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Old 29-05-2008, 18:35   #1
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Buy a Sailboat, Charter a Sailboat, or Fractional Ownership?

My wife and I have big dreams, we are putting our eye on hitting the open ocean in May 2010 for a circumnavigation. We both are on a very intensive training plan, however after our first week in a US Sailing Course (Basic Keelboat) we realize that we need as much on-the-boat experience as possible.

We are not planning on buying our ocean-going sailboat until October 2009; this gives us ~9 months to get familiar with the ins and outs of our new ship before we hit the open ocean. However, we need on-the-boat experience first, which leaves use with three options.

1) Buy a "nice" used sailboat, we see plenty of boats in the $3000 - $5000 range (even a few $1000 sailboats). Most of the boats are pretty much ready to sail the SF Bay, however they all need a little bit of work. This is a advantage to us, because we need to learn the innerworkings of boats too before our big sail. These boats are 25' - 29'.

This option would also need a ~$200 a month slip rental as well as regular upkeep.

2) We belong to OCSC, a sailing club who also provides US Sailing instruction. They also allow members to bareboat charter boats. Once we complete Basic Cruising in June, we can charter sailboats up to 30 feet. The daily rate is $155 or $280 for a weekend.

Once we complete the Bareboat Chartering course, we can bareboat charter 30+ feet sailboats. The daily rate on a Catalina 36' is $370 or $665 for a weekend.

3) Join a fractional ownership 'club' like Windpath, for a initial investment of $3500 ($2500 of which is a security deposit) and $575 a month we can sail up to 7 days a month on a Catalina 34' sailboat.

So, what do I choose?

I am leaning towards buying a good used boat, keeping it maintained over the next year and hopefully sell in right before we buy the 'ocean-going' boat for a small loss at most. However the Windpath option seems appealing to me because the 'class' of boat is similar to what we need to get used to sailing for our circumnavigation.

I feel OCSC is a bit expensive for the two of us to charter, however they offer a great service where they can pair you with other students to help split the total charter cost.

Is there any options I should consider? Which option is the most appealing to you, if you were a beginning sailor?


s/v Paseo (Just a dream for now)
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Old 29-05-2008, 19:20   #2
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I kind of like options 2 and 3 because they give you access to a Catalina 34 or 36. These are real liveaboard cruisers - probably not the ones you would choose for a circumnavigation - but they are popular and suitable for cruising in places like the Bahamas and the Caribbean.

However, nothing can match the the variety of experience you gain from boat ownership. For most people a remarkably small amount of full time cruising involves sailing. Most of the boat related stuff revolves around living at anchor and maintaining/repairing the boat. You need to own one to really learn about that, but it will be much more expensive than options 2 or 3.

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Old 29-05-2008, 19:21   #3
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2) We belong to OCSC, a sailing club who also provides US Sailing instruction. They also allow members to bare boat charter boats. Once we complete Basic Cruising in June, we can charter sailboats up to 30 feet. The daily rate is $155 or $280 for a weekend.
We did this when we started and sailing never was that cheap ever again. Sail clubs add a lot of extra value. You meet and get to know people more like you. Getting time on the water right now would be the number one goal. You just can't have too much. Yes, you need to learn the rest as well but frankly it's not a cheap education and sailing experience brings a lot of other things you need even more. I can't sail the boat I own outright for those prices. when you have to pay for it all the numbers don't come out that great. We also have an advantage that we own our boat slip.

A boat that needs a little work takes 2 years to get right and some extra cash that you won't get back when you sell it. Boats don't resell that well. I would stall the purchase of your boat until you get close and allow more time after you buy it to get to know it.

I really think one full season with a new used boat is required to get to really feel comfortable and be confident. Even brand new boats don't come 100% ready or familiar. They all have their issues and things you want to change or fix or somehow change.

Fractional ownership generally gets you into a newer bigger boat and can be a good thing if you can take advantage of all the days you are entitled to. It's still cheaper than owning your own boat. Buying a used boat for a novice is not easy. A lot more responsibility financially and you are pretty much on your own. A good yacht club is a great advantage at that point but with more expenses.

