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 🙂

Going With Our Guts

 

love at first sight
Or in our case, a boat!

Conor and I met with our boat broker yesterday, and it went very, very well 🙂

Mike showed us the Bavaria 47 and the Catalina Morgan 44 that we had been eyeing for the last month (spoiler alert—they weren’t the right fit for us after all) as well as 4 other boats that fit our requirements. I don’t want to jinx the sale, so I’m going to wait to reveal the boat that we picked for our first home until after the paperwork has gone through. (Ok fine, I’ll give you a hint—we don’t need as much length as we thought we did!)

But let me tell you, SHE IS BEAUTIFUL. We are so happy, and just knew as soon as we saw her that she was the one. We put in an offer at 2:30 yesterday and less than an hour later the owners accepted it. This feels like a dream.

I was a little nervous initially on the drive over to New Bern, and wondered if we would feel overwhelmed and unprepared once we saw the boats, leaving us too doubtful to make a decision. Much to my surprise, I was able to compensate a bit for my lack of experience with all of the ‘book smart’ knowledge I learned from stalking blogs and forums. And, of course, our broker made us feel totally comfortable during the process and was very patient every step of the way.

Now that our offer has been accepted, we need to secure our financing, put a 10% down payment into escrow, and schedule our sea trial and survey. If any issues pop up with the boat, we can either re-negotiate, or walk away from the deal (not that we want to!). It will still be a few weeks (at least) until she’s all ours and we can move aboard, but we woke up this morning with butterflies of excitement and without any buyer’s regret, so I think we made the right choice.

Love,

Taylor and Conor

Full Hearts

Our declaration that we are moving onto a boat has only been met with incredible support from our families and friends. This post is a shout out to all you wonderful people who are cheering us on, who give us confidence in ourselves with your unwavering enthusiasm. Whether it is checking in to see if we’ve found our dream boat yet, calling for an update on the downsizing process, or even offering to help us move, we thank you.

To those who say we inspire them to achieve their goals—know that we will have your back just like you’ve had ours. For the people who embrace our quirkiness and understand the true purpose of this dream—our lives would not be the same without you.

We still have moments of doubt and fear, but we have a safety net of those we love to catch us if we fall. And, most importantly, they do not judge. Our v-berth will always be open to you all to come and experience the dream with us 🙂

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Sleeping on the Floor

As we get further along with our downsizing, it has only gotten easier. It might be the excitement of getting down to the final weeks, or maybe I just want it to be over with because it is EXHAUSTING. Either way, I don’t feel any pangs of regret as our house empties out. The rooms do feel smaller now, though, as everything that made this house uniquely ours is disappearing.

Stuff is just stuff. If we change our minds in 5 years and decide to move back onto land, then we can get more furniture. What really scares me is the thought of forgoing the liveaboard dream because we are too afraid to let go of a favorite bedroom set/couch/dining room table. I refuse to let inanimate objects dictate what we can and cannot do in life.

However, it does make me happy that our stuff is finding new purpose with other families that need it. Donating has been my favorite part (Craigslist and Bookoo are a pain in the butt). Giving to friends and family and neighbors has brought joy to this process. I feel like Santa. Or Oprah.

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Three more weeks to go, but we are already sleeping on our mattress on the floor. I’ve never slept better.

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!

Wunderlist for Wanderlust

Our to-do list is a nightmare. Seriously. It is all over the place. But Conor found this great tool for keeping us organized and on the same page: Wunderlist. We can both access the app and add info/notes when one of us checks something off, even if we’re apart. One-stop access is so nice because some days I feel like we are chickens running around with our heads cut off. I definitely recommend it for anyone organizing a move, vacation, adventure, etc when multiple people are involved in the planning process. (www.wunderlist.com)

Here’s just an outline of what we are dealing with over the next few weeks:

  • Before we move out:
    • Get orders
    • Figure out what DITY move entails
    • Boxes for storage/move
    • Storage for short term/long term in both California and (hopefully) North Carolina, maybe PODS?
    • Send stuff not going into storage to our families in Seattle
    • Move-out paperwork with our housing office (Lease ends March 31!)
    • Sell furniture on Craigslist
    • Make 5,000 more trips to the donation center…
    • Clean ENTIRE HOUSE
    • Move-out inspection at the end of March
  • Living in limbo (in California still):
    • Air BNB or month-to-month apartment lease if we have to stay in California through April or May?
    • Transfer medical records
    • Any last-minute vet/doctor/dental appointments
    • Auto appointments for the cars
    • Sell Conor’s car
    • TAXES (shit, almost forgot about those)
    • Forwarding/change of address for mail
    • Obsessively look at boat listings and daydream about fast-forwarding to the fun part
  • Heading to new duty station:
    • Contact boat brokers in the area, start the boat search!
    • Road trip across the country/where are we stopping? I vote Nashville!
    • How much PTAD leave can Conor take?
    • Military move reimbursement?
  • Getting the BOAT!:
    • Meet with broker, look at possibilities he or she has found for us
    • Pick the right boat
    • Contact surveyor and have them check everything out
    • Get boat loan
    • Liveaboard insurance
    • Boat insurance
    • Reserve slip at marina
    • Get our boat delivered
    • FINALLY MOVE IN!

Have a headache yet? Welcome to the club. Those are just the big things on the list, not to mention the smaller day-to-day stuff that pops up. There will be a lot more detail added to the “Getting the Boat” section once we get closer. We just have to stay on top of everything and take it one step at a time.

Love,

Taylor and Conor

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