Decided on life change! Need to find a boat.

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Scar

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Jul 28, 2020
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5
Location
USA
Started out at cruisers forum and the fine people there said trawler forum would be more helpful.
My wife and I are both 44 and have decided that we don’t want to live and die looking at cornfields. We talked and both agreed that the cruising lifestyle is the life we want to live and we both think that the experience will help our children be more confident adventurous people as they grow older.
Our plan is to cruise the East coast of the US and into the Bahamas spending the cruising season living on board, preferably on anchor as much as possible and remain as self sufficient as possible. In future years we would like to explore deeper into the Caribbean. But for now our cruising life would be 7-8 months as live aboard and 4-5 months back in the Midwest.
We own a nice camper and lot in a campground that is open may-October so our plan would be to live there for basically free in the off season $2200 a year dues that includes utilities. Our children basically live at the campground all summer long as it is and we would have no problem living there in our time.
My wife is nurse and can work as many hours as she wants in the 4-5 months we take off for storm season. She currently makes approximately 10k a month and can do 12-15k a month if she works overtime.
My income is tricky, my employment is not guaranteed at this point but if I can make it 2 more years I can take early retirement of $2000 a month plus free health insurance for life. But it is only 50/50 chance that my employment will last that 2 years I need. If it does not then we can make it on her income and I can work to help build our cruising kitty every year. I estimate that we will make $50-60k a year in the off season and think that should be sufficient to live 7 months cruising and 5 months working.
Currently we have 16yr old daughter and 10yr son so a 3 stateroom/2 head boat is required. We currently only have small ski boat experience on lakes. Our ocean boat experience consists of Royal Caribbean and carnival cruises. Haha...
Selling out home and accumulated junk we can realistically have a boat budget of $150k all in with updates and upgrades. That will leave us with about $50k bank to sail away for our first season.
Since it will be our home for most of the year we want a lot of outdoor space. We sort of narrowed it down to either a Hatteras 53 MY or 90s era Sea Ray 50-55. They both seem to have what we are looking for in a home. But both seem to do 1Nm per gallon of fuel at trawler speeds. The ability to run from storms is appealing but if running 99% of the time at trawler speeds why not try and save a fortune on fuel and look at a trawler. Sadly I do not see many in our price range though.
I do not mind doing some work to a boat, I have restored 2 cars (1963 Caddy series 62 and 1972 Buick Skylark) and have a decent knowledge of most mechanics, I am also very handy with carpentry skills and basic electric. Before we began I would want to take a diesel mechanics course, a marine electronics course , and if course some boating courses.
So all that said I found the type of MY that fits our needs and within our budget but are there any trawlers that fit my needs? I did see a beautiful 1982 48ft Defever listed here that would be perfect but it’s a little above what I can spend and I am not looking to buy today. I will either be buying in 3 months or 2 years depending on my job status.
 
That's quite a jump in boat size for your experience level. You may find it hard to get insurance for that size vessel based on your experience.

While it might seem counterintuitive, maybe considering renting a boat of that size for a week before selling all and jumping in. Many charter companies can provide a captain for a day or more to help you with the learning curve.

Ted
 
I suggest not planning to buy a boat in 3 months. That is too little time to do all the
legwork it will take to find one worth your money and time.

Also consider seeking the aid of a broker who can work with you to find the right boat.
At that price range the pickings may be slim so maybe postpone until you can build up
the bank account while you look at as many boats as you can.
 
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Definitely plan to hire a captain for 2-3 weeks to help me learn to handle the boat safely and how to do things onboard. Also plan to take some courses about boating and offshore boating. My experience on a 18ft ski boat definitely won’t transfer over to a real boat in real water. Haha...
When I said we want 3 months or 2 years I was referring to knowing in 3 months about my job situation and then starting the search of actually finding the boat. Hopefully it is 2 years before we set sail because I am really hoping for the 2k a month pension and health insurance.
Being in the Midwest it is hard to look at these types of boats, there are some close by on Lake Michigan but overall not many. I am trying to see what types of boats we should be looking at so we can research them over the next 3 months and is the job situation does not work out we can plan a trip to look at several.
 
