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Old 29-06-2010, 08:46   #1
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Absolute Newbie - Where to Start ?

Hello to you all!

My husband and I are looking to buy our first boat and really don't know where to begin. Unfortunately, we don't have any sailor friends that can help us navigate this process and everyone we do talk to has their own take on it all.

Here are our basics:

We will be keeping the boat in Santa Barbara, where slips are quite pricey. We intend to sail around the Channel Islands for 3-5 years. Then, we'd like to spend a year or so sailing from the Caribbean to the East Coast. We have two kids who are now 4 and 6. We just began sailing in earnest about a year ago and have spent about 2 weeks onboard on charter trips. We've also done a bit of daysailing out of Santa Barbara. We don't have the mechanical/detective skills YET to totally fix up a boat but hope to learn them along the way. That being said, we don't want to buy a total fixer-upper.

Budget: Whew, this is a big one. We're about to sell our house in NC, move across the country, and rent a tiny apt so that we can buy a boat. Ultimately, we can't spend more than $100K in the next 5 years but could conceivably come up with some cash along the way for repairs.

My questions are hopefully straightforward:
1. Should we be thinking about buying something small and manageable to sail for a few years and then trade up? For now, we want our boat to sleep us all and have a small galley for trips to the Channel Islands. For later, we'll want something with two cabins and is capable of making the trek to the Caribbean.

2. Where do we learn the fundamentals of boat buying? I've gotten sucked into this forum, spending hours reading all your great advice. However, we are lacking the basics of boat brands/types/etc. Like I said, we are total newbies.

Thanks in advance for all your help!

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Old 29-06-2010, 09:04   #2
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Well, if you are looking for a place where you will get a consensus view, I'm not at all sure you will find it here.

Question: why move to California now if your ultimate destination is the Caribbean?

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Old 29-06-2010, 09:13   #3
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We are moving to CA to be near my husband's aging family, who also happen to own an apt we can rent for relatively cheap. Where we live in NC, we're about 3 hours from the coast which is just too far to sail regularly. Finally, my husband is quitting his job to make pizzas... but that is a whole other story.
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Old 29-06-2010, 09:14   #4
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Welcome to Cruisers Forum, Rebecca. You're smart to try to gather information from experienced cruisers before you commit to anything. The following is just one man's opinion, so please feel free to accept or reject any / all of it.

Don't make the mistake of buying too much boat for your needs right off the bat. Don't spend too much on your first boat, either.

As you gain experience, you will learn more and more about yourselves as you also learn more about cruising. At this point, you don't know enough about either sailing or yourselves to make an informed decision when it comes to selecting a cruising vessel.

For one thing, you don't know yet if you're going to love it or hate it. It would be a shame to invest a lot of money in a vessel that you have to sell at a loss just to get rid of it later.

At the same time, if you look only to buying a boat for as little as possible, you will probably end up in an older vessel that is in need of lots of expensive upgrading / refitting. You might well discover that you will spend more money doing it that way than paying more initially for a vessel in much better condition.

Don't overlook the attendant costs of ownership, like maintenance, insurance, slip rental, etc. These costs are recurring, and the larger / more expensive the vessel, the greater the associated costs.

At this point in your sailing lives, you might want to consider a vessel manufactured in Southern California in plentiful numbers - a Catalina 30. It isn't too large nor too small for your abilities and the size of your growing family. It was produced in such huge numbers that there will always be a lot of them on the market to pick and choose from. You won't have to settle for one so old that it's worn out, nor will you have to pay an exorbitant amount for one of relatively recent vintage.

You may be able to deal directly with a seller, rather than going through a broker - this can save you money on the purchase - but if this is the first boat you've ever bought, a broker working on your behalf will probably make you more comfortable with the process. Have any vessel that you think is "the one" thoroughly surveyed by a surveyor of your choosing. This person is the equivalent of a home inspector, and if you get a good one he will discover items that a poor one will overlook. You can use those items to re-negotiate the previously agreed-upon selling price downward with the seller. If the seller won't budge, you always have the option of walking away from the deal.

