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Living aboard a sailboat

 
pollinator
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I am currently considering moving aboard a small, older, used cruising yacht as a relatively cheap and mobile housing/travel solution. I currently live in my truck with occasional soujourns to the houses of family/friends. The sailboat seems to me to have some advantages:

- Primarily powered by sail, the environmental and financial impact of the fuel should be substantially less than the truck per unit of distance traveled
- Has actual plumbing, YAY (I can and do live without running water, but I won’t pretend I don’t enjoy it when I have it...plus TMI maybe but menstrual periods with a diva cup while utilizing public restrooms or digging catholes in the woods kind of suck)
- Set up to accommodate real cooking and food storage, so able to eat more cheaply and healthily and theoretically less tempted to blow money eating out because of the inconvenient awkwardness of camp stove cooking on the tailgate
- Better storage in general; awkward/absent storage in the truck kind of pisses me off despite minimal belongings
- Can travel to exotic locations without paying for carbon-intensive and polluting air travel
- Relatively low living costs compared to house/apartment life, although probably a bit more expensive than living in the truck
- Probably healthier/more active lifestyle than in truck or house, plus less chance statistically of dying/getting injured in an accident (this one’s for my mom and her constant renditions of the Jaws theme music when we discuss this)
- I like the ocean
- Opportunity to learn new skills
- Theoretical possibility of circumnavigating the globe!

There are drawbacks as well, of course:

- Maintenance time and costs
- Relatively high up-front cost (I am hoping to spend not more than $20,000 up-front on the boat, but from what I’ve seen, people rarely buy and fit out even a very simple yacht that can go offshore for less than $50,000 total, which pretty much empties my savings toward financial independence, although it’s still cheaper and more fun than a house)
- I don’t know what I’m doing yet so I might make expensive or dangerous mistakes just when my financial reserves are lowest
- I can’t actually sail (yet)
- Resupply of food/water/fuel less convenient than on land
- Traditional employment not as easy, especially if actually traveling, but I don’t really like/do normal jobs anyway

So, do any of you Permies live aboard? I didn’t see anything in the forums. Thoughts?
 
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Even experienced sailors get caught by storms and rough seas,  so I would seek a lot of sailing experience and training.  Also if a truck breaks down it stays put or maybe burns, if the boat breaka down you drift or sink or burn and sink.  I think the seas are a great opportunity for seasteading but it is higher risk,
 
pioneer
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Hi Jennifer, what a great idea!  Something I have always wanted to do! You are right though, there are expenses, and not just the boat maintenance. There is usually a significant berth fee or “rent” every month, especially if there are shore services like potable water, electricity, sewage, showers, etc...  It has been a long time since I looked at docking fees, but worth exploring at the marinas you envision as your “home-port.”  Maybe also wander around a couple of marinas and talk to people who live aboard full time to get their perspective and tips - I imagine they love  it!
 
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Sea going ships and in-land boats are usually quite different. A ocean going Sailboat needs to be very strong and have a deep, heavy keep. All of which are highly disadvantageous on rivers and canals.
I'd try to figure out which one you want to go… or if you really want both and need a boat that can handle both. I'd definitly find someone who sails regularly, and join them for a few weeks, before committing to that route.
 
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Hi Jennifer! I don't yet have experience with this, but my gosh, I would love to live aboard a sailboat!

But looking at people who have lived on sailboats definitely makes me quite inspired to want to do this myself!











These were some pretty good articles I saw about people's experiences with sailboat life!
Living the Tiny House Lifestyle on a Sailboat with Chris DiCroce
Tiny Living on a Sailboat
Sailboat Living - 175 Square Foot Tiny Home
What It's Really Like to Live on a Sailboat
Lynn & Bregt in a Sailboat
Worst Things About Sailboat Living
 
master steward
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Having a bicycle to get around for shopping will help unless someone plans to go where they rent bikes.

This might help:  https://permies.com/t/12431/seasteading-boatsteading-substeading#112877
 
pollinator
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In order to own a sailboat you have to be super passionate about sailing or rich.   Boat's especially boats in saltwater are constant upkeep.   I mean constant.  Everything corrodes or falls apart at lightning speed.   You need to clean the hull on a regular basis, paint and refinish and fix broken parts.

I would try to get on a crewed vessel to see if it is something you are passionate about.  I would not drop all of my savings into a boat, it could literally become an anchor around your neck.


I was in the south china seas with waves coming crashing up to the 01 level and the ship was shivering as it crashed into the troughs...yeah, you better know what you are doing...I say training and indoctrination first and then decide.   I don't mean to be a dck, but it sounds like you have no idea what this entails.  

If you just want to dock it and live in it, I'd see how much you will be paying in dock fees.  The fees may be as much as a nice apartment.
 
master pollinator
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Until the seasteading structure in question is one that grows and is self-repairing, they will always depreciate in value.

For me to do anything like this with a sailboat, apart from needing to learn how to sail confidently by myself or with a minimal crew, I would also need a job that I could work remotely, to pay for food and constant repairs.

But it's not unappealing. I would love to be able to sail around, carefree, popping in on any permies near a port of call.

-CK
 
Jennifer Richardson
pollinator
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Thanks for all the feedback, guys!

So I have been looking into marina fees at my closest sailing port, and with liveaboard fees it’s $300-$500 monthly for the size boat (28-32 feet LOA) I am looking for. That does include amenities such as restrooms, shower facilities, swimming pool, jacuzzi, gym, pump out, etc. It seems you can’t find a marina without them! You must also have liability insurance on the boat (same situation with my truck). I talked to another girl who said she has full coverage insurance plus liability on her boat (similar to what I’m looking for) for about $100 per month, so I would be paying less than that, since I would not get full coverage. She said she’s never paid more than $20 a month for metered shore power at the dock, even during the hot summer months. So I think I could get away with ~$500-$600 per month there. More expensive than I’d like, but within a few months to a year my goal would be to get out to cheap moorings or free anchorages near the coast as I improve the boat and my skills. I might try to get a job at the marina while docked there to offset expenses in the meantime.

I also signed up for ASA 101, Basic Keelboat with a local sailing school, which teaches and certifies you to sail a basic little sailboat. Also a bit of a hit to the pocketbook, but you get three free months of yacht club membership with the class, and my hope is that I will be able to start networking with other sailors and be able to get some sailing experience on other people’s boats without having to pay for many more classes. The class boats are quite unlike the bluewater boat I am interested in buying, but will hopefully give me the basics.

