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Old 01-15-2021, 03:31 PM   #1
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becoming a live-aboard family

Hello Everyone!

My husband and I have been discussing buying a trawler and becoming a live-aboard family, and I was hoping to get your thoughts/advice?

We are at capacity in our current space (a two bedroom condo), and have been looking to upgrade. However, due to covid, our savings have narrowed and we would only really be able to move laterally on land. A friend of ours lives on a boat and was talking about how much more affordable a sizable boat is compared to a house on land.

We both love the water (my husband has his small boating license) and also really enjoy home-improvement projects and doing whatever we can to become self-sufficient. That being said, we are definitely boat novices.

My main concerns are practicality, affordability, and safety.
We have a four month old daughter (thus our rapidly growing need for more space), as well as a 40lb dog and two cats.

Any thoughts?

Thanks so much,

Heidi
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Old 01-15-2021, 04:35 PM   #2
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Hi and welcome aboard

It depends.

More affordable compared to what, buying or renting on land?
And what location? Big city? Waterfront? Back blocks?

For us, it is definitely cheaper to have our boat than a small house/apartment on land with waterfront views in our current location, but we are on the move continually and never use marinas.

If we used marinas, it would swing back towards land based being more affordable
Much more so if renting.
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Old 01-15-2021, 04:53 PM   #3
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Greetings,
Welcome aboard. Give this potential move some VERY SERIOUS thought. Living ON the water ON the Delaware River in February (just to pick the coldest month) is NOT for the faint of heart OR shallow bottomed wallets IMO.


Ask a LOT of questions and do a LOT of homework.
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Old 01-15-2021, 05:46 PM   #4
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Life is harder living on a boat. For those that like it, the difficulties don't matter. Most don't make it permanent.
Everything on the boat has to be hauled over a dock in all weather. Groceries, kids, pets and so on. If you don't have laundry on board that gets hauled, too. In cold areas that freeze, the dock water gets shut off and you're hauling over icy docks. In a warm climate, boats without Ac get hot. Most marinas have lousy parking and long treks to the boat. Most boats have little storage, smaller refrigerators, smaller stove and oven and almost no closets.

On the other hand, it's easy to change neighbors or have no neighbors at all. And you have adventures and get see things most people don't.
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Old 01-15-2021, 05:57 PM   #5
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Boats come with a whole lot less electrical supply. This means you have to constantly think about what is on and what is not.

Also, you need to deal with your black water on a boat. In a condo you flush and you are done. Not on a boat, you flush and now you have a tank that needs to be emptied. How do you deal with that? A trip to the pump out every week? Pay some one to suck it out? Break the law and pump it overboard in the middle of the night?

You also need to make sure there is liveaboard space in your area. In my area there is a 5 year wait list.
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Old 01-15-2021, 06:01 PM   #6
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Hi Heidi, it's a romantic idea. But in terms of ranking on practicality, affordability, and safety a condo will win in every category. Sorry.

How much mobility do you expect/want? If you're tied to shore based jobs it's a tough case to make. But if you want to be adventurous digital nomads then it's a great idea.
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Old 01-15-2021, 06:41 PM   #7
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Not liveaboards so take this for what it's worth, but we do spend a ton of time on our boat spring/summer/fall. We bought our boat to accommodate the two of us (which it did very well) and then adopted our boys now 10 and 12 a few years after the purchase. It still works well for us, but if we had known the boys were coming, we would have probably gone bigger (now 37 nominal, 40' loa, mid or upper 40's would have been be more comfortable). Our kids are very resilient and flexible (both literally and in general character). They're not space hogs, they roll with minimal "stuff." They sleep anywhere, although we give them the forward berth. To my relief they caught on very quickly with marine heads, no troubles there. It's actually been a pleasure to have them. Yeah, it means more food, more frequent pump-outs, a small mountain of laundry, the salon is often messier. You're right about safety concerns, I went ballistic one time when they simply disappeared for a little while. I had all kinds of awful thoughts like they'd slipped off the swim step and we'd find their bodies floating face down in a slip, but they had just walked to a nearby beach to hunt for frogs. We've improved their attention to safety a lot (and gotten them waterproof GPS tracking watches, that helps).

It also helps to get kids involved in boating skills and maintenance -- when I have them clean the shower sumps for example they learn the systems and appreciate the very high maintenance demands of a boat. They can both start the dinghy outboard and run it around themselves by now. You'll often hear on a lot of family boating YouTube channels or articles that boat kids tend to be more mature and adaptable and resourceful and that's been true for us, it's helped their development a lot. Fighting a tidal wave of stuff in life is a constant battle no matter where you live, but then we have that battle on land and on the boat. Actually my wife and I drag far more stuff around than the kids do, and I mean personal stuff, not stuff in common like food. I think the boys have a camping mentality on the boat that they adapt to very easily, but I "need" 52 tons of stuff to make the boat a floating replica of our home on land.
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Old 01-15-2021, 08:41 PM   #8
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Quote:
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Hi Heidi, it's a romantic idea. But in terms of ranking on practicality, affordability, and safety a condo will win in every category. Sorry.
Surely that depends where you are.

