Members' Online Book: How To Buy a Cruising Boat, Chapter 21 of 33

The Five Most Important Things We Need to Check When Buying a Boat

It's a nice paint job, but what's lurking underneath?

Given that Phyllis and I are considering replacing Morgan's Cloud with a smaller boat, I have been thinking a lot about the process of buying a boat that will meet our specification:

  • 15,000 to 22,000 lbs (6800 to 10000 kgs) displacement, which will typically result in a boat around 36 to 42 feet (11 to 13 m) long.
  • Good sailing performance.
  • Almost certainly fibreglass.
  • Not a project boat. We are happy to do the usual tweaks that any new-to-us boat requires, but no refits and certainly no rebuilds. (That said, read on.)
  • Trans-ocean capable (in reasonable comfort and safety).
  • Price under US$250,000.

I have also:

This work has yielded a couple of conclusions:

Gonna Be Really Hard

I said right from the beginning that this was going to be a difficult spec to fill, but I was wrong. In fact, and contrary to what many people will tell you, because of two of the above requirements, it's going to be very, very damned difficult.

The culprits are:

  1. Trans-ocean capable (in reasonable comfort and safety).
  2. Not a project boat.

Drop either, and literally hundreds, maybe thousands, of boats jump into the frame.

The other problem is that really good, well-maintained boats, from consistently good builders, are way more expensive than most people—including me, up until a few months ago—think.

And often, maybe mostly, when we find a boat that seems to break that rule, a closer look reveals a lurking problem that explains the price—teak decks that need replacing, often with water in the deck core under them, are a classic example.

(By the way, some good news on the price front: Colin and I had a long chat about the practicality of getting an offshore boat for under US$100,000, during which we agreed that it was possible, but not easy, for those willing to invest in some serious sweat equity—Colin will be writing about that.)

So, if we had more than US$250,000 to spend, that would obviously help, but we don't, so what to do?

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Meet the Author

John

John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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