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Recommendations for Choosing and Buying a Sailboat

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Buying a sailboat is a particularly important moment. Discover everything you need to know about buying a sailboat with our detailed guide. Learn about the best time to purchase, cost considerations, ideal boat size and age, where to buy, how to find the right boat, purchasing options, the buying process, and preparing your sailboat for cruising. Perfect for aspiring sailboat owners.

To be sure of the right choice, it is good to ask yourself a number of the right questions, the first of which is the main reasons why you go sailing.

The dream of Purchasing a Used Boat in Californiapurchasing a boat and sailing to exotic islands and interesting countries is a powerful and exciting one. And an important part of achieving that dream is in selecting the right boat to take you over the horizon in safety and comfort. By keeping the boat in top condition while you’re cruising, you’ll find a line of fellow dreamers waiting to purchase it when you’ve completed your cruise allowing you to recoup most, if not all of your initial outlay.

Boat diagram
Boat design

If you wish to succeed in this venture, here’s how to do the necessary homework to make your cruising dreams a reality.

It’s All About Sailing

One of the first things you’ll need to do is to ensure that you actually enjoy and are comfortable sailing and living on a boat, and unless you plan on single handing, that your partner does as well. If you’re new to sailing or self-taught, sailing and navigation lessons are an excellent starting point. To discover if you’re comfortable living aboard, try a weeklong live aboard cruising/learning experience such as Offshore Sailing School’s Fast Track to Cruising or Fast Track to Passagemaking. Even better, consider a course in an area you’re interested in eventually cruising on your own. If the Caribbean is a possible destination on your own boat, you could select a Fast Track to Cruising course in the British Virgin Islands.

When to Purchase

Time, money, health and energy are the four factors that need to be present in order to buy a boat and realize your dream of cruising. Following is a summary of these factors and some tips for you to consider.

Time: There are several reasons why you should purchase your boat a minimum of one year, and optimally, 18-24 months before your planned departure.

  1. It may take 6-12 months of serious shopping to find a boat that meets your criteria.
  2. If the boat you purchase is over 15 years old and in need of some work it can easily take 6-12 months or longer to get it offshore-ready. You will be upgrading old equipment for new and sourcing refit options, both of which take considerable time.
  3. You’ll want to allow time to become familiar with sailing your boat and getting accustomed to living in a much smaller space than normal.

Your Age vs Boat Age: The older you are, the newer the boat you purchase should be if you actually want to go cruising.

If you’re in your 20’s, you may feel like you have more time and energy than money. You probably won’t consider it necessary that your cruising boat is outfitted with a freezer, powerful windlass, or satellite communications. You’ll have the energy and motivation to work hard on a bare bones boat and then be keen to set sail, with or without a lot of gear that older people frequently deem necessary.

If you are over 60 and inexperienced, you should consider a boat less than 10 years old. If you purchase a 30 year old boat needing a refit, the chance of you having the energy to complete a refit and actually depart on an extended cruise is well less than 50 %.

Cruising Timeframe: You may be looking at boats thinking you will be cruising for 5-10 years. However, we see very few people cruising for longer than 2-3 years. Take time to consider your cruising plan; where you buy the boat and start cruising, where you plan to sail and for how long and where you think you may sell the boat. It is good to be open in your planning but it’s also good to establish a Plan B, in the event your health or other factors change.

Boat Cost, Size and Age

If you’re cruising as a couple, each of you must be prepared to singlehand your boat, being conscious of your abilities and limitations. Seasickness or illness may incapacitate either of you, leaving the other person to handle everything. Safety dictates a boat with manageable sails, a dependable wind-vane self-steering system and a powerful, dependable autopilot.

If you’re planning on purchasing a boat over 42′ and aren’t as strong as you used to be, consider increasing your level of fitness and the option of selecting a boat with or adding a furling mainsail, bow thruster and possibly electric winches. This equipment adds cost, maintenance, weight and complexity but being able to easily handle your boat is important and adds to the enjoyment of cruising.

