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  Topic Review (Newest First)
07-10-2006 07:22 AM
Originally Posted by Edo Kazumichi
Another question. Glass can be easily repaired but what about being holed? Certainly steel is better protection against that. What about those uncharted rocks and submerged cargo containers? Then again, do we really travel at speeds high enough that a collision with these things would sent us to the bottom?

On the question of speed, the total weight would not slow us down since it is drag, not mass, that we are working against. And drag is just a function of wetted surface area. If my Newtonian mechanics is correct the only thing that will suffer from weight is acceleration.
Kevlar or spectra reinforced laminates are exceptionally difficult to if holing is a big concern of yours, have several layers of kevlar added to the boat's skin. A thick solid laminate hull is remarkably difficult to hole from impact. Abrasion is a different story and steel hulls are far more abrasion resistant.

Also, some steels are poorly made and can have structural defects, like the ones used on the Titanic, and fail catastrophically under impact, shattering instead of bending... This is exceptionally rare now-a-days, but might be an issue in a four-decade old boat.

Corrosion is a far bigger issue than collision as a general rule. It is ongoing and ever present, and a much bigger issue with a steel hull than a GRP one.

Uncharted rocks aren't that much of a problem on the open ocean, as the ocean is far deeper and wider than your boat... it is only near shore that it is a problem, and that can be handled for the most part by keeping an appropriate watch.

Keeping a proper watch will also help avoid semi-submerged shipping containers, which are not as big a hazard as many make them out to be. Consider this... Most containers have to be knocked off of a ship's deck before hitting the water. The height of the deck is often eighty or more feet from the water. The chance of the container landing in the water with out any damage is relatively small. Once holed, the containers will tend to sink, as most goods either absorb water or are denser than water.

Even a low-speed collision has the potential to send your boat to the bottom. IMHO, you're better off in a boat that is easier to maneuver and has less inertia working against you. Generally, the boats that are easier to maneuver and have less total mass, are also a bit faster in design. YMMV. What good is seeing the shipping container, if your boat is unable to dodge it?

The total mass of the boat does work against you. The inertia of the boat and the drag caused by the hull both have to be overcome before the boat can be accelerated. A heavy steel boat, like the one you're describing, has enough mass that in the light winds that are very common, you'd be very lucky to get moving at 3 knots. The boat is also limited by hull speed, which in the case of a 36' boat is only about nine knots, and with a boat that heavy, you'll be lucky make five.

Unlike what most people think, light air is far more common than heavy air on the open ocean. Most of the bluewater sailors I know tell me the most important thing for good passagemaking ability is good light air performanceóeither by getting the right light air sails or by boat design.

There are a few places that I would probably rather sail in a metal ship, rather than a GRP one. The extreme latitudes, where ice and icebergs are common is probably the only one I can think of. The coast lines in these areas also tends to be far more rocky than in more temperate climes. The colder water is less of a problem with respect to corrosion as well.

Just my $.02 worth.
07-09-2006 11:15 PM
Edo Kazumichi Jeff,

Yes, at the end of the day this boat is 36 years old. I suppose I just have to face this bargain-busting fact.

Another question. Glass can be easily repaired but what about being holed? Certainly steel is better protection against that. What about those uncharted rocks and submerged cargo containers? Then again, do we really travel at speeds high enough that a collision with these things would sent us to the bottom?

On the question of speed, the total weight would not slow us down since it is drag, not mass, that we are working against. And drag is just a function of wetted surface area. If my Newtonian mechanics is correct the only thing that will suffer from weight is acceleration.

As always, thanks for your enormous help.
07-03-2006 12:56 PM
dawndreamer As has been said, the value depends almost entirely on the individual boat. We bought a 1973 Dutch-built 14 metre steel cruiser in France for FF450,000 (about CA$90,000 at the time) and enjoyed six years of exploring. We sold her in France this spring for 80,000 Euros (about CA$112,000), quashing the theory that you always loose money on a boat.
07-03-2006 11:03 AM
Jeff_H I am not familiar with pricing for steel boats in Southeast Asia, and of course I have no idea what the boat looks like, but from the the way you describe her, here in the US she would probably be worth something down around $20K or less even, which is only because of the newish engine.

