Adventure 40, Such a Deal

Chapter 6 of 18 in the Online Book Adventure 40 (Free)

JHH5_0143Over the life of the Adventure 40 several commenters have lamented that the boat, as envisioned, does not bring back the halcyon days of the 1970s when more people could afford an offshore boat…or at least that’s how the argument goes.

But in fact, the Adventure 40 would be very competitive when priced against boats built in 1975 since even US$200,000 in today’s dollars would be equivalent to just $50,000 back then.

By way of comparison, in 1975 an Allied Seawind Ketch, pictured above, cost US$75,000 (just over US$300,000 in 2010 dollars) for a substantially smaller and dramatically slower boat. And if the Adventure 40 is built the way I’m thinking, it will be both stronger and cheaper to maintain than the Seawind.

Of course the Adventure 40 won’t fix the erosion of real wealth in the boat’s target market (the middle class) caused by 40 years of government mismanagement, excessive debt, crazed consumption and unregulated greed, but she might make a nice way to take a break from that reality.

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{ 21 comments… add one }

  • Jerry Levy March 12, 2012, 10:54 am

    I’m not sure what you think the average wealth per household of the ‘middle classs’ in the US is, but I can tell you you should look up that statistic (and the following ones).

    Most households in the US have a wealth *far* below your target price. Additionally, as you know, some additional amount has to be put aside for outfitting. Then, there’s the amount of money you need to actually go cruising for an extended period. It adds up, doesn’t it? Note that I haven’t even mentioned ‘contingency’ savings (for medical, family, boat emergencies, etc.) or taxes.

    *What, based on your experience cruisaing, would you advise should be the maximunum % of total household wealth that should go towards the purchase of a boat (assuming you plan on living aboard)?* Let’s say, just to show what I’m trying to get at, you say 20%. If that’s the case then you need a household wealth of $1 million. This would put the target buyers in the top 1-2% of the population.

    Yet, will the 1% want to buy a Model T? I am doubtful.

  • John March 12, 2012, 11:35 am

    Hi Jerry,
    A really good analysis, and very good points, thank you.

    You are, of course, quite right, buying a 40-foot cruising boat is, and always was, limited to those who had done well financially, or who had inherited wealth.

    My point in the post was that nothing has really changed in that regard since the 70s, and I still stick by that.

    Having said that, I don’t think the picture is quite a bleak as you paint it. A reasonably successful middle class couple could sell or mortgage their house, buy an Adventure 40, cruise it for say three years, and sell it again. Even if they lose half their purchase price (I think they would do better) that would be still doable for many outside of the 1%. Or they could keep the boat for years and use it for weekending and the vacation sailing.

    After all, an Adventure 40 would be a lot less than many second homes, particularly in upkeep. And, amortized over time, it could be a lot less that the amount said couples will spend on vacation travel.

    As to percentage of overall wealth. Those who really want to go, typically have far more than 20% in their boat. Yes, owning a boat and cruising is a risk to future financial security for many, but then it was ever so. And you only come this way once (I think).

    • Scott Kuhner January 16, 2013, 11:00 am

      John, you say that nothing has changed since the 70s. That is not true from our experience. In 1970, we bought a 30 foot Allied Sea Wind Ketch for $10,000 and spent an average of $3,000 per YEAR on a four year circumnavigation. We also worked briefly in St Thomas and Australia to get that $3,000. The average age of cruisers out there was late twenties, early thirties and the average size boat was 28 to 35 feet. Now the average age is late fifties to mid sixties, the average size boat is mid forties to mid fifties feet and I hate to think what the average cruiser spends per year. People today don’t even think of going off in a 30 foot boat, let alone a twenty eight footer. When we were in Fiji in 1972 we met a couple that had sailed from Vancouver BC to Fiji with their 5 year old daughter in a 25 footer.