In the interim I would consider time on the water the number one goal.
Paul Blais
s/v Bright Eyes Gozzard 36
37 15.7 N 76 28.9 W
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Old 29-05-2008, 19:32   #4
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There is nothing like working on a boat to see if you are interested in sailing around the world or not. I've got a proposal for you everytime there is a nasty job to do on my boat such as changing out the holding tank or cleaning the bilge or going to the top of the mast I wil call you late at night and then you need to get out of your nice warm bed and then come and fix the problem on my boat. This is excellent training for a circumnavigation. And for this training no charge. I'll even pay for parts and take you out sailing every once in awhile as long as you gurantee your work. LOL Sorry I couldn't resist.

On a serious note to get more sailing experience I would suggest that you go to the different yacht clubs and find out when thier Beer can races are. Berkely Richmond and Alameda yacht Clubs all have races on various weeknights. Lat 38 has a racing crew list on its website. From there you can schmooze the owner and help out with repairs. This won't give you much experience at the helm but it will give you sea time. I think that chartering once in awhile and racing as much as you can will keep you busy. I used to sail five or six days a week on other peoples boats when I lived in SF. BTW while OCSC is at the top of the list for teaching they are also on the top of the list for price. You can probably do better on chartering rates at some of the smaller clubs. I don't know if they still do but Tradewinds sailing out of Richmond had a real good deal going on chartering for just a few hundred $$ a month. Also look at the Cal Sailing Club. They have small boats that are really cheap to rent or at least they used to.
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Between us there was, as I have already said somewhere, the bond of the sea. Besides holding our hearts together through long periods of separation, it had the effect of making us tolerant of each other's yarns -- and even convictions. Heart of Darkness
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Old 30-05-2008, 18:00   #5
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Why not all three...

All options look good and well thought out.

Why not do them all.

However, instead of buying a boat that might suck all your creative juices dry for the next 4+ years why not get a RIB inflatable on a trailer with an old outboard? Something that will plane. I'm assuming you have a garage.

If you really want diesel maintenance experience get a 20 year old diesel car or pickup to tow it.

Lot of fun and you could be surprised at the number of places you can get to, and the different marine viewpoints.
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Old 30-05-2008, 21:30   #6
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Join the Power and sail squadron and volunteer to work and crew on someone elses boat. Trust me, volunteering to help with the maintenance will get you invite to as many of the fun sails as you want. It also give you insight and experience in dealing with the issues you are going to face when you start cruising. That and it is a LOT cheaper than other alternatives. I alway wonder why no one take advantage of this??? Boaters are usually the friendliest and most helpful set of people as a rule. Love to share, especially if you're not just a free loader.

Good luck.
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Old 02-09-2012, 20:21   #7
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Re: Buy a sailboat, charter a sailboat, or fractional ownership?

I have one more way i am thinking of the same thing you are and am planing my purchase until next year but I did not have much mono hull time.

I have sailed my hole life but cats and Hobie cats mostly.

I found a guy with a 36 Catalina that was looking for crew. He sails at least 2 times a week and is retired. I own my own business so I am his first call I can get away any time I need to. After 2 or three times out I had the helm 30% of the time, after 2 or 3 months it was 80% and now all most all the time. He found out i am a A&P mechanic and I have gotten a lot of experience working on Vella (his Catalina) as well. This did not cost me a DIME.

That being said I am looking at buying a few small 25 to 36 foot boats and starting a fractional ownership comp. as well to help people like you in this area (Tampa fl.). The cost I am looking at is $1500 down and $200 per month. $500 of the down is deposit and you get stock in the comp. that owns the boats you can sell when you are done to get your down back when you are done and limit the # of owners to 6 per boat with an online booking so they can book the boats themselves and no limit on days a month or when you have to have the boat back every day they ARE REALLY OWNERS that way without all the cost that come with that.

Too bad you not down here.
Good luck and good sailing.
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Old 04-09-2012, 12:07   #8
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Re: Buy a sailboat, charter a sailboat, or fractional ownership?

I bought my own boat 3 months ago with no experience really with boats or sailing.

On our inaugral 2 week cruise we bumped into people who tried all of your above options and to be brutally honest if you are preparing for any kind of extended cruising anything but buying your own boat will be a waste of your time and money.

