Whether your destination is a far-flung anchorage or merely a family outing, no matter how hard and long you have looked, signing for the boat of your dreams is the easy part. There are some hard economic truths in running costs to face before you slip the docklines. The maze of financing, insurance, state and other local taxes must also be completed before you head off for your destination.
Start Up Costs: A haul out and survey can dispel much of the mystery associated with running costs. A survey can cover the engine or the entire boat. Surveys can be done either on the hard, in the water, or both. The out of the water survey takes into account the condition of rudders, skeg, keel and hull. A typical price is approximately $10/ft. An in the water survey is around $8 per foot. Some insurance companies require only an in the water survey while others mandate an out of the water survey, so check with your underwriter before hand.
Most yards have quick survey haul-outs that leave the boat in the travel lift slings, a cheaper alternative to blocking the boat up on stands. $4 per foot to haul, block the boat and put the boat back into the water is a representative rate for boats under 50 feet. For boats over 50 feet, the rate may increase to $6 per foot. However, if the survey indicates hull repairs are needed, there is the question of what to do next as well as who will pay. Some yards allow do-it-yourselfers, while others haul only on the basis that they do the work. A lay day can cost $25 per day and labor can run $55 an hour.
The potential buyer has another dilemma to face: whether to try to wrangle repair figures into a reduced final price of the boat versus a sold as-is, non-flexing price. Depending on the costs and the seller's demeanor, there is always the third choice of rejecting the boat. Having both clear negotiations with the seller and familiarity with the yard's policies are crucial. Repairs should be stated in writing with estimates and contact information included in case the work exceeds those figures. Little is worse than watching the sailing season slip by due to a protracted argument over yard bills.
Saying the survey goes well, or that a price is agreed on for repairs, the buyer still faces state taxes which can range from zero on up to checkbook munching proportions. 10% tax on $100,000 is $10,000, a figure likely to cause the most enthusiastic new boat owner to wince. There are additional licensing and title fees at the Department of Motor Vehicles as well. The vessel isn't eligible for current registration stickers without paying state taxes and marine police have a knack for spotting the expired versions. Having the boat U.S. Coast Guard Documented, a requirement for many insurance policies, will set you back anywhere between $500-800, and a new documentation on an old boat could soar over $1,000. Changing the name of a boat, a popular desire for new boat owners, can further complicate the now receipt-strewn paper trail.
Finance programs usually involve both a down payment and monthly payments. There may be application fees and finance points to contend with as well. Loan interest rates fluctuate daily and re-payment plans can span anywhere between 5 and 20 years. A financed boat will be an insured boat, with many finance plans requiring proof of the first year's insurance. So add insurance, which typically runs between 1-1½% of the boat's value to the checklist. If considering extended voyaging, check the fine print in the policy as to where on the globe the insurance policy stops.
Running Costs: Once the deal is done, then there is the question of dockage. Whether downtown or off the beaten path, where you keep the boat has a lot to do with how much the price will be. Your intention to live aboard will also influence the cost. Some marinas have a flat rate for electricity, while others meter it. An $8.80 per foot plus electricity charge can jump to $12.00 per foot for liveaboard status, with additional increases if the boat takes a 50-amp plug. Signing a year lease may be an attractive option, depending on where you'll keep the boat. Throughout the East Coast the annual migration of southbound boats causes prices to inflate with the season. Of course there's always the chance of finding a marina where a $100 a month will cover a 44' boat and include a swimming pool. On the other end of the spectrum $3000 might get you a mooring in some premium watering holes. Location is everything.
With these done you'll be able to find a diver at anywhere between $1.25-1.75 per foot to change your zincs and keep your bottom free of growth. Hopefully he'll be gentle with the scraper: a gallon of good anti-fouling paint costs upwards of $100, with four gallons being a good estimate for a 40' boat. You're now ready to hit the fuel dock for a tank full of diesel. Don't forget to take a look in the fuel tanks as water, contaminants, sediments, and bacteria can all do damage to precision engine parts. If the fuel is contaminated you or some one you employ is in for a messy job.
The maintenance and replacement factor should not be underestimated. New sails breathe life like nothing else into an ailing sail plan, but can rack up substantial economic damage at the sail loft. Likewise, upgrades in electronics and navigation equipment take their toll. There are other wear and tear items of cushions and canvas dodgers that periodically need to be replaced. Finally, on the water experience will eventually include higher profile calamities like anchors that go over the side never to return, exploding spinnakers, lines fouling the prop, and diesel engines that give up the ghost.
No one said sailing was free, though from time to time the wind gives the illusion it is. With your start up costs addressed in your initial idea of which boat is for you, you'll have a better idea of what boat to get and how much it will likely cost. As you motor out for the first time, may the wind be favorable and the sun shining, as by now, you've paid for it.
Use these worksheets to tally anticipated start up and running costs when purchasing a boat, and to get an idea of the many destinations your money is bound for before you can head out to yours.
One Time Costs
Running Costs Worksheet
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