Just added – New FAQ on Living Aboard Costs!

maxI never really thought to add a separate FAQ on costs – but it turns out that it is better late than never. Here is a short FAQ – as well as a link to the super-often-requested spreadsheet.

How much does it cost to live aboard a boat?

It depends. Questions of cost when it comes to boating are not easy to answer without a bit of other information. It really depends not only on the boat, but your location, climate tolerance, storage requirements, marina and more. How often you use your boat, as well as the conditions in which you use it, also can have a substantial impact on costs and expenses.Nevertheless, this is among the most important questions you can have – and as they say… if you have to ask the question about cost, then reducing costs and finding ways to live a manageable lifestyle is probably something you care deeply about.

So can living aboard save you money versus an apartment or home purchase? Sure. Will it save you money? That depends. Some folks choose this lifestyle for the sole purpose of saving money. Others love the lifestyle. Still others seek the luxury of a multi-million dollar yacht with a full time crew. Some are comfortable with few amenities.  Some allow maintenance to slip. Others are much the opposite. With these variables in mind I created a spreadsheet to help you assess your own choices and circumstances. Here is the link: CLICK HERE FOR SPREADSHEET. I’m proud of this spreadsheet since it captures most of the items you should consider.

Annual Winterize Your Boat Checklist

With a special thanks to Chris Birch for providing us with his annual winterize-your-boat checklist, here are some thoughts for you to consider as you prepare your boat for the 2013/2014 winter. To all those of you whose season is coming to a close, I hope you had an awesome season.  Hope that this checklist really comes in handy.  Chris is one of the top marine technicians – so if you’re in Boston, MA, contact him if he can help. Otherwise, his contribution is incredibly nice of him.

To Do       Project

Phase 1 – near the end of the boating season:
∆                Fall varnish
∆                Clean & wax topsides from waterline to the rail
∆                Clean & wax deck, cockpit & house
∆                Interior cleaning including storage lockers and contents there of
∆                Bilge cleaning

Phase 2 – Just prior to haul out:
∆                Fuel:  fill tank(s)
∆                Add fuel stabilizer and biocide to fuel tank(s)
∆                Canvas: remove, send out for service & storage
∆                   Sails:  remove, send out for washing, minor repair & storage
∆                Main engine(s):  winterize
(Change engine oil, oil filter, fuel filter(s), & engine zinc. Flush, fog & seal)
∆                Generator:  winterize
(Change engine oil, oil filter, fuel filter(s), & engine zinc. Flush, fog & seal)
∆                Batteries:  clean, service, charge, hydrometer test
∆                Head(s): winterize toilet, macerator pump and holding tank.
∆                Fresh water sys.:  winterize tanks, water heater, taps, showers & shower sumps
∆                Ice maker: winterize
∆                Bilge & bilge pumps:  test & flush all electric and manual bilge pumps
∆                Air conditioning / heat: winterize
∆                Refrigeration:  winterize
∆                Water maker:  winterize
∆                Windshield spray system:  winterize
∆                Salt water wash down pump(s): winterize
∆                Winterize & stow dingy outboard engine
∆                Clean, deflate and stow inflatable dingy
∆                Full systems check

Phase 3 – After haul out (or final move to winter slip for in water storage):

∆                Shrinkwrap.   White plastic?   Or clear plastic for $100 Surcharge?   Zipper door?
(note: Sails and canvas must be removed prior to shrinkwrap)
∆                Set out dehumidifier containers
∆                Send prop(s) out for tune and service
∆                Diver to change zincs  if boat is to winter in the water
∆                Other:

Winter projects

To do       Project

∆            New electronics installation
∆            Interior varnish or painting project
∆            Exterior varnish or painting project
∆            Wiring project
∆            Rigging project
∆            Plumbing project
∆            Carpentry project
∆            Flexiteek decking project

Preventative maintenance suggestions:
∆            Replace engine control cables
∆            Replace old hoses and hose clamps
∆            Add a bilge pump and/or high water alarm
∆            Service your steering system
∆            Service your winches
∆            Service or renew your sea cocks
∆            Send prop(s) out for tune and service
∆            Renew your cutlass bearing(s)
∆            Re-bed some or all of your deck hardware & ports
∆            Cabin sole varnish
∆            Repaint your worn anchor chain markings
∆            Renew your running rigging
∆            Renew your standing rigging
∆            Renew your dock lines and /or fenders and/or fender covers
∆            Bleach clean your interior lockers and bilge spaces
∆            Renew your head(s)
∆            Upgrade or renew your DC wiring system
∆            Upgrade or renew your AC wiring system
∆            Send your engine alternator(s) and starter motor(s) out for service
∆            Clean & paint your engine
∆            Other:

