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Old 14-10-2019, 18:51   #1
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Best ways to compromise on a boat to save money.

Hi guys!

I've changed careers to software engineering in the hopes of transitioning to a full-time remote job and live aboard lifestyle! I'm a millennial, saddled with lots of student debt, and not a lot of savings. The goal is to buy a boat in 2 years, and I'm saving as much as I can. However, I'm going to be looking for every way to save money that I can possibly take advantage of.

I'm willing to undertake difficult projects, don't really care about the aesthetic of the boat, and have a goal of living aboard and working on it for a year before actually casting off.

When buying a boat, what are the projects you could conceivably complete for less money than you're saving by buying the boat without said work already done? Said another way: what things would bring the sticker price of a boat down, but aren't that big of a deal to fix?

While I don't have any practical experience, I'm confident I could complete restoration of wooden parts, power/navigation/equipment upgrades/repairs/refits, etc given time and an internet connection.

Thanks in advance for your input guys!
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Old 14-10-2019, 18:55   #2
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Re: Best ways to compromise on a boat to save money.

Watch the “Sailing Project Atticus” and “Sailing Uma” channels on YouTube, especially their early episodes where they select and rebuild their boats
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Old 14-10-2019, 19:26   #3
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Re: Best ways to compromise on a boat to save money.

This is extremely difficult. If you actually want to go sailing, you would be better off buying a smaller, simpler boat that is ready to go, even if you have to work an extra year or two to do it. All boat projects take longer and cost far more than you think.

But, if you really want to... the things that can bring down the value of a boat that can be redone to get you a better boat for cheaper are relatively few. A boat with very outdated navigation electronics is usually one place to go. You'll want to do these your way anyway.

Another is to look for one where the engine is toast. Repowering is a big job, but can get you a better boat. Because the project intimidates many buyers it tends to drive the price down by more than the project costs.
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Old 14-10-2019, 19:49   #4
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Re: Best ways to compromise on a boat to save money.

I kind of did this about twelve years ago. Bought a cheap boat, fixed it up, went sailing around the world. It worked out very well and I'm glad I did it all, but from a more cynical perspective I basically spent 8 years working up to my voyage doing nothing else. The project took all of my time when I wasn't working and every last penny I earned that wasn't going in to savings to pay for the voyage.

From a purely financial perspective what I did made no sense either. I estimate that I've spent about three or four times the current value of the boat. I thought it was in good structural condition. I even paid a surveyor to do a detailed survey and writeup. It was bull$#@*. Yes, I saved on 8 years of rent, but it was a pretty miserable existence living in a workshop for all that time.

I highly recommend saving up a bit more and buying a boat that is already in good condition. That being said, in answer to your question:

The overall impression of a boat is pribably the biggest price-determining factor. If she looks shabby then you can get a lot of money off. The problem is, if she has been neglected aesthetically then she has probably been neglected in other ways too.

Look for boat systems that don't work but which you don't need anyway, use them to drive the price down and then simply remove those systems. Examples include:
- radar
-Loran
-SSB
-chart plotter
- wind instruments
- pressure water system
- knotlog
- depth sounder (though this one is quite handy.....)
- superfluous lights

I'm sure there are many other things too, just use your judgement.

Leaks are a big one. If there are leaks that haven't done any major damage yet it might just be a case of replacing a gasket. Visualise a new coat of paint on stuff and see if the problem goes away. Same applies for stains on the hull, rust stains etc. but beware corrosion. That is not the same kettle of fish.
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Old 14-10-2019, 19:56   #5
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Re: Best ways to compromise on a boat to save money.

Here are a couple of truisms:

Unless you are retired or independently wealthy, you are better off working and paying someone to do the job (specialization, Adam Smith).

A boat only makes financial sense if you are displacing cost, ie you live the live aboard lifestyle, pay $600 rent to the Marina, save $2,600 rental cost. Otherwise you lose money.

There are some projects that can easily be done by yourself (electronics, plumbing, interior work) but then there are others that require a special skill (rigging, fiberglass work, engine work). You can learn how to fix the engines (boat engines are simple but there is a learning curve). Best bet is to find experienced sailors in your area that an help you choose a boat according to your needs and skills.

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Old 14-10-2019, 19:57   #6
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Re: Best ways to compromise on a boat to save money.

