Hello from Ocean City

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Apr 28, 2024
Ocean City, MD
My significant and other and I are have finally decided to embark on our dream of long range cruising. The kids are grown with the youngest having graduated college and beginning her life this Spring. We've been in coastal areas for close to 30 years and have your usual boating experience. We started with a 26' Cuddy Cabin and eventually moved up to a 32'. Now with the opportunity to make a big leap and chase a dream, which is the Great Loop, we've decided to go for it.

The lifestyle change and Great Loop trip is a bucket list item similar to all of the things people tend to say they'll get to "one day' or "some day". We are in our 50's and we've decided that our "one day" and "some day" is finally here. With that said, we are not just setting sale and we are well aware that attempting this trip in our current boat is no go. So we are looking for the new boat now and plan to spend the rest of the year getting everything in order so we can begin the journey next Spring. We've spent the last year and half researching and looking at various loop capable boats. Knowing we will be living on it, we put together a list of "wants" and "must have's". With that as a guide, we've decided on a 40'-45' trawler type.

We are planning on 9 months to a year for the loop. We will be in no hurry and the loop trip will end when it ends. After that, we will see where life takes us. We are thinking about cruising the Caribbean or maybe just staying down south along the east coast. We have children in Jacksonville. FL and Savannah, GA. Both places are boat friendly and the bottom line is we can always go back to land because it's not going anywhere.

The long range plan is to cruise until it's time to stop. In addition to the boat, we are also casually looking for real estate in Costa Rica, Panama, Belize Roatan and possibly Ecuador. It's actually more like keeping an eye out for a good opportunity as opposed to a an all out search for a place now. We have friends in all of those places and have traveled the Caribbean and Central America quite a bit so we are quite comfortable with the regions so we've spread the word to them let us know if they ever see something we might like. When we get off the boat, we hope to retire in one of those places. In the meantime we are thinking we could use the property for ourselves and maybe as a vacation rental when we are not there which will be most of the time over the next few years. Eventually we would settle down there into retirement but I really don't want to think that far ahead just yet.

In any case, I'm glad I found this forum. It appears to be a great resource and I'm certain it will be immensely helpful as we move forward.
Welcome to TF - you've come to the right place.

We've just returned to our home after 6-months of cruising 2400 miles from California Chiapas MX (just north of Guatemala) aboard our 1970 Willard 36, which is a small 36-footer. We'll resume our cruising in October or November and eventually head to Florida where we now live. Feel free to follow us on instagram (MVWeebles)

In some ways we're a couple years ahead of you so perhaps some of these musings will add grist to your mill of thought.

  • Buy the boat you need for the foreseeable future, not the one you might need in the distant future. It won't take much of a boat to do the Loop and Bahamas. But for the Caribbean, a heftier boat would be nice- and it would be bigger and quite a bit more expensive. People buy Nordhavn/Kadey Krogen/Selene/etc. all the time under the thought "If it will cross an ocean, it can do the Bahamas." They're great boats and certainly comfortable, and it's tempting to buy one now so you don't cut off options later. But there are better boats for the Loop - and the Nordhavn-esque boats are quite a bit more expensive if budget is an issue (to their defence, resale is generally strong and relatively fast).
  • For liveaboard, plan on a boat that is easy to get on/off. You'll be schlepping a of heavy stuff when provisioning. And you'll be getting on/off the boat many times a day - even at the marina. To my tastes, rules out anything resembling a sundeck or aft-cabin motoryacht style. Even cockpit motoryachts are iffy.
  • Launching/Retrieving dinghy is super important. I'll add - consider the case for a small dinghy (vs a14-foot with 40hp) that is easy to launch, easy to drag-up on a beach, and is not a theft target.
  • We've found that while there are many disadvantages to a small 36-footer, there are a couple advantages. We've fit into marinas much easier and can wiggle to the front of anchorages. At 4-foot draft, we can fit almost anywhere.
  • Stabilization. Not really needed for the loop, but honestly, I wouldn't own a boat without them.
  • At-anchor stabilization - Flopper Stoppers. I don't know how useful they are on East Coast, but on the Pacific with it's open roadstead anchorages, they are pretty imporant. Can be added after the fact.
  • Flybridge - once we got south of Cabo, we have spent vast majority of our time on the flybridge. I used to be ambivalent on them - not anymore, at least for warm climates. Also need covered outdoor space. The Willard 36 is small because the cockpit is enormous which is super nice.
  • Have a plan on where you'll keep the boat before you buy one. Finding slips is hard.
Our plan is to cruise locally once Weebles is in Florida - Bahamas, Dry Torgugas, parts of the Loop, maybe to Mexico and possibly down to Rio Dulce. Spend no more than a month or two at a time. Weebles is perfect for that and we own a slip that will fit her (but nothing bigger). But if we were going to cruise longer term, we would look at a Nordhavn 50 or perhaps even a 57. My wife also likes some of the older Defevers such as the 48 or 49. There's a Cheoy Lee Seamaster 47 in Mazatlan that I keep eyeing even though it looks a bit unloved right now.
I hope some of this helps. My wife and I have chatted a bunch on this topic and it's our best thinking. We hitched a ride from Chiapas to Costa Rica (500 miles) on a Nordhavn 55 and really enjoyed it but still I don't think theres a different boat in our future.
Feel free to follow
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