I would suggest that you ask a series of questions to refine your evaluation such as:
  • How long has the current owner had the boat?
  • Have they ever completely or partially replated the bottom?
  • What do they know about the prior owners of the boat and their maintenance?
  • Are there drawings that show the design of the missing mizzen mast and boom?
When I look at your goals, 'Bullet proof', and 'take me safely around the world at take me safely around the world at something over 5 knots take me safely around the world at something over 5 knots I would not say that this is the way to go. There is a lot to making a boat bullet proof. Because of electrolysis issues, bad wiring on a steel boat is way more serious than on a glass boat. It sounds like the boat probably has wooden spars. There is nothing bulletproof about 35 year old wooden spars.

Then there is the whole 'hitting a rock and repair anywhere' thing. When you talk about most yacht built steel boats from the 1960's they were not the most robust. Plating tended to be comparatively light and the boat has lived through 30 plus years of fatigue and corrosion. I doubt that you have any more resistance to a grounding than a comparatively robustly built glass boat.

While a skilled welder might be able to repair a steel hull anywhere, even the moderately skilled can make a simple repair in glass or glass and wood with materials easily carried aboard.

Then there is your goal to sail around the world at over 5 knots. That is pretty unlikely for a 34 foot boat with a full keel weighing 26,000 lbs (closer to 30,000 lbs if these are long tons as typically used in yacht design). I would expect that a more realistic average would be closer to 3- 3 1/2 knots. A 100 mile day would be a rarity for a boat like you are describing and would certainly no where near an expected average, even if you spent a larger than average portion of time motoring.

07-03-2006 10:28 AM
What is the Boat Worth to you?

I could go on regarding this topic for quite some time and could probably conduct a seminar. In brief, my advise to you is to make an offer based on the values of the boat to you.

Sure, review published values, compare similar vessels and so forth. When it is all said and done, the boat has to mean something to you in terms of value.
07-03-2006 07:56 AM
Edo Kazumichi Jeff H,

As always you've gone above and beyond the call of duty. Thanks very much.

To answer your questions she's 36 feet long with a beam of 9 feet 6 inches, weighs 13 ton and has a full keel and what looks to me as rather low freeboard. To my untrained eye the hull looks to be both well-constructed and very well taken care of. I don't know about replating but she was sandblasted in '02. Finish is mahagony and though not gold-plated it's not working-boat either. She has a 900-hour Nissan deisel and some good electronics but rather amateurish wiring. She also comes with a load of long-distance gear - huge tanks, a workshop, piles of spares, life raft, EPRB, two dinghies, two outboards, etc. The mizzen mast and both booms were removed in a storm. (Wouldn't this be indicative of poorly maintained rigging?). At the moment she's lying in Southeast Asia and they're asking $40,000.

I'm not looking for anything fancy. I just want a bulletproof boat that can be repaired anywhere if I happen to bang a rock and that will take me safely around the world at something over 5 knots without costing me an arm and a leg.
07-03-2006 12:16 AM
sailingdog Also, never use a surveyor that is recommended by the seller, the seller's broker or the marina where the boat is... they may not have your best interests at heart....and an independent advocate for you, the buyer is what you are looking for.
07-02-2006 04:21 PM
jr438234606 If the boat is for sale through a broker, find yourself a buyer's broker agent to represent your interest. Never go through the seller's broker. It won't cost you anything since your agent will be paid by splitting the selling broker's commission. A competent broker has access to on-line resources showing sales of comparable vessels. (Something the general public does not have access to.) They should be able to give you an accurate valuation. Then, if you move into the purchase contract phase, be sure to have it be contingent upon a survey that is satisfactory to you. (Personally, I wouldn't buy a steel boat.) A surveyor can give you an even more accurate appraisal. If you don't like the way it goes in the survey phase, just walk away!
07-02-2006 02:37 PM
Jeff_H Part two :
Design Obsolescence:
This is a very subjective topic but in a general sense, the golden age of steel construction (meaning that the largest volume of steel yachts were built in 1950ís through the late 1970ís) was a period, which was not one of the best for yacht design. Many of these boats were designed to boat styles with short waterline, low ballast ratios and massive wetted surface. These boats have little value as sailboats except as museum pieces or coastal cruisers. Others were built as serious traditionally styled offshore cruisers, and if that is what you are seeking then these boats are not hurt by their design style and all other factors being equal they are worth about the same as glass heavy duty cruisers of that same build quality, size and era.

