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Old 06-06-2009, 19:10   #1
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Right 'Starter Boat' ?

Hi!

I really like this forum, so I thought I'd register and harass you with some unoriginal questions.

Since two shorts cruises around Elba and the Canary Islands, I can't get sailing out of my head. It's not the sport or the activity of sailing itself (which can be, to be honest, sometimes less than exciting), it's more the freedom and lifestyle.

I since moved from Europe to the SF bay area, and an acquaintance recently reignited the sailing interest, so I took a Basic Keelboat class which I really enjoyed.

So now I'm contemplating what my next steps will be. I'll certainly take a Basic Cruising course, but I feel that you can only learn so much in this short time. Owning a boat would be a much richer experience, especially in regards to the challenges that await me should I indeed sometime in the future cast off the lines for a longer period of time.

So I'm monitoring Craigslist and found two interesting posts yesterday. The boats are a 1973(?) Catalina 27 and a 1979 Balboa 27, and the guy is asking around $2,000 for each one. The Catalina has a wheel, an outboard, and I think either a porta-potty or head without holding tank, whereas the Balboa has tiller steering, a 7hp Yanmar inboard in unknown working condition (the guy was using an outboard for her as well, which won't come with the boat), a head with holding tank and a stove.
They are at an anchorage which is notorious as a place to park older boats. I took a look at them today from the shore. Both have considerable algae growth at the waterline, the Balboa has some scratches at the side. As far as I could see with my binoculars, the red braid around the hull was separating from the hull in one spot, which of course is only cosmetic, but shows that it's not a well cared for boat.

So I'm really interested in the Balboa. I understand that with the centerboard drop keel, I'd rather not go outside the Golden Gate at first, but I think there are plenty of destinations to explore within the bay for the first few years.
It would be a project for sure, but I hope I'll learn a lot with it. Hopefully I'll get a closer look next week. The owner said he got a lot of calls, not surprising given the pretty low prices?

Comments, suggestions?

Thanks!
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Old 06-06-2009, 20:10   #2
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It sound like you are doing all the right things, taking a class, researching, seeking input.
My input is that I would get something that is pretty much ready to go and can resale easy. My first boat was a Ranger 23, she was in good condition so I was able to sail and play on her right away. Normal maintenance will be a good teacher too, you don't need a fixer upper to learn, and you'll sail a lot more. I just bought a fixer upper ( my fifth or sixth boat), I have yet to be able to sail her and I've owned her for 6 months! Hope this helps.
Good luck on you adventure and welcome to the board.
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Old 06-06-2009, 21:08   #3
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it's important to get on the water. if you obsess about the perfect boat, it could take years....believe me, I know.

I'd go for the holding tank and assume I have a hotel on the water that may never move, at $2000. Hopefully it won't sink either.

Crew on someone else's boat for a while. Just bring beer. You'll be asked back.

Welcome aboard and...cheers!
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Old 06-06-2009, 21:37   #4
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Thanks Erika, you're probably right, especially considering that I don't really have any experience as a craftsman... But it's tempting just to buy a boat out of my checking account.

First mate, the owner offered to deliver the Balboa to the marina I'm considering, which is something like 20nm away from the anchorage, so he's pretty confident that it will move. I've read an article that soon permits will be required for long term anchorages in this cove, maybe that's why he's trying to get rid of the boats now for so cheap.
So hypothetically, when I get the Balboa, should I pull it out of the water first thing and do a bottom job? Do diesel engines have to be removed for servicing generally, or is it common for mechanics to do house, err, boat calls?
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Old 07-06-2009, 06:29   #5
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well, I hope I didn't sound like a jerk in my post above. I'm sure I did. A bit worn out from two moves in one month and currently trying to clean up an old apartment for us to live in, while waiting for our floating paradise to pull up. It may have to beat us over the head with a baseball bat for us to recognize it but I'm sure it's coming.

One thing is for certain, as soon as you pull into any decent marina, you will meet other boaters. Usually, they're so helpful they're an absolute nuisance. Friendly is an insufficient word to describe the boating crowd.

Make some new friends, get some free maintenance work, help and advice. Truly, beer will pay for much of your first needs with this boat. Don't spend a penny till you get some dockside advice from your soon to be new friends.

I applaud your gutsy enthusiasm. I bet you get that boat in spit spot shape soon with elbow grease, new buddies, and priceless memories.

I'm glad someone is rescuing a worthy boat. You'll be fine.

Fair winds and following seas to you!
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Old 07-06-2009, 06:50   #6
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You are doing exactly the right thing, welcome to the club!....Allan
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Old 07-06-2009, 09:38   #7
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Much to Consider

Hey Flop, welcome.

I'll be the contrarian here.

If you want to get into sailing more for the lifestyle ("blowing around the bay on weekends" is probably pretty close, after reading your intro), you don't want a project, as has been noted above.

