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Old 09-22-2017, 04:43 PM   #1
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Airplanes to Trawlers

I've mostly been a lurker here since the summer.

I'm searching for a trawler to use a part-time live-aboard and cruiser. I have found many parallels to my previous 18-month long experience of shopping for and buying an airplane. I began my plane searchin the summer of 2011. Ultimately patience paid off and in 2012 I became the owner of a very low-time 1963 Mooney with a freshly overhauled engine. Soon after I added a partner and together we've since sunk at least as much as the purchase price into maintaining the airplane. The result has been exceptional reliability and utility. I flew it from Seattle to the midwest and back this summer without a single glitch. I'm taking what I've learned as an airplane owner and applying it to my search for the right boat. i.e. take the time to find a nicely maintained used machine and the expect to spend at least what you paid for it to make it an even better value.

I spent my first 2 decades in the workforce in aerospace engineering, but recently left that behind for a more enjoyable (and considerably less lucrative) life of a professional pilot. With the added mobility of flying professionally also came the dream of owning a boat I could live on some, if not most, of the time. Having sold the bigger of my two homes, I'm "practicing" living-aboard in my small condo, allowing myself only as much stuff out of my storage unit as I would keep on a boat.

I have been on and around boats nearly as many years as I've been around planes, but unless you count flying seaplanes, I have almost no experience skippering anything bigger than a small runabout. Thus, I'm probably more cautious about buying a boat than an airplane.

Initially I expect to keep the boat in the Seattle area, but once the boat and I have broken each other in, I want to base all of my explorations out of Vancouver.

After 5 months of searching, my absolute minimum requirements are:

-Fiberglass hull
-No teak decks. (I'm in the PNW and plan to be outside year round)
-Large Aft Stateroom with at least a double bed that isn't partly tucked under an overhang.
-Minimum 39-41 LOA and appropriate beam for that size. (I've seen some really nice 34-35 footers, but find that at that size, they trigger the "pacing caged animal reflex" in me.)
-Room for a Washer/Dryer combo (clean clothes/uniforms are a must)
-Clean Well Maintained Diesel/s (my preference would be single with bow thruster)
-Budget of $50k (-ish)

Like many on this forum, I have developed an almost obsessive compulsive addiction to the advanced search features of Yachtworld. I have been stepping aboard and viewing on average one boat a week since June. Nothing yet has caused my heart to race like it did the day I met my airplane.

The most recent boat I looked at (yesterday) was a '76 DeFever 41T. It meets all of my requirements except that it sports twin Lehmans. I realize there are advantages of twins, but from the perspective of an efficiency-minded engineer/pilot, the fact that more complexity results in decreased reliability and increased maintenance is something I really have a difficult time getting past. This is especially significant since, unlike my airplane, I won't be splitting the bills with anyone.

Andrew in Seattle
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Old 09-22-2017, 05:32 PM   #2
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Greetings,
Welcome aboard.
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Old 09-22-2017, 06:41 PM   #3
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Welcome Mate. For 50ish K the odds are you will have to some work on her. have a look at popyachts.com They deal mostly in smaller vessels. I see a number of vessels that fit what you are looking for.


Best of luck.


Cheers.


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Old 09-22-2017, 07:21 PM   #4
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Given your background & experience (pilot) I agree with about everything you outlined. Especially the size! Since 1995 I've had all sizes from 29 to 59' and have wound up with a 42 footer. (My wife & I agree that, for us, this is the perfect size.) I do think, however, that you may want to increase your purchase budget (if possible) as the problems you will encounter on a 40+ year old boat can be considerable. More than you will ever estimate!
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Old 09-22-2017, 08:00 PM   #5
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kermynator,

We are in a very similar situation, but different objectives at this time. I'm also a pilot and did it professionally for many years, in charter, corporate and airline flying. So, we get trained to do things by checklists, priority and systematically. And we do crew coordination and make decisions after getting all the facts. So, with that you have the skilled to transfer good protocols to boating. But, as you know, it will require training. Boating is a bit different, but very doable.

Now, are you keeping your Mooney? Good plane, but if you decide to change, let me talk you into a Beechcraft....<g>

Your budget for what you want could be a bit skinny, unless you're willing to get a much older boat and deal with the maintenance, etc., but there are some very nice boats out there.

I've got a friend with a 32 ft Grand Banks look alike that will be a great boat for someone, with new fuel tanks and a rebuilt engine, in your budget range, but a bit small for your goals.

I bought a 40ft Mainship, which is great for my goal of doing the loop. I have no desire to be a full time live aboard other than looping, so it's close to a perfect boat for my mission. But above your budget and doesn't meet the aft cabin unless you get the bigger one, which would be a great boat. But, after the loop, I'll probably down size for cursing the ICW on the west coast of FL.