Insurance is needed if you take a loan or have a lease at a marina (more than a week's stay). The older the boat, insurance is harder to get. Your experience will affect insurance as well as living on the hook and where you cruise. There's a search function here or even better, use google and type in trawler forum along with your search subject. It tends to give specific results.
Trawlers have a lot of weight/ballast under the water line as well as a full keel, keeping the boat from bobbing and rolling possibly decreasing the chance for motion sickness. Running slowly in the boats you're considering on open water will be much less comfortable, night and day difference.
 
I’m not saying you can’t do it. Just be aware that the failure rate for doing what you just laid out is very high.

Not every one can sleep on a boat, they move constantly. Everyone under estimates the cost of maintenance and if you have never owned a boat you get a shock about how little storage space exists on a boat.

I will say, a Hatteras 53 would be a good choice in size for a family of 4 but I question weather your budget is big enough to maintain that large of a boat.
 
Thanks for the input so far. @SWFLA I just read that thread and I truly hope that I don’t come off as that guy. Through the 8 pages I saw him complaining about minimal expenses.
My all in budget for a boat is 150k leaving me 50k for 7 months of cruising. After those 7 months we will work and easily make 60k to do repairs and head back to cruising for another 6 months. Our home for the 5 months on land will be completely pained for (except $200 a month),
Realistically I want to be all on at 150k and I have seen some nice boats close to that price that are ready to step aboard and start cruising. But I know the reality is that boats cost a fortune. We have the ability to come home and work making 10-15k a month of major expenses come up cutting our plans for that year short.
I figured having roughly a 6K a month budget should fairly easily cover cruising expenses, insurance and upkeep with a little left over for repairs. But we also retain the ability to make money at any point if needed. My wife being in specialized nursing can be licensed to work in any state so home port can be anywhere we chose if repairs are needed that force us to work.
Reading the general rule of 10% value every year in maintenance puts it at $15k a year (not factoring in most of the work I should be able to do) so after yearly repair budget my 6K monthly budget for living seems doable. But maybe I am still missing some things?
15k yearly repair budget
6K monthly living expenses to cruise. Hopefully after insurance and fuel it would leave me about 4K monthly for food and entertainment. Again wife can come back to work for 2-3 week contract as travel nurse that includes per diem for housing if we need a cash influx. or we can cut our trip short 1-2 months and work to make a extra 10-20k if needed.
 
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I would love to set sail with paid off boat and enough to live aboard 12 months a year with 10k monthly budget plus 25k a year repair budget but if I wait for that we will be 70.
Ideally while in our 40s still we want a different life then living in cornfields.
I read several places about people setting sail with Little to no income. I don’t want to be like that and am hoping that 6K monthly will be enough to life our dreams.
 
Welcome to TF Scar. I think I was one of the CF folks to refer you to TF.

Your journey will have many steep hills to climb, but I think the first one will simply be finding a 3 stateroom boat for $100k that isn't a money pit that could seriously undermine your enjoyment. With a 16 yr old daughter and 10 yr old son, I totally understand the need for separate quarters. Two boys or two girls would be different, or two 10 yr old boy/girl where you could consider boats with an aft stateroom with split bunks and put some sort of partition between the bunks (you and your wife take the vee berth). But the 3rd stateroom requirement will seriously reduce your affordable choices, and perhaps drive you to a boat that will place more burden on you to maintain. The smallest 3 stateroom boat I can think of are 46 footers. I don't think Yachtworld has a search filter for staterooms like Zillow does for houses.

Beyond that, there is nothing about your plan that sounds unachievable. I can't comment on the personal things such as money, income, and raising kids on a boat or homeschooling. If y'all are used to living in a campground, you've acclimated to oddball living circumstances. Money will be tight for the first year and you'll be vulnerable to an unexpected large expense - overhauling a large diesel such as a DD in a Hatt could crest $10k with outside labor.

If this thread catches on, you'll probably get a lot of advice to walk before you run and start with a smaller boat. I think all the issues about being a novice are surmountable, but I think the biggest impediment you'll encounter is addressing the logistics, complexities, and expenses of a larger boat. To me, the perfect boat would be something along the lines of an old Tug or fishing boat conversion with a single engine, easily accessed and traced wiring, and a simple head system. Not too much installed gear. They're out there in your price range, but will look pretty rough and need some elbow grease. But I'd really look for the most simple boat you can find even if the interior is a bit lackluster. Many older boats have had many well intended DIY owners who have butchered installs that will drive you nuts trying to fix. An older, low price Hatt for example.

