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Date: 31a July 2015. Finding Your Boat Series

© janice142

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 ←you are here

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)

  4. Finding Your Boat (part 4)

  5. Finding Your Boat (part 5)

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 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.

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 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 in the The Fishing Boat article.


Yes, 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 too.

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.

The article 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 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 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 Becoming Clutter-Free page.

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.

Captain Harold


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 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 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:

  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 is 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 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 Casey's 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 wrong. Ditto 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 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 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
Time Stopped article should be read. It speaks to that phenomenon. Do not wait too long...


Date: 23 July 2015. Finding Your Boat (part 2)

Finding and 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.

John is 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.

John 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.


That said, 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 tank.


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 Calder's onboard.

Do you have both the skills and determination to finish the job?
Anyone can start a project. Completion is the key to success.


Folks boat shopping need to invest in two books prior to
purchase and one afterwards. These are my recommendations:

#1) 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.

#2) 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.

#3) 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 Casey
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 Edition
Affiliate Links provided...

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 floating home.

eBay too 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 copy of Boatowners by Calder.

Refer often to these two books to determine if you can fix-it-yourself.

  1. Don Casey's This Old Boat

  2. Calder's 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 article, 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 retail prices. West Marine and Defender 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 Defender. The Rocna anchor came from West.

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 reading.

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 article.

My reading light

Algae's anchor light


In the meantime, horde your pennies. Part 3 is upcoming. You're going to spend some money next in 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 (part 3)

This is the third part of the series about how to locate an inexpensive boat to live aboard.

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 is 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 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 (part 4)

When looking for your budget dream boat, the usual methods have been discussed. They include shopping on YachtWorld, via Craigslist posts, eBay auctions and those advertised in Boat 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 boats
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 oozing?

  • Is the motor seized and in need of replacement?

  • 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. The 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 are willing and the boat suits, you could manage to get a sweet deal.

  • Harbormasters often 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 YachtWorld, Craigslist and eBay, 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 Boat 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. Twice!

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 sieve inside 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 blue)

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 they were 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 (part 5)

This is 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.


Final Notes:


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. NEVER!!!


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 Impression

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:

  1. Always be polite. Say "yes sir, no sir, please and thank you" when addressing everyone.

  2. Be a man of your word. If you say something, do it.

  3. Even if you are doing them a favor, act like they are doing the favor for you. Show gratitude.

  4. Be prompt and courteous in all dealings, both business and personal.

  5. Respond to mail and phone calls promptly.


John said: Currently I have about $5000 saved, and another
 $5000 in an IRA. Is that going to be enough to get a boat?


And I answered Yes. Previous articles Finding Your Boat (part 1), and Finding Your Boat (part 2), and Finding Your Boat (part 3), and 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 succeed.


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.

In the 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 gal.

Some of the smaller places along
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 Annie Hill’s Voyaging on a small income. The thing is… I don’t have a lot of sailing experience….

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: Time Stopped

Shantyboat 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 dock.

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 heart.

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 far.


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.

Still, once 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 way.

*Make way: go forward.


Isn't she 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.


The engine 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 link. Thanks!

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 Yacht 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. That is 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 ten.

At five knots you could circumnavigate the globe
in 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 hunting.

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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