Shopping for Boats

Teresa Carey Words 47 Comments

Its been a few months since Ben and I have lived aboard our own boat and I’m starting to feel very disconnected. While we are working on boats, and living aboard while we work, it just isn’t the same. I’m eager to find our new home. I know many people have been asking what we are looking for, so here are some reflections on the boat-shopping process so far:

In the last week Ben and I have looked at 5 different boats from 32ft to 42ft long, and I still haven’t found a favorite, but I am honing in on the features I like and don’t like.

The 42ft boat felt like a beast! In the years before sailing Daphne and Elizabeth, I hadn’t done much sailing on boats smaller than thirty feet. But in the past four years, I’ve come to love the pocket-cruiser and the ease and comfort with which I can sail it all on my own. Putting aside the extra maintenance and owner costs of a boat that large, I still think it just wouldn’t feel as cozy.

The 32ft boat was more my size and many sacrifices in comforts I’m willing to accept. For instance, having a shower still isn’t on my priority list. I’ll manage just fine without. Instead, a shower remains on the “luxury” list where we would feel lucky to find a boat with a shower, but its certainly not a priority.

So, what is a priority? Well, since Ben and I are both planning to work and live full time aboard the boat, in all seasons, I have to consider the next boat with winter in mind.

The first winter frost.

Summer, or southern climates, make living aboard easy. The space expands from a tiny cabin cave to the entire deck with walls as confining as the distant horizon. But in the winter not only were we confined to the cabin, but even Elizabeth’s cabin shrunk. We packed the quarterberth with sails and sealed off the focs’l so there was less space to heat. That left us with the galley and saloon, which is where we ate our meals, worked, slept, cooked, watched movies, relaxed, did pull-ups, and even sometimes danced.

Ben works late into the night and I’m ready to crash at 10pm. Unfortunately, we both have to pack up together and put the computers away to pull the bed out and unroll the the sleeping bags. Getting ready for bed is a group effort. And when Ben has to use the bathroom, since we had to stow the table to get to the head, well, look out world! Our next boat will make use of the space in a way that meets our needs and our variety of liveaboard life better.

Elizabeth’s cabin last winter.

Of course, she will also be seaworthy. We’re planning on sailing into northern latitudes again and want a boat that will be comfortable in rough seas, is well insulated, and prepared to handle the icy cold and yet still feel like home.

So, are we on the right track? What important things would you look for in a boat?

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Comments 47

  1. TheBadaren

    Some of the larger Nauticats must be one of the most ultimate boat to live aboard. Otherwise, there’s always Hallberg Rassy!
    Unfortunately, it costs a lot to stay on top. πŸ™‚

  2. Mike

    The Cape Georges would be good choices if you have the money. Insulation is a big deal in northern climates, and it must be done properly on an frp boat our mildew will always be a problem. Either the Cape George 31 (rare) 34 (even more expensive), or 36 (best choice) would be great. Some of the 36s were owner finished, can be a little rough inside, but are therefore much cheaper. Great carrying capacity, awesome sea handling and comfort – the real deal for ocean passages.
    I currently sail an Alberbg 37, and can highly recommend the Alberg 30s, 35s, and 37s for their great sailing characteristics. The 30s can sometimes be had fairly cheaply, especially on the East coast, BUT, and it is a big deal I think – none of them are factory insulated. You must do that yourself – a horrible task to do correctly. (First layer mat, then balsa, another layer of mat, then roving – all in the tight confines with nasty fumes.)
    On the other hand, if you can afford a Cape Dory or Robin Hood, they are fancy versions of the Alberg designs which were sometimes insulated properly at the factory.
    Nothing, but nothing matches a well found wooden boat for insulating value, however.
    My 2 cents worth.

  3. Dave

    It is very difficult looking for a new floating home. There is a ton of work involved in keeping a boat in good condition and alot of the time that is not the case when these boats are put on the market. Some boats that we are interested in are the Tayana’s, Passports 40 & 42, Scolum 43’s, and vagabonds. Trying to live a more simple life and getting a boat that doesn’t break the bank is also an issue of ours. We don’t want to buy a boat and have to work full time for the next 15 years paying for it.