Are you keeping your job as a professional pilot? If you have good flexibility with good time off, it could be GREAT.

Are you keeping a dirt home? And why are you considering basing the boat in Vancouver?

I'll let the experts figure out what boat is best, as I have no experience with boats much older that 1996 and mostly newer than 2000.
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Old 09-22-2017, 08:23 PM   #6
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Given your background & experience (pilot) I agree with about everything you outlined. Especially the size! Since 1995 I've had all sizes from 29 to 59' and have wound up with a 42 footer. (My wife & I agree that, for us, this is the perfect size.) I do think, however, that you may want to increase your purchase budget (if possible) as the problems you will encounter on a 40+ year old boat can be considerable. More than you will ever estimate!
Welcome aboard and good advice above.
I too made single engine with full keel a criteria.
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Old 09-23-2017, 02:30 AM   #7
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Welcome aboard and good advice above.
I too made single engine with full keel a criteria.
And yet...many on here just swear by having the back-up capacity and better manoeuvrability of twins. So, as Lehmans are legend for their longevity and reliability, (I have just one, original from 1975, and can vouch for that), and if the boat that has 2 is perfect in every other way...well...just sayin'...
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Old 09-23-2017, 08:32 AM   #8
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Think single engine night over the Rockies. I always go with the old "preppers" saying, if you have two you have one, if you have one you have none.
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Old 09-23-2017, 09:44 AM   #9
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Think single engine night over the Rockies. I always go with the old "preppers" saying, if you have two you have one, if you have one you have none.
Losing your single engine in a boat is a Pan Pan at worst, at least to start. Losing a single engine over the rockies is a mayday.
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Old 09-23-2017, 10:00 AM   #10
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Twins are not less reliable if you consider maintaining propulsion the thing you are maintaining. They are definitely more maintenance (more expensive) and less efficient (also more expensive)- all huge factors. I think you will find a lot of fans of Lehman's here, single or twin.

I have twins. When I get tired and/or old I'll probably go the single+bow thruster option.
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Old 09-23-2017, 02:54 PM   #11
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The Twin Single debate will never end, and it's easy to argue either side. However, that argument is MUCH more discussed in aircraft that in boats.

I've had both and can justify both. I've had times where a second engine saved my bacon and times when the single was just fine.

The advantage of the twin:
More maneuverability
Faster (but minimal)
Get home if one quits
Have back up generator
Don't need to rely as much on a thruster

The advantage of the single:
Simpler
Less chance of one failing
Less maintenance
Better efficiency (but minimal)
More engine room space

But a few things:
The cost of operation doesn't double with a twin
The efficiency is minor difference, even on huge trips
The speed advantage is worth something, but comparing like ships, probably not more than a 25% gain.

My preference today: Twin. I have a single and am happy, but to do over I'd get the twin, and betting that the total additional cost over a loop trip wouldn't be 5%.

But all debatable.
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Old 09-25-2017, 01:36 AM   #12
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Wow, so many questions.

Transitioning from engineering to flying meant an 80% pay cut for the first 2-3 years, so I need to keep cash on hand for contingencies.

Once I find suitable floating accommodations, my condo at Des Moines Marina is going back on the rental market.

Not giving up my airplane, but I am adding a 3rd partner to make it cheaper to maintain.

I have a g/f in Vancouver so I'm often up there on my days off. Thus, I'm not too concerned with the stigma/scarcity of "live aboard" moorage because I'm only home a few days a month.

As for the whole single vs twin thing, I think it is best summarized as: Tastes Great.....Less Filling....Tastes Great....Less Filling....Tastes Great....Less Filling....
(Millennials, google it)

I have had the joy of a catastrophic engine failure in a piston twin airplane on a dark and stormy day, high above the Oregon Coast. With the second engine we were able to drift down to the 5000ft single engine service ceiling and limp into Portland. Had that failure occurred over the Rockies, the second engine would have simply taken us to the scene of the crash.
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Old 09-25-2017, 06:42 AM   #13
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Wow, so many questions.

Transitioning from engineering to flying meant an 80% pay cut for the first 2-3 years, so I need to keep cash on hand for contingencies.

Once I find suitable floating accommodations, my condo at Des Moines Marina is going back on the rental market.

Not giving up my airplane, but I am adding a 3rd partner to make it cheaper to maintain.

I have a g/f in Vancouver so I'm often up there on my days off. Thus, I'm not too concerned with the stigma/scarcity of "live aboard" moorage because I'm only home a few days a month.

