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Operation and Maintenance of the Your Own Sailboat

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Owning a boat can be an exciting and fulfilling experience, but it also comes with responsibilities and considerations. Going places in your own sailboat is one of the greatest travel experiences you can have. Finding the right sailboat involves considering several factors such as your sailing experience, the type of sailing you plan to do, your budget, and the size of the boat.

Overall, owning a boat can be highly rewarding if you are prepared for the associated responsibilities and costs. This article is all about how to get a boat that suits your needs, your capabilities, and your wallet, and will also provide an enjoyable and safe sailing experience.

Thinking about Your Boat

There are lots of questions to ask yourself when you start to think about How to Buy a New Boat: Tips for Buyersbuying a boat. Whether you can afford it is certainly one of the most important, but you must also consider how you would move it, where you would store it, and whether you truly have the time to devote to this pastime. But let’s start with a question that may help you answer some of the others: How big a boat do you need?

How Big?

Trailerable sailboats with cabins range from a minimum of about 15 feet to a maximum of about 25 feet. The natural tendency for most folks is to covet the biggest boat they can get. Not so fast, Popeye – the biggest boat isn’t always the best. To see why, let’s use an extreme example – the Lancer 28.

The boat Lancer 28
View of the boat Lancer 28

The Lancer 28:

  • 28 feet long;
  • 8-foot beam;
  • 2-foot 10-inch draft;
  • it displaces almost 5 000 pounds.

The Lancer 28 was introduced in 1977, when trailer sailers were quite popular. This was about the most boat that would fit on a trailer. To haul a boat on the highway without a special permit, the beam must be no wider than 8 feet (though some states have increased this limit to 8 feet 6 inches). But an 8-foot beam is considered narrow for a boat this size; it was a compromise the designer made to fit the boat on the trailer.

Another compromise was a fairly shallow, wide keel. In order to keep the loaded height down, the designer used a shallow keel, which doesn’t add much stability. And since the keel is so shallow, the ballast is up high, where it doesn’t do nearly as much good. Compare this to a conventional 28-footer, where the draft averages around 4 feet. The keels on these conventional boats are commonly solid – not hollow – chunks of lead or iron. With that much weight so deep in the water, the nontrailerable boat has a lot of stability compared to the Lancer. The reason for the Lancer’s wide keel also has nothing to do with performance – the designer wanted a boat with lots of headroom, so he dropped the cabin sole down into the keel. The result is sort of a fiberglass trench that you stand in, and the keel is wider than it should be for best sailing performance. If you stand in the trench, the boat has 6 feet 2 inches of headroom – an unheard-of space on most trailerables. This feature may enhance sales, but it does little to improve sailing.

But the real drawback to the Lancer 28 is out of the water. Once on the trailer, this boat is a monster. It weighs almost 5 000 pounds. You can forget pulling this rig with anything less than a large vehicle with a dedicated tow package. And a panic stop at 55 miles per hour might turn you into something like a pressed turkey sandwich. More about tow vehicles and road safety in the section «Towing and Rigging Your Boat», but this illustrates some of the problems with taking a large object like a boat out of its natural element and hauling it over the road.

It must be said that while a Lancer 28 isn’t my particular cup of tea, many other folks are quite happy with it. If you’ll be sailing in relatively sheltered conditions, and if you don’t plan on hauling the boat overland very often, the Lancer 28 might be a good choice for you.

Hauling of Lancer 28
Transportation of Lancer 28 on a trailer

As I noted at the outset, the Lancer 28 is an extreme example of the trailerable category. At about 26 feet, trailerable boats stop making sense. If you really want a large boat, then you would do well to consider a model that is not trailerable. But be ready for a significantly larger commitment of time and money. Boat design always involves a series of trade-offs and compromises; if you set your sights a little smaller, the trade-offs required to make a boat trailerable become less severe. Nearly all sailboats around 20 feet long can be launched, transported, and stored on a trailer. Some are designed for easy launching and trailering. Others are optimized for sailing ability, and are more difficult to launch and haul. Most are somewhere in between.

You can learn to evaluate a trailerable Comprehensive Collection of Common Sailboat Rig Types and Designs sailboat design by looking at a few key factors, such as the specifications, the hull outline, and the sail plan. While you can’t predict everything from such information, it will allow you to make educated guesses about performance on the water, ease of launching, ease of hauling, and other factors. It’s not my intention to make anyone into a naval architect – I’m far from one myself – but we can infer, for example, that a boat with a tiny swing keel is going to make more leeway than a boat with a larger keel. And don’t worry if you don’t know that leeway means the way that a sailboat gets pushed slightly downwind as she sails.