Long post to say: solve the boat issue, get a realistic handle on your personal finances, and double check with your wife that this is the right direction, and all else is solvable. Just try not to bite off too much with the boat.

Good luck

Peter
 
Hello Scar,
Have you been on board a 55' Sea Ray? Have you been on board a 53' Hatteras MY?
Tour these and you will quickly realize that living in the Sea Ray might be like living in a cave for 7-8 months (or at least like living in a sailboat!). It has no windows to speak of in the cabin living area. The Hatteras 53 Motor Yacht, however, would be a nice live-aboard yacht, in my opinion, from the light and view aspects. More like a home in many respects. Also a bit more "trawler-like". I always thought the Hatteras 53' MY had nice lines. I've been on one before so have some feeling for what I am talking about. I've never been a 55' Sea Ray, but I had use of a 33' Sea Ray Sundancer for a few years through a boat club I belonged to. I think the 55' is very similar, albeit much larger. I felt the 33' was, indeed, a cave...and was glad that my trips on it lasted no longer than one week! Furthermore, the 33' Sea Ray pounded like the dickens in only moderately choppy seas.
 
I understand your desire to change your life and style.
My recommendation is you first find a good financial planner, you and your wife spend hours with him, discussing various options.

You are not raising your children to keep. You and they will will want to leave home and have a life of their own.
Your 16 year old son will want and need friend and then college. Your daughter..... you will have to ask someone who has a daughter.
There are pitfalls with having your children around 24/7. Talk with a well qualified counselor ..... get the kids there too. Get their input. They may not want any thing to do with your chosen changes.
 
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I won't comment on your boating plans. You will be getting plenty of advice from the folks here. It does sound like you are on the right track though.

At 44 though, you really need to see an expert for retirement planning. $2,000 a month, even for life does not equal $2,000 Net. You will still be in a middle tax bracket with the wifes income. So that $2,000 just became more like $1,500 (if that) . Expenses will be twice what you plan and there is always the unexpected. Nothing beats "cash reserve" you are too young to live off the capital.

You sound like a smart guy, on the right track, but make sure all your ducks are in a row.

pete
 
Scar
You will be shocked at the costs and effort required to maintain a 35-40 year old boat in the 40 to 50' range. One guy on this forum that can offer considerable advice to your query is Psneeld. Listen carefully to him, he's been there and done that.
 
Realistically I want to be all on at 150k and I have seen some nice boats close to that price that are ready to step aboard and start cruising. But I know the reality is that boats cost a fortune. We have the ability to come home and work making 10-15k a month of major expenses come up cutting our plans for that year short.

IMHO, I think that you need to look deeper into your budget and/or boating needs. I think that in your situation a 150K all in boat budget realistically means a 100K boat, once you subtract 10K to acquire the boat (haul-out/survey/taxes/registration), 10K to hire a captain for 3 weeks (at $500/day), 30K budget to refit an older boat for liveaboard use.

Without getting into different models of boats, I also think that cruising the Bahamas in one thing, but it might require a different boat to cruise deep into the Caribbean.

Just my thoughts,

Jim
 
I don't think you come off as the other guy. You seem to be more grounded and mature. I did want you to see how he thought he had things financially planned out, but insurance (just one thing) completely wrecked his plan. You do seem to have much better planning. But I wanted you to consider how he rushed things. I agree with the few previous posts. A pro financial planner. A 53' Hatteras MY with no cockpit will give the most room and accommodations your family. I think a cockpit would be a better fit for an active family. Look at the Hatteras motor yacht fisher. LA, CA for $259k, in MI for $104k. It's hard to see why there's such a price difference other than age, but it's there. I don't know about insurance availability though. Even if you paid cash and wanted to self insure for loss of your boat, insurance companies generally don't write liability only, not enough profit. It's possible to find one that is well maintained and ready to go. The older a boat is, the more likely you'll find soft spots on decks and roofs as well as leaking windows. Typically pricey but doable repairs. I'm hoping as I'm sure you were that with enough posts here, you'll be enlightened. Bertram was Hatteras's closest competitor for yachts of the age you're considering as an alternative. Again, sorry if I shocked you with the individual comparison. Cheers.
 
