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Old 25-06-2014, 13:25   #1
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Where Do I Start?

As the title states, where do I start? I'm 46 and just took an early retirement. I've never been on a sailboat but it has been my lifelong dream to live aboard a sailboat and go sailing. Sounds romantic, huh? I'm not so naive to think the reality is so romantic. Over the next eleven months, I'm going to avail myself of much training, obtain several levels of certification, and buy a sailboat. I have already sold most of my worldly possessions and I'm staying with family until my son finishes high school. He's going to take a "gap year" between high school and college and we're going to spend the year sailing together.
After reading everything I can get my hands on, I'm leaning towards a steel-hull boat in the 35-50 foot range. Although I don't know much about sailboats (yet) I'm very handy. Other than for tires and transmission, I haven't taken a car to a repair shop in years. I'm adept at woodworking, have an extensive array of tools, and can fix most anything.
Yes, there are some questions in our future...
I realize that boats needing some work are much cheaper, but is it really cheaper in the long run? I constantly read blogs and posts in which the owner lists all the things they've replaced/upgraded on their boat. My thinking is to buy a boat in very good condition, that needs almost nothing, and go sailing. I found one nearby that's more money than I wanted to spend, but it's almost new and seems to need nothing except groceries. (I'm going to see it this week.) What type of maintenance issues could I realistically expect to crop up within the first two or three years, other than bottom cleaning and painting? The engine is almost new and all the electronics, lines, sails, etc are also virtually new. How long do these things last before needing replacement?
Since it's relevant, I intend to do mainly coastal cruising for at least the first six months or so, with some longer passages. My goal is to sail to Nova Scotia and perhaps Greenland.
I've read many times that a larger sailboat is infinitely more expensive to maintain. Other than the amount of fuel used, docking fees, etc., what items on a larger boat are inherently more expensive than those on a smaller boat? I recently read a couple of articles on Morganscloud dot com where the author espoused buying a larger boat on the premise that the equipment on a larger boat is more "commercial grade" than the equipment found on a smaller boat. Also, while certain electronics and gadgets are critical, I'm not a gadget geek and I don't need the latest and greatest.
I apologize that this post is all over the map. Hopefully someone can make sense of it and give me some advice. Also, be nice...I'm new!
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Old 25-06-2014, 13:40   #2
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Re: Where Do I Start?

Welcome to CF. Lot's of great information here.

I'm a club sailor not an owner so I can't speak to the cost issues but having sailed on a lot of different boats I can tell you that everything on a 50' boat is bigger, heavier, and harder to manipulate than on a 35'.

Continuing that thought, I would suggest nothing larger than you can comfortably single hand because once you've gone through your family and friends, if you don't have access to reliable crew, you might be disinclined to take it out of it's slip.

As others will tell you some form of instruction with either ASA or USS or even from other sailors in the area would probably be in order before you purchase.
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Old 25-06-2014, 14:03   #3
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Re: Where Do I Start?

Do you want to go sailing or do you want to play at fixing boats. Even a new boat might have some teething problems but a good dealer will fix all the problems before you set out. Buy new is your best bet.

I would stay away from steel. I know every newbie wants a bullet proof boat that can go over reefs but I think you'll find fiberglass to be easier on maintenance. Also most of the steel boats will be older and problems on steel boats (read rust) start from the inside and it takes a pretty savvy guy to find it all.

I don't know where you are but a good start would be to join a boat club as a crew member and get some sailing in. Also you'll be able to see a lot of different boats and learn what you like and don't like.


As boats get bigger everything on the boat gets bigger, sails,sheets,halyards, winches, standing rigging, mooring lines, anchors, etc., etc. And replacement costs for wear and tear items gets bigger. I would stay just under 40 feet.

If you do not get a new boat, maintenance costs in the first few years will depend on the condition of the boat. No one can say with certainty. The only certainty is there will definitely be something you didn't count on.

As you have to learn how to sail, don't rush into buying a boat. Learn and sail for the next year. As I said join a club, sail as a crew member and help (other than crewing) on the boats you'll sail on will be appreciated. you'll learn a lot.

Actually, if you're not doing anything next week you can help me fix a small electrical problem I have.
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Old 25-06-2014, 14:44   #4
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Re: Where Do I Start?

Quote:
Originally Posted by TenSeven View Post
..............
........ where do I start?
........ I'm leaning towards a steel-hull boat in the 35-50 foot range.
........ boats needing work are much cheaper, but is it really cheaper?
........ My thinking is to buy a boat in very good condition, that needs almost nothing,... What type of maintenance issues could I realistically expect to crop up within the first two or three years....? The engine is almost new and all the electronics, lines, sails, etc are also virtually new. How long do these things last before needing replacement?
........ what items on a larger boat are inherently more expensive than those on a smaller boat? .............
I saved these pieces of your post above so I could use them for some specific answers.