FINALLY – Re-Commissioning Checklist

To do       Project

∆                Remove & recycle winter cover
∆                Bottom paint.  Interlux Micron CSC is standard choice.  Alternative paint?  Color?
∆                Zinc: install new shaft/tabs/rudder/hull/thruster zinc(s)
∆                Clean shaft(s) & prop(s) and thruster tunnel(s)
∆                Diver to clean bottom and change zincs if boat wintered in the water
∆                Clean wax topsides (waterline to the rail)
∆                Clean wax deck (from the rail up)
∆                Polish stainless
∆                Interior cleaning
∆                Bleach clean interior lockers and bilge spaces
∆                Varnish:  exterior varnish or other wood finish
∆                Tune rig
∆                Bend on sails
∆                Install dodger and / or bimini
∆                Main engine(s):  commission
∆                Generator:  commission
∆                Fresh water system:  commission
∆                Ice maker:  commission
∆                Head(s):  commission
∆                Air-conditioning / heat:  commission
∆                Refrigeration:  commission
∆                Battery:  clean, service, load test & charge
∆                Check and grease sea cocks
∆                Service stuffing boxes on shaft(s) and rudder post(s)
∆                Service winches
∆                Inflate and check and clean inflatable dingy
∆                Summerize dingy engine
∆                Full systems check
∆                Other:

Three Ways a De-icer can Protect Your Boat and Dock this Winter

Jack Frost can pack quite a bite, especially for boats that spend the winter in harbor. That’s why it’s important for boat and dock owners to do all they can to keep their vessels shielded from the snapping jaws of winter. In more temperate climates, where ice is not as much of a concern, simple insulated covers and a good gel-coat layer could suffice. However, if your boat or dock is exposed to frigid temperatures, you’re looking at freezing water and ice – and that can present a whole iceberg of issues.

De-icers are commonly used by many boat and dock owners during the winter, and for good reason: They ward off the formation of ice, which can be devastating to boat hulls as well as the structural integrity of the dock. De-icers are motorized devices that keep the cold water churning so it can’t freeze as easily, drawing warm water up from the bottom and pushing it to the surface. When a de-icer is used, the watercraft and dock remain safely protected from the cold shoulder Jack Frost inflicts.

Here are three winter disasters a de-icer can prevent:

1. Hull Damage

Normal current and wind speeds naturally make water rigs tip, rock and pitch in the water. When freezing temperatures and a layer of ice are added to the equation, the result is a nasty grinding action that can scratch and tear away the gel-coat along the waterline of fiberglass boats. This allows water to sneak into the laminate and further damage the hull. Ice can also get into the plank seams or the bilge of a wooden boat and cause anything from minor cosmetic damage to major leaks.

2. Dock Lifting

Ice, wind and current are no friend to docks, either, especially if all three elements are thrown together. Because ice expands during the freezing process, the water levels will fluctuate, making it difficult for dock piles to stay firmly in place. Heavy ice flows and ice pressure can shift the dock pilings – or worse, pull them out of their footings entirely. Any watercraft near the dock could be damaged as the dock shifts.

3. Ice Expansion

Like most substances, water at ordinary temperatures contracts, increasing in density as it cools. At about 4 degrees Celsius, however, water reaches its maximum density and then decreases in density as it reaches its freezing point. Because of this, ice forms on the top of the water first, allowing it to freeze and float, and then the rest of the ice forms below. This simple sequence can be disastrous for both docks and boat hulls. The pressure from ice expansion can crush a hull or dock, causing major damage and compromising the structural integrity of the craft.

Jack Frost can try as he may to freeze lakes and rivers, penetrate boat hulls and crush docks – but he’ll have a much harder time succeeding if a de-icer is on hand to protect your goods during the winter.