I do have offshore boating experience, but not as the skipper and not on sailboats. Still, I do have a very clear idea of how quickly everything on a boat falls apart (my dad has owned several), and I also have pretty extensive solo backpacking experience in austere environments (desert and mountains), so I am somewhat prepared to evaluate and manage risks at sea without easy access to aid from shore. I am deeply concerned about the quality of my DIY skills relative to what the boat will need, but hopefully I will be able to build these up as I go, and before I go truly offshore.
 
pollinator
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I've looked into the liveaboard life and I think it's got a lot going for it.  There are several forums either dedicated to living aboard or with active liveaboard sub-forums.  From what I've gleaned there is a wide disparity in monthly living costs, which is no surprise.  You'll find people who can live for about $500/mo and people who claim that you can't do it for less than $5k/mo.  I think it's the same phenomenon as people who spend $10k+/mo living in a house insisting that there's no way to live on land for $1000/mo.  Sadly, the world is full of people who seem to delight in telling others what they can't do.   If you can live frugally on land, you can do the same on a boat.

I'm half Dutch, half English and I'm really drawn to sailing as well as farming.  One of the reasons I want to move out east is to be near the ocean and, hopefully, be able to do some ocean sailing.  One of the books I really like is John Vigor's 20 Small Boats (That Will Take you Anywhere?, just going by memory).  Any of those would be a good buy.  

If I had my druthers, I'd farm for 8-9 months and then take off sailing for the winter with a boat stocked with food from my farm.  

I think that, if you can farm, you can learn whatever you need for boat upkeep and repairs.  All costs scale with the length of the boat, probably somewhere between linearly and exponentially, so keeping it under 32' is key to keeping the costs down.  I also think the sweet spot is a 28-32' boat.  

I think that you should do whatever floats your boat, so to speak.  50 years down the road, I doubt you'd ever regret the money you spent on living on a boat for however many years.  To me, life is about experiences.

 
Jennifer Richardson
pollinator
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Timothy Markus,

I really like the Vigor book you mentioned! I consult it regularly while window shopping Craigslist, heh.

A few other budget cruising books I have enjoyed:

- Get Real, Get Gone by Rick Page and Jasna Tuta
- How to Inexpensively and Safely Buy, Outfit, and Sail a Small Vessel Around the World by Fatty Goodlander
- Inspecting the Aging Sailboat by Don Casey

And I am currently reading Beth Leonard’s The Voyager’s Handbook

I have been reading for a while, trying to level up in knowledge, but the lack of practical experience is putting a ceiling on things, hence the sailing classes I signed up for recently.

My ideal boat is a 28-32 foot full(ish) keel monohull fiberglass bluewater boat about 40 years old with a sturdy rudder attachment and tiller and not too tall a mast or with too many gadgets. I would like to have VHF, GPS, and a depth sounder at minimum for navigation, as well as some perks like windvane self-steering if I work up to long ocean passages.
 
Timothy Markus
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Thanks Jennifer, I'll have to add those to my To Read list.  I've come to pretty much the same conclusions as you as to what I'd like in a sailboat.  

Like everything worth doing, I think you've just got to get started on it.  I did a little sailing when I was young and I've been boating on a few of the lakes and done some windsurfing here and in BC.  I've done a ton of reading the last few years, but I haven't been able to take a course.  It does seem to me that you can almost always find people at marinas who would love an excuse to get out or actually need another hand.  I think you could get some all-important 'seat time' for free or for a few hours of helping with upkeep.  Take advantage of that and get out as much as you can, with different skippers, if you can.  

You'll hear a lot of negativity about the cramped living space and spartan accommodations, but I think it all depends on your perspective.  I've done a lot of hiking and canoe tripping.  Canoeing is so much more decadent than hiking because most of the time your gear is being carried by the canoe, so you can bring more and only have to pay for it on the portages.  I'll bring a tent AND a hammock, a chair accessory for my mattress, fishing gear and books when I go canoeing.  Going from that perspective to a sailboat is another step on the path of decadence.  People argue that I don't live out of a canoe, but I absolutely would in the right circumstances.  For you, it's the same step from living in your truck to a boat.

I think you can find seaworthy boats for under $20k.  If they are currently being used, they're more likely to be seaworthy without much immediate cash input.  The best deal would be to find someone who's jumped into sailing, spent the money on a re-fit, then either decided it's not for them or have a life change that forces them to sell.  There's no such thing as a once-in-a-lifetime deal; another will come along soon enough, so no need to rush into buying the first few deals like that you see.  I've seen well-equipped boats sell for a fraction of what's been put into them.  If you buy a project I think it's very possible that you'd spend more on getting it seaworthy unless you've got the ability to do it all and a strong local used equipment market.  

Without thinking it through much (a particularly strong point of mine), this is how I'd look at doing it in order of preference:

- Try to find someone who will let you boat-sit for them for free or ongoing maintenance.
- Rent a boat at a marina you'd like to be in.
- Buy a very small boat (24-26' with a cabin) that sails for as little as you can that you can live on.  Doesn't have to be capable of long voyages.
- Buy a project boat (or get for free) that floats.  This has to be either something you can sell or give away because you don't want to be stuck paying to dispose of a hulk.

This would get you into the scene as cheaply as possible and without a lot of risk.  Once you're in you will be able to get out on other people's boats and you can wait patiently to pounce on a steal of a deal when it comes along.  By being part of the community you'll be one of the first to know if anyone's selling.  You could then hire yourself out for whatever work is available and whatever you want to learn about boats can be accomplished by helping someone knowledgeable for free, if you have to.  You can look at that marina as your own, personal market share.  If you're growing plants or animals, you've got a massive head-start selling to the people in the marina, especially after they get to know you.  You can then expand your sales (both products and labour) to other marinas.  People like to buy from people they have a connection with.  You may also find that you can get a lot of free gear just by being there.  

It's an approach that gets you going cheaply and quickly, though it wouldn't get you set-up right away to sail off into the sunrise.  You could keep a few quail on the boat too and let me know how that goes  


 
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1) If you are doing extended blue-water sailing, you have to sail since you can't refuel.  You'll do a fair bit of tacking but that doesn't really matter.  If you are doing short-jumps where you have to make an anchorage or marina, you will do a lot of motoring or motor-sailing. You cannot afford to tack since you won't arrive in daylight. You cannot afford to be on the move in the dark.  Everything is different at night, even if you know the anchorage.  Marine fuel is expensive because, after all, if you have a boat, you must be rich and able to afford it.

