Affordable housing has been an issue in the U.S. during every real estate boom or bust, but a select group of boaters have gotten “onboard” a way to live more affordably than most would guess. Even families have found that life is better aboard—different, yes, but with advantages that landlubbers just don’t “get.”
Your scenery changes each day, birds and sea life bring nature to your door, you can travel in your home, enjoy minimalism, and if you decide you don’t like your neighborhood or neighbors, you can easily move! One thing you do need when living aboard is a good working knowledge of your boat and how to keep it afloat—especially when not running it consistently. Your bilge, batteries, black water holding tanks, shore power and electrical system access and even knowledge of your tides which can affect boarding and lines, are all important aspects of maintenance and routine checks. When your boat becomes your home, you treat it differently—with more reverence and respect and care for it like a house or condo. But you could never take your house on a cruise!
You’ll also have to research local zoning for docking in areas aside from marinas, some which may have certain slips reserved for live aboards with a fee for dockage. Amenities like laundry, shore power, trash removal, pump out for black water waste, and often supplies or service are worth a price. There may be discrepancies in definitions about a boat that is used for a “residence only and not for navigation” and rules about disposal of waste—certainly a concern to area residents. And keep in mind that local politicians and residents who pay real estate taxes may resent and try to restrict live aboard vessels who do not.
Regardless, in these times of health and economic upheaval, we learn what we need, what is important and what truly makes us happy. It’s hard to imagine being unhappy living aboard and there are a number of boats that were built for that purpose—comfort, function and cruising capability. As downsizing, decluttering and micro-dwelling become increasingly trendy, we share some of the top picks for smaller sized, affordable live-aboard boating. What’s not to like?
Ranger Tug R-25
Ranger Tug R-25. Photo by Ranger Tugs
Nicknamed a “Pocket Yacht,” the Ranger Tug also earned the moniker, “Swiss Army Knife” of boats as it opens, twists and folds up like a tool to maximizes every inch of space for indoor living and outdoor activity. That attention to detail is seen in the newly re-designed R-25, that joins Ranger’s 23’, 27’ and 29’ models—all bona fide live aboard choices. Ranger Tug has also been a leader in a movement called “Boaterhoming” where people tow their boats to destinations, often stopping at campgrounds or RV parks along the way. They are a curiosity to other campers who like to meet the folks living on their towed vessel.
Boarding the R-25 is easy as the non-skid swim platform, with built-in fenders, wraps around the Yamaha 250 outboard, providing an easy step using stainless handrails. The aft deck is comfortably equipped with fold-down bench seats that can flip up for watersports or fishing, and a built-in portside electric grill, adds an outdoor cooking option.
The entry to the starboard salon and portside galley is flanked by windows that open upward and with Velcro, attach to the canvas shade, providing open air access from the aft deck to the salon. On the port side, the dinette table seat flips down to add an aft-facing lounge, which also flips back on a hinge to reveal a cozy ¼ berth, ideal for an adult, child, or pet’s bunk, or storage. The seat then flips back down to the dining table, which also lowers and with cushions becomes an additional berth. So while the forward bow cabin accommodates living aboard, guests can still be welcomed, all with the flip of the wrist and salon seating.
The master cabin is surprisingly roomy, with storage and a hanging locker, that with a raised table can become another socializing area. The cushions are cleverly notched to allow room for the door to open to the head. A step down provides extra “head” room to the toilet, sink and shower, surrounded by wooden cabinetry.
The teak cabinetry, ceiling light strips and portholes in the salon and kitchen add warmth and a “homey” feel. The galley with stability enhancing handrails, has an electric/alcohol stove top, sink, with a cutting board cover, hot and cold running water, a refrigerator, freezer and microwave tucked under the dinette seat. Everything is easily accessible, making meal prep and the choice of eating indoors or out, flexible. Since the AC or heater is run from an inverter, there is no pricey generator to take up space or add weight.
And since you will want to take this boat out, not just live on it, the helm bolster/seat is comfortable and provides excellent visibility through the curved windshield. The wooden steering wheel and full Garmin GPS, navigation and sound system set the captain up for cruising and entertaining.