In our location a basic house or condo/unit is going to cost $400k
Give it waterfront location or even water views and it'll be $700k to the moon

The boat worked out miles cheaper
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Old 01-15-2021, 09:00 PM   #9
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There are certain aspects of owning and living on board a boat which might be cheaper than in a dirt home. But unless you go "all in" you will only be increasing your costs. "All In" means selling the dirt home, at least one of the cars, getting rid of literally 90% of your stuff (not putting it into storage), and being 100% committed to the I've aboard lifestyle. This includes Black water and fresh water limits, laundry issues, dockage and parking issues, pet problems, heat issues stormy nights, etc.

There are lots of "Germantowns" across the U.S. If you are in the one in Wisconsin, or any northern latitudes, living aboard in the winter is nearly impossible.

Give us a little more information.

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Old 01-15-2021, 10:04 PM   #10
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Lots of good points already. One that I would add is a boat is almost certainly a bad investment. It generates no income, is usually depreciating and worst of all it is not liquid (no pun intended). If you decide live aboard is not for you you may not be able to easily sell the boat and you have to kkeep paying for the slip, maintenance, bottom cleaning, insurance and more. If money is tight I would not suggest buying a boat. It can literally bankrupt you. At least living on land you can find a cheaper rental or even live with family if necessary. If you cannot support a contingency plan where you can cover all the boat expenses along with some type of land residence I would really reconsider.
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Old 01-16-2021, 02:58 AM   #11
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Take a look at the blog called wilsonsonthewater.blogspot.com. the Wilson's are full-time and have been for at least several years. They are aboard a 32-foot Bayliner. Four girls, bicycles, kayaks, home school. I have often wondered how they manage all that on a 32-foot boat. We met them at the Columbus (MS) Marina (11/2018) while they and we were were doing the Great Loop. They are a delightful family. The youngest, Mia, was about 6yo at the time. The oldest girl was 12 or 13, not certain.
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Old 01-16-2021, 04:54 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by heidihempel View Post
We are at capacity in our current space (a two bedroom condo), and have been looking to upgrade. ... A friend of ours lives on a boat and was talking about how much more affordable a sizable boat is compared to a house on land.

Welcome aboard.

I think that "more affordable" idea is a bit shakey. Lots of "it depends," as others have mentioned.

In addition to other points folks have made... a 2 bedroom condo could well be 4x to 6x larger than an affordable sizable boat.

It wasn't all that easy to find a designated space for our cat's box... and we had to move it to our own stateroom if we had overnight guests aboard...

-Chris
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Old 01-16-2021, 05:16 AM   #13
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I lived aboard for about 5 years in San Francisco Bay area. People who lived aboard for lifestyle reasons generally thrived. People who did it for financial reasons moved back on land after a while, which was often financially difficult because a boat can take a while to sell. Annual ownership costs of a decent condition 40-ish footer are in the $20k/range, not including loan or upgrades (slip, insurance, bi-annual haul, etc). Costs can vary widely, so don't take too literally. But to back-out and return to land, you have a decent monthly nut - current market is highly abnormal due to covid and is the first true sellers market in boats I've ever seen. Traditionally, many (most?) boats took a year or longer to sell unless they were pristine examples of well known and desirable boats that were priced sanely.

That said, I can think of no greater gift you can give your daughter than being raised on a boat. Kids are hugely adaptable and will do fine no matter what. The "gift" part comes when she's older and reflects on her family life.

Careful about being lulled into a cheaper place to live. As anyone who's ever been divorced can attest, it's easier to get into a deal than to get out. Boats are certainly that.

Good luck and welcome to TF.

Peter
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Old 01-16-2021, 09:27 AM   #14
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I am skeptical of the premise that you can get more room for less money than your two bedroom condo, which isn't big enough for you. In my experience, a seaworthy vessel in good condition generally costs more per square foot than a condo, both in acquisition cost and operating/maintenance costs.
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Old 01-16-2021, 04:23 PM   #15
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I am skeptical of the premise that you can get more room for less money than your two bedroom condo, which isn't big enough for you. In my experience, a seaworthy vessel in good condition generally costs more per square foot than a condo, both in acquisition cost and operating/maintenance costs.
Depends on the price of property in the area and expectation on what a seaworthy good condition vessel is.
It doesn't have to be a nordy or a fleming.
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Old 01-16-2021, 04:58 PM   #16
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Depends on the price of property in the area and expectation on what a seaworthy good condition vessel is.
It doesn't have to be a nordy or a fleming.

Like I said earlier for this part of the world we got our very comfortable 60fter for about 1/4 of the price of the cheapest house in the area That house would be in an undesirable location, low lying semi industrial and a bit of a shitter

To get a house half decent would be probably 6 times more.
Of course we did get a great deal on our boat but even today I could go out and buy several other great boats for a bit more than half the cost of earlier mentioned dungheap house.
I agree that much depends on the area, but note OP is talking about a condo, not a detached SFR.
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Old 01-16-2021, 05:15 PM   #17
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I agree that much depends on the area, but note OP is talking about a condo, not a detached SFR.
Property is clearly much cheaper in the US.
Even a pretty ordinary unit over here can cost as much a a pretty decent boat

Go south to Sydney and I could have a fleet of 60fters for the cost of a 2 bedroom apartment with water views.
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