Several couples we met were on charters. At 2-4 thousand a week a week each year a week was all they could afford. When something went wrong they called the charter company, i saw headsails flying out of furler tracks and jammed mainsail furlers and all sorts of other user error problems. Really nice beautiful boats with tvs and microwaves but since they didnt own the boats and only went out a week a year they didnt know much of anything. While they were nice people they were truly spoiled as sailors, cruising around on quarter million dollar boats which they knew very little about how they worked. I had to strongly advise and help one couple with a partially detached headsail thatnwas flapping like mad in 30 kt wind to take it down because they were destroying a 3 thousand dollar sail before my very eyes just leaving it like that while they waited for the charter companys emergency after hours guy for hours to return their call.

Moral of the story on chartering: its a rental, you will treat it like one and you will spoil yourself and possibly never be happy with the boat that you can actually afford after driving a rental. You will pay through the nose, enough that you could buy a small simple boat after two charters and learn very little beyond basic sailing. Its a good plan if you only want a week a year for a couple years until you find a different hobby but in prep for extended cruising its a waste of time and money, with exception to seeing if cruising is really something you want to do.

We met some nice couples who did fractional ownership and IMO it sounded like a pain in the neck. They paid a 1500 buy in fee and 120 per month to share a boat with 10 people. Their boat was nowhere near as nice as mine that i got for 4 grand and they were on the hook for 10% of every upgrade or hardware that anyone bought. The boat was loaded with other peoples crap, they only got to use the boat for one week in the summer (but first come first serve during the winter), the dinghy they were constantly complaining about because someone bought one that weighed 500 pounds and for the amount of sailing they got in it seemed to me to be a complete waste of money. Often i see ads for fractional ownership and it is basically a way for someone to pay their moorage and keep their boat. I saw an ad for a sweet 26 ft thunderbird for 4 thousand and a week later the same boat popped up where the guy was trying to sell a one third share of the same boat for 4 grand plus 1/3 of the moorage and upkeep. Guess he bought the boat and realized how much a slip and insurance costed.

Moral of the story on fractional ownership: unless its within the family or amongst good reliable friends who you can count on to hold their end of the bargain financially its not worth the hassle. Again it never feels like its yours and for the amount of sailing you will get in no real way to prep for extended cruising. If one partner knows a lot about sailing that person will tend to take over and be the go to guy and you will never learn the self reliance that you will need. You will find the boat gets filled with crap that you get the privelidge of paying for that you never wanted in the first place.

Sailing clubs and volunteering on other peoples boats as crew: great if you want an intro to basic sailing but again as you are not the owner you are never the one in charge and you will never get the practice making the judgement calls that you will need to make doing extended cruising. You can have a lot of fun daysailing but you will be crew rather than captain and beleive me they are remarkably different experiences.

When you buy a boat, especially an older one for a few thousand, you have to learn every little thing about it. The crazy wiring installed 3 owners ago, the wiring that leads to nothing because it was disabled 10 years ago, how much battery capacity you need, how big of fuel tanks you need based on your cruising style, what your favorite sail arrangement is, the handling characteristics of your boat, how to determine what is not right by asimple funny noise, etc.

To me it seems an extraordinary waste of time, money, and resources to get into sailing any other way other than just diving right in and buying a darn boat. At least from the examples ive seen and heard from 2 weeks cruising and meeting people at the docks. Especially chartering - i explained to some of these folks that for the price they paid for a week that they could own a boat like mine - because they were spoiled with a quarter million dollar boat they they could never afford to own (between maintenance and initial purchase price) they could never see themselves even setting foot on a 30 year old 26 footer. Its really too bad for them. I met a very enthusiastic older british man who owned a half million dollar boat who had been sailing for 40 years and he looked at my boat with awe and wonder at the crazy advanced rigging on my boat and was very excited to see i had a continuous furler, something he had just paid ten grand to install on his boat a week before i met him. If my boat was good enough for him, it is a shame that these chartering people paying the value of my boat for a week of cruising would never even know that i actually had some more advanced hardware than their shiny new charter vessel and that it is actually much easier to sail.

Anyways while i know i got a good deal there are many good deals out there for used boats. Some people just dont use a perfectly good boat anymore and want to see it be loved, some are upgrading, and some just know that maintenance needs to be done and they are too lazy to do it.

If you intend to have a long sailing career just buy your own boat, start small and get to know your boat for all her quirks and maintenance and then a couple years before your big blue water cruise buy your offshore boat and sail it and get to know it. No need to start with a 30-40 footer get something small like a 24-28 footer its easier to dock and sails, maintenance and slip fees are cheaper.

My two bits.

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