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A bit of cruising advice from someone who worked as a young dock hand at a marina/resort. Make a good impression by tipping the person who helps with your lines. Even if you're anchored out and come for fuel but are going back on anchor. Tip him and you'll always be welcome. The next step for a place you might wish to spend a week or more at is to patronize the facilities. Buy ice, hats, etc., bring the dock hands a 6 pack at the end of the day. Find reasons to ask for local info and be grateful with another tip. Ask them to help carry your groceries and tip them. The dock master may even offer to loan you his vehicle. Buy multiple meals or groceries. The owner and business office will notice and will choose you for a longer stay over someone who only buys dockage. In the 80s I was in the Keys working at a popular marina resort. This is how it worked back then and it works that way now. The least welcome boater was the sailor who bought 8 gallons of diesel, bragged about it being three months since he bought any, wanted to fill his water tank, pump out his head, use the showers and go shopping in town without spending the night or tipping. You don't need to be Thurston Howell the Third, or act like you're staying at the Ritz where everyone has their hand out. Just be friendly and appreciative as well as tipping. Anytime the appreciative ones returned, they were given top priority and greeted by name. Not all boating knowledge is boatmanship and repair knowledge.
 
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Scar
You will be shocked at the costs and effort required to maintain a 35-40 year old boat in the 40 to 50' range. One guy on this forum that can offer considerable advice to your query is Psneeld. Listen carefully to him, he's been there and done that.

You have doubtless read somebody's definition of BOAT - break out another thousand. It will happen with alarming frequency.

Consider this 30-foot downeast style cruiser (single engine) I have owned for exactly five years now. Parts (including a new generator for 5K) and haulout costs have totaled 28K. Insurance without named storm coverage for five years, another 7-8K. Moorage free because I own the pier. Except for changing a timing belt and servicing the intercooler, I performed ALL work.

Now consider what that might scale up to for a twin engine 53-foot Hatteras for which you will have to pay moorage. If you involve outside labor for anything, all bets are off. I'd say your maintenance budget is pretty optimistic.
 
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I like the way you think. Go for it but don't think it will be easy.

Boat entropy is an idea that I am making up as I go. A boat at rest tends to remain at rest without an enormous influx of work and money. A resting boat has great potential that is of little or no use to you.

You gotta love boats for what they are and not for what you want them to be. If it's not going to be fun, don't do it.
 
One other consideration is where to move. Florida defiantly has pretty water, but you should investigate marinas costs, if they allow live-aboard and how family friendly the amenities are and what the insurance requirements are and estimated costs. In addition, inquire with the insurance companies and the marina about any special requirements they have in the event of an approaching named storm, some may require you to have a plan to pull the boat.

To get you started on price comparisons, in Texas I pay $633/month for a 66', 55' slips run $527/month. The marina has pools, laundry and other amenities along with two restaurants. West Marine is only a mile away, but that a whole different conversation that you will become familiar with if you become a boat owner.

Several of our marina neighbors originally intending to move to Florida, but most have opted to stay based in Texas for a number of factors including costs and the ability to find a suitable marina. If they have the time and inclination, they head out for months at a time to venture to Florida and/or the Bahamas with a few of them even having loop experience.


As others have mentioned previously:

- Finding the right boat can take a long time. Stay patient and try not to get frustrated. Be aware that you will probably see many boats that look promising and sounded good on the broker write-up, only to find in-person that they failed to mention (or include photos of) a few deal-killing flaws.

- With your budget, beware of the balance between the purchase price and the additional cost to get the boat into a condition that you would like it. Hire a good marine surveyor to identify all the issues.

- Insurance may be reluctant to cover you with the step-up from lake run-about to large trawler. You may need to consider a step-up approach or some agreement with your insurance provider that your first "X" number of operating hours will be under the direct supervision of a captain.
 
Membership at a local power squadron "club" will give you opportunities for classes and other experience. Just like your camper has a home base. You'll need to find a marina where your boat will stay when you're in the camper. It could be in or out of the water, both have expenses and insurance requirements. Texasbrian has a good point about storage cost differences at ports. Your plans to stay on the east coast and bahamas i very common and popular. Thus, summer storage can take a bit of research to find a good fit for you. As far as startup cost goes, I think you need to bump it higher than $150k for a 53 Hatteras. If you want to keep it lower, maybe something in the 43-48 range with a single diesel will fit the budget. Your current dream could happen but with only a few boats to choose from. All you need is one though.
 
