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To buy or to rent, that is the question...

3416 Views 15 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  JohnDrake
So I''m between boats right now. Living in the DC area, I''m very close to the Chesapeak and it is killing me to not be sailing.

So like every devoted sailor, I''m in the market for a boat. But I can''t seem to find the right boat. You know, that balance of function, luxury and good price. The latter being the most illusive.

I have determined that a Hunter/Catalina type boat in the 30 to 35 foot range would really be the right boat for my taste and sailing habits. Yeah, they are not the best boats on the market but I''m not looking for a passage making boat. Just a coastal cruiser that would accomodate myself, my wife and our two small kids comfortably for weekend getaways and a couple one week long cruises per season.

I''ve been exhausting myself looking for the right used boat to buy. Can''t really see myself parting with 100K for a brand new boat. Trouble is, most 1990''s boats are around the 50K mark and up and the ones I''ve seen so far weren''t the ones for us. We''re really picky and are looking for an exceptionally well cared for boat. That kind of search takes time and a bit of luck as we all know.

But I''m making a long story longer....

In the process of our search we came across a chartering company that charters boats in the northern Chesapeak area. Not only that, they have a fleet of 31 to 38 foot Hunters and Catalinas. The price is $700 to $900 for two days. So I got to thinking... I don''t know how long we''ll remain in this area. Could be a year, could be as much as five years. I don''t know where we''ll be next (I''m a consultant and we move around every few year because of my line of work). Does it really make sense to spend even 30K on a boat when I can have sparkling clean boat any weekend I want. I don''t have to worry about maintenance, cleaning, commissioning and decomissioning, insurance, dockage, etc... All I need to do is make reservations in advance and go sailing. If I go sailing 10 weekends during the summer then the cost will be about $9000. A couple of one week trips and that will go up to about $14,000 for the year. Given the expense of buying and maintaining a similar boat, is it foolish to think that chartering is a more economical proposition?

Also, if anybody can recommend a good charter company on the Chesapeak, in or around Annapolis, please be so kind as to share that with me.

Thanks and please share your thoughts.
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The cost of ownership includes:

The cost of money for the downpayment of 10%. On a 100k boat, 10k down, cost of money at 10%, this costs you $1000 per yr, not amortized. 5% sales tax is $5000 you do not recoup. Cost of a slip on the Bay is $3000/yr. Cost of a 100k loan over 20yrs is $878/mo all yr round.

Then there is depreciation, assume a 10yo boat, depreciate for another 20yrs thats $5000/yr easily, if not more.

Then there is yearly hauling and maintenance.

And...what if you get a Hunter and cannot sell it when you want to? You keep shelling out cash on the note, slip etc. And... you will pay 10% to a broker to sell the boat.

Hope this helps
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Its really hard to answer this because so much of this is subjective.

I like sailing my own boat. I know how she sails and what to expect. I know what hole to put the sheet leads when the wind pipes up. I keep my boat pretty well stocked with blankets and sleeping bags, towels, pots and pans, enough can goods to slip out for overnight if the impulse hits while I am out for a day sail. I also keep spare parts and tools to deal with come what may. I like that she is my boat and I have some history with her and people know me and my boat around the Bay. That''s hard to put a price on. She costs me a couple grand a year to own so I can''t complain. In the days when I paid for a slip and owed on her note she cost me somewhere around $7,000-8000 to own. Still not too bad because a piece of that was principal and now I own the old girl free and clear, and did I say, I like sailing my own boat.

The flip side is a charter boat is not your boat. If you over cook a landing and have a little scrape, it does not chafe at you year in and year out when you wax out the topsides. If something breaks, it''s not your ''boat unit'' that gets peeled out of your wallet. On the other hand if you want to upgrade the sails, slip out for a short sail on a quiet evening, or would prefer bigger winches, you have to live with what you have been given. If you want to stay out an extra day, its a charter boat and it must be back at the dock by closing. It may be less cash out of pocket if you don''t sail much but then again its not tax deductable or building equity. And you are not sailing your own boat!

I seriously don''t think there is really an always correct answer for everyone here. Sorry,

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I would have a hard time renting a boat whenever I wanted to use one. I like having my own boat. Can use it spontaneously. Can go down and just relax at a moments notice when the weather is nice. Sure its not cheap to be able to do this but its worth the price a 1000 times over. Your situation may be different, especially if you don''t know how long you will live where you are. But don''t just consider dollars and cents. Rob
The cost is high, as I have pointed out above, higher than most people realize or anticipate. I have been a two boat owner and that is even less "cost effective". I own because I need to have a boat. Anytime I wish, I can go to my boat without having to make plans ahead of time. I enjoy working on her and learning not only how to be a better captain but how to repair and maintain a boat.