      • Marc Dacey February 15, 2013, 1:47 pm

        An interesting and trenchant point, I think. When I began sailing in the late ’90s, I was in my late 30s, with no real prior experience with boats. To make up my skill deficit, I did what I always do: I read up voraciously on the subject. Early on, I discovered two live-aboard tales, which confusingly had the same name: “All in the Same Boat”. One was by American Tom Neale (, and talks about living with kids on a Gulfstar in the late ’70s. The second is about Fiona McCall and Paul Howard, Torontonians who lived aboard a steel, junk-rigged 30 footer with two kids (!) in the ’80s (

        I loved both books and learned a great deal, particularly concerning how to live with kids aboard (I didn’t have a kid at that point). I would say, however, that both books are now nearly fatally outdated in their assumptions and conclusions.

        Not only would such low-buck trips be nearly impossible to pull off today with the endless fees for permits, insurance, fuel and safety gear, not to mention the ease with which bureacrats and other pirates can find yachties, the idea of putting a couple of school-aged kids on a home-built 30 footer would be considered a form of child abuse.

        I really think that we may be in the last generation of only three or so since 1960 to sail private small yachts around the world before things go completely pear-shaped.

        While one hears of heavily sponsored stunt sailing exploits like single-handed teenaged circumnavigators, or the occasional “four twentysomethings sponging around the world on a 35 footer”, it is definitely more prohibitively expensive to consider taking a five-year sabbatical to do this sort of voyage. I think that is part of the reason young people (outside of racing) are scarce in YCs, and the average age of cruisers has crept up into the “grey pubes” range, to put it realistically. Unfortunately, the people who were 25 in the ’70s are no longer willing to live without condo-like amenities now that they have retired (with pensions younger people will likely never enjoy, or live longer enough to receive). That’s what is driving current cruiser design.

        Nonetheless, I encourage this initiative as laudatory and a spur to rethink HOW we should sail, if we indeed sail more than at the day-sail or weekender level. I haven’t read the whole series of posts yet, but I am reminded of the recent “Navy 44″ sail training boat ( It seems that “strong, simple and seaworthy” are equally the goals in the Adventure 40 design process, and yet people who even understand and value such attributes over a second shower, A/C and a wine cooler are a subset of the subset of the people both wealthy enough and fit enough to consider pushing away from a dock and out of sight of land.

        That said, I’ll bet you could make a business case out of selling Adventure 40s and then a second business case for a place that specialized in “hot-rodding” them for slightly less Spartan tastes. I say this claiming that I would love a J/160 set up like a J/105, but J-Boats don’t even bother coming to my local boat show anymore. They aren’t enough like a Jenny Bendycat.

        (Sorry for the rant-sized length here!)

  • RDE March 12, 2012, 2:09 pm

    There is a reason why it is called an Adventure 40 and not a 401K 40. And yes, the USA has the most unequal distribution of wealth in the western hemisphere and the financial system in Europe is on the verge of collapse. And Fatty and Carolyn Goodlander have twice circumnavigated on a salvage boat they found sunk after a hurricane.

    “To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen who play with their boats at sea… “cruising” it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in.
    “I’ve always wanted to sail to the south seas, but I can’t afford it.” What these men can’t afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of “security.” And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine – and before we know it our lives are gone.
    What does a man need – really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in – and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all – in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade.
    The years thunder by. The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.
    Where, then, lies the answer?
    In choice.
    Which shall it be – bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?”

    *Captain of one of the last working 4 masted schooners oft the age of sail, early movie actor, turncoat in the McCarthy witch hunt hearings, famous for defying divorce court orders and running away to the the South Pacific on board a schooner with his kids and my friend Kit Africa on board.

    • John March 13, 2012, 2:58 pm

      Hi Richard,

      Phyllis keeps Sterling Hayden’s great quote on the desk top of her computer and rereads it every time something expensive happens on “Morgan’s Cloud”, or I do something stupid in the management of our savings.

