THE SENSIBLE LIVEABOARD
A Novel & Practical Design
Benford Design Group—Design Number 300
“Houses are but badly built boats so firmly aground that you cannot think of moving them. They are definitely inferior things, belonging to the vegetable not the animal world, rooted and stationary, incapable of gay transition. I admit, doubtfully, as exceptions, snail-shells and caravans. The desire to build a house is the tired wish of a man content thenceforward with a single anchorage. The desire to build a boat is the desire of youth, unwilling yet to accept the idea of a final anchorage.
“It is for that reason, perhaps, that, when it comes, the desire to build a boat is one of those that cannot be resisted. It begins as a little cloud on the serene horizon. It ends by covering the whole sky, so that you can think of nothing else. You must build to regain your freedom. And always you comfort yourself with the thought that yours will be the perfect boat, the boat that you may search the harbours of the world for and not find.”
Racundra’s First Cruise, 1923
For every couple that ends up living aboard there must be a thousand who dream of the possibility. What holds them back? Is it giving up the creature comforts of a home ashore for “camping” on a small boat? Or is it that they think that the only boats with enough room aboard are out of sight financially and too large to be easily and affordably maintained?
If this is your concept of living on a boat, take a look at another solution. The 35′ Florida Bay Coaster is a great liveaboard design. It’s the culmination of a couple decades of relentless pursuit of one goal; the most practical and affordable home afloat. Taking our desires for a great liveaboard and combining this with nearly two decades experience living aboard and about four decades of specializing in liveaboard designs, we’ve come up with a great boat for use either as a summer vacation home or full time liveaboard.
It’s all here; two private bedrooms, a separate shower stall in the bathroom, a roomy kitchen with house size appliances, a dining table with real chairs, two full length sofas, good sized closets and dressers, a full sized washer and dryer, separate engine room, pilothouse with real glass windows at the height of most flying bridges, and plenty of porch/deck space.
Let’s take a tour and look at the boat in more detail. We’ll board through the rail gates just forward of amidships. This puts us on the waist decks, which lead into the foyer/bathroom area or up outside stairs to the forward deck. From the foyer, let’s go into the foc’sle, forward and down three steps. It has two standard twin (30″ x 75″) beds in it, with drawers under them, and a hanging closet in the bow. It’s big enough to be home to a couple of kids. Or for occasional guests, on the theory that you don’t want to make them too comfortable, as a way of limiting how long they want to visit. (If you expected that your guests would always be couples, there’s room to have another double bed in the foc’sle, with access over one side.)
Leaving the foc’sle, up through the foyer and down a couple steps aft, leads us into the family room. The first impression is of an open, roomy and well lit space. There’s a coat closet with room for coats and boots. The dining table can be expanded to seat more than four for entertaining. Opposite are two sofas that are long enough to nap on or take a temporary guest overflow. They’re made with sloping seats and backs for lounging comfort, and have storage under and behind them. There are several bookshelves around them for the reference books (flora & fauna, birds, sea critters, boating stories, cruise guides, novels & biographies) and a nice big section of flat bulkhead for mounting an art piece. (Perhaps a print of the acres of lawn you no longer slave over, or maybe a sailboat slogging to weather without the comfort and shelter this boat offers?…) All the way aft is the kitchen, with full sized house appliances like the side-by-side fridge/freezer, four burner stove with oven, microwave over the stove, and the double sink and dishwasher.
A couple steps up and out the back door puts us on the after deck. There’s a gate on centerline for boarding if moored stern-to or getting into the dinghy. The ladder takes you up to the larger lounging porch aft of the master stateroom. Back inside, we’ll go forward and look into the engine room, by going down the stairs next to the dining table. There’s comfortable sitting headroom alongside the engine, making service easy. The generator, hot water tank, pressure water set, and other small mechanical systems all live in this compartment, out in the open and readily accessible.
Returning to the saloon, we’ll go up the stairs to the master stateroom. By virtue of its location above the saloon, it’s got a wonderful view of the world around us. The windows let in lots of light and air, so it’s well lit and ventilated. No claustrophobic cave dwelling here. The full sized double bed is built over port and starboard drawers, and the long dresser provides more storage. Forward of the berth is full height hanging closet. Over the head of the berth are several full width shelves specially built to fit paperback books.
Forward and up a couple steps is the pilothouse. The raised settee is high enough to make for good forward visibility and long enough for stretching out for a nap. Under the settee are drawers for storing charts and navigation information. The helmsman’s position, standing at the wheel, is at the usual elevation for flying bridges on boats this size. But, it’s got real glass windows for easier viewing and cleaning, and it’s heated and air-conditioned for four season comfort.
