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Yachting for Newbies - Many Questions Answered.

Discussion in 'General Yachting Discussion' started by JiminSouthlake, Dec 7, 2015.

  1. JiminSouthlake

    JiminSouthlake New Member

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    As the title of my post states, I thought I would chronicle our adventure of buying our first boat for full time live aboard and work aboard. The moral of the story is that yes, a middle aged couple with no boating experience can buy a boat and cruise the ICW and coastal USA so long as they educate themselves and plan appropriately. It takes time and dedication to learn as much as possible before actually buying the boat. Training, training, training.

    So, how did we get here? About two years ago my wife and I thought we might buy a second home in a warm country. We've traveled all over the world and wanted to find a nice place to spend the winter. We thought seriously about Belize, but, after visiting the country we decided it was not for us. If a second home is out of the question, why not buy a boat and take it to different places for the summer and winter. This was the start of our Plan B (we also named the boat "Plan B"). There was only one flaw in our plan; neither of us had any boating experience whatsoever. What to do?

    We started looking online and found that there are a lot of decent sized boats that could work for our needs. Initially we thought that a 40 footer would do the trick. As we looked deeper and made a list of our needs, it seemed that 40 feet probably would not work. We upped our size limit to 50 feet.

    Our "needs" seemed fairly straight forward, including:

    Three staterooms, one of which could be used as an office since I am working full time.
    Washer and dryer onboard - yes, most marinas have nice laundry facilities. We just don't want to schlep our laundry to the marina laundry.
    Elevated galley rather than down below.
    Plenty of storage.
    Easy bow-to-stern access for safe line handling.
    Back-ups for important systems (refrigerators, navigation, radios, engine maintenance, toilets, showers etc)
    Large fuel capacity (our long term plan was to cruise down through the Caribbean and maybe even down to the Panama Canal).
    Molded steps to the flybridge (for us and our dog)

    We considered trawlers, but, after chartering a boat to get some training, we quickly decided that 8 knots would not work. We like the option of traveling economically at 8 knots, but, 20 knots is better if the weather turns bad or if the next bridge opening is coming up soon.

    Our search started with boats that we had heard of. The larger production manufacturers like SeaRay, Carver, Meridian, Silverton all have some really nice boats, but for our purpose we did not find that any in this segment would work. There were a few that had nice layouts, but in some cases the fuel capacity was only about 350 gal. I'm sure there are some with more, we just didn't see them.

    We looked briefly at some sportfish and convertibles. Hatteras, Ocean, Bertram, Viking - all were very nice. These have great layouts and they are built very well. The main downside is that they use a ladder to reach the flybridge rather than molded steps.

    The next segment to check was the Hatteras, Ocean and Viking motor yachts. These have a great live aboard layout, but they are big heavy boats. We found that the visibility from the helm and a lack of a full bow-to-stern walkway for line handling made them impractical for us. We also liked the Ocean Alexander, but, most of them seemed to be on the west coast (and a little out of our price range).

    We finally zeroed in on our final three candidates. Viking-Princess sport cruiser, Navigator 53 Classic and Neptunus Flybridge yachts. We ultimately chose the Neptunus 55 Flybridge motor yacht for the following reasons.

    Great internal layout, raised galley, plenty of storage. Neptunus are very well built, semi-custom boats, so each one is a little different. Our particular boat has a third stateroom that has an office setup (desk, power outlets etc). It also happened to have new Caterpillar engines installed (the original owner replaced the MAN engines due to some mechanical problems).

    Basic specs on our boat:

    New Cat C12 engines - 700HP each

    1000 gallon fuel capacity with dual Racor filters for each engine.

    Fuel Mileage (all statute miles referenced):

    650 RPM = 7-8 miles per hour - 2.8 gallons per hour - about 2.5 miles per gallon
    1000 RPM = 10-11 miles per hour - 9 gallons per hour - about 1.2 miles per gallon
    2000 RPM = 28 miles per hour - 56-58 gallons per hour - about 1/2 mile per gallon.