If you will be content being a bay sailor for a few seasons, I think it makes more sense to throw the same or just a little bit more cash into your plans, and start looking for a smaller boat that is in better condition, down in the 2224ft. range. At 27ft., you were right up on the cusp between weekender and small cruiser, and I think needlessly.

A weekender lacks standing headroom, but if it's day sailing, who cares? And it still has the basic ammenities if you want to drop the hook for a night and return the next day. Many of us have actually coastal cruised small boats. My first mistress was a Catalina 22.

The anchorage and the particular boats you mentioned raise red flags. This is where the downtrodden boats are, so how well-maintained are they likely to be? If that Balboa has an outboard, the diesel doesn't run, and mechanics can come to you, but at a stiff hourly rate. The Catalina may actually be the better deal as far as total out of pocket costs go.

But look smaller, and in better anchorages. You want a turn-key situation (or a pull-starter rope situation ), not a DIY course in marine diesel repair. After it's yours, you can outfit it any way you want. You will also likely start off with a tiller in your hand with a smaller boat, which will make you a better sailor quicker than with a wheel, IMHO.

An outboard is simple, and can be removed easily to be worked on.

I have to run. Good luck.

Jeff
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Old 07-06-2009, 09:56   #8
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Are there any J-24's for sale in the bay Area? I know there was at one time a very active fleet there and I suspect there may be some J-24's in the area that might be looking for a new owner.

Yes, it's primarily a racing boat, but it's also a good weekend cruiser, lacking only standing headroom (which was never a problem for me when I cruised in mine).

The benefit is you would own a boat that sails very well and is a great platform for learning how to become a very good sailor.
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Old 07-06-2009, 10:04   #9
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you'd better have a top-end set of foulies

There are a lot of J-24s here in the SF bay area, but it's a very wet boat for our conditions. Plan on wearing full foulies every day of the summer. Every day.

For what it's worth, the Catalina 27 will sail circles around the Balboa.

Craigslist is not the best place to find boat deals in this area. Rather, check the classifieds in Latitude 38, which you'll find free in any chandlery.
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Old 07-06-2009, 10:14   #10
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There are a lot of J-24s here in the SF bay area, but it's a very wet boat for our conditions. Plan on wearing full foulies every day of the summer. Every day.

For what it's worth, the Catalina 27 will sail circles around the Balboa.
Heh. Good point about the J-24 being a wet boat in SF Bay. But I wonder if some canvas between the lifelines and deck around the cockpit might help? It could be easily added.

And I would agree on the Catalina 27..... it's an excellent starter boat.
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Old 07-06-2009, 12:18   #11
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Wow, thanks for all the replies everybody!

FirstMate, I didn't think you sounded like a jerk, you had a good point. I heard stories of people buying boats thinking all they needed was a bottom job, and ended up in the yard for months.
I think my biggest problem at the moment is that I can't make sense of the prices. Catalina 27s from the 70s, which seem to be the most ubiquitous boats around here, range from $1,000 to $20,000 and beyond. For a 27 footer, what do materials alone like bottom paint and anti-fouling cost? How much is a day in a boatyard?
The more I think about it, the more it makes sense to get a boat in as good condition as I can afford. There is a "totally restored" 1979 Catalina 27 on sale, "all new lines, new cushions, new life lines, new safety package, anchors, VHF radio and stereo, pressurized water, new legal head, strong Johnson 15hp OB, new rigging, new varnish," asking price is $7,500. That sounds more like it, right? I'm looking at Yachtworld.com, Latitude 38 and Craigslist right now, and I have to say the asking prices in the former two seem to be generally higher. Maybe it's because only Craigslist gets the real junk?

And I'm not ruling out smaller vessels. I saw Allan's Coronado 25 and it looks like an awesome boat. I did the Basic Keelboat course on J-24s, and I was impressed with their handling (they could turn on a dime), but I have to say not so much with the interior. But maybe that's because sailing schools don't really care about the interior of their training boats.
The couple I was on the boat with bought their Santana 22 at a lien auction for the minimum bid of $250 and found a working GPS and electric outboard on the boat. They had to clean it out (the previous owner seemed to have lived aboard), haul it out and repaint the bottom, but it was pretty painless according to their story. But I guess that's one of those unbelievable deals you only hear about, you never get them yourself.
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Old 07-06-2009, 12:42   #12
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Make some new friends, get some free maintenance work, help and advice. Truly, beer will pay for much of your first needs with this boat. Don't spend a penny till you get some dockside advice from your soon to be new friends.
That's a very good piece of advice, much in line with my frugal attitude.

