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Date: 28 July 2015. Finding Your Boat (part 4)


I rambled on at the fingertips. You might wish to pour yourself a cuppa caffeine. This turned into a five part series detailing how to find your inexpensive live aboard boat. All five articles are combined on this page:

Finding  Your Boat Series

For those that prefer smaller posts or who have a spotty internet connection, here are the five articles from the series.

  1. Finding Your Boat (part 1)

  2. Finding Your Boat (part 2)

  3. Finding Your Boat (part 3)

  4. Finding Your Boat (part 4) ←you are here

  5. Finding Your Boat (part 5)

When looking for your budget dream boat, the usual methods have been discussed. They include shopping on YachtWorld, via Craigslist posts, eBay auctions and those advertised in Boat Trader magazines. Those methods, while effective "miss the boat" (pun intended) quite often. The least expensive boats are usually not officially listed anyplace. Here's how to find them.

In the previous article I suggested you make a list of all boatyards, marinas and boat storage facilities within three or four hours of your home. Visiting those places will net you an education in and of itself. Look particularly for boats with For Sale by Owner signs.

Ideally, what you want is a boat with a faded For Sale sign. Know that psychologically, a For Sale sign indicates the owners have already decided to part with the boat. It is a cry for help. They want someone to come along and buy their boat. That is where you can help.

You are the solution! Seek those boats
that no longer please their owners.


Folks buy boats thinking they will use the vessel all the time, then life happens and the boat sits. It is costing the owner a fee each month for dockage. All too often owners will look up five or ten years later and realize they've not been aboard. The boat has cost them more in storage fees than it did to purchase.


Your job is to ascertain if the boat is worth anything. Provided she is structurally sound, you need to know or learn the following:

  • Does the deck squish when you walk or is it soft in places?

  • Is there anything costly that must be done immediately?

  • Are the fuel tanks black iron and oozing?

  • Is the motor seized and in need of replacement?

  • Will an outboard push her through the water okay or must you opt for an expensive inboard motor?


Call the numbers on those signs. Leave a message with your phone number. Also, take a page out of your notepad and tape it to the sign providing your contact information and write that you are interested in purchasing the boat. You might want to bring some Ziploc baggies to put your note inside if your area is subject to the thunder-boomers we get around here.

Contacting the owners of neglected vessels sometimes will elicit offers for you to take the boat off their hands for free. Not always mind you, but it does happen.

Before accepting a Free Boat, make sure you have her surveyed. Even free, some boats are not worth owning. The Survey a Free Boat article speaks to that issue. Be aware.




Have you found a possibility not displaying a For Sale sign?



If you see no For Sale sign but recognize what appears to be an abandoned boat, here is the next step:

  • Stop by the manager's office at the facility. Ask him if the boat you are interested in is for sale. Try to get contact information on the boat owner. If that is not possible, leave your name and number to be passed along to the vessel's owner.

  • Tell the dockmaster you are actively seeking to buy a live-aboard vessel for when you retire in a couple years. You want it now so you can start fixing it up. Ask if any slips have boat owners who might be willing to sell.

    The dockmaster may point you to boats that are possibilities. Follow up, even if you think the cost will be beyond your budget. You might be surprised by the asking price. If you are willing and the boat suits, you could manage to get a sweet deal.

  • Harbormasters often know who owns what. They are a good source of contact information for boats you are interested in buying.

  • At boatyards, wander around. Do-It-Yourself boatyards are the best for this. They are filled with folks who are attempting to make their vessel into a better boat. Fellow boaters may know of boats whose owners have given up and left.

  • The manager of the boatyard will have title to a few of the abandoned boats too, or he will be able to get the title. Ask if he has any suitable for a life afloat.

    If so, and even if not, leave your name and phone number on boats that interest you.

  • Check at storage facilities too. The manager there will know what boats in storage are behind in their monthly fees. Those gals and guys (the managers) know what is what. Schmooze them, and leave in the office your name and number in case they hear of a boat that might suit you.