I've have often suggested to people that they sail before they buy and the best learning is accomplished on a little boat (8' to 12') because you will get immediate feedback for all your actions and the cost of your errors will be of little consequence. You're right to be suspicious of the "romanticism" and it's best to see if you have a passion for sailing before buying the big boat.

Each different hull material has it's pros and cons. There are sound reasons why there are so many fiberglass boats.

35' boats and 50' boats are not in the same size range. Unless you have a unusual need for more than two to four people aboard I'd stay in the 35 to 40 foot range. Many of your questions are related to upkeep and expense. The smaller boat would lower these concerns.

Boats needing the work that you can do yourself are cheaper. ...or boats that are vastly reduced in price due to one big ticket problem that can be solved with a reasonable cost and effort are cheaper. An example of the former would be a boat left for a year or two with absentee owners. At my marina there was a 45' Alden that was well functioning, but dirty & unkempt. The heirs of the vessel lived in Nebraska and had no interest other than selling the "white elephant" that was costing them slip fees. The Alden sold for 12K. As an example of the latter, a ca. 40' Endeavor sold for about the same price here in Florida after damage from a galley fire. The galley was gutted and replaced and there was cleaning of smoke damage required, but the result was a great buy. These opportunities appear, but you need fortune and timing on your side. I will admit that most of the boats that need a lot of work are not economical in the long run.

The items that will run into big money on a newer boat in good condition are typically rigging, sails, engine, tanks, possibly electrical. Many would agree that standing rigging lasts about 12 years, but the manner of use greatly affects their longivity and the same can be said for the sails. Well cared for diesel engines can usually provide 10,000 hours before an overhaul. The tanks are usually free of trouble or set up for failure. If you have steel or black iron tanks that can not be accessed it's a huge problem.

Some of the items that are inherently more expensive on a larger boat are: riging, sails, engines, slip fees, haul outs, deck hardware, ground tackle, insurance, paint, labor intensive maintenance (cleaning, waxing, buffing), wiring, AC/heating systems, fenders, lines, davits, etc.... Some things are not different in cost by the size of the boat.... VHF Radio, electronic navigation instruments, life jackets, galley equipment ... Although, people with larger boats tend to have items of this nature more expensive too!

Keep us posted of your adventures!
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Old 25-06-2014, 15:26   #5
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Re: Where Do I Start?

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Originally Posted by TenSeven View Post
Sounds romantic, huh? I'm not so naive to think the reality is so romantic.
The romance is part of what hooked me and I still think it's romantic. Plus exciting, stimulating, physically and intellectually demanding and did I mention fun?


Quote:
Originally Posted by TenSeven View Post
After reading everything I can get my hands on, I'm leaning towards a steel-hull boat in the 35-50 foot range.
Had a steel boat and might consider another one depending on what kind of sailing. But for 99% of us, steel will just be more work. Also understand that just being steel doesn't mean it's bulletproof. You can have a light built, thin plate steel boat that is no stronger than a cheap fiberglass boat.

Also, there is a HUGE difference between a 35' boat and a 50' boat, in any way you can imagine. Cost for everything, all the parts like engines, sails, ropes, rigging, pumps, anchors, shackles, and docking space for a 50' will be 3-4 times the cost of a 35' boat.


Quote:
Originally Posted by TenSeven View Post
Although I don't know much about sailboats (yet) I'm very handy. Other than for tires and transmission, I haven't taken a car to a repair shop in years. I'm adept at woodworking, have an extensive array of tools, and can fix most anything.
Very big plus. Cut your costs in half or more compared to paying a boat yard to do the work. Engines you could do if you are overall handy. Marine diesels are much simpler than a modern car engine.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TenSeven View Post
I realize that boats needing some work are much cheaper, but is it really cheaper in the long run? I constantly read blogs and posts in which the owner lists all the things they've replaced/upgraded on their boat.
Have bought almost new boats and serious fixer uppers. My take. In the long run no you won't come out cheaper buying a fixer upper. You will be able to spread the cost over a longer period of time. And you will end up with a boat that you know inside and out plus mostly new or overhauled gear on the boat.