Crew: Crew difficulties are frequently a common and persistent problem. It’s easy to find friends and family members excited about sailing with you when you first leave your homeport. As you get further away it becomes time consuming coordinating the logistics of crew arrival and departure points, and the timing of your passages.

You might also find that you may not be comfortable trusting your boat and life to people whom you don’t know well and that pick-up crew can be more of a burden than help.

Go Newer and Smaller: In order to purchase a newer yacht that isn’t going to need an expensive, time-consuming refit, you may need to downsize your ideal size requirements.

If this means purchasing a 12 year old 38′ boat instead of a 20-30 year old 45′-50′ boat, you will be far ahead; having more time to cruise and reducing your overall cost of ownership. Also, maintenance, insurance and moorage costs go up exponentially with the length of boat.

Age of Boat vs Time and Cost of Ownership: The older your boat is, the more time and money it will take to go cruising.

On a boat 20+ years old, you can easily spend an additional 50 % to 100 % of the purchase price replacing:

  • rigging;
  • sails;
  • tanks;
  • engine;
  • and electronics and upgrading the electrical system.

This refitting process frequently takes 1 to 2 years. With a boat that is new or less than 10 years old much of the refit time and cost and is saved.

Another good option is to purchase an older boat that has recently been refit by the seller and is ready to go. It will likely cost more than comparable boats of the same age but will cost far less than outfitting an older boat that has only coastal equipment aboard.

Overall Budget for Boat Purchase:

  • Boat Purchase: 60 %.
  • Outfitting: 40 %.
  • Outfitting Cost: You’ll likely need an additional $20 000 to $50 000 for necessary offshore equipment including:
    • storm sails;
    • life raft;
    • windvane or an additional autopilot;
    • tender and motor;
    • heavier and additional ground tackle;
    • charts and spare parts.

    This cost excludes non-essential items such as:

    • watermaker;
    • generator;
    • solar panels;
    • bow thruster;
    • refrigeration;
    • chart plotter and SCUBA compressor.

Where to Purchase

It is wise to spend considerable time researching and deciding where you most want to cruise and just as importantly, where will be an easy place to purchase and outfit a vessel. Perhaps charter in your destined cruising grounds first, at the same time research the selection and prices of boats available, boat yards and outfitting services.

If you’re interested in cruising specific areas before planning long passages, purchasing a boat on location may be a good choice.


  • research Spain;
  • France;
  • Palma;
  • Italy;
  • Croatia;
  • Turkey;
  • and Greece.

Turkey has excellent yachting services and marinas and is the least expensive country in the Med. As it isn’t an:

  • EU member;
  • VAT and Schengen time limits do not apply.

Caribbean: it is best to purchase on the East Coast or possibly in Florida where there is a large selection of potential cruising boats and excellent refit services. Although there are many boats for sale in the Caribbean, the condition, logistics of purchasing and outfitting make this option somewhat less attractive.

Mexico and the South Pacific: starting out anywhere on the West Coast will work.

Cruising Boats in Foreign Countries: In your search for boats you’ll see listings of cruising boats that appear to be real bargains in foreign, frequently downwind tropical locations. Example locations include:

  • the Med;
  • Florida;
  • Mexico;
  • Panama;
  • Caribbean;
  • Tahiti;
  • Fiji;
  • New Zealand;
  • Australia;
  • Indonesia and Thailand.

Occasionally these boats are a good value, but often they are tired and require extensive repairs and upgrades to be passage-ready. As with the outfitting process, the owners have run out of time, money, energy or health and have walked away from their boat, leaving it listed with a local broker. On the other hand, if the owners are present and have conscientiously maintained the boat, it may represent a true value and savings of time.

High Latitude vs Tropical Locations: Boats that have spent most of their lives in higher latitudes where they are frequently only in the water for six months then stored ashore or inside a building during winters appear newer than sister ships in warmer, saltier water. Examples:

  • Great Lakes and New England vs. Florida;
  • and Scandinavia vs. Mediterranean.

