All About Our Boat

I’m typing this as I sit in the cockpit of our new home, underneath the bimini cover, listening to the rain fall onto the marina. Neighboring boats are gently rocking, the only sound from them is an occasional echoing ring as lines sway into the mast. There are no pounding feet on the dock, no rumble of dock carts rolling past. Residents are cozy in their own little world, tucked away and waiting for the summer downpour to pass. I’ve got tasty raspberries on my left, Scout snuggled on my right, and I’m finally ready to introduce you to our beautiful boat.

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We chose a 2002 Catalina 380 that was kept in pristine condition by the previous two owners. The boat is 38 ft long, with a 4ft 10 in draft, making it shallow enough to sail comfortably almost anywhere we want to take it. It has an aft cockpit, so our master stateroom has a very low ceiling that we are adjusting to (and by adjusting to, I mean accidentally headbutting and then cursing loudly to numb the pain). There is an entrance to the head (bathroom) from our bedroom, as well as from the galley (kitchen). There is only one bathroom on board, but it has a separate stand-up shower and lots of counter space. I would much rather have one large bathroom than two small ones!

The galley has a three-burner stove, a small refrigerator/freezer, sink, and lots of counter space, but minimal storage that we will have to figure out the best use for. The settee (blue couches) make up the kitchen table area/living room. The table can drop down and an extra cushion put on to make a double bed for guests. There is also a TV, surround sound, and internal AC/heat throughout the interior. At the very front of the boat is the v-berth, which has its own door, separate sink, bed, and storage closet.

What drew us to this particular boat was the fact that it looked brand new. (It also lacked that gross boat smell that all the other used boats seemed to have, which I believe is indicative of neglected ‘under the surface’ issues) The layout of this boat makes it feel incredibly spacious on the inside, comparable to older boats that are 44+ ft. We thought, why pay for the extra maintenance/dock fees/upkeep on a bigger boat, when you can have everything you want in a more convenient size? We also realized that this was the boat for us because you can actually sail it single-handed. All the lines lead back to the cockpit, and there is an automatic mast furler! The winches are purposefully oversized, which is a great strength equalizer for male and female sailors, allowing everyone to be an active participant.

I truly believe that we found the best Catalina 380 on the market. It is currently cruising-ready (even if we aren’t!), equipped with fancy navigation, water-maker, and customized tiny comforts of home that are too numerous to list. Even though this boat was at the top of our budget, I’m so glad we did not get a fixer-upper. With our limited experience combined with jumping right into liveaboard life, it would have been too confusing to have things falling apart around us!

So without further delay, here are some photos! (Taken the day before in glorious afternoon sunshine)

 

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Looking down from the stairs
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Galley
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Navigation Station (and all of our manual binders stacked up)
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V-berth
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V-berth sink
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Master stateroom straight ahead, the closed door is the head
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Scout’s room, apparently

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Head w/ separate shower
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Cockpit (where we spend most of our time)

How to Buy and Live Aboard a Sailboat in Your 20s (with little experience)

In honor of moving aboard our Catalina 380 this weekend (!) this post is dedicated to the people who want to do the same thing, but don’t know how or where to start. Having just been through this 6 month process, here is a step-by-step list of how we did it. Keep in mind, we aren’t cruising yet! This is about living at a marina in the U.S.

(NOTE- This is a LONG technical post. If you’re looking for an update on “Conor and Tay’s Big Adventure”…hi Mom, hi Dad…it will be up tomorrow)

1) Take a sailing 101 class. Make sure you actually like sailing. If you hate it but like the simplicity of small living or dock life, think about a trawler.

2) Make sure you and your partner (if you have one) are on the same page. Go to your local boat show, and tour different models. How small are you willing to go? Which boats do you fit comfortably in? Are you a fan of catamarans or do you like the traditional feel of a monohull? What would you need to live day-to-day? And last but not least: what kind of use are you looking to get from your boat? Coastal cruising or bluewater?

