US$30,000 Starter Cruiser—Part 1, How We Shopped For Our First Cruising Sailboat

There's a "For Sale" sign on the pulpit. Could this be the one? ©Matt Marsh

We've had lots of discussion here at AAC over the last year about whether it's possible to sail away in a seaworthy long-distance cruiser without spending a substantial multiple of the average person's net worth. The conclusion so far? It ain't easy, but it's possible to end up with an ocean cruising boat for something on the order of US$100,000.

Not For Everyone

Even then, there're problems:

  • For many people a boat priced at $100,000, with all the attendant costs of ownership on top, is still well out of reach.
  • So is quitting one's job to work full-time on a boat refit.
  • And what if you find, a year into it, that cruising under sail just isn't for you after all? Will you be stuck with a boat that burns $10,000 a year just to dock, insure, and keep afloat, and which might take a year or more to sell once you list it?

An Attainable Alternative

One promising path: Start smaller, start simpler. Make your inevitable expensive mistakes with short cruises in a relatively affordable boat, learn what works and what doesn't work for you, and then look at your choices for stepping up.

So, what does a starter cruiser look like, for a couple or a family who can't cast off the dock lines just yet? Is it possible to cruise, short term, in a safe and seaworthy (albeit not too luxurious) sailing yacht, for no more than the average family in our position would spend on a new car?

  1. The Right Way to Buy a Boat…And The Wrong Way
  2. Is It a Need or a Want?
  3. Buying a Boat—A Different Way To Think About Price
  4. Buying a Cruising Boat—Five Tips for The Half-Assed Option
  5. Are Refits Worth It?
  6. Buying a Boat—Never Say Never
  7. Five Ways That Bad Boats Happen
  8. The Two Biggest Lies Yacht Brokers Tell
  9. Learn From The Designers
  10. You May Need a Bigger Boat Than You Think
  11. Sail Area: Overlap, Multihulls, And Racing Rules
  12. 8 Tips For a Great Cruising Boat Interior Arrangement
  13. Of Cockpits, Wheelhouses And Engine Rooms
  14. Cockpits—Part 1, Safe and Seamanlike
  15. Cockpits—Part 2, Visibility and Ergonomics
  16. Offshore Sailboat Winches, Selection and Positioning
  17. Choosing a Cruising Boat—Shelter
  18. Choosing A Cruising Boat—Shade and Ventilation
  19. Pitfalls to Avoid When Buying a New Voyaging Boat
  20. Cyclical Loading: Why Offshore Sailing Is So Hard On A Boat
  21. Cycle Loading—8 Tips for Boat and Gear Purchases
  22. Characteristics of Boat Building Materials
  23. Impact Resistance—How Hull Materials Respond to Impacts
  24. Impact Resistance—Two Collision Scenarios
  25. Hull Materials, Which Is Best?
  26. The Five Things We Need to Check When Buying a Boat
  27. Six Warnings About Buying Fibreglass Boats
  28. Buying a Fibreglass Boat—Hiring a Surveyor and Managing the Survey
  29. What We Need to Know About Moisture Meters and Wet Fibreglass Laminate
  30. Offshore Sailboat Keel Types
  31. US$30,000 Starter Cruiser—Part 1, How We Shopped For Our First Cruising Sailboat
  32. US$30,000 Starter Cruiser—Part 2, The Boat We Bought
  33. US$30,000 Starter Cruiser—How It’s Working Out
  34. Q&A, What’s the Maximum Sailboat Size For a Couple?
  35. At What Age should You Stop Sailing And Buy a Motorboat?
  36. A Motorsailer For Offshore Voyaging?

Matt, Engineering Correspondent, is a Professional Engineer and true renaissance man, with a wide range of expertise including photography and all things boat design. He has a unique ability to make complex subjects easy to understand and he keeps an eye on the rest of us to make sure that we don’t make any technical mistakes. Working as M. B. Marsh Marine Design, Matt designs innovative powerboats of all shapes and sizes.

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