Go Small Go Now – I Think Ready!

“Go small, go simple, go now.” This phrase was originally written by Lin and Larry Pardey. The Pardeys have been cruising for about 35 years now, on a boat that doesn’t even have a motor. I’m not ready to go the extreme, but I’ve really been thinking about this a lot lately.

Boats anchored in Miami

Did I Go Too Big?

I bought the Grouchy Turtle, because as someone with zero sailing experience, I really wanted a catamaran. I liked the idea of having a more stable platform to swim, snorkel, and dive from. Also, with a catamaran you generally get more room than in a same length monuhull.

The problem with catamarans is they’re much more expensive than a monohull. Geminis usually sell for much cheaper than larger cats, but I still spent a lot on my boat. Maybe more than I should have. Even with the grown up job I had at the time, I had to take out a big loan to buy my boat.

Sailing the Turtle in the Florida Keys
Sailing the Turtle in the Florida Keys

Simpler Is Better

I still love my boat. There’s plenty of room, it’s comfortable, and although I don’t have every piece of equipment imaginable, it does have some conveniences that you just don’t see on smaller boats. The large bed in the master cabin and the big fridge to name two.

But is any of that stuff really necessary? After all, the whole point of going cruising is to explore new locations, not to sit around on your boat. Same as if you’re traveling by other means, you don’t just sit around in your hotel room.

There are people out there on much smaller boats, with much less, but at least they’re free. I’m really starting to think I could not just survive with much less, but actually be happier with much less, as long as I was out there cruising, and not stuck in one place.

Mistakes And More Mistakes

Only a few months after moving aboard I lost my job. I was miserable at my job, and at least part of the idea of the boat was to help me escape someday. Although I was working for a horrible company, I do take some responsibility for getting fired.

As much as I didn’t want to be there, I needed that job to pay off the boat.

After a few years of doing nothing in Florida…like most people do when they arrive in Miami, I woke up to reality. That’s when I decided to start charting the Grouchy Turtle. Big Mistake! The details aren’t really important for the purpose of this post, only the outcome.

Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

And Now I’m Stuck

So now I sit here in the Keys with a hole to dig myself out of, and repairs to do on the boat. Stuck here, not able to move anytime soon, short of winning the lottery, or Sparky becoming famous enough that the money just starts rolling in from this website.

Which brings me to what I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. The nice thing about going to big is you can always downsize. The other way around is much harder.

I’ve really been debating the idea of getting the boat fixed up, selling, and then buying a smaller, simpler, and much cheaper boat. Then I can finally start exploring again, and go much further, like I originally set out to do.

What’s the smallest boat you think you could live aboard? How much could live without, if it was the difference between cruising or being tied to the dock for much longer?

16 Responses to Go Small Go Now – I Think Ready!

  1. A few years ago I would have said “go big or go home” lol my perspective has change a great deal since then 😉 I spent a few years running a beach lodge on the coast of Mozambique and was extremely lucky to have access to the hotels CAT with little notice so I can appreciate this piece.

    As for what should you do? Well if I read you right I don’t think its the size of the boat that will stop you from exploring the ocean, which ever route you choose you’re still going to be where you and sparky are meant to be 😉

    • Definitely not the size Duane. But a smaller boat is going to be cheaper to run and maintain. Also, having a bunch of money sitting in the bank all of a sudden will really help. Along with the experience I have now, and the knowledge to not repeat past mistakes.

      I’d really miss the Turtle, if I sold her. But I think it may be worth it for the freedom it would buy me.

  2. My wife and I bought a 285 Beneteau and took off after I retired. Eveyone told us we needed a bigger boat. I couldnt afford a bigger boat and retire. We down sized ALOT, but we made it work. We were able to add all our “wants” and still cut the dock lines. We took off October of last year and came back to home port in June, to wait out hurricane season. We plan to take off again after the holidays. Bigger isnt always better, we are comfortable, have all the things we need and just enough room to get by. No regrets! Bigger boat? Nope!

    • Thanks Capt. Bob. I’ll have to add that one to my list. Looks like there’s a few of them out there for sale. I’ve done a great job of downsizing everything else over the years, so having enough room on a smaller boat shouldn’t be a problem for me. I think the biggest adjustment for me would be making the switch from a cat to a monohull. That, and I do really love my boat, but enough to continue putting things off?

      • We looked for a long time before deciding on the 285. I love Beneteaus joinery inside, all the ammenities, the large private aft cabin. We installed refrigeration, radar, chartplotter, sonar, ais radio, anchor windlass. Everyone told us we needed a bigger boat. We crossed the gulf of mexico twice and sailed around the coast and the keys. We draft 3.10 ft and we are planning on adding auto pilot soon. A monohull doest have the room a cat has, but they sail alot better, and youll adjust. Like you said, keep working to pay for a boat you cant afford or sail away on a smaller boat. I for one prefer to sail. I still get boat envy when at an anchorage or a marina, but those boats dont leave or cant go far(because they have to go to work) then I get over it, haul in the anchor, and sail on to the next unknown island or gunkhole!