This is just a sketch of what you might want to keep in mind, Rebecca. There are a lot of well-informed cruisers on this site, so weigh all of the information you receive here and go slowly. Rushing into something almost always results in disappointment and wasted money.

"Your vision becomes clear only when you look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks within, awakens."
Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961)
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Old 29-06-2010, 09:26   #5
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Welcome to Cruisers Forum, Reba! Your plans are not too wild, and you've surely got compelling reasons for this move. It's just a shame you have to leave North Carolina which is a wonderful base for coastal cruising, and a good place to be to buy a starter boat. And I do suggest a starter boat!

Nobody buys their last boat first, unless its a total disaster! You might consider a very large trailerable with sufficient accommodations for the family. Even if you have to buy a bigger car or truck to pull it, there will be more money left to save for a bigger boat when the kids start driving. With practice, a couple can launch such a boat in well less than an hour, making a day's outing on the water easy.

Buy a popular used boat that is ready to sail. There will be enough stuff to maintain to keep the average putterer busy, and you will notice that very well maintained boats have better resale value.

My personal aberration is multihulls; so I have to suggest a good used Corsair F-27 or F-28. These would be very exciting to sail, offer more room for kids topsides, and can do the Channel Islands quite nicely.

For a more conventional vessel, you might find a good deal on a Balboa 26 with trailer. These are West Coast Boats, with an established market and predictable resale values, that can cruise your family for a week or two in better-than-camping comfort. When not in use you can rent a secure space to park it in some industrial area.

Jack's suggestion of a Catalina 30 is a good one, and a boat in a slip can get under way in a lot less time than a trailerable, meaning an afternoon sail is possible.
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Old 29-06-2010, 09:42   #6
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Thanks for explaining the move to California, Rebecca.

I'll second the comments about your need for understanding the costs of ownership. When you project the cost of boat maintenance, insurance, slip or mooring fees, etc. over a number of years, the cost of actually buying the boat is almost trivial.

So think about the idea of a trailer sailor like the Balboa 26. It's really a good boat (I think Practical Sailor gave it high marks in a review) and if you can handle the trailering chores and find a nice balance of on/off the water and find a good storage option for when out of the water (someone's back yard?) it could be an ideal solution to your needs.

Another option to consider: don't buy a boat now and periodically charter instead.
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Old 29-06-2010, 10:32   #7
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Hi Rebecca,
My wife and I are in a similar situation in that we are looking for our first cruising type boat as well. I think the best thing you can do is to get out there and start looking at boats, you will quickly start to realize what it is that you like/want/need in a boat.

There are a lot of boats out there in varying degrees of upkeep and you should have no problem finding a good starter boat at a very reasonable price.

Good luck!

PS...Cruiser's Forum is a great place to come for information.

PPS...Good Old Boat Magazine is definitely worth subscribing to.
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Old 29-06-2010, 11:06   #8
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Welcome to the forum!

You might want to do a reality check on a Santa Barbara slip. Some years back the wait list for slips had gotten so long that the city council directed the harbormaster to stop adding people to the list since it was unlikely that a slip would come up during their lifetimes.

You might be able to find a slip in Ventura or nearby, but Santa Barbara proper is going to be a tough nut to crack.
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Old 29-06-2010, 11:52   #9
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I think the advice of going small now and learning the ropes is good.
You've really set yourself up for trailer sailing. A small trailered boat can be launched and you can sail to the Channel Islands. Slips in your area are expensive and hard to come by so trailered sailboats might be the best way to go.
I like a Catalina 25 if you can find one in good shape. There are many different boats on the market that will meet your needs and other forum members will advise on other brands for certain. Before you buy make certain you ask the forum members about the one that you've found.
There are a couple links and a book recommendation after my signature that might help.
kind regards,
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Old 29-06-2010, 15:38   #10
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Buying a sailboat or other boat in Southern California (greater L.A. area) is a whole different experience from anywhere else in the USA. There you buy the marina slip (lease) and accept/(make do) with the boat that is in it. After you buy the marina slip and boat, you can trash the boat and replace it with something better - but getting the marina slip first is critical unless you have an inflatable boat that can be stored on the roof of your car.
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Old 29-06-2010, 17:19   #11
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Take a vacation!!!!!!!!!