      • RDE March 13, 2012, 7:59 pm

        Hi John & Phyllis,
        Since this post has evolved into the recurring theme of “Smaller is Better” * I thought it best to put it to rest with the ultimate example. When I was finishing out my Cape George in Port Townsend that same Kit Africa who was in diapers on board Sterling Hayden’s schooner was working across the street. He lived aboard his two masted schooner, the Dana Erin at anchor in the harbor. Thing is, she was only 17′ long and perfectly in scale. About 10″ of freeboard, and no sitting headroom inside. When Kit moved from Sausalito CA up to the Pacific Northwest he sailed her singlehanded up the coast. And I quote: “Stupidest damn thing I ever did”

        ps. Wind speed at the Astoria sea buoy this last Monday–82mph. Happens several times a year.

        * A 32′ boat that displaces 16,000# is only significantly cheaper than a 40′ boat that displaces 16,000# in two instances: when you pay the dockmaster and when you try to sell her. She’ll cost virtually the same to build and outfit.

  • Richard March 12, 2012, 3:43 pm

    Hi John,

    I usually do not post comments as I am not an experienced blue water sailor and lack the knowledge and experience of those that do comment. I have learned a great deal from your web site and find your analysis, as well as those that comment, well reasoned and thorough.

    On the issue of the Adventure 40 I would have jumped on the product if it was available in 2009. I took to sailing later in life and have enjoyed the challenges of sailing and in particular blue water sailing. I was influenced by Lin and Larry Pardey and purchased a Bristol Chanel Cutter. It was my first boat and served me well as I learned how to sail. Through experience I learned that the BCC did not fit my sailing style and in 2009 purchased a new Hanse 400. The base price was not much more than the Adventure 40 but I have since spent a significant amount getting it prepared for blue water sailing. (removable inner forestay, life raft, full electronic package, EBIRP, life rafts, jordan series drogue and chainplate attachments, storm sails, hydraulic auto pilot, etc.

    I do most of my sailing on the Long Island Sound and each year I sail the boat to the Caribbean. While the Hanse may not be as robustly built as contemplated for the Adventure 40 it seems to handle heavy weather very well and is quite quick in light air.

    Although I might not fit your demographics I hope your Adventure 40 gets built and that you are not forced to compromise your principles. I may consider it.


    • John March 13, 2012, 3:02 pm

      Hi Rich,

      Sounds like you have plenty of blue water experience to me. Thanks for your thoughts and making the point that there are a lot of different sailing styles out there and that no boat fits everyone. Some people love the Pardey way, and some not; both are right.

  • Ken March 12, 2012, 7:13 pm

    We haven’t done that well financially and we sure as heck have not inherited enough to buy an Adventure 40, but we have worked hard through our life and managed to get to a point that we owned a house with no mortgage at 50 years old. At the present time there is a small mortgage on our very large house that we worked up to, that when sold should buy a very decent boat/home and leave a good bit in the kitty that should keep us secure in the fact that we can use or build on that kitty while in our new home/boat if we choose. The overall cost of maintaining a home, two cars, insurance and all the bills to go with it to us is far more expensive than a life aboard a good boat (we have lived aboard in the past) that puts us on the waterfront every single day, with choices of distant travel and adventure right at the end of the rode and chain securing our anchor. Just pick it up and move on. Life is for living!

    • John March 13, 2012, 3:03 pm

      Hi Ken,

      Great comment, thank you. A very good point about the costs of living ashore and how they can be converted to a cruising boat and the budget to take her places.

  • Billy Higgins March 13, 2012, 12:03 pm

    While I really like and support the thinking surrounding this Adventure 40 project, it seems to me that an Adventure 32 project would have even greater interest at a substantially more affordable price point. As the keys to either Adventure craft would be simplicity, structural integrity, and weatherliness, I believe the discussion could the start with what could be left off the Adventure 40; e.g. inboard rudder, inboard motor, pressure water, full-batten mains’l, wheel steering, servo-pendulum self-steering gear, and so on. Finally, an aluminum A-32 could be a nice kit – derived from ncc cuttng files – for at-home completion. I believe this would be a popular offering.