How to Find Your Boat

If you are within six months of purchasing and have your financing in order, you may consider using a buyer’s broker. They will have connections to potential boats that you may not be aware of and save you time by cutting through the «broker babble». Ideally your buyer’s broker will have personal experience offshore cruising or delivering yachts. They should be truly interested in finding the most appropriate boat for you at the best price, not just encouraging you to purchase one of their own listings. This service shouldn’t cost you any additional money as the listing broker will split the selling commission with your buyer’s broker. It is rare to find knowledgeable buyer’s brokers interested on working with clients having a budget of under $150 000.

Selecting the Right Boat

There is a wide variety of boats on the market so it’s up to you to decide on what is going to be the best boat for your budget and plans.

Educate Yourself: Read boat reviews, scan owner’s group websites for troublesome problems specific to certain makes or models, read about yacht design and safety. Go sailing on as many different types of vessels as possible, and consider crewing on local races. Take courses on navigation, offshore passage making, marine weather, sail repair and diesel engine maintenance. If your cruising plans include ocean crossings, consider signing up for a sail-training passage where you’ll be standing watch and learning 24 hours per day. The more time and energy you’ve put into obtaining skills important to cruising, the better yacht selection choice you’re likely to make and the more self-sufficient you’ll likely be once you’re cruising. You may go into your boat search thinking you absolutely must have a heavy displacement doubleender with a long bowsprit and a centerline queen berth, for example. After educating yourself and completing an ocean passage you may decide that these are not necessarily criteria that add to the comfort or safety at sea.

Explore Boat Options:

  • monohulls;
  • multihulls;
  • and long-range displacement powerboat each have different merits.

Monohulls are frequently better suited and designed for cruising temperate or high latitude waters and most are better suited to maintain performance when additional cruising gear is added.

Multihulls advantages include very little heeling or rolling and tremendous interior volume and deck space making them very attractive for tropical cruising or cruising with children. Disadvantages include weight sensitivity, uncomfortable motion upwind, difficulty in finding moorage and haul-out facilities. Multi-hulls are ever increasing in popularity in tropical cruising destinations. An excellent book on multihulls is Gregor Tarjan’s Catamarans; Complete Guide for Cruising Sailors.

Long-range displacement powerboats such as:

  • Nordhavn;
  • Kady Krogen;
  • Fleming;
  • and Selene provide a very comfortable ride and spacious living area.

Be Realistic: Many people searching for their dream boat have unrealistic expectations or get fixated on specific design issues. If your plans are for serious offshore cruising, ensure that safety and seaworthiness rate higher on your priority list than in-port comfort and interior volume. Compromise is important when selecting any boat. Chances are you will not find any boat in your price range that exactly meets all of your criteria, so be prepared to be flexible and keep an open mind.

Market Appeal: As most couples cruise for a 2-3 year period, it makes sense to purchase a boat that will hold as much of its appeal and value as possible. If you buy a boat with little market appeal you may end up having it on the market for several years only to finally sell it a drastically reduced price.

One Way Downwind Cruise Option: Some cruisers Reasons Why You Should Buy a Boat and the Financial Sidebuy a boat with the anticipation that they will take advantage of strong economies and market for cruising boats in certain foreign countries. By purchasing an appropriate boat in Europe or North America, sailing downwind through the South Pacific, they then plan to sell their yachts in either:

  • Noumea, New Caledonia;
  • or Queensland, Australia.

Currently this is still very feasible, but could change at any time. There are yacht brokers in both Noumea and Queensland specializing in the importation and selling of foreign-flagged cruising boats.

Ex-Charter Boat Option: Purchasing a recent (5-6 year old) charter boat for shorter-term seasonal cruising or a one-way voyage from the Med to Florida via the Caribbean or from the Med, Florida or the Caribbean to Australia is a viable option. It wouldn’t be wise to spend a lot on extensive outfitting (adding a windvane, generator, watermaker or electronics) as little of this cost would be recouped on selling.

Well known Builder: If you’re considering purchasing a boat overseas and plan to eventually sail it back to North America or Australia to sell, if possible, select a well-known boat builder that ideally has dealers in the country you plan to sell in. You’ll find it much easier to sell a well-known boat for a reasonable price.

