Commentary: Volkscruisers Talks Maryland Sailboats

A quick combination commentary / Sailboat Sunday…

Bob over at Volkscruiser (I promise, I do have variety in the works), points out some of the advantages of living in the times. 

What struck me is the selling price of this particular Columbia 36. In 2002 I paid $8500 for my first sailboat, a Cal 28. $8000 still feels like a lot of money, relatively speaking, but I tend to agree that the benchmark prices have steadily dropped over time. Partly due to inflation, partly with these vintages of sailboats aging further.

I believe this is the Columbia in question. Nothing too fancy, but more than needful.

For those in the market, it is a good time.

An Annapolis marina waits for spring.

Coming up….

I’ve got a few things in the hopper. A post on risk assessment, sailboat head options, galley considerations, the story of purchasing our Tartan 37 in 2007, and more. I’ll try to continue our structure of a Sailboat Sunday analysis and Commentary as I can.

Thank you to all who have commented. Great to see others with experience on those particular models adding to the collective knowledge base out there. It was also a good reminder to clarify the intent behind the Sailboat Sunday posts. While I’m not looking to buy at this time, someone may be, and these analyses are a good exercise in “What if?” assessments. And who doesn’t like talking about boats?

I’ve missed my mark for the past two weeks now! Bad Travis. Unfortunately we’ve been occupied with getting a move set-up on top of a full spring. Hopefully my intentions can met real life head on, and I’ll be diligent in posting once again!

Photo credit: m01229

Many Voices: Here’s What I’m Reading

“I have not always chosen the safest path. I’ve made my mistakes, plenty of them. I sometimes jump too soon and fail to appreciate the consequences. But I’ve learned something important along the way: I’ve learned to heed the call of my heart. I’ve learned that the safest path is not always the best path and I’ve learned that the voice of fear is not always to be trusted.”
― Steve Goodier

Two days from landfall in Yap, 2009. A busy skipper communicating via Ham radio. Twitter? What?

Two days from landfall in Yap, 2009. A busy skipper communicating via Ham radio. Twitter? What?

Listening to those around you…

When the idea of living aboard a sailboat first came to me, it was early 2002. The internet was alive, but just beginning to grow. WordPress, as a content engine, wasn’t even on the horizon. “Blogs” were not around, although the first beginnings were present. So where did one turn to for information? The library had some books, mostly written in the days when sextants were the only navigation tool available. Various sailing periodicals were in distribution, but you had to spend $20-40 a year for a subscription, followed by 30-50% of the pages being filled with advertisements.

In the years since, the information revolution washed over all things, including the sailing community. With tools like Blogger, WordPress, and others, everyone now has a voice. Which is great, on the one hand, because the conversation has more depth and breadth. It’s also more challenging to find the “right” answers because it’s a sea of voices, and easy to get overwhelmed with analysis paralysis.

Over the last twelve years I’ve fine tuned my intake stream for information. And many of the books I’ve collected over the years have found varied use; some are well-worn, some only read once through. Below are some of the resources I’ve used at various times, with a piece of context with each. Many are free. Some are available at modest cost (and in the case of print books, maybe a used copy or previous edition would yield most of the same value). If I were starting over again, fresh out of college, looking to live another adventure, I’d consider:


Dove: I read this at age thirteen and knew I’d be living on a sailboat someday. Excellent story of a young man finding his way by sailing around the world. A movie was made later on; not sure of the quality.

Voyaging on a Small Income (Annie Hill): I’ll chock this up to both motivation and technical knowledge. Once I was already living aboard, Annie’s way of conveying information through stories had a profound impact on my life. And the technical knowledge (especially for someone just starting out) was excellent.

Blog of S/V Estrellita 5.10b: Great log of their on-going voyage. There are many (MANY) voyaging blogs of various quality. Some folks are great about sharing their adventures. Some use a blog as a continuous letter home. The content varies. Estrellita is one of the few sailboats I actually keep up with; they have great things to say.

Blog of Webb Chiles: Let’s all hope we’re still sailing with the same vigor as Webb at his age. Excellent lifetime of sailing behind him and more ahead. Many different boats.

YouTube series of Yacht Teleport: If this doesn’t get yo motivated, I don’t know what will. Great to see a pair of professionals using their skills to inform others about the live aboard lifestyle.

Sailing Simplicity: Ben and Teresa have lived (and continue to live) and fantastic adventure, sailing solo (together) and now together-together. Both a source of motivation, great technical content, and for me (at least) a flash-back to ten years ago and the carefree life of simple living. If you are a female reader, I can’t recommend Teresa’s work enough. Excellent.

