If you’re tired of life on land and crave the freedom of the sea, then living on a sailboat might just be the answer. Residing on a boat means you can sail off for adventures anytime you like, and the world is your oyster as they say.
Although the initial cost may be high, living on the water is typically cheaper than living in a traditional house. It can be a wise financial move and a wonderful way to explore the world from the comfort of your ‘home’.
However, If you’re planning on making a sailboat your permanent home, there are lots of factors to consider. Predominantly, you will need a boat with a suitable and comfortable cabin. Each sailboat has different amenities and sizes, and budget will dictate what you can realistically buy.
Before you purchase, it’s vital to gather as much information as possible about what you need. Read online articles about other people’s experiences and identify any issues that they have come across to help inform any choices you make.
You will also need to decide what level of comfort you require. Some boats come with the minimum of amenities and some are all singing and all dancing.
It’s also important to decide what size and type of boat you will need. Some are designed with reduced furniture, so there’s more room for storage to keep things needed for long journeys.
Coastal sailboats are usually more luxurious and more suitable if you only plan on shorter journeys. So, let’s have a look at 10 of the best sailboats currently on the market.
The Catalina is a well-known and trusted brand of sailboat, and they offer several models with different facilities depending on requirements.
The Catalina first appeared in 1972 and is still being made and improved upon today. They are super reliable and offer a spacious and modern interior. For example the Cruiser 315 offers comfortable cream leather sofas with an eating area.
There is adequate lighting and integrated flat screen TV. There are modern conveniences such as fixed ports for digital needs along with a table to work/eat from.
The kitchen area is equipped with a fridge/freezer, drawers, cabinets, and a two burner stove and oven. The sleeping area is cozy and soundproof. The teak interior gives a feeling of warmth and security.
The 315, 355 and 445 series sailboat is constructed of fiberglass and many additional features that make this boat sturdy and stable. It has the benefit of watertight StrikeZone, Collision bulkheads and mast system that is supported by a SecureSocket feature that ensures the boat is watertight.
DeepDefense Rudder controls ensure that steering is failsafe. In addition, it has a deck stepped mast along with the benefits of a keel-stepped mast.
The Contessa is another long-standing contender and has been in circulation since 1970. Although the standard models are no longer built, sailboat builders will produce custom-made boats to this day.
The Contessa is famous for being one of the best cruising boats ever made and makes ideal boat homes also. They lack the luxury of the Catalina but have adequate facilities and a no frills design.
For example, the Contessa 32 is 32 feet (ca. 10 m) in length and is super stable and makes a perfect small family boat. The sail plan can be handled by one person and is easy to maneuver.
The interior is cute with a separate master bedroom and small shower, although compact, the area feels safe. It has a plethora of safety features and are available at competitive rates.
The Nordic sailboat has been around since the early 80s and is one of the largest boats available. It’s perfect for cruisers and provides a substantial home to live in.
The cabin provides standing room, so no bending required. There is a very spacious bedroom and a full galley that is light and airy. It is equipped with two deep sinks, a large counter area and a 3 burner stove. The L shaped settee is spacious and next to it is a fold down mounted table which is extendable when entertaining extra guests.
It has the benefit of extra storage making full-time living and travelling a breeze, in fact it’s quite possible to fill the sailboat with enough provisions to last several months if needed.
In addition, she is able to carry sufficient fuel and water for long trips. The Nordic also offers ample ventilation, with 10 opening ports and 2 big hatches. For cold days it has an insulated hull which easily heats the boat.
The cockpit is easy to navigate and offers all round wide coamings, seaback that are high and large winches accessible from the helm. Furthermore, the Nordic comes equipped with safety features such as a raised bridge deck and padeyes for safety harnesses. All In all this is a great sailboat to live in.
This long-standing 34 foot boat has been around since the 80s and is another spacious option. It’s the most home-like sailboat we’ve chosen for those that enjoy creature comforts and miss the feel of a traditional living space.
The head of the cabin is enclosed but spacious, and it has a separate master bedroom with ample storage. There is also more floor space than most sailboats allowing you to walk around with ease.
This compact little boat is ideal for a single person wanting to live aboard a sailboat. It benefits from all the necessary amenities you would find in a larger boat. It’s comfortable and cheaper to maintain. Furthermore, it has a cute little galley along with a shower and toilet.
