Best Liveaboard Boats Under 50 Feet


Boats for liveaboard

Liveaboarding is to mariners as RV living is to landlubbers.  Because they are not tied to a physical address on land, their numbers are difficult to gauge, with estimates ranging from 50,000 to 100,000 liveaboarders across the United States.  Regardless of the true figure, what is indisputable is that liveaboarding is a lifestyle that is more popular than you might think.

Whether permanently docked in a marina slip or out for months at a time on the open seas, the key to successful liveaboarding is finding the right vessel.  Although there are different things to consider compared to finding a new home on land, a liveaboard boat is at heart a living space.  Since many marinas can only accommodate smaller vessels, in this article, we examine the best liveaboard boats under 50 feet.

Best Boat Options Under 50 Feet for Liveaboarding

When it comes to living aboard a boat, choosing the right vessel requires great thought and careful consideration.  After all, the confines of the boat you select will be your living space and home for however long you choose to liveaboard.  In fact, there are key factors when deciding on a liveaboard boat that you would either take for granted or never even consider when finding a home on land.

For starters, boat length may be as important as the boat type, as it factors into so many aspects of liveaboarding.  If you truly plan to make your boat your home, then whether you will be liveaboarding alone, with a spouse or partner, or with an entire family, you want to choose a vessel that you can handle without a crew.  Boat lengths of less than 50 feet are designed to be sailed, operated, and maintained without a crew.

Practically speaking, unless you will be exclusively mooring or living on the hook, you will likely need to rent a slip at a marina (obtaining a liveaboard slip at a marina is an entirely different matter), and toward this end, many smaller marinas that simply cannot accommodate LOAs (length overall) exceeding 50 feet.  By the same token, boat lengths between 40 and 50 feet correlate to living space that is sufficient for a single person, a couple, or even a family.

Here are the best liveaboard options for boats under 50 feet in length:

Best Liveaboard Trawlers

Although they may not have the sleek lines and futuristic designs of high-performance, luxury mega yachts, trawlers may very well be the best option for liveaboarding.  Directly descended from the workhorse fishing trawlers that get their name from the way they drag huge trawls (fishing nets) through deep ocean waters, liveaboard trawlers maintain the same rugged, blue-collar pedigree.

Trawlers are known for having large fuel tank capacities with above-average fuel economy.  What this means is that when they are not comfortably berthed in a marina slip, they can be taken on long journeys and are more than up to the task of reaching remote destinations.  They are thus equally liveable stationary as well as on the high seas.

Other appealing features of liveaboard trawlers are:

  • Spacious interior:  Generous living space below deck
  • Large outdoor space: Large decks that you can walk around
  • Extra headroom: Because they are taller than most other vessels, trawlers are a great choice for tall liveaboarders 
  • Slow and steady: With full-displacement hulls being the norm on trawlers, these vessels move methodically through water and not very fast.  However, they are very stable on the water and are about as seaworthy as a boat can be.

Here are some below 50 feet top choices for liveaboard trawlers:

Beneteau Swift Trawler 47

A very well-appointed vessel with an L-shaped galley (with optional electric grill and 10-gallon refrigerator) above deck incorporated into a spacious salon that can comfortably seat eight, and which itself can be converted into an extra guest cabin within minutes.

Below deck, the master cabin has its own head with shower, and two guest cabins have their own head and shower.  Guest cabin layouts can be configured with twin beds or bunk beds.  Fine details such as wood finishes throughout the vessel truly create the feeling of being home.

Beneteau Swift Trawler 47 data

  • Length: 48’4” (14.73m)
  • Beam: 14’6” (4.41m)
  • Tankage: 510 gallons fuel tank
  • 169 gallons water tank
  • n/a gallons holding tank
  • Capacity: 6 people
  • Top Speed: 26 knots
  • Cruising Speed: 8.1 knots

Krogen 44 AE 

While the Krogen 44’ AE is a great option for one to two liveaboarders to reside comfortably within its open and spacious interior, it is also an excellent choice for lengthy voyages with an extended range exceeding 4,400 nautical miles (over 5,000 miles on land).  

The salon and pilothouse offer expansive, near-360° views, with a well-appointed galley and lounge-style seating.  Below deck, the master cabin is bathed in natural light through portholes, with an adjoining head and shower.  The standard floorplan also has a reading room that can serve as an onboard office or guestroom when hosting overnight visitors.

Krogen 44 AE data

  • Length: 49’ (14.93m)
  • Beam: 16’4” (4.97m)
  • Tankage: 850 gallons fuel tank
  • 300 gallons water tank
  • 52 gallons holding tank
  • Capacity: 6 people
  • Top Speed: n/a knots
  • Cruising Speed: 8 knots
  • Other: An estimated range of 5,000 nautical miles at 6 knots

Best Liveaboard Sailboats

Perhaps no vessel captures more the sense of freedom and adventure offered by seagoing crafts than sailboats.  Living aboard a sailboat is a statement that you play by your own set of rules, and that your next journey can be as far as favorable winds will take you.  Because of the incredible range of lengths and hull types, sailboats under 50 feet can also be the most affordable option as far as liveaboard boats.  (Source:  YachtWorld)

Since most sailboats are fitted with small engines, maneuvering these agile crafts in and out of marina slips can be done with the greatest of ease (especially compared to larger craft like catamarans), which means that gliding out into the harbor to catch the sunset after dinner can be a daily ritual.

Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 49

Known as a deck-saloon cruiser, this is a sailboat often used for charters, which should be a good indicator of its onboard accommodations.  Configurations can vary from a 4-cabin, 4-head layout, to a more spacious 3-cabin, 2-head layout, the latter of permits two aft cabins to be easily converted into a larger, single stateroom.

Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 49 data

  • Length: 49’1” (14.94m)
  • Beam: 14’8” (4.47m)
  • Tankage: 63 gallons fuel tank
  • 185 gallons water tank
  • 30 gallons holding tank
  • Capacity: 8 people 
  • Top Speed: 7.3 knots

Catalina 355

Although not as spacious as longer vessels, the Catalina 355 packs an impressive assortment of amenities in its 35-foot LOA.  This includes a master cabin as well as a guest cabin and a shared head.  A third area can be converted to a guest bunk from its dinette function.  The onboard galley features a stainless steel cooktop and oven, and a built-in refrigerator with freezer.

The Catalina 355 is not luxury liveaboarding by any stretch, but it amply provides the basics and necessities, which for many people is all that is needed.

Catalina 355 data

  • Length: 35’5” (10.76m)
  • Beam: 12’ (3.65m)
  • Tankage: 30 gallons fuel tank
  • 101 gallons water tank
  • 27 gallons holding tank
  • Capacity: 2 people 
  • Top Speed: 7.1 knots

Best Liveaboard Catamarans

Unlike its mono-hulled cousins, catamarans (affectionately referred to as cats) feature multiple hulls, typically two, and sometimes three (trimaran). 

The multi-hulled design gives catamarans great stability and agility on the water, and also lend themselves to serving as more than suitable living quarters for liveaboarders.

Catamarans are available in powered and sail models, and by virtue of having multiple hulls, offer separate (i.e., private) living quarters, each with its own cabin and head arrangement. 

Above deck, the salon, galley, and cockpit areas offer open and airy communal spaces suitable for social gatherings or for quiet moments.

It should be noted that because catamarans suitable for liveaboarding have beams exceeding 22 feet, finding a marina with a large enough slip may be a bit of a challenge (worst-case scenario you may end up having to rent two adjacent slips to accommodate your cat).  This is something to consider from both a long-term cost and logistics (where to berth your catamaran) point of view.

Bali 4.1

With wide-open community spaces and ample onboard storage not found on mono-hulled vessels, the Bali 4.1 strikes a perfect balance between comfortable liveaboarding and performance on the open water. 

A hard deck between the hulls houses a large cockpit, dining, and galley area, with room to spare for a sunbathing lounge.

Available layout options include a 2-cabin, 2-bath configuration, or a 3-cabin, 2-bath with master suite configuration, which makes this liveaboard vessel the perfect choice for families with children, or even multiple co-habitants.

Bali 4.1 data

  • Length: 39’8” (12.12m)
  • Beam: 22’5” (6.72m)
  • Tankage: 106 gallons fuel tank
  • 211 gallons water tank
  • n/a gallons holding tank
  • Capacity: 8 people
  • Top Speed: 8 knots

Fountaine Pajot Saona 47

With an impressive beam of over 25 feet, the Fountaine Pajot Saona 47 is in a word spacious, and in the context of liveaboarding, that equates to comfort.  The salon level is bathed in natural light from virtually all directions, which would make dinner time (even meal preparation) something to look forward to every day with its panoramic, 360° views.

Speaking of mealtime, the galley on the Saona 47 would rival that of any modern apartment.  Equipped with a gas cooktop and an oven, this vessel creates the true ambiance of home by enabling liveaboarders to fill the space with the aromas of real home-cooked meals.  There is even a kitchen island to boot.

Private quarters below deck can be configured in either a spacious 3-cabin, 3-head layout, or for larger numbers of people, an economical, yet comfortable, 5-cabin, 5-head floorplan (it is worth noting that even in the 5-cabin layout, all but one of the beds are doubles).  All cabins have en-suite baths.  

Fountaine Pajot Saona 47 data

  • Length: 45’7” (13.94m)
  • Beam: 25’3” (7.7m)
  • Tankage: 248 gallons fuel tank
  • 185 gallons water tank
  • n/a gallons holding tank
  • Capacity: 10 people
  • Top Speed: 20 knots

Best Liveaboard Cruiser Boats

Cruisers are a relatively new classification of boat, smaller than luxury yachts, but similar in design and purpose.  Typically, smaller than 50 feet in overall length, cruisers (also known as cabin cruisers, express cruisers, and pocket cruisers) are designed for long expeditions and therefore offer onboard living amenities such as cabins, heads, and galleys.  (Source:  The Mariner)

For this reason, cruisers are a perfect choice for liveaboarding by those who consider the boat as their primary home but also intend to put the vessel through its paces every once in a while.  After all, what would be the point of having a Ferrari in the garage if you did not put the pedal to the metal when given the chance?

