Re: Sailboat ready to cruise?
It also depends on what your definition of "cruising" is. In my searching, I met a couple who had lived aboard and cruised a boat north out of Florida all the way to the Chesapeake. They thoroughly enjoyed the boat and the cruising they had done, but in the process, they really wrecked the boat. There was no way that I would let my kids, or even my wife, aboard that boat. And it's a shame, because that make and model would have been perfect for us, but not that boat. Yet there they were, "cruising." Obviously, we weren't using the same dictionary.
Regarding the work you see being done, remember that some of them do as Mike and others have suggested and buy the boat based on the hull, standing rigging, etc., because they want to refit the boat to meet their wants and needs. I've seen blogs where they literally stripped everything out of the boat (including bulkheads, cabinets, etc.) and completely remade it. The beefed up the tabbing, added raceways for all the cabling, refitted all the hatches and ports, etc., and even changed the floorplan to meet their needs. What they got, in the end, was a semi-custom boat for much less than they would have paid to have one made from scratch.
As far as your specific situation, remember that, at your budget, you're buying a 30-ish year old boat. Back in the early 1980's, the power requirements onboard were pretty straightforward. You needed to start the engine, run the AM/FM radio and VHF, maybe a Loran, and the cabin lights. The power cables that run through most boats of that vintage are smaller because they just didn't need to handle much current. Today's boaters, by contrast, want to run laptops and iPads, watch movies on big-screen TV's with surround sound, run the microwave, refrigerator, dehumidifier, etc. To do that safely, unless the PO did it, you wind up having to gut at least some of the old wiring and run new. And, even where the PO did it, it doesn't mean it was done properly. For example, on my boat the PO ran some new electrical wiring using what appears to be non-marine wiring. Sure, when the PO ran it, I'm sure he knew what that meant as far as longevity for the wiring, but he didn't care because the cost was much lower and he would just do it again with non-marine when the time comes. Now I own the boat, and the time has come.
So, are there turn-key boats? Yes. Are they easy to find, especially in your price range? No. If you're persistent, though, you may find one, just like Tim did. One way to do this is to have a Craigslist ad asking for boats that meet your criteria. Like Tim, you may find someone who is thinking of selling, but wasn't necessarily really ready.
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