When we started, I had no sailin experience. I thought it sounded like what I wanted to do but I wasn't sure. First step was a one week ASA certification course in Florida. Sure there was a writtten test every morning but the rest of the days were spent sailing around Ft Lauderdale, Miami, and Biscayne Bay. We stayed on the boat full time all week and it was one of the best things I've ever done. I've been on cruise lines and trips to Europe and I'm tellin you, the first week you spend totally independent out on a boat that you are sailing is incredible. We learned a lot, got certifications and it was the best vaction ever.

Step 2 was a 10 day charter in the British Virgin Islands with a couple that my wife and I met at the FLA school. OK...I take it back...FLA was not the best vacation ever...BVI was!!!!!! Now we really sailed by ourselves, had a fabulous time....learned even more by doing everything ourselves with back up from another couple who was going thru the same process of learning to work together.

Step 3 we bought a boat in ......wait for it...........North Carolina! spent 2 months getting her ship shape from February thru April. Sailed her to the Chesapeake in May and have been taking her out every weekend since.

Anyway....this newbie did it that may find another path, but it is achievable. 1ST school was in February 2009, BVI in Oct 2009, boat bought in Feb 2010.
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Old 29-06-2010, 17:34   #12
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Considering alternate financial strategies...

It sounds as if you're looking at a 5 year plan before cruising. Maybe a little more. Keeping that in mind I offer the following.

My rule of thumb costing has the total operating costs of yachts at about 25% of good condition value per year plus slip and insurance, so a $40,000 boat is going to cost about (say) $20k p.a.

I do recognise that home ownership in the U.S. is a whole different kettle of fish to Oz but a good rental property here is always worth keeping. If you can find a good agent and your present home is presentable but shabby, and you can accept a little under market rental from a top tenant (this is where a good agent is essential) renting out may be better than selling in what looks from here to be a very depressed market. Or even consider buying a renter close the where you are moving.

I'd also suggest leaving any major decisions until your husband is settled in his new job. Newly purchased boats tend to take a huge amount of time and more money than anticipated. Also your wants and needs will change quite a bit over the next 5 years so delaying any major purchase offers major advantages.

The above suggestions are all doable, but the purchases would all take a fair hunk of your capital, use up a fair bit of your time and distract from a primary focus of making good pizzas. I've found that fantasy boats are cheap, reliable and great help in turning up for a job that puts pennies in the kitty. We have no restriction on fantasy boat ownership here.

It's easy to overestimate how much you're to use a boat. A few charters a year are going to way cheaper than almost any other form of ownership.

When considering yachts a Catalina 25 weighs about 4500lbs plus trailer. This is not going to be easy to tow or launch.

A Catalina 22 weighs about 2600lbs. A quick search suggests a loaded boat plus trailer weight of 4400lbs which is still past what could be towed by some cars. There seems to be a body of opinion that even this is going to present some difficulty to pull from the water with less than a heavy duty AWD setup.
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Old 29-06-2010, 17:59   #13
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When we started sailing, we were not well financed, but we always got a boat that would work for our family. We started with a Chysler 22 - definitely not an offshore boat. Then we got a Tyler 22 which had been sailed from England to Panama. Next was a Pearson 27 coastal cruiser (Renegade). Next a Westsail 32. Finally, a Privilege 39 catamaran.

That is a fairly typical progression for many people who don't want to make a jump into a large and expensive yacht. Such a progression let us grow when we were ready. It's important to not have more yacht than you can afford, and to not get into trouble taking a daysailing sailboat offshore where you can get hurt and spoil your desire to sail.
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Old 29-06-2010, 18:06   #14
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Are there no moorings in Southern California?
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Old 29-06-2010, 18:53   #15
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I guess I forgot to ask if you know how to sail or how much sailing experience you may have. If you don't have any experience then Holomoku's suggestion is very good.
By the way, Holomoku means around the island.

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