The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Tips, Tricks & Thoughts:

boats to buy

  • Cool Boat—Dragonfly 40

    I don’t generally put a lot of weight on magazine Boat Of the Year competitions, but I think Cruising World got it right picking the Dragonfly 40.

    I haven’t seen a 40, but I have drooled over the web site pages and videos and I was very impressed with the Dragonfly 28 when I was aboard one at the 2019 Annapolis Boatshow.

    So impressed that the Dragonfly 32 was on our short list when we bought the J/109, and might easily have got the nod if we could have found a secondhand one in our price range.

    I could babble on for pages about the many things I like about these boats, but it’s the elegant simplicity coupled with pin-your-ears-back performance that really grabs me, as well as the quality of the design work and build.

    Also, great to see a family business making boats and doing well.

    Have a listen to the CW judges talking about the boat, particularly the guy on the bottom left. That’s Herb McCormick, who I often call the “Father of AAC”, in that he gave Phyllis and me our first writing gigs at CW nearly 30 years ago, and taught us a bunch about writing over the next few years—Herb is the writer I aspire to be.

    He makes some good points on the design.

    And here’s another video of the carbon version really kicking up her heels in a good breeze.

    Of course the boat is way out of financial reach for most of us, but it’s fun to dream and we can also learn stuff by looking at really well-thought-out boats that aim to sail well instead of being floating condos.

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  • Why Cheap Boats Are Not Inexpensive

    An irrational drop in price makes a boat cheaper. A rational drop in price makes it more expensive.

    Originally Gautam Baid about investments, modified for boats by me

    Never truer words were said. Refits almost always cost more than the purchase price of the boat, often double or more. And worse still, the money we spend on a refit depreciates by 50% to 100% the day we finish it.

    So it’s almost always cheaper to buy a better and more expensive boat in the first place.

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  • An Interesting Boat Decision—Buy or Walk?

    Member Rob left an interesting comment a few days ago that got me thinking:

    I have a boat on offer and am considering backing out of the deal.

    The standing rigging is 41 year old rod, the rudder is wet, mold in v-berth, small leak in hull/deck joint, autohelm removed, small anchor locker (not sure how it could hold required rode) safety gear missing, no tender, no outboard, original DC panel, some “cosmetic” cracks in floor.

    The following is not working: wind speed, radio, knot meter), stuffing box clamps need replacing, engine insulation needs replacing…

    I am looking at 100% above offer price in updates. I would have a boat that is worth half of my investment. The uncertainty of insuring an old boat is concerning also.

    At survey the batteries and water system was not hooked up and therefore all those systems could not be tested.

    I think by writing this down I have made my decision. I thought this was the one and am not happy to let it go. It looked great and is from a reputable builder but was not updated where is matters most.

    Here are my thoughts:

    Your comment reflects the reality for so many who are considering an older boat.

    My first reaction was that none of that should necessarily disqualify a boat if the basic structure is good.

    In fact, sometimes getting a boat where all the kit is busted is a good thing as long as we get some price adjustment to compensate. This can be a better deal than buying a boat with a lot of older gear that still works, but won’t for long, but that the owner still wants to get paid for.

    I don’t even see the rudder as a deal breaker, given that most older boats with fibreglass rudders on metal stocks will be in that situation and there is a solution. Many prospective buyers stick their heads in the sand about the rudder, so good on you for not doing that.

    Also, most boats of this age will need the purchase price spent on them a second time on a refit. That’s just the way it is, as is the depreciation of that expenditure to near zero as soon as it’s spent. So good on you again for recognizing that.

    All that said, I think you are right to walk away because of the too small anchor locker, since a decent anchoring setup is a fundamental need for cruising.

    Further Reading

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  • McCurdy and Rhodes 56 For Sale

    The McCurdy and Rhodes 56 that we owned and loved for thirty years is for sale again.

    The asking price has recently been dropped to CAD$349,000 / ~US$259,000.

    This is a great boat at any price, but at this new price she represents a once in a very-long-while opportunity to buy an offshore-ready boat at about 15% of what it would cost to build her today.

    Heck, if you price the carbon mast (2005), new engine (2010) and spare parts, that’s the asking price close to accounted for, and you are getting the boat for near-free.

    If you are wondering why she is for sale again, I’m not at liberty to disclose that, but I do know the reasons and they have nothing to do with the boat.

    This is a boat that two knowledgeable owners (Phyllis and I) lavished 30 years of care and attention on. We detailed the boat from bow to stern to be simple, easy to use, and above all, reliable and easy to maintain.

    We left everything aboard: All our tools, carefully chosen to handle any repair or maintenance required, through to the custom linens and the fully equipped galley.

    She’s fast: We won our class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race, and yet she is easy to sail shorthanded—we were in the doublehanded class, and Phyllis and I never had trouble managing her by ourselves.

    In fact, I found her easier to singlehand, including a 1000-mile ocean passage and several coastal cruises, than the 45-foot boat I had before.

    And, like all Jim McCurdy boats, she has amazingly comfortable motion offshore. If you and/or your partner don’t like passages, this might be the boat that changes that for you.

    That said, she is not a beginner boat. While she is a small-big-boat, and rigged for ease of handling, she is also powerful enough to hurt the inexperienced.

    And, if you need a lot of automation to feel comfortable, she is not for you. That said, for those with the skills she is both safer and easier to sail, as well as a lot easier to maintain, than heavily automated boats.

    And, no, you don’t have to be a gorilla to sail her. I’m scrawny and far from some super-guy, even in my prime, and yet I was easily able to sail her by myself until we sold her just before I turned 70, and even then difficulty of sailing was not why we sold her.

    If you are already a competent offshore sailor, with emphasis on sailor, she just might be the boat for you.