3) Start saving money. You will need to put between 10-20% down on your boat. Also, a lot of extra fees will pop up, so leave some wiggle room. We saved 25% of our max boat budget. (Make a note: figure out your own max budget/expenses projected at least 3 years out)

4) Research marinas in your area. If you are west coast, you might have a harder time finding marinas that allow liveaboards (some only allow 10% of slips to be liveaboards). What is the wait list? In California, it was up to 10 years. Price to dock per foot of boat? Are the facilities nice? Is it a reasonable commute to work? It would really suck to buy a boat, only to find out that you can’t live on it! MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A PLACE TO PUT YOUR BOAT BEFORE YOU BUY IT!

5) If the stars are aligning and you’ve found your perfect marina, contact a local BUYERS boat broker. They work for you, like a real estate agent. DO YOUR RESEARCH. Look at sailing forums, see what people have to say about certain agencies or brokers. Call around, and find someone you mesh with. I decided on our broker based on his great reputation, his bio (lived aboard for 15 years—can’t beat that expertise!), and the fact that the brokerage company as a whole promised to help newbie buyers navigate a complicated process. I wanted someone who would be patient with us and answer questions we didn’t know we had. If you don’t get that vibe, look for a better broker. They’re honest and they’re out there, you just have to do the legwork.

6) Start getting rid of all of your shit. Donate it, sell it, store the important stuff with family—and even though you THINK you’ve downsized to your bare minimum, you will still have way to much. We downsized to a 7×7 POD (only half full, too!) and I’ve discovered we will only need about a third of it all. Once it is gone, you won’t miss it, I promise.

7) Remember what I said about the boat show? Make a list with your broker about your wants/likes. You can talk make/models, but if this is your first boat, keep an open mind. Then let him or her do their thing. Our broker came back with 3 solid choices, and 2 additional boats that he thought would be a good fit, even though they didn’t fit our minimum length requirement. Lo and behold, we went with the smallest boat!

8) Once you’ve found your dream boat, you’ll need financing. You will put an offer on the boat, making sure that the deal is CONTINGENT ON SECURED FINANCING and a SATISFACTORY SURVEY. This clause is important, because if you can’t get the money or your survey sucks, you can walk away from the deal. 10% of the boat cost will go into an escrow account (remember when I said to save money?) while you find someone to finance your boat. Such a large loan that is not a house is difficult for some credit unions and banks to wrap their heads around. If you’re younger like us, they will basically laugh at you. Be prepared to have someone older than you with a longer credit history cosign the loan. Our cosigner will never pay a CENT of our loan, but he was needed on the paperwork. We went with LIGHTSTREAM for financing, a division of Sun Trust Bank, because their rates were reasonable and they allow liveaboards.

9) Schedule a survey with a certified surveyor. This will include a thorough check of the boat’s internal and external systems, as well as a haul out to inspect the bottom/keel (Ding ding! Surprise fees! See my post about our survey for more details). Your boat broker and the current owners will accompany you for this. It is an excellent time to ask questions about the boat! What are her quirks? What is their favorite thing about her? If no major issues are found during the survey, then is no need to counter-offer back and forth with the current owners regarding your original offer.

10) Now for the tricky part—GETTING INSURANCE! We hit a snag on this one. Nobody wants to insure first time boat owners, especially when your boat is a lot of money and you want to live on it. Add in the fact that we have never actually sailed a boat this size, and we were in trouble. Forums will tell you all the time to just get regular boat insurance and not tell your insurance company that you live on it, but I refused to lie. I was not going to deal with the anxiety of a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, and plus, this blog would give us away in a heartbeat! WR HODGENS MARINE INSURANCE was willing to work with us, thankfully. They don’t care if you want to live aboard, and we were able to get insurance by adding in a “Captain’s Clause”. This was basically our promise to not take the boat off of the dock unless we were accompanied by a certified captain. Once we have fulfilled a certain number of private instruction hours on our boat, our captain will send in a letter to the insurance agency stating that we have enough experience to be on our own. Then voila! Restriction removed and we will be the sole operators of our vessel.