Then there are the positively freaky out there. Some are good boats for some specific purpose and other are just plain poor ideas for any purpose. But either way, these unusual boats demand inherently smaller prices because even if this boat fits your needs, it will be harder to find someone who wants the same thing that you want.

Size comes into play here as well. A serious hull weight penalty is paid in boats under 45 or so feet in length. This weight penalty usually results in some combination of reduced carrying capacity, motion comfort, stability, fuel efficiency, and performance. Smaller boats therefore take a real hit at resale time as compared to larger boats because their designs are seen as being a real compromise.
What you just about wonít find are well-conceived, relatively up to date modern cruiser or high performance designs. (Yves Tanton and Dudley Dix have done designs that come closest). If you do these would make great offshore passage makers.

This is the big one. When I was working for Charlie Whittholz, designing steel boats in the early 1980ís, Charlie and I talked about the lifespan of steel boats. In a general sense they were seen as having a lifespan of 25 to 30 years without needing a major rebuild. In those days, worldwide there were quite a few yards that specialized in replating steel boats, so the idea of replating a boat was not seen as a big deal. But even in the early 1980ís these yards, were becoming increasingly rare and quite expensive. And it is not a matter of whether a steel boat will need to be replated, but when.
Much of the problem with steel construction is that there really is no good way to protect the steel permanently. While some of the newer steels and coatings greatly extend the life of the boat, by the very nature of typical steel construction there are places that simply cannot be protected. One such example is the area between the frames and the hull, especially on longitudinal framing, where water gets trapped and rust begins quite readily and over time can become a critically weakened condition.

When you talk about maintenance on an older steel boat, it therefore goes beyond the usual types of routine repairs and maintenance found on any boat that age. Just like you can expect a 20 plus year old boat to have had its engine replaced or rebuilt, or its standing rigging reaching a point of needing replacement, you should expect that a 20 year old plus steel boat will be nearing a point where the plating has been or needs to be replaced or at least partially replaced. Good long-term maintenance would have included periodic inspection and minor repairs to the coating systems, periodic detailed surveys and replacement of any bad plating or frames. This may also include some destructive testing around frames.

A 10 year old or more steel boat that has never had replating is worth considerably less than a newer steel boat (all other factors being equal perhaps a third to half the price of a glass boat of that era). An older steel boat that has had partial replating or even been replated is worth a bit more (all other factors being equal perhaps half to 2/3 the price of an equal quality glass boat)
Lastly, this is a highly subjective point, but there are portions of the world where steel boats are more widely accepted and places where they are seen as a white elephant. It seems as if they are much more popular in the North American Northwest, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia and much less popular in the rest of the US and Europe. (They used to be very popular in Europe and there were a bunch of top-notch yards building routinely in steel) As a result, the same boat on the US east coast might sell for a small fraction of what it would sell for else where in the world.
07-02-2006 02:36 PM
Jeff_H This will be posted in two parts because of the word limit:

You haven't said how long the boat is, its build quality, where you are living or what condition. These are the main factors in determining the value of a steel boat. Steel boats vary in fair market value far more widely than glass boats. Partially because glass boats are comparatively closer to a commodity item, where as steel boats with any age on them, are pretty much one of a kind.
Steel boats that were built in Europe during the 1970ís tended to be normal steel. typically red lead oxide primed and painted on the interior. 30-year-old steel boats built that way have very little value unless they have been replated and coated with a more modern sealing system. There is no good way to recoat one of these old boats because you canít get behind the framing where the rust is typically located. I would expect a boat like this to have very little fair market value compared to a similar initial quality, similarly maintained, similar design glass boat of that era (perhaps 20-30%of the value of the glass boat). I would also expect it to need extensive work perhaps equaling several times the fair market value of the boat, unless you are able to do the work yourself within a short period of time.