2) Keep your boat as simple as possible.  Boats are sentient - they know when you are in a location where parts aren't easy to come by and that's when things break.  Think DC not AC.  Wind generators are generally useless since there are many days when the wind doesn't blow but solar panels generate lots of power. Do not hard mount them since at anchor you will swing to the wind and/or tide which may not have the panel directed at the sun.  To get the most out of a panel, it needs to follow the sun.  If you plan to do long blue water passages, you need a single side band radio to get NOAA weather. Think about a registered EPIRB.  You definitely need a good VHF with an antenna at the top of the mast.  You need to be able to talk to other boaters and, if needed, the Coast Guard.  Think about no refrigeration. It's expensive and a real energy hog. And it like to break a LOT.

3) Blue water = heavy boat with deep keel unless you have a non-existent fear gene

4) Coastal cruising, island cruising = shallow draft. Think catamaran or trimaran.

5) Before you make an offer get  yourself a really good boat surveyor. S/he will find things that are deal breakers that you would never find.  

6)  It's a fun life but not an idyllic one.  Shit happens really quickly. Filleting a fish and having an accident even in an anchorage with other boats is no small thing.  There's no 911.  I'm not trying to scare you here but things get real very fast.  Having said that,  people go out of their way to help you.  I think they like the stories.  
 
pollinator
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I have spent most of my time on the water for the last 20 years. It can work, but the practicalities are important. The demands and risks of sailing, coastal or blue water, are not really germane to your plans right now, except in a purely theoretical way. You want a home, not a romantic, exciting vacation. Your home will not move easily under the best of circumstances because day to day life grows stuff like coffee makers, TV's, computers, piles of clothes and paperwork and much more that doesn't brook bouncing around on the water. It will take _serious_ planning and saintly grace to sail your home regularly (once a month?) - not something to plan on.

You should be able to get a usable boat for $5-$20k. Without spending a very  considerable amount of time reading and learning in any way possible, whatever you buy will be a crapshoot. Look through the classifieds in "Latitude 38" online magazine. It's one of the oldest boaters' community publications out there. Look through "Good Old Boat" magazine (don't know if they have an online version - probably); again, the classifieds. Those are the biggies I recall and there are likely other "live" info sources out there - it's been a long time since I read every word in every sailing mag. The  engine will be the most troublesome and important and expensive thing on the boat. Without a good working engine you will have real problems getting a slip. Most harbors do _not_ offer the slip to the next buyer - you need to apply and sometimes wait in line. Next most important (if you want one) is the toilet. They rarely work as nicely as landlubbers expect and there are very serious laws about how they are installed and maintained. Read up. Did I say they don't work right too often? If you have a working toilet ("head" in boat speak) you will need to empty your holding tank regularly. If you're really sharp, and on top of it, you can drive your boat (this is something that needs an engine) over to the pump out station (incidentally, where is it?) during those hours it's open and pump you tank yourself. Alternatively, pay somebody to come by in a big skiff with an (almost) bigger tank on it and pump your tank as a service; you don't have to be on the boat at the time. Most upscale harbors have this service. Leaks from _above_ are one of your worst problems, given that you're not sinking, of course. They will almost certainly be one of the biggest PITA's you will encounter; they will teach you boat repair.

Lin and Larry Pardey who spent basically all their lives sailing, wrote the best book about _practical_ cruising I have read. I believe it's titled "Cost Conscious Cruiser". I mention this after saying that vacation is not where it's at because they give one of the best overviews of what owning a boat means.

Nigel Calder, "The Boatowner's Mechanical and Electrical Guide" is the best detailed review what's on a boat and how to fix it. This book is the one you need to deal with the necessities of life on a boat.

"This Old Boat" (the book) is a classic anecdotal review of the kind of TLC fiberglass boats need.

Brion Toss and   Emiliano Marino both have excellent books about sails and rigging. But that's not really where you're at right now.


One thing no boat buyer ever thinks about is "how will I get rid of this thing... whenever". It's a very serious consideration because you cannot just donate a boat that is not in quite good shape. Marinas _will_ come after you for the cost of disposing a boat you leave on their hands and the Coast Guard will take you to court of you are linked to a boat sunk w/in 5 miles of shore. DO think about your exit strategy, know your options. Ideally, you can sell but life being what it is, maybe not. That's when you need to be smart. A boat is not as easy to abandon as a car. If worst comes to worst, the last quote I remember for "breaking" a boat in the SF Bay area was north of $4000 and that was a few years ago.


Wherever you think about parking your home, research long and deep (and quietly) the live aboard options. It's not clear sailing, sorta speak. When approaching _any_ person near the shore for information, try to _never_ use the words "live aboard" until you have (from several different sources) gained a very good idea who you're talking with and what their attitude is.  Harbor masters talk to each other and many have a really bad attitude toward live aboards. So do the town council. So do the police and harbor patrol. IF you find a place where you can get a live-aboard permit and are willing to pay for AND can get one w/in a year or two (waiting lists...), then you're fine and set.

Provided...  The boat you  bring into their territory will need to be navigable (can't be towed in), insured (you mentioned that) and look half way decent or they won't take it. They also run credit checks. Your car will need a place to park and sometimes that is not as easy as you might think - check the details. Is the parking lighted? Do you have to move the vehicle every 72 hours? Is the area patrolled? Most harbors are not right across the street from a grocery store so will need surface transportation. Bikes are nice, but check carefully how you're going to park it. All harbors I have been in have rules that _nothing_ is left on the dock except the coiled mooring lines; enforcement varies widely, but "better" marinas tend to be more stringent. Placing a bike on the boat is possible sometimes; there may be bike areas on shore near the gates.

How is garbage handled? Are the gates to the docks left standing open or do they reliably lock? Are there "upwind" slips available. Stay in a downwind slip a couple weeks and you will see why. What are your neighbors like? Spend some time watching your prospective dock(s) from 6am to 9am and from 5pm to 7-8pm; also mid-day. One reason live-aboards have a dodgy rep is because they deserve it. As well as the rich folks with their water-skiing boats and day sailors, you find real hard cases bouncing along the bottom.

