Our first successful boat purchase consultation…..!!

I am pleased to announce that after some time consulting with someone who was considering living aboard and been looking for a liveaboard sailboat that a purchase has occurred !!!

In the interest of their privacy, I won’t name this person outright.  I can say that they are one of our very best friends and that they have appeared in our blog.

And this is their new boat !!


I edited the name of the boat out of the photo, since, it wouldn’t do much good to not name them but then leave the name of the boat visible ….😝….I’m sure there is a renaming ceremony in the not too distant future, though.

I found this particular boat by coincidence while recently visiting with our friend while we were drinking coffee one morning.  I was browsing online for the model of boat they liked.  As it turned out, the boat was only about ten miles from their house!!

The boat is an Island Packet 350….a great design and this one was apparently owned by someone who was amazingly meticulous and had a great eye for detail.  We had only spent about ten minutes on the boat and I could already tell that this was the one for our friend.  A full survey confirmed my suspicions that the boat was in fantastic shape and ready to go sailing.  She’s scheduled for a bottom job in January and then our friend is planning to make the transition to living aboard over the next few months.

Congratulations to……well,….you know who you are ……haha

An important note about Pre-purchase Surveys of Boats

Since the purchase of our boat we have upgraded, replaced, rebuilt or refurbished most of the onboard systems in one way or another.  During these upgrades we have noticed a few things that our marine survey did not uncover.  As a result of this, I’d like to take the time to recommend that any potential Liveaboard boat buyer bite the bullet and have some separate inspections performed by a qualified expert in the individual field to save you a lot of headaches down the road.

Now, I realize that there are a great many highly qualified marine surveyors out there and that all of them intend to be the best at what they do.  The cold truth is very few of them can be experts in every single aspect of every system that make up a cruising, Liveaboard sailboat, unless they are Master Certified Tech’s in each field.  Even then, you might find that they are more versed in some than others.  If you are going to spend what might be the bulk, or a very large portion of your life savings on your dream boat, it pays in the long run to find every bruise, wart or under rated system that lurks on board, especially when you are negotiating the final purchase price.  It can also save you a lot of hassle when you insure your boat.

Our surveyor, for instance, missed a localized termite infestation, some very bad DC wiring in the binnacle, missed a couple overburdened DC grounding system points, severely underestimated the age of our rigging Sta-Loks and missed some very under rated AC four position switches (one of which later partially melted and could have caused a fire). The resistance in that circuit, which is the primary source for our battery charging, may have lead to the premature demise of our last set of ten Trojan T-105 house batteries….about $1500 to replace…..ouch….since it took some time and looking to find that switch it may have had some negative impact on our new batteries but only time will tell.  It also caused issues with our refrigeration and freezer compressors.  Those units don’t like low or unsteady voltage and ours are equipped with diagnostic LED lights that flash a code every four seconds when there is an issue detected by the control module.  Low voltage can display as the same code for a locked up compressor rotor (which is about a $1000 just for parts) so beware when someone tells you your compressor is shot….it probably isn’t.  There is a simple test for the compressor, cut the power and by placing an Ohm meter on the three connections for the control module (which must be removed first to access these but it’s only one screw) if you don’t get an “infinity” reading between any two of the three pin connections, meaning the coils are intact, your compressor is fine.  The readings should all be between 1.5 and 3.0….. (Thank you John Nihiser for the tutorial on compressor coils !!!!)

Here are a few shots of that melted switch……

Note the exposed wire at the terminal connection….also bad


image image

This same switch was partially melted from the heat build up….


My recommendation is this….once you have a general survey (about $400) of the boat you are interested in, which will hopefully point you in the direction of the most serious issues, find some experts in these specific fields, preferably ABYC Master Certified Technicians.

Electrical Inspection….(AC and DC)….this can take as long as two hours and will run about $160

Rigging Inspection…..this will take about an hour or an hour and a half and cost about $100-$150while I’ve never seen an ABYC certification for this listed on their website….a few inquiries will find a locally recognized quality rigger.

Engine Inspection……you can find a manufacturer certified technician for almost every brand of diesel in most regions… Most charge travel time unless you are close to their offices so this will run about $400-$500

Heat/AC/Refrigeration……If you have one or all of these systems it would pay to have these inspected separately as they can run into the thousands to replace…..an inspection will run about $300 for all three….

