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Old 17-12-2013, 12:32   #1
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Try before buy?

2014 is an exciting year in our journey towards cruising. This will be the year when we narrow the options and most likely make a purchasing decision on a boat. I am seeking your ideas on this process...

Common advice is to charter as many boats as possible to get a realistic feel for what you like and dislike. This advice resonates with me since I am a bit particular about major purchases. My question (finally) is what are the best ways to try different boats without spending too much $$ and time chartering. I see potential options might include:
-- charter an entire boat for ourselves for 5-7 days (concern = expensive) Is it possible to charter a boat for a couple of days at a time?
-- rent a cabin on a crewed charter (concern = will I really get to test the boat or will we motor every where? still slightly expensive)
-- meet existing owners and bribe them with booze for day trip (concern = need to be lucky in finding willing owner)

What other options am I missing for getting some "test drive" time on a boat before making a purchasing decision?
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Old 17-12-2013, 12:40   #2
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Re: Try before buy?

Quote:
Originally Posted by MNLandLoc View Post
-- meet existing owners and bribe them with booze for day trip (concern = need to be lucky in finding willing owner)
We used this method before we purchased our boat. It works well and you get firsthand knowledge from real users on a real boat. Just bring some good wine on your visit.

We have also done the same for others that wanted to see how our boat sailed. It’s a great way to make friends as we still correspond with the boat friends even years later.
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Old 17-12-2013, 13:02   #3
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Re: Try before buy?

Some companies do charter by the half day, day, work week, or weekend. It's especially common with smaller boats or with urban/US mainland ports; less so for resort destinations. Occasionally, if you are really good at schmoozing, you might be able to show up at a charter company on a really slow day and get a break on charter rates, or get around having to pay an initiation fee to get a club/discount rate.

Learning the "fine art of dockwalking", getting on crew lists (both on websites such as this and local sailing and yacht club web sites), joining community sailing associations/clubs, and just finding wherever sailors hang out can be good.
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Old 17-12-2013, 13:46   #4
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Re: Try before buy?

"My question (finally) is what are the best ways to try different boats without spending too much $$ and time chartering."
Become a dockrat. Crew on beer can races, bum a ride whenever you can. Buying a round of drinks or lunch, chipping in for a race fee, much cheaper than chartering boats, and you get to hear from the owners as well.
There are also a couple of volumes of used sailboat reviews from Practical Sailor, which are chock full of owner comments.
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Old 17-12-2013, 15:55   #5
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Re: Try before buy?

Thanks for the replies. I like the "dock-walking" and "dock-rat" ideas. While they work locally for getting some general sailing time on other's boats in MN, I can't realistically rely on these methods for getting quality time on a cruising cat since I live 1500 miles from the ocean. I think I can try to do some of this "virtually" via sites like this, But for the most part, I need to schedule trips to cruising waters and pre-book things like flights and hotels. Travelling like this doesn't really make it easy to "dock-walk" with any guarantee of success.
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Old 17-12-2013, 16:39   #6
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Re: Try before buy?

I still think chartering for a week is the best. You get a much better feel of the boat. Not having a ton of money, every year a charter was our vacation. Granted it took us almost ten years to decide
And then the antidote:
We were looking at a particular boat we had chartered, but walked across another to get to it. We both stopped while crossing the other boat, looked at each other smiled and bought the one we had never been on!!!!!! Granted it was very similar to one we had chartered.
You will just know when it is the right one, sailboats have character and personality you will feel when it is right
Not self promoting, but our website goes through what we did
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Old 17-12-2013, 17:52   #7
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Re: Try before buy?

My thought would be to charter for a week or two down somewhere, and keep a list of everything about that boat you like and dislike. Then go to some of the big boat shows. Now that you have some real information on boats like what you may buy you will be in a much better position to compare them.

Once you think you have the boat you want, then try to charter one for another week to make sure.
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Old 17-12-2013, 19:23   #8
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Re: Try before buy?

If you are looking at one of the boats that is often in the charter fleets, that would be a good way to get a feel for the one you want. Otherwise, the internet is your friend. It is AMAZING the kind of research you can do on the web. It takes some work to get beyond the superficial and dig deep, but it's there, if you know how to look for it. Let me know. I might be able to help with this.
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Old 17-12-2013, 21:20   #9
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Re: Try before buy?

Chartering is cheaper than owning, particularly if it's the wrong boat.

Look at online reviews, come up with a short list, and then charter some boats on your list.
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Old 17-12-2013, 22:20   #10
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Re: Try before buy?

Just a fellow Minneapolis-native empathizing with your plight here.

I had the luck of living on someone else's boat for a couple years before buying my own, so had a pretty good idea of what I wanted by then. That said, I hadn't lived and cruised on a ton of boats before buying.

Having not once regretted my decision, accordingly I'd say you don't necessarily need a ton of experience on all different kinds of boats to figure out what you want. It seems like if you chartered a couple and did all your homework and due diligence, I bet you could find something that's a pretty dern good fit. In an ideal world, I suppose that'd be something sound and of the general size and layout you want, but without a lot of frills and gadgetry, and simply build off that template.

Also, the great lakes have a ton of cruising monos to try out, but I'm not so sure about cats?
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