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5 Best LiveAboard Sailboats – Plus 8 Important Buying Considerations

Best Budget Choice
CATALINA 30

CATALINA 30

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Best Premium Choice
NORDIC 40

NORDIC 40

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Best Overall Choice
HUNTER 33

HUNTER 33

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 by Updated on October 15, 2020. In Boats

Taking the plunge to live on a sailboat is usually a huge decision, especially as living aboard a boat is an exciting lifestyle choice. However, there are lots of things to consider before buying a boat that will suit your needs and also be nearly as comfortable as a traditional home on land.

Whether this is your first time choosing a liveaboard sailboat, or you want to upgrade to a better option, you will find useful information in this article. But before we get into the best liveaboard sailboats and how to choose one, let’s see why living aboard a boat is a great lifestyle choice.

We’ve reviewed some of the best liveaboard sailboats and listed them here to help you choose one that will suit you most.

5 Best LiveAboard Sailboats

1. ISLANDER 36

ISLANDER 36

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The Islander 36 is the boat for you if you want a well-rounded sailboat with impressive cruising abilities. With close to a thousand of these boats built between 1973 and 1986, the model is one of the successful and best-selling boats of the company.

These sailboats are renowned for their well-adorned cabins, with many featuring exquisite wooden interior trim. Typically, the interiors are spacious and feature a long port and starboard settee. The settee is designed to fold out into a double berth for sleeping. There is also a nav station to port with a quarter berth at the back that forms an extra seat. The boat also has a spacious master berth with an enclosed shower, making this boat one of the best liveaboard sailboats for cruising.

The interior also features plenty of drawers, plus many caned and louvered lockers. The L-shaped galley is to starboard and equipped with an icebox (that can be upgraded to a refrigerator). It also comes with a three burner LPG stove and a double sink.

Perhaps the most eye-catching feature of the interior is the companionway steps that are easy to maneuver. This is by far better than having ladders, as the steps can serve as additional separate seats when you have guests onboard.

The amount of fuel the boat’s tank can take is ideal for coastal cruising. Although Islander 36s can embark on extended trips, you will need to get additional jerry cans for that purpose.

You can check here for pricing and listings.

Specs

  • LOA:   36 ft
  • Beam:   11 ft 2 in
  • Ballast:  5450 lbs
  • Displacement:  13,450 lbs
  • Sail Area:  612 sq ft
  • Fuel Tank:  30 gallons
  • Water Tank: 56 gallons
Best Budget Choice

2. CATALINA 30

CATALINA 30

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If you are looking for a boat that is tough to beat feature-for-feature and size-for-size, perhaps this model will be of interest to you. Designed for comfort and performance, the Catalina 30 is arguably the most common production cruising sailboat to ever grace the open waters. Despite coming into the market as far back as 1972, their popularity to date is a glaring proof of high performance.

You can expect to find spacious accommodation in this 30-foot sailboat with modern features such as a fully equipped galley and electric pumps that supply running water. The layout features a “suite” style with a V-berth master bedroom that is closed off from the rest of the cabin.

The Catalina 30 also features a dinette that can also serve as a workspace or chart table. The boat also includes an enclosed shower and head, which makes living aboard a comfortable experience.

Check out listings for Catalina 30 here.

Specs

  • LOA:   29 ft 11 in
  • Beam:   10 ft 10 in
  • Ballast:  100 lbs
  • Displacement:  10,200 lbs
  • Sail Area:  446 sq ft
  • Shoal Draft: 4 ft 4 in
  • Head Room: 6 ft 3 in
Best Premium Choice

3. NORDIC 40

NORDIC 40

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Weatherly, comfortable, spacious, and fast – these are what readily comes to mind when you think of the Nordic 40.

This large sailboat is perfect for long-distance voyages, so if you intend to buy a boat that will offer excellent accommodation for offshore cruising, you know where to look. Thanks to its large structure, the interior is extremely spacious, making it the perfect choice for couples who want to spend more time aboard a boat.

The standard Nordic comes with top-notch equipment, including a Navtec hydraulic vang and Navtec rod rigging, plus full hull insulation in the entire interior. There is standing headroom available throughout, along with a spacious master bedroom.

The galley is fully equipped with modern facilities and allows for comfortable living. With the standard Nordic 40, there is no worry about storage space. Remote living is a walk in the park with this boat, even if you intend to anchor out for a couple of months at a stretch with enough supplies and provisions.

