For the past three decades, your average live-aboard cruiser had retired from a career with the money and freedom to buy a boat, outfit It for cruising, and set sail into the sunset. It was, and still is, an absolutely beautiful thing that all of us at YCA respect and admire. Nobody is trying to define what is ‘young’ and what is not. Nobody cares, to be completely honest. But something has changed. Is changing. And fast. The anchorages are now filling up with pre-retirement sailors as well.
They emerged by trickling into harbors with cheap boats the retirees had previously owned and sold. Now they are on all kinds of boats. From the small affordable pocket cruisers to the nicest catamaran at the dock. To figure out what created this tidal wave of pre-retirement liveaboards, let’s take a deeper dive into the four phases of the ‘birth of the young cruisers.’
The first big wave of young cruisers began with the era of affordable cruising boats. In the first decade of the 2000s, cruising boats, especially boats under 35ft, were becoming very affordable. Baby boomers were hitting retirement in full force and were able to afford boats over 40ft, so your typical Sabre 34 for example, was plummeting in value. Many small cruising boats on the market were more than 25 years old and YachtWorld, a fairly new website, was driving the prices even lower as buyers could cast an even wider net. Now the adventurous few who dreamed of sailing away with only pre-retirement cash savings could realistically make it happen. It’s hard to believe looking back, but at that time, a late 70’s Pearson, Sabre, C&C, etc. could be bought for as little as $15,000 and a really nice small cruising boat for under $50k. We’ll call this the ‘affordability phase”.