Moments in the lives of most sailors turn to the longing to be able to sail farther than their local waters enjoy the pleasures of live-aboard boats. Cruising has a potent appeal, and calls for significantly more skills and knowledge than day-sailing, the gaining those skills can be a satisfaction in itself.
When thinking of cruising, there is the consideration of expense, and this is more evident when going to a boat show and pricing the latest 40-footer from a leading builder. But it is entirely possible to maintain a small cabin yacht on a small amount per year although it may not come equipped with a private cabin and air conditioning, you are able to experience the pleasures of cruising.
Two people can cruise in a small yacht, provided their expectations of comfort are not in the hotel room category. Small yachts of 20-25 feet usually are safe and reliable for coastal cruising and short sea crossings and 20 feet is the bare minimum for a boat that you intend to sleep aboard.
The requirements for sleeping aboard include a weatherproof cabin with at least two bunks, a simple cooker and a rudimentary toilet arrangement without these, it is camping afloat rather than cruising. Any boat worthy of the cruiser class must be able to carry a suitably sized anchor and chain, a battery and navigation lights,
Yachting has a very good second hand market with well built and maintained boats lasting many years, consequently there is always a good selection of small yachts available in most price ranges. If you are unable to suitably inspect and assess the intended yacht, a condition survey by a professional is almost always money well spent.
Another consideration is finding somewhere to moor the yacht as marinas are expensive and traditional moorings being scarce, so the availability of the mooring facility will also influence the choice of boat. The only type of mooring available at reasonable cost is one that dries out at low tide, which means opting for a centreboard, twin-bilge-keel design or catamaran.
Centreboard boats are unsuitable on moorings with stony sea beds , which over time scar the surface of the hull, and twin keels have a problem where the seabed is soft or uneven, resulting in the boat falling over at low tide.
If you are able to access a deepwater haven, and fortunate enough to find a mooring suitable for a fixed-keel boat, then this should be your choice as a fixed keel is stronger and gives a better sailing performance than centreboards or twin keels.
An alternative to mooring your boat is to buy a trailer-sailer, but the freedom of arriving by car, launching the boat can seem attractive, it has its own problems. There is always the need to store the boat somewhere, and afloat on a cruise, there will be the necessity to moor it to satisfactory temporary moorings which are more expensive than long-term ones.
With the many alternatives, a simple sloop rig with a reefable mainsail and a roller-reefing jib is usually the best rig solution as simplicity is the key to successful budget cruising.
An inboard diesel engine is the optimum but also expensive, whereas a 5-bhp outboard motor on a stern bracket is economical and reliable. Hot and cold running water and a shower seem like the basics until you realize that a 25-footer has difficulty in carrying enough fresh water to afford a system worth having.
A lot of organization is called for living aboard a small yacht and a methodical system needs to be established as eating, sleeping, navigating, cooking and washing all occurs in same small space.