The idea is to get yourself at least a bit known to those who have their finger on the pulse of boats that are available. They have more sources and will hear more sooner than you ever will. Make a good impression and you will hear about these boats before the general public.


As always, continue to check YachtWorld, Craigslist and eBay, plus look for For Sale signs wherever you travel. Someone might have a decent boat in their side yard, just waiting for an offer. Try to ascertain why the boat is for sale too. Then tailor your offer to meet those needs.

If the owners are overwhelmed by bills and the marina dockage or storage facilities fees are just one more thing, you will be able to alleviate same and they might even give you the boat. Make sure you get a clear title. You do not want any unpleasant surprises later.

Were I boat shopping today in addition to the big three, plus the local Boat Trader rags found in convenience stores I would be driving a circuit around my home. The goal would be to take a year and find The One. At first look at the expeditions as an education. Any boat you find, especially one that is free, have surveyed.


To reiterate, the Survey a Free Boat article offers a note of caution. Read it. Twice!

Before you spend the perfectly good money for a survey, take a lot of photographs. Study them in full size for all the details your eyes missed on the first visit. Are the fuel tanks leaking? Is there damage inside to the woodwork where water intrusion has occurred near window frames?

Any boat stored under cover might be a-okay and dandy. It also might be a damp tub that leaks like a sieve inside when it is raining outside.

Your goal in this stage is to go out and see boats. Get the lay of the land. Be prepared to see a lot of dregs before you find that diamond in the rough. Depending upon how rough and your talents at rehab, you may find a boat that is just right for less than you imagined.

Sea Hag Marina is a busy place on the 4th of July.

Visualize yourself living afloat at a marina initially. You'll need the base of being able to step ashore, especially in the early stages. I cannot tell you how nice it is to be able to run into a hardware store when I need some terminal rings or butt connectors in the midst of a wiring project. The convenience of having a store nearby cannot be overstated.

A friend of mine, Tom, lives on the east coast. He was given a Bristol 24 by Joe, another friend of mine. Tom wanted a boat for day sailing with his family. Joe and his wife Suzanne had a spare boat they were paying storage on in Atlanta. Now both families are pleased.

Getting the word out that you want a boat is a good thing.


Total honesty regarding living aboard is initially unwise in my view. Too many don't understand the world of boating, thinking you either must be a millionaire or are destined to become a boat bum. There are plenty of us in the middle, and we're having a wonderful time.

If a boat interests you write out a note, leaving your name with the owner. A couple days later again visit the boat for a more thorough look-see. Bring a friend who does not love the boat, with a set of skeptical eyes.


Find out from the owner how much he is asking for the boat.
Do not name your price initially. The first to speak loses. Always.

You have no doubt bought items subject to negotiation before, so go for it. The worst that can happen is you not get this particular boat. And frankly, you have lived a long time without this boat. There are others out there. Your search ought to come up with a few that meet your needs.

Price, quality, gear, and where she is all will influence your
 decision. Let a good surveyor guide you. And good luck!


Just remember: no boat is perfect.

It does not matter if you have spent one million or two thousand dollars. Something will be wrong that needs fixing, replacement or changing. The longer you have your boat, the finer she will become. Make her better than she was, and definitely make her yours.

The view is the same rather you're on a $5,000 boat or a million dollar yacht. They have ice though. We will not, at least not at purchase. With the addition of a $70 Haier cube refrigerator while staying at a marina we can have cold beverages.

This is not a bad life, and in the meantime, save your
 pennies for those upgrades you are sure to want.


The final part will be posted in a couple days. In the meantime, gas up the automobile and wander your region. Look for old and faded For Sale signs. If you see a boat that has possibilities parked in the back yard of a house, leave your name and number on the door of the residence.

You will never know if a boat is available unless you ask. Asking costs you nothing.

Have I missed any spots you'd find a boat for sale?
And, where did you find the boat you bought?

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