As for the whole single vs twin thing, I think it is best summarized as: Tastes Great.....Less Filling....Tastes Great....Less Filling....Tastes Great....Less Filling....
(Millennials, google it)

I have had the joy of a catastrophic engine failure in a piston twin airplane on a dark and stormy day, high above the Oregon Coast. With the second engine we were able to drift down to the 5000ft single engine service ceiling and limp into Portland. Had that failure occurred over the Rockies, the second engine would have simply taken us to the scene of the crash.
Ker,
(totally non trawler info, but)
Your twin failure over the rockies may have worked out find. I did a study of engine failures in piston twins over the mountains, and the drift down SE altitude is much higher that the SE service ceiling. And actually did that in a twin and recorded the outcome. But a lot has to do with what kind of plane and what's powering it.

Now, back to the trawler. The operating cost of the twin trawler is MUCH closer to it's single engine brother than airplanes are. And often in trawlers, two smaller engines are installed instead of one big single. Even a small engine can move a trawler fairly well, and there's no altitude to maintain, so a very different mission. And the twin trawler ads maneuverability to the equation.

However, an engine failure in a trawler, single or twin, is often just inconvenient, and not necessarily dangerous.
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Old 09-25-2017, 06:54 AM   #14
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50K budget for a clean 40 plus foot trawler is very lean.

Sure one might pop up, but as has been said, expect to dump 30K into her in the first couple years, especially living aboard and using her.

Boat systems just dont seem to last when being used full time. And if you would rather spend your time having fun than fixing every $200 or less part critical for living aboard, tossing and replacing is easier but adds up quickly. An older, cheaper boat and items jump into the $500 or more range that you will be replacing soon.

As for space, if you ever contemplate having someone move aboard with you or want luxuries like a washer/drier. 40 is definitely the floor in sizing....unless you get a one off or an unusual brand. Plus the boat style/msnufacturer has a lot to do with it. My 40 Albin is a small 39, next to a massive Kady Krogen 42 it looks like you could fit 2 of my boats in the Kady. Once on board, it seems even bigger.
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Old 09-25-2017, 11:18 AM   #15
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50K budget for a clean 40 plus foot trawler is very lean.

Sure one might pop up, but as has been said, expect to dump 30K into her in the first couple years, especially living aboard and using her.

Boat systems just dont seem to last when being used full time. And if you would rather spend your time having fun than fixing every $200 or less part critical for living aboard, tossing and replacing is easier but adds up quickly. An older, cheaper boat and items jump into the $500 or more range that you will be replacing soon.

As for space, if you ever contemplate having someone move aboard with you or want luxuries like a washer/drier. 40 is definitely the floor in sizing....unless you get a one off or an unusual brand. Plus the boat style/msnufacturer has a lot to do with it. My 40 Albin is a small 39, next to a massive Kady Krogen 42 it looks like you could fit 2 of my boats in the Kady. Once on board, it seems even bigger.

Psneeld,

Would totally agree with you after shopping for a similar boat in the past year and a half, but $50 wasn't close to cutting it.

I did see a few that were real deals in the $75 to $100 range, but lacking a few features and not quite as big. I looked hard at the Kadys, but to get a nice one, went well over the $100k mark and that was still an old boat. I did see one for $90 that was cosmetically rough, but mechanically pretty good. But still old, and had an old ugly nasty looking generator. Some of the 390 Mainships were below $100, but not much, and that offers a lot of room and features for the buck.

Had a friend pick up a big 42 MY, but not sure what kind it was, in the $70 range with two good diesels and a fairly clean boat. But, it was a project for him with a bunch of little things to do.
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Old 09-25-2017, 11:47 AM   #16
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kermynator,
We had a very similar transition from flying to boating. Although we were recreational pilots, we did go through the long process of buying our first and only perfect plane (a 1971 Cessna 182). After a few years, we started thinking seriously about living on a boat after retirement, but we weren't SURE about it. So we bought a "practice boat" with another couple - a 1974 43' Gulfstar Sundeck Trawler. It was a perfect boat for us to try out living aboard (for 3 weeks at a time, to the Bahamas 3 different times), and for me to see if I could deal with being my own mechanic / plumber / electrician / etc. (for the small projects and repairs that come up all the time - I still leave the big projects to the professionals).

It had twin 135 Perkins, which I loved. Much like the Lehmans (I'm guessing), if you can get fuel to them, they'll run. Reliable as can be, and very economical. The one thing I didn't like was that they were under the floor of the salon, so working on them, or even checking the oil, meant lifting up one or more sections of the floor. (Lesson for me: the "real" boat had to have a proper engine room.)

My advice is to continue doing what you've been doing: research the heck out of anything that seems like it might fit your mission, and get onto as many boats as possible. It's only when you're on one that you really understand how it's laid out, and how spacious it is (or isn't). We attended TrawlerFest every year, which was a fantastic way to get on a lot of boats, and see a lot of things to add to your "must have" or "don't want" lists.