While there is no bow seating, a rubber extension of the deck provides access to the bow, the anchor windlass and the roof which can store kayaks, paddleboards or watersports gear—just don’t cover the solar panels!
LOA: 28’ 5” (motor down, from bow to back of engine);
Beam: 8’6”; Draft: 34” (motor down);
Fuel: 99 gallons;
Water: 34 gallons
R-25 Price from: $154,937.00 (fully-equipped and ready to cruise)
Other Ranger Models:
R-23 Price: $114,947 (with options to add)
R-27 Price: $199,937 (fully-equipped and ready to cruise)
Visit Rangertugs.com for more information.
Nimbus 305 Running. Photo courtesy of Seattle International Yachts (Official Nimbus dealer in FL, CA and Pacific NW).
Built in Sweden, Nimbus has Scandinavian all-weather workboat heritage, where function, quality, comfort and safety have been updated and upscaled since the company’s 1968 inception. The international brand has impressed the U.S. and fits the “tug” profile. The stable deep hull design boasts no planing threshold, a hard chine and a 21.5” deadrise, that flattens toward the transom, making it easy to handle in rough waters. Powered by a Volvo Penta D3 110 engine (with 150 or 220 as options—or even a Torqueedo Deep Blue 1800—if you’re not in a hurry), the boat aptly handles high or low speeds, from 0-22 knots.
But at dock, as a live aboard, the Nimbus 305 and even its smaller version, the Commuter 9, has weather-proof salon/galley/cabin living space to accommodate long distance cruising, including a heater, defroster, hot water and electric pump out. The swim platform and large aft deck, practical in non-skid, but beautiful in the optional teak, are complete with a wooden table and seating that converts to a sun pad. The asymmetrical deck offers a wide starboard walkway forward, to the large bow sundeck that invites seating, sunning or even fishing, as the tall stainless railing adds safety.
Inside, skylights, full windows and glass door to the aft deck offer natural lighting and rolldown shades for privacy. The starboard galley has a refrigerator, freezer, microwave, gas oven, cooktop and sink. The ceiling handrail is useful when those who forget the meaning of “no wake” zone, zoom by, and the mahogany wood gives a rich feel. The helm seat flips down to create extra galley counter space—little details that help maximize small spaces. Nimbus also features washable Sunbrella fabrics on its cushions—a nice touch for live aboard boats that get extra “seat time.”
The portside salon has two benches framing the teak table, which can convert to another bed if needed. However the two cabins, separate forward master with either a queen or V-berth bunks, and small amidships double guest (with a privacy curtain), can fit four rather comfortably, ideal for a small family or a couple that invites guests. The separate wet head is functional if not fancy.
At the starboard helm, the captain has bolster, or seat options and the starboard sliding door makes solo operation a breeze. The Simrad plotter and navigation’s single 9” screen is surrounded by electronic controls for the bow thruster, throttles and Fusion stereo system. What more do you need?
LOA: 33’ Beam: 10’3”
Fuel: 66 gallons
Water: 39.6 gallons
Base Price: $246,000
View Nimbus 305 boats for sale on Boat Trader.
Visit Nimbus Boats for more information about the builder.
Beneteau Antares 27
Beneteau Antares 27. Photo by Beneteau.
Designed in France by Andre Beneteau in 1977, the Antares line has undergone many changes over the years but remains the brand’s go-to family and live aboard boat. With expansive outside space, the seemingly smaller inside space still offers all the accouterments that give it that “je ne sais quoi” making it feel like home.
Starting with the Airstep hull that is designed to cut through waves, minimize splash and handle well in rough seas, the Antares is the only twin outboard boat in its range (the 21 and 23 have single engines) and can go the distance and at speed. In the U.S., Beneteau offers twin Mercury 200 HP V-6 XL 4-stroke outboards and reported 27.6 mph cruising and 46.3 mph top speed.
A wide starboard walkway provides passage to the large sectional bow sun pad, secured by high railings. On the aft deck, shaded by the extended T-top, U-shaped bench seats surround a wood table that can recess to create another sun pad; optional teak flooring adds richness to the deck and swim platform which has a shower and a starboard telescopic ladder for water access. When ready to go inside, a three-leaf sliding door opens to the salon.