Necessities of life: VERY IMPORTANT. Drinking water and safe reliable electricity. Neither one is something you can just assume. Bad electricity will corrode important parts of your boat in the water; it's not always easy to get good information about this.

Internet. Not a given. WIFI is often claimed, often unusable. Test it from the location of your slip.

Right now I have a 35' slip in a marina 10 miles south of San Francisco in the bay. It runs me $300+/mo and goes up every year. Basic insurance I got from Progressive and runs maybe $150/yr. Don't recall.

Clothes on a boat. Casual clothes, not much problem, especially if you don't mind wrinkles. Office uniform... Problem. There is _very_ limited "hanging" storage on a 35' sail boat and suits will suffer.

Boat living is not really too hard, BUT: There is a learning curve that really doesn't start until you move aboard.

Cooking. A boat is a _very_ tight environment. Anything you cook "below" will be part of your atmosphere in bed that night. Thus a usable cockpit with a good "bimini" (large fabric awning cover) can be HUGELY helpful by giving you a back porch to cook on. In the rain and in blistering sun.

Speaking of blistering, ie hot weather. Your boat _must_ have decent ventilation (and depending on personal preference, decent light below). In practice that means openable ports that don't automatically let in the rain when open or require a fight to prevent leaks when you close them again. Depending on your location, bugs may be a problem - hence screens on all openings you use.


Well, that's enough talk. I like living on the water and (mostly) the people I meet are more to my liking than elsewhere. Though I generally mind my own business.

Ah, one other thing. If you want to sail, find a few boat clubs that sponsor races. Skippers usually need more crew than they can find easily and hanging around politely can often get you a place. Racing is THE way to learn to sail because a good skipper is working hard to get the most out of his boat; you see the right ways, the wrong ways, and the disasters and get some feel for just how strong a sail boat really is. Any good sail boat is STRONG! But they do break and it's nicer to find out what breaks them on somebody else's nickle. <g> In return for a good crew berth, you need to help with the chores on the boat, both on race day and often other times in the boat yard when things are repaired and maintained. Good racing skippers often YELL. There are some that don't, but when they are trying to screw the last 12" out of their opponent at a mark, things can get passionate. It's usually not personal, it can be really offensive and unacceptable, but mostly it's just excitement. Bounce around crewing or a few boats and find one where you learn and have fun. The position you start at is usually "rail meat": fit only to balance the boat. The highest position on the boat (barring skipper and navigator) is "fore deck" where you set and  douse the spinnaker. One thing on crewing: Buy and bring your own life vest and foul weather gear. And take _everything_ out of your pockets when racing. A man overboard drill should really be done by every race crew, but... Nobody does it. Make sure your life vest works!


Regards,
Rufus
 
Jennifer Richardson
pollinator
Posts: 380
Location: Colorado County, TX, USA. 8b/9a. Humid subtropical, drought & flood prone
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So, I had my first day of ASA 101 sailing class and it was awesome! We were only able to go out with a double-reefed main and no jib into the lake and bay because we had winds gusting at 35 knots. We managed to heel over enough to dunk the port lifelines of our Colgate 26 during a really badly executed jibe, which was as fun as it was unskillful, and I somehow ended up with enormous mysterious bruises from getting thrown around the boat, but I can’t wait to get out again (and get out to the actual ocean at some point). Alas, day two is postponed until the 27th due to weather. But I aced my certification exam and managed to correctly navigate all the channels and read the buoys and such properly when it was my turn at the tiller, and I undocked and docked the boat in the marina slip without disaster (under power, not sail), and didn’t go aground, so there’s that. Fantastic fun!

I have made arrangements to look at a Cape Dory 28 for sale a few miles from my sailing school. It is early days, but I figure the sooner I can start practicing my amateur surveying skills and getting used to the boat buying process, the better. (There is a very good professional surveyor in town that I will use if I get serious; my amateur efforts are just to avoid paying for surveys on boats that I’m capable of ruling out on my own). There is also an engineless Alberg 30 for sale nearby, with windvane self-steering, but it has hull damage from a hurricane and is probably more trashed than I want to take on.
 
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http://www.free-boat.com/
 
Rufus Laggren
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Jennifer

Glad to hear you had fun! And excitement doesn't scare your. Great! You might be a racer. And if you turn out good on the foredeck, you _will_ be wined and dined, feted and invited to sail every place.

> look at boats
Yup, time to get started. <g> Walk the docks, look at everything. It's a little cold, when you know you're not buying yet, but getting into different boats to look is necessary. Try to spend some down time (not racing or class time) on different boats - it's easier to feel how it might be to live that way. Go with a yacht club member to some weekend raft-ups where there will be 6-12 boats and you can visit shamelessly.

And practice safety (like, I'm sure, the sailing instructor says repeated(!). If you're not ready to do something, decline. Don't. The water brings reality a lot closer than most of us are used to. "Respect" will keep you in one piece on top of it. If you fall off the dock and nobody's around, can you save yourself? Please don't take that as a condescending rhetorical question. I knew somebody who died because she fell off her dock in Alameda and couldn't get back out of the water. She was about 40 years old and had been sailing for years. Life and everything else is closer on the water. So: Respect.


Regards,
Rufus
 
Burl Smith
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Burl Smith wrote:http://www.free-boat.com/



So you've got $20,000 to play with...One of the irritants I remember from my time living on a sailboat was the noise during the night of fish banging on the hull (I say fish because I don't know what else it was) So...



From the Ad:

Hartley Fijian 43 bluewater live aboard

ocean yacht sailboat

High quality motor rigging and cabinetry sturdy ferro cement hull.

https://www.free-boat.com/free/hartley-fijian-43-sailboat-scarborough-on/?lang=en

I don't think the antics of aquatic fauna would penetrate a ferro cement hull. The mainsail boom appears to be absent in the photo.
 
Jennifer Richardson
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Rufus,

I do and will always approach both boats and water with respect. I admit to a certain amount of delight in exhilarating scrapes, but my primary decision-making metric in the outdoors is to never cause a situation which endangers others, either directly or by having to put themselves in danger to rescue me. Always good to have a reminder! I used to swim competitively, but it has been a looooong time since I did anything more than a few casual laps in a pool or a day bopping about in the river or surf, so I should definitely brush up my skills. As for crawling back up on docks, the barnacles are what I fear the most. Ouch!

