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Not Your Average Looper - Boats under 30'
By Julie Shea
Posted on 1/29/2018 8:40 AM

Continuing with the topic of budgeting, we’ve talked with a few Gold Loopers who have completed the Loop on smaller boats. When people look at boats, they often think, “the bigger, the better”, but this isn’t always the case.

If you think you’ll miss out, traveling on a smaller boat, or you’re wondering how you will make it work in tighter quarters, check out what these Gold Loopers shared about their experiences in smaller vessels. If you missed the podcast with Betsy Johnson, click here to listen as she shares her experiences looping on a smaller boat.

Redefine Comfortable

Comfort can be defined differently by every looper. Some want a boat they can sleep on, some want to prepare meals aboard and some are willing to part with a few creature comforts for maneuverability sake. You need to determine what is important to you and what you are willing to do without.

Gold Loopers, Jonathan Arthur & Rosa Cross, advise you buy the smallest boat you can be comfortable on. His 22’ C-Dory provided an enclosed helm for protection from the elements. Most important to Jonathan in choosing a boat was having a shallow draft and an outboard for ease of maneuverability. He felt more comfortable while underway at the helm. “I wasn’t glued to the depth finder or chart plotter” like he might have been with a larger vessel. And if he did push his luck and hit bottom, it wasn’t a major event requiring thousands of dollars to fix.

After doing some boat shopping, Gold Loopers, Mike and Sharon O’Malley, knew they weren’t going to be sleeping aboard. Mike is 6’1” and they struggled to find boats in their price range with beds that would be comfortable. They decided on a 20’ Robalo R200 Center Console because Mike likes to drive standing up. The boat has great site lines and it is easy to move to the side rails during locking and docking.

Pat & Patty Anderson became Gold Loopers aboard their 2005 C-Dory 25 Cruiser. The boat has a V-berth, galley, dinette and enclosed head with composting toilet. They also had a full cockpit canvas, providing all weather living space on the cockpit. The boat is large enough for them to be comfortable and small enough that both of them can handle it safely, including cruising, locking, docking and anchoring.

Smaller Boats Don’t Have to Mean Big Marina Fees

On smaller boats, you may be more dependent on marinas, because you might not have showers or bathroom facilities onboard. But there are still ways to make your budget work for you. The key is to live your life as you were before.

The Andersons noted they spent about $2,500 a month, which included fuel, groceries, eating out occasionally, and marina fees.  They anchored out more often than not and would stay in marinas only if they needed to come in for showers and laundry. They traveled with their Lhasa Apso, requiring a quick trip to shore twice a day, but they basically lived their lives just as they always had, covering their expenses with their current income.

With a smaller boat, Jonathan was able to explore shallower waters and “found free docks at dozens and dozens of places and many times, mine was the only boat there. That alone was worth the ‘sacrifice’ of the smoother ride of the deep draft boats.” He also noted it cost him less than $200 to go through Canada’s one hundred locks!

The O’Malleys spent more time in marinas because they needed access to hotels for sleeping. They would have a light lunch aboard while cruising, but breakfast and dinner were on shore. Because Mike works in the travel business, he had a step up on finding hotels – and with frequent flier and hotel points, he was able to lower the cost of having to spend every night off the boat.

Small Boats Get Places Larger Ones Can’t

Think beyond the cost savings as well when considering a smaller boat. Smaller boats have smaller drafts. This will come in handy in many places along the Great Loop where water can be shallow.

Jonathan was able to cruise closer to shore and watch the landscape change and take trips off the beaten path to see towns that few Loopers in larger boats get a chance to see.

Also, you don’t have to worry as much, when you do need to dock, about whether the marina has space for you. The O’Malleys would often be told the marina could take their 20’ vessel and “fit them anywhere”, even as they were turning away larger boats.

All of these Gold Loopers are able to trailer their boats and transport them to other waterways and new adventures. And trailering the boat can save you money on maintenance costs you might otherwise incur if the boat sits in the water year round.

Your Loop Your Way

Consider your lifestyle and habits and keep them in mind as you prepare your budget. Make sure you are putting your money into the things that are most important to you. A smaller boat may be exactly what you need to make sure you are able to take advantage of all the “must dos” on your looping bucket list.

Read About Their Adventures

If you are curious to learn more about the experiences of these Gold Loopers, check out their blogs:

Pat & Patty Anderson

Mike & Sharon O’Malley

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