At every stage of these inspections you will obviously have the opportunity to walk away from the purchase negotiations or negotiate further based on what is found.  You might save yourself a ton of headaches and expense in the long run or get a better deal on your boat and free up the money for the upgrades or repairs.




Common questions we get while at a marina…..

Recently, while staying at a marina that allowed the general public to roam the transient docks…….we had quite a stream of people who were interested in Kitty Hawk and what type of vessel she is.  There were several small children who I overheard asking their parents if she was a “pirate ship”.  A few groups even stopped to take photos in front of her bow.  That’s one of the things I like about the CSY design.  The hull shape, raised aft deck and the unique scrolled “mustache” make them memorable boats.  A lot of the passersby stopped and talked to us.  Several of these short conversations ended with the “How did you afford to do this?” question.  Over the years of being the person asking this question, to now being the person of whom the question is being asked and seeing the number of posts in the forums and other online venues,  I thought a post about this topic was in order.

Most people are obviously uncomfortable asking this question of someone they have met just thirty seconds prior.  You can almost see it in their face right before the words come out of their mouths.  It is generally considered rude or invasive to ask such things, but their desire to form a knowledge base and evaluate their own planning in a short conversation overrides their basic inhibitions about asking.  I don’t mind necessarily, it seems logical enough and I like helping people anyway so, I answer as honestly as I can. I didn’t fully realize it until the first time I was asked this question face to face and I thought “How did we pull this off?”…..I know we had a plan and a goal but after a couple of decades, the logistics of how it happened get fuzzy…..

I have now worked out an answer that seems to satisfy most people who ask and give them a little hope for their own goal…..

We’re not rich….I’m not rich…my wife isn’t rich and we didn’t come from any family money or have any other rich relatives.  There won’t be anyone there to financially “pick up the pieces” should we have a failure that destroys the boat or seriously injures one of us.  We are our own safety net and that idea takes some getting accustomed to.  We didn’t “strike it rich” in the stock, commodities or real estate markets.  We had jobs, worked hard and saved.  We made career and life choices that were, at times, risky and might have ended the dream before it began but we had a plan, evaluated the risks and benefits then acted accordingly.  Neither of us ever made more than $100,000 a year.  What we did do was form a habit of always “paying ourselves first” by contributing to our boat fund and retirement accounts as much as we could and doing so regularly for over 20+ years.  We also limited our expenses and avoided buying new cars, new houses or other things we didn’t absolutely have to buy.  We didn’t always take a vacation.  We always bought used cars, bought the cheapest houses in the best neighborhoods we could afford and after two decades of sweat equity improvements we sold the house, paid cash for the boat, slip and invested the rest to fund our cruise kitty and retirement accounts.  We also didn’t buy a new boat.  We bought, what we believe, is the most solid and capable boat with the best modern amenities and upgrades that we could afford.  There are a vast number of solid, suitable cruising boats out there that have been refitted with modern gear and are available for one third or even one fourth of the price of a new boat with no cruising gear.  That’s not to say that there is anything wrong with a new boat…if you can afford it……but I don’t like to buy new cars either.

There are also different ways to succeed at this dream.  Not everyone needs, or wants, to live on their boat full time.  Not everyone wants or needs to go offshore to feel like, or be, a sailor.  We spent weekends living on our Hunter 23 on a lake for several years and that was a great way to live the dream very, very affordably, while still having a land based life.  Don’t get caught up in the idea that you have to do exactly what we are doing to enjoy the sailing life.



Some of the Best Boats We Inspected While Shopping for Our Boat

This is  a partial list of some of the boats that we really liked, but for one reason or another (design, features, price) they didn’t make the final cut…these are not necessarily in any particular order….

Hylas 47

Island Packet 37, 40, 42, 44, 485

Shannon of any variety

Pacific Seacraft 37

Moody 42′

Brewer 42′

Gulfstar 50′

Tayana 42′

Ta’Shing Baba

Catalina Morgan 440

Tartan 3400 or 4300

Amel Super Maramu 53′

Hans Christian 38′ to 43′



What we were looking for in a liveaboard sailboat

During our fifteen plus years of touring, inspecting, researching and eventually selecting our boat we cherry picked a list of design characteristics and features from various boats that we liked.  Once we had our list of preferred details, we were always concerned we might not find a boat with even half of our desired attributes and would have to settle for a boat with the essential basics and then upgrade the rest of the features ourselves, increasing our cost and extending our timeline.  We looked at a LOT of boats.  We seriously considered a couple of very very nice, upgraded, older sailboats.  One (A Gulfstar 50′) had about 75% of what we were looking for but we felt that the overly open design of the interior made it unsuitable for any rough weather crossings and therefore didn’t make the cut.

