Since 2008 the size of the “cruising boat” has seemingly doubled. It used to be that a 31ft boat was a good size for two people. Even for a small family. Now, it is unheard of that a couple would consider anything under 40 feet.
“But it is also going to be our house for a few years,” they say – as if that reason alone is enough for them to purchase a boat much too large for their abilities, needs, or pocketbook.
Wrong! Let’s be clear – a boat is NOT a house. It is a boat.
It is the people aboard who make it a home. But it can never be a house.
Nor can it be a replacement for a house. You will cook, sleep, and stow your stuff in it. But one purpose for cruising is to live in a much greater environment than a tiny boat. I would hope that you will get off that settee and explore the greater world outside the walls of your so-called house.
It is a great marketing ploy – convince them that they need more, and they will pay top dollar for what they think they need.
People often say they need the space for guests. They in-turn cram all their crap into the v-berth or quarter-berth, pile it high with “necessary” stuff and call it the “garage.” I’ve seen it time and time again, and have always vowed never to have a “garage.” A bunk is a bunk, and aboard Rocinante it will always be reserved as that. In fact, we have space ready for up to 5 guests (because we run a sail-training business) – each with their own locker, drawer, gear hook, and toiletry shelf. Despite having all these empty lockers, Ben and I still have room for enough personal stuff for three seasons, a sewing machine, sailing gear, a fizzy water maker, skateboard, and even a piano. We like to live minimally, but we love a few luxuries too! And we even have a private berth for Dory the ship’s cat.
Convincing guests to visit is harder than finding a space for them to sleep. Try telling your non-sailing friends to book an open-ended ticket, plan for weather delays, or wait until you make landfall before scheduling their vacation time. “Weather? What do you mean weather? Can’t you just tell me when you’ll be there? I’m asking months in advance, so you should know. Plus, I need to know now so I can tell my boss, arrange for someone to water the plants and walk the dog, and get the best deal on flights.” We love visitors – but it’s hard convincing shore birds to take to the sea!
When Ben and I are alone aboard our Norseman 447, we live in half the boat, but still pay full price. That’s a great deal – for a broker!
Ok – so you are giving up your house, and plan to live on a boat. I hope you don’t expect an equal trade. It is anything but equal. You aren’t just trading a house for a boat. You are trading a lifestyle of security for one of unpredictability based on the whim of the weather. When it blows, you stand anchor watch, forego events and activities ashore, reschedule appointments, change priorities, piss people off. Try getting them to understand that “the weather is bad so I can’t make it,” while they take your call from the comfort of an office, a meeting room, or their house. Good luck.
Nope – still a boat – not a house.
Many bigger boats are marketed as a “couple’s” boat, when really it has room for twice that. It is a great marketing ploy – convince them that they need more, and they will pay top dollar for what they think they need. But you don’t need it. When you purchase a boat – you are trading one life for another. You are agreeing that there is much to be gained by living smaller. Living closer to nature. Rowing ashore to catch the last few minutes of the local farmer’s market, hanging a fishing line off the stern, reading a book and watching the sunset in the cockpit, feeling the gusts lay your boat over at night, and dashing up to the deck to make sure you aren’t dragging. Embrace that. You love it. That’s why you are choosing this life. You can do all that aboard a 31ft boat, or a 41ft boat. Any cruising boat you choose will have space to cook, sleep, pee, and eat. That is all you need. But that extra 10 feet won’t give you room for a swimming pool, an exercise room, a two-car garage, or a dining room AND a breakfast nook. Really? A breakfast nook – and you’re telling me you want a boat?
I’m not suggesting that you set sail on a tiny boat with a dozen other people. Lets be clear – living with your chosen life partner aboard a boat of any size won’t feel cramped. Living aboard even a 55ft boat with the wrong crew will feel like the walls are closing in on you. Like I said – it is not a house, it will never be a house, but it is the people aboard who make it a home.
Ask yourself this: What are you really after? Do you want to spend time indoors or outdoors? Do you want to see expansive sunsets or expansive settees. Even a 40ft boat will feel small if you spend too much time in it. So – get outside. For real.
…you should be living big in your new ocean home who’s walls are as distant as the furthest horizon.
I’ve seen too many people purchase boats that are too big for their needs. I really just want everyone to have a good, safe, experience. So don’t have illusions that buying a bigger boat will make you more comfortable living aboard. It won’t. It will only make you work harder, fix more broken stuff, and pay a lot of money for that extra space to stow the junk you don’t need. Everything costs more to maintain and fix – haul-out, new rig, dock fees, anchor size, systems, etc. Even a shackle costs so much more. Why bother with all that when, what you should really be doing is sailing, hiking, cooking good food, meeting your neighbors, meeting the locals. Most importantly, you should be living big in your new ocean home who’s walls are as distant as the furthest horizon. How can anyone feel confined when they live in that endless space every day?
We’ve worked with dozens of couples – helping them go from boat less to boat owners. Dreamers to doers. Time and again, they call us a year or two later and say they should have listened to our suggestion for a smaller boat – the boat is for sale, their adventure is over.
I know, I know. I can hear exactly what you are going to say to me. “Why then did you sell your Nor’sea 27 for a 44ft boat?” That’s easy – because we run a sail-training expedition business on it. If I were sailing solo, or with one or two other people, the Nor’sea would be plenty big. It is a great boat. Ideal for two people. I highly recommend it. When Ben and I are alone aboard our Norseman 447, we live in half the boat, but still pay full price. That’s a great deal – for a broker!
If you are in the market for a boat – go small! You won’t regret it.
Boat sizes are like weddings – people never regret going smaller and spending less, but many do regret too big and too much.
In the meantime – go outside and see if you feel cramped.
P.S. If anyone is in the market for a brand new boat and are looking for one under 40ft – consider the Nor’sea 37. It is the perfect boat and what we would have purchased if they were available used. It is the best combination of the Bristol Channel Cutter and the Nor’sea – which as you know, are boats Ben and I adore! If you want a Nor’sea 37 you’ll have to get it brand new – a great opportunity. Let us know because we want to see your boat when its finished and we will consult with you along the way! We are not accepting payment from the people behind the Norsea 37 – we just really want to see this awesome boat get built!
P.S.S. Not convinced? Want to sail a bigger boat to see what its like? Join us on a sail-training expedition (shameless plug). We’ll even allow you to bring the kitchen sink if you want – because even with 7 people aboard, we still have space for it! Book now, our summer season is filling up fast!