*Remember when applying that ALL boat experience is experience, even small powerboats. Every little bit counts.

11) Once you have insurance, then you wire the rest of the money into the escrow account, the old owners sign the paperwork, and you’re the proud new owner of your boat! Everybody wins.

12) MOVE ABOARD YOUR BOAT! The old owners (absolute saints that they are and knowing that we are newbies) left us a detailed manual on how things work (galley, head, AC., etc) that we’ve been slowly working our way through. Even the simplest tasks become so much harder on a boat! We’re learning, though, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Our first private lesson is next weekend, and until then, I’m just focusing on not hitting my head on everything.

Love,

Taylor and Conor

PS—If you have specific questions pertaining to your own situation, please feel free to email or comment and ask! I would love to help you out 🙂

Sea Trial, Survey, and Surviving Suitcase Living

Say the title 10 times fast. Now you know how the last few weeks have been for us: JUMBLED!

I swear the days have just flown by in a blur. But lots of stuff has happened since our offer was accepted on the boat!

We were living at an Extended Stay America hotel in Jacksonville (NC) which, to put it politely, is NOT somewhere we will be staying again. We had hit the two month mark of suitcase living, and Jacksonville tried its damnedest to break us. But we needed to be close enough to Camp Lejeune for Conor to have an easy commute to work, so we put on our grownup pants and dealt with the grossness. Weekend escapes to beautiful places like Topsail beach helped us keep things in perspective. Also, Conor checked into his new unit, and he is now incredibly excited for all of the amazing travel and training opportunities lined up for him! Just have to survive a little longer being homeless.

Our boat survey and sea trial finally happened yesterday. We tried to get a surveyor scheduled for last week, but this region is about to enter the ‘high season’ of boat sales, and everyone was booked! For those who don’t know, a surveyor is like a house inspector. He or she is a professional who works for YOU and has your best interest at heart regarding the vessel you are purchasing. Surveyors know how to spot any problems/warning signs with the boat, and can prevent you from making a bad investment. Their expertise is definitely worth their price (around $20 per foot of boat in this area) and their assessment of the vessel’s worth is vital for things like insurance or renegotiating price.

We arrived at the dock at 8am to meet Stephen, our surveyor, who patiently explained EVERYTHING he was doing, from walking us through the engine inspection, to analyzing the electrical system, to searching for issues with the water tanks, etc. Some buyers just let the surveyor handle everything and read the report they submit, but we wanted to be very hands-on the whole way. We learned a lot over three hours, and then it was time to take the boat for a sea trial and haul out!

Along with the current owners, our broker, and the surveyor, we motored up New River to a boat yard (and the predicted lightening storm held off, thankfully). Our haul out picture below:

haulout

For those interested in pricing, the haul out was $10 per foot of boat. A necessary expense, but well worth the peace of mind. The bottom looked great and there were no major issues. We all climbed back aboard and were back to our dock at 4pm. It was an exhausting day, mostly because we were hit with so much information. The current owners are amazing people, and answered all of our questions openly and honestly. They loved and cared for this boat for many years, so I hope they know she is going to a good home where we will love her just as much.

Next steps: get the written report from the surveyor, shop around for insurance, and then BUY THE BOAT! If anyone has any additional questions about the survey/sea trial process, please post them in the comment section and I will respond! This was just a brief overview of a complicated process.

Love,

Taylor and Conor

When Plans Get Turned Upside Down

Things that are still on track: 

1) Awesome boat broker

2) 3 GREAT boats (yes, the newly-posted 44 Catalina is also a perfect fit for us!)

3) Conor’s orders are still for North Carolina

Things that were unexpected this week:

1) Someone else is interested in the Endeavor 42, and will apparently put in an offer today. Cue our panic that none of these boats will be available for us come May 10, and we won’t have any boats lined up to see. This led to a long discussion about whether or not it would be worth it for me to fly out to NC solo to get the ball rolling. I was fully prepared to buy a last-minute ticket to New Bern, but thankfully our broker talked us down, and has urged us not to rush. Spring is the high season for selling, so he is confident that even if our three current options get snapped up, he can still find us a perfect fit.