  • Scott Kuhner March 13, 2012, 6:02 pm

    Where did you get the figure of $75,000 for a 1975 Seawind Ketch. The Allied Boat Co. sold us a 32 foot Seawind II for manufacturer’s cost in 1977, because we we were doing a lot of promoting of the Seawind for Allied , having spent four years circumnavigating in a 1963 Seawind, 1971 – 1975. The manufacturer’s cost in 1977 was approximately $25,000. But that is not what is keeping many people from getting a good cruising boat and crossing an ocean. The real cost is all the electronics and gadgets that everyone feels they MUST have. On the contrary, when Kitty and I went off we had no, zero, electronics. We had a sextant and a led line. I must admit we did install a double sideband radio in New Zealand. Oh yes, I forgot, we did have a wind speed indicator at the top of the mast . We bought the boat in 1970 for $10,000 put a new 18 horse power diesel engine in it for an additional $1,500 and also added a dodger and twin head-sails and about a hundred paper charts (for $1.25 each).

    By the way, the person who bought our Seawind 30, “Bebinka” has since sailed her around the world three times and around the horn twice. So that little 30 foot boat has done four circumnavigations and rounded Cape Horn twice..

    The other problem that young cruisers face is that they think they need a forty or fifty foot boat. That is not true!

    • John March 13, 2012, 6:37 pm

      Hi Scott,

      My source was the Seawind owners association and Practical Sailor, see the link in the post.

      I hear you on the simplicity angle and agree with much of it, but I think us old guys need to stop harping on the “it was better when we were young” theme. The fact is that offshore voyaging is failing to attract younger people. We experienced voyagers need to try and solve that problem by coming up with solutions that will meet the newcomer’s needs and wants, not just tell them that their aspirations are all wrong. Sure we can try and educate and persuade, and that’s what this site is about, but in the end people will only buy a boat that gives them what they want, not what we think they should want.

      The Adventure 40, tries to sail a middle ground: more seaworthy and sensible that the big asses gin palaces, but big enough and comfortable enough to be successful. Will it work. I don’t know, but I feel better about being involved in the effort than just sitting around and bemoaning the state of things today.

      Sure, I sailed to and from Bermuda with nothing but a sextant and a watch too. I was also sick-terrified approaching the north reef of Bermuda with nothing but a DR position and a 36 hour old sun sight. I may romanticize those days too, but if you try and take away my GPS I will break your fingers. I seem to remember a plotter on your boat too.

      Let’s try and be as inclusive as we can.

      • Matt Marsh March 14, 2012, 10:52 am

        Quoth John: “The fact is that offshore voyaging is failing to attract younger people. We experienced voyagers need to try and solve that problem by coming up with solutions that will meet the newcomer’s needs and wants, not just tell them that their aspirations are all wrong”

        Speaking as part of that younger generation, I’d say there are quite a few of us who would be interested in cruising. But most are struggling to make enough money to get ahead at all, let alone save enough for a boat- the “good middle class jobs” that the previous generation took for granted are very hard to come by these days. You can’t afford a $90k boat, let alone a $200-$500k boat, on wages of $30k a year. (We could discuss this for days, I’m sure.)

        To those who say “but an Adventure 30 or 35 would be ideal”- The concept Adventure 40 is quite a bit smaller than what we typically think of when we hear “40-footer”. It would be about the same weight as a “typical” 33 to 36-footer but in a longer, more efficient package, much like how a Sundeer 60 is actually smaller than “typical” 50-footers.

        • John March 15, 2012, 9:06 am

          Hi Matt,

          All good points, as usual.

