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Date: 26 July 2015. Finding Your Boat (part 3)


I rambled on at the fingertips. You might wish to pour yourself a cuppa caffeine. This turned into a five part series detailing how to find your inexpensive live aboard boat. All five articles are combined on this page:

Finding  Your Boat Series

For those that prefer smaller posts or who have a spotty internet connection, here are the five articles from the series.

  1. Finding Your Boat (part 1)

  2. Finding Your Boat (part 2)

  3. Finding Your Boat (part 3) ←you are here

  4. Finding Your Boat (part 4)

  5. Finding Your Boat (part 5)

This is the third part of the series about how to locate an inexpensive boat to live aboard. The other parts
Finding Your Boat (part 1), and Finding Your Boat (part 2) should be read first.

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) ...

Meet 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.


Mentors are Marvelous


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 Bucket List.

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 Borescope for inspections.

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 life.


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 Silent Lessons vignette speaks to that and should be read as a refresher when you start your boat shopping expeditions.


Your mentor may suggest:

  1. 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 term.

  2. Solid structure, including beneath the waterline. You do not want to start with a boat that leaks like a sieve.

  3. 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 be open and airy.


So, you have refreshed your memory on the previous articles. Good start.

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 YachtWorld, Craigslist or eBay is 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's a gem. Beautiful, and well above our savings.


Whatever vessel you find will be a compromise between
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 [see
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 phone.

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 do not 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 coming soon. I keep running on at the fingers... rest your eyes and more will be uploaded in a day or three.

I'd love to hear how you discovered your Dream Boat?
Where did you find your boat? 

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