What size boat for liveaboard?
We are new to boating. I have never owned or operated a boat of any size. We are jumping straight into the fire guys, while searching for the “perfect” boat. There are a whole array of unanswered questions at this point and the more I read and research, the more I am unsure. Like this question, what size boat? The are a number of factors to be considered.
I found this post by Courtney Kirchoff. She discusses the important aspects of a good liveaboard boat.
In your house or apartment, you had space to do different things. You’ll want the same kind of situation aboard a boat: a space to cook, a space to eat, a space to sleep, a space to relax, possibly a space to work (if you work from home). For me, I need a separate space for each thing, that’s just how my mind is, though. It needs organization, a purpose for each location. Luckily even small boats can give you all of the above. But know yourself. Do you have a home office and a dining room? Do you take your laptop to the table and work there, or always work in your office? Do you like to recline at the kitchen bar, or kick it up on the couch? You’ll want to be comfortable aboard your boat. Be honest with yourself.
She’s right, we do have to be honest with ourselves.
Our home now has an eat-in-kitchen. We sit down together as a family for dinner every night. A dining area large enough to fit at least 7 people is important. Kids sprawled on sofas, watching television, and sitting at the helm with plates of food would not work.
Dual salons or lounge areas
My kids all hang together in the family room watching their shows and playing video games, while I enjoy tv in another room. Everyone is happy. Certainly not suggesting that we will be out cruising and glued to a tv; I am going cruising to get away from too much tv. But, we will still need downtime, and, we will still own tv’s. It’s important that we have separate spaces for kid hang out and adult quiet relaxation.
We have a large kitchen now. I have 5 kids, it’s a must. The one thing that I really hated about the year that we spent in transition, living in the garage studio, was the kitchenette. It was tiny. Barely any counter space to cook. The stove was too small, my handles would bump the wall and the fridge could barely handle a week’s worth of groceries. I hardly cooked because of this, and when I did, it was simple meals. The boat will have to have a decent size galley with ample counter space for food prep, a stove with an oven, and a house size fridge.
My kids are teen and soon-to-be-teens. They need separate space. I often read about cruisers who pile 3 kids together in in a v-berth. I don’t think that I can see doing this, because almost all of my kids are big. I’m not sure how many staterooms I will really need. I break it down like this:
- I would share with my 4 year old
- My Mom (Meme)
- twins share
- Skyla (only girl)
- Oldest son
This scenario would require at least 5 staterooms, but it is yet to be determined if my oldest son will cruise full-time. If he is part-time, he can crash on the sofa. I would only need 4 staterooms.
The other way would be for Skyla and Meme to share a stateroom, then I would be down to 4, and 3 if my oldest doesn’t join us.
I was really trying to avoid kids sleeping on pull-out sofas. It would be perfectly fine for vacationing, but as full-time liveaboards it won’t work.
If we’re talking 5 staterooms, we’re going to be looking at a good size boat, at least 60- 65′. This would be ideal, but then there are other considerations with a big boat. If we could get away with 3 staterooms and maybe a captain’s berth in the pilothouse, then we may be able to squeeze into something as small as 50′.
Size will directly impact maintenance requirements for the boat. Haul-outs and bottom paint will be more costly. We will have to find yards that have the capability to haul a large boat, if we go that route. Also, more mechanical maintenance, like broken toilettes, because there will likely be more heads on a larger boat. A smaller boat will surely be easier and cheaper to maintain, which leaves more money in the kitty for fun. The last thing that I want to do is rope myself into a maintenance nightmare. The essentials of Living Aboard discusses this:
Some people suggest that a liveaboard have a boat that is at least 33 feet in length (10 meters). And yet, one of the biggest complaints from liveaboards in large vessels is that the maintenance of their large boats is too much and that their boats are too big, and that a smaller boat would have been more desireable. My marina has two liveaboards that live happily in their tiny 26 foot sail boats (I can’t stand up straight in them). Many liveaboards with multiple heads and staterooms will actually shut down or even dismantle their second heads and unused staterooms to cut down on maintenance or use the space for storage. In general… make your own decisions, but most experts suggest that you consider the smallest boat that you’d be happy and comfortable in, particularly if money is an issue.
While we expect to do lots of maintenance, I don’t want to be tied to the dock everyday working on the boat instead of out having fun with my kids. That would defeat the purpose. I have to be sure that the boat isn’t so large that the maintenance is overwhelming.
We plan to dock quite a bit while we cruise. Not always, but enough that fees should be a serious consideration. Marinas charge by the foot, and transients pay more. Our docking fees will be much higher with a big boat. We could ofset that by anchoring more, but I’m not sure if that is a compromise that I would be willing to make with 5 kids. I would rather see my kids running on and off the boat from a dock, then jumping in and out of a dingy all day.
Some anchorages and marinas may not have the space to accommodate a large boat. We don’t want to be denied access to a particular marina because all of the big slips are taken.
Some areas that we would like to travel have a draft limitation. Big boat, big draft. If we go too big, we could possibly bump ourselves out of parts of the Caribbean, certain parts of the Florida Keys, and the ICW. We may not get into that “pristine anchorage” that my buddy, Bob, always refers to with a big boat and a 9′ draft.
Bigger boats generally hold more of everything. Fuel, water, holding tank, and storage. We are planning on international travel. It will be important for us to have the space for large stores and plenty of fuel. Water might not be as important because I’m sure we will have a watermaker. But, if we happen upon a location that has cheap fuel, it would be nice to stock-up.
Larger boats typically have better range, because the fuel tanks are larger. Again, as international travelers, range is very important. Imagine running out of fuel somewhere in Alaska with 5 kids.
Let’s face it, with 7 aboard, sometimes 8, a larger boat will be more enjoyable. Especially as liveaboards. Docked for 2 months at a particular location. Everyone will be a lot happier with room to stretch out and a door to slam.
Since I have never owned nor opearted any size boat, I really don’t know what I am capapble of and I have no idea how long it will take me to master boat handling. I am a great student and a fast learner. The factual material I am confident will come easy. Things like reading maps, GPS use, finding depth, and seamanship, I’m not worried about. I am a very quick study. The actual manuevering and docking might be determined by size. Some say that bigger boats are easier to operate because they arn’t taken as easily by wind, while others say that smaller boats are easier and can be single-handed if need be.
Big boats are often more expensive. We will get a boat in better condition or a later model year the smaller we go.
Something to consider. If we decide that our boat is too big for some reason, I’m guessing that a larger boat won’t sell as quickly as a smaller boat.
Liveaboard living sums it up best:
When buying a boat, think quality not quantity. You want a boat large enough to live on comfortably but small enough to be affordable. The bigger the boat, the more it costs to maintain and moor. (And let’s not forget fuel.) If you plan on living aboard with a family of four and a dog or cat, space will be at a premium. And if you plan on extended cruises, space will become even more important. Storage and privacy are big issues that often require a bigger boat. Because you want to be comfortable, you need a large enough boat to meet all your needs. Everyone living on the boat needs their own place to sleep and store their stuff.