Revised since originally posted.
One of our followers recently inquired about our boat purchasing methodology, and how we made the decision to purchase a particular boat with regards to how much work it needs:
On Sat, Jul 17, 2021, 7:33 AM “Chris D” <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
If you would be willing to tell me as it would help me in my search, how did you determine that that was a more worthwhile project or more worth your efforts than say many of the other things that you looked at?
Was it completed value of the boat, or say at the end of the day the boat yielded more attributes that were beneficial to you, or perhaps was it less work to get to the same result?
If you don’t mind or are willing to spend the time sharing could you give me a little insight into your reasoning?
Hmmm sounds like a good blog post idea! Believe it or not, this is our third boat purchase in ten years, and (dare I say) intended to be the last. My following answer to Chris’s question has been edited for clarity and context for this blog, and I’ve interjected additional concerns pertinent to us at the time.
As you may recall, last year we decided to at least consider a larger boat. Shortly thereafter I read an article on Attainable Adventure Cruising about an Outbound 46 (different stern than a 44) and thought “wow, that’d be a beautiful boat to have!” Everything about that boat fit what we had been previously thinking as an ideal boat. And there happened to be a similar one for sale out in Buffalo NY. Better yet, that awesome vessel was marginally outside our price range. So I emailed the broker who said we should take a look. But we already had a boat (that we lived on), were still an ocean away (quarantined in Culebra), and hadn’t seriously made up our minds to sell our beautiful Pretorien. But shortly after arrival in Newburyport, then retrieving our car from storage, we booked a hotel near Niagara Falls, and drove 500 miles to have a look-see. Nautical lust! (Homer Simpson drooling.) She had more than ample storage (an actual workshop!) and a fast, yet very solid and seaworthy design, all rolled up into one gorgeous fiberglass sandwich!
Ok, let’s get back to reality… and the process by which we decided on a boat vs project. I guess it started with our timeframe and budget. And we seem to have a taste for more boat than cash available. We have some income to supplement over the next year or so to pay for upgrades and and/or pay off a loan before taking off for a few years.
Last year we looked at MANY boats throughout the US East Coast, fitting a basic priority criteria (see Guts and Science blog post), and weighed what we could get with or without borrowing additional money. When Kelly and I divested our house, cars and 95% of our material possessions, it was to live freely to travel the world without worrying about paying loans, and live off proceeds until the time when we could dip into retirement funds. To recall briefly, our primary boat-upgrade objective was to grow slightly larger for more storage capacity, but also be safe and comfortable while crossing oceans, but not a “project”. How to keep track of what we can afford? We use a spreadsheet to plan an overall budget to live by, balanced between limited income and expenses for the next year and a half, saving some for later, and paying for boat, upgrades and maintenance.
But what would we do with our (then) present Fayaway we call home? Do we sell a trustworthy boat we safely and comfortably sailed over 6000 nautical miles in less than one year? Realizing what we could have (in an Outbound 44) sealed the decision to sell our Pretorien. But timing the sale of one home and finding another temporary place to live in the meantime wasn’t so simple. We missed the Buffalo opportunity by the time our original Fayaway was sold.
Considering what was available on the market, we were looking at boats typically in the $200 to $300k range, which seemed necessary to fit between our lusty taste for a worthy vessel and a minimal budget. (If this seems costly, consider that we don’t own any land-based property, and this boat is “home”.) We figured on $130k cash down on the initial purchase, and reluctantly (but seriously) considered a $100k loan (paying off another year’s worth of payments).
Fast forward to December, when we fell in love again with a 1998 Valiant 42 in Annapolis at a price for which we’d need to get a loan. We paid $3k for the survey, sea trial, etc. However, the survey uncovered more serious issues, and I had a pretty good idea of the cost (time and money) to remedy. Unfortunately we could not reach enough concession from the stubborn seller and so were able to back out of the deal. We saved ourselves from a lopsided cost versus lust-choked endeavor.
Wisdom Nugget #1: know when to back out of a bad deal, no matter how much you believe that you are in love.C’est Moi
To your point: how much work am I willing to take on vs price? I guess that equation was based on what boats we could choose from, work I feel confident to do myself, and how long the work would take. Anything you pay a boatyard to do costs a king’s ransom, so I carried an amount for that too. For example, a worst-case complete repower (still debating if we should do that) will cost $30k if done right. And a new dodger will set us back up to $5k. Watermaker = $5k, bottom blasting = $2 to $3k, etc. Some projects I’m not willing to take on myself, as I know my limitations and would never be close to satisfied with much of my shoddy handy work! But I’m comfortable with most stuff not needing a workshop, such as rigging installation, battery systems, electronics, refrigeration, etc.
We spent a lot of time thinking how we could stretch the money and yet avoid another “project boat”. But the two ends just wouldn’t meet. We decided to push the project envelope a bit more, and result with a boat we wanted, for less cost. You need to grasp your own preferences, budget, timetable and competence to figure out the answer this question for your own. Ultimately we didn’t care about finished value (not caring what others think) as much as getting the boat we felt good about living and traveling on. Furthermore, our insurance broker wouldn’t insure for more than we paid for the boat, which I believe at this point is considerably less than it’s true monetary worth. But that’s not as important to us now. We’ll probably get a new survey in the future to get a true loss value.
We ended up weighing our gamble and striking an equitable deal for the new Fayaway. After much negotiation and a reasonable survey we settled on a reasonable price, and bought a boat with “good bones” and the added space. But she was in need of upgrades and possibly had other unknowns. So I made a spreadsheet to include a time/budget vs income to include fixes and upgrades we want. Add the total upgrade/fix amount to the purchase price, and then decide on if that total cost is worth it. And that’s the gamble if you take the plunge. We took the plunge and saga continues to unfold for Fayaway.
Some folks say to buy a boat already loaded with goodies. And you’ll probably get a better deal that way. But are they the goodies that you truly want? Are you going to use all that stuff, or do additional upgrades anyway? For our last two purchases we decided to take the opposite approach and buy low, without cruising goodies, but then carefully buy and install ONLY what and how we wanted.
A boat is a hole in the water into which you toss money.A Wise Person
I hope you enjoyed reading this introspective on our boat purchasing decision processes. Earlier this week we left our Newburyport mooring, and after a stop near Boothbay Harbor, are now on the hook in Rockland, Maine, where we have a date for receiving new canvas. We’re also meeting with a prospective yard where further work over the winter months is coming up. We always have our goal of sailing south again in mind!