Outside of the pilothouse, the bridgewings let the helmsman look right along either side and will greatly facilitate graceful landings. (The full 360-degree wraparound rubber fender also takes the worry out of where to hang the fenders.) From the wings, steps lead down to the foredeck or aft to the walkaround deck at the stern. This afterdeck has room for some deck chairs and plenty of lounging space. Alongside the port side of the pilothouse is a ladder to the boatdeck. There’s room for some lightweight small craft here, and a davit to lift them on and off. The stack can either house part of the air conditioning or be a deck storage locker.
Let’s go below to the saloon and talk about her concept some more. Make yourselves comfortable on the sofas.
Did you know that despite her apparent tall height, she has higher stability than most 50-footers. This is due to her generous beam and well designed hull form. That’s why when we were moving around on her and climbing to the boatdeck, she felt like a much bigger boat. With a loaded draft of three feet, she’s a great gunkholer and the protective skeg under the props and rudders means that groundings don’t usually represent a trip to the prop shop. Just put her in reverse and power off.
The other important part about her height is that it still permits her to go up the Hudson River, through the Erie Barge Canal and out the Oswego River onto Lake Ontario. From there, west past the Niagara River to the Welland Canal and into Lake Erie and onward through the Great lakes to Chicago. There, it’s through the bridges and connecting to the Mississippi River. This can lead you to side trips on the Illinois, the Ohio, and the Tenn-Tom. All this can be years of exploring the United States. Or, it can be a circumnavigation of the eastern half of the U.S.
In designing her, we used our FastShip software to refine her hull form, providing a shape that will be easily driven with modest power. We also created a developed hull surface that can be planked up using full sheets of steel. The computer program lets us “unwrap” the panels from the hull form, and we used this part of the program early on in the design process to be sure we could get the bottom planking out of less than 8′ wide sheets.
|Length over guards||36’–0″||10.97 m|
|Designed waterline||34’–9″||10.59 m|
|Beam over guards||16’–0″||4.88 m|
|Draft, loaded||3’–0″||0.91 m|
|Displ., loaded for cruising||40,400 lbs.||18,325 kg.|
|Pounds per inch immersion||2,140|
|Fuel, gals.||300||1,136 l.|
We always suggest larger water capacity in a liveaboard, since it permits longer periods of time between refills. Refilling in the middle of the winter is something to forestall as much as possible, and it’s nice to have showers and do laundry on a regular basis….
There are two powering variations; twin screw or single with a bow thruster. Twins might let you end up with three of the same engine, if the right engines and generator were selected, thus simplifying keeping the right spares on board. I’d give serious consideration to a single screw if your normal moorage was reasonable to get in and out of, and you were willing to do a little practicing to get comfortable with your skill in handling her. The initial cost might be lower with only one engine to buy and have installed, and there would be slightly lowered fuel consumption when cruising. I admit that the extra nimbleness in maneuvering with twins has quite a lot of attraction, and this extra level of confidence might mean she’d be used more frequently—a goal worth pursuing….
How much weather can she stand, you ask? Well, probably more than any of us would intentionally set off into. And if she gets caught out in something nasty, the basic survival technique is to keep her speed down to the level at which the motion is reasonable for the circumstances. Thus, in a short, steep chop one would slow down more than in big ocean swells.
The structure is stout, her windows and doors are made to keep the water out, and her range of stability is greater than most offshore fishing vessels. My own experience in living aboard a stout offshore sailing vessel is that even those with that capable a boat will wait for good weather before making an open water crossing. It’s nice to know your boat is capable of it, even if you don’t feel like intentionally seeking it out.
Yes, she can be loaded on a freighter and sent to Europe to do the canals. There’s only one section of the French canals that she’s too big for. Or, you could send her to Seattle and spend a year or a decade cruising back and forth to Alaska and exploring the fjords of British Columbia along the way. I spent eighteen years cruising there and didn’t begin to see it all. There were still areas on the B.C. charts in the Northern areas that were just outlines and no details at all on the charts.
However, for those on the East Coast, the combination of the Intra Coastal Waterway, the Great Lakes, and the Rivers systems would provide a lifetime of cruising and exploring. There are still places that are not built up and over populated, where you could settle in as a new home port, or visit on your travels. What better way to see the vastness and variety of our country? Or use this as a way to see the sites of our history and development. If you don’t like the neighbors or the neighborhood, you can always move along to another area; and still be at home.