    We usually run at 1000 RPM in the ICW and 1900-2000 RPM offshore. There is no sense in running anywhere between 1200-1700 RPM as fuel burn is equal to running on plane.

    200 gallon fresh water capacity

    12.5KW generator

    Pre-plumbed for a water maker (good for our ultimate Caribbean trip)

    Multiple refrigerators and a separate freezer down below. This is very handy since we only hit the grocery store about every 2 weeks.

    So, what are the Pros and Cons of living on a boat?

    Pros

    You get to meet some very interesting people in every marina.

    There are some really amazing sites all along the ICW and coast of the US.

    If you don't like where you are, throw the lines and leave.

    Freedom.

    Cons

    Without a car, you have to be very tactical in timing grocery trips etc. Some marinas have loaner cars or bikes, but we usually take a taxi or rent a car for a couple days.

    Simple things like prescriptions, haircuts, mail, etc require a little more planning.

    Expenses

    While fuel may seem to be expensive, the cost of dockage tends to be higher. We try to plan for a month in marinas that we like since the monthly rate is much lower than the daily transient rate. We have spent about 1/2 our time at the monthly rate and 1/2 our time cruising and paying the daily transient rate.

    Insurance is not too bad given the cost of the boat, but, it is critical to have your insurance arranged before actually buying the boat. Most insurance companies will not insure someone without any experience or a history of progression in owing smaller boats first. Our insurance company insured us after we got training from a hired Captain and the Captain had to sign off on our abilities (called a "Captains Warranty").

    Repairs on a boat always seem to cost twice as much as you think and take 3 times longer than you expect.

    We have now been onboard for 1 1/2 years and cruised from New York, Chesapeake Bay, South Florida, Bahamas (Grand Bahama Isl), crossed the Okeechobee and are now cruising the west coast of Florida. We have cruised almost all of the ICW three times (we skipped most of Georgia due to depth issues). We tend to run offshore most of the time now since we are very comfortable with the boat's capabilities (and ours) and the water is much deeper 10-20 miles offshore.

    Unfortunately, our Plan B will be coming to an end soon. Due to an unplanned career change we will be moving back on land and we put Plan B up for sale. Our 5 year plan just became a 2 year plan. I guess that's life. It's been a great experience and I highly recommend it to anyone that is adventurous enough to try it. You only live once.

    If anyone has any specific questions about our adventure, feel free to PM me.

    Have a great day y'all.

    Jim
  2. Oscarvan

    Oscarvan Member

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    Glad you had fun. Yes, old dogs can learn new tricks.
  3. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    That's a great story and one you don't hear too often. Most liveaboards don't go boating once they move on board, and most boaters don't use their boat very much.
  4. Oscarvan

    Oscarvan Member

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    True dat.
  5. JiminSouthlake

    JiminSouthlake New Member

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    Thanks Guys.
    I estimate that we've travelled about 6000++ miles so far.
    I hope that anyone "on the fence" about this kind of lifestyle jumps in and goes for it. It's not easy, but nothing in life worth doing ever is easy.
  6. JWY

    JWY Senior Member

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    I beg to differ. Having sold over 125 trawlers, I know of maybe half a dozen that ended up not cruising due to either change of circumstances like health or because they wanted a "weekend condo."
    Judy
  7. Oscarvan

    Oscarvan Member

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    If you have a specific target audience, your results may not be the norm. I think it's safe to say that most of the boats are tied up in a marina with no one on board. Heck, most of the marinas I've been in 75% of the boats never moved, let alone regularly.
  8. livetoboat66

    livetoboat66 New Member

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    What a great and detailed story. Thanks for taking the time to post this. For someone like me who has more of a day/weekender boat but is always looking at considering a boat in the 50 to 60 foot range to do what you've described a lot of what you said resonated with me and it's always helpful to hear what others have gone through.
  9. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    These are my experiences also.
  10. JiminSouthlake