Note from Mark Nicholas:  We don’t take many guest blogs, but this is a matter of interest and there is no better resource than people who deal in the goods they are writing about. the truth here is that this is a matter of importance to me. boats and ice do not mix, and cold climates do run the risk of crushed hulls. safety precautions are essential. if you are in a cold climate, take this opportunity to think about how you will stay safe and secure.  Its time to gear up for the cold!

This blog post is courtesy of SavvyBoater, which carries a wide selection of de-icers, boat covers, bimini tops and boat propellers.

How big a boat do I need to live aboard?

You might think that longer means more storage and comfort. It does not. Longer means longer. That’s it. There is an immense difference between a narrow 42 footer and a beamy 35.

There are more than a handful of questions that you can ask throughout your life that no one can answer for you.  For those folks who are evaluating this lifestyle, I’m sure that this is a question that you are asking – and you are probably becoming frustrated that you can’t seem to get a straight answer out of anyone.  I find that when I speak to this issue at boat shows, I find that no matter the boat that we discuss, the prospective buyer’s response always starts with the word “But…”.

Like all of your life’s goals only you know what you want.  Only you know whether you and  your companions need more space, seaworthiness, storage or amenities.  Only you know whether you (and your companions) are willing to shower in a marina or would be comfortable onboard, and if you are onboard, only you know how much or how little space you are willing to tolorate.  No one knows what you want or need.  That makes this important decision yours and yours alone.

Your primary obstacle, and we all face this, is that every boat is a compromise.  Like a house (a terrestrial habitat), bigger often means more expensive and labor intensive.  But unlike a house, a boat that is longer will require tradeoffs, including fewer locations for berthing, maneuverability and so forth.   When we think about size, we are thinking about everything from daily comfort, maintenance, storage, performance, etc, and every solution has a counter-argument.

Is there a minimum size?  Sure.  A boat that can’t fit a bed is probably too small.  However, I know couples who live quite comfortably on 26′ sailboats that offer headroom that only a child can enjoy, and I know solos who live on 60’+ yachts.

You might think that longer means more storage and comfort.  It does not.  Longer means longer.  That’s it.  There is an immense difference between a narrow 42 footer and a beamy 35.  My old Hunter 33 had a 10’9″ beam and no storage at all, while the comparable Morgan’s and Island Packets (at slightly smaller lengths) were like full apartments in comparison.  And yet, I was entirely comfortable although the book does introduce my challenges.  Another point, some long boats are actually more sprit than substance.  Look at the substance – but remember that you might pay for the bowsprit.

There are three considerations.  First, remember that no matter how large a boat you buy, boats are small.  If you are doing this with a companion or family, you will be in close proximity all of the time and in actual physical contact some of the time (like when walking down the passageways).  Any uncomfortable person means that everyone will be uncomfortable.  Second, most people who buy now for their dream to circumnavigate the world later generally waste a ton of money.  Even if you end up circumnavigating the globe, it may be 5 or 10 years down the line and the boat you buy will have required substantially more maintenance, money and time over that period of time.  In reality, few ever do head out to the open ocean.

Lastly, many boat buyers, particularly first time boat buyers, buy with amenities in mind.  I did.  Everyone does.  While many amenities are never needed or used, the real reason to avoid buying for amenities is more basic for the majority of us – we’re not wealthy – and those optional amenities actually cause us to not properly evaluate the boat itself, and ultimately make sacrifices when it comes to the choice of vessel.  Your are buying a boat, not a radar on something that floats.  The structure is your primary protection, so make sure that you float, stay dry and safe.  Amenities can always be added later.

If you watch the videos, in particular, the videos on Choosing a Boat 1 and 2, you will see that it is not uncommon for boaters to wish that their boats were smaller.  Long boats cost much more money – and you pay by the foot.  They require more work and maintenance – again by the foot.  If you choose a boat with a lot of brightwork, you’ll exchange the life you have for a life sanding and refinishing.  My personal preferences are shorter, cheaper and all fiberglass – but that’s just me.

Hopefully this has helped provide an explanation to the answer that is so dissatisfying to all of us.   No one will tell you what to do or how to do it, and there are few things more personal than choosing a boat.

We’ll get to the subject of cost next time, but for now – don’t forget to visit the cost video and cost table so you  can get a sense of all of the costs that you might not be considering at this moment.  Don’t be surprised – be prepared.

Until next time…