Date: 13 October 2013. Making the Right
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
For folks who prefer to start at the top the Hatteras
Eventide is a
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
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
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)
Tricks of the Trades
Boating for the relaxed leisurely cruisers such as self (you don't have to
be rich to enjoy this life)
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
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
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
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
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
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?
Pull the Plug ~
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