Is the Boat Builder in Business?: With so few of the quality builders of offshore cruising boats still in business, this has become less of an issue, but it can save you time and money if you can get replacement parts and technical information from the original builder and it may make selling the boat easier.

Boat Purchasing Options

Four Purchasing Options:

1 New Production Boat. Because of a shortage of quality 5-10 year old ocean cruising boats plus the high cost of and amount of time required to upgrade a solid 10+- year old vessel, purchasing a quality new production boat is more attractive than ever. The problem is there are only a handful of boatyards worldwide still in business producing quality offshore boats. Here’s an example: If you purchase a 25 year old boat for $80 000 and then spend $50 000 replacing the:

  • engine;
  • rigging;
  • dodger;
  • sails;
  • wiring;
  • tanks;
  • electronics and having the bottom stripped;

dried and barrier coated, using up 1-2 years of your cruising time, you will end up with a 27 year old boat worth perhaps $90 000.

A better choice might be a new or nearly new (less than 5-10 years old) boat that initially costs more but returns much closer to 100 % of your outlay. Your cost of ownership will be substantially less and hopefully you’ll be out cruising 1-2 years earlier with far less time spent dealing with mechanical breakdowns and failures.

2 Custom Build. Choosing to have a boat semi-custom or custom built always takes considerably more time and money than planned and there are inevitably «bugs» to work out that would only occur on hull #1 or #2 of a production boat. Resale value on a custom boat is usually substantially lower than on a well-known quality production boat. Custom boats only make sense if you are the second owner. However, keep in mind that they will nearly always be more difficult to sell.

3 Used Boat. Cruising equipment generally adds little to the selling price of used boats, so if you can find a boat that has already been outfitted and lightly cruised, you may save tens of thousands of dollars. Conversely, if you are considering a boat that has circumnavigated or cruised extensively, you may discover that much of the gear is worn out and needs replacing.

4 Home Built. Home building a cruising vessel makes the least sense unless you are an unemployed boat builder, unconcerned with time and expenses. It generally costs considerably more to build a boat than to purchase a well-built used boat and is nearly always more difficult to sell.

Market Trends: It is still a bit of a buyer’s market worldwide, but the inventory of quality, offshore-capable boats in the under $100 000 and under $200 000 category is much reduced. In the $350 000-$400 000 category there are currently amazing values available on fairly recent high-quality boats that have been priced at over $600 000. This is true in Europe, North America and Australia/New Zealand.

Boat yards are finally starting to get orders for new boats as there have been a very limited number of new boats built in the past 7-8 years, resulting in a low inventory for buyers searching for a boat under 8 years old.

Pete McGonagle, co-owner of Swiftsure Yachts in Seattle shares this: For the past 5 years, we’ve seen logarithmic depreciation on new boats. Due to the lack of new boat buyers, few yards have a backlog of orders and many are willing to provide discounts and swiftly build to order. A new boat loses 20 % of its value as soon as it’s delivered. It then loses about 5 % of value per year for the first five years and the value loss tapers off to zero as the boats get to be 20-25 years old. By then maintenance costs will be higher and refit, maintenance and upgrade differences make values quite variable from one sistership to another. This is why an extremely well maintained, frequently updated timeless design will have the best chance of value retention.

Distress Sales: If you’ve been How to Buy the Best Boat? Essential Tipsshopping for a cruising boat you’ve probably come across several vessels that have recently had substantial and expensive upgrades yet haven’t gone anywhere. Many times these boats are the result of people who during the refit and preparation process have had health issues arise or become too exhausted to go cruising. If the sellers have done their homework, selecting quality equipment and assistance on the refit, these distress sales can represent an excellent savings of time and money for you. It is still imperative to get the right boat for your intended plans. A great deal on the wrong boat is still the wrong boat.

Shipping and Commissioning: When trying to decide whether or not it is logical to purchase a boat out of your area, make sure to factor in all shipping and commissioning costs if you don’t plan on sailing your new vessel home.