  4. Kim

    We are 5 on a 28.5 foot boat I think a little bit bigger would be better :O) BUT ours is paid for so we have to grin and bare it being small ! Good luck! Can’t wait to see what you get!!

    1. Post

      Thats amazing! Are the five of you aboard full time? Four seasons? I can’t imagine. Our 28ft BCC wouldn’t have worked for us and 3 others. Winters would be impossible! And so would work!
      Good for you. Are you loving it?

  5. Jez

    Have you considered a Nor’Sea 37 kit? It’s well on the more expensive side of things, but with two people working full-time for a couple years to pay off a loan, may be do-able.

    1. Post

      We love the Norsea 37. But they are wicked expensive. I think we need to find a used boat. Norsea 37s are only available new right now. But thanks for the tip. You know our taste!

    2. Daniel

      I would LOVE the Nor’sea 37 too. If only I had the funds. As far as I know, there’s only 4 hulls that have ever been built and I found that from doing LOTS of research.

      I would love to see one up close but that might be a difficult task.

  6. Dave

    I am sailing a Falmouth Cutter at the moment and have been contemplating upgrading to something with a little more storage capacity. I ran across a Cape George 31 that was rebuilt at the factory that is for sale- It is located in Port Townsend, you could sail BC and AK before bringing her home. Check it out. There is also another one listed with Rogue Wave Yacht Sales over on the east coast, but I think its listed for a good bit more- The PS 34, PS 37, or Valiant 40 could be good choices as well, but definitely don’t have the warmth of the Cape George.

  7. nicholas

    weatsail 32. i have the samson 32 full length keel heqps of space below sole for tanks. good on reach rough weather and motor sailing to winward. so beqmy and hufe focsle. the samson 32 is just ferro version. look at photos ob my face book. do not get fin keel. you will go aground and major dramas . built in keel another story. just paint damage. consider coming down under to buy. u will be asrounded what urr american dollars get. look on . new zealand dollar . we make dam stron g boats

  8. nicholas

    weatsail 32. i have the samson 32 full length keel heqps of space below sole for tanks. good on reach rough weather and motor sailing to winward. so beqmy and hufe focsle. the samson 32 is just ferro version. look at photos ob my face book. do not get fin keel. you will go aground and major dramas . built in keel another story. just paint damage. consider coming down under to buy. u will be asrounded what urr american dollars get. look on . new zealand dollar . we make dam stron g boats

  9. Nicholas J Badek

    The 1st boat I saw while owning my first , a 22ft Oday, which inspired me to look for a sailboat home to keep for life was a 79 Endeavour 37 sloop. At first it seemed huge but after doing research as to what I would need to not grow out of and be comfortable on- which I could be able to mange alone, world worthy and shoal capable, I decided it was perfect and have no reservations. The ony possible concern is its ability to be hauled. It’s a tank @ 10 tons and a perfect size accommodating a minimum of 6 which is handy for a 6 pack with its earning potential. It seems like the baseline of luxury and compromise- I couldn’t be happier.

  10. Peter

    Do you consider both steel and fibreglass boats? I can imagine steel being harder to insulate when sailing in colder conditions but I would feel safer with steel when surrounded by ice.

  11. stephen

    I have been dreaming of liveaboard sailing for sometime..I am moving to St. Petersburg Fl. next month and intend to enroll in several sailing classes. I am interested in meeting people of like interests with a taste of the simple life being more profound than a rat race.. Any suggestions?? A true adventurer like Teresa would be a great find..

  12. Bert Glasgow

    Hi, I am torn between a BCC and a Nor’sea 27. You have sailed aboard both and what are your thoughts on performance, storage and sailing characteristics. I am looking for a boat for single handed through the Gulf of Mexico, Keys an up the Atlantic Coast. If you have come across such a comparison let me know,
    great videos and blog
    Bert, moving to retirement

    1. Post

      Ahhhh….there are a lot of differences between the BCC and Nor’Sea, but in truth, you can’t go wrong with either. It all depends on your budget, where you’ll sail, what type of sailing you’ll do, your personal level of comfort, and what your goals are. My best advice would be to get aboard both and see what you like. Find an owner who will take you for a sail (even if their boat isn’t for sale). Spend some time on the boat. Sleep in the bunks. Have dinner in the saloon. Use the head!