But, I also CAN go to the boat anytime I wish. I have committed to sailing, boating and the marine environment since I was a kid.

If you look, you will find a lot of 2 yr old boats for sale. They are up for sale because their owners wanted to sail and thus bought a boat. But reality set in and they did the math and found that their cost per trip was enough to take the entire family to Bermuda.

Many wealthy people have boat they hardly use. They simply can afford it.

In my opinion, people they buy boats do so because they are either committed to boating or can simply afford to keep a boat they don''t use.

Since you have owned boats before, you can judge whether you are really committed to boating or whether you need to control your cash flow for other family matters (some boats can take over a year to sell).

There are many good boats that fit any budget. There are also ways to limit your costs. That would be a different thread.

[sorry if this was long winded]

Best of luck

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Thank you all for your well thought out responses. Lots to mull over but then again, you''ve covered much of the same ground that I''ve gone over in my mind many many times. I think I''ve worn a groove in that part of my brain.

Like most of you said, owning a boat is more than just dollars and cents (sense?). I have been an owner before and I am well aware of the pride that comes with ownership and ability to maintain one''s own vessel. Being able to personalize your boat is even more satisfying. To say nothing, of course, about really getting to know the sailing/living characteristics of one''s own boat over time.

But economics should not be entirely neglected. Also, the ability to charter a brand new boat for 2 to 7 days at a time has it''s advantages. Yeah, you''ve got to plan ahead and spur of the moment sails in the evening are absolutely out of the question. The thing is, with two small kids, it''s rarely if ever possible for us. Given that we have to travel about an hour even to get to the nearest bay marina makes the evening sail an even bigger endeavour.

Another advantage of chartering, as I see it, is being able to try several different boats and comparing which one suits us the most. One place I found (I think I''ve mentioned this already) has a fleet of 30 to 36 foot Catalinas and Hunters. Many are brand new but none are older than 3 years. It''s a shame they don''t have Benateau''s. That would have been a nice comparo.

Also, I think I''ve exagerated the cost of chartering for the season by about 25%. It will likely be cheaper but better to be over estimating than under.

The real reason I am holding back from actually buying a boat (and this is just my rationalization so stay with me) is that it is possible that we may not be living in the Chesapeak area past the end of the year. It would be a drag to be stuck with a boat that is not really suitable for the next area we move to. Caveat: we always try to pick a spot on or near sailable waters.

To tell the truth, I''m hoping we settle down to live on Lake Champlain in Vermont within the next 5 years. I''ve never sailed there, though I''ve lived north of the border in Montreal for many years so I know the area very well. I''m not entirely sure what kind of boat would be appropriate for that lake. But that is another topic altogether.

So for now I think the wisest choice is to take time, sail as many boats as possible, continue shopping and one of these days I''m certain to find a boat that will force a change of heart because it will be the boat I absolutely have to own.

Thanks again for your thoughts.

Safe and happy sailing.
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I''ll toss out two add''l thoughts re: your dilemma, since neither has been mentioned.

First, you sound like a candidate for ownership in a charter boat (by which I mean a boat that suits the family, the family budget, and is managed by a good firm on the Bay). Even if you move, you''d have "visiting privileges" and a way to vacation & enjoy the infinite pleasures the Bay offers, at times of convenience to you. I''m not sure that''s your optimum alternative, but it would fit some of your described needs and there certainly are lots of charter firms in & around Annapolis.

The second thought is heretical; guys like Jeff will lynch me if he reads this! <g> We faced a similar situation when sailing back from the Caribbean some years ago: son off to high school, us back to the Work could we justify keeping the boat when we would have so little time to use it. But how could we give it up, with the sense of adventure it brought and serving as alink that kept the family close(r) and mutually involved in something? In our case - and maybe yours? - the answer was to move temporarily (well, for 10 years...) to an activity that offered many of the same rewards, was more portable, cost about the same, was fun, etc. So we all ended up becoming pilots. In fact, as I write this I''m at my son''s apartment in Pensacola, where he just got his Navy Wings. We gave up 10 years of local sailing but we got a lot, too. Perhaps an occasional sail with friends is all your family - or maybe just you - needs now & then, and there''s a more suitable activity you''re overlooking.

Jack, who''s back aboard with his wife & cruising in Trinidad
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Thanks Jack.