The cost of trucking a sailboat with a beam greater than 12′ and a trailer height of over 14′ rises significantly as a pilot car at $1.00 per mile is required in some areas. Add approximately $200 for trucking insurance rider, and $1 000 to $2 000 for decommissioning and recommissioning, depending how much of the work you do yourself. Here are some recent examples of trucking prices:

Recent examples of trucking prices
Fantasi 44 Pilothouse (15’1″ tall) San Diego to Seattle$11 000
Outbound 44 Florida to Seattl$16 600
Island Packet 44 (14’4″ beam) North Carolina to Seattle$19 995

The cost of shipping a 45′ boat from Europe or New Zealand to the US is approximately $35 000.

Purchase Process

Broker: Purchasing from a licensed yacht broker, particularly if they are a member of a professional oversight organization such as CPYB (Certified Professional Yacht Broker-cpyb.net) is often safest and simplest. If you’re purchasing from a private seller, you have little protection once you’ve turned over your deposit (frequently 10 % of offering price). If the seller decides to keep your deposit, even if your conditions for purchase are not met, you have fewer recourses. A knowledgeable broker can provide invaluable assistance with:

  • boat selection;
  • survey;
  • sea trial;
  • closing;
  • registration and post sales service and logistics.

Initial Offer: I frequently advise my boat purchase consultation clients to make their initial offer 18 % less than the asking price unless the boat is exceptionally clean and well-equipped or there are other customers seriously interested.

Factors used to determine how much your initial offer include:

  1. Selling prices and length of time to sell of sister ships.
  2. Amount of time the vessel has been on the market.
  3. If there have been any offers to date, and if so, for what price.
  4. If there are any known or disclosed extenuating factors, i. e. winter about to start, seller has health issues, estate sale, etc.
  5. Initial impression of the boat. Does it looks neglected? If so, the seller won’t be getting any full-price offers.
  6. Are there any known defects (osmotic blisters, soggy deck or hull core material, non-working equipment, etc.)?

Any offer to purchase should have these following terms and conditions:

  1. Subject to acceptable survey and sea trial.
  2. Subject to buyer finding acceptable financing. (This can always be an «out» for you if needed).
  3. An inventory of all included and excluded gear and equipment.
  4. A requirement for the seller to provide a completed disclosure form revealing if the vessel has ever suffered a grounding, fire, sinking, blisters, etc.
  5. A specific timeframe for acceptance of the offer, acceptance of the yacht after survey and sea trial, and a final closing date.

Frequently there will be negotiations back and forth on the price. Assume the seller will negotiate until they say otherwise. During the final phases of initial negotiation or post survey negotiations, don’t ruin a seller’s goodwill by being overly aggressive and demanding. Squeezing the last few hundred dollars from a seller is not worth losing the value of them sharing their extensive knowledge of the boat and removing non-inventoried spare parts, charts and other gear that is often left aboard.

Loans and Insurance: At this time you will want to secure a quote or verbal assurance that the boat you’re considering can be insured for your intended purpose. If you’re planning an international cruise, note that many countries including Mexico, all of the EU and most marinas require at least liability, or third party insurance.

If you’re planning on financing your purchase, you’ll want to have a loan pre-approved before you make an offer. All lenders will require comprehensive insurance, not just liability, to protect their collateral.

Insurance may be difficult to impossible to obtain if you can’t document boating experience on a similar sized and type of vessel. In some instances insurance companies will require up to a week of one-on-one instruction from a licensed skipper/instructor with a sign-off from them before their underwriter will agree to insure your boat. Very few lending institutions will allow you to take a vessel outside your home country waters and only a handful of insurance companies worldwide will insure ocean passage making. This means if you lack passage making experience it will be difficult financing your boat purchase let alone go cruising. No insurance companies will insure singlehanded sailors offshore.

