Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How To Buy A Sailboat

This week, Captain John shares five “getting started” steps to buying a sailboat for cruising...

Guest blog by Captain John
Captain John Jamieson, a regular contributor to the Daily Boater, is author of Seamanship Secrets and publisher of the popular boating education website

Buying a Sailboat ©
Are you on course to buy the right sailboat? Photo © Nautical Sites Media

Is sailing over the horizon more than just a dream, now with gas (and diesel) prices out of sight?  Do you want to know the most essential things to look for before plunking down your cash on a cruising sailboat?

Five “Getting Started” Steps to Buying a Sailboat

D-I-Y (Do It Yourself!)
Only you are looking out for your own best interests. Not a boat broker, working off commission. So, get a piece of paper and a pencil and do a bit of analysis.

Reality Check-List
Start your search with these five “reality check” questions before you consider buying a sailboat. You just may save yourself tons of money and time tied to the dock in maintenance and repairs!

1.    What size of cruising sailboat makes a happy cruising sailor?
Not what you hear on TV, the movies or from a book you’ve read. A small coastal cruising sailboat can be had for a fraction of the cost of a larger offshore vessel.

Keep the size down to just as small as you can tolerate. Recent surveys show that couples cruising in boats 30 feet and under stick with it longer than the big boat cruisers. Less time spent at the repair dock means more time and money for cruising!

2.    How often do you go outside of protected waters?
Do you want a boat for sailing to Bermuda, or would you rather crew on someone else’s money machine? If far away destinations aren’t in your plans, save years of wear on your sailboat sails and sailing gear.

If you’re like me, there’s nothing quite like the adventure of inland waterways cruising. It’s challenging with tons of new places to explore and you get to anchor every night!

3.    Are you prepared to spend 50% more to cross an ocean?
Plan to spend about 30% over cost to equip a small sailboat with basic cruising needs. Cruising sailboats with weak build quality may cost 50% over purchase cost to get ready for deep offshore sailing. You’ll save up to 20% by buying a smaller, well built, well equipped coastal cruiser.

4.    East or West: Where will you cruise over the next two years?
Deep keel vessels restrict your cruising grounds. West Coast sailboats have deeper keels because of the relative depth of water in places like Puget Sound and San Francisco Bay. Shallow draft sailboats increase your ability to cruise off the beaten path. Choose a boat with 5 feet or less draft if the East Coast, Bahamas and Caribbean are in your future.

5.    What are the 10 most important amenities you need?
Grab your wife or cruising partner for this one. Make a list of ten creature comforts that you must have, from most important to the least important. For instance, if pressurized hot water comes to mind first, make it #1.

Caution: the more “nice to haves” on your list, the greater will be the complexity and expense of cruising. No matter what the brochures tell you, salt, corrosion and humidity break down complicated gear like refrigeration, freezers and generators.

If you must have it, be sure to set aside a budget for repair, parts and time for service. Keep it simple to spend less time dockside, waiting for repairs, and more time enjoying the freedom of cruising.

Before you start your quest for the perfect cruising sailboat, take some time to do a reality check. You’ll enjoy sailing more, save lots of money, and most of all, make your cruising dreams a reality!

Captain John Jamieson shows you the no-nonsense cruising skills you need beyond sailing school.  Sign up for his highly popular “Captain John’s Sailing Tips” - a FREE newsletter - at

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1 comment:

  1. I see. Great guide for those who are still at a loss as to what things to look for in a sailboat. I'm personally quite prone to splurging on features that I hardly need but seem cool on ads.