So if a Lancer 28 is too big, what’s the best size for a trailerable sailboat? Of course, there’s no single answer that fits everyone. Instead, consider this question: What kind of sailing do you want to do, and where do you want to do it?

What Kind of Saiking do You Want to do?

The sport of sailing can be generally divided into racing or cruising. Some boats are specifically designed for racing only – every feature is built for speed, and all other considerations are secondary. Other boats are specifically designed to be cruisers, where strength and load-carrying capacity are paramount. Many are called cruiser-racers, and are marketed to do both well, but in reality that’s a difficult balancing act. Because trailerables are limited by length, weight, and beam, you won’t find many that are said to be purely cruising boats.

Presumably you live within a reasonable distance to a body of water that’s big enough to sail in. Even this isn’t an absolute requirement – many sailboat owners live far from their regular sailing grounds. But chances are you live near a lake, large river, or, if you’re lucky, the coast. On average, what’s the weather like there? Some places, like San Francisco Bay, are known for consistently strong winds. In that region, heavier boats with shorter masts and smaller sail areas are the norm. On the other hand, the winds at many inland lakes (like Chickamauga Lake in Tennessee, where I often sail) are light and variable. Boats with tall masts have the advantage, and large, lightweight sails are almost a necessity.

The prevailing weather where you’ll sail has a direct correlation to appropriate boat size – or more accurately, boat displacement. A boat’s displacement is, for our purposes, equal to the weight of the boat and all its gear. (Actually, it’s the weight of the water the boat displaces while at rest.) In a nutshell, lightweight boats perform best in light winds, while heavy boats are better for stronger winds (and the rougher seas that accompany them). This is, of course, a broad generality and not a hardand-fast rule. My current boat, a Montgomery 17, is considered a medium-displacement boat, yet its light-air performance is better than the numbers would indicate. I discuss displacement in more detail in the section «Understanding Sailboat Specs».

Sailboat Montgomery 17
Trailerable sailboat a Montgomery 17

Another factor to consider is who will be sailing the boat. Let’s assume that you will, since you’re bothering to read this. But is anyone else planning on coming along on a regular basis?

While most people are familiar with the captain-crew relationship, I like to think of sailing participation in different terms:

  • solo sailing;
  • couples (or partner) sailing;
  • group sailing (a captain with two or more crew);
  • and, finally, family sailing.

Sailing Relationships.

What is solo sailing?

Solo Sailing – this means a sailboat with only one person aboard – you. If you’ve never been sailing alone, this may take some getting used to. It can be a very quiet, contemplative experience. On the other hand, if the weather acts up and things start breaking right and left, it can be downright scary. Solo, or single-handed, sailing is common on small recreational sailboats, but taking out a larger boat – like a trailerable – requires more careful planning. Most important is safety. I talk about this more in later below, but clearly a solo sailor who falls overboard is in a very dangerous predicament, especially if the water is cold or the boat is any appreciable distance from shore.

Solo sailing gets back to our discussion on boat size. It stands to reason that a boat that is normally handled by one person would be quite small, but as usual, «quite small» is relative. I purchased my current boat from an older individual who thought that the Montgomery 17 was too much for him to handle by himself. But then I regularly sailed my Catalina 27 by myself (in settled conditions), and I usually sailed my MacGregor Venture 222 solo.

The boat Catalina 27
Type of the boat Catalina 27

From my perspective, the Montgomery 17 is an excellent boat for the solo sailor.

Boat MacGregor Venture 222
Type of the Boat MacGregor Venture 222

The limiting factor isn’t so much boat length but sail area. If the wind pipes up, can you get that big 155 genoa sail in the bag all by your lonesome Another consideration – especially for trailer sailors – can you raise and lower the mast by yourself at the ramp? In each of these cases, you can alter the equation with mechanical aids, like roller-furling for the headsail, for example, or special mast-raising aids, but often these solutions mean an added level of complexity that some folks would rather do without.

Read also: Key Points for Buying and Selling a Boat

While many boats can work for the experienced single-handed sailor, as a general rule, 15 to 19 feet is a good size for sailing by yourself.

Partners Sailing. This refers to the two-person boat, and it’s a very enjoyable way to spend time with someone, whether a spouse, significant other, or just a good friend. It’s really handy to have an extra pair of hands aboard. One person can handle the tiller while the other gathers the headsail or lifts the anchor. Just be sure that these jobs get shared equally. If you think that being the captain means you get to look spiffy in your cap, firmly grasping the tiller and puffing your meerschaum pipe while your wife wrestles a muddy anchor rode on the foredeck all the time, you will probably find yourself a solo sailor before you can say, «Aaarrrrgh!» Again, speaking in broad generalities, 17 to 23 feet is a good size for two-handed sailing.