My case, I bought my boat for 15-25% less than I would have paid for the same model in much better condition. When I'm done I will have about 15-20% more invested than I would have buying a boat in better condition with: recently replaced sails, engine replaced a few years ago, rigging "recently" replaced, new refrigeration in 2010, etc. What I will have for 15% more is a boat with: new sails, new refrigerator, new rigging, just overhauled engine, new alternator, pumps, plumbing, etc. But also 4 years and counting of weekends.

In my case it is OK because I won't be retiring for another year or so. If you want to go now then skip the fixer upper. BUT, be advised, a boat that is turnkey, ready to sail away when you buy it is about as rare a winning lottery ticket. Even a brand new boat is going to take some weeks or months to get ready for serious sailing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TenSeven View Post
I found one nearby that's more money than I wanted to spend, but it's almost new and seems to need nothing except groceries. (I'm going to see it this week.)
See comment above about turnkey boats.



Quote:
Originally Posted by TenSeven View Post
What type of maintenance issues could I realistically expect to crop up within the first two or three years, other than bottom cleaning and painting? The engine is almost new and all the electronics, lines, sails, etc are also virtually new. How long do these things last before needing replacement?
First, the type of maintenance you might need to do is almost anything.

Very rough rules of thumb for useful life span. Time is based on "average" use, whatever that is. YMMV depending where and how much you sail.

Sails, 5-10 years.
Rigging, 5-10 years
ropes and lines - 3-10 years
engine, 2000-20,000 hours
electronics, if you don't care about the latest gadgets 10-20 years. I have 30 year old Standard Horizon VHF that is as good as new.
bottom paint, 1-3 years

Quote:
Originally Posted by TenSeven View Post
Since it's relevant, I intend to do mainly coastal cruising for at least the first six months or so, with some longer passages. My goal is to sail to Nova Scotia and perhaps Greenland.
Greenland might be a reason to consider steel boats.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TenSeven View Post
I recently read a couple of articles on Morganscloud dot com where the author espoused buying a larger boat on the premise that the equipment on a larger boat is more "commercial grade" than the equipment found on a smaller boat.
Well yes, kinda maybe. But you can buy "commercial grade" equipment for a small boat just as easily as a big one.


Quote:
Originally Posted by TenSeven View Post
Also, while certain electronics and gadgets are critical, I'm not a gadget geek and I don't need the latest and greatest.
Here you may get some serious differences of opinion. There are minimalist sailors that cruise the world without engines or electricity or any gadgets of any kind. By this philosophy, the only essentials are a boat, crew and some form of navigation like a paper chart and sextant. My opinion, for what it's worth, all the gadgets can make it easier but don't get hooked on them. You need to be able to run the boat when all the gadgets die. On that basis which gadgets are the most useful:

GPS and maybe a chart plotter (GPS with built in marine charts so you see your position and the chart together)
Radio. VHF essential. Ham and/or SSB if you want.
Autopilot. Takes a lot of the work out of long sails and makes short handed sailing much easier.
Radar. If you are going to Greenland it will come in handy.
AIS. same.


Quote:
Originally Posted by TenSeven View Post
Also, be nice...I'm new!
Basic forum rule is be nice. But, you're going to be a big salty sailor so I'm sure you can handle a little noise from the occasional internet idiot that might pop up even here.
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Old 25-06-2014, 15:37   #6
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Re: Where Do I Start?

Have you considered a catamaran?

I've been doing a little research, and I wouldn't consider anything but a catamaran, for comfort and space.
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Old 25-06-2014, 16:35   #7
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Re: Where Do I Start?

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Have you considered a catamaran?

I've been doing a little research, and I wouldn't consider anything but a catamaran, for comfort and space.
I've been doing no research and I would not consider buying a catamaran for the cost of buying two monohulls, but then I've been living on comfortable and spacious monohulls for 43 years.
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Old 25-06-2014, 17:19   #8
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Re: Where Do I Start?

Thanks so much for all the replies so far. I hope to get a lot more, too.

I don't really like the look of a catamaran so that's out.

At the risk of someone else on here liking the boat so much they go out and buy it, here's a link to the boat I'm seriously considering...

Used 2006 Dunn Boatworks George Buehler Vagabond Series Otter, St Augustine, Fl - 32080 - BoatTrader.com

Any specific feedback would be welcome. I currently live two hours from the ocean, so I can't get something that needs a ton of work before I can sail off into the sunset. Incidentally, on the subject of steel boats, I know how to weld, I have a welder and a plasma cutter, and I've never worked with fiberglass at all...
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Old 25-06-2014, 19:11   #9
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Re: Where Do I Start?

