TYPES OF LIVEABOARD BOATS
People have been known to live aboard almost anything that floats. The allure of life
afloat is thousands of years old. These days most people consider the following choices.
Power boats give you a lot of living space. They have a lot of space above the waterline
which means good news for headroom and storage space. All of this space is a disadvantage, however, in
boat handling because of the windage caused by the tall deck house and hull.
Displacement boats (including sailboats and trawlers) can only go about 1.33 times the square root
of their waterline length. This provides decent fuel economy but slower speeds. For example, a displacement hull
with a waterline length of 30 feet has a maximum theoretical hull speed of 7.3 knots or about 8.4 miles per
If I won the lottery and could buy the power boat of my dreams, I'd get the comfortable
displacement cruiser shown in the photo above loafing along the Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale near
A planing power boat like the one in the photo above, however, needs a lot of energy to get up on
top of the water and flatten out for higher speeds. It will gobble fuel at a horrifying rate. If you
plan on spending most of your time in a marina, you night not want to pay for all of that speed potential with its
higher operating and maintenance costs.
There are also multihull power boats including quite a few good catamaran designs. These are
more economical to run than a monohull power boat of equal length, and can negotiate shallower waters because of
their hull design.
The photo above is a PDQ Power Catamaran I spent a night with at a marina in Stuart,
Florida. I have seen many of these cruising in Florida, and they look like great liveaboards. It
was very windy that night in Stuart and the PDQ rode very gently at the dock when many other boats in the marina
were pitching around quite a bit.
I have loved sailing since my boyhood days and would live on a sailboat no matter its
disadvantages. I just feel right aboard a sailing vessel. If you like sailboats too, you have a lot of
As the name implies, these boats have a single hull. They usually have a fairly deep keel
or centerboard that limits the places you can liveaboard. You will usually have to forego shallow marinas
or moorings. Space is also a problem. Sailboats have pointy ends, the forward one known as the bow,
and the sides of the hull are curved. This presents a problem for headroom and storage space. The
mast also limits you to marinas that are not constrained by low overhead bridges.
The cutter rigged monohull sailboat above was in Pier 66 Marina in Fort Lauderdale when this
photo was taken. It would be a comfy and spacious liveaboard. The spacious pilot house with
abundant glass means plenty of light below and good headroom.
Multihulls include catamarans (two hulls) and trimarans (three hulls). The advantage to
these boats are shallow draft, speed underway and a lot of liveaboard space. You have almost twice
as much space as a monohull.
One of the disadvantages, however, is you will usually have to pay a lot more for a marina slip
unless you have a smaller catamaran with a beam of 14 or 15 feet that can fit in some of the larger
slips. Larger catamarans like the one in the photo above will usually require two slips in a marina or
will have to be tied off at the end of a tee dock.
A trawler is a power boat with a displacement hull that is designed for long economical voyages
under power at something less than theoretical hull speed. Sometimes the trawler will have a steadying sail
to help it withstand rolling motion while underway. Sometimes they also have "flopper stoppers", devices that
you lower from booms extending over the sides of the boat down into the water. The stoppers provide
resistance to rolling at anchor or on a mooring.
The trawler in the photo above has tremendous room below because of the vertical sides of its hull and the large
deckhouse. It might be a bit tough to handle maneuvering around a marina in windy conditions, but would be a
comfortable liveaboard, especially in a marina.
Houseboat With Engine
These are usually boats with a flat bottom and a large house that occupies most of the deck.
They are usually designed for calmer waters like rivers or some lakes. The photo below is from the Gibson
Boat Company website.
You see a lot of houseboats in inland lakes and rivers. They are usually not considered
seaworthy enough to take out in the open ocean or one of the Great Lakes. Their flat bottoms make for a very
uncomfortable ride, but in calmer conditions they have unsurpassed comfort.
Houseboat Without Engine
These are barge type boats that are designed to be towed wherever they will be located. They quite
often don't move for years. They are usually permanent fixtures in some marinas or liveaboard communities.
The houseboat in the photo below was at a fish camp on the Dead River in Central Florida near Eustis and
A motorsailer is designed to be a better performer under power than the average sailboat of equal
length. By the nature of their design, they are usually a bit slower under sail than the average sailboat of
equal length. Many motorsailers have a lot more space than a sailboat because of the typically large
deckhouse and hull shape.
The motorsailer shown below is has a very large deckhouse and a relatively small sailing rig.
It has a tremendous amount of living space below and would be a very comfortable liveaboard.
Note the Bimini Top over the cockpit and the inflatable dinghy on davits.
It is all decked out in red ribbons to celebrate Christmas aboard at Burnt Store Marina near Punta
Most marinas are delightful places to be during the holiday season. Liveaboards can be very
creative with their decorations.
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