Partners Sailing
Sailing with a partner on a boat

A small boat like a Sunfish is regularly sailed singlehanded, but sailing a larger boat is more complicated. The Sunfish is an especially good platform for learning sailing basics.

Group and Family Sailing. With three or more adults aboard, the trailer sailer begins to feel like a tight fit pretty quickly. Sailing with a group of adults is often a social affair, with more people aboard meaning less room and perhaps shorter trips. If you have a family that wants to come along, great! Sailing can be a terrific experience for kids, if it is handled the right way. If you plan on sailing with a group most of the time, you might consider a larger boat, say 22 to 25 feet.

Can You Move it?

The Lancer discussion touches on yet another consideration relating to boat size: can you pull the boat you’re thinking of buying with your current automobile?

I’ve had quite a struggle with this subject myself. Several years ago, before I owned a trailerable sailboat, I bought a used 6-cylinder van, thinking it would be just the ticket for towing a sailboat. Six cylinders and an automatic transmission should provide plenty of power, right? Unfortunately, I didn’t check the manual, which said this van shouldn’t pull anything over 2 000 pounds. No sweat, I thought – a MacGregor 222 weighs 2 000 pounds. But add the weight of the trailer, motor, and basic gear, and we’re looking at something like 2 800 pounds. Ok, so I’ll talk to a transmission shop about adding a fluid cooler. Well, I did talk to a transmission specialist, and he informed me that my van was particularly unsuited for towing anything. According to the technician I spoke with, burned-out transmissions are a common repair with vans similar to mine.

So, back to the drawing board. The next vehicle I bought was a Nissan Frontier pickup. My truck is a 4-cylinder, manual transmission model for fuel economy. The manual says that this model can tow 3 500 pounds, so my 2 800 pound MacGregor should be no problem, right?

Well – after spending three years of parttime work restoring my Mac, I hauled it to the lake. Even though it was a big load for my little truck, the Nissan towed and launched it Ok. The trouble came when I went to haul it home again in the fall – my Frontier could barely pull the loaded boat and trailer up the steep launch ramp. I had to slip the clutch to get it out, and the smell of burning clutch plates reminded me of smoldering hundred-dollar bills. It was clear that the MacGregor and my current tow vehicle were a poor match.

Rather than sell the truck, I decided to sell the boat in favor of a smaller, slightly lighter boat. My Montgomery 17 weighs about 1 550 pounds, and the trailer another 400. The motor is lighter than the Mac’s, and the Montgomery, being a good bit smaller, carries less cruising equipment. Even though it’s still a sizable towing package, I’m just able to pull this boat up the ramp – it’s a much better fit. (I do wish I had gotten the automatic transmission, though.)

Towing is such an important part of owning a trailer sailer, see section «Trailers». But when evaluating a boat, pay close attention to your tow vehicle’s rated capacity. It wouldn’t hurt to talk to your mechanic about what you’re planning to pull, and get some professional advice about the best way to haul your boat.

Can You Store it?

Unless you are fortunate emough to live in an area with year-round sailing weather, you’ll need a place to keep your boat when not in use. This is where the smaller sailboat shines, as it has more affordable storage options than larger boats.

The most obvious place is at home, if you have the space. Winter repairs are just a few steps away, and you are immediately aware of developing problems like leaks or trailer rust and can take quick action, preventing larger and more costly repairs later. Some boats will even fit in a standard garage. But do check with your homeowner’s coverage to be certain a trailerstored boat will be covered in case it is damaged in any way. The best setting is on level ground, preferably on a concrete driveway. Some homeowners’ associations won’t allow this, so read carefully any agreements you may have signed.

Another storage option is a rental facility, where your boat will fit right in with the rows of camper vans. These can be expensive, though, and it’s hard to maneuver a trailered boat through the other parked vehicles.

Marina storage is another possibility, and it’s where I keep my boat. Keeping the boat at a marina dock is usually the most expensive option, but hard to beat in terms of convenience. You’ll do a lot more sailing if Technical Recommendations for Inspecting Your Boatyour boat is easy to use, and there’s nothing easier than untying the boat and raising the sails. However, keeping the boat in a slip all year long accelerates wear and increases the chance of osmotic blisters, which form when the hull is subject to constant moisture. Keeping the boat on a trailer in the winter gives the hull a chance to dry out. Perhaps your marina offers the option of storing the boat near a boat ramp. Stored on the trailer, but fully rigged, it can be launched in much less time than it would take to raise and lower the mast. These arrangements are often much cheaper than keeping the boat in a slip.