I would want to take a diesel mechanics course, a marine electronics course , and if course some boating courses.

The first course you should take is the ABYC Electrical Certification course.

90% of the problems on a older boat are electrical in nature. That older Hatteras that would suit your needs has 12V, 24V, 32V, 120V and 240V systems. Incredibly complex and not for an amateur electrician.

PS. What you want to do can be done, I've seen it several times. I've seen many more failures. I wish you luck.
 
Thanks for all the great advise. I am definitely taking it all in. Ideally I would prefer a smaller boat in the 40-47ft range but the wife/money maker says she wants a home. Haha...
I am not stuck on Hatteras, knowing nothing about large cruising boats the layout is ideal for our needs but I also know every bot is a compromise. We have a open mind to every boat, including some that need cosmetic help. Prefer good mechanicals and structure being so new to all do this.
I know my budget is tight finding the size we want, if we wait the 2.5 years until my daughter graduates we can save another 50k and also would only need a 2 cabin boat but she and my wife both want her to have these life experiences so really do need a 3 cabin.
I hope this is not breaking any rules posting this link but something like this
https://www.trawlerforum.com/forums/s9/defever-48-sale-50052.html
Seems to well outfitted and ready to go with a few personal touches (and survey of course). But I am not looking to buy right now and will be 3 months before I know for sure if I am looking now or in 2 years.
 
Seems like good advice. My thought is that sometimes we place to much concern in accommodating our children, who in a very short time, will be off in another direction. ( See retired folks with huge homes to accommodate their offspring?) I think your children will be far more comfortable in 'tight' spaces, when given the opportunity to explore beyond the 'cornfields'."Go small,Go Now".
 
Life change

I suggest not planning to buy a boat in 3 months. That is too little time to do all the
legwork it will take to find one worth your money and time.

Also consider seeking the aid of a broker who can work with you to find the right boat.
At that price range the pickings may be slim so maybe postpone until you can build up
the bank account while you look at as many boats as you can.

This is good advice. I'd like to add some.

What you are talking about is the equivalent of someone living on 5th Avenue in NYC saying "I think I'm going to buy a ranch in Wyoming and raise cattle".

You cannot imagine the problems and costs of going from where you are to living and cruising on an older 53 ft boat. Believe me, if you buy a 53 ft boat in the price range you are talking about, the purchase price is the least expensive part of your plan. Repairing what the survey finds, annual maintenance, insurance, operating costs etc are going to surprise you. Actually, a pretty good planning rule of thumb when buying an older boat is annual costs of ownership are about 10% of the cost of the boat. And that doesn't take into account upgrades or refurbishing.

The other problems with what you are considering, with no experience, are to numerous to list.

You have a great dream. Buy a small boat, with living accomodations. Learn how to use it. Go out for weekends, then vacations, then some short cruises. Get some experience and learn what you want and need in a larger yacht. For that matter, learn whether you even like that lifestyle before taking such a large step. Sitting up all night at anchor during a bad storm on anchor watch may make you decide it isn't for you. Or maybe it may make you decide that it is. In any case, my free advice is "slow down a bit and get some experience".

Good luck.
 
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Seems like good advice. My thought is that sometimes we place to much concern in accommodating our children, who in a very short time, will be off in another direction. ( See retired folks with huge homes to accommodate their offspring?) I think your children will be far more comfortable in 'tight' spaces, when given the opportunity to explore beyond the 'cornfields'."Go small,Go Now".

Don't buy for your kids. I was harrassed by my wife (now passed) to sell the best boat (survived one hurricane and one passage of 19hrs. in 20' seas) I have ever experienced to get something bigger to accomodate kids and grand kids. Those kids couldn't have cared less and I have regretted that sale since 2006.
 

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... sell the best boat (survived one hurricane and one passage of 19hrs. in 20' seas) I have ever experienced... I have regretted that sale since 2006.

Excuse the thread barge-in but that is a sweet looking boat (I can see why you miss it). What is it?
 
You don’t raise your children to stay.
You raise them so they will go away and have their own life.
If you make your kids or guests too comfortable, they wont go away.
One nice thing about a boat, no basement for them to live.
No one wants to live in a running engine room or swim platform.
 
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