Nov 282012

Godammit I knew something like this would happen. Here I sit on the Fritter all fat and happy, thinking about what I need to do next year to get this boat into sailing condition when this comes along…

That is a West Wight Potter. Made in California, this is what is known as a pocket cruiser. 19 feet long, 7 feet wide. It weighs about 1200 pounds and can easily be trailered. It has a drop down keel and only draws about a half foot with the keel up, 4 feet with it down. It comes from the factory with a 5.5 HP Nissan outboard, tiller steering, and a roller furling. One person can raise or lower the mast. But inside is what makes this little boat really cool.

It comes equipped with a single burner stove, porta potti, a small sink with faucet, fresh water tank, and cooler. It can sleep up to 4 people with a v berth forward and two aft quarter berths. There is a lot of boat packed into this small package.

This particular boat pulled into the canal across from me a few weeks ago. The gentleman who owns her is down from Minnesota and is living on the boat for the winter. He takes it out sailing once or twice a week and even sailed out to the Marquesas, a group of islands about 30 miles west of Key West…across open ocean.

He describes it like living in a closet, which got my attention. You know how much I like small living spaces. The headroom is only 5 feet high so no standing up straight inside, but in something that small, how much walking around would you expect to do?

The Potter is pricey. $25,000 new for the whole package. I went online and searched around and found one for sale in Islamorada for $8,000. Still well out of what I could afford but it’s fun to look.

I absolutely love this little boat. It looks about as simple and easy to sail and maintain as you could get and still be able to live on it. Sort of like a teardrop camper but a floating one. And it has me thinking now. Always a dangerous thing.

When I have been shopping for live aboards I always looked at 25’ as the minimum size that I thought I could live in. The head room, storage, etc. The catamaran dream is pretty much a dead issue at this point. I don’t see that happening unless something really unusually good happened money wise. Now, after looking at this Potter, I am rethinking my cunning plan. Perhaps smaller is better.

There are plenty of sailboats in the Potter size that could be adapted for living aboard. The famous Catalina 22, a very basic sailboat that most beginning sailors have used comes to mind. A bit heavier than the Potter, the Cat 22 is way more popular and there are many of them out there sailing around. A Cat 22 could also be had for a lot less money than a Potter. Hunter makes a couple of boats in that size range too. So why go smaller?

These little boats can still be adapted for living aboard, especially for somebody like me. I don’t have much in the way of possessions and even on the 26 I live on now, I have more storage than I need.

Smaller boats cost less to maintain.

That little Potter or any boat that size could run on a couple of batteries and a small solar charger easily, meaning no need for shore power.

The 5.5 motor, while still using gas, would cost very little to run or keep maintained.

If you are staying at a slip that charges by the foot, the rent will be less.

The shallow draft means you can head out into the back country and go where larger boats could not.

The rigging is simple and easy to replace or repair.

But, there are some downsides…

A small boat is not going to be fast. 3 to 5 knots would be the maximum you could probably get out of something this size.

It would be a fair weather boat. Winds over 15 knots would probably mean stay at the dock. Not a big deal as I am a fair weather sailor.

The small cabin may or may not be conducive to living in for a long time.

Adding air conditioning could be an issue.

Not too sure how well the cats would adapt to such small surroundings or if it would be a kind thing to do to them. Space is cramped enough on the Fritter.

But, as I said, it’s got me thinking.

The boat I have now has all the features that the Potter does, well, minus the engine, toilet, and working electronics. But the Fritter is trailerable. It has a drop down keel and draws less than 2 feet when up, and I am pretty sure I can raise and lower the mast by myself. It just needs some stuff to get it up to sailing condition. And I have plenty of headroom. So, do I keep the Fritter and continue to slowly get the boat ready to sail, or seriously consider trying to put the cash together and go smaller, and possibly newer?

As for the kind of sailing I will do, virtually all of it will be inshore. Gunkholing up and down the Keys. Maybe an occasional run up the west coast of Florida or up the ICW. I have no plans nor desires to hit the open ocean for lands faraway in search of adventure and treasure. Around these waters works fine for me. Would the Fritter be too big? The Potter or a Cat 22 be too small? It’s all mental masturbation at this point. But it sure is fun to look and dream.

Capt. Fritter

I’ve had wilder dreams come true. You never know what will happen.

  5 Responses to “Living Aboard, Perhaps Smaller Is Better…”

  1. I think you would miss your headroom a lot more than you think you will. Hang some webbing or sail or some other soft thing at the five foot height in your Fritter and try doing everything you do now and you will soon see how well your back, knees, and neck like it.

  2. Captain,

    Linda offered an excellent suggestion regarding a trial period with a temporary ceiling. I’m over 6′ and the low ceiling would be fine for me. The secret is to use a small office task chair with wheels.

    As a PI, I’ve spent countless hours comfortably conducting surveillance from a low-roof van. I’m not familiar with the boat’s floor plan, but the task chair allows me to effortlessly roll around the van.

    Additionally, you would usually have the option of stepping out on the deck or dock to stretch and enjoy the view.


    • Good suggestions one and all. However, the Fritter has no room for furniture. The cabin space has a 3 foot long by 3 foot high by 1 foot wide box where the keel swings into right in the middle of the floor. It has two leafs that fold up so it can double as a table.
      I don’t move around much in the cabin as it is. But the space I do have I can pretty much stand up straight in it. How well I would do in something like the Potter would be interesting. In that boat there is no room to walk around. The only place you could stand up straight is where the hatch is.
      Some smaller boats, like the Cat 22 have what is called a pop up hatch which has a screen around it so you can lift it up and have some head room.
      It’s all just kicking ideas around for now. Hell, I may wind up back in a motor home before it’s all said and done.
      For now, just kicking tires.
      C. F.

  3. i do the same thing you’re doing . . . only with ‘tiny houses.’
    but captain . . .
    you are 6 feet tall.
    six feet! and unable to ever straighten up inside??? i couldn’t stand it !!!
    but then that’s me. other than that little glitch it sounds like a perfect fit. lol. pun intended.
    i vote the fritter. it’s paid for. you can re-design the whole boat for what the new one would cost!
    bossy nellie. over and out sir.
    but then . . .
    you DID ask!