Another "twin vs. single" consideration: many singles have some sort of "get home" option, typically powered by the generator, or even a separate, small, engine just for that purpose. Our "real boat" (which we bought 2 years after the practice boat) is a single, and the generator can spin an auxiliary prop to move the boat if necessary.

We were so pleased with our Gulfstar that we suggest them all the time to people looking for a first trawler. Here's one on Yachtworld that's a lot like you're looking for: 1980 Gulfstar 44 Motor Yacht Power Boat For Sale - www.yachtworld.com

Good hunting!
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Old 09-26-2017, 08:07 AM   #17
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...........
Another "twin vs. single" consideration: many singles have some sort of "get home" option, typically powered by the generator, or even a separate, small, engine just for that purpose. Our "real boat" (which we bought 2 years after the practice boat) is a single, and the generator can spin an auxiliary prop to move the boat if necessary.

........
Brian,

Could you explain that genny that spins a prop? How does that work, is it a retrofit of sorts, adaptable to any genny? Do any of them work well?

The hydraulic ones that drive the main shaft don't seem practical, but...
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Old 09-26-2017, 09:25 AM   #18
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Brian,

Could you explain that genny that spins a prop? How does that work, is it a retrofit of sorts, adaptable to any genny? Do any of them work well?

The hydraulic ones that drive the main shaft don't seem practical, but...
On our boat, the original design was one main engine, and one smaller engine. The small engine had an actual transmission connected to a prop shaft that had a feathering prop (Max Prop - mostly meant for sailboats). It also powered a hydraulic pump that could be used for the windlass, davit, and bow thruster. (The main also has a hydraulic pump, so this was a backup, I guess.) It also used hydraulics to turn a generator.

Shortly after the boat was built, it was determined the small engine was too loud and too smokey, so it was replaced by a Northern Lights 16kw genset, with a hydraulic pump. The hydraulic pump can now be used (in addition to all the other hydraulic accessories) to turn a hydraulic motor that turns the "get home" prop shaft.

As for retrofitting to a system like this - probably not a good plan. Too many things would have to be done. (You don't really want to add another prop shaft, do you?)

I'm not familiar with other get home systems, other than the fact that most of them seem to be used to turn the main prop. I don't know if that works well or not, but they must work OK, or I can't imagine you'd see them on so many Kady Krogens.
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Old 09-26-2017, 09:52 AM   #19
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Ker,
like the way you're thinking, we took over two years to find a boat and ended up with several of your criteria; single engine - i'm an engineer and ramping up fast on how to maintain it myself but still i'm very pleased I only have one to work on, half the spares to carry, and more space in the engine room.
41' boat- great size for long term; we wanted two staterooms and two heads (another debate related to how often you might take on guests).
Washer & Dryer; Yes we weren't sure about this but now that we have it we are so glad we do, especially in the colder months when you don't want to go trudging up to a laundromat in a marina.
As for get-home setups, i've heard some boats include a bracket on their swim platform where you can temporarily mount your dinghy outboard as a get-home option. I'd assume the dink motor should be at least 10 hp to be useful in this way, depending on boat size...
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Old 09-26-2017, 12:16 PM   #20
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Budget to small to by a solid well equiped trouble free boat for live aboard

$ 50 K won't cut it. For that price all you get is trouble.


I could be wrong, but I think what you will get for you planned live aboard boat budget will be a Fix & repair nightmare & possibly a financial disaster or turn into a fix up project that never ends & during that time will not be very comfortable to live on during construction for what your thinking of spending. I also think You need to also look at resale value as well or your just throwing money away with a return of maybe 10 cents on the invested dollar.

I too am a 40 year pilot & I own my own plane & my own hanger.

I am also a life time boat owner of many boats & need to pass along a few tidbits of wisdom. Number 1 - boat fix up can be very expensive - better financially to get one already in good shape rather than fix one up.

You can easily spend way more on your boat repairs than you ever spent on your Moonie. Never discount resale value as every boat gets sold eventually.

If I was you I would look for a boat that has been properly cared for & add about 10 feet to the desired length you have mentioned above to give you the room for a honestly comfortable long term live aboard boat. Your future girlfriends will also appreciate that as well.

You can live anywhere for a while, even in a tent by the freeway or equivalent boat at the marina, but long term as a professional, I would recommend you up grade your search. Don't forget resale. I can't express enough how much you do not realize you will put into the boat.

What I would buy -- here is an Example from some other posts in TF:



1999 Hyatt 50 Voyager Fantail Trawler Power Boat For Sale - www.yachtworld.com

Good luck with your search & hope you have fun with the boat & plane.

Alfa Mike
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