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Old 03-01-2009, 05:36   #1
Don't ask if you can't handle it
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"basic" boat or fitted out

In the never ending search to narrow down boat choices the equipment level of various ones comes into play. I added up various "things" I want on the boat in the end and they come up to around $30k. This is for items new and without any labor, which I'm sure I could install myself. A lot of the accessories wouldn't be needed for years while we continue to work and just mainly weekend cruise. When I add the $30k to the price of boats more basic it of course opens up a can of worms as now there are almost too many choices.

So the question is whether it is better to get the boat fitted out more "basic" and upgrade over the years. Or pay the price for one more fully equipped now even though most of the stuff isn't needed. I can think of agruements for either way.

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Old 03-01-2009, 06:25   #2
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So the question is whether it is better to get the boat fitted out more "basic" and upgrade over the years. Or pay the price for one more fully equipped now even though most of the stuff isn't needed.
Time is not always a favorable Friend. Waiting to add things or spending the money up front can be taken either way. Money you save now can perhaps be better used later. Items purchased now and installed mean when the time comes to leave you just go and you are already familiar with them and have worked out the kinks that always come when upgrading a boat. It takes a while to do that. It's those pesky little details that nag you.

I think the fact that you have done the arithmetic points to the real problem. There really are too many alternatives once you boil things down and begin to understand things. It's seems better when you don't understand things and you can easily believe there is only one choice. It's the curse of doing all your homework and getting smarter.

If your new boat lacks a decent canvas package and sails adding those ASAP is advised. These are things that you just flat out want and need. A decent set of anchoring gear is also a must have. These are things you'll later rely on heavily and even on a short weekend trip on the hook you still need them too. Being proficient with your own gear takes time and the basics of sailing and anchoring are key. Train with good gear now. Maybe some items can wait. You also have to deal with the surprises. Things that were perfectly fine in a sea trial often need to be replaced in the first year. Holding back a little to keep the budget controlled isn't a bad idea.

Perhaps the worst problem you face between when you get your boat and the time you eventually leave is the budget. Real life adds new situations and they almost always cost money. Making the money work is always the hard part of any adventure.

Gain all the experience you can soon and enjoy yourselves in ways that work now. You spend a lot just owning a boat and keeping it up. It's a good idea to collect some fun dividends whenever and however you can. Maximize the use of your boat as much as you can from the first day. The worst that could happen is you have some fun and the best that could happen is you'll be that much better at it when you leave for your adventure. Just because you plan on leaving later does not mean it does not begin the day you sign the papers.

Paul Blais
s/v Bright Eyes Gozzard 36
37 15.7 N 76 28.9 W
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Old 03-01-2009, 07:07   #3
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Don Lucas,
I agree with all the Pblais says- just some thoughts from some one who has been through what you are about to experience. I bought a basic boat and outfitted it as I went. Overall I spent more on " stuff" then I would in effect have paid for buy buying a boat with all this stuff already installed- however, and its a big however- I di get exactly what I wanted installed the way I wanted it, especially in the ground tackle and the sails. To make the vessel offshore ready I think I have spent somewhere in the region of $35k- this does however include things such as more tankage, self steering, new rigging etc. My advice for what its worth is buy the boat you want, if you have two choices buy the simpler one and add the gear- all this is assuming you do all thge work your self, if you need to pay others to to the work, then all bets are off.
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Old 03-01-2009, 08:46   #4
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Paul is spot on. At the end of the day you are purchasing a " Boat", that you want to get out on the water and enjoy . If you can find the boat that you want, with everything just as you want it and can afford it then by all means buy it.

If not, and the boat that you want and can afford needs to be outfitted over time to get it to where you want it, then you want to divide your lists of upgrades between " needs" and " wants" (Unless you have an unlimited budget)

Things that make the vessel safe and reliable vs, things that " would be nice"

My Lists of purchases in the 1st two years were exactly as Paul stated.

New Sails, a plow anchor, A new dodger, replace halyards, sheets, reefing lines ( running rigging), rebuilt the head ( kit). new centerboard cable, new heat enchanger. new hoses, belts etc. I cleaned and lubricated all winches, took apart and cleaned and lubricated all seacocks and replaced the hoses etc.
I also found time to Refinish the cabin sole, and brightwork.

And as Rhosyn Mor as stated...I purchased the sails and gear that I wanted

While doing this, I sailed the whole time whenever I wanted.

Next came the wants: a dingy and motor, a chartplotter at the helm. Fishing rod holders. new cushions

Now I'm looking at Radar, AIS, SSB, Davits, Solar. My " project" started 5 years ago and I will retire this year. I had a time line when I started.

I saved the electronics until last, for a couple of reasons: 1st, the boat needs to be made essentially 1st sound imo. 2nd I didn't require them for the type of sailing I was doing while still employed full time. 3nd Electronics change very quickly, 5 years has made a big difference in todays offerings.

