An ounce of preparation is worth a pound of jumping-into-it-head-first
Blogging from
Forest Hills, Washington DC, United States, North America
76.00 m

38.9524716, -77.0676378

I mentioned in a previous post that buying sailboat - at least one large enough to use as a home - is a similar process to that of buying a house on land. Before I launch into that discussion in part 2, a little background is in order.

Before I owned my first house I already knew a lot about house-related things such as electrical, plumbing, carpentry and - most notably - how to live in a house. So, when the time came to buy a house, this body of knowledge helped me to assess potential homes and spot problems. When I began looking at boats I quickly realized that while there was some similarity with land-based homes - boats have plumbing and electrical systems too -  there were many differences. Marine electrical systems follow a different set of standards and requirements, boats have diesel engines which I knew little about, hulls are constructed of fiberglass ... in short I needed to augment my knowledge. 

Step 1. Education:

I began by reading this book: The Essentials of Living Aboard a Boat by Mark Nicholas. I think when I started this book I wanted to read about the promise of fabulous adventures, glorious sunsets, a carefree lifestyle, yadda, yadda, yadda. In that respect, I picked the wrong book. What reading Nicholas did do was to help move my thinking to a more balanced view of living aboard. Yes, there are adventures and sunsets, but living on a boat is more work than living in a house, the winter is far more inconvenient than it is on land, and there is much, much less space. In short, its a trade-off and I had to decide if I'd be happy with the trade.

Though I already knew how to sail, I had never taken any formal instruction, so over the course of approximately 18 months I took the following courses.

US Coast Guard Auxillary Courses

  • Maryland Boating Safety Certification
  • Sailing Skills and Seamanship

Short Courses

  • Basic Diesel Engine Maintenance
  • Offshore Energy Management & Design
  • Basic Marine HVAC
  • Troubleshooting Marine Electrical Problems
  • Recognizing Problems Below the Waterline
  • Docking & Line Handling
  • Look at a Used Boat Like a Pro
  • Safety at Sea
  • Sail Repair

American Sailing Association Courses

  • Keelboat Certification
  • Coastal Cruising Certification

Following reading Nicholas, I then read Don Casey's book Inspecting the Aging Sailboat, and I used it as my guide for Step 2. I also began researching Yacht Brokers and Marine Surveyors in my area, more on this in the next post.

Step 2: Practice Evaluating Boats.

Over the past few years I have looked at a range of boats in varying condition to see the warts, gotchas, and beware-of's that I read about, so I would recognize them when I saw them. I learned the basics of how to evaluate a boat not as a substitute for engaging the services of a Marine Surveyor; but to help me "separate the wheat from the chaf" before spending the $$$ to hire the surveyor.

Step 3:  Develop a Move-aboard Plan

When you live on land you have the luxury of space and it's easy to accumulate a lot of stuff over the years. Part of my own move aboard plan was to finally go through stuff that had been in storage for years and downsize. Switching to electronic delivery of bank statements and bills, digitizing artwork I'd made years ago, and getting rid of my furniture - though I did keep a few antiques - was also part of the plan. While downsizing was probably the largest and most difficult task, I knew from my research that buying the boat was only the beginning. I also needed a plan and budget for the purchase of the boat, the repairs, routine maintenance, monthly fees, and so on. So, using the spreadsheet from Mark Nicholas's website as my starting point, I developed a detailed budget for each phase of my project.

Downsizing nearly complete, ready to move aboard in a few weeks!


Coming Soon

Sérénité: My Move Aboard Experience (Part II)