    This is truly a boat that will take you anywhere you want to go, in safety and comfort:

    • Round the Horn?
    • Greenland?
    • Svalbard?
    • Baffin Island?
    • Trans-Atlantic?
    • The Caribbean?

    She has been there and done all of that, without problems or drama.

    Pretty Much All You Need to Know

    She is also one of the most written about boats for sale in the world, maybe the most:

    Learn more about her.

    And once you have joined this site, assuming you are not already a member, there are literally hundreds of articles about the boat explaining why she is set up the way she is and how to benefit from that.

    So Why Am I Writing This?

    I will get a few bucks when she sells (see Disclosure) but the overwhelming reason is that I still love the boat and want to see her get the owner she deserves, one who will take her back out there on blue water, where she belongs.

    Pass it On

    Even if she is not the boat for you, please pass this post on to others (outside paywall). This is a great opportunity for someone out there.

    Consulting With Me

    Obviously, there is no one who knows more about the boat than Phyllis and I do, so, although I don’t normally do one-on-one consulting, I will make an exception in the form of an up-to-one hour zoom call with anyone who is seriously interested.

    I can answer your questions and also discuss maintenance that will need doing in the future, so you have a clear idea of what your costs will be before making an offer—a near unique situation for a buyer to be in.

    That said, I don’t have the bandwidth to engage with every tire kicker who thinks it might be fun to chat boats, so I’m restricting this offer to AAC supporter members (US$120/year)—clearly, if you are not willing to invest that, you are not really interested in the boat.

    If you’re not already a member, you will need to join here, and if you are currently a member, but not a supporter, upgrade here.

    Once that’s done, send us an email and we will schedule the call.

    That said, if you want to discuss price, offers, and/or terms, call or email Jim Snair, the broker, not me.


    I have not seen the boat since the new owner sailed her away 18 months ago, but I’m told that she is in the same state she was then and that no equipment of gear has been removed.

    And anything I tell you in writing or verbally is, to the best of my knowledge true, but I make no warranty of the boat in any way. It’s up to you, and only you, to make sure she is safe and functional for your intended use and that the inventory and specifications are accurate.


    In return for letting him use our photographs and video, the broker will pay AAC a small commission when she sells.

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  • Heritage Intrepid 35

    As most of you know, I’m a sucker for most any boat from the drawing boards of McCurdy and Rhodes. Normally, to get a M&R boat you are looking at custom boats, or those from Hinckley, so deep pockets required.

    But, while I was researching something else, I discovered that, back in the 70s, the firm designed some very nice smaller production boats for Heritage Yachts in Canada and Seafarer Yachts in the USA.

    Seems to me these might make great starter boats, that will sail better and are better designed for going offshore than many others of the time. They are also way prettier than most: no one can draw a shear-line the way M&R can.

    The one pictured above is an Heritage Intrepid 35 that looks well taken care of, with an asking price of a bit over $30k.


    Note that this post is the result of fifteen minutes research and I have no idea how well built, or not, these boats are, or how well they have aged, so do your due diligence.

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  • O’Day Day Sailer

    I mentioned one of these in another tip as the boat I lusted after when I was 12 years old.

    Today I was driving past a boatyard and lo and behold…

    I wonder what you could buy this boat for with trailer and outboard?

    Not much I bet, and she would be a great teacher of the most important skill we need to go cruising, and a heck of a lot of fun, too.

    Just saying…

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  • Mirage 24

    This little boat on the mooring next to us, belongs to a young couple with a year-old baby, who get a lot of fun out of her. I’m told even the baby likes the boat.

    She has two berths, a galley and a head, and was designed by Cuthbertson & Cassian of C&C yachts, although built by Mirage, which means she will sail well and without bad habits.

    I’m a huge fan of the original designers at C&C. Good wholesome designs that can still surprise on the race course.

    But here’s the best part. The boat cost the young owners less than a lithium battery bank…a lot less.

    Sailing, and even overnight cruising, does not have to be expensive…unless we choose to make it so.

    If you are waiting and saving to go voyaging, this would be a fun boat until then.

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  • Cruiser Under $20K, Bayfield 29

    My last post got me thinking about the importance of just getting out there in some boat, any boat, if we really want to go cruising and make a success of it. We can always buy a bigger and better boat later.

    With that in mind, there’s a Bayfield 29 we go by on our regular rows, that caught my eye as a functional cruiser we could get for half the price of cars most people buy these days.

    So buy a modest car and a Bayfield 29 and get out there. Better still, forget the car and use the money to cruise for a year.

    A guy I met the other day had a Bayfield 29 on Great Slave Lake, got drunk one night in a bar and boasted that he was going to sail it across the Atlantic. So then he had to, and did…and back—testosterone is a dangerous drug.

    That said, I have no special knowledge on the Bayfields, so do your due diligence.

    More on buying boats.

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  • A Boat While You Wait To Go Cruising

    I came across this cool article on old small boats available for less than the cost of a good dinner out.

    One of these would make a great project while waiting and saving to go cruising:

    1. Learn some useful skills while fixing the boat.
    2. Then hone sailing skills.

    The O’Day Day Sailer for US$78 jumped out at me. When I was a teenager this was the boat I lusted after. Sails well and even has a tiny cabin.

    If you want to sleep aboard (definitely camping), look for a Rhodes 19 originally built by the same company, albeit for more money, but you might find an old one for less.

    At one point I taught sailing to adults in one of these, and even spent a few nights aboard sleeping on an air mattress.

    Owning, fixing, and above all sailing one of these old boats is way more fun, and will impart way more useful cruising skills, than watching YouTube about lithium batteries and the Unattainable 45.

    More about getting out there cruising.

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