My mantra: the right boat will be there at the right time. The right boat will be there at the right time. Repeat as necessary, accompanied by deep breaths.

2) We found out that while USAA finances boat loans, they do not finance loans if the boat will be used as a liveaboard. SURPRISE! Monday was a day of intense research and many phone calls, and we discovered that most banks do NOT understand/like/approve of the liveaboard lifestyle. This has been incredibly frustrating, and our options are limited. We can get a personal loan through USAA, but the terms and APR will be pushing it. We are also exploring our options with Lightstream (part of Sun Trust Bank), as they give boat loans for liveaboard purposes. Don’t even get me started on finding insurance.

3) Our plan to live at Gottschalk Marina on Camp Lejeune has been disrupted. I was promised a slip back in January, but some of the dock pylons were damaged in a recent storm and they don’t know when they will be repaired. The two intact slips big enough to fit 40+ foot boats are also currently occupied indefinitely. However, there is another marina at the air station (a separate entity within Camp Lejeune jurisdiction) called New River that has liveaboard slips available. WOOHOO!

The downside: Conor’s 3-mile bicycle commute is now turned into a 45-minute car commute. Which means that instead of going down to one car like we planned, we have to ship Conor’s car to Camp Lejeune (goodbye, $1000 that the Marine Corps won’t reimburse). Hopefully, our stay at New River won’t be too long, and we can relocate to Gottschalk in a few months and sell the car on the east coast.

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Our plans are upside down and unstable, much like the handstand of an aging former gymnast

WHEW! Thanks for reading until the end, this might be my longest blog post to date. I feel like this week was a test to see how much we really want our boat, and we are proving that we do. Shit hit the fan, but so far we have been able to find a workaround for everything.

Feel free to send us questions and comments, or any topics you want us to discuss!

Love,

Taylor and Conor

Needs and Wants

Main requirement for our liveaboard: the boat must float.

But really, because we are so inexperienced, we are not looking for a ‘project’ boat by any stretch. We are on the hunt for a sailboat that is move-in ready, not a fixer-upper. We already feel like we are in over our heads enough without having to worry if the electric will catch fire or if the bilge pump will fail and sink us overnight.

So besides looking for a structurally sound boat, here are a couple of our ‘must-haves’ to make living on a sailboat work for us:

  1. Center cockpit, which means a bigger aft stateroom with enough headroom for Conor
  2. A 3-cabin configuration with aft and v-berth staterooms (basically 2 bedrooms and a main living/kitchen space). Separate cabins with doors allow a bit more privacy when you’re living in close quarters. Enough space, but not too much boat for 2 people to handle when sailing.
  3. Fully-functioning galley with refrigeration
  4. A SEPARATE SHOWER in the head! This is a big one for me. I am not a fan of the idea of a ‘wet head’, where my entire bathroom gets soaked and I have to sit on the toilet every time I take a shower. Gross.

Besides these four things, we can compromise and make most situations work for us. However, if we found the PERFECT boat, it would also include these ammenities:

  1. Low-maintenance (aka no teak) deck
  2. Swim platform
  3. Enough storage space for Conor’s field gear and diving gear
  4. Washing machine
  5. Convertible settee to have extra beds for guests

Notice that these are all liveaboard aspects of the boat, and not a whole lot about the sailing aspect: sails, rigging, navigation systems, engine, etc. That’s because we honestly don’t know enough about that part yet to have a preference. Any recommendations from you experienced sailors? All of our ‘must-haves’ and ‘would-likes’ are pretty superficial, I know. I’m sure by next year I’ll look back at this list and laugh.

Love,

Taylor and Conor

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Throwback to 2012 when we spent the night on a GORGEOUS 100-year-old sailboat. I cannot imagine maintaining something like that, though!