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Date: 17 June 2015. Learning about Life Afloat (a checklist)

Neophytes when entering this boating world more often than not make a few mistakes. And it doesn't matter if you're man or woman. Newbies start at the bottom of the learning curve however there are a few ways to help yourself get up to speed more rapidly.

And believe me, it's not just neophytes. Hindsight is 20/20 and I've certainly failed at Project Management, among other things. Anyone who thinks going through three engines in two years while living aboard one 23' boat is an easy task, well they need to have their head examined. Preferably over a glass of sangria.

The Hatteras 50 YachtFish is a lovely platform for an experienced boat owner or one with exquisite taste.
And yes, as a matter of fact her twin Detroit diesels do run just fine.

Anyone could certain enjoy a decadent life aboard a boat such as this one.

The best part is that you could actually start on a boat such as the above yacht, with some basic tools and education. Today, we'll cover what you'd need to know before boat ownership.

I suspect every one of us had dreamed about sailing off across the oceans. After successfully anchoring in a sunlit cove, it's time to drop the fishing hook over the rail and catch dinner.

But before you get there, a few items need to be checked off your To Do List.

Number One: Read. Read everything you can get your hands on except Survival at Sea books. The shipwreck stories are a dime a dozen and would scare all but the most seasoned boaters. Those of us who have been afloat a while know the likelihood of the worst case scenario books is so remote as to be statistically not worth mentioning.

It's news only in that it is a rare event. Your local television station reports on car crashes, not the dings your car door receives in the lot at the mall. And you know you're more likely to get a dent while parked than when the car is in gear. The same principle applies to boating.

There are plenty of things to worry about before being stranded at sea.


As you explore if boating is for you,
these articles may prove helpful.


Three in this vein offer specific book suggestions. They include:

  1. Making the Right Choice

  2. Dreamer to Boater: Books

  3. Decadence Required

Read the articles, and the books specified in each. You will gain a good understanding of what the life is like, and can decide if it will suit you.

What works for me might not be so good for you.

For instance, I'm more than happy living life aboard a small 23' trawler. You may prefer a go-fast yacht many times larger. As a matter of fact, most would opt for a larger vessel.

I grew up on a boat so to me Seaweed feels like home, albeit a small one.


The books do offer contrasting points of view. I like that myself, and am able to draw conclusions as to what will suit me. A couple I found extraordinarily helpful. You however may not find any usefulness at all in my favorites. That's okay too.

Once you decide boating is for you, next you must learn about the boats themselves. One fun way is to visit Yacht World. They have tons of boats to look at. Drool over some, and imagine yourself aboard lots of others.

Do not under any circumstances start contacting brokers yet. You're not ready.

But of course You are special. You know what you want. Maybe, and maybe not. Before contacting brokers, a bit of education cannot hurt. Boaters who are out there often join groups to share knowledge and learn.


Boating Websites to Join


All of us have made mistakes. We do share what went wrong, and right, about our exploits. The following are the "Big Four" of boating websites, circa 2015. Joining is free and they don't spam you. Though donations are welcome, they hound you for money either.

  1. Cruisers Forum - Sailboats and catamarans primarily, also power boats

  2. Sailnet - All sailors, all the time

  3. Seven Seas Cruising Association aka SSCA - Primarily focused on long distance sailing and ports around the world

  4. Trawler Forum - Live-aboard power boats (trawlers, trollers, and more)

These four are most beneficial to live-aboard boaters versus the small go-fast center console fishing boat owners. These online forums are generally speaking not focused on *work boats.

Definition of work boats: Those vessels owned by shrimpers and oystermen, dive boat captains, professional fishermen, oil platform suppliers, tug boat drivers, cargo ship masters, etc.

They are working boats, versus cruising boats or homes, even though they do indeed support life afloat and are under power and moving a great deal of the time.



After you've joined the forums listed above, read them. There's nothing more likely to get you a scorched hide than saying you want to "buy a blue-water boat to circumnavigate the globe for less than $10,000 in three years and live aboard with your family although you have never set foot on a boat but always wanted to do so and what boat should you buy?"

It's been asked before. And though there are patient people out there... Well, put it this way:

As a boater you're expected to be independent and capable.
Start by showing you know how to do research.


There are a multitude of book lists for beginning boaters. After you've read through a dozen books then you'll have a better feel for the life you wish to lead.


And if boating is not for you, well, you've saved your wallet some serious damage and that's okay too. Boat life is not everyone and it's far better to find that out for yourself before you've dumped thousands of dollars into a boat.

Chapman's Piloting & Seamanship tome

Tricks of the Trades


Now if the books you've read have ignited a passionate flame of desire, well, now you are ready to post to those forums I recommended. Your first post might be something along the lines of "I've been reading and researching boat life. These are the books I've read so far. (insert list) What advice do you have for me?" Also, you might say if you're leaning toward a sailboat or a power boat.

