The True Cost of Owning a Sailboat
Look at today’s blazing hot sailboat market, and you could find some super deals. But buyer beware! The real cost of owning a sailboat could be more than you think. Follow these easy sailing tips for a reality check on what it might take to get a small used sailboat ready for coastal or offshore sailing.
Take “Time Out” for This Reality Check!
Imagine that you are out for a stroll around a marina and come across a boat that catches your eye. You run over to the brokers quaint office next to the marina dock and ask about the boat. You can bet on hearing all the good things and the price just can’t be beat.
Before you do one thing more, count on an additional 33% and 50%. This assumes that the sailboat in question has no hidden damages and can pass a marine survey.
Let’s pretend that you walk back to the boat with the broker and conduct a quick once-over survey of the boat. All seems well; no glaring leaks inside the cabin from the portholes or hatches. No excess water in the bilges.
The engine appears to be well taken care of and starts, shifts, throttles, and stops smooth and easy. Her sails, running rigging and standing rigging seem to have good integrity, without breaks, bends, cracks, distortion, abuse, or neglect. And her boat anchor and ground tackle are in good shape, well cared for, and show minimal signs of deterioration, rust, or corrosion.
Add 33% to Get Her Ready for Coastal Cruising
Plan to spend an additional 33% on top of the purchase cost to get a sailboat ready for coastal cruising.
Hull, Deck and Rigging
Older sailboats may have hull problems such as blisters or water intrusion into the core (wood sandwiched between specific areas on the deck to stiffen and strengthen the deck). Older boats may need running rigging replaced if it has become chafed, worn, or sun damaged.
Part of the standing rigging may need to be upgraded. A surveyor will be able to test the metal integrity of wire shroud and stay ends and turnbuckles to determine if microscopic cracks are present. After years of use and exposure to spray and rain, this can be a common defect on used sailboats.
Upgrade or add to the sail inventory. No matter what the advertisement says, 8-10 year old sails are past their prime. Stretch, wear, UV light take their toll. At the least they will need a major overhaul. And you may need to replace one or more sails. Consider that on a 27 foot cruising boat, the typical mainsail can cost more than $1000 dollars. That’s labor, additional reef points, and materials. Save lots of money if you learn to repair or make your own sails.
Anchors and Ground Tackle
Beef up the ground tackle. Nothing adds more to the overall safety when sailing than your boat anchors. Carry at least three for coastal cruising. Ground tackle will include all anchoring gear that makes up the anchor, such as windlass or cleat, rope rode, chain, shackles, and anchors. You must have a variety of anchors for different types of sea bottoms and anchoring conditions.
For example, a lightweight Delta for soft mud and a heavier Rocna for storm conditions. Anchors and ground tackle can set you back by $1000 or more. But remember that this will be your #1 insurance policy–not some piece of paper issued by an insurance company. Whatever you do, do not skimp on anchor gear. Buy the best for anchor and ground tackle for safety, security, and peace-of-mind.
Dinghy and Outboard
You will need to be able to move from an anchored boat to shore and back. Set aside funds for an inflatable or rigid dinghy. Add in oars, oarlocks, dinghy anchor, and if desired (and most folks do), an outboard. Before you blink your eyes, with all of these equipment, you should count on expenses of $3000 or more. Invest in a high quality dinghy and gear that will serve you provide you with years or worry-free service.
You will need to purchase nautical charts, along with GPS, plotter, or radar if desired. Include purchases of cruising guides, Coast Pilots, Tide and Current tables, and navigation plotting gear.
Nice to Haves
Shorthanded sailors should consider a wind vane in addition to the auto pilot. Not crucial, but realize that an auto pilot drains the battery faster than most any gear aboard., auto pilot, new halyards and running rigging. Add purchases such as GPS, radar, nautical charts, navigational publications, and your list could increase even more. Set aside the funds for top-of-the-line charts and navigation gear to keep you and your sailing crew or partner safe and sound.
Add 50% to Get Her Ready for Offshore Cruising
You will spend an additional 50% over the purchase price for serious offshore cruising. You will be out of reach of repair or supply facilities for days or weeks at a time, so self-sufficiency becomes much more important than coastal cruising. If you cruise to foreign ports, you may find these supplies much more costly than prices back home. In addition to the gear and modifications mentioned earlier, plan on…
Extensive spare parts kits to cover the engine and deck gear (extra blocks, halyard line, furling gear line, anchor line, anchor chain), replacement wires for standing rigging, additional sails such as trysail and extra Genoa and mainsail, storm gear such as sea anchor, drogue and bridle, redundant or additional electronics such as USB radio (if you desire this technology), and a “no power required” wind vane.
The list can get longer, but you get the idea. Few used sailboats on the market are “ready to sail” for coastal or offshore sailing. So, it’s best to set aside funds to cover at least some of these modifications and additions. That way, you will not be “shell shocked” with the reality of getting a small sailboat ready for sea.
Other Costs While Cruising
Now to those often forgotten costs. You can lower some of these if you are a “do it yourself” (DIY) or independent sailor. For example, slip fees will tear through a cruising budget faster than an approaching squall line. As will dinners out or hotel stays ashore.
Anchor out and cook on the boat to save big bucks and to break the umbilical cord to shore side living. Put these costs into your budget and assess what you need for your personal lifestyle.
- Slip Fees
- Transportation Ashore (rentals)
- Transportation Home (if necessary to return home)
- Repairs (unexpected)
- Haul Out
Use these sailing tips to help you determine if the cost of ownership is right for you. This will give you the peace-of-mind to know how much money you need to set aside to make your cruising dreams a reality instead of just a dream!