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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
There are many old, dilapidated, neglected sailboats out there that can be had for virtually nothing. On the one hand, this is great. It provides an entrée into "yachting" for virtually anyone. I personally think that's exactly how it should be. That helps grow the sport and minimizes the "elitist" reputation it's always had. But, there's obviously a serious downside to this as well.

At some point, that "insanely good deal" sailboat you found becomes a huge millstone around your neck. We've seen threads on how expensive it is to own a boat - with the pushed solution typically being fractional ownership. And we've seen threads of how someone can take a basket case and turn it into a seaworthy beauty. But at what point does that "cheap boat" become a trap that you can't get out of?

Here's a graphic that seems to represent the trap with a rough graph:



As represented by the blue line, when you purchase a boat new, the overall ongoing costs are relatively low. The older the boat gets, the more you have to put into it to keep it top-notch - and the more it depreciates. If you don't put enough into it over time to keep the blue line from plunging to 0, then someone has to come along and haul off your now free boat - and put the money and time into it to make up the difference between the green and blue lines on the right side of the graph.

Now, as indicated by the red line, there's obviously a sweet spot in there. And everyone's sweet spot will be very different depending on how rich or poor or motivated or handy or patient or lucky they are. This is why I think it's an interesting debate; and one that will obviously cause a lot of fights (and that's always good).

So the fundamental question is, understanding the widely accepted idea that you'll always be throwing money at your boat (hole in the water, etc) - at what point does that "great deal" truly become a trap that will break you?

Let me put it more bluntly so we can really get at the nub of this whole debate...when is someone "too poor" to own a "yacht"?

Ready...aim....
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Heh-heh. But I love words with those little thingies hanging over them. And I got two e-s for the price of one. That just makes me thrifty.
 

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ex-Navy
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Not A Yacht

Smack,
First a yacht is a boat of any size owned by a rich person, ergo most of us will never own yachts.
Second your question has two answers.
If a person cannot afford the upkeep on the boat no matter how motivated; when the condition fo the boat starts going downhill and the owner can't afford to reverse the slide then the owner is too poor to own the boat.
Or
If the owner doesn't want to sail anymore and decides not to put any more into the upkeep of the boat, the boat is going to deteriorate and the results will be the same as if the money wasn't there.
I think the latter seems to happen to a lot of owners, thus the boats that sit in their slips or at their mooring from one year to the next without any use.
A number of boats like that in our marina and I suspect in most others

:( :(
 

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AEOLUS II
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Just because I got old tires and a toilet in my front yard don't mean I "too poor" for nothin'!!

You think you're better than me??

Why I oughta...
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
I keep my old tires and toilet on the deck of my yacht. So we're even.

Seriously, the debate raging in DS's thread is really centered on this question. I have no idea what that guy's financial status is - but I started thinking how I could see myself walking away from something that was going to cost me thousands of dollars for very, very little return. Yes, maybe it would be the "respectable" thing to do to put the money in and remove the boat - but if I didn't have the cash to do it - I'd be very tempted to bail...especially if I had already put in a good chunk of money into fixing up the boat. I'm just being honest here.

Right now on my C27 there are thousands of dollars worth of repairs and upgrades I should put in to make the boat "truly seaworthy and safe". I need new keel bolts, the rigging could use some attention, the stanchions and ports need rebedding, the motor is not 100% reliable, etc. Don't get me wrong, the boat is in great shape and I've brought her back from serious neglect to a pretty respectable and comfortable vessel.

But, it's back to the risk/reward thing. I'm taking risks with various things that could seriously bite me. I think we all are.

I just don't have the money to deal with them all - all at once - on an old boat. On the other hand, I'm out sailing. And I ain't dead yet.
 

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My take is that it really, REALLY depends on the person.

For example, my wife has a new mini-van that was bought new and we keep maintained. It cannot fail - she needs it to get around. If something happened to it, we would have it repaired immediately under warranty. I have an older VW that I maintain myself. I learn from it and enjoy working on it and take pride in every thing I've done on it. The tasks I've done on it have gotten gradually more complicated as I've learned the car & I've developed quite a bit of tools.

If my VW died on me I'd hate it, but I could manage without it until I got it fixed again since I work close to home (and have my wife to drive me if needed). That said - I do as much as I can but my skills, tools, and motivation level only goes so far - I wouldn't want to rebuild the engine and/or transmission.