      Both are very good boats. Well built, and attractive. You really can’t go wrong with either one!


  13. Jason

    It sounds like Ben is a really smart guy. Having two boats probably helped slowly cultivate a life-long relationship rather than jumping right in and crowding each other’s space (I can’t imagine you guys being very extroverted!). Don’t be afraid of a big boat, pretty soon you’ll have some young able deckhands to do all the work!

  14. Lee

    Check out the old lineup of Allied yachts in that range. They have some years on them now, but are go anywhere boats. Many can be bought at great prices if you are willing to put some work into them. Specifically the Seawind, Seabreeze, and Princess.

  15. skipper dick

    If your looking for something affordable and a good in heavy weather google the Ingrid 37’s. A fair amount of room, comfortable in heavy weather, full keel and not bad in light winds. There are five or so on the market now ranging from the low $30’s to the $60’s.

    1. Ben

      Ingrid’s are known for being extremely tender. They are under ballasted with twice the rig. Evidently the Alajuelas are a better sailing boat using the same hull as Ingrid’s.

  16. Rich Kallerud

    My wife and I lived for five years on an Island Packet 350 and traveled to 16 countries and found it comfortable and seaworthy. The cutter rig gives you more options to have the right amount of canvas up for the wind and sea conditions. We sailed w/ Yankee and double reef main in some pretty high wind and seas and it was a stable ride. Good tankage for fuel, water and holding tank.

    There are a lot of Island Packets out there for sale. Even a 31 is a substantial vessel and they are reasonably price.

  17. Daniel

    I was thinking to suggest one of the Cape George boats. Personally, I was looking at the interior layout of the CG40. I think that layout looks much better than the other size boats. From what I can tell, not many CG’s out there in that size so I’m sure like the Nor’sea 37, it’ll have to be built to order and it’ll be wicked expensive.

    One can daydream, right? πŸ˜‰

    Maybe the two of you could get someone to build what you want and just incorporate the features that you are looking for. Yes, it will be expensive but it’ll be yours and have what you want.

    Another design I was thinking, if you can find one, is a Cape Dory at 40ft or so. There was a time I was interested in the Bristol 38.8 and Sabre 38’s too.

    Good luck in your search.

  18. Erin and Don

    We’d just like to throw our two cents in for a Hans Christian 33. Spacious, comfortable, seaworthy beautiful boats without being too much boat, especially given the your time on the BCC.

  19. Paul d.

    May I suggest a cape dory 33? We’ve had ours for ten years and are now four sailing comfortably. Would have a similar sailing feel to your BCC and Nor’sea with the full keel, a simple to handle solo sailing experience and simple yet functional interior. I recommend one with the universal diesel if possible. We have been so happy with Femme du Nord, and I have never wanted to go bigger- and my brother has a beautiful 36! Thanks for your blog. Nice work. My kids actually wanted to see your videos again!

    1. Capitan Clownshoes

      Also, try…good place to shop along with sailboatlistings. will let you search ALL of craigslist without having to go through each locale. You’d be suprised what you can find on CL.

  20. Michael

    Maybe I should say what I like about Hans Christian.

    -a good book
    -engine completely open and accessible
    -head at the head
    -lots of wood
    -no moving the table to go to the head.
    -very stable, or so I have been lead to believe…

  21. Sean

    Great blog πŸ™‚
    I like what you are doing.
    I am scouring and searching too for just the right boat for my needs and it happens to be in the same realm as what you seek (30-ish feet pocket cruiser). I will not be living on mine so the priorities differ, but I think full keel is important regardless. With that in mind, I have been gravitating to the Cape Dory a lot. But my “sweet spot” boat would be the Ryder “Southern Cross”. I first fell in love with the Ryder Quick Step with its adorable rounded stern but at 28′ its just a hair too small. I want to get THE boat, not a stepping stone boat since I know how hard boats are to sell. To me 30′ does it that is not too heavy…one that has a fairly shallow draft and average beam. Monohull over Cat sinceI have a healthy fear of turtling in unkind seas far from help!

  22. Impetuous

    Hi, just stumbled on your blog last night and watched your TED talk and a you tube video, really like what you’re doing and sharing.

