5 Ways to Get a Sailboat

5 Ways to Get a Sailboat

With a little lateral thinking, you may be able to
start sailing sooner than you think

Buying a sailboat and getting on the water can look like a pretty formidable exercise, especially if you’re looking at a fairly modern 30 footer with all the bells and whistles. Prices start at around $50,000 for 10 year old boats. And don’t even think of a brand new 30 footer unless you’re willing to part with $150,000 plus, pay serious insurance premiums and drop $15,000 the day you launch it.

In today’s economic environment, over-extending on any consumer item, particularly a boat, is economic madness. In fact, if you have some spare cash and are willing to wait a few months, there will almost certainly be some fairly new sailboats coming on to the market soon at very distressed prices.

So, assuming you’re not about to spend $50K or more, how can you get sailing at a reasonable price? Here are a few ideas.

1. Buy less boat

The simplest solution, and here’s why. Consider this rule of thumb:

“Running costs are proportional to the cube of the waterline length”
For a 25 footer: (25x25x25) = 15625
For a 30 footer: (30x30x30) = 27000
For a 40 footer: (40x40x40) = 64000

So a 30 footer costs nearly twice as much to run as a 25 footer. And a 40 footer costs more than twice as much as a 30 footer.

2. Buy an older boat

There are plenty of good solid sailboats built in the 60’s, and 70’s available on the market for less than $10,000. You can get some good examples for less than $5,000.

I will admit you’re not going to get a bright, shiny sailboat for that money, but if you select carefully, you will get an honest, seaworthy boat that will give you lots of pleasure, and get you home safely.

In this category I would include the classic Catalinas, Pearsons, Cals, Ericsons, O’Days, Cape Dorys, C&Cs, Tartans and any small boat designed by Alden, Alberg, Crealock, Hess, Herreshoff, Perry, Paine or S&S.

You’re probably also going to have to spend some time and a little money to bring the boat up to an acceptable standard, but that’s a good thing. By spending time on the systems of the boat, you’ll become familiar with the way they work and the way the boat’s put together.

All of which will give you confidence and make you a better sailor.

3. Build your boat

I’ve done this. I built a 26ft plywood sailboat many years ago and vowed never to do it again. That said, I did learn a lot of new skills that have been a great help to me over the years.

Skills such as woodworking, ropework (splicing and knotting), rigging, marine electrics, fiberglassing, deck hardware repair and marine plumbing are very useful if you intend to mess around in boats.

These days you can buy a small boat in kit form and build it in a backyard shed if you want to. Many kits come with pre-cut panels, so you need very basic woodwork skills to get started. The downside is that although you can save on the cost of the hull; your mast, hardware and sails will still cost you an arm and a leg if you buy them retail.

One way to solve this is to buy a wrecked boat about the same size from an insurance company and use the mast, rigging and fittings on your own boat.

4. Form a partnership

Form a partnership? I can’t believe I said that.

Whatever you do, don’t enter into a partnership on a sailboat. Partners are individually liable for the whole of a partnership’s debts and the internet is awash with dire stories about sailboat partnerships gone wrong.

If you want to split the cost of buying, maintaining and repairing a sailboat with someone else. get a good attorney to set up a separate entity that owns the boat, and have shares in that entity. Make sure there’s a binding agreement on how the entity is to be funded, how the maintenance is to be undertaken and funded and how, and to whom, a shareholder can transfer their shares before you sign on the dotted line.

And don’t say you weren’t warned.

5. Think laterally

Look in the boat trading magazines and web sites and there are thousands of boats for sale. These boats are all owned by people who don’t want them. And most of them won’t be sold easily.

Many of them won’t be sold at all. They’ll end up sitting in a shed, or on a mooring, unwanted and neglected.

If you’ve got any tradeable skill or saleable goods, you may be able to get hold of one of these boats without spending any money.

Consider this.

Joe A. has a 1975 25ft Catalina that he’s had on the market for a long time. It’s worth about $7000, but he’s had no offers and so the boat sits there tying up his money.

Now if you approached Joe A. maybe you could do a deal with him. Depending on your skills you may be able to barter with Joe for the boat.

You might be able to:

  • renovate his kitchen
  • rewire his house
  • paint his house
  • fix his kids teeth
  • do his taxes for 5 years or more
  • service and repair his car for 3 years
  • give him your second car or pick-up
  • give him the use of your holiday house

or provide some other goods or services for the boat, with a cash adjustment if necessary.

This concept could be extended to a 3 way barter. What if Joe had a brother who wanted a new kitchen?

You get the idea.

It is possible to get on the water without spending a small fortune, you just have to work at it a little bit harder.

And you can always tell your partner that you’ll be saving money on holiday accommodation and travel once you have the boat.

….and maybe you’ll be believed.