Technical Knowledge

Cruising Handbook (Nigel Caldwell): As a senior at the Naval Academy I bought this book at the local Barnes and Noble as a way to indoctrinate myself into the idea of living aboard. I knew I wanted to; just needed to find the requisite knowledge to back up my sailing experiences till then. This book has always had a place on my shelf. Not necessarily comprehensive in every subject, but a great broad brush stroke of most all major skills necessary to bring a boat from point A to B.

This Old Boat (Don Casey): Again, one that I’ve always kept on my shelf. One of the greatest gifts living aboard taught me was a wide range of necessary skills to repair goods. There was always an opportunity waiting. Don’s book gives excellent advice on a variety of skills, and each chapter typically includes an example project to hone those skills with. I can’t think of many things you wouldn’t learn enough to started with via this book. Obviously the internets have added a great deal of specific examples of folks doing many repairs/upgrades/improvements. But Don’s book forms a solid basis to begin from.

Attainable Adventures: John and Phyllis have been experimenting with a different model for their information exchange (much of their site is now via paid subscription), but for many the price is well worth it. The group of writers providing content at Attainable Adventures is phenomenal. And for me, the draw (initially) was information about high-latitudes cruising. They provide sound information and experiences for others to consider when cruising in a challenging environment. Recognize they are in a different place than most starting out (relatively expensive, purpose-built sailboats for the cruising envelope they are in), but the information is applicable to most every sailor.

Volkscruiser: At the other end of the spectrum, maybe, is Bob’s purpose-driven site on ideas for minimalist cruising. And I use minimalist in a good way, and maybe because “budget” feels icky. It’s not bad at all; it’s exactly how I started and would continue to advice folks getting into the game to go. Great considerations on boat selection, skills, and general musings. I also read his original blog, BoatBits, which provides some interesting commentary. I love Bob for the fact that he’s one of those folks acting as the thirteenth man: “Everybody is moving in this direction; why? Something may be wrong.”

Pardey’s: What list wouldn’t be complete without something from Lin and Larry Pardey? I have several of their books, mostly used, that are both excellent motivation, great real-world, first-hand information, and timeless. My favorite thus far is The Care and Feeding of Sailing Crew. They recently posted a short post on buying a first sailboat; I intend to provide some commentary later.

Great Sea Stories

Voyages of Ming Ming: As a proud down-sizer to a 23 footer, Roger’s travels on Ming Ming (and now Ming Ming II) are phenomenal. Consider this also a technical information website; his upgrades/refits to bring older Corribee designs up to speed for high latitude cruising are amazing.

Atom Voyages: Also a technical information site, but one with significant sea-story vibe. James Baldwin is still living the life.

Keep Turning Left: If you want to while away the time watching YouTube, I can’t recommend Dillan’s video series enough. He is doing a slow, deliberate circumnavigation of Great Britain, in several boats thus far. As a professional, his editing is amazing. And the length of the show lends itself to a good lunch-time break.

Hal Roth’s Seafaring Trilogy: There are other books from Roth that are excellent. I reread this one every few years.

Ideas for Life Style Design

Tim Ferriss’s Four Hour Work Week and Four Hour Chef: Not only would 4HC be a great book to have aboard for the cooking lessons, but the idea of deliberately managing time and other resources, and purposeful learning, were great influences on me and my successes. He also has a great podcast with some phenomenal guests.

Zenhabits: If you know Leo Babauta, and take only one thing away which is necessary for living aboard a sailboat: Clutterfree.

Ideas for “Work”

When I was first living aboard it was as a working professional. You can imagine a Naval officer has some commitments to keep, like showing up for work in uniform. So my lifestyle was framed around this aspect of my life. That said, there are many who mold their sailing lifestyle around their work. A few resources that come to mind:

Ramit Sethi: He’s a thought-leader in today’s online economy, but his advice is pretty sound. I can imagine several business ventures working out from a mobile platform like a sailboat, even with connectivity being a challenge to overcome. The guys here provide some great advice on getting online businesses up and going. In my imagination I can see a productive 20-something on his or her Columbia 29, sitting at a laptop, pulling wifi from a shoreside establishment, and working on their business. Completely within the realm of possibility.

And several others. One thing I’ve changed over the years is recommendations for magazines. Frankly, that market has not done well. Most of the big names you’ll see on the shelves at West Marine are becoming more and more… well, worthless. Lots of advertisements, lots of product placement, little of value. The occasional cruising story to give some inspiration, but a lot of it is focused on chartering or buying the latest-greatest production boats on the market. I have enjoyed Good Old Boat and Practical Sailor at various times, but with so much online, I’d rather just save my money.