At the end of the day, only you...know your pocketbook and timetable.

Best of Luck!


Is it Spring Yet?
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Old 03-01-2009, 08:54   #5
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What Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said about minimalist architecture is also true of used boats - "less is more".
My ideal used boat, will have had no upgrades, improvements, nor equipment add-ons, since it came from the factory. I'll add whatever I need, want, and can afford, new and as I choose, when I do.
Gord May
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Old 03-01-2009, 09:11   #6
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I too am in favour of the basic boat package and adding as you go. But be advised, that the 'adding' almost never ends.

I bought a structurally sound, but very plain 35 footer then stripped her down and did a 8 1/2 month rebuild/refit. - to the tune of doubling her initial price. Thought I was pretty smart ....."now I will just be able to enjoy and never have to do anything else" ...Wrong...I have been working on her ever since.

But I do have a nicely sailing boat, that I have had the immense pleasure and adventure of sailing lots of miles in.

One huge advantage of leaving to later to add those last bits and pieces - especially if they are electronic ones - is that what you will buy in 5 years will almost certainly be easier to use, have more features and probably be cheaper, than if you bought it now.

Also, by not having 'everything' now, you will find out that you can do quite nicely without some of the things everyone else says you 'must have'...for example, I only just now installed a power windlass, and after returning from 2 years spent sailing in the tropics still don't feel the need for refrigeration. ......But I do have an excellent sail inventory and bullet-proof self steering options along with all the communication and navigation gear I feel I need.

Just depends on what you feel will be important for you down the road, I guess.

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Old 03-01-2009, 09:35   #7
Don't ask if you can't handle it
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Thanks. The other day when I started looking at the "upgraded" boats a couple came up I hadn't really considered before (at all). One that currently has my attention are the mid 80's Passport 40-42s (but Bristol 41.1s are have also caught my attention). In the NE/Mid Altanic area the currently are listed for $114-140k for a 40' and $140-$150k for a 42'. I wouldn't say any of them are really "basic", but a couple of these have all you would want (except dinghy). I think the equipment level a couple of these have is much less money than adding them later. But then again it is money out of pocket now in higher payments in the hope of spending less overall in the coming years. But then again some have newer sails that just by themselves make it worththe extra money. In a way I think I would perfer splitting the difference and getting a boat with newer sails etc a good solid coastal cruising package on it as this gives me something to work on to full up some of my time.
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Old 03-01-2009, 10:07   #8
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IMHO-As stated previously

Get something with new sails and old electronics, NOT the other way around. Very few ever change the design of sails but with electronics, if the boat has been sitting long, the electronics pick up corrosion and quit working anyway, or it becomes out dated for new services.

As well, most people end up changing electronics anyway whether good or bad just because of some new feature..........................._/)
Faithful are the Wounds of a Friend, but the Kisses of the Enemy are Deceitful! ........
A nation of sheep breeds a government of wolves!

Unprepared boaters, end up as floatsum!.......
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Old 03-01-2009, 10:50   #9
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One advantage is that once you install all the gear you select, you will know the systems inside and out. On the other hand you will spend most of your time being a boat mechanic and less learning to sail your boat and honing those skills. Reality is you will find a boat with some systems on it. Pick the right boat for you and then assess what to keep and what to replace or add. In your negotiations, make it apparent that the added items have little value. My experience says that everything is suspect after about 7 years.
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Old 03-01-2009, 11:27   #10
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My advice is to get a sound boat with little gear but lots of possibilities and then YOU over time fit it out to suit the boat and you. You will be more confident and competent with your boat and maintenance skills. Why live with someone else's choices and install. YOU will do it better even if you have to learn, spend hours planning, get the tools. But that's the way to go.

You will want to begin with nav gear and an autopilot. The go for ground tackle and I suggest chain and windlass. Add roller furling a solid vang, a pole, cruising chute over time. With an MFD you can add radar AIS later on to the basic charting.

Get some protection a dodger, bimini, awning and some comfy cockpit cushions.

Move from ice to a refer system. And now it's time to ugrade the electrics to a bullet proof system with large banks, supplemental charging souces, and of course smart regualtors and monitors.

If you sail in temperate climates you can then think about adding heating to extend the season.

Now you can upgrade the runnning rigging deck hardware, and begin to upgrade OEM equipment like the head, the plumbing fixtures, pumps. Add additional filtration to the fuel system.

That'll take you 5 or 6 years. hahahaha But you must be sailing the boat ALL the time during this period as well, testing the systems, discovering what you need, and learning the boat and the way she behaves in all conditions.
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Old 03-01-2009, 12:38   #11
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I'm a technophile, so I bought basic, and outfitted with new gear. My thinking was like with computers, electronic gear outdated quickly, and I didn't want to be caught paying for 15 year old electronics.