Here’s the final list that we used to evaluate the boats we looked at…..

40′ to 47′  LOA
6′ or less of draft due to slip depth
ICW suitable mast height
Solid glass hull w full filleted, bulkhead and hull tabbing
Skeg hung rudder
Keel stepped mast
wide side decks uncluttered no lines or tracks in way
Generous engine and/or genset access
Limited, Accessible, all bronze hull bolted through hulls
Center cockpit preferred but not mandatory
Sloop or cutter rigged w furling
Encapsulated lead cutaway keel
Sta-Lok rigging…no rod rigging
Baffled* Plastic/Poly/ Monel water tanks in bilge
Aluminum fuel tank(s) in bilge
Two cabins w convertible settee
Two heads maximum w fresh water flush* and overboard discharge option (Lectrasan or composting heads a plus, We added a Lectrasan)
Separate shower stall in at least one head
Encloseable cockpit and dodger
Large cockpit drains
Anchor windlass
Genset w suitable sound insulation*
Swim platform or transom steps
Transom Deck shower and anchor wash down
Aft arch w solar panels / antenna / radar
Wind generator(s)
S/S framed / Lexan opening ports
Some solar powered vent hatches
Reverse cycle AC/heat*
Solid lifeline rails*
Bow thruster?? Prob only for >45’*
2 or more HP per 1,000lbs of displacement
500 mile cruising range under power alone
NO teak decks

We ended up with all but five of our listed features in Kitty Hawk….the five she didn’t have weren’t crucial items….

*indicates a feature that our boat did not have when we purchased her.

Don’t forget to check out our front page for a list of items with which we can assist you during your search for your new floating home……

If we can do it, you can do it…..but we all need a little help sometimes

The road so far……

It has been 24 years since my first trip on a sailboat of any type. My first was a group charter trip on a 1979 Solaris catamaran on a ten day trip to the Bahamas.  That one experience has influenced the course of the remainder of my life as I am sure it does for many, many people.  My wife and I have spent the last 15 years researching, touring, inspecting and sailing on as many sailboats and with as many people as we could find to expand our knowledge base and to eventually live on board our own sailboat.

We spent many years hitting the Annapolis Sailboat Show.  We quickly realized that our boat was probably on display there, but long before we started to attend those shows.  Initially, we had hoped to buy a 5 to 10 year old catamaran in the 42 to 44 foot range, which would have cost us in excess $250k.  We wanted to live aboard and sail sooner, rather than later, so we decided to keep our initial investment under $150,000.  In an effort to find an affordable, well maintained vessel we drove the East coast of the U.S. around the tip of Florida and then North up the Gulf Coast on more than one occasion touring every boat we thought was remotely suitable.

We decided that a blog in conjunction with a sailboat cruising and selection consulting service would be the best way to incorporate our love of boats and sailing into our everyday life.


We hope to assist others interested in the cruising lifestyle in these areas:

A small selection of marine services…hull cleaning, painting, light maintenance, wiring and sometimes just providing an extra set of moderately skilled hands at a very affordable price.

A journal of our experiences, failures, successes and issues during our search and transition to life afloat

A candid discussion of the boats you are currently considering; design, construction quality, seaworthiness, safety, speed and comfort along with resources for research

Answers regarding suitability of various designs

Analysis of your total overall cost of ownership: purchase, refit, outfitting, maintenance and resale value

Additional boats for you to review based on your cruising plans, itemized lists of criteria for your new floating home based on your desires

Evaluation and forwarding of listing and selling prices of comparable vessels utilizing information from various sources and personal experiences

Referral to a qualified local marine surveyor

An in depth review of your individual survey with detailed recommendations for post-survey price negotiations

Evaluation of equipment needed for offshore passage making

Advice for choosing USCG documentation or state registration, offshore flagging and/or tax implications

Recommendations for insurance coverage

Gear tests and real world performance

Thanks for visiting and if we can be of assistance please contact us for advice!!

Capt. Brett and Admiral Kim…..