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Date: 14 May 2014. What Used Boat?


Recently I was corresponding with an online associate who was debating various used boats that seemed to suit he and his wife. When he asked for advice immediately I knew which I would chose, and told him why. When you're looking at two identical boats, the one that's been lived aboard and called home is often the better choice over the lightly used dock queen.  You too may wonder why that's so.

Boats are different from cars. In an automobile, the one that's been parked is generally the better option.  Less miles means less wear and tear on the vehicle. But boats are different. You want the boat that's taken a trek or two around the waterways.

The simple reason is that an owner who lives aboard longer term will make many changes. Not all will be to your liking, but many you'll "figure out down the way" are a good idea. Aboard Seaweed, I have eight cigarette outlets. Yes, one 23' boat has lots more than many boats twice as large -- and eventually I'll have two more.

The where and why:

Cigarette outlets onboard Seaweed

Where: Why:
In my cabin by the VHF radio (double unit) To charge my cell phone or Kindle; also the electric (12-volt) blanket or my GPS in stormy weather.

Side Note on my GPS:  Yes, it's a hand-held unit, specifically the Garmin76.
You can buy for about $16 (Amazon) an
adapter so it will run from your 12-volt system.
I use the adapter rather than two AA batteries. That's easier for me.

In my cabin by the steps to the pilothouse It's a great nook and fits my spotlight so it's always available
In the pilothouse, starboard side Powers my 12-volt adapter for the GPS, and with a splitter, the computer when underway

Next to be installed: a double unit on the port side for the computer.
I'm also considering
an A/C plug for the Christmas tree lights

In front of the galley sink To power the 12-volt DVD player.
Aft port side, corner (double) My computer, and the hand-held VHF radio and charger

I've considered adding one in the cockpit because it would be tidier than running a cord out
the aft dinette window for power to a light out there.
When I anchored in the crook of a river
(the best spot) I hung a portable anchor light on the dinghy davit to illuminate dink.

Port side, forward dinette seat Because I sit there and it's handy. Powers the portable 12-volt fan most often.

It is more than likely that I could manage without the plethora I've got at present, however I rather prefer a life of convenience and comfort. They have been accumulated/installed over the six years I've owned Seaweed. None came with the boat and all are in use if not daily, at least once per week. 

Sure, I could have installed fewer, but this is home and I want her comfortable. I'm assuming in your home you've got all the enhancements by your favorite chair?  There will be a side table, a lamp, a place for the television zapper/flipper, your cup, a plate of snacks, perhaps a few magazines, a book or three, and maybe a kit to tie some flies for your next fishing expedition.

In other words, you're comfortable and have everything within reach. I do too, and my view is outstanding. Plus, if I wish to see new scenery I can start the engine, raise the anchor and be underway in less than 15 minutes. Life does not get much better!

Boats become homes -- at least ones that are lived aboard long term.  In the six years I've owned Seaweed, I've made a few changes/alterations. Some cost nothing but time, and others, well, others were $$$.  But none of these items came with the model initially and all add to my life and happiness quotient.


In the first six years aboard Seaweed, I have:


  1. opened an area under the reefer for access to store canned goods

  2. opened the area under the silverware drawer for better access and added a shelf there to make more of the space usable

  3. under the sink, added two shelves, spice racks and a paper towel bar

  4. added cigarette lighter outlets for my 12-volt goodies 'most everywhere

  5. added two more access points in the dinette seats at the end by the companionway

  6. added DVD shelves in my cabin over the bunk

  7. added a shelf under my bunk for storage (from port to starboard)

  8. raised the head by adding a locker (for toilet paper) so that head is now above the waterline

  9. added a holding tank (on a shelf under the bunk)

  10. plumbed a deck pump-out

  11. added access to the new shelf under my bunk

  12. added two bars for hanging stuff in the head

  13. added a new medicine locker in the head

  14. added a second mounted VHF radio (plus the new wiring and second antennae to support same)

  15. added 275 watts of solar panels plus a solar regulator, heavy wire, etc. (almost $1k)

  16. added a wind generator ($1k)

  17. added a dinghy davit (one large 3-Musketeers candy bar; my friend Dale welded it for me and the davit was a road kill find, i.e. by the side of the road in a pile of junk. The stainless caught my eye.)

  18. added an inverter (Aims1000) ($75)

  19. added/upgraded to a decent battery charger (Xantrex2000)

  20. added a battery bank (three new batteries) ($300)

  21. added a skylight (two now)

  22. added bilge pumps and float switches for the bigger pair (two 2k gph and one 800gph) ($300)

  23. added a windlass ($1k)

  24. added 100' of chain ($400)

  25. added two anchors, both adequate to hold the boat in a blow (got rid of the 13 pound toy anchor that came with Seaweed on 45' of 3-strand) ($600)

  26. added lifelines

  27. added numerous fans (Hella, at $22 each)

  28. swapped out most light fixtures for LED (less power draw)

  29. added a new LED anchor light, new running lights, also LED ($300, give or take)

  30. screened all windows and doorways ($15, made them myself from an old army screen tent)

  31. added voltage meters so checking battery status is easy ($15)

  32. added temperature gauges for both inside boat and in the reefer so I can make sure it's keeping stuff cool at a glance ($25)

  33. added hand grips/grab rails every place I reached and wanted one -- if you reach for a place and don't have something to hang onto, create it. That's where it's needed.


There's more, but most of those things would not have been done by a weekend owner. They would not have been necessary.


In my view given a choice of two boats I'd opt for the one that's been a home. 

She will (definitely will!) have some things you're not thrilled with, and possibly some items won't be as you'd have done them, but you will benefit nonetheless.

The other weekend (Kentucky Derby weekend) I was speaking with my friend Lynn and she mentioned her Southern Cross. Lynn said that sailboat was essentially free. How so you may ask?  Well, the number of spare parts and improvements to that boat amounted to more than the purchase price. And Southern Cross boats are nice -- very!!

[That particular Southern Cross was lost on a reef off Australia. Lynn's new boat, In Anneoin, is steel.]

So do go ahead and have fun boat shopping. Shiny is good, but look -- really look, at what the boat has to offer for you today and don't ever expect her to be perfect. Count on making her your own by improving what's there, but not today.

First use your new-to-you boat for a bit before dumping big bucks into her.

The things you think critical might not be after you've used her for a bit.  Make the boat yours after you've used her for a while and know, really know, what is critical to your happiness quotient.  That's your To Do List.

As for me, given a choice I'd definitely pick the boat that had been a home.

Have fun, and happy boating.

I'd love to hear what your first boat projects were.
And, are you enjoying life in a marina or living life on anchor?


Categories: Boats, Characters, Comfort, Gear, Money, Recommendations

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