An important consideration, too, is weatherproofing and protecting your boat during storage. Boats are designed to withstand direct exposure to the elements and can do this admirably, but any boat will look better far longer if it is in some way protected from the sun and rain. Sunlight – specifically UV radiation – is probably the single biggest aging factor for boats. If you keep the sun off the decks, the gelcoat lasts much longer – just look at a gelcoated interior liner for an example.

Rainwater can also cause problems if leaks develop, and all boats develop leaks in time. Keeping your boat covered will prevent rain damage as well, but of course you’ll discover leaks when they’re least welcome – while you’re using your boat. Whenever you see evidence of leaks, make proper repairs as quickly as possible, since damage can quickly elevate from a minor annoyance to a major repair.

A portable canvas carport is a fairly inexpensive way to pamper your boat. Plan on it lasting about three years, unless you buy a budget model. If you keep your boat at home, you can invest in an aluminum version, which is of course more expensive and less portable but can last far longer. Very small boats may even be stored in a garage. Their loaded height on the trailer is often the limiting factor, apart from the availability of garage space.

A tight-fitting off-season cover is often the most practical solution. A good one is expensive, since they are often hand-built and use pricey fabrics. Stock covers are available for powerboats, but sailboats aren’t often on the list. Still, it might be possible to modify a stock cover to accommodate an existing mast. Even if all you do is throw a cheap poly tarp over the boat, it’s better than leaving your investment to fend for itself all winter.

Can You Afford it?

I’d love to toss aside this concern with a salesman’s catchphrase, like, «There’s a sailboat for every budget!» It’s just not that easy. Sailboats are discretionary items, plain and simple. Owning one requires that you have enough income to pay for it – both the initial purchase price and the annual maintenance costs.

How much does it cost? Well, how much have you got to spend? My MacGregor cost $500. And then I spent approximately $3 600 in parts and equipment to restore the boat to better-than-new condition. Oh, and I almost forgot about the three years of part-time work that I spent restoring it. When I sold the boat, I had owned it for approximately five years. The final selling price was $3 400 – which, for a 1972 MacGregor Venture 222, is pretty good. My boat was in excellent condition, but still wasn’t perfect.

So it cost me roughly $600 for five years of use, not including insurance or taxes. The initial cash outlay was quite small – $500 for a 22-foot boat is about as low as you can get. But I paid more in ongoing costs for replacement equipment and upgrades, and I «paid» a lot in time spent working on the boat.

My second trailer sailer, a 1979 Montgomery 17, cost $3 400. It was in much better condition than my first boat, but it still had plenty of maintenance issues, and I wanted to make some upgrades. So far, I’ve owned it for about two years and spent around $1 000 in equipment. Montgomery sailboats are high-quality boats, and used ones rarely come onto the market. New M-17s cost around $18 000, and I’m fairly confident that I’ll get around $5 000 when it comes time to sell. We’ll look more closely at sailboat equipment, as well as the «new versus used» argument, in upcoming sections.

It will be interesting: Used Boats for Sale

Tools for studying the cost of a boat. One research method for finding a good boat is to look at the book value of boats that you’re considering. Two major companies publish price guides – BUC International and NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association). Their pricing varies in accuracy; of the two, NADA is reported to be a touch higher. Remember that these prices do not include motors or trailers, and the data is gathered from asking prices, not actual selling prices.

The first thing you’ll notice is the price range for trailer sailers. Some will be in your budget, and some won’t. If you’re interested in a used boat, pick a model year and compare the prices for several boats from that year. You’ll note that some boats are at rock-bottom prices. Several factors affect the market price of any used boat – how many are on the market, the number originally built, the original purchase price, and so on, but it’s safe to say that the most desirable boats aren’t going to be the cheapest. They aren’t necessarily the most expensive, either. My point is, unless lack of available cash is your number one concern, think carefully about considering the bottom of the range.

Since you will most likely sell your boat at some point, it makes sense to buy a boat that is in demand. This costs you more initially, but your investment is preserved when it comes time to sell. Improvements to a well-made boat will most likely mean a higher selling price, whereas improvements made to an unpopular boat will bring little additional revenue when it comes time to sell.

You should also look at the rate of depreciation of a particular model over the years. A boat that holds its value can be an indication of quality, whereas a boat that rapidly declines in value could mean that problems are common. This is good to know if you’re thinking of buying a new boat as well.