Change of ownership and registration: Frequently, particularly when purchasing a federally-documented or foreign vessel, a vessel documentation service, similar to a real estate escrow company will be used. This company may hold your deposit in an escrow account and will search for and discharge any liens and will handle dispersal of funds and payment of taxes. You’ll want to determine what company will be used before signing final acceptance papers. If you are using a buyer’s broker, they can recommend a documentation service. Otherwise, the selling broker will frequently recommend one.

Marine Survey: Here are some points to remember:

1 Be very cautious in hiring a surveyor recommended by the listing or selling broker. Some surveyors are more interested in frequent referrals from brokers than in doing a thorough and complete survey for the purchaser. Contact other local brokers or boatyards and ask who they would hire to survey a boat they were considering purchasing.

2 Don’t hesitate to ask the surveyor for examples of previous survey reports.

3 Ensure the surveyor is a member of a professional group such as SAMS or NAMS.

4 Top quality surveyors may have a 2-3 week backlog of work, so don’t expect next-day service.

5 Plan on paying $15-$25 per foot for a survey plus travel time and expenses.

6 Buyers pay for the cost of survey haulout, regardless of whether or not a deal is consummated.

There are four types of surveys available:

  • Pre-purchase;
  • Insurance;
  • Acceptance (for a new boat) and Damage.

On vessels priced over $200 000 it is common for the purchaser to request and pay for a separate engine and possibly rig and sail survey. Some surveyors will do a cursory check of the engine dockside and on sea trial, others may present you with an option for a more in-depth engine survey for an additional fee. Still others will simply recommend another company or surveyor specializing in engine surveys.

Read also: 10 Steps Guide – How To Buy A Sailboat

If at all possible, you should be present and attentive during the survey, taking pictures of everything and asking the surveyor to point out any areas of deficiency or interest as they go about the survey. Don’t be surprised or disappointed if the survey turns up some deficiencies. Quickly separate the findings into structural, safety and cosmetic categories. If the structural problems are substantial (i. e. large areas of serious osmotic blistering below the waterline) be prepared to collect your deposit and resume your search. «Project» boats very rarely prove worthwhile. If there are easily repairable deficiencies that were not disclosed in the listing, it is normal that the buyer will ask the seller to either have the problems repaired or adjust the price to cover a quote for repairs. The seller has no legal obligation to remedy deficiencies. Certainly ask for remedy but realize that not all sellers will agree to repair, reduce the price or share the cost of repair of deficiencies. If the agreed purchase price plus the cost of repairs is still a good value, it may be advisable for you to pay for the entire amount of repairs vs. start looking for another boat and incur more search and survey costs.

Sea Trial: A sea trial is where the seller or their agent provides an underway demonstration, hopefully with you and your surveyor aboard to test and operate all systems. This should include running the engine up to maximum rated RPMs while checking for overheating, vibration and smoke. All ancillary systems and equipment should be demonstrated including:

  • raising sails;
  • operating anchor windlass;
  • all pumps;
  • radios and electronics;
  • generator;
  • cabin heater;
  • air conditioning;
  • lights;
  • inverter/charger and stove.

If the boat is hauled out for winter storage and it isn’t possible to have a sea trial and engine test until spring, it is normal for a «hold back» amount to be set aside to cover any possible problems discovered in the sea trial.

Regroup, Repair and Outfit

After your transaction is complete it is time to complete your insurance application (you should have an insurance binder before closing on the boat), find moorage and assess the list of deficiencies outlined by the survey. The sooner you get these items repaired, the better chance necessary repairs won’t be put off indefinitely. Start with safety issues, next inventory items that may need to be replaced or reconditioned.

Engine: Most surveys will turn up at least a few items in the engine room needing attention. If you’re unfamiliar with marine diesels, hire a mechanic to show you how to make the needed repairs plus how to change the raw water impeller, replace the raw water pump, change the fuel filters and bleed the fuel system. Ask the mechanic what known, recurring problems affect your model of engine and consider replacing any components prone to failure, i. e. water injection elbow on Yanmars, transmission oil coolers on older Perkins, etc.

