Join Date: Dec 2005
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Re: Is sailboat ownership dying ( or at least sick)
I agree with the poster who said that the type of sailing that is affordable is not being promoted. Even learning to sail has become a very expensive proposition. In my area a basic keelboat class runs $700. If you want to take the whole series of classes you can expect to rack up a bill in the $thousands$.
When we first start sailing there were sailing clubs around where you could go and take a Red Cross basic sailing class on little daysailers (we learned on Lido and Capri 14s) for very little money. In our case with a nominal fee to join the club we also had use of those boats either free or for a very nominal daily fee. It was affordable for most anybody and you really learned how to sail in a boat that was going to quickly deposit your butt in the drink if you didn't do it right. No engines, so we learned to sail them onto and off of the dock, and do everything else under sail. It was a wonderful time and we really learned the nuances of wind and sail.
I'll bet a lot of the older folks out there sailing now learned on Optimists, Sunfish, El Toros, or other sailing dinghys, and they probably had their own boats and the freedom to go out piddling around in it alone and figure it all out. They learned very young what an adventure conquering the wind in your own boat could be. Parents today and in the recent past are reluctant to turn their kids loose alone in their own front yard, let alone in a small boat.
Now people either take the ASAs at considerable cost, learning on keelboats with engines (and probably couldn't conceive of doing it on anything else) or their idea of the way to investigate whether they might like sailing is to go to the BVI and charter with a hired captain to show them what to do. Good grief, no wonder people have come to view it as a rich man's sport and think they need a fortune to get into it.
The financing situation makes it difficult too. Banks will no longer finance a sailboat that is over 20 years old even though there are plenty of boats out there much older than that that are still very fine and capable boats, until they aren't. I am convinced, because we have been in this situation, that if you could finance these older boats there would be a lot less derelicts around. An older 30-35' boat in really good condition is going to cost at least $25K, likely much more if it is well maintained and equipped, but for the average young person coming up with $25K+ is darned near impossible. But coming up with a couple hundred a month for a boat payment would be do-able. So you've got a really nice older (over 20 years) 35' boat and you put it up for sale because you can no longer use it, have health issues, inherited it, whatever the case, and it doesn't sell because no one comes along that has cash for it and it's not eligible for financing. It sits, it deteriorates. The owner has lost interest, or maybe whatever condition is compelling him to sell is also preventing him from using and maintaining the boat. But it can't pass into the hands of someone who could use it because those young people who might want to have that nice old boat as a family boat (because they sure can't afford a new one at $150K+ for the average 30 footer) don't have the funds to pay cash and can't get a loan. The boat is pretty much doomed at that point, and even if it started out in good condition it will become a derelict in short order. If only boat lending was based strictly on boat condition, equipment, and survey value rather than on age....
We were in this situation a couple of times. We had found a couple of 25+ year old solidly built, immaculate, and wonderfully maintained older boats, world cruiser type boats, that passed surveys with flying colors, but could find no one willing to finance them. So, we ended up doing what we always seem to do....finding one that was in such a state of neglect that we could pay cash for it and fixing it up on a "as funds become available" basis.
No doubt at least some of those old boats sat long enough that they became sad victims of neglect instead of the beautiful and functional boats they were when we looked at them, simply because the means and money to buy them were not available to the people who would have put them to good use.
To me those are some of the reasons more young people are not getting into the sport.