat that requires a
new engine (he is going outboard) for $2000. It will need new wood
and updating inside. Still, he will be on the water for lots less than
I paid for Seaweed. Will he be one of the "yachties" that are spoken
of in the cruising magazines? Dubious. He will be out here though. Too many wait for
perfection when Good Enough would work.
We are not getting
younger. Do not wait.
And read this piece about my friend
Bob who waited too long:
Floating Empire tucked in during wintertime:
Mungo onboard the
Floating Empire wrote
Composting Toilet How-To.
An okay houseboat aka Shantyboat can do a lot. It
will be like my Seaweed. The vessel will be a coastal cruiser. In
bad weather it will
in port or tucked into a safe spot on the river. I have learned to spot all
the potential places to hide out when weather is icky. And I have
them marked on my chart prior to raising the anchor or leaving the
John said: I was planning on getting a
sailboat because of the cost of gas and the ecological advantage.
I too wanted a sailboat,
specifically the NorSea27. Before cancer I had
dreams of sailing to the south Pacific and exploring the islands there.
The pictures are so pretty and I admit wanderlust had a grip on my
Obviously the over the horizon
dreams were wrought of youth, strength, and invincibility, eh? Then
I realized how many beautiful places we have here. I decided to
enjoy the world I am nearest, first.
John was surprised to consider life aboard a power boat can be
economical. Please note I do not go fast. Five knots is slow and
that is just the way I like it. There is plenty of time to see the
sights and besides:
I am already where
I want to be. It is about the journey and mine has been fabulous so
And it will be again once I have
the hoses put on the engine. I think I can do that and save some $$.
I have to find out where they all go and that is going to be in an
upcoming letter to my friend in Carrabelle.
Stats on fuel consumption say I use one quart per hour at five
knots. So that is a minimum of 20 miles to the gallon. However, that
is theoretical, and everything works in Theory.
I should have named
my boat Theory. Everything works there.
A friend has this identical Kubota in his tractor.
He tells me at 1700 rpm running at 3/4 throttle in the field the
tractor burns 1/2 quart per hour. I' will be at about 1100rpm and in
the water, thus doubled the fuel consumption because of moving the
boat through water.
But that is not proven, not yet. I
am anxious to
get this Kubota up and running so I can confirm or not the figures
we have hypothesized on paper.
Seaweed is in motion there is little fuel
required to keep her going. Actually it takes 8 hp to push my 23'
boat at hull speed. So the 18hp Kubota is a bit over powered for my
Seaweed. The engine, because it is larger than it has to be means
that when the winds and current are against me, I can still *make
*Make way: go forward.
a beauty? This is my 18hp Kubota motor.
The engine is from
Yanmar Tractor Parts. They ship anywhere at a reasonable
cost. Ask for Dennis.
is painted white so any oozes or leaks will be immediately
apparent. All engines should be a light color. I can state
unequivocally that a dark blue paint job makes finding
anything new dang near impossible. And red is only slightly
better than black.
Folks say "I just don’t know how to
get from where I am to where I want to be…"
My advice is to read everything
you can lay your eyes upon. I've a few articles on boat books for
beginners. Start with the
Learning about Life Afloat
(a checklist) piece for some of my
favorites. And remember, there is no test. Some books will not
appeal to you so do not bother finishing them. Others you might just
want to own. If so, [blatant plug] please buy through my
You are a budget boater. That means
the books I suggest should be first borrowed from the public
library. Librarians are a wonderful resource. Benjamin Franklin and
50 associates started the first public library in the United States
in 1731. We have come a long way, eh? More about the original library
and how it came to be is found on the
First Public Library page.
I believe you can live cheaper on this coast so I
would not buy on the left coast, unless you have dreams of life in
the Sea of Cortez. I certainly have considered same. It's beautiful
and from boaters who live there, quite a nice spot.
When I was young the Sea of Cortez
was called the Gulf of California. It is the same place, renamed.
The Sea of Cortez aka Gulf of California is between
Baja California and Mexico.
Learning about boats can being now. Visiting and chatting
with the guys who work on their own boats is a good place to start.
Friendly folks (not the curmudgeons) generally like sharing their
choices and the whys provided they are not busy. After all, you want
to do what we are doing so you validate us.
If you see a fellow in the midst
of a project do not interrupt. Towards quitting time is a better
choice, or first thing in the morning before the day starts. And for
goodness sake, remember your manners.
In the meantime, check
World for power boats under
30' and under $10k. You'll see a lot of go-fast boats but more
than one will be almost what you want. Asking price and selling price differ.
why I suggested you look in the higher range.
You will find most boats are
significantly overpowered. Blame men. Guys want the biggest and
fastest boat. Fuel consumption increases exponentially with more
speed for those of us who own trawlers.
Try for either an inboard diesel
or an outboard motor. Gas outboards are far less costly than the
diesel outboards, so I would opt for gasoline in an outboard. Besides,
there is something to be said for a four-bolt tune-up. That means
taking the motor off the boat and into a shop for repairs.
Definitely plan on going slowly.
You and I can get into a whole lot less trouble at five knots than
At five knots you
could circumnavigate the globe
less than seven months. In case you wondered...
The world waits for you... All the best in finding
your Dream Boat and making her your own.
Thank you for reading. Good Luck and happy
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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