Keep in mind that these boats are not very common, but if it is the type that appeals to you, it is worth searching out.

Check out listings for Nordic 40 here.

Specs

  • LOA: 39 ft 9 in
  • Beam: 12 ft 5 in
  • Ballast: 7,091 lbs
  • Displacement: 18,000 lbs
  • Sail Area: 756 sq ft
  • Water Tank: 120 gallons
  • Fuel Tank: 56 gallons
Best Overall Choice

4. HUNTER 33

HUNTER 33

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Thinking about taking your entire family for a coastal cruise or even a near-offshore cruising experience? Consider the Hunter 33, one of the best liveaboard sailboats equipped for such purposes.

One of the longest-lived boats in its category, the Hunter 33 came into the market in 1977 and is still in production to date. The mid-sized sailboat comes with great interior accommodations, with ample room for sleeping and sitting. It comes with two private cabins, which is great for a 33-foot sailboat.

It features a shower and toilet aft the master bedroom. Plus, there is a full dinette and standing headroom throughout the cabin.

In a nutshell, this the perfect sailboat for those moving up in size and want a great boat with modern conveniences for an extended cruising period.

Check here for detailed listing and pricing.

Specs

  • LOA: 33 ft 6 in
  • Beam: 11 ft 6 in
  • Ballast: 3,579 lbs
  • Displacement: 11,016 lbs
  • Sail Area: 625 sq ft
  • Water Tank: 50 gallons
  • Fuel Tank: 25 gallons
  • Headroom: 6 ft 4 in

5. NOR’SEA 27

NOR’SEA 27

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The Nor’Sea 27 is an excellent choice if you are single or searching for the best liveaboard sailboats for minimalists. This boat is arguably the best compact liveaboard cruiser available in the market today.

The compact boat has a surprisingly spacious interior for a 27-footer. Plus, it features almost every amenity you can find on a larger boat.

For comfort, the small sailboat feels more like a Catalina 30 and comes with a galley, shower, toilet, and two bunks below the cockpit. The forward berth also serves as a dinette.

The design of the sailboat is a huge success and has found a pretty strong following, which explains why it is still in production to date despite hitting the market long ago in 1976. As expected, the little sailboat costs less in slip fees. But the best part is that you can tow it on a trailer, and that’s all legal.

Don’t be fooled by its size, though. The Nor’Sea 27 isn’t cheap. Prices for new ones start from around $150K (with kits starting anywhere from $35K). You find used ones for as little as $15,500 or as much as $95,000 depending on age, quality of finish, and condition.

Find out current listings and prices here.

Specs

  • LOA: 27 ft
  • Beam: 8 ft
  • Ballast: 3,100 lbs
  • Displacement: 8,100 lbs
  • Water Tank: 20 gallons
  • Fuel Tank: 20 gallons

How to Choose the Best LiveAboard Sailboats – Buying Guide

There are several things to consider when choosing a liveaboard sailboat, but perhaps the most important factor is the level of accommodation that will suit your need. A boat with useful features such as a fully functional kitchen or electric toilets are well and fine, but many traditional sailors don’t really care about limited amenities. Any stripped-down sailboat with basic interior would do just fine.

Most sailors are generally okay with any standard live about sailboats constructed after 1970 since these types typically have adequate ventilation, a usable kitchen, head, and shower. But whatever your preferences, you can be sure you will find something that will provide the level of comfort you need in most modern sailboats.

Here are 8 important factors and requirements we think are crucial when choosing the best liveaboard sailboats.

1. Standing Headroom

There’s nothing wrong with spending a couple of days in a week aboard a boat without standing headroom. However, if living aboard a sailboat is a lifestyle choice for you, consider one with standing headroom. Your body is not meant to crouch or crawl for months or years on end. With time, your back and other muscles will start to take a hit. For your overall health and wellbeing, it is best to choose a sailboat with standing headroom. Our recommendation is 5-feet 10-inch standing headroom or something within that range.

2. Basic Kitchen Facilities

A liveaboard boat without a kitchen can only mean one thing: you will be eating out every single day! While this is okay for some people, others will prefer to cook their own meals at least once in a while, regardless of their culinary skills.

We think a kitchen is a must-have for the best liveaboard sailboats, even if it doesn’t have all the modern facilities. Basic kitchen facilities should include a refrigerator or icebox, a sink, and a stove. If you find one with an oven, that’s a plus, too!