While not huge, the portside salon seating, starboard galley and wood trimmed helm station are comfortable, light and airy and an optional opening roof hatch can literally increase the airiness. Laminate “wood” flooring and walnut cabinets add warmth. The dining table drops to create an additional berth when needed and the co-pilot seat back flips to face the salon for extra social seating. The galley’s laminate counter is standard; a Galley Package with storage drawers, 2-burner propane stove, stainless sink with cold water and refrigerator is optional at about $3,000. Note that a generator for electric heating and A/C is also optional, certainly necessary for live aboards.
Below, two double cabins, one aft and one forward, have storage lockers and nearly 6 feet of head room (5’10” to be exact). The forward cabin is enclosed by a pocket door and has a ventilating deck hatch and skylight; both share a separate head with wooden cabinetry, a shower, sink and toilet with a flip down cover. The head and aft cabin’s only ventilation is a single porthole in each—another consideration for live aboards.
The helm has 6’4” headroom, a nice touch for taller captains, recessed lighting and a sporty spoked steering wheel; a fully electronic Garmin-equipped dash includes Zipwake, bow thruster and a Fusion sound system. The sliding starboard door facilitates solo captaining.
The Beneteau Antares is a classy, speedy and nicely designed boat but options needed by live aboards affect the base price. Currently built in Poland, Beneteau plans to move production of this and other models to the U.S. soon.
LOA: 26’ 2”
Fuel: 2x 52 gallons or 2x 79 gallons
Water: 42 gallons
Base Price: $148,640 or $209,799, well-optioned with a generator.
View Beneteau Antares 27 boats for sale on Boat Trader.
Visit beneteau.com for more information.
Greenline 33 Hybrid
Greenline 33 Hybrid Electric-Diesel Yacht. Photo by Greenline Hybrid Yachts.
If you really want to impress your neighbors on the dock, it will be with your silence aboard the Greenline 33 Hybrid. The boat’s propulsion sources—a Volvo Penta 317 HP diesel (which also drives the generator) or a 10 kW electric engine, powered by a lithium battery pack, provide power options while cruising for low fuel consumption and stable cruising at any speed. Your neighbors will never hear you come and go, as the electric engine slides your boat in and out of the slip at 6 knots. On the water, the 317 HP diesel engine will kick it up to 10-15 knots and a 220 HP option goes up to 18 knots. The six rooftop solar panels charge the batteries, and at dock, shore power takes over and an inverter runs the A/C and appliances.
The Greenline “Superdisplacement” infused sailing hull with twin stabilizers, was designed by passionate sailors and cruisers, for convenient comfort and efficiency. The Greenline 33 is the most spacious, luxurious and biggest of the boats reviewed here and is handcrafted in Slovenia. Its electric drop down transom extends the teak aft deck to a swim platform with two cushion corner seats and a starboard drop ladder to the sea. Wide teak side decks lead to the large bow sun pad, protected by a rail.
Glass doors open from the aft deck to the spacious salon, galley and helm station where 360-degree windows lift open, and an electric skylight adds natural light, air and flow to the outdoors. Wood cabinetry and plush upholstery welcome lounging around a central table, that of course can convert to a bed, but also has a handy insert that inverts to provide die-cut cup holders. The galley, tucked aft to starboard, has a full-size refrigerator/freezer, convection oven, stove top and sinkand its counter opens to the aft deck like a bar. The starboard helm has a deep bench that folds down to expand the lounge seating. The dash includes a single Simrad screen, chart plotter, radar, bow and stern thrusters and controls for both engines.
Portside steps to the cabin and head reveal a spacious forward V-bunk master, naturally lit by skylights, supplemented with recessed lighting and storage. A smaller double bunk tucked to port is optional, while the spacious and stylish wet head is under the starboard helm.
The Greenline 33, also available in 39’ or 40’ models, offers luxury, comfort and long distance cruising options, but with all the comforts of home, dockside works too.
Beam: 11’ 5”
Fuel: 132 gallons
Water: 79 gallons
Base Price: $255,000.
View Greenline 33 boats for sale on Boat Trader.
Visit greenlinehybridusa.com for more information.
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