Rigging: Most insurance companies ask to have the rigging replaced every 10-12 years if the boat is headed offshore. If you have a rig inspection or quote for new rigging, ask the rigger to show you how to service the winches and furler(s). Furlers that are old, undersized or furlers from companies no longer in business should be replaced. It is an excellent idea to hire a rigger to go sailing with you for 2 hours showing you how to inspect and tune your rigging and suggesting any modifications for easier offshore sail handling.

Sails: The existing sails can be inspected and repaired, but if you are setting out on an extensive cruise, it is wise to consider replacing the working sails before departure.

Refit Evaluation: At this time you’ll want to take a close look at how much money remains for repairs and outfitting and what your potential departure times are to utilize the best seasonal weather windows. Percent of original purchase price to prepare a stock 10+ year old boat for extended cruising: 30-100 % depending on quality and condition of vessel. You’ll find that quality boatyards in North America, Europe and New Zealand/Australia generally charge the equivalent of US $60-$120 per hour. It is easy to spend $10 000 per month having work done in a boatyard. Repairing and replacing gear if you don’t know what you’re doing can be a safety issue – best to get some help in planning repairs. If you have more time than money, one option is to hire pros to quickly show you the ropes and then to supervise you doing as much of the refit, repair and installation of new gear as possible. Although it will be slower, the savings can be substantial and you will continually be gaining important skills. Nigel Calder’s Boat Owners Electrical and Mechanical Handbook and Don Casey’s Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual are two excellent resources.

Ongoing Maintenance Costs
Epoxy bottom job every 8-10 years, depending if blisters are present2 000 – 20 000
Rebuild or replace main engine at 5 000 to 10 000 hours10 000 – 30 000
Pull mast, replace standing rigging and lifelines every 10 years5 000 – 10 000
Stripping and repainting a painted, non-anodized mast every 10-15 years8 000 – 10 000
Replace sails every 20 000 – 30 000 miles8 000 – 12 000
Replace batteries every 2-6 years1 500 – 3 000
Repack life raft (1-3 years), replace at 12-15 years1 500 – 5 000
Regalvanize chain every 2 years (tropical waters)500 – 800
Replace chain every 6 years in tropical waters1 500 – 2 000
Rebuild or replace windlass every 4-8 years300 – 4 000
Drop rudder for inspection & repair initially then every 5 years300 – 3 000
Replace tender and motor every 5-10 years5 000 – 10 000
Replace failed or outdated electronics every 3-5 years2 000 – 10 000
Replace fresh water and head hoses every 5 years200 – 500
Replace thru-hulls and ball valves every 8-10 years1 000 – 2 000
Replace solar panels and regulator every 4-8 years2 000 – 5 000

Costs will be 20 %-70 % higher than in North America in most other countries.

Maintenance Costs while cruising
First 1-2 years:2 % of original purchase price annually
3-4 years:5 %
5 years:10 %
I budget for a 10 % of purchase price refit every 5-10 years
Yacht diagram
Crossection of the yacht

Qualities of an Ideal Cruising Boat

1 Comfortable Motion on the Ocean Without excessive pitching, slamming or rolling.

Vessel design
Cruise ship diagram

2 Quality Construction With quality components (tanks, steering system, rig, etc.) *See Boat Construction Chapter.

3 Ability to Withstand 6 kt Grounding With no or minimal structural damage.

4 Sailing Performance Upwind and downwind in 10-50 knots. Windward sailing performance is nearly as important as passage-making speed. On the other extreme, a very modern, light displacement boat with a flat entry will pound when sailing to windward and may lack directional stability when sailing downwind with large quartering seas. The ability to sail off a lee shore in an emergency is dependent on windward performance.

5 Moderately Stiff & Fast Enough to Sail 150-180 Miles a Day Few potential cruisers think of passage-making speed as important criteria in choosing an ocean cruising boat. After 40 years and 322 000 miles of ocean cruising, it is now high on my personal list of priorities. The shorter the passages, the less exposure there is to heavy weather conditions. A boat with good sailing performance requires less motoring and fuel, is faster, more responsive and fun to sail in the light to moderate wind conditions so common worldwide.