I know many of you came from some of these blogs, but I hope there’s something to spark some inspiration this week. Or keep the spark going. Or reminiscence about days of old. Or just put a smile on your face.

What are you reading? Give a shout out to your favorite resources in the comments.


Sailboat Sunday: Allmand 35

Trolling for sailboats the other week lead to an interesting find; an Allmand 35 listed for $7500. In the last Sailboat Sunday post we discussed an arbitrary and invisible line called “thirty feet”. Every once in a while, something will pop up for less than $10K (our fictional budget) that is over 30 feet in length. In this case, a sailboat that fits nicely in the middle.

I tend to agree, based on personal experience and observing several other liveaboards, that a well designed sailboat between 33 and 38 feet in length is a sweet spot. Small enough to comfortably single hand, not too hard on length-derived service costs (slips, haul-outs), large enough to provide unique spaces for life activities, reasonable chance of finding something with headroom (at six feet tall, I have a personal desire for this), and plenty of storage for reasonable needs.

Why do I say this?

  • My personal experience living aboard our Tartan 37, Persephone, led me to find it the perfect size. Safe and comfortable at sea too.
  • In Charleston, I had one neighbor on a Catalina 34; similar experience, in that he had everything he needed and incentive to leave it that way!
  • In Fernandina Beach I had a Westsail 32 as a neighbor. Again, great sailboat layout and one happy guy.
  • Search across the web for those who are out there: Webb Chiles (Ericson 37, She 36) and Bob Wise (Cal 34).

Allmand 35

So let’s see what’s for sale this week. In the Annapolis Craigslist, I found the following:

Allmand 35 – $7500

Features from the listing:


  • 27 that needs replaced
  • Oven/stove unit needs replacing
  • Last surveyed in 2011.

From the reference data, the Allmand 35 tri-cabin model has the following stats:

  • Length: 34′ 9″
  • Beam: 11′ 8″
  • Draft: 4′ 8″
  • Displacement: 15,100 lbs
  • Ballast: 4300 lbs
  • Fuel tank (stock): 40 gals
  • Water tankage (stock): 95 gals

What makes this a good potential liveaboard?

Bottom line: size. When approaching a decision like purchasing a home, especially a sailboat as a home, one needs to consider many factors. One factor I use is the “what can I change and what can’t be changed?” factor. Example: there’s no point in imagining a townhouse will ever become a stand-alone house. Without significant financial investment (i.e., buying the townhouses around you, knocking them down,e tc.) you will always have a townhouse. With sailboats, what are those factors you can’t easily change? Dimensions are certainly one of them. At this price point, and knowing what I do now, I’d consider this a reasonable trade-off. Plenty of space to enjoy now, and a targeted plan of how to restore systems over time if I was tight on funds. This is based on previous experience as well; our Tartan 37 sold for $6500 without a working engine.

The five foot draft means this vessel is capable of doing most all of the regular cruising grounds found in the East coast of America. Caribbean jaunts are definitely possible. And ocean-crossing capability is available with some additional planning and assessment. Rather than a “starter” boat, this could conceivably be a long-term home investment.

At first glance, much of the vessel appears in good condition. Stainless rails topside mean less maintenance. A nice enclosed cockpit area means additional living space (and a buffer against the snow if you lived aboard in northern climes). Some water damage below that needs looked to, but nothing impossible to overcome.

One feature I enjoy is the tri-cabin layout. V-berths are fine for sleeping in port, but not much good at sea. I much prefer to convert them into purposeful storage (sails, Rubbermaid totes, etc.). A quarterberth (a berth in the aft quarters of a sailboat) provides good motion when at sea, and quick access to the cockpit should something be going on. In this case, the aft cabin would also be fine for in port use, meaning no changes to sleeping arrangements while going to sea.

And the midship placement of the sink means a great galley layout for cooking both in port and at sea.

Additional information on the Allmand 35 can be found over at Sailboatdata and the design’s homepage

Factors to consider:

Price: Based on our fictional $10K budget, this vessel does push us right up to the edge without much margin. That said, this particular listing tells me that much of the sailboat is probably in good condition (relatively speaking) so that I only need to focus on a few significant items to be live aboard ready.