Great advise. On the opposite prospective avoid a boat that does, or will need a new engine. Also, core problems. Although you can fix those relatively inexpensively if you do all the work, it will take a long time to fix.
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Old 14-10-2019, 20:09   #7
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Re: Best ways to compromise on a boat to save money.

One point I rarely see mentioned in these discussions is the aspect of the boat’s performance in terms of its ability to be sailed in the manner and location the owner is likely to use her.

I had a budget 7 years ago that limited my choices (as we all mostly do) and I chose a boat with a proven sailing record over other boats with much better interiors, fitout and equipment.

I have no regrets about the time it has taken me to refit the boat because all along I’ve had a boat that sails extremely well and has handled everything I’ve thrown at her.

Over the intervening 7 years I’ve seen dozens of boats be bought and sold around me as the owners were disappointed with their performance or the boats could not handle the role that was envisaged for them. I’ve sailed on a few, and have often crewed to help new owners become accustomed to their purchase and, frankly, some boats are serious dogs.

So, to the OP, getting fixated on where you can save money by DIY is ok, but no amount of DIY will change the fundamental characteristics of a sailing boat, so focus on this part first.
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Old 14-10-2019, 20:17   #8
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Re: Best ways to compromise on a boat to save money.

Wow, lots of good advice here!

Quote:
Originally Posted by GILow View Post
So, to the OP, getting fixated on where you can save money by DIY is ok, but no amount of DIY will change the fundamental characteristics of a sailing boat, so focus on this part first.
This made an impression! How sad it would be to put a lot of money and work into a boat only to hate it! Good tip. What sailing characteristics are important to you?
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Old 14-10-2019, 20:30   #9
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Re: Best ways to compromise on a boat to save money.

Quote:
Originally Posted by chambrse View Post
Hi guys!
I'm going to be looking for every way to save money that I can possibly take advantage of
Corpses can be brought back to life. I've done it three times and each one cost far more than the boat was worth. That was ok with me as I knew what I was getting into and didn't mind. I paid 25k for the boat in my avatar and put another $60k and 4 years into it. I might get $75k for it.

The vast majority of "project" boats end up abandoned because people either underestimated the costs, the time involved or their skill level.

Once in a while somebody pulls out a winner. If you want to be one of those start to educate yourself about how to look at a boat. I suggest you start here.

Marine Survey 101, pre-survey inspection
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Old 14-10-2019, 20:41   #10
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Re: Best ways to compromise on a boat to save money.

I don't want to sound discouraging. Everybody should have a goal or dream to accomplish. Your interest in boat selection strategy is little premature.
I was in your field for decades. So.. get well paying job and move up in your carrier by moving from one company to another (from one town to another) to cover big chunk of SW development experience. When you hit 120-130K mark start thinking about buying a boat. Rent a room and spend weekend sailing. There are some software segments which allow to cruise and work... but I would not hold high expectations for such possibility. Management is not very tolerant when it comes up you working from your boat and not from your home office. Unless your are not replaceable and have decades of very specific experience. Get 30 footer (or less) in docent shape ($20K) - it is 2-3 months of your salary (hopefully) - sail the hell out of her next few years - may be sailing from one job to another along the east coast. And... steer clear from marriage.
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Old 14-10-2019, 21:03   #11
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Re: Best ways to compromise on a boat to save money.

Quote:
Originally Posted by billknny View Post
This is extremely difficult. If you actually want to go sailing, you would be better off buying a smaller, simpler boat that is ready to go, even if you have to work an extra year or two to do it. All boat projects take longer and cost far more than you think.
Exactly... I was putting more and more money each month into buying fund and no way I am wiling to DIY a project boat. I better work (from comfortable home office) extra few months and buy a ready to go boat.
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Old 14-10-2019, 21:51   #12
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Re: Best ways to compromise on a boat to save money.

I did what you are proposing, bought the first boat I looked at (don't do this) for just over 10k CAD and moved aboard at the age of 31. Spent 5 years learning how to sail (I literally had no idea what a halyard was) and fixing and upgrading the boat, while working a normal job.

I liked living on the boat, saved on rent and having redone basically every single system (including ripping every single piece of wiring out and replacing, inc panels etc) I know it like the back of my hand. Not very financially prudent though.