Another thought I just had, the local sailing club is offering free unlimited use of their boats up to 25' for a monthly due of $160 and a one-time initiation fee of $395. That's less than the monthly slip fee, and I wouldn't have to worry about maintenance etc. But at the same time, wouldn't I be cheating myself out of all the experience that you only get with owning a boat yourself?
I think I'll do the Basic Cruising course at this club and see how I like it.
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Old 07-06-2009, 12:43   #13
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the better the condition of the boat...

Quote:
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I'm looking at Yachtworld.com, Latitude 38 and Craigslist right now, and I have to say the asking prices in the former two seem to be generally higher. Maybe it's because only Craigslist gets the real junk?
... the more likely you are to find it listed in Yachtworld than on Craigslist. However, there are sometimes good buys to be found on the latter.

What I like about that 27' range is that you're not as likely to outgrow it right away, which makes it more sensible to invest work/money into the boat. Why buy a new suit of sails for a 22 footer that you'll outgrow in a season? The 27 footer is something you'll feel comfortable taking out the gate during the summer to spend a long weekend at Drakes Bay or Half Moon Bay, maybe even Monterey. But it's still small enough that a novice sailor with a bit of training can it handle in normal conditions.

The reason you'll see a range of prices on boats like the Catalina 27 is that they came in a variety of rigs and power configurations. A tall-rig C27 with an 18-horse universal diesel is going to be worth a lot more than a short rig with an old two-stroke outboard hanging off the transom. Add to that you'll pay more for a boat with a suit of sails that aren't 90% blown out. Before you buy any boat, check with a sailmaker about how much it will cost you to have a new main and jib built. If nothing else, this will keep you from purchasing a boat that's too big for your budget.

This forum is a great website for cruisers, but it might not be the best for finding out about specific boats in smaller sizes. You'll probably learn a lot more about those Catalina 27s (in terms of what to look for and what constitutes a good price) on catalinaowners.com. My guess is that there's even a class website just for the 27s.
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Old 07-06-2009, 12:52   #14
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Ready, Aim, THEN Fire

Don't let boat fever make you act rashly and purchase the wrong boat. If my best friend were in your position, I'd direct him to Roger Marshall's LINK> The Complete Guide to Choosing a Cruising Sailboat
and
John Vigor's LINK> Twenty Small Sailboats to Take You Anywhere

Especially pay attention to Marshall's discrimination between a weekender and cruiser.

Sit at Barnes & Noble with a cup of coffee and set aside a couple of hours for a basic education. Can't stress this enough. You'll walk away thinking of things you haven't considered, and it will force you to decide what boat will match your short-term aspirations.

In short: you'll know more about what you're looking for.

Don't forget resale value: tubs are easy to buy, but difficult to sell. If he really had all that much interest from other buyers, he wouldn't be so eager to deliver to you 20mn away to get it off his hands. He might just be trying to motivate you with fear (limited opportunity, a well-known selling tactic). There are thousands of boats for sale in the Bay area. A couple of weeks to educate yourself will not compromise this season for you any more than having a boat that you can't take out because it won't start.

Don't go into this blind/enthusiastic. You are susceptible to buying magic beans unless you know what you're after.

What boat(s) were used in your class?
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Old 07-06-2009, 15:15   #15
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Don't let boat fever make you act rashly and purchase the wrong boat. If my best friend were in your position, I'd direct him to Roger Marshall's LINK> The Complete Guide to Choosing a Cruising Sailboat
and
John Vigor's LINK> Twenty Small Sailboats to Take You Anywhere
Funny, I look at Vigor's books this week on Amazon, I might buy it. The library is my current source of books, though they seem to only have older material. I just read "Out there", about the first single-handed around the world BOC challenge 1982/83. It's a bit scary that 3 of the 13 boats that didn't retire were lost, but encouraging that no one died...


Quote:
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Don't forget resale value: tubs are easy to buy, but difficult to sell. If he really had all that much interest from other buyers, he wouldn't be so eager to deliver to you 20mn away to get it off his hands. He might just be trying to motivate you with fear (limited opportunity, a well-known selling tactic). There are thousands of boats for sale in the Bay area. A couple of weeks to educate yourself will not compromise this season for you any more than having a boat that you can't take out because it won't start.

Don't go into this blind/enthusiastic. You are susceptible to buying magic beans unless you know what you're after.
I believe him that he got a lot of calls for his ads, but then they didn't have pictures and only two lines of info, so you had to call to get to know anything about the boats. And he probably knows that 90% of them are just looking and not really ready to buy (me included). At first I thought it was an opportunity too good to pass, but it turns out not to be the case. Anyways, we'll see how it turns out, at the moment it looks like it's a challenge just to arrange something to take a closer look at the boats.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CaptainJeff View Post
What boat(s) were used in your class?
Basic Keelboat was on J/24s, and Basic Cruising will most likely be on a Cal 24 or Merit 25.
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