US$30,000 Starter Cruiser—Part 2, The Boat We Bought

Boat shopping in winter requires imagination. When you first see your new boat, she'll be on the hard, tarped up, under soulless winter light, her dark gear-stuffed cabin accessible only by extension ladder. It can be difficult to see not what she is now, but what she will be when afloat and rigged.

In Part 1, we talked about how to go hunting for your first cruising yacht, using a real world example—my wife and me—to think through the trade-offs and to zero in on a class of boats that we think are ideal starter cruisers.

Is it possible, we asked, to have a safe and seaworthy entry-level cruising boat for no more than the average middle-class family would spend on an average middle-class car?

This is not just an academic exercise, though. In true AAC spirit, we tested the theory with real money: 100% ours. (AAC has no stake in the project.)

The Hunt

We spent the better part of eight months poking through YachtWorld,, brokerage listings, Kijiji classifieds, and so forth. This stage was mainly to get a feel for the market, to see what's out there at what price points, to see how long a boat tends to stay listed before selling, and how many price reductions tend to be posted before it goes.

This is tremendously useful information to have. From all that browsing, we determined that boats of the type we're interested in, in the areas near us, tend to either sell fairly quickly in the spring or to languish on the brokerage boards from mid-late summer through to the next spring.

These boats tend to be initially listed at a 10% premium over fair market value, with price cuts being posted late in the season ("I want to sell it before I have to pay to haul and store it") and again in mid-winter ("I want to sell it before I have to pay for a summer slip").

This told us that if we were comfortable shopping around in mid-winter with the boats on the hard and looking awful under their worn-out tarps, we should be able to score a good deal on a good boat without too much time pressure.

We also learned that pretty, shiny boats sell much faster and at higher prices than those with cosmetic issues, even if the functional parts are in similar condition, which told us that we should be able to get more boat for our dollar, and more flexibility in negotiations and scheduling, if we learn to separate cosmetic flaws from those that run deeper.

At our price point—set in Part 1 at $US15,000—we had to be careful about identifying what we really need. Many of the systems that make long-term cruising life nicer—DC refrigeration, hot water, vacuum flush toilets, air conditioning, NMEA 2000 networked instruments, a power windlass capable of hoisting a four-ton granite mooring boulder—simply aren't going to happen at this price.

Indeed, we shared the locks on our delivery passage with a brokerage Azimut 50 whose side thruster system cost more than we paid for our boat, and whose asking price was equal to about a quarter of the total fleet value of our boat's 350 sisterships.

The Winner

Allow me to introduce Maverick V.

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  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 Good Voyaging 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. Q&A, What’s the Maximum Sailboat Size For a Couple?
  34. At What Age should You Stop Sailing And Buy a Motorboat?
  35. 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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