We are exploring the idea of owning a charter vessel. I must say I have not done much homework in that area and am currently getting familiar with all the ins and outs (pluses and minuses) of this alternative.

As to your second idea - flying - don''t even get me started. I''ve been itching to get my glider''s license for a while now. Lack of time rather than will has been the biggest enemy. I started to take private flying lessons a few years ago but then we had our first child and I was starting my own business at the same time. The timing was just all wrong. Also, I decided that being trapped inside a small and noisy plane was not the hight of the flying experience for me. Soaring is much more interesting to me and my wife. It''s all that harnessing of nature''s powers by skill and wit thing. You understand. It''s a lot like sailing vs power boating. Both are fun but the former offers a more unique challenge.

Anyway, thanks for your contribution and thanks for reminding me about another hobby I''ve neglected to cultivate..... ;o)
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I am a sailinginstructor for a charter company in the Pacific Northwest. I teach on charter boats from 28-48 feet. I have seen first hand the way that charter boats are treated by the so called well intentioned "Experienced Charter Guests" I have experienced and heard the horror stories of the things that these people do to boats. I could rant for hours on some of the exploits and pure lunacy that charter guests go through, and they think nothing of it, why... Because it is NOT THEIR BOAT. Charter boats for the most part are the abused neglected step children of the sailboat world. There is a reason that companies, like the one that you were looking at on the Chesapeke, get NEW boats every 4 or five years. This is because after 4 or 5 years of abuse even the best maintained charter boats start to die. A diesel can only take so many shifts without throttling down before it throttles you with a HUGE rebuild bill, and I have seen it many many times. Not to mention that charter boats RARELY pay for themselves in a charter season. Out of 30 boats in our fleet, last year only ONE paid for itself (maintenance contracts, moorage, insurance, and other hidden charter costs to the owner)
If you want to go sailing on a regular basis but want to avoid the cost of ownership, I would suggest looking into a sailing club of some kind in your area. Most of these organizations have their own boats, and their members pay monthly dues and have either free or highly discounted use of a variety of vessels.
I apologize for rambling but I hate to see people get into the Charter Owner situation without hearing from someone on the inside, about what REALLY can happen to YOUR boat. Remember, at the end of the charter season, it is still YOUR boat. I hope that this helps and I am sorry if I offended anyone.
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I would definately confirm that. I had a boat that I put into charter. The very first time it went out it came back with significant damage to the gelcoat and hull that cost $1500 to repair. Luckily, since it was the first time, the charter co agreed to pay and thus is was a faily cheap lesson for me. You will notice that most boats - that are owned by private individuals - in charter fleets are older boats that are at their max depreciation point. Then its not a bad deal, especially if you don''t care if you see the boat again.
SailTeachr/JohnDrake -

I will certainly take that under advisement. I must say I have not gotten much further in understanding the benefits/short comming of having your boat in a charter fleet. I''ve been very busy at work these days.

However, I do have one questions. How do I interpret the claim (which at least one charter boat company has made to me) that they will assume all costs for damages incured to my boat while it is in their fleet?

Are they just lying or do they really only mean major damage like a gaping hole in the hull or fire damage in the galley?

I plan to do very comprehensive research before making any kind of decision in this area. I won''t be satisfied with this option unless I have written guaranty that my boat will remain in pristine condition during it''s chartering life.

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I can only speculate, since I don''t know the company and have not seen the agreement but...

That seems like a terrific responsibility on their part. But I think the fine print would most likely be: they are NOT responsible for ''normal wear and tear'' (hard to interpret), cosmetic damage (like chips cracks and crazing of your gelcoat, which really can devalue not to mention delaminate your boat over time), etc.

Also, my charter co demanded that *I* insure the boat for charter (AND list them as co-insured for personal and property damages). SO, if we assume the same for your instance, I would guess that their end would be the deductable. Of course, with claims your insurance costs will go up.

Just a guess.

Still, many people go the charter route. It IS a way to greatly limit costs. I think the two more successful instances of this are 1) people who buy new via a program in the Islands where charter is lucrative and they only use the boat a couple times a year, can appreciate the favorable tax benefit of depreciating the boat and then dump it after 10 yrs or 2) people who own older larger less expensive boats like O''Day''s that have depreciated to nearly nothing and they stick them in charter broker fleets because they will not be using the boat again or just rarely and don''t care what happens to it.

Just my opinion.