In summary, I think it's a lot easier to handle one or two things that need fixing at a time gradually, than to have to handle pretty much everything on it.

I think many take the same approach to a boat. The hobby isn't just sailing - it's taking care of a sailboat.

I'm always keeping my eye out for a boat that mostly works but needs a bit of love to get it back to prime. My personality lends itself to doing constant repairs - within my means. I would never in a million years try to pull that thing up that's sitting in the Charleston creek. I would, however, take a boat that's got most of it's parts working and fix the ones that aren't.
 

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cruising all I can
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I think your asking a simple question about a very complicated matter. Dedication, commitment,and priority would be the answer.
As I pass my days sailing and searching boatyards and marinas I am fascinated by all the diiferent craft and conditions of the vessels.
When I spend my time in the new england area I make a point to visit the boatyards to see wich boats have activity around them and which do not.
It's been an easy way to find inexpensive boats, to use as well as to re-sell, after a bit of work.
That , is where things begin to get a bit more complex. If ,for example, the most complicated mechanical knowledge and experience you posess is replacing a vaccuum bag, then you would be wise to aviod boats with engine/trans. issues. However, if you've spent all your free time doing wood carving and cabinetry, Then a rotten old wooden boat may not seem like too much of a chalenge to you.
I often take on sail and canvas repair and fabrication jobs. not a big deal as I posess the equipment and have experience using it. when some-one asks me if a particular job is difficult, I say NO. Never considering THEY are asking if it is difficult for THEM not me.
I believe the master of S/V DS merely was outside of his element and overwhelmed when the vessel grounded and faultered. Unable to quickly remedy the problem it has now become a bigger problem. Of course, had money not been an issue, the vessel would'nt be where it is. On the other hand had money not been an issue the situation would most likely not have taken place in the manner it has/did.
Being of considerable means does not gaurantee you vessel will not faulter, only good seamanship and the grace of god can assure that. The bottom of the Ocean is littered with vessels once owned by the wealthy. Many more so than those owned by the poor. It's not a question of economics as much as seamanship and chance.
The other thing I would point out is. If a 30'-50' vessel had grounded in the same location 75 years or more ago it wouldn't be an issue very long, as it would have not been fiberglass and nature would have quickly re-claimed it.
But the advent of the plastic boat has brought the issue of sunken and abandoned vessels to the forefront as the seem to "last" longer instead of just fade away.
One of the many "costs" of modern technology.
In regards to any reference of whom should be allowed to own what. Again I say look to written history and see that many with little or no means have successfully sailed far on little money. But what they lacked in cash they more than made up for in ability. As apparently most people seem to today. Look around, it seems the craftsmen and skilled laborers are almost a thing of the past, at ANY cost.
Travel to many places outside the US and there are still traditional boatbuilders building in wood with hand tools. Go to your local boatyard and chances are you wouldn't be allowed to do work there if in fact you were able without insurance and 1/2 a dozen attorneys giving the nod.
Do a little reading about Sailors and methods used to care for large ships before internal combustion engines were the norm and everyone was a sailor because that's all there was.
Just look at what Slocum built and sailed from Rio to NY , with his young family ! Money would have made it easier for him but not more possible.
 

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I am looking at a Cal 29 right now that and older friend owns and fully understand what it needs and how much it will cost

The biggest single issue right now is to get insurance it needs to pass a survey and i don't think it will pass without ME doing a lot of wiring repair/replace as its a bit of a mess

BUT it has a high probity of turning into a Catch 22 as i wont sink money into a boat i don't own and cant own it without a passing grade :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Charlie - you've probably got better insight into this whole thing than virtually anyone. The work you're doing on your wonderfully "cheap" boat is stellar. And it looks like a hell of a lot of it. You're a great resource for explaining what someone's getting into when they get into an older project boat. Keep at it and you'll bust that blue line in the graph all to hell. She's incredible.

tom - you've hit on the other Catch22 scenario...insurance. Going back to the DS example, how do you insure a project boat? And what do you do if things go bad with it while you don't have insurance?

Definitely no simple answers, eh?
 