I now believe this was a mistake. Sure all my gear is new and shiny, but I spent far more than I would have, buying an already outfitted cruiser. Gear is far less expensive to purchase when bundled in a used boat, and sure a new radar is better and has more features than a 15 year old model, but its not nearly as drastically out of date as a 15 year old PC (which is where my original instinct came from).
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Old 04-01-2009, 03:51   #12
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Originally Posted by GordMay View Post
What Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said about minimalist architecture is also true of used boats - "less is more".
My ideal used boat, will have had no upgrades, improvements, nor equipment add-ons, since it came from the factory. I'll add whatever I need, want, and can afford, new and as I choose, when I do.

Van der Rohe would have made a horrible thief as he was sadly bereft the commonsense upstanding that less in not more, more is more.

My question is what is in your cruising package and how would it meet your short to medium term needs?

If the package contains an EPRIB, liferaft, HAM setup, parachute anchor and a throria but you need a couple of anchors & chain, an expanded set of sails, docklines, fenders and a grill - it might not be the best package. That's an extreme and facetious example but you get the point.

Another thing is brand loyalty. If you love Raymarine and the package has that 10” multifunction display that gets you all warm and fuzzy inside you are a lot more likely to get it than if you dislike the screen ergonomics and would prefer the Garmin system. You need to tease out what you need from what you want.


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Old 04-01-2009, 04:11   #13
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Some companies produce boats ready to sail, but not tricked out. When I puchased Shiva she was set up like this. I paid for a new boat, but one, the surveyor rightly noted was not ready for offshore, but could be with upgrades. I've seen many Contest 36s of my vintage that still look pretty like Shiva when I closed. The sailors have been able to cruise quite comfortably with the OEM set up. Most have added some things - auto pilot an entertainment system and some safety gear, perhaps cockpit cushions a bimini etc.

On the other hand Shiva has underegone a "sea change" no pun intended of gear and I haven't see a sistership with a similar scope of work in 23 years. But I did all this for basically two reasons: to make her suitable for offshore and live aboard cruising and because I ENJOY messing about on boats. The third reason is if I have some extra money to spend there's no place I would rather spend it then a tweak to my sailboat - same goes for "spare time".

For me, a large part of the joy of "yachting" is the upgrades, refits, maintenance and tweaks. I don't like to do paint, or wax the hull which to me are "grunt work". But I do them because they are a "must". It's the "transformative" type of work, the personalization, the improvements (hopefully) that are satisfying. And of course you dont' want your boat to look like swiss cheese with all sorts of hole and patches as reminders of what once was. So these choices to drill, mount and install must be made with all due care to respect the "aethetics" of the boat. For me it's not JUST about "performance" and safety and comfort. It has to look better than before too.

One of my favorite mottos about the boat is that I try to leave it a bit better than when I got there. This can be almost anything, from a good clean out of a locker, to a shiny new stereo, to cleaning up some less than neat wiring install for a peice of gear. At the very least I leave with a list or a task to do ashore to bring back the next time (penance for not following the motto).

Sailboats are a struggle against entropy, but it's a hell of a lot of fun losing the battle.
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Old 08-01-2009, 05:25   #14
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My boat had almost no added gear on it when I bought it. I have added everything needed for cruising including a new engine and after a trip to Florida and back have decided I want a larger boat. I will not be able to recover the cost of all the improvements. the next owner will get a great deal and I will have to do the same thing on my next boat. the moral to this story is, be sure you are going to be happy with the size boat you have before loading it with new equipment.
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Old 08-01-2009, 06:12   #15
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My suggestion is to buy a boat that really sails well and has a minimum of accessories. You can check the PHRF ratings of various candidates and find one that sails well and has a good offshore reputation.

KISS and learning to sail with minimum equipment makes for a happier and wealthier sailor. The bells and whistles all cost a lot, consume a ton of power, and force you into a very complex and unreliable boat. If you learn to cruise with simple, reliable,basic gear, you make life a lot easier on yourself when you shove off.

Learn to navigate with an absolute minimum of electronics. IMHO, you must be prepared to handle the situation if the chartplotter or WHEN the GPS quits. (I think we will all get some surprises in the upcoming increase in the solar flares cycle in the next few years.) Once you get the hang of it, you will be amazed how well you can do with paper charts and Dead Reconing.

My philosophy is to avoid the weight and complexity of fancy gear and learn hot to get along the way the old sailors used to do. It that fits your style, you will be much happier aboard a boat for extended periods, and will find cruising much more economical.

When you purchase gear, it is alway best that you install it yourself, possibly with an experienced person looking over your shoulder. Sooner or later, you will be called on to repair the system (typically under the worst possible conditions) and knowing it intimately will help a lot.

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