    JiminSouthlake New Member

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    Livetoboat66
    You are quite welcome. I'm glad you found our experience helpful. My wife has written a blog about our adventure as well. The website is called zerotofiftyfive.com if you are interested. The name of the blog came from our boating history. There is no commercial stuff on the blog. Just stories - (warning, some of it is very politically incorrect :).
    Jim
  11. gr8trn

    gr8trn Member

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    Cool story, great blog, very nice boat. Way to go!
  12. Jim Palmer

    Jim Palmer New Member

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    Hi Jim, just happened across this forum and your awesome post of a few years ago, and have already started reading your blog - love it!! Stephanie and I are now busy activating our 'Plan B' - kids are raised and gone, house is for sale, she quit her stressful job and I'm a business coach who can work anywhere I have internet and phone, so why not live aboard for 3-5 years - more if we still like each other! We're pretty close to making an offer on a 2006 Carver 43MY (not sure why it's called 43 when the boat is 49' loa but that's another story!). Our plan is to start next spring in New England where one of our daughters and two grandkids live and then travel the ICW in the fall, and then back up to the northern Chesapeake Bay for 2018. We've spent the last 3 years on a Sea Ray 300 Sundancer so perhaps we're slightly ahead of where you were experience wise, but perhaps not enought based on what your shared about banks and insurance! Anyway, just wanted to reach out and thank you for sharing your story - we are consuming TONS of information and most of it is giving us courage, and those few things that give us pause, we just say ... well to quote your wife in her blog on accession, Whisky Tango Foxtrot - we'll figure it out! Back to reading your blog, and I hope you are able to re-start your Plan B at some point. Jim
  13. JiminSouthlake

    JiminSouthlake New Member

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    Hello Jim.
    Thanks for the note. I'm glad you found the information helpful. There is so much to learn and plenty of challenges, but, they're all worth it. I wish we were able to fulfill the complete 5 year plan, but, life got in the way...
    This forum is immensely helpful, especially when looking for repair help in some far flung location. Make sure you find a good engine mechanic that you can call. Same with air conditioning and other boat systems. They may not be able to fix your problem on the fly, but they can point you in the right direction on simple stuff.
    What I learned is that most problems are not nearly as serious as your imagination will make them out to be. That's where the forum and "phone a friend" mechanics come in. Everything is fixable.
    We have left our blog active for this year so that folks like you can experience all of our fun/frustration/fear/elation etc, without actually doing it.....yet.
    Good luck on your journey and if you need specific info, I can give you my phone number to talk through some of your questions. Happy to do it.
  14. livetoboat66

    livetoboat66 New Member

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    Hi Jim, still on my "day" boat though I guess since it's a 40 footer most wouldn't call it a day boat, but since it is a cruiser with only one full cabin and bath, kind of hard to have others on it for overnights Kids are all getting close to getting out of college so thinking more seriously about our next boat. I realize the type of boat is a very personal choice and what you want/ need, but I was curious how you found the Neptunus handling rougher seas? We have taken overnight trips on ours where we were in the open ocean, and have been in 20+ knot winds with 6 foot waves. While I didn't feel unsafe that something was going to happen to the boat per se(we have a Formula 40 pc, I have found it to be well made and solid) the reality is everyone had to sit still and not really move for a couple of hours until the weather subsided and we had to go very slow. It just wasn't very comfortable. As such, I find myself questionning if a Hatteras, Grand Banks or some other boat that has some speed, but not as much as the Neptunus' or similar boats, but is seen as more sea worthy is the way to go. We have thoughts of going to the bahamas and the ICW as well. I have read some of your blog, but not all of it(great read btw) and I was curious if you had to do it all over again if you would go with a boat that is seen as more "sea worthy" or if you're not in a rush/time line you were really ok with your choice?
  15. JiminSouthlake

    JiminSouthlake New Member

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    Hi Jim
    We chose the Neptunus for several reasons. One of them was the construction quality. I think they are very well built and very solid. Since the boat was our home, we avoided rough seas as much as possible so that we didn't have all of our possessions beat up in the high seas, so, our experience may not be relevant. We did find ourselves in the 4-5 seas with very short wave periods in the Chesapeake for a few hours due to a pop up storm. The boat handled everything fine and we were not concerned in the least. We wanted a solid boat since we had planned to take the boat down through the Caribbean. Our other consideration was fuel capacity. Some of the boats we looked at only held about 350 gallons while the Neptunus could hold about 1000 gallons. Not a big deal on the ICW, but, for longer journeys, I preferred to have a good fuel reserve.
    If we were purchasing another boat today (in a similar price range), I would likely get something similar to what we had. Many Neptunus owners are repeat buyers. The newer Hatteras would be my choice if the budget were higher. The only concern I have with the older Hatteras that we looked at was the rear visibility and line handling access. Just my opinion though.