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tom you can get ins with out a survey, call progressive. it might cost more per year but you can get ins.

as for cheap boats, its what you are willing to put in to it to a point. that point is dependent on the boat. take my boat i got it for 2 grand, it needed 500 to get in the water. it needs about a grand of parts to be nice not including a main sail, plus about 80 hours of my time. i dont count sails as real parts, i see sails like fuel, they need to be bought every so often.

i have close to a year of sailing on my 3 grand investment right now, not bad
 

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Having owned sailboats between 11' and 24' everybody can afford something i had to go down to a windsurfer for a while BUT it still had a sail :)
 

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And the whole "constant maintenance" thing isn't necessarily true. I've known people that don't do anything to their boats, they let 'em sit for a long time and then take them sailing, barnacles and all. The damn things will float for millenia if the cockpit drains don't clog.

There are obviously trade-offs with that approach, including resale value and performance, but the point is that sailing is not necessarily expensive and is not limited to those willing to spend half their time buffing and polishing.
 

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Pain,
It's not all 'buffing and polishing' there's the engine and the elctrical system and the plumbing. If they're not maintained they just stop working. You can get by for a while doing nothing but not for very long periods of time.
Another problem in many areas is the cost of parking your boat, be it a mooring or a slip in a marina. At least in the Chesapeake that can be a major expense.
Still, as I wrote before, boat ownership is not beyond most of us -- if we really want it
 

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In my opinion, there are several primary reasons people get into trouble with boat ownership in general and especially with project boats. As someone else stated, sailing doesn't have to be very expensive if one approaches it correctly and matches their available funds, available time, and skill to the proper boat. At a basic level, how expensive can it be to own a Sunfish for example? And if you have a little more money, time, skill and want to, you can then move up to a trailer sailer...C22 or similar. With still more, you can move up to C27, C320, C400, Hinkley 42. Just always match the level of sailing to your means and know how. Then, there will never be a problem. And each level usually offers something different from the others.

I previously had a Kells 28 that I sold after 22+ years to a friend, who kept it 3+ years, and sold it to someone who didn't know anything about sailing, never had sailed, and declined offers by me and my friend to show him the basics on his new boat. Instead, he took a boat, which now had some problems which needed attention, but which was completely sea worthy and ready to sail, and was going fix the problems and "upgrade" the boat. "Upgrade" is a term that always makes me cringe because it usually means a completely unknowedgeable person or jack leg craftsman is going to make a half vast modification or repair....often with the result that the final situation will be worse than it was before. (Hope that comment doesn't set a lot of people in orbit because the term is frequently used, and occasionally things work out ok, but that's the way I feel after seeing lots of boats over the years.) After dumping lots of money into the boat over 3 yrs, the last owner abandoned it several years ago... I guess (anyway he's nowhere to be found) and the boat lies unattended in the boat yard. You can read the story in my earlier post: Search:

Project Boat? - Consider the Sad Case of K28

Why do we have abandoned boats:

1- People buy project boats without spending just a few bucks at the bookstore to read about the basics of the boats and sailing. If they read anything at all, it's those sea stories about around the world in a 25 ft, around Cape Horn, or survival and rescue stories. It's fine to read these, but they need to go with the basics first.

2- People totally underestimate their skills and find that their repairs don't hold up or make the situation worse, and after lots of effort and money, their project boat is still a piece of junk...total unlike that craftsman on the next pier, who had the skills, patience, money, and time to make his project boat really come to life and shine. Then frustration comes in and they abandon the effort.

3- People totally underestimate the extent of the repairs needed to refurbish a given project boat, often to the extent that they take on a boat that a knowledgeable person wouldn't ever, ever touch.

4- People don't bother to find out just how much the routine items are going to cost: insurance, slip fees, haulout/bottom painting, and an allowance for ongoing repairs..tune the engine, repair or replace the sail. They totally underestimate this.

5- People don't understand what the repairs that must be made are going to cost nor how long it will take. They get tired and run out of money.

6- Overeaching to get a bigger boat than they can afford. Keeping a trailer sailer like a C22 on the trailer allows one avoid many of the ongoing costs, but still allows for cruising at a basic level.
With a little more money, a C25, or still a little more a C30, or still more, one of the bigger boats.
They need to live within their means, start with a modest boat if finances are limited, move up later when they have more money if they want.