          Your second paragraph really resonated with Phyllis and I. The fact is that getting ahead and putting some capital by was just a lot easier when Scott Kuhner and I were your age. Not only were there many more well paying middle class jobs, but we also had the benefit of a thirty year bull market in equities and, even more importantly, housing. I have to say that as a Boomer, I’m ashamed of my generation’s stewardship of the economy, or lack thereof, and the way we slammed the economic door behind us in your generation’s face. Yes, there were many people of your generation in finance that caused many of the problems, but our generation were the political and business leaders that failed to lead and failed to regulate.

          This is why I get very uncomfortable with any suggestion that the lack of younger voyagers out there is predominately their fault.

  • Scott Kuhner March 13, 2012, 6:47 pm

    John, I forgot to add that on our circumnavigation in 1971-1975 we spent a total of $3,000 per year and half of that was maintenance on the boat. The only time we went to a restaurant was in Bali because we could get a dinner for $0.85 and that was cheaper than opening a can of beef stew. Also the average age of the circumnavigators out then was late 20s early 30s and the average size boat was 25 to 35 feet.

    On our second circumnavigation 1987-1991 we had our two boys with us (ages 9&11 when we left and 13&15 when we got back) we spent on average $18,000 per year.

    After each trip we got back home broke. And each time I got a job making one third the salary I was making before we left, and each time within two years I was making the same if not more than when we left. People always want to know how much it costs to sail around the world. I can tell that to the penny, it will cost you exactly how much money you have. When we were spending $18,000 / year we knew another family with two boys our sons ages and they were spending about $800/month. However, before we left on the second circumnavigation, we had put money away for our kids college education and didn’t touch it until they went to college.

    Your comment about most people being too much in debt is so true. We, on the other hand, never owned a new car, never had any credit card debt etc. we were very frugal before we left and so we were while cruising. My philosophy is to live ones life to the fullest, to actually live your dreams and forget about that flat screen TV etc. Sorry I am going on so; but, I do believe that if you truly want to sail around the world, you can do it. Work hard, save your money, and live within your means. You don’t need a 40 foot boat and all the gadgets.Adhere to the old rule KISS, Keep it simple stupid!

    • David Nutt March 13, 2012, 7:36 pm

      Scott is absolutely right about the cost of sailing around the world. We spent it all and so did almost everyone else out there whether it was $1000/ month or $10,000/month. But few will lay on their death beds, sucking in those last few breath wishing they had never gone sailing.

  • Scott Kuhner March 13, 2012, 6:54 pm

    John, you are wrong! We DO NOT have a chart plotter. We do have a small GPS, that I will admit. And paper charts today are a lot more expensive. At today’s price we have about $15,000 worth of paper charts, most of the ones we used on the second trip were the same as on the first trip. The Islands didn’t change and we never entered a port at night. We always hove to and waited until morning to go in.

  • Scott Kuhner March 13, 2012, 10:47 pm

    Now that I have commented on the ability to go smaller, simpler and cheaper, I would like to say that in one way I do agree with John about a strong reasonably priced 40 footer. I do feel, that if one can afford it, a 40 foot voyaging boat is ideal. We loved our 30 footer and had great adventures in it; but our present Valiant 40 is perfect for us. It is small enough to easily be sailed by just the two of us and yet big enough to be a very comfortable home. Both boats were/are seaworthy and comfortable in any conditions; but we don’t have to heave-to in our Valiant as much as we did in the Seawind. My point in going on about size and KISS is that if you can’t afford a 40 footer, don’t let that stop you from having a great adventure live your dreams, you can do it on a well built seaworthy 30 footer.

  • Captain Kipp January 16, 2013, 2:35 am

    At 30 years old and earning approximately 50K a year I feel like I am in the target demo for a concept like the Adventure 40. I’m preparing to make the break and get to doing what I’ve wanted to do since I was 12. I don’t make a ton of money and have worked a large portion of my life in minimally educated but skilled labor. Point is I’m not special but to me sailing is and I’m willing to sacrifice for the dream. If the will is there the way will appear. That is why it is “attainable.” PS Going offshore without a GPS in our day in age is just being silly : )


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