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Date: 13 October 2013. Making the Right Choice.

Picking the right initial boat is a job that is often fraught with equal measures of anticipation and fear. Over the years I suppose I've seen about every mistake known to man (and woman) made when buying that first boat. Today's article will focus on some of the ways you can avoid being a statistic in the Failure File and instead can become a real boater.
 


For folks who prefer to start at the top the Hatteras Eventide is a classic platform.

Though gorgeous, the owner of this boat had years of experience when he moved up to said vessel. For the right couple (entertainment is a breeze on a gem of this size) a yacht such as this can be considered a good choice. Boat brands such as Hatteras with well-regarded reputations as to build quality hold their value. For the rest of us though, we need to start out a bit further down on the scale and work our way up so to speak. And you know what? My little trawler anchors in the same spots as the big guys. Well, I'll probably be a bit closer to the beach as Seaweed draws just three feet.

If your budget is such that you can afford a one week or two charter, that would be an option for looking at the overall "what's it like" in the best of situations. And with reluctant spouses a trip to the Caribbean in the dead of winter does have a charm all of its own. Trust me on that.

However, after that initial holiday in paradise and before you buy your Last Boat, it's important that you gain some inexpensive experience. That means, specifically, that you buy a small cheap boat similar to your dream boat. Folks that dream of trawler cruising should not buy a ketch any more than aspiring rag-baggers should buy a speedboat. 

A few of books will help you as your journey begins.
I recommend these three: (more details on THIS PAGE)

  1. The Intricate Art of Living Afloat - Life aboard a sailboat on a low income (dated but still valuable, especially if you're on a budget)

  2. Tricks of the Trades - Boating for the relaxed leisurely cruisers such as self (you don't have to be rich to enjoy this life)

  3. Chapman's Piloting & Seamanship - The tome on how-to-boat (I don't think I've ever been on a live-aboard boat that didn't have a copy of Chapman's)
     


Oremae is a Morgan ketch, and she's a beauty -- definitely a Last Boat!

If your fantasies involve sailing, then buy a cheap production model for afternoon trips and practice your boating skills. Spend no more than $1000 -- you want a boat you can use and learn on, not the Queen Mary that a ding in the paint job will cost $$$ to repair. Those little $1k boats are generally worth about what you paid at the end of a year.

And no, a small boat (24' or so) won't be comfortable long term or even short term for that matter -- you'll want more space and lots of the conveniences to move above the camping stage your practice boat will offer. It's okay to rough it a little while learning because you will be able to ascertain what is important to for your happiness. Being out here in the boating community you'll be in a far better place to visit with other boats that are more in line with your Last Boat desires. 

Under no circumstances (NONE!!!) should you do anything more than maintain your starter boat. And don't buy a boat that needs work -- find one that immediately (today) you can sail/use. This is not the one to improve; she is a learning tool and though I'm expecting you to fix what you break, don't do anything else.

A starter boat is for gaining experience, not for sailing across oceans.
Use it, repair what you break but otherwise consider it a learning tool only.

More than one time I've seen a newbie take a boat and "upgrade" it into a worthless hunk of fiberglass. A $1k sailboat will have issues -- but you (collectively) will not be taking her across the Atlantic. You'll be learning how to raise sails, lower sails, point her where you want to go, and get her home and docked without taking out the pier.

Analogy: You wouldn't buy your child a Mercedes to learn to drive around the block. A Ford Escort, older, reliable and not fancy will allow a kidlet to learn to parallel park, steer up winding country roads and in town. You'll want the same type of vessel for your learning experience: a boat not a fancy yacht!

At the end of your year long experiment in boating the practice you've had aboard your toy will be useful when it comes time to determine the boat that will better suit you in the future. And presuming you've repaired what you broke, you should be able to sell her to another newbie for their year or two of fun. You should break even financially, but even if you don't get your full $1,000 back, the price of the education is more valuable than any loss of funds.

If boating is not for you, it's best to find out early rather than after
you've poured your wealth into a dream that isn't quite as you imagined.
 


Waterfront living doesn't have to be in a house... and the family car can be a go-fast center console.

For those that dream of trawler cruising, a smaller cuddy cabin will get you out for an afternoon or three. Even if your toy boat will go fast, try puttering along at 6 or 7 knots as that's what you'll do on your larger home. Of course these smaller boats are not as spacious nor comfortable as a real cruising yacht, yet that does not denigrate their value as a learning tool.

For trawler guys and girls, your learning boat will come at a higher initial cost -- count on spending in the range of $5k. Still, the same criteria comes into play: buy a production model (25' range) -- a boat with a thousand others just like her. Most likely you'll end up with a go-fast planing hull that has big gas engines. That is okay.

I'm going to speak slowly so the boys will be able to comprehend:
Just because the throttle can go all the way forward does not mean it must do so.

Run slowly and get the feel of boating without the concern for wind direction that sailors have. Fuel economy will be your reward. Most important of all: you can get in a whole lot less trouble at five knots than ten, or more.

I confess there's a simple joy in puttering along at five knots inside my pilothouse when the rain is falling. Sailing is for masochists! [spoken like the decadence loving power-boater I am] Yes, sailing can be and is fun too but us "stink-pot" owners have to tweak the "wind-bags" occasionally just to keep 'em in line!
 


That's it from the waterfront today. Until next time...

What was your first live-aboard boat?
And are you now aboard your Last Boat? What kind (size too) is she?

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