3. Toilet with Plumbing

The fastest way to spread diseases when you liveaboard a boat is to have improper human waste storage and disposal system. Sanitation facilities are among the top considerations when choosing the best liveaboard sailboats.

Using a porta-potty all year long is definitely out of the question. Besides, no one would like to live on a stinky boat or have guests come over a smelly abode. When you choose a liveaboard sailboat, look for one with a built-in and properly outfitted toilet. It should also have a safe sewage storage tank with a proper disposal system.

4. Shower

Many liveaboards prefer to use gym or marina facilities instead of their onboard showers. This is okay, but it doesn’t eliminate the need for bathing facilities on board. Choose a sailboat with a shower for convenience’s sake, even if you don’t use it all the time.

It is important to make sure that your bilge pump is always in good working condition, especially if you have a boat shower that drains directly into the bilge. Keep in mind that whatever goes into the drain will find its way below your floor.

5. Electric Lighting

Having kerosene lamps is okay. In fact, many sailors love to have them because it adds a certain feel and beauty to their boats. But you definitely want to consider the convenience and safety offered by electric lighting. If you plan on living aboard a boat for a long time, you will need some form of reliable electric lighting.

6. Availability of 120V AC

The best liveaboard sailboats come with 120V AC outlets for standard house electricity connections. The availability of electricity is a definite requirement for living aboard a boat. You want to have a way to charge your cell phones, computers, and use other electronic gadgets. A boat with only a 12V outlet is not good enough. It is best to choose a sailboat with 120V AC outlets if you want to enjoy electricity living aboard a boat full-time.

7. Seating Spaces

Apart from the main bed, the best liveaboard sailboats should have additional seating spaces. There should be separate spaces for sitting, working, navigating, and eating, especially if you plan on living aboard for a long time.  You don’t want to be bored with the monotony of using only one space (the main bed) for all your daily activities. Having separate seating spaces has the added advantage of making your day-to-day activities more agreeable.

8. Ventilation

Perhaps the simplest requirement for liveaboard sailboats is ventilation. But it is equally essential, regardless. An opening porthole or a passive solar roof vent should suffice. The important thing to consider when it comes to proper ventilation is a boat that provides a way to let in fresh air without needing to open the main hatch.

Coastal Vs. Offshore Accommodations

And now, here’s one final factor to consider before choosing a liveaboard sailboat. How do you plan to use your boat? Do you want a sailboat that will serve primarily as a long-distance cruiser, or do you intend to use it mainly for coastal cruising?

Your intended use significantly affects the style of interior design that will be suitable for your purpose. Sailboat accommodations are greatly impacted by their cruising purposes. Coastal cruisers are likely to feature more plush layouts, complex interiors, and larger sofas. Also, these boats generally have several amenities, so it is common to have smaller storage spaces in these sailboats.

On the other hand, offshore or long-distance cruisers feature cabins that are designed and arranged to make the journey as comfortable as possible. These sailboats generally don’t have unnecessary furniture and other extras below deck to make room for increased sleeping and storage spaces.

It is easy to get carried away during the physical inspection of a sailboat, especially if the boat is equipped with modern facilities and fanciful, eye-catching amenities. But don’t get swayed by those, even though they are important for improved convenience. Your top priority should be how you intend to use the boat – for coastal cruising or offshore cruising. This should inform your choice of accommodation.

Benefits of Living on a Sailboat

Okay, why should you want to give up living on land and opt for an unstable address somewhere in the middle of the ocean? Is it even safe to do so?

Living aboard a sailboat is an exciting lifestyle that offers several benefits and challenges, too! Thousands of people across the world choose this lifestyle, and because these boats are constructed from high-quality, durable materials, you can be sure it is safe to liveaboard one.

This lifestyle offers liveaboards a cheaper alternative than living in a traditional house. This is particularly the case in waterfront cities where rental apartments and houses in the marina areas are even more expensive.

It is a lot cheaper to live in a boat if you enjoy traveling around the world on the water. And if you enjoy the marina lifestyle, you could take it a step further by owning and living in one of the several best liveaboard sailboats available.

And come to think of it, these boats require some serious investments. What’s the point of buying a “house” on the water without living in it, right? To many people, it makes more economic sense to live in their expensive boats, instead of paying extra rent for a house on the land when there is one idling away on the water.

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