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AKsteve 01-10-2010 11:14 PM

I'm just a poor boy. Is this just fantasy? please advise.
Hello everybody, greetings from Fairbanks, Alaska. My dilemma is this: I am enthralled by the sea, sailing and s.c.u.b.a. specifically, but I live in the interior of Alaska, quite a contradiction I know. Now that my college career is finished my goal is to buy a 30'+ sailboat good for coastal cruising, I don't need or expect anything fancy- just a sound hull, well maintained rigging, and a reliable diesel. For the past four years i've been living in a small cabin in the woods with no running water (anyone ever use an outhouse when it's -40 degrees Fahrenheit?- not fun.) so in some respects living aboard a boat would be an upgrade to my living standards e.g. working head, shower, sink.
I have a relatively small amount of money saved ($15,000), I know in the boat market this is an insubstantial amount of money. I have been casually shopping for boats online and there seems to be quite a few old boats that meet my basic requirements for under $15,000 dollars.

Here is my question to you, the sailnet community, do I take my money, go walk the docks and buy a 30 year old boat that will undoubtedly need to have work put into it (which wouldn't surprise or discourage me) and start my adventure OR do I continue to work and save in the traditional manner until I can afford a newer/bigger/better boat? Is it reasonable to expect a 30' boat for under $15,000 to be sailable? Any advice, suggestions, or slaps in the face to bring be back to reality would be greatly appreciated! Thanks for reading! -Steve A. in AK

Faster 01-10-2010 11:46 PM

You will be able to find a boat that fits your requirements if you're prepared to do a little work (most likely) and prepared to live with all that goes with buying a relatively old boat. Also I'm assuming you're not planning to sail to Australia anytime soon. If you're lucky you'll find one that has not been neglected and has primarily cosmetic issues. The fact that it sounds like you won't be really needing all the "bells and whistles" right off will help.

Whether you can find the boat you want in your Northern area I couldn't say, but certainly walking some docks will tell you that soon enough.

Here's a link to a Yachtworld search for 28-30 footers up to $13K (to leave you some spending money) here in the PNW.

(Sail) Boats For Sale

But you'll need to shop carefully with eyes wide open, be sure to get any boat you like properly surveyed before handing over any serious money.

deniseO30 01-10-2010 11:55 PM

You may want to first find out if you like sailing... the dream is often way better then the reality. I'd suggest you get friendly and offer to crew on some boats that are sailed by owners on a regular basis too.

AKsteve 01-11-2010 12:17 AM

Denise- I absolutely love sailing! I learned on Lasers and Hobie cats off of Catalina when I was a teen and it's been my dream to own a larger boat ever since. I attended a commercial diving school in Wilmington, Ca and lived on a cal 25, that I purchased cheaply, for about 18 months. Moved to Fairbanks to attend the university here, ready to get out of the arctic!

AKsteve 01-11-2010 12:22 AM

Faster- The searches i've done online have resulted in only a handful of sailboats in Alaska. I assumed I would have to travel to a coastal city in the lower 48 to do any serious shopping. I haven't narrowed my search by location, just price. I'm not sure what else I should be looking for in a boat as far as displacement, keel depth, sail area...? to safely cruise the coasts of the Americas.

tager 01-11-2010 02:40 AM

It depends which coasts, some are friendlier than others. You will get the most for your money either in Florida, or in the Northeast. The boats are more expensive on the West coast. If you are really serious about leaving it all behind, it would be cheapest to go to Florida. I would recommend looking for something less than 30 feet, or at least extremely simple if it is 30 feet. The cost to maintain a 30 footer is much more than the cost to maintain even a 27 footer. If you have a smaller, more manageable boat, it will be a well equipped pleasure, rather than a sparsely equipped monster.

It will be slower, and you will have less space. If speed and space are your things, consider motorboats.

bljones 01-11-2010 06:50 AM

He's just a poor boy, from a poor family...

So do both- look for the right boat, and save.
But spend some money first and go back to school. Buy Don Casey's book "This Old Boat" at a bare minimum, and read at least the first three chapters. Spend some time and read the "boast buying tips" thread here. Do this, and you will have completed boat-buying 101.

You will be able to save a little more cash, because it will take you a couple of months to find the BEST boat you can for the budget you have. Put quality first,and worry about length second. $15 000 will buy you a decent older 27-30' boat, so keep walking the docks, checking the web, and put up some wanted signs and a wanted ad on craigslist, and spend the next few months looking. I personally like taking the proactive approach by placing "wanted" ads everywhere. Instead of looking at boats that may or may not have been on the market for months and years, wasting your time following up on some broker's overly optimistic description of an unsaleable project, you often get calls from people who have no actively listed their boats yet, which allows you to set the price, often saving you some decent $$$.

bloodhunter 01-11-2010 06:52 AM

Concur with tager that the east coast is the place where you'll find the best buys. Not only Florida but New England and the Chesapeake also have lots of boats available.
What you have in hand should be enough to get a boat that meets your requirements with enough left for enhancements and repairs so long as you do most of the work yourself.
My suggestion to you is after you've done enough looking through the ads for used boats to haver an idea of what you might be interested in, go on line and find any associations for these boats and any blog by people who've purchased/restored/sailed them. Suspect you'll find a lot of that kind of info right here on SailNet. Those should give you a good idea of what you might be getting into and what you might want to avoid before you start looking.
Finally, I don't think you should wait until you've saved enough for a bigger/newer boat. Go for your dream now cause fact is you'll never have 'enough'.

canadianseamonkey 01-11-2010 06:59 AM

Also remember...newer doesn't mean better. The fiberglass on many new boats is paper thin....scares the hell out of me. Plenty of Catalina 30's out there for less than what you want to pay. Just find a boat that you are happy with.

Good luck.

Jeff_H 01-11-2010 08:15 AM

There are a lot of good boats out there in your price range but I would think that it would be next to impossible to live year round on a small sailboat in Alaska. I can't imagine that you can store a boat in the water in winter in Alaska and so many of the important life supporting systems will not operate. But more to the point, even a log cabin has more insulation value than a fiberglass boat, making whatever heat source that you have go much further in terms of making life liveable. Small boats without cored hulls have almost no insulation value at all, and so are very hard to keep comfortable.

The one thing that I will say in response to Candianseamonkey's comment is that old certainly does not mean better. In my experience, newer boats are way better built than the boats of yore, and frankly are sturdier (and less paper thin) than many, if not most of the production boats of the 1970's and early 1980's.

For example, CSM's example of the Catalina 30, there are few modern boats (say 20 or so years old) that were more paper thin and poorly put together than the older Catalina 30's. The oil canning of the hull can be heard with almost every wave, and over time fiberglass is greatly weakened by fatigue that come with that kind of repetative flexure.

In the past 20 or so years, hull structural engineering, construction techniques, and the general build quality of the systems have come a very long way. In this modern period, there has been an increased awareness of the need for developing and adhering to safe construction standards, standard which did not even exist before the mid-1980's.

There is a misconception that earlier boats were heavier and better built. The studies and my direct experience actually working on these older designs says that this simply is not the case.



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