Join Date: Nov 2009
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Finally bought a boat
My son and I had our first sustained pleasure sail yesterday out of Point Richmond into SF Bay. Wonderful day. Because I have learned so much from this forum and have asked many questions about sailing and about many different boats, I thought that another novice might benefit from my experience. I too began with no experience and a romantic view of sailing and sailboats.
To cut to the chase, I bought a reasonably priced Merit 25 that is trailer stored and crane launched from Brickyard Cove at Point Richmond. It was setup by the prior owner to sail single handed, including a roller furled jib.
The search started with a desire to be around the water. The rationalization to begin boat shopping included the facts that (1) I had a long commute, working from home a couple days each week and wanted to spend more days on site, and (2) housing is very expensive where my job is located. I thought I could buy a sailboat to sleep on a few nights a week and also enjoy on the weekends as I learned to sail. That's right, had never sailed. My boating experience was limited to some " power boating," fishing, and skiing on lakes in the midwest. I had spent much more time in canoes on rivers.
My search began with boats around 30 ft LOA but quickly increased as I thought that I needed more space than they offered. I also greatly appreciated the workmanship and materials of the heavy cruisers (e.g., Passport, Hans Christian, etc.). I even made an offer on a 38' pilothouse. (I wonder where I would be now if it had been accepted?) Anyway, job circumstances became less and less secure over time, and I became more and more reluctant but kept looking. Prospective boats became shorter and less expensive. Each time I was ready to make an offer, there would be more bad financial news for my employer and more cuts and cutbacks. There was clearly no reason to plan to stay for days each week on an "nice boat" as part of a long-range plan.
During this search phase I also completed Basic Keelboat and Basic Cruising at OCSC in Berkeley to determine whether I might actually enjoy sailing and to learn something about how it is done. I do recommend OCSC highly. If you decide to give sailing classes at OCSC a try, it will be challenging but you will learn much and be reasonably confident at the end. The instructors are good but much of the challenge comes from the 20-25 knot winds that are common as you come out of Berkeley Marina on summer afternoons. OCSC uses the J24 for basic instruction. I don't know much about boats, but I did find the J24 to be somewhat uncomfortable and I wanted a traditional cockpit to better enjoy the sailing experience on SF Bay. I also have no desire to compete in a fleet at this point in time.
So, I had a desire to sail and a small amount of training, but I no longer needed the extended stay dock condo sailboat. I also recognized that I did need to learn whether sailing was something that my family and I would enjoy into the foreseeable future. I began to look at smaller boats and to consider membership options. My decision to buy a boat of my own instead of becoming a member with access to boats had more to do with my personal quirks than rational processes. I do enjoy some maintenance, repair and upgrading; and I would be more reluctant to spend money each month on membership or charters than to spend the same amount or more to sail on my own boat. That's just me. I think that a membership with chartering or open use is very likely a smarter plan for a beginner.
I saw some very nice boats in the $20K and under 30' LOA or shorter group and got excellent feedback and direction from members here. Some of the boats that I saw were kept on trailers and the more I thought about it, the more I found that type of storage appealing. It is clearly more of a hassle than stepping on from the dock, but it has other attractions and I might need to move the boat with a someday job change.
In the end, I bought an inexpensive Merit 25 with roller furler and a trailer. It needed some maintenance and a modest amount of repair work, but it had always been trailer sailed and had been reinforced in two areas where some Merits have had problems. Well, the keel wobble is a problem. Reinforcing the front quarter hull is more of a choice I think. These mods had been preventative for this boat, not needed at the time they were done and perhaps never needed. It was setup to single hand and I thought that would be useful because my crew had even less experience and I might single hand on a regular basis. Even though the route to purchase has taken years, it was something of an impulse buy in the end. Go figure.
Yesterday was the first sail of a few hours on the boat and all went very well. We had had a shack-down sail the week before and discovered a few problems that shortened the sailing time. Over the next months or years the plan is to get on the water on a regular basis, to increase passengers, and to sail further distances and with stronger winds as we are comfortable doing so. No hurry. I think that we will know in a year or so whether sailing will be a sustained activity for us and, if so, what type of sailing we would probably most enjoy.
If I could offer a word of advice to the boating world, it would be to create a novice captain flag that means "Student Driver." Until a flag is available, I will continue to leave the bumpers hanging. I assume that it communicates about the same message.
Thanks for the help along the way.