The weekend raft-up is a great idea, and it turns out there are Wednesday night races in my area that I can attend. I want a cruising boat for myself, but racing on other people’s boats sounds like a blast. I also spotted a Southern Cross 31 for sale on Craigslist and am going to look at it, as it is on my short list of “good old boats” along with the Cape Dorys. Hopefully my theoretical list of seaworthy boats matches up with what I like in person!

Burl,

Thanks for the link! I will definitely keep an eye on that site. I think 40 feet is too big a vessel for me, and I am a bit afraid of ferrocement for a secondhand boat, as I have heard it is difficult to survey and the resale market is not very good. But I will see if there are any ferrocement boats around that I can check out. I do think that sound insulation may be an underrated factor. We used to get in swarms (schools? Herds?) of shrimp in my dad’s Boston Whaler powerboat, and it sounded like the boat was on fire or crackling with electricity. Cool but freaky if you’re not expecting it!
 
Jennifer Richardson
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Checked out the Southern Cross 31 and the Cape Dory 28, plus scoped out the exteriors of a bunch of other boats at the docks.

I did discover to my chagrin that it is not easy to try to do an amateur survey with the owner there chatting you up. Plus a lot of what I had read to look out for was difficult to apply, either due to lack of knowledge/understanding, lack of access (both boats were in the water), or social awkwardness. Mostly I just ended up sort of looking things over in a very general manner, which is not what I wanted/intended.

The Southern Cross 31 didn’t really ring my bell. It looks good, and the owner had put lots of work into it, some of it structural, but I think she overvalues the cosmetic work she’s done and refuses to consider a penny less than the $30,000 she’s asking for, because she wants to get back what she put in, and doesn’t seem in a hurry to sell. Plus I felt too much of the interior was given over to the v-berth, which reminded me of the giant queen-sized beds in RVs. Not really my style.

The Cape Dory 28, on the other hand, felt a bit more streamlined and functional inside, which I preferred. And all the doors and lockers shut smoothly, which they did not on the SC31, which I have read can be indicative of excessive flexing of the hull. There were cracks in various places on deck, but I couldn’t really interpret any of them with confidence. The boat definitely needs a bottom job, according to the owner, who hasn’t had it out of the water in the 3 years he’s owned it, or in fact ever seen it out of the water, as he bought it without hauling it out or getting it surveyed, which fills me with apprehension. Still, he has made quite a few upgrades and repairs, and he is an engineer and seems to have done well with them. I like the boat and may make an offer on it pending haul out and survey. I am debating whether the benefit of watching the surveyor go over the boat and learning from him what to look for will be worth the expense if the boat turns out to be not the one for me.
 
Burl Smith
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It has a robust look to it.

 
Rufus Laggren
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Jennifer

> swimming
Actually, that probably doesn't matter too much. You go overboard and you _better_ have a good life jacket on. Water temperature, clothing and possible injury can negate any swimming skill. Why not bring this up at any courses you take and see what the instructors (and others) say? The MAJOR problem with man overboard is getting the carcass back out of the water - even live, active eager carcasses. Major problem. Even when you're totally intact and just really surprised and get right on it with good help from everybody around, getting back on a dock (much less getting back on deck of a moving sailboat) is _not_ a no brainer. You're right - barnacles are a real problem. So wherever you end up in a home on the water, take a long look around and decide a plan on how to get yourself safe after you end up in the water. Because the water temperatures in many wonder places can be 45F and lower, you might have a very limited window before you start losing functionality. Try jumping into 40F water and see what _instantly_ happens to you (DON'T do it alone or w/out a solid plan on getting out again). And presumably you don't walk around on the dock w/your life vest on all the time, so... Make a plan. If think that swim ladder at the end of the dock will help you - try it. You might be terribly surprised, as in no lower rungs left... Even one you install one  on your dock yourself, in many places marine growth can render them hard to use in less than a year. Often the best plan is to _immediately_ make your way from transom to transom down the row of boats on your dock until you reach the shore and walk out. IAC, think it out carefully and conservatively.

>"just generally looking around..."

Isn't that pretty much where you're at right now, making a catalog of what you "feel" about different boats' layouts? Definitely keep a log or journal of your explorations because after you look at a dozen or more, they all run together - even the different types.

> racing
You found a "beer can" race! Great!. They are a nice way to get out on the water w/out too much stress and effort. Probably won't see any keen competition there, but definitely a wonderful way to go sailing. Good deal! <g>

When you're looking, look at _everything_ you come across. The boat I'm on now I almost passed by w/out looking because I had been inside two others of it's type and found the standing headroom uncomfortable. However, on this boat there was 2" greater headroom - even though it was an identical make/model. Go figure. I'm glad I looked. It also has a unique cabin layout with the galley sink in a center island which greatly reduces the "falling space" and works really well in all ways. Owners are all different. The last one I dealt with was a real farm-hand style carpenter but his design and layout was top notch. All the cosmetics were... unique. <g> But the backbone was all good. So look at everything and keep track of first impressions - you only get one chance at those and they're quite important.

Ferro is a no-go except in very special circumstance. _Nobody_ knows how to work on them. Period. I know of no regular yard that built ferro sailboats so that means they're all one-off and the quality of the build is up to the gods in each and every case. I studied up on the type before moving on. There is some real craft and science required in getting the hull made well and it comes from at least three different trades - having those skills all come together at one time is rarely a given. I've never heard of one that sailed particularly well and I looked over half a dozen and spent several months figuring them out. Ferro boats are (or were 20 years ago) made for commercial work in 3rd world countries because the materials are few and simple, tooling is relatively simple, and fabrication can be fast. But those boat are intended for short haul coastal work and were expected to last 5-10 years at most. But, just for contrast. A friend in SF bought a 30 yr-old 45' ferro saillboat from a musician in 2004(?) and made a success out of it by dropping $10k (15k? it's been a while) into it immediately, selling the mast and rigging,  and then _never_ moving it. She turned it into a very nice condo and managed (very _very_ lucky lady, IMHO) to sell it when she moved on. There were always leaks at the ports and from above.

> surveyors

They're not god, not even close. But you may want one, eventually. Search the web and read up on stories about and by surveyors. Study on the foibles of the boats you get interested in to get a little bit of an idea of particular troubles that boat might have. The report is always disappointingly uninformative (seems that way to me, at least), but one if the important aspects of a survey is that it gets another pair of informed eyes on something you cannot help but have blind spots about. It's the "Well DUH!" points that the surveyor can  make sure you don't miss.