Engine: As mentioned, the seller assumes the engine needs full replacement. A qualified diesel mechanic would be a worthy investment to better make that call. If possible, we’d like to salvage and reuse what’s available, and as long as repair of the Yanmar is budgeted appropriately, it may be a worthwhile investment in time (not getting out there) versus money (using up our budget and saving for any additional needs). If this truly is a case for total replacement, then several options open up. This vessel is likely too big to effectively do an outboard-in-well setup, but one option could be a drop-down outboard such as Yves uses on his Alberg 30. Alternately, this could be a candidate for electric conversion, assuming the prop and drive shaft are in good condition. Or be ready to jump on a good engine replacement. As mentioned though, I’d consider this a reasonable purchase with a plan to sit in port for a year while steadily saving up for that engine replacement.

Floor: The cabin sole is listed as water damaged, and we’d need to see the extent of that. If the stringers (cross-members that support the floor) are in good condition, then replacing what’s there with a good solid plywood (marine grade or some of the well-bonded signage stock) and a non-skid floor covering is an option. I’ve successfully used an adhesive-backed vinyl with a tough tread pattern before; easy to install and maintain.

First steps:


As mentioned, the engine story needs told first. I’m 100% a fan of those who sail purposefully without engines. They can become a crutch. That said, for many they are also a worthwhile aid for convenience and an alternate propulsion.

Secondly, this boat isn’t that old (1984), and so many systems are probably in reasonable condition. I’d take the time to conduct a good solid hand-over-hand walk-down of the major systems (electrical, freshwater, engine) and create working diagrams of the components to see what needs replacing, what needs cleaning, and what works just fine.


Sometimes a sailboat in this size range falls on the market, priced at a few thousand dollars, and it’s a turd. Lots of work necessary to get it into reasonable condition, definitely not sailaway ready. Truly where the term “Boat – bring out another thousand” comes from. That said, this particular vessel is one of the few that, for various reasons, comes in under $10K and is likely a good deal. Well appointed models may go for as much as $20K. So this could be considered a good invest. The potential downside being, if you make the purchase and start the work necessary to rehabilitate her, you are running down a clock called “interest in sailing”. If you know you have the long view, you can push through that period of time. But if you’re unsure, you may run the risk of loosing interest and then being the next person listing on Craigslist. And we wouldn’t want that!

Video of a similar model that was for sale.

Commentary: Volkscruiser Discusses Philosophy

Bob runs a handful of sailing-related blogs, one of which is Volkscruiser. Earlier in February he posted a short article about some cruising philosophy titled: Volkscruiser: the question you need to ask yourself… 

In general, and at this time, I don’t intend to go into a lot of the philosophy one might have going into a liveaboard situation. There are plenty of places you can find that for yourself. Various cruiser forums abound with people’s thoughts on the matter, both the high level “for or against” and the very detailed “I’m thinking about this specific situation and want some opinions” variety. There is a mindset among those who chose to make a floating hunk of fiberglass (or other material) their dwelling place. The world will also have opinions about that choice, ranging from “Oh my goodness I wish I could do that” to “Oh my goodness your a full-time bum”.

I especially appreciated those who said (or implied) that I was obviously too poor to afford a different living arrangement. Regardless of income or anything else, how do you explain to someone that you “chose” to follow a path less traveled?

As I read Bob’s words above, I reflected on the importance of understanding why I chose to live aboard. My personal belief is that intention matters in everything we do. I’m less likely to feel critical about someone’s stupid decisions (or the outcome of stupid decisions) as long as they are intentional in nature. Who do you feel worse for: the gal who invests it all trying to prove a hypothesis about cancer research, or the guy who foolishly loses all his money at a casino? Both are risks. One is calculated.

For myself, getting into sailing and living aboard while I was young (22) was intentional. I wanted to learn new skills, challenge myself, and live an interesting life. It paid off in spades down the line. During all of my subsequent job interviews, I never once heard “Oh my goodness, you took time off of the rat race to go sailing? We don’t want folks like that.” Instead, it was almost always “Holy cow, you did that? That’s amazing.”

The family that purposefully trades the 9-5 for a two year sailing excursion to spend time with their kids, exposing them to new adventures, is doing something intentional.

The couple who retire and then take their sailboat, lovingly maintained over the years, on an excursion to points south, are doing something intentional.

Just like we’re seeing in the tiny house movement, these kind of intentional stories abound. Even so-called circumstances, if approached in the right manner, can be decisions of intention. So what if your life situation changed due to events out of your control? What are you going to do about it?

Live a life of intention. You’ll be happier for it.

Photo: Credit of rjones0856