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Old 12-08-2009
Sparohok Sparohok is offline
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Buying a sailboat -- how to minimize maintenance?

Low-maintenance sailboat seems like an oxymoron right?

When I talk with boat owners and ex-boat-owners the one thing everyone seems to complain about is maintenance. I love sailing but I don't want to spend a weekend per month fixing my boat, nor do I want to spend 10% to 20% of the boat's value every year keeping it in good shape.

Strangely though, I rarely see boat marketing or reviews discussing low maintenance features or design optimized for maintenance cost. Sure it isn't sexy, but as far as what boat owners actually care about and complain about post-sale, it's way up there.

So here's my question... If a low maintenance boat is a high priority, what should I look for, in design, materials, systems, features? Conversely, what should be a red flag for trouble down the line? What sort of things do you spend a lot of time fixing?

I'm looking for the nautical equivalent of a Honda Accord, where it seems like so many boats are more like Triumphs or Alfa Romeos or Pontiacs or Lamborghinis. I'm willing to pay a premium for anything that will keep working hassle free.

Just to get things started here's some of my conclusions so far -- right or wrong (I have never owned a boat which is why I am asking):
1) Watermakers are high maintenance items
2) Saildrive versus shaft drive is equivocal, but easy engine access is a big plus
3) Epoxy is more durable than vinylester which is more durable than polyester.
4) Solid fiberglass below waterline is lower maintenance particularly on older boats than cored fiberglass
5) Teak decks -- or any exterior wood -- is a huge maintenance item
6) Wood cabin soles are high maintenance

What about steering? Wheel versus tiller? Synthetic versus stainless rudder post? It's astonishing to me how often sailboats have catastrophic steering failures. Can't someone engineer this properly?

Rigs - carbon vs. aluminum? Rod vs. cable standing rigging? Furlers? Autopilots? Multihulls? Cat-rigged monohulls?

In case it helps, I'm looking for a performance cruiser in 32' to 38' range for daysailing, coastal cruising, and fun racing. I will consider any make, any vintage, any price range from $50k to $250k. I am eager to sacrifice cosmetics for functionality, not so willing to sacrifice performance for comfort.

Thank you for your feedback!

Martin
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