SMELL when you first enter. Air freshener is _not_ a good sign. Smell when opening lockers. OTOH, the head (toilet) _always_ stinks... But you don't want it to stink so much, so check it out and compare notes between boats.

Here is an old list-serv that has mostly died out, but the archives might hold some interest. You'll have to look up the archive url; then use the google "site:target-url" keyword to search that particular site.

Google Groups "LiveaboardList" group

I don't think it's an immediate source of detailed specific info for you, but it has some flavor if you can skip through the guy-talk.

Regards,
Rufus
 
Burl Smith
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Rufus Laggren wrote: But, just for contrast. A friend in SF bought a 30 yr-old 45' ferro saillboat from a musician in 2004(?) and made a success out of it by dropping $10k (15k? it's been a while) into it immediately, selling the mast and rigging,  and then _never_ moving it. She turned it into a very nice condo



With city marinas sharing the best downtown realestate location I think you make good sense. Minus the rigging and some added superstructure could make the concrete hull an attractive harbor fixture/rental.  

 
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Hey!
No one recommended the book " sailing the farm".

Yes, read all the past latitude 38's

Nothing smaller than 27 foot.
If you get the chance, visit a 25', a 27' and a 30-31'
The differences that happen with a few feet is astounding.

Be carefull of the sleek boats. I had a 1960 wood cheoy lee that everyone admired, so nice, NO ROOM.
I have an ericson 27 in los angeles now and I'm pretty happy with it.(shame it never leaves the harbor)

FIBERGLASS.

Don't get excited about the electronics, a lot of it is old junk and is not very expensive to replace, (and then there's the fancy stuff.)

I like to say that 10% of all the sailors in the world want to go cruising, 10 % of them will, and 10% of that group will continue.

More later, you can't stop me on this subject.
 
Rufus Laggren
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> don't get excited about the electronics...

Truer words were never spoken... <g>

But _do_ look at the basic electrical such as lights, engine wiring and battery - that stuff. It helps a lot to have a few 120volt AC outlets properly wired from a breaker with a proper shorepower cord (those cords can be pricey - $100+ for some - so if you have one included, try to take care of it). Running extension cords around for the coffee maker, etc is even worse on board than on shore - but it can be done.

Rufus
 
Jennifer Richardson
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I haven’t owned anything electronic for years except my smartphone, and I have a portable solar charger for it.

On the boat, in addition to the mandatory running and anchor lights, I’d like to have VHF, GPS, and a depth sounder. Eventually with enough solar capacity to keep them charged while cruising. Maybe SSB eventually when I get around to bluewater sailing, if the money gods are beneficent and I feel like dealing with the additional complexity. I dislike gadgets and I hate electrical work, tbh.

So I feel like I may not need shore power at all.

The temptations of the marina are its decadent amenities and convenience/security while learning to sail and fixing up the boat, but I would prefer to live at anchor as much as possible. I am figuring it will be hard to escape the boatyard and marina without a few months of learning curve, however.
 
Rufus Laggren
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Yes, the KISS principle (KeepItSimpleStupid) has always seemed a good way to approach fitting a boat. But there are a few considerations...  <g>

> shorepower

Consider the coffee maker. Reading lights, computers - solar is fine provided it covers your needs, but it might take a bit of work to reach that point for everything electrical thing in your life. Heat during cold months; depends on your body type. Refrigeration - when working a "regular" job and developing your future options, there may not be a whole lot of time for "green" food habits. Time is the big issue that decadent conveniences like stoves, good lighting and refrigeration address. Give it some consideration - it might be best to compromise in certain ways.

> electronics...
The only  item which I found instantly and regularly relevant was a VHF to listen to the local traffic and learn and track my environment. The cheapest box that listens to the main channels (12,14,16,23,73 and probably a few others like the Wx) and switches between them properly is all you need until you're on the move; with luck one suitable will come with the boat. Your antenna is FAR more important to good radio communication that the radio itself. A scanning feature which monitors all the channels is neat and nice, but not really that important for just eavesdropping. No need to spend any money there until later.

> anchor out...
Things to think about, most especially if you expect to maintain something like a "normal" life ashore. Again, time. Getting to/from the boat may take significant time from your day. And exactly how will you make that trip (every single time you need something on shore)? A good, safe dingy (anything neat, like a kayak, won't have much carrying capacity). Row it? Possible, but slow. Outboards are expensive and you need to obtain and care for one that will be reliable. You will need a place to safely (ie. with some probability it and the outboard will be there when you return) dock the dingy. In what condition do you need to arrive on shore (reliably, 5 days a week)? Jumping in and out of small bouncing boats does not do business suits any good at all... Not to mention spray on the way in readjusting your hair and makeup and decorating your white blouse. Your boat home at a dock, although not locked like a house, will usually have some combination of neighbors and harbor personnel around who are at least peripherally aware of who you are and that you're the person who's supposed to be on that boat. An anchor out will usually be at least 100  yards away from shore and often 1/4 mile or more, far beyond anybody's reach or interest. Except curious folks in _their_ motorboats or fellow anchor outs who might visit to borrow a cup of sugar and see if anybody's home and if not whether they might help by getting onboard to secure that loose line and gosh! that (was) a nice computer on the chart table... Finally, working on your boat in any systematic way is greatly aided by being able to _walk_ (egad!) along the side of your boat. I only know one guy who could do that w/out a dock.

Convenience is often dissed but that easy judgment misses its core value - "convenience" saves and, if we are building on a plan in a disciplined way, leverages _time_. I heard a story about Obama: He is a very smart person and he understood that human beings can only handle, in their thinking and processing, a limited number of issues at once. I think it was three but google will know. Being in a position where every day was a blizzard of critical detail, he delegated and off loaded every single part of his life that he could. He literally did not dress or feed himself, he did not get himself from one place to another, he did not make his appointments... He did _nothing_ he did not absolutely have to. Because what he _did_ have to do was pretty much impossible for one person but by utilizing all the help and conveniences he possibly could he was able to do his best at handling his real responsibilities. Most people don't have to run his gauntlet but the idea that we need to prioritize and "pick our fights" is something everybody should take a look at.

Regards,
Rufus
 
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There's some great wisdom here!  

