Startup: Itsy Bitsy Bluewater Hell…er, “Hull.”

John Welsford's "Swaggie" Bluewater Microcruiser

I’ve never done anything more than daysailing, but I’ve been an armchair cruising enthusiast for many years and my older sister is an experienced live-aboard sailor. I have a secret fantasy of chucking the stress of jobs and a mortgage and selling all our belongings so my wife and I can drop out of society and bum around the Caribbean together for a couple of years. But sailboats are complicated and expensive.

Enter John Welsford’s Swaggie. At 18 feet long, it’s about the smallest sailboat designed to navigate open oceans. Not only can it handle two people and 2400 pounds of supplies, but its junk-rigged sail means that the boat can be handled entirely from inside the cabin; there’s no need to go up on deck in a nasty gale to trim the cloth. The inventiveness and efficiency of this boat makes it a central player in my island-bum fantasies.

Unfortunately, I doubt my wife would remain sane if she was cooped up with me in what amounts to a 100 sq. ft. apartment for months at a time. There’s good evidence that might be a little too much togetherness.

Swaggie Page at John Welsford Designs
YouTube Video of unfinished Swaggie interior
YouTube Video of a Swaggie under sail


  • OA5599

    Years before I met her, some dude asked my now-wife to be his live-aboard girlfriend on 20-foot sailboat docked at a marina. All he had to do was ask and she realized this was not the dude for her.

  • GlassOnion9

    Glad to hear I'm not the only one with the sell-everything-and-live-on-a-boat fantasy. My only requirement would be that the boat has space to store a small dual sport motorcycle. How else are you going to explore all the great Caribbean islands you find?

    • Great idea. I also dream of having a Yamaha Superjet stored on deck, with a winch arm to get it in the water.

      • GlassOnion9

        Dingy, who needs a dingy?

  • The Swaggie is just too small. If I'm circumnavigating, it's got to be at least a Flicka…

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    One of the guys who taught me to sail briefly owned one – very slow, stable and an absolute joy. Wish I had the dough and an ocean.

    • ooooh…me likey!

    • And I would not want to circumnavigate, just wander around the islands.

      • With nearly a ton of lead in the keel, you can go pretty much where ever you want, as long as you have about 3 and a half feet of water underneath you.

        • It's not the seaworthiness of the boat, I just like being around civilization too much. Some of those stories of 100-day crossings kinda make me claustrophobic.

          And I'm not claustrophobic.

  • schigleymischke

    This is one of those great ideas that lack of funds saves me from.

  • Deartháir

    A university prof with whom I got along famously — he understood me far too well — ended up doing exactly this when he retired, but with a proper ocean-going sailboat. As in a great big fuck-off sailboat that he said he'd feel comfortable taking across the Pacific — although he admitted he'd probably doing it by coast-jumping and island-hopping. He showed up randomly in Prince Rupert while I lived there, and told us they had just sailed back from Halifax, through the Panama Canal, coast hopping along both coasts of Canada, the US and Mexico.

    I have to admit, that is a life that would appeal to me a whole lot. Especially on a nice big sailboat.

    • pj134

      Yeah, it sounds like it could be a pretty decent life.

    • highmileage_v1

      Ditto. Some folks have made it a lifestyle and have gypsied around the world their whole lives. I think my ADHD would take over at some point and I would need a boat with wings (to do it faster) a la Boeing 314. Come to think of it, doesn't Jimmy Buffet do exactly that?

      • I know Buffet's Grumman Albatross is now a display at the Margritaville Restaurant at Universal Studios Orlando. Sort of sad.

        • highmileage_v1

          A shame. They are nice aircraft but maintenance has got to be pricey (piston engines and salt water exposure) and I think he was finding it difficult to just land where he wants. I think he was shot up by the Jamaican Defence Force because of bad communications or paperwork or something (they thought he was a smuggler).

          • Years ago, some British Lord bought a PBY Catalina and converted it into a luxury "flying yacht" that he intended to lease to millionaires and A-list celebs for island-hopping vacations. It went belly-up within about a year — once word got out that no matter how you re-do the interior, a Catalina is a loud, buzzy, cramped, unreliable place to send a vacation.

            I have tried in vain to find photos of it; I would like to see how the interior was arranged and what sort of amenities it had.

          • Nope, that's not the same one. Kendall was from California, not the UK, and he never leased that one out; it was for his family's private use. Also, I think the other one came along much later, like in the disco era.

  • tonyola

    The best type of boat to have? Someone else's boat. Also, actually living on a small boat is better in theory than in practice. I've been around too many marinas and have seen the harsh reality.

  • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

    My parents were friends with a couple that sailed around the world. That couple got divorced in large part to that. It takes a certain personality. They are not friends with the husband anymore either. Again, it takes a certain personality. They are friends still with his second (now estranged) wife though.

    • Liveaboard cruisers are all, by definition, misfits of one type or another. They are cut from different cloth than people who are comfortable and content in "normal society." But there's totally-awesome weird, just-plain-weird weird, and nearly-impossible-to-put-up-with weird.

      • aastrovan

        That says it as well as it has ever been said.

  • I know zilch about boats, I don't even live withing striking distance of a body of water large enough for anything with a motor or sails, but yeah, it sure would be fun to live on a boat and go island hopping. My folks were full time RVers for about nine years, and loved it. I can see myself doing that, if I were able to. Same deal, really, but you don't drown if something goes wrong. That cute little boat might be completely seaworthy, but I've watched Most Dangerous Catch plenty of times, so I know how nasty all that water can get.

    • Island-hopping is just like RV-ing, but with less clothing and cheaper fuel.