My Wife and I originally made our decision to live aboard our 33' CSY sailboat when the economy started plummeting as a way for our small family of three to lower our costs of living and most importantly fulfill a dream and live a life outside the ordinary. Without a doubt this was the best decision we have made and do not regret leaving terra firma for a minute. The experience has made our relationship stronger and provided our young daughter a perspective few can understand.
It is not an easy lifestyle. Every single task takes twice, if not three times as long, to accomplish than if you lived on land. Buying groceries, doing laundry, even refueling can take an entire day compared to living on land. Living on a sailboat does provide an opportunity to slow down, escape the rat race, and consider what really matters to you in this short life.
If you don't own a boat currently, there are lots of resources on the web that can guide you to find a solid sea worthy vessel. BUT, I have one very important tip for you. This one tip can save you tens of thousands of dollars and lots of potential frustration in the future.
Buy the smallest and cheapest boat you can find.
Why? Well, for one, a boat of any kind is a horrible financial investment. It can be the smartest lifestyle investment you ever make but don't hope to break even much less make any money on selling a used boat. In the event you bought a $200,000 sailboat and after a year of living aboard you decide this lifestyle is really not for you, after you pay the brokers fee, account for the maintenance costs, add in the insurance fees, and then total the loss after selling your boat- you might find you've taken a serious financial hit. On the other hand, you find a small but sea worthy boat in the 30' range for about $30,000. After a year, you decide the boating lifestyle is not for you. Not only is the fees, insurance, and maintenance expenses significantly less expensive but there are a whole lot more people out there to buy your boat in the $20-30,000 range.
Here's another excellent reason to buy small and cheap. If it turns out you really LOVE the live aboard lifestyle, I can almost guarantee your first boat will not be your last boat. You will start to accumulate a 'wish list' of options or features your would like in a boat.
While our CSY 33' sailboat is an excellent boat, it has a V berth forward and I soon dreaded crawling up into the berth every night. I dreamed of getting a sailboat with a 'pullman' berth that you can get into from the side and is rectangular like a normal bed. This is only one example of the many little details that you find after having the experience and pleasure of living aboard a boat.
When we found out my wife was pregnant with our second child while in Key West, Florida, we knew it was time to upgrade sailboats to meet the needs of our expanding family. In a matter of 2 short months, we had sold our 1979 CSY 33 sailboat at a reasonable price and negotiated to buy a 1993 Gemini 3400 Catamaran. The years of owning the CSY have provided us the first hand experience on what is important in a live aboard vessel. Our Gemini 3400 Catamaran has many of the items on our wish list, including a pullman berth!
Bigger is not always better. A bigger boat will ALWAYS cost you more to maintain, insure, dock, and eventually sell. Optimally, find the smallest boat you think you can live on- and then find one just a bit smaller. Then you have found the perfect first live aboard boat. Everything is a compromise on a boat. The only definitive way to determine what works for you is to ask a lot of questions and then try it on for size.
If you are truly committed to living aboard a sailboat, the experience can have a profound impact on how you see the world. We have been fortunate to run into (and been the beneficiary of) the kindest people on land or water you can imagine.
If you want to live aboard a sailboat, remember, buy small, buy cheap, but GO NOW!
JC McDowell lives aboard a sailboat with his pregnant wife and two year old daughter on the east coast.
JC McDowell is a former real estate developer, builder, and furniture maker who has decided, after being a workaholic most of his adult life, to 'Work to Live' not "Live to Work'. You can read more at his website, JC McDowell and the Family Unit