7- People just loose interest for a variety of reasons...wife won't go, no time, too hot, no wind, too much wind, just tired, health fails, decide they really don't like sailing after all, etc.....and don't face the bullet and sell the boat that they no longer use. It lays unattended for years, often with hatches open to collect rain water, and eventually they have something they can't even give away. And since it's fiberglass, it doesn't rot, and now it even costs money to let it sit, and even more to have it broken up and sent to landfill.
 

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Pain,
It's not all 'buffing and polishing' there's the engine and the elctrical system and the plumbing. If they're not maintained they just stop working. You can get by for a while doing nothing but not for very long periods of time.
Assuming the boat has all of that, yes. But it's still possible to have a 23-27 footer with a meager electrical system (that may only exist to support nav lights that might never be called into service) and a much-abused outboard that can be coaxed to start. I've seen it done.
 

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On the hard
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1. Wood boats: To dispel the myth about wooden boats being something to stay away from because of maintenance, I say the following. Yes, you have to keep up the brightwork but once ya wood it (take it down to the wood) the program is fairly simple and easy. The other thing about wood is keeping fresh water out, especially deck leaks. Salting the bilge helps but isn't a cure all. The one thing about a wood boat, almost everything is repairable or replaceable. Try that with a plastic boat.

2. Inspecting a cheap boat: Know what you're looking at. If ya don't, get someone who does. Being mechanically inclined helps a lot. Pay special attention to chainplate areas and areas around hardware for evidence of leakage. Leaks won't kill the boat but could point to other issues like wet core for boats with cored decks. While this is a pain, it ain't the end of the world. It just means more work for you. Check the bottoms of any wood bulkheads or cabinet and settee boxes for soft spots from water. Pealing or blistered paint is a dead giveaway of wet wood. Check the thru hulls for stains around them and tap the surrounding areas with a plastic hammer. Any dull thuds means moisture or delamination.

3. Maintaining a cheap boat: Do it yourself. Marine service cost big bucks. Busting your own knuckles and getting filthy only costs some pain and a laundry bill. Besides, how the hell else are ya gonna learn the boat?

I know a guy who bought a 28' boat for 3k, hauled it, had some work done on the rudder and did everything else himself. He's got maybe 5K in the boat now and it looks new. Now all I have to do is go out with him and teach him how to sail it.

4. Mechanical: Pull the dipstick and look for water beads or milky oil. Look for rust on and around the engine from water leaks. Look for any white powder on aluminum which is caused by corrosion. Check the shifter linkage for any binding. Check the rudder for binding as well. Grab anything with a shaft and give it a good shake. Any movement usually means bad seals, bearings or packing.

Rigging: You can see a lot just from the deck. Check all of the turnbuckles and run a rag (NOT YOUR HAND) over the wires looking for meathooks. Look for any corrosion around the mast step or knuckling of the step itself under the mast. Check for obvious dissimilar metals in the rigging. Grab the shrouds and pull stoutly on them and listen/feel for any popping or strange noises/movements. Make sure all of the turnbuckles have stop rings or pins. The lack of these denotes sloppy or ignorant owners. Oh Joy didn't have a single locking ring in her standing rigging. You can bet she did before a single sail was hoisted. Eyeball the mast(s) for any dings, bends or obvious hickeys. The same for the boom(s).

Anyway, if anyone has any questions, feel free to post up or PM me. I'm always around.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Assuming the boat has all of that, yes. But it's still possible to have a 23-27 footer with a meager electrical system (that may only exist to support nav lights that might never be called into service) and a much-abused outboard that can be coaxed to start. I've seen it done.
Dude - that was my boat when I got it! Mildewed interior, full bilge, wasp nests, running lights on wires going straight to the battery, no mast lights, no interior lights, dead outboard, dead plumbing, no cushions, seriously crapped out boat. Got the outboard running and sailed it like that for several months.

There is no doubt that you can do it cheap - if you're willing to live with less. But the hitch is the whole concept of "doing it right" and "being responsible". What does that mean exactly? As I said earlier - for me it means several thousand dollars toward get things "perfect"...then several thousand more for "proper" safety gear. In the mean time I'm rolling the dice on several things.

Now, if I get caught and something goes wrong before I can spend all that cash - we'll have a serious bashfest of "I-told-you-so"-s. And maybe they'll be rightly deserved.

But my hunch is that there are A LOT of us that are rolling those same dice to some degree on something or other with our boats. Even those that like to bash someone who gets caught.
 
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