I'll point out that you mention taking some blue water trips - but there are some other possibilities.  There is an amazing network of inland waterways that can help you travel around a lot of the USA and never get to to true blue water.  There's even something called the Great American Loop (https://www.greatloop.org) that takes you from the Mississippi around Florida up to the Great Lakes and then back down.  I mention this because if that is something you might be interested in then you want to pay some attention to the height of your mast (or have a boat with a mast that easily swings down) - there are a lot of bridges on that route.  It seems most folks on that route are using diesels instead of wind, but if an otherwise perfect but not heavy ocean boat comes along its worth considering as an option.

Also insurance ... warm waters are also hurricane waters.  When my father had a boat, it was an insurance requirement that it spend the hurricane season "in the North."  This may not be an issue in TX, but if you start travelling it may become a factor to consider.

When I was last travelling through marinas in Florida there were the expected fancy boats which seemed to be expensive to just look at.  But there were a LOT of small, basic and very plain boats (almost day sailors) in marinas - they seemed to have retirees trying to stretch their social security in a warm climate.  They looked less than happy.  Although there is a lot to be said for minimalism, some simple amenities can really enhance your daily life - things like dodgers/biminis, deck cushions, ability to stand up below decks, windows, a door instead of companionway hatch boards.  It sounds like you have well defined (and good) limits on boat size, etc  - but its worth recognizing that the boat needs to match your comfort/aesthetic needs otherwise you'll be miserable in the most functional and logical hull imaginable!

Eliot
 
Jennifer Richardson
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Thanks, guys! I do tend to default to inconvenience, since I have always had more time than money and never been traditionally employed. But honestly a big reason I am wanting to no longer live in the truck is that some of the inconvenience is getting pretty old. So just because I can live without something doesn’t necessarily mean I should/will want to in a few years. It would be a shame to spend all the time and money buying and refitting the boat only to find it unpleasant to live in. I have also been thinking about the fact that, although the truck has fewer conveniences in and of itself than the boat, it also has better access to the conveniences of shore, and I spend a lot of time living out of the truck rather than in it. Away from a marina, the boat will be much more confining.

As for where I am in the boat search process, while it is early days, I would still buy a boat tomorrow if it met my parameters for size/seaworthiness/etc, was in my price range, had no “dealbreakers” in terms of repairs needing to be made, and I liked it. I have been visiting more boats, but most are racers or daysailers, which is not what I’m looking for, and some (like the Island Packets) are gorgeous, but so far out of my price range even used that they might as well not even exist. So far my favorite that I have a chance of buying is the Cape Dory 28. I like the look of the boat and the interior layout. It feels comfortable and streamlined, not claustrophobic. The storage is not overabundant considering everything one needs to operate and maintain the boat, plus the future possibility of provisioning for longer cruising trips, but I feel that I can keep everything I need well-organized and reasonably accessible. He is asking $19,900 for it, and I made an offer for $16,500 pending sea trial and survey. That may be a little high from what I’ve heard of them going for, but it’s hard for me to tell. Hopefully I can bring him down in price post-survey, if we proceed. We shall see where that goes.

PS that great American loop sounds really cool! I will have to look up bridge clearances and see what I have to work with.
 
kevin stewart
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I was going to potificate some but last night i pumped out the bilge and this morning i noticed it all went into the dinghy.
 
Jennifer Richardson
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Marine composting heads: thoughts?

On further crawling around the Cape Dory 28, have discovered that it has a small bladder as its holding tank. The capacity looks like maybe 3 gallons? Quite small. There is a Y valve, and it’s legal, but that’s the best that can be said. I cannot find anywhere on the boat to feasibly retrofit a real holding tank, so am considering an Airhead or other composting head.

It also doesn’t have a shower (or water heater, not that I’d expect one) and the head is not set up for wet use, so taking a solar shower bag in there is not an option. Cockpit shower is a possibility, but I am not really cool with showering outdoors in anchorages or around the crew I am likely to have on board, if I have any. Showers seem not to exist on these smaller, older boats in general. One of the things I dislike about living in the truck is the inability to bathe/shower without going to a gym/hotel/friend’s house/etc., so I would really prefer not to just suck it up and go without, if possible. What do people generally do about this on small boats?

Other issues with the CD28 that I have discovered during sea trial include a leaking (and incredibly inaccessible) packing gland and small amounts of water shooting up through the stern tube at the base of the tiller when underway. To replace packing gland with dripless will probably require a new shaft as well I’m guessing and I think there’s a 95% chance the propeller and cutless bearing are going to be shot if I hire a surveyor and we we haul it out, and I know it needs a bottom job.  I have no idea what I’d do about the stern tube—maybe would have to drop the rudder to fix? No clue. Standing rig has a lot of rust, of unknown age and will have to be replaced, which I expected on a boat this old, which will require pulling the mast. Halyards too although the running rigging is mostly pretty new. Has been upgraded to Harken roller furling jib. Also found the depth sounder wildly imprecise during sea trial, cycling through about a four foot range (equal to the entire draft of the boat) while sitting in one place. Hull sides have some damage from being scraped into something, cosmetic but requiring some pretty extensive fairing before painting. Idiot lights and alarms on diesel did not work. VHF seems stuck on channel 16. Seacock for galley sink drain, which has one of the cockpit drains tied in, is frozen open. No anchor light. Hull and decks sound with the exception of one small area of water intrusion into balsa core, very limited and easy to fix. Tabbing, stringers, bulkheads, hull to deck joint all overbuilt and sound. Sails dirty but good condition. Main, jib, and genoa. Outlets need to be replaced with grounded ones but that’s easy. Interior cushions are trashed but that’s cosmetic. Old obsolete alcohol stove that may or may not function (probably does—I didn’t light it, but was able to pump alcohol to the burners and I don’t see why it wouldn’t light). Needs some new flares/fire extinguisher/safety equipment. No dinghy although I could use my sea kayak temporarily if I could figure out where to put it.

The seller counter-offered at $17,750 but I think that’s too high for what I’m seeing. Actually I think my original offer of $16,500 pending survey is too high, considering. I’m thinking maybe...$12,000? $10,000? She’s essentially a very sound hull with a 40+ year diesel and needs her rig and 80% of her equipment and systems worked on or replaced. Hmmm.
 
kevin stewart
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Lots of boats out there.

Rust on standing rigging is an indication of neglect.
 