I'm only 25 miles away from this boat. It does look good from the description. It might be great, but there are three reason why I would have NO interest in this boat if I were looking. #1- It's steel #2 It's fifty feet long! #3 It has a six foot draft!

Different people have different expectations.
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Old 25-06-2014, 19:37   #10
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Re: Where Do I Start?

All of the the above have made essential points and to add my two bits worth I'd suggest that you consider your goals before anything else. This could include where you want to end up, your initial cruise(s) and how many people will be on board.

As an example, here on the Australian East Coast we seem to get some atrocious weather and bars. A boat capable of fast passage times and of moderate draft can be a distinct advantage.

On the other hand confused seas seem to more the norm than other places so a heavy boat may be more comfortable than a light one. Once all the catamarans have left the marina talk seems to swing to light production boats as opposed to heavy custom or high end fibreglass.

I had an experienced cruiser visit me on Boracay a few days ago and he drew my attention to the number of sharp edges and the lack of handholds inside. More work (sigh).

As for steel multichine can have an unsung advantage over round bilge in that it is easier to form so much thicker steel can be used. I'm thinking something like Dudley Dix's Practique could be put together in about the time it would take to find and buy a good fibreglass boat.

As seeing how tricky some places (marinas esp.) are to get into a bow thruster could be a big advantage for a single hander.
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Old 25-06-2014, 19:50   #11
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Re: Where Do I Start?

For us, the main advantage of having projects on the boat is that we are getting to know the systems. If you have nearly a year before you leave, why not consider a boat in mid-range condition?
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Old 25-06-2014, 20:12   #12
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Re: Where Do I Start?

I am a bit of a fan of George Buehler. He has built boats as a job and has built some of his own designs so his designs tend to be basic and straight forward to build. This is a cool boat and a steel boat that was built by a professional boat builder for his own use is not likely to have had any short cuts taken in the structure. These Otter series are noted for having a rather easy motion.

On any metal boat you have to be agressive and relentless about protecting/ repairing coatings. Don't lose anything in the bilge ever! We did a big boat river cruise in Europe and every second day a crew person was out touching up the paint around the winches and bollards.

Six feet of draft is more than I would rather have but if your dream cruises tend toward high latitudes it is not much of an issue. In much of the world it is restrictive enough to require some consideration. I have 5 feet and would be happier with 4 feet. If I had 4 feet I would be happier with 3........ That said shallow draft is like four wheel drive pickups. My Uncle said that the difference between a 2 wheel drive and 4 wheel drive pickups is that with 4 wheel drive you get stuck in worse places ......... You will run aground anyway it will just be in shallower water....

It is 50 feet long but it is rather narrow and is not as big as some 50 foot boats are. The longer waterline will help your average speed over a shorter boat. Also the spars and rigging are rather low tech which will keep some of the costs lower...... No getting around the cost per foot for many expenses though.

For high latitude travels an inside steering station is a big plus.

I think this boat has been on the market for a couple of years. This brings up the issue of resale. As you have seen in this thread, some folks would not own a metal boat. This narrows you market and will make it more difficult to sell than a mainstream fiberglass boat when that becomes an issue.
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Old 25-06-2014, 20:15   #13
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Re: Where Do I Start?

Where do I start .......... try here .. Marine Survey 101

PS . Love the plan, love the attitude. You can do this.
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Old 25-06-2014, 20:26   #14
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Re: Where Do I Start?

you would probably need a small crew to sail that steel 50 footer. be realistic unless all you really want to do is live at a marina.
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Old 25-06-2014, 20:30   #15
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Re: Where Do I Start?

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Welcome to CF. Lot's of great information here.
Continuing that thought, I would suggest nothing larger than you can comfortably single hand because once you've gone through your family and friends, if you don't have access to reliable crew, you might be disinclined to take it out of it's slip.
I second this. I went from a CD19' to a CD25' then to a Cal29, then to al Alberg 30. The Alberg was too small ( a very small 30" but full keel.) so I bought a Pearson 39Y. Tonnage doubled. Was great till my friends got tired of going, or got old. Well, I got older too. Had knee surgery, etc...Raising the full battened batt cared main on the 39 is really tough. However the yawl rig is great for jib and jigger. Wish I had kept the Cal29 (starboard galley California boat) or gotten a modern 32'. The difference in work and maintenance cost between this one and the smaller boat nearly doubled. I can barely single hand her when it comes time to get into the slip if the wind is up. I am exhausted when I get in.
I completely rebuilt her but she is for sale now as I look to downsize. I either downsize or quit sailing.
A good 30' to 32' is plenty big for two.
Looking at Cape Dory 30=32.
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