The berth easily converts into a dining area and also contains two bunks under the cockpit for visitors. The Nor’Sea’s portable design means it is easily transported with a vehicle to the place of your choice.
This cruiser is designed for long-distance journeys and can withhold bad weather successfully. Its heavy-duty construction makes it a powerful and seaworthy boat, as well as being aesthetically beautiful.
This sailboat is a superb choice for living aboard and has been designed for cruising. The interior is elegant with wooden trims and impressive cabins. Furthermore, it is more than capable of handling heavy air and huge swells making it a super safe option for sailing adventures.
The cabin area is small but has a good-sized V berth as well as a shower and head. Two settees to port and a fold up table means there is adequate space to eat. In addition, there is a navigation seat at the quarter berth.
The Islander offers several drawers and canned lockers, with an ice box included as standard. There is an option to upgrade to better facilities if needed. Another advantage of the Islander is the integrated steps down to the cockpit, as opposed to the usual ladder. They also provide an extra seating area when you have guests.
The boat holds 50 gallons (0.19 m³) of water and 30 of fuel, meaning you need to have back-up if you’re travelling, but this amount is ideal for boat living or coastal cruising.
This tiny sailboat is a little monster at sea and ideal for living in. It’s lightweight and portable, meaning you can move your small home via the sea or land.
The interior is surprisingly roomy, with all amenities you’d expect from a more expensive sailboat. Interestingly the designer of the Pacific Seacraft spent many years aboard the boat and sailed it around the world; proof of his outstanding workmanship.
The deck space isn’t the best feature, but it’s adequate and the underneath more than makes up for it. It has all the usual amenities with a unique charm meaning once you have it you’ll not want to part with it.
Below deck offers a generous 5’11” headroom, which is unusual for a small boat. The high topsides mean that the boat offers outboard bookshelves as well as galley lockers.
The boat is incredibly easy to maneuver and cheap to run, and sails beautifully. If you’re not looking for luxury but a solid and seaworthy construction, then this is the boat for you.
This affordable sailboat makes cruising effortless. It’s suitable for living in coastal sailing and offshore. Its helm is of similar quality and size to a larger boat. In addition, it benefits from a larger than normal fuel tank for the inboard engine and a very large freshwater capacity at 25 gallons (ca. 95 l). You can even add extra tanks in the storage for longer trips.
The cabin of the O’day is spacious with plenty of areas to store everything you would need for a journey or for everyday living. It has a wide beam that doesn’t make it feel cramped. Furthermore, it has 2 extra long settees that lie side by side to the center table. You can gain extra width by stretching it out under the storage bins.
During anchor (see also ‘Best Types Of Boat Anchors‘) the passageway becomes a shower and storage locker. The 2 man V berth converts to a double bed as well as a king-sized quarter berth at starboard. What’s not to love?
This unique sailboat was designed by famous architect William Atkin way back in 1974. It has a wooden construction using tropical hardwood. The design was taken from the old-fashioned sailboats that are super resilient in rough seas. It is classed as a long-range cruiser.
The William Aitkin is the perfect boat to live in,, and the interiors are spacious and uniquely designed for comfort. It contains 6 berths, a double, single, and two further singles at the fore cabin. It provides loads of storage space in the galley. At the center there’s a saloon drop leaf table, underneath of which there is a settee berth. The boat can easily house 1-4 adults.
Perhaps the one disadvantage of the William Atkin is maintenance. Due to its wooden construction it requires careful maintenance to keep it fully functioning. But some feel that it’s totally worth it to reside on such a unique boat.
Similar to the Flicka 20 the Allegra is blessed with extra space and the ideal choice if you need to move about a bit more. It offers 4 feet (1.22 m) extra with more cabin amenities. In addition, it has extra headroom and handles the sea effortlessly. The interior is still small and only suitable for a couple with the occasional guest.
Buying a sailboat is a big investment, so it’s important to know what to look for. We’ve put together this handy guide to get you started.
Cruising or offshore?
If you are planning on lots of trips with your boat then an offshore sailboat is the best option, cabins tend to have less furniture to weigh the boat down and living quarters are pretty minimal. Perfect for couples who want to use their boat to see the world.