Jennifer Richardson
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Kevin,

Yeah, I am thinking I’ll pass. Even if I could get her much cheaper than what he’s asking, I think I’d like to get one in better shape rather than taking on that extensive of a refit this early in the game.
 
Timothy Markus
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I agree.  If you're patient, I think you can find a boat that needs much less work.  The right boat at $30k would be a much better deal than that boat at $10k.  If the diesel goes, on top of everything else, all you've got is a hull.  It sounds like you did a good job surveying the boat.
 
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I seriously looked at this option for living...for a true ocean and water lover...what other option could be as cheap?  

But as I looked for 26 to 35' footers to buy, I started to realize the varying condition of the crafts and why they looked like they did: if you live on the craft and sail it regularly, you'll end up needing a new boat and or serious dry dock time.

pirates I can think of solutions for but I don't have solutions to get a new or used craft every few years..

Start asking people who have had multiple crafts and ask them how often they had to have barnacles removed from the hull, do hull repairs, and engine repairs (yes, on a sail boat, you'll need atleast a small motor to come into a pier).  At first they'll say, oh, not too much, but wait for the rest of the story...believe me, there will be the rest of the story.

my heart was almost broken when I found out I really couldn't afford this lifestyle past the life of the first boat I purchased.

there is truth to the adage: there are two kinds of boat owners: those trying to sell one and those trying to buy one
 
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My spouse and I have owned a 37' bluewater sailboat for 11 years, lived aboard both in the local marina for a year while cruising around local waters (Salish Sea, circumnavigating Vancouver Island a few) before sailing to Mexico and back over a three year period, and then back in the local marina for another two years. What were we doing during the other six or so years we have owned the boat?

Preparing the boat for bluewater cruising and routine maintenance. You have received lots of good info on this thread. I will add only a few more bits of info, plus my opinion on whether this lifestyle is good for the environment.

1) It will take far more of your time and money to maintain, fix, and upgrade your chosen vessel than you EVER dreamed or estimated. You must love and desire this lifestyle in order to be content.
2) A boat in saltwater is deteriorating 24/7. To slow it down, you will need to employ some of the most toxic chemicals developed by humans, routinely. This is no joke, and if you really are passionate about environmental health and restoration, then living on a boat will depress you at some point. Bottom paint, Epoxies, varnishes, MEK, adhesives, cleaners, etc, are all requisites for maintaining a boat. Yes, there are less-toxic substitutions for some of these, but they work more slowly and/or must be replaced more frequently. Not to mention the oils, grease, diesel fuel and lubricants. Unless you have LOADS of money, you will not be puchasing an all-electric propulsion boat, so it will be petroleum-based.
3) No matter how hard you try, your boat will leak some amount of fuel, grease, oil, sh*#%t and toxic gick into the seawater. The bottom paint, fiberglass, and/or wooden hull preservatives you use will slough into the water, or into the air when you are sanding. Are you ok with that?

We bought an older boat with an excellent reputation and replaced all major systems (engine, fuel delivery, water tanks, sewage storage, through-hulls, electrical). This saved us a lot of $$$ over buying new, and also let us configure the boat the way we wanted. With LEDS, tiny fridge/freezer, solar panels, and KISS lifestyle that avoids gadgets, We are most proud of our low electricity useage. But it doesn't offset the pollution, in my mind. Being a member of the boating lifestyle will expose you to a huge number of good people who look the other way when it comes to the realities of boater pllution. They (we) are like this because there is always a bigger, stinkier, leakier, more-chipped-paint and ttrash-in-the-water boat in any marina or anchorage. Easy to say/think "Well, I'm a lot better than that..." But is that all we shoot for, as people wanting to preserve and restore our planet?

We've had some incredible adventures, and for that my human heart is grateful. But I am also ashamed of the all the small indignities our boat has heaped upon the sea and the climate by use of the toxic materials inheritant in boat use and maintenance. And we haven't had any major leaks or spills or accidents. Just the usual everyday stuff.

Maybe you want an engineless boat? You can be like the Pardeys, widely admired for there boldness and sailing acumen, but also known for being towed into anchorages and marina...
 
kevin stewart
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Books:

Practical mariners book of knowledge.

And

The ocean sailing yacht.

The book of knowledge is a must have.

 
Rufus Laggren
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I think Carla speaks accurately. I have spent the last 20 years mostly on the water and while I haven't even sailed far from my home port, the boats always need work. And the best way the work gets done is with "modern" materials because most other way don't last nearly as well and lead to more repair sooner. Traditional wood boats and methods require even larger amounts of time, money and commitment.

However, I don't think it's a problem with a totally clear answer... At least not a simplistic "this way is good, that is bad". Human beings have an impact no matter where/what we do and when thinking about options we need to factor in that no matter our choices we impact our world. In comparing options we need to compare the _relative_ merits as best we can and not just stare at the fact that a particular choice exacts a toll on nature. Yes it does, but we have to face up to the fact that we exact some toll no matter what we do.

This is an endless question and I don't see any immediate decisively satisfying answers. But we can make a stab at choosing "better" over "worse". No sure bet that we'll like the result, but... In the case of boat living, I'm not convinced it _has_ to be that much worse for the world than taking up space on land. The oceans are being recognized more and more as something hugely important to the planet. In the course of evolving ecology politics it looks to me like the places with human representatives, ie. people connected, living and appreciating them and who may fight for them, fare better than "wilderness". People on the water are not necessarily a bad thing. When it appears possible to them I have found most people around the harbors actually try to "do the right thing". Even the bums. It's all a work in progress. Our work.

Rufus
 
Rufus Laggren
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Perhaps I should add explicitly that "modern methods" can and need to be undertaken responsibly. And traditional methods also require responsibility. Note the large expanses of land deforested or stripped of its grass cover, left to erode and blow away - we don't need "modern methods" to destroy the planet. We do need a mindset that recognizes and accepts responsibility for our actions, recognizes that we are part of this planet, no matter what tech or methods we choose.

Rufus
 
kevin stewart
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I went to a wedding tonight and since i wasn't taking a bridesmaid home i thought I'd try this...
20190427_163627_Film2.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20190427_163627_Film2.jpg]
 
Screaming fools! It's nothing more than a tiny ad:
permaculture bootcamp - learn permaculture through a little hard work
https://permies.com/wiki/bootcamp
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