    I hope this helps. Ask more questions any time.
    Jim
  16. livetoboat66

    livetoboat66 New Member

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    Thanks for your response Jim. I've been more of a lurker than a participant on these boards, but reading the threads has been incredibly helpful to me. Capt J who is on this thread has been very helpful, as have pascal, older boater and a ton of others. I have a plan to find the boat we like, then charter it, then hire a captain to help us check out that boat we like(or help us look), keep them for x period of time till comfortable then on our own. This plan crystalized from reading the threads on this board, so I have to say thank you as many of you don't realize how many people besides those whom you answer the questions to you are really helping. Then reading actual boaters in similar situations to ours is very inspirational as well as informative. So thanks for you Jim, and all others here on the board. Going to FLIBS tomorrow and there is no doubt all of the info. I've received helps us focus in on the right questions.
  17. Thirdwaver

    Thirdwaver New Member

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    Jim, I realize this thread is getting a little long in the tooth and you may no longer be watching it but I figured I'd ask you a question here just in case. I read your blog from end to end and I have to say, I asked myself this question over and over: Are these problems/high cost repairs typical? You seemed to have so many expensive issues! I haven't yet bought my 40-45' boat but I'm pretty sure I couldn't handle multiple $12K repair jobs one after another. I'm pretty handy and would do as much of the work myself as I could but wow. I also know that boating isn't a cheap hobby. I guess I was just surprised at how many expensive, disabling type issues you had.

    In your travels and dock talk with other boat owners, did you find your issues to be "typical" or "more than typical"? Do you feel your particular boat manufacturer played any role in the expense or the quantity of issues you had (i.e. poor design, poor craftsmanship, etc)?
  18. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

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    All boats will not have the problems he encountered. However, in purchasing a boat in that size range you do need to be prepared for such problems as he described. One always needs to prepare for the worst case. The way many people prepare is to spend less money up front. Often the strategy is to purchase a smaller boat.
  19. JiminSouthlake

    JiminSouthlake New Member

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    Hi Thirdwaver.

    While yes, we did have some expensive repairs, I would say they were not extraordinary in the world of boating. I think a good part of the issue was that we purchased a boat with fairly low usage hours with the naïve assumption that low use would equate to major systems that would be in good shape for years to come. Again, naively, we did not understand that salt air/seawater and unused systems are very bad for a boat. Thinking back, we bought an almost 20 year old boat that had a lot of systems to understand and maintain in a harsh environment. A pretty big project.

    For our purposes (full time live-aboard) I would buy the same boat again with the expectation of upgrading these systems almost immediately (especially air conditioning). The Neptunus quality and layout are very good for full time use.

    You might be able to avoid some of the larger expenses that we had by buying something a little newer and smaller. Everything gets much more expensive as size goes up.

    If you have any other questions, feel free to ask. I still watch the forum from time to time. It was a fantastic 2 year segment of my life....go for it!
  20. Audacious

    Audacious New Member

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    Hi Jim
    Fantastic post. Glad to see you're still watching. We started boating in '93 and sold our last boat in 2012. We were never live aboards, but some of the greatest experiences of our lives were had on the water. Even with the frustrations and expenses,we never had the supposed "happy day" of selling our boat. After 5 years of (me) grieving every time I was near the Hudson, Delaware or Chesapeake, we just bought a 53 Navigator (in our mid-sixties). Much easier than the 53 Hatteras in our forties.
    So the big question is...Do you think you'll get back to boating eventually?

    Again, thanks for the wonderful post.

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