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Old 01-29-2019, 10:41 AM   #1
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Moorage and Living Aboard

The recent posting about living aboard and heating a boat in San Diego got me thinking. As frequent visitors to this forum we have all seen the “which boat should I buy, twin or single, and what state has the least tax liability” questions from new enthusiasts. There are some realities about buying, mooring and living aboard that are important to think about:

1. The older the boat the harder it is to find financing. Even tougher if it is a wooden boat. Same goes for insurance.

2. Very few banks or credit unions will even consider a loan when the boat is a live aboard. When we decided to live aboard we sold our house then began the look for the right boat. With no real property all of our long term financial agencies wouldn’t even consider a loan on a live aboard boat. We found out the qualification and paperwork requirements for making a loan without real property to secure the loan was too daunting for most lenders so they simply quit doing them. They said the change came about after the 2008 economic meltdown, something to do with the Dodd-Frank Act. There are some exceptions of course but the interest rates and qualification requirements are different from your average home loan.

3. Finding permanent moorage for a 40 to 50 foot boat in the Puget Sound region is becoming more and more difficult. Our local harbormaster told me there is no permanent 50’ moorage available anywhere with the possible exception of Blaine up north at the border. It would be foolish to enter into a purchase agreement for a 48’ to 50’ plus boat without already having moorage pre-arranged. There are significant waiting lists for 40’ and larger permanent moorage in Anacortes and Bellingham here in Washington State.

4. Virtually every marina in our neck of the wood has limits on the number of live aboard slips they will rent out. Most marinas have waiting lists for live aboard tenants and all marinas charge extra for live aboard tenants. In our little backwater town there are eleven parties on the wait list.

5. In the last couple of years we have seen a demographic change in the live aboard tenants in our neighborhood. It used to be single guys or older, retired couples. More recently we are seeing young couples with one or two kids living on small boats. The reality in the PNW is that the cost of housing (purchase or rent) has gone up so much that for some folks it makes a lot more sense to buy a sailboat or an older 32’ Bayliner to live on. An early 80’s 27’ Catalina can be found for $14,000 to $18,000, a lot less than buying a $400,000 house. Of course the waiting lists for live aboard moorage is still a factor.


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Old 01-29-2019, 02:38 PM   #2
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Good point on getting moorage in this area. We were on the waiting list 7 years for a 50' Bellingham slip. Not sure if that's still the case but I'd bet it's still a long wait. And you're right about Blaine having more slips available. Blaine harbor is operated by Port of Bellingham.
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Old 01-29-2019, 07:19 PM   #3
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Four years ago you could get liveaboard status in less than 1 year for most marina’s in the puget sound. Then in the spring of 2017 there was a news article about saving money while living on a boat. With in 3 months most marina’s quadrupled their wait list.

Separate from that is the moorage demand. In 2010 you could get just about any size slip in any marina. Anacortes Dry storage was almost to capacity. With each subsequent year, slips have been harder to come by and Anacortes Dry storage is now pretty emptied out.

The strong economy drives slip demand. Housing costs drive liveaboard demand.

Rents have stabilized, we might see a reduction in liveaboard demand. The economy is still strong, I don’t see any relief in slip demand.
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Old 01-29-2019, 08:48 PM   #4
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Slip demand is always fairly robust, but has been very high down here for the past 5 to 6 years after the hangover from the last economic crisis subsided. Stay tuned for the next cycle, because it is eventually coming. Also, many marinas have been shutting down live aboard slips for various reasons.
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Old 01-29-2019, 08:54 PM   #5
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I would have to disagree in regards to dry storage in Anacortes. There are more boats in dry storage now than ever before, and they keep adding more all the time.
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