6 Protected Helm Position Providing protection from sun, wind, spray and rain and having good 360A visibility.

7 Ability to Carry Substantial Payload A moderate displacement boat will handle the additional weight including additional anchor and chain, life raft, additional batteries and fuel better than lightweight designs.

8 Helm that is Responsive and Maintains Directional Stability Making steering by hand, autopilot or windvane easy.

9 A Comfortable Interior Both at sea and in port with sufficient handholds for safe movement. As most cruisers are at sea less than a quarter of the time, comfort at anchor is also important.

10 Simple Rig and Sail Plan Easily singlehanded without severely swept back spreaders.

11 Good Engine Access From all sides and access allowing for easy engine removal.

12 Fuel tankage sufficient for 800-1 000 miles under power.

13 Moderate draft Of around 6′ without T or wing keel.

14 Keel, Prop and Rudder that Won’t Snag Lines.

15 Deep bilge sump. Ideally with substantial tankage located below the waterline and cabin sole. All interior areas of the boat should drain to the bilge.

16 Adequate Interior and Accessible Deck Storage Capacity Ideally space under most of the main salon settee should be available for storage and not taken up with tankage. Lockers provide much more efficient storage than open shelves.

17 Comfortable Cockpit. With room to relax and entertain and seatbacks high enough for good back support.

18 Low Exterior and Interior Maintenance. Oiled teak interiors grow mold in the tropics and lots of exterior bright work is difficult to maintain in any climate. Dark-colored hulls are hot, get salt-stained and fade fairly quickly in the tropics. Anodized, unpainted aluminum spars are much better than painted spars.

19 Swim Step. A built-in swim step on a slightly reversed transom stern makes getting in and out of the water and dinghy or mooring stern-to easy.

Yacht steering position
Yacht control cabin diagram

20 Good Resale Appeal and Value.

Author photo - Olga Nesvetailova
  1. Cruising World, Subscription Service Dept., P. O. Box 953, Farmingdale, NY 11737.
  2. Motor Boating & Sailing, P. O. Box 10075, Des Moines, IA 50350.
  3. Multi-hulls, 421 Hancock St., N. Quincy, MA 02171-9981.
  4. Nautical Quarterly, 373 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016.
  5. Sail Magazine, P. O. Box 10210, Des Moines, IA 50336.
  6. Sailing, P. O. Box 248, Port Washington, WI 53704.
  7. Small Boat Journal, P. O. Box 400, Bennington, VT 05201.
  8. Soundings, Soundings Publications, Inc., Pratt Street, Essex, CT 06426.
  9. The Practical Sailor, Subscription Dept., P. O. Box 971, Farmingdale, NY 11737.
  10. Wooden Boat, Subscription Dept., P. O. Box 956, Farming-dale, NY 11737.
  11. Yacht Racing/Cruising, North American Building, 401 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19108.
  12. Yachting, P. O. Box 2704, Boulder, CO 80321.
  13. Beiser, Arthur. The Proper Yacht, 2nd ed. Camden, Maine: International Publishing Co., 1978.
  14. Chapman, Charles F. Piloting, Seamanship and Small Boat Handling, 56th ed. New York: Hearst Marine Books, 1983.
  15. Coles, Adlard. Heavy Weather Sailing, 3rd rev. ed. Clinton Corners, N.Y.: John De Graff, Inc., 1981.
  16. Pardey, Lin and Larry. Cruising in Seraffyn and Seraffyn’s Mediterranean Adventure (W. W. Norton, 1981).
  17. Roth, Hal. After 50 000 Miles (W. W. Norton, 1977) and Two Against Cape Horn (W. W. Norton, 1968).
  18. Royce, Patrick M. Royce’s Sailing Illustrated, 8th ed. Ventura, Calif.: Western Marine Enterprises, Inc., 1979.
  19. Kinney, Francis S. Skene’s Elements of Yacht Design, 8th ed. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1981.
  20. Street, Donald M., Jr. The Ocean Sailing Yacht, Vols. I and II. New York: W. W. Norton, 1973, 1978.


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