The following is part of a series of articles that I had written for another venue, but which might prove helpful to you:


It is never easy to set a fair market price for an older limited production boat. This makes evaluating a fair market value for most steel boats especially difficult since most were built on a one off or semi-custom basis. Adding to the problem is the bad reputation that steel has gotten from poorly constructed home built boats. If I had to work my way through determining a value for a older steel yacht, I would rate the boat each of 5 categories; 1) Original Build quality, 2) Finish, 3) Design obsolescence, 4) Maintenance, and 5) Location, and then sort of multiply the ratings out.

Original build quality:
Steel boats vary very widely in price because the boats themselves began life varying very widely in build quality, in terms of materials used, building technique, and quality of construction. There are wild differences behavior of the various steels and coating systems used and consequently in fair market value. The variations can impact on the strength and rust resistance of steel. On an older boat, mild steel pretty much reduces the value of the boat to its salvage value whereas if the boat was built using some of the more exotic steels and coatings, the boat can be worth as much as, or even slightly more than a similar sized glass boat.

Whether the boat is round chine and fair vs. hard chine also compromises it value. Independent of all other rating factors, a radiused hull steel boat can worth as much as a glass boat of equal age and size. A hard chine or folded hull can be worth as little as half as much mostly because of perceived aesthetic and sailing ability issues.

There are also wild differences in value based on the build quality. By this I am not talking about the finishes but more about the quality of the welds and connections, fairness, and other aspects of workmanship. I have been in the bilges of steel boats that were work of art and steel boats that were simply scary. A well built steel boat adds nothing to the score but a poorly built one reduces the boat to the negative cost to cut it up and haul it to the junk yard because in effect you will eventually need to build a new boat that is essentially a replica of the old boat.

This is a very subjective area. To begin with, just like most boat building materials steel boats have been built with beautifully finished yacht levels of finish, with purposeful workboat levels of finish, and with cobbled homebuilt levels of finish. A good case can be made for each of the first two, but the third should be walked away from because a truly crudely built steel boat can have life threatening problems such as bad wiring resulting in sudden massive electrolysis.

In my life I have been aboard 1950-60ís era Dutch build steel boats that were extremely elegantly finished with levels of fit and finish that were fully on a par with and perhaps even nicer than Hinckleys of that same era. But steel boat interiors (or wooden boats for that matter) have a special challenge. On a steel boat it is important to be able to get to the interior of the hull periodically and so no matter how beautifully it is finished it needs to be removable for long-term maintenance. On an older boat, if the interior is not removable, a yacht level interior can be a liability and not an asset, because not only do you have to remove and dispose of the existing interior but also on a yacht finished boat, the next buyer expects a replacement with similar yacht level of finish to the original.

Yacht finished steel boats are substantially more expensive to maintain than either fiberglass or workboat finish level boats. In a marine industry study of life costs as they pertain to various materials, steel was the most expensive material to maintain over long period of time (even more expensive that wood for example). Some of this reflects the need to replate and possibly reframe at some point, but it may also be skewed by the sheer cost to maintain a yacht finished steel yacht, which require being periodically refaired and refinished with high tech finishes to maintain that yacht finish.
As a result many steel yachts purposely receive workboat finishes. There is nothing inherently wrong with a workboat finish. They are inexpensive to build and inexpensive to maintain. Workboat finish does not mean poorly built, with cheesy levels of fit and finish. Instead, workboat finishes are simply detailed, low gloss, using solid but basic materials. Maintenance is much easier because a small repair does not result in a major repainting and refairing job, and their low gloss finishes can mask a whole range of minor defects.

But while a workboat finish is perfectly respectable and offers real advantages for distance cruising, they are generally of less inherent resale value than similar sized, aged and condition, yacht finished fiberglass or steel boats. They typically sell for prices 1/3 to 50% less than the value of a yacht level boat.
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