        • Awesome! I already get boat envy when I see bigger boats anyway. Like you, I’m sure I’d get over it much faster if I was anchored somewhere in the Caribbean or maybe Central America. Even more so if I had the freedom to move whenever I want.

          I had a neighbor in an anchorage in Miami a few years back who had a Beneteau. I don’t remember which model, but very nice boat. The 285 is sounding even better. I’m liking that shallow draft. I don’t think I could go from a boat that draws nothing to a deep full keel. And yes, monos are much easier to tack.

    • We are also on a Beneteau – ours is a 393. We love the boat and are very comfortable. But space-wise? I have no doubt we could go smaller and still have everything we need.

      You can do it – just narrow it down to what you truly need to survive.

      • Depending on your beam, the 393 may actually be an upgrade for me. The 285 is sounding very promising, though. I’m also considering possibly an older and smaller trimaran. That may not give me as much of a cushion/kitty as switching to a monohull, but I’d get to keep my really shallow draft, similar stability to the cat, and actually gain speed.

  3. Hi!!! I totally believe smaller is better!!! I lived on my cal27 for 3 years! Loved it😀😀😀 I was living on 400.00/ month at the time. Ultimate freedom! I only needed to work 1or 2 days a month!

    It had a vberth, head, and a galley/salon. It was plenty of space, tons of storage! I was able to easily dock it with the tiller when the engine quit, and it’s small enough to actually maintain properly 😀😀😀

    You are welcome to come check it out anytime 😀😀

    • I may take you up on that Kasey! I was already considering coming up for the boat show. Now it looks like need to come up to look at boats. Obviously not buying new, but it will still give me an idea of the differences in the designs and layouts.

      I don’t need a lot of room. As long as there’s enough deck space to strap my paddleboard along the rail, I’ll be good.

      What are you living on now?

  4. I’ve had my 23′ Compac since 1989. She was built in 1988. I’ve sailed her around Lake Erie, and lived aboard her in the summer. It’s more like camping, but I do have saloon, cooker, berths, head, etc. However, I do want to upgrade to a catamaran, because, now that I wear braces on both legs, moving around on my monohull is somewhat unsafe. My balance is impaired, so I need the stable platform of a cat. Well, more stable. To get similar room to move around safely on a monohull, I’d have to go bigger than I want. I think a 30′ cat is about as much as I can handle. I’d hate to see you lose the Turtle, but you have to do what’s best for you.

    • Perfect! Let’s trade Helen! Actually I’m thinking something in the 27 – 30′ range. I’m kind of considering trimarans. Although if I go with a monohull, I may have enough money from the sail to buy the boat, and my little beach in Belize.

      It’s a tough choice. I love the Turtle, but I really want my freedom. I know it sounds spoiled, considering where I’m living, but my original plan was to go much further, and I’ve now been in Florida for 5 years. I’m fixing my mistakes, but it could take another few years before I’m finally ready to cut the lines.

  5. Would you consider a small powerboat, or do your cruising plans take you farther afield than a reasonable power-only passage would be comfortable for you? We cruise coastally and find that our 24′ cabin launch is more than sufficient and with its shallow draft and maneuverability give us the option to go places we might not with a deep keel. Vee berth, propane stove, drawer icebox, head, sink, small diesel with heating radiators for col weather. We keep and use the boat year round in Maine, which cuts maintenance and storage costs since the boat is small enough for us to do everything ourselves in a short amount of time.

    • Dave, I do hope to do some longer range cruising in the future. Even with short trips, though, I wouldn’t want to give the option to sail, if the weather is right. At this point, I’m probably going to stick with what I have.

      I think I just need to make an effort to get off this island more often. Even if that means it will take me longer to get out cruising, it will keep me sane in the meantime. I’m also going to get a few repairs done ASAP, so I can sail again. That way, I can at least do some shorter cruises around here when work is slow.

  6. I hope it all works out for you and Sparky. I use to have a cabin cruiser when I lived in Florida and we would go out and stay a week in the open with no land around. I have never been sailing and hope I get to some day. I live in Alabama now.

    I would love to just live on a boat. Now that I am older I find I do not need much of anything but a little money to eat and a few clothes. I know if you work hard you will find the best solution for yourself and Sparky.

    Good luck and I say go smaller, who cares what others have. I have a smaller house now and it is easier to clean and cheaper to maintain; so I do not care about the others that have to pay someone to clean theirs or kill their self to clean it. Also, to paint it cost them a fortune.

    Think like this, at the least you can move if you do not like the neighbors. You are blessed and us land dwellers are envious of that lol

    • Thanks Tammy!

      It’s a constant debate these days. I can definitely live with much less. I’d be much happier in a tent on a beach in paradise, than with the biggest mansion, someplace I don’t want to live.

      Assuming I’m not going to cross any big oceans, the only real advantage I see to not downsizing the boat, is the ability to make money with the boat, by chartering or doing Airbnb, etc.

      On the other hand, going smaller would allow me to get a car/truck and a fleet of paddleboards. I could do tours, and keep my boat as my home. Of course only in season, while cruising in the winter!

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