A few years back, I owned a boat. It was a Tartan 30, so it was a 30 foot long sloop rigged yacht. It was made of fiberglass and was built in 1971 (Hull Number 55). I sold it off because I could not train for armored combat and maintain an old sailboat at the same time. I could work out the money, but the hours in a day ran short. I made a hard decision based on the idea that I could likely still sail in old age, but I needed to do my fighting now while I have enough youth left in me.
That said and done, I did not give up my dream of living on a boat and if I live long enough to retire from armored combat or if I find the time to do both, I certainly plan to move aboard again, or, . money willing, at least own a boat again.
My first lesson was that boat maintenance takes a lot of time. At the minimum for my old boat was at least 2 full weekends to launch in the spring and one full weekend to winterize. Part of that is a New England thing. The sailing season is short and weather gets well below freezing generally for long stretches of time. Typically, marinas require you to pull your boat out for the winter. New England is not the best place to live aboard because of this. Warmer climates might be a better idea.
I also learned a “project boat” is a full time job. Something where everything works well is a better start unless you have a lot of both time and cash. As a result of not having enough of either, I ended up destroying my engine and not having the time or money to actually do my planned conversion to electric.
Corollary to the above, I learned I do not like gas engines. I’m not overly fond of diesel either. There are a lot of moving parts and they require all sorts of nasty fluids to work. I concluded long before I sold my boat that I wanted a sail boat with an electric motor.. Recharging an ample battery bank with a combination of solar, wind, and a regenerating prop makes sense to me. I’d like to set up a separate regeneration prop from the one that provides thrust in order to still have the ability to put the engine into reverse. As for the battery bank, I figure that a set of standard marine deep cycle batteries would be best. Lithium is bad for the environment, requires careful charging, and is prone to catastrophic failure if damaged. A standard lead acid battery is recyclable, easily maintained, affordable, and replacements can be found worldwide. Also on a boat, the mass of the lead-acid batteries is less of a factor than on land or air vehicles.
I learned that a 30 food vessel is a good size for one person. It has enough room to cook, clean, and do maintenance and is also small enough to handle and allows affordable docking. Anything up to 45 feet should be easy enough to handle single handed and a 30 foot boat has enough room for overnight guests. and shorter term company.
For other gear, I loved having a roller-furling on the jib. That’s almost a requirement, though the ability to easily change jibs is enticing. I also loved the idea of lazy jacks because dousing the main is hard work and very awkward. Some easy way of reefing is also something I’d want in my main sail. My boat had some sort of easy reefing system I never did get to work. Thankfully, it had the reefing points for a manual reefing still there, so I used those as needed.
Auto-pilot is essential for a single live aboard. I also like the idea of a computer based plotter system, so a tablet or PC plotter that can talk to the autopilot is something I’ll be looking for.
Some Options I Like
The Catalina 30 is my “white bread” option. They are fairly common and affordable. They are designed for comfort and end up as floating apartments. While not fast, they have enough amenities to be a good home and there are enough around that parts can easily be found if needed. They don’t come standard with electric ,so that’ll have to be an added upgrade.
Full Keel Classic (such as Auberg, Cape Dory, Island Packet, Morgan, Nicholson, etc etc.)
These often pop up in Craigslist searches. The full keel makes them more seaworthy in hard weather, even at the expense of speed. Finding one in great condition may be more expensive, but worth it. The hull would need to be fiberglass in great condition or steel.
Sirius Yachts (310 DS, 35 DS, or 40 DS)
The engineering in the Sirius Yachts design is incredible. They pack so much into that space yet make it all work together. These yachts are fully custom made and I’m kind of torn among different configurations. I do know I’d want the twin keel in one of these so I can beach it at low tide and also for the shallow draft. My only concern here is that they don’t make the min electric at the moment, so I may have to either convince them or work with a third party for the design and installation. Buying one of these new is costly, but would be worth it if I have the funds when I’m ready to buy. The cost I’d estimate would be in the middle 6 digits range. This puts it in the top end of potentially feasible without a lottery win.
Pipe Dream Area #1: Neel Trimaran
The main problems with a trimaran is that I’d need a double wide berth at any dock, the special handling for pulling it out of the water for maintenance, and the over all price tag. Also, the helm is rather exposed. The up sides are the speed, simple handling, low heeling, stability, and LOADS of space. Their smallest model, at 43 feet, sleeps 8 people, comfortably. If the Catalina is an apartment on the water, a Neel 43 is a small house on the water that moves super fast.
Pipe Dream #2: Classic “Pirate Ship”
This is an idea I have had for a while – Build a smallish tall ship more or less as a historically accurate reproduction, and use it for educational and entertainment purposes. I’d been looking at the Unrated Jamaica Class sloops made by the Royal Navy in the early 18th century that were designed to mimic the vessels loved by pirates of the time. Some ideas I’ve had were high adventure pirate themed cruises, sailing instruction for at-risk youth, and use in Hollywood productions. It would take a large team to pull it off as well as a sizable permanent crew. At about 65 feet LOD, it could also be used in Tall Ship races as a Class B entry.