No where did you say you planned on circumnavigating. No place did you say "what boat should I buy?" Also you indicated you'd done some research on your own and detailed same.

You're the type of individual who will probably succeed at whatever you endeavor to do. Also you'll likely get a lot better advice than a "$10k circle-the-globe but never been on a boat" individual.

As I like to say "Welcome aboard..."


Read all the books listed in those articles and any others recommended by folks who sound sensible to you. Read contrasting points of view and make judgments based on the knowledge you've gained. Then you'll have a better idea what questions need to be asked.

Side Note: As you read a book if it's obviously not for you, stop. This isn't school where you must read cover-to-cover each assignment. Should a book not hold your interest, try another from the list. There are too many good books to plow though ugly ones that you don't like.

Next take a class or two. Both the United States Power Squadron and the Coast Guard Auxiliary offer courses in many locales. Those lessons have value in sharpening your skills afloat. The costs are negligible. Plus, should you eventually buy a boat completion of a course often times results in lower insurance rates.

Best of all, you'll have fun and meet people with boats.

Another place to learn which offers online education is via BoatUS. They are the TowBoatUS folks, and are heavily into safety. The website has lot of articles that are helpful for both the neophyte and more experienced boater.

While you're doing all of the above, continue to peruse Yacht World. It's called boat porn for a reason. Looking is addicting, and you'll learn asking prices.

Start watching the boats you're particularly interested in eventually buying.


In summary, here's the above information abbreviated for your convenience:

Learning about Life Afloat: The Checklist.


Read. As you wander the internet bookmark sites that offer information you find helpful. There are a lot of websites out there. Find a few that pique your interest and spend the time reading what's been posted.

Before I bought my Seaweed, keeping inspired was easy with the internet. And it's better now than back then, with lots more choices available.

Also, these specific articles I wrote earlier offer useful guidance in becoming a successful boater.

  1. Making the Right Choice

  2. Dreamer to Boater: Books

  3. Decadence Required

    and this article

  4. Learning about Life Afloat (a checklist)

There are many books listed in the first three articles. They will be helpful in broadening your horizons as to the possibilities for life afloat. Some will suit you to perfection and others will cause you to realize that a specific type of boating is not for you.

Knowing what won't work is just as important as the inverse.

As you discover sites that offer information you find helpful, bookmark them. Some will be contrary to others and that's okay.

An analogy would be the new and used cars sold today. Which one is best? Boats are like automobiles and need to be chosen for the purpose of use, not the spiffy paint job.


Join the following website forums, and read every topic that interests you:

If you're going to own a sailboat and go sailing, #1, #2 and #3 are for you.
Those planning to cruise in a power boat, should opt for #1 and #4.

  1. Cruisers Forum - Sailboats and catamarans primarily, also power boats

  2. Sailnet - All sailors, all the time

  3. Seven Seas Cruising Association aka SSCA - Primarily focused on long distance sailing and ports around the world

  4. Trawler Forum - Live-aboard power boats (trawlers, trollers, and more)

Yes, there is overlap, and that's okay. You can join and learn from all four sites. I'm a member of these four too, and enjoy reading them.

Do not post on any of these forums until you've been a member and spent time reading and searching for topics of interest. Learn to use the Search feature on each site.


Take classes. The following are the Big Three for boating safety.
There are others for sailing however the following should be your first classes.

  1. BoatUS (free online classes)

  2. Coast Guard Auxiliary (classroom instruction)

  3. United States Power Squadron (classroom instruction)

I'd start with the BoatUS online class, then proceed with either the Coast Guard Auxiliary or Power Squadron classes. The final two groups cover the same material however teaching styles do vary from leader to leader. And yes, you could take both Coast Guard and Power Squadron classes. I have taken both.


Then once you've bought your boat you might journey down to Boot Key Harbor. It's now a mooring field. The next picture is how it looked back in 2001. We even had a preacher boat, with services each Sunday morning.

And believe me, some of the late-night party-going so-and-so's needed it. They sowed their wild seeds during the week and on Sundays prayed for crop failure.

You could be in Boot Key Harbor too. Friends Carol and Keith on S/V Moonlight Sue might be sipping on a cold ice tea and discussing where to go next. If you've got an air conditioner and a generator, have at it. And if not, I recommend fans -- powerful ones.

Were I you I'd be looking into the purchase of a small room air conditioner (cheapest available) and a Honda2000 generator. I've got the a/c unit, and the generator is on my Wish List. Actually I'd like a Honda1k however since they are not made anymore...

Life in the south this time of the year is dreadfully hot and humid. Staying cool is important both for health matters and for comfort. I am woman. I expect, want, desire and work toward decadence. So far, so good!

I'd love to hear what you do to stay cool in the summer.
And, are you in a marina or living life on the hook?


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

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A favorite aphorism:  Give your decisions, never your reasons; your decisions may be right. Your reasons are sure to be wrong. Lord Mansfield, 18th century Lord Chief Justice of England.

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