Of course the other way to go is to simply get a much older boat (maybe a classic) with an initial low cost. It is possible to find some that have been well cared for, not easy, but possible. You will likely not get the great condo like interior of a modern boat, but your cost is very very low. For example, you could get a Catalina 34 or 36 (you said you were looking at these), mid 1980''s vintage for around $50k. The mid 1980''s C''s were built pretty well and hold their value. You could use the boat for 5 yrs and get what you paid. You could also dump it into a charter fleet if you moved and possibly gain some income.

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Thanks again John. I will certainly read and understand all the fine print before I agree to anything these charter companies are pitching me.

Thanks for the alternate suggestions. I''m affraid, right or wrong, we''re kind of stuck on the "condo like" interiors. We realize, of course, that they come at a price. We just may have to bite the bullet and go for a newer and more expensive boat to get what we want.

We found at least one boat that is in absolute immaculate condition. It''s a 1972 Hughes 29. The boat was entirely restored to pristine, better than new condition by it''s current owner. He is selling it for 2/3 of the renovation price (I saw all the receipts) because he decided to sell his house (he''s retired) and live aboard in the Carribean instead of keeping the Hughes 29 and only sailing it on day and relatively short trips.

This boat is really in top shape and the price is right. The problem is that in is only 8.5 feet beam. A bit too confining for our tastes. It kills me to pass it up - especially since the present owner is such a nice man who has a genuine love for his boat as well as a deep desire that it end up in good hands.

Also, I''m about to look at a 1988 Bayfield 32 Cutter. It also sounds like it''s been babied by its only owner. Fresh water boat. It has wintered indoors every year (wow!). Lot''s of add on equipment and features. It''s considerably more expensive than the Hughes but it should offer more cabin and cockpit room. Not to mention how pretty a Bayfield cutter is with all that wood and bow sprit.

Do you know much about these boats? Any advice?

Decisions.... decisions.....

How can a sailor get anything done with all these work related interruptions?!
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Hi there. I can definately appreciate your point of view (I have to stay away from boat shows for the same reason).

I think the two boats you mentioned would be too small. I do believe you could find a C34 for around 50-60 in very good condition. They are very nice interiors for their size.

Another choice, something really classic that people tend to keep in very good shape: 1970''s vintage Pearson 35. Beautiful boat, larger than the others you mentioned, but no qtr berth (not sure how many berths you need. Not very fast but you can pick one up for 30 something.

Another option, if you are looking at boats in that size range, you might want to consider a newish Catalina 32. It is suppose to have an astonishing interior for a 32 and I would think you could find one at a very good price. Also in that size range at a good price (not sure what price though) a Beneteau 311 or 331, whichever pops up. These boats would also do well in the charter biz, should you decide to go that route (that being said, I am told that boats 36-40 ft are the top charter''s).

Keep in mind one thing with charters, you are probably just going to break even, not make money. Also your expenses will be considerably higher because of increased insurance costs and slip fees (you will have to keep your boat at their marina, which will be a popular one). Expect to have to replace the engine and repair the interior and exterior before selling the boat at the end of the charter biz. The way you sort of get ahead is with the tax benfit of the capital depretiation (depending on your tax bracket).

Charter brokers make money because they have NO capital investment. Their exposure is nothing. Their overhead is very small in comparison to their economic backup (the owners boats they charter out).
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I must say, I''m liking the charter idea less and less. I am terribly fussy with boats. Particularly when they are my own. I think seeing a mounting collection of ding and scratch (not to mention premature engine wear and other biggies) would give me an aneurism. I have a hard enough time reconciling my own screw ups. I don''t need the added worry and stress. Oh well, it was a thought.

I will certainly look into the older Pearson 35 and C34. However, the "newish" Catalinas are what got me into this mess to begin with. Them and the "newish" Hunters. Well, okay, they were brand new (no ish). I knew I had no business going aboard these boats at the yacht broker. I just couldn''t help myself. I''m a weak, weak man when it comes to sailboats and things related.
I feel your pain. I got my first boat some years ago after years of crewing on other people''s boats. Then a few years ago suddenly got boat fever. Went through nearly a boat a year. BOTH power and sail. Had two at a time. Whew. I am TRYING to cure myself AND trying to sell the boat I have now to go to a larger, classic, like a Morgan 382. Nice boat that can take me anywhere, classic lines, sturdy and much lower cost.

I think low upfront cost is a key factor. As you know, there are lots of expenses in owning a boat. You constantly want to upgrade and improve her and make her look nice. Thus, the logic is get an older boat in good condition that you can upgrade and make look good - something you would want to do anyway.

Just my $0.02

Good luck
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