On the plus side I did a LOT of weekend trips and anchored out a ton, with a number of longer week / month long trips thrown in there every summer as well as racing the boat in a few races. Being able to use the boat and take it out in between boat jobs is really important

Left my job last year and sailed towards Alaska and then headed back down the coast to Mexico.

I don't work remotely (though I'm in IT) but this summer I flew back to Canada for 5 months and worked during the summer on contracts, and am back at the boat now
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Old 14-10-2019, 22:57   #13
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Re: Best ways to compromise on a boat to save money.

There's never been a better time to do what you want to do. You can find decent internet in some pretty wild places these days, and you've got the right idea building up your work network locally before you really cast the lines off.

You asked: "When buying a boat, what are the projects you could complete for less money than you're saving by buying the boat without said work already done?"

Maybe aesthetics, but that often belies deeper issues. I'd say you will save money across the board by the boat being in good basic condition upfront. Hull, rigging, sails, engine, etc.

Ditto for system updates made by a previous owner competently. You are in a position to save substantially if you can find a boat that was already setup by the previous owner to do what you want it do to. The tradeoff is that you don't know the systems as well as if you were involved in the fitting out.

Get on some boats and find out what you want. Then find one in good basic condition and do your best to learn all the systems firsthand. If you plan to cruise away from home, time spent learning your boat and how to keep the systems running is the best investment you can make in terms of money, time and safety. You don't have to be skilled tradesman in every dept, but you should shoot for the best basic skills that you can muster across the board. Plumber, electrician, rigger, diesel mechanic, etc.. Books are great. Youtube is great. You can learn a lot about this stuff before you even buy the boat. Then, once you do, whatever you feel you have to hire out along the way, be sure you're there looking over their shoulder and asking smart questions.

Once you buy, don't spend too much time getting things "just so". Make yourself and the boat seaworthy and hone your sailing and boathandling skills. Take larger and larger jumps outside your comfort zone. Do plenty of daysailing, then maybe some coastal jumps, then some overnights. Bring on new systems only if you've discovered you actually truly want them, and strive for self-sufficiency.

Cheers and good luck!
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Old 15-10-2019, 00:15   #14
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Re: Best ways to compromise on a boat to save money.

The best way to get a discount on a boat in any condition is to buy it in the “wrong” place. That is, a boat that someone’s sailed to the end of an easy leg and now is sick of it, run out of money, and/or can’t sail back easily.

Somewhere near the Panama Canal (particularly west, like down below Mexico) is good for this. Likewise the western end of the Pacific Islands, or possibly PNG/Indonesia way.

In these places, there are a lot of boats arriving but very few people living there who actually want to (or can afford to) buy a boat. The next part of the trip is a long way, or upwind back.

The opposite of this is places like the med, the Solent, Florida etc. Tons of people wanting to start there and buy a boat.

You’d think that Australia and New Zealand might be included in the “cheap” list, but they aren’t that good as there are comparatively fewer boats that make it this far, and our distance from most of the manufacturers and boat shows means that second-hand boats have a higher value than they might in other locations.
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Old 15-10-2019, 01:57   #15
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Re: Best ways to compromise on a boat to save money.

Quote:
Originally Posted by chambrse View Post
Wow, lots of good advice here!



This made an impression! How sad it would be to put a lot of money and work into a boat only to hate it! Good tip. What sailing characteristics are important to you?


These sorts of questions are hard to answer, because everyone is different. Personally, I was looking for something with a good blue water reputation that was easy to handle. This translated to something with a conservative rig and hull, so not all that fast but very sure-footed.

But I went through a lot of searching and reluctantly eliminated a few boats that I liked because they either sailed like a slug (I won’t mention names because someone will be offended but there’s a popular Australian boat that has reputation for needing the engine to tack, I thought this was an exaggeration until I took a test sail on one, and realised it was true.) and there were others that I really liked, much faster than my current boat, but were just too much to for me to handle as a solo sailor. One I really liked and tried out sailed on its ear in anything over ten knots of wind, which was actually a designed characteristic that came from, I think, old IOR rules. The owner didn’t mind but I found it pretty unpleasant. (Also, the chain plates went through the main saloon and chopped the space up horribly)

Ask around when you get a short list, you’ll soon pick the feel for various designs from people’s responses. Try to get some time sailing on the boats you are interested in, see if the ride and motion suit your needs.

Then at least, when you start work, you’ll know that you will enjoy sailing the finished product, which, after all, is what it is all about.
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