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Old 07-24-2001
BigZ BigZ is offline
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Buying a sailboat

You don''t mention the size of the boat you are considering or where you are. But since it is your first purchase, I''ll assume a boat in the mid to high 20-foot range, non-trailerable. This seems to be popular size for first timers. The costs I toss out here are based on my experience with a 26-foot boat on fresh water and should not be taken for gospel.

In boat ownership there are small costs and there are big costs. The small costs are those items that cost about a hundred bucks or less and will last several years. This includes items like flares, life vests, dock lines, running rigging, and misc. clothing. I know that some people will say that these items can cost thousands of dollars, and, depending upon your budget, they can; but most people get by with the lower cost items. So concentrate on the big costs.

The big costs are dockage/mooring; winter storage (if applicable); sails; standing rigging; and the X factor.

Dockage and winter storage will vary greatly depending upon where you sail. Check with your local marinas to get some prices. I pay $1600 for summer dockage and about $700 for winter. I know I can find dockage for about a third of that price or even less, but that area requires about a half-hour motoring to the sailing area and can be very congested during weekends. Where I am now I can park my car next to my boat, light a cigarette, cast off the dock lines, and haul the sails up as the butt is thrown. For me the extra cost is worth it. Someone more frugal might opt for the half-hour of motoring, but that is a personal choice. You might have similar conditions where you plan to sail. As I mentioned, check out the local marinas. Also be aware of the area in which the marina or mooring is located. Having a cheap mooring next to a cement plant might be frugal, but is it really someplace you will want to relax after a day of sailing? Other considerations are the distances you travel from your house to the boat and from the boat to clear water. It doesn''t benefit you paying low dockage/moorage fees if the time getting to the good stuff is too long; or if the time getting to the boat will give you second thoughts about going out to the boat in the first place. (Note that there might be sailing clubs in your area that good rates.)

Sails can be a pricey item. A mainsail (assuming dacron) on a mid-20 footer might cost about $600. An overlapping headsail could be approaching $1200. You can get deals and price reductions off-season from some suppliers. The life of a sail depends on the owner and what they expect from the boat. Some sailors will be happy with the same sails after 20 years, even if they are stretched and distorted (the sails, not the sailors). Other sailors will suggest that getting sails every five or six years is applicable. Racers….well their priorities are different. If you are on a tight budget you could probably use the existing sails until they fall apart; but be aware that there is a safety issue in that a newer sail with proper draft will allow you to point to weather better, getting you out of potential danger from a leeward shore. In all cases, newer sails will be better than old sails. You don''t have to buy them every year, but budget accordingly for the future. Having said all that, if you are buying a used boat and the sails have a bit of "crispness" to them they should be ok for a least a few years. If they feel like something you would wash your car with, consider getting new ones.

Standing rigging, on a boat less than 30 ft, should be less than $1000. This is assuming forestay, backstay, two upper and four lower stays. Lifespan will depend upon whether you are in fresh or salt water. A very rough gage is 15 years in salt water and 25 in fresh. There is a lot of difference in opinion in this matter.

The X factor is general boat repair and maintenance. Polishing and waxing is a non-cost item that is usually done by the owner. It''s your time, spend it as you wish. Bottom paint will vary by area but plug in $150 per year of ownership as a rough cost. Repairs to the deck and laminated areas are not difficult to do by a determined owner, but can be very costly if contracted out. (Have a boat surveyed before you buy it.) Regarding motors, the conditions you sail in will dictate whether an inboard or outboard is appropriate. From a maintenance standpoint, the major consideration is the cost of potential repair or replacement. A blown outboard can be replaced for a lot less than a blown inboard. As mentioned above, the potential costs will vary depending upon the owner''s skill and ability.

Anyway, the cost of boat ownership, beyond the actual cost of the boat, can be considerable. But I often see boats with questionable rigging, bagged-out sails, and shoddy topsides being sailed by owners with the biggest grins on their faces.

Have fun,
Chet
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