Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A few lessons learned the hard way.

Looking back on our experience, we realize that there are a few things that really shouldn't be overlooked when buying or otherwise procuring a boat. Everyone told us these things, but nobody told us why they are still a good idea even when you are strapped for cash. All of them (except for perhaps number 2) will ultimately save you money.

1. GET A SURVEY. Everyone says to get a survey so that you don't get a nasty surprise later on. That is VERY good advice and will pay for itself. BUT, it is even more important because you can't get a good rate on insurance without a survey. A survey cuts your insurance cost to less than half price for much better coverage.Without insurance, you can't rent a slip. Also, most marinas won't let you in if your wood boat or older fiberglass boat is not surveyed even if you can get insurance.  There are only two marinas in our area that don't require a survey for older/wooden boats, and they are the two most expensive. The difference of three months' rent will more than pay for the survey. Also, with a wooden boat, you can really get clobbered with unforeseen expenses if you don't know the state of the fastenings, et cetera, at the outset. Which leads us to:

2. BUY A FIBERGLASS BOAT. As a craftsman, I am not intimidated by wood at all and much prefer working with it to working with fiberglass. There is also no denying that the feel of a wood boat is worlds better, BUT insurance companies and marina owners aren't so sentimental about it. Too many old wood boats are abandoned in boatyards or left in their slips to sink, and marina and boatyard owners are wary of letting anything without a fiberglass hull in. If you have an impeccably maintained classic with a current survey and lots of insurance (see why the survey is important) you are probably fine, but if you lack either of those, you had better have lots of cash ($5,000-$10,000 for a deposit, just to haul out).

3. Make sure that you include the amount it will cost to get the boat "ship shape" when calculating the purchase price you can afford. All marinas require some sort of inspection and they are well aware that "derelicts" lower the value of their establishments. What may say "classic restoration project" to you says "boat rat" to others. Restoring a boat at anchor to be marina-ready is possible, as we found out. But it is much nicer not to have to worry about your partly-restored boat whenever a storm comes through. If your boat looks good or even just has a running engine you shouldn't have a problem getting out of the weather. No engine, no shelter, no boat can take getting pounded forever.

Sailing is a different culture and there are reasons why things are done a certain way. The reason given is not always the real reason, but rest assured there is a reason. I hope that this helps anyone looking to get their dreams off "the hard".
We are not giving up on our dreams, and will soon be back on the water in our own surveyed and fully insured boat, Lord willing.

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