    We’re in the final stages of rebuilding an Alajuela 38 here in Texas and hope to get it splashed in a few months. The boat has been here on land for almost 20 years (though we’ve owned it for 3) and as such was a massive bargain (so long as you don’t count the three trips we’ve had to take out here to put the amazing amount of work in with time back in England to earn money…) We’re biased but we’ve never seen a prettier or more suitable boat for going off on and can’t wait to get going.

    We saw this boat on yachtworld when idly browsing and have sent it to a few friends to try to tempt them out so thought you might be interested. It’s beautiful AND CHEAP.

  23. Darron

    This is a great topic and glad to see so many responses. I’m also researching the “perfect” live aboard and am curious about your thoughts on cruising catamarans?

  24. Tim Dick

    I lived happily aboard my Beneteau First 42s7 through a N. Carolina and Northern California winter (below freezing most nights) with Eberspacher diesel heating. Efficient, thermostat controlled, as warm as you like and works at sea. This is a fast comfortable boat with a snug & efficient cockpit, two comfortable cabins although the galley could be larger. Huge deck lockers for sails, zodiac and other stuff so inside is civilized.

    Now in Kaneohe Hawaii where heat is little needed.

  25. eric

    Hi there form europe,
    Nice blog you have! I admire your bravery on untying yourself from the consumers-world. Have been searching for a cruising boat myself ever since i was lucky enough to make a small trip on a Ingrid 38. Very nice stable ride it was and the amount of canvas really makes up for the weight it has to drag along. It’s a bit like descending in a “wooden cave” once you go below deck, but that’s a personal thing i guess. I might have a suggestion for you, maybe it’s not as “traditional” looking as I asume you prefer, but take a look a Brewer 44. As far as I know it’s the american equivilant of a Hallberg Rassy, equally pricy too, though.
    Happy hunting! and remember, the hunt is more fun then the catch.

  26. Domingo

    Hi … I’m enjoying reading your blog.

    I just recently bought a CSY 33. The previous owner helped me sail it from West Palm Beach, FL to Biloxi, MS near my home on the Gulf Coast. I’ve yet to take it out on the open water for a solo sail. It’s a big step up for me … from a 20′ O’Day Mariner which I still have on its trailer parked in my yard. I’m thinking about living aboard the CSY 33 in the near future and traveling around the Gulf and the Atlantic from FL up to New England … after disposing of my home and other baggage that has me weighed down to the land. What do you think of my choice … the CSY 33 … as a live-aboard?

    And, by the way, I know of a very brave young lady that is currently living alone aboard an O’Day Mariner up in Boston, MA this winter! She formerly crewed on the replica of the Bounty … the one that sank during Hurricane Sandy. I could never live that simply.

  27. Chris Williams

    Find you a Allied Princess 36 or a mistress they are very seaworthy boats roomy cabin nothing fancy and you will get a shower to keep the scurvy off . Allied made a very good line of boats they where designed for sailors not wine drinkers. They are older boats might need a little work but well worth it. I have a princess and love it I haven’t sailed enough yet to take off but hopefully by fall I can call myself a sailor and join you in the hunt for the simple life.
    May all your dreams become reality, Chris

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  29. Jeremy

    As crazy as it may sound… building your own is sometimes the better way to go, or perhaps just buying a sturdy hull and building out or significantly modifying the inside. The Pardeys (most notably) and many others built their own from scratch, though I have no idea what the budget for a project like that is like, or how long it keeps you tied to land.

    I don’t own a boat of my own, but I could see myself making major interior modifications if they were needed. Working with wood is something anyone can learn to do, with basic tools. Working with fiberglass is slightly more complicated, and requires safety gear, but it is not outside the realm of DIY’ers like yourself and your husband.

    Of course, this blog entry is now quite old, so it’s possible the choice has already been made.

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  31. Brad

    The boat you are looking for is a Wylo 2. Check out “Iron Barks Travels” online.Steel,32 foot or 35.5, your choice. Wintered in Antarctica and Greenland.Tough,beautiful boats!I will have one of these for myself….SOON!

  32. Tom

    Lot’s of quite varied suggestions here, but not many consider one of your requirements: a factory insulated hull. I suggest looking at an older Cabo Rico 38. Balsa insulated hull, fine Crealock lines, and there are so many variations of cabin layout, you’re likely to find one to your liking.

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