Grand Banks Eastbay 44

With a spacious full-beam salon and cockpit above deck, with power windows for full ocean-breeze ventilation, the Grand Banks Eastbay 44 is a solid liveaboard choice for couples who enjoy entertaining on board.  With multiple layouts available, including two guest cabins and a stateroom, two heads, and an option for a below deck galley, this cruiser has all the makings of a long-term liveaboard vessel.

Grand Banks Eastbay 44 data

  • Length: 48’1” (14.65m)
  • Beam: 14’7” (4.44m)
  • Tankage: 581 gallons fuel tank
  • 194 gallons water tank
  • 41 gallons holding tank
  • Capacity: 6 people
  • Top Speed: 32 knots
  • Cruising Speed: 25 knots

Back Cove 41 

Like the Grand Banks Eastbay 44, the Back Cove 41 is a cruiser that can be lived aboard by an owner who appreciates what it can do on the open water.  Because of its bona fide performance capabilities, some sacrifice is made as far as features relating to long-term habitation.

For instance, meal preparation will be limited to those dishes that can be prepared with an electric cooktop (2 burners) and a microwave.  As far as the everyday necessities, however, the Back Cove 41 offers a master cabin with an en-suite head and shower, as well as a not-so-necessary 24-inch smart LED tv with DVD player.

The below deck living area also includes a guest cabin with plentiful closet space (by boat standards) as well as thoughtful amenities such as built-in charging stations for electronic devices, overhead LED reading lights, and a queen-size, 8” thick latex mattress for a sound night’s sleep.

Back Cove 41 data

  • Length: 46’6” (14.17m)
  • Beam: 14’ (4.27m)
  • Tankage: 400 gallons fuel tank
  • 160 gallons water tank
  • 55 gallons holding tank
  • Capacity: 4 people
  • Top Speed: 26 knots
  • Cruising Speed: 22 knots

Best Liveaboard Houseboat

To be clear, houseboats are more house than they are boats, although, without some form of propulsion (e.g., a motor), they would just be stationary, floating houses.

Because the emphasis is on the quality of living on the vessel than piloting the vessel over water, houseboats are the very definition of liveaboard boats, and options abound in the less than 50-feet length category.

Houseboats typically feature:

  • Kitchen: a full-size galley, much like what you would find in a modest apartment, complete with a stove, oven, and refrigerator.  
  • Dining room: There is usually a separate, well-defined dining area that occupies the top level to take full advantage of this prime vantage point.  
  • Ample sleep space: As far as sleeping quarters, comfortable accommodations for four or more people are not uncommon
  • Exterior space:  houseboats often feature two, three, and sometimes four, decks.

Read more about houseboats here.

Gibson 42 SS

This houseboat functions much like a condo on water, with the exception that it can sail away thanks to its twin, 350-horsepower, V8 engines.  With a full-sized galley featuring a 3-burner stove, an oven, and a full-sized refrigerator, home-cooked meals will not be an issue in the Gibson 42 SS, and neither will comfort during the hot summer months, as this houseboat also features two air-conditioning units.

The master suite on this vessel can accommodate a standard queen size bed, and a six-gallon, onboard water heater will ensure the availability of a hot shower when needed.  Because of their unique design and layout, houseboats can even be (and they often are) carpeted!

In short, the Gibson 42 SS houseboat offers all the creature comforts of living on land, with the added bonus of going on a leisurely cruise around the harbor to catch the sunset on a moment’s notice.

Gibson 42 SS data

  • Length: 42 (12.8m)
  • Beam: 12’1” (3.68m)
  • Tankage: 160 gallons fuel tank
  • 100 gallons water tank
  • 60 gallons holding tank
  • Capacity: 20 people
  • Top Speed: n/a knots
  • Cruising Speed: n/a knots

Conclusion

Make no mistake, living aboard a boat full-time is a major decision.  The romance of liveaboarding is easy to forget when something malfunctions on the boat. On the other hand, show me a house owner who hasn’t had expensive and annoying issues with his land-home.

While liveaboarding usually means that you have to live on less space, there are multiple options for singles as well as families, and for those looking to travel the world as well as those looking for a stationary home on the water.

Rasmus

Hi, my name is Rasmus. I'm a huge fan of alternative living arrangements and the many ways people are escaping the 9 to 5 grind. Whether it's van dwelling or homesteading, if it allows for more freedom in your life then I'm all ears! I've been exploring different aspects of this lifestyle for over three years now and have learned so much. From solar power to worm farming, if there's something out there that helps us live differently - I want to know about it!

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