If you are mainly going to cruise along the shore or remain in one place predominantly, then a coastal cruiser is the best option.. They have a more luxurious internal layout with extra features and amenities. However, you won’t have much in the way of extra storage, as the space is taken up with extra features.
If you plan to live permanently on your boat, think about headroom. Whilst it’s fine for a short time to duck your head when walking around, you may find it’s nice to be able to stand upright if you’re there all the time. It can affect posture and cause spinal problems if forced to bend your neck consistently so it’s useful to bear this in mind.
If you’re planning on working as well as living in your boat, be sure to choose one that has adequate electricity availability. A 120V AC outlet should be available and most liveaboard boats will have all the connections you would find in a standard house, so you can charge phones and use it as needed.
In addition, it;’s also important to stay connected to the outside world. It can get lonely aboard a boat, so be sure not to isolate yourself from loved ones.
The galley is what houses traditional kitchen facilities. This is important as it can be difficult living every day without the basics needed for preparing and cooking food. Be sure the boat includes an ice box or fridge, a sink and a stove.
Toilet and cleaning
The right sanitation is crucial when living aboard a boat, so be sure to choose ones with proper toilet facilities and a decent pump for getting rid of waste.
Depending where you are stationed, you can utilize Marina facilities such as showers if you don’t want to have one on board. However, there are some great options for integrated showers, but you must ensure the bilge pump is fully maintained to avoid floods below the floor.
Electric lighting is important on liveaboard boats. Although not always needed for consistent sailing, it’s safer to have it if you spend considerable time aboard. Electrical lighting is safer and super convenient.
Ventilation is important for comfort. The larger the boat, the more ventilation options there should be. Mold can be a hazard without adequate ventilation and is very bad for the health, so be sure to deal with any issues swiftly and have the right tools to do so.
As well as the obvious sleeping spaces, it’s important to have somewhere to eat and work if needed. A mid-table or areas that convert are very handy and will make normal activities easier and more comfortable.
When budgeting for your new sailboat, be sure to factor in maintenance costs. Given your new home will exist on water, it’s crucial that you keep on top of plumbing, mechanics and electrics.
Although cheaper than living in a bricks and mortar home, living aboard a sailboat comes with its own costs. You will need to compare prices of boat insurance, which can be as costly as a house. Furthermore, you should consider boat mortgage costs, slip fees, waste elimination, gas, and food.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I find a Marina to live on?
The most important consideration when finding a Marina is what they offer in terms of amenities. It’s advisable to allocate some time to looking at Google Maps and checking out the location you are interested in. Discuss with managers what they offer.
Monthly rent is usually low, and many include monthly electrical costs. If you sign a long-term contract, they will often offer a discount.
Choose a Marina that has a nice social vibe. Living aboard a boat can get lonely, so be sure to connect with others, very often there is a lovely community with like-minded individuals.
It’s also important to think about how much shelter exists in the Marina you want to moor your boat. This might affect how long you can keep it there or increase the risk of weather based damage.
How is the boat heated in the winter?
The majority of sailboats have stoves that burn solid fuels such as wood and coal. The more luxurious options have central heating or diesel stoves that can heat radiators. Whatever is used, it’s pretty easy to heat a boat, as it is fully insulated and smaller than a house.
How do I get mail?
Many Marinas offer a service where residents are able to receive mail via an address, but it’s worth researching different options such as mail forwarding or PO boxes at local post offices. There are awesome special services available for nomad individuals.
What mooring should I choose ?
There are several options for mooring, and it’s largely dependent on your requirements:
- Pile mooring (the boat is secured between 2 posts made of metal or wood)
- Drying mooring (Access limited due to tidal wave)
- Swinging mooring (Boat allowed to swing and secured by bow)
- Deep water mooring (Mooring never dries and is of sufficient depth)
- Finger berth (small area for single boat, on a marina)
- Pontoon berth (alongside pontoon with access to shore via walking or dingy/water taxi)
- Mud berth (Remaining on ground during the majority of tidal cycle)
Choosing the right mooring will depend on how often you need to access shore, what your boat is made of and Marina availability.
Living on the water can be a lucrative and minimalist way to live, and with the right information you can make sailboat living a successful and positive way of life.