You’ll soon discover that the market value of a sailboat is often less than the sum of its parts, so a boat well-equipped with extra gear can represent a good value, while a boat with lots of broken or missing parts can be a fiscally poor choice.

Nearly any fiberglass boat can theoretically be restored, even one as bad as this. But it will take a serious investment in time, and the finished vessel will likely cost more than one purchased in good, ready-to-sail condition.

Fiberglass sailing boat
Restore an old fiberglass sailing boat

Financing a Sailboat. Should you want to get a boat loan, your own bank is the best place to start, since your banker knows the most about your current financial situation. Explain that you’d like to buy a boat, and ask what the best way is to go about it. He or she will tell you what the options are, what the costs and interest rates might be, and how much of a down payment you’ll need. Since boats are considered luxury items, most banks will require 20 percent of the total price as a down payment. Don’t pull every penny out of your account for the down, either – there will be fees and miscellaneous costs.

A bank is usually far more willing to finance a new boat than a used one. Some banks simply refuse to finance Buying a Used Boat: What to Look for, Tips for the Buyerused boats at all. This is because two sailboats that look exactly the same on paper can be worth very different amounts of money. This upsets bankers – they like things that are easily quantifiable, like certificates of deposit or the gold standard. Generally, banks consider the age of a sailboat of primary importance, and some refuse to loan money for boats past a certain age. The good news is that trailerable sailboats generally cost less than their marina-bound brethren, so getting a loan is easier. In some cases, you can buy a boat with a signature loan rather than a boat loan. (A signature loan is a loan that is unsecured by any collateral, such as real estate. It usually requires a very good credit rating.)

But getting a loan from a bank isn’t simple. They’ll take a look at all your liabilities – including your house payment or rent, car payment, and balances on your credit cards – and roll those into one lump sum. Then they’ll take a selective look at your assets. For most of us, this usually means your monthly work income and the value of your house. If you have significant income from things like stocks, bonds, and real estate, you’re in a different world than I am. You probably know more about financing than I can explain in a few pages, so skip this section. Everybody else, read on.

Many folks have a fairly new car with a big monthly payment, four or five hefty credit card balances that never seem to get any lower, and very little money left over at the end of the month. If this describes you, then may I gently suggest that you forget about getting a loan for a nice, shiny new boat. It’s a bad move. You won’t be able to enjoy your new boat much anyway, since you’ll be working overtime to pay the bills.

But you can still have a boat. Go to the bank with whatever’s in the change jar on the top of your dresser and open a savings account solely for a sailboat. Raid the clothes dryer and look under the sofa cushions. Put whatever extra money you can find into the account, but save that overtime for paying down those credit card bills. Minimum payments on credit cards won’t cut it; you’ll be in debt for sixty years no matter what your balance is. When you get an income tax refund, split it three ways – one third toward your debt, one third for the boat, and one third to do something nice for yourself or someone else. Yes, it takes a long time to get a boat this way, but if you really want a sailboat, the balance will grow. Eventually, you can get a small used boat. While you’re saving, you can use that time to gain experience – perhaps sailing with a friend or reading books on sailing. Watch out for sailing magazines, though – many are full of shiny new boats and tantalizing messages: «You can have the Ostentatious 42 right now with our easy financing – you’re worth it!» Just as the Sirens tried to send Odysseus on the rocks, avoid those messages, cause they can ruin you. Plug your ears with wax if you have to – it worked for Odysseus.

Let’s suppose your situation isn’t quite so dire. You’re fortunate enough to have a good, secure job and a car that you’ve half paid off. You’re a homeowner and you’ve been in your house long enough to have paid down some of the principal, and you’ve got a credit card or two with a low balance or, better yet, you pay them off each month. The bank is gonna love you! They’ll be happy to write you a big loan for whatever kind of boat you want – because they want you to use the equity in your home to secure the loan.

Plug you ears, sailor! They’re using the same old song that the credit card companies use; it’s just a different tune. If you want to see something funny, ask them about a loan that doesn’t use your home equity. They won’t believe it, because it’s a rare thing when anyone turns down a pile of their cash. They’ll start stuttering about the tax advantages of using your home to finance a luxury item – they might even question your intelligence. Don’t fall for it. I don’t believe you should ever use the equity in your home for financing anything except improvements to your home, and even then, resist until it’s absolutely necessary to protect your real estate investment. Remember that a sailboat will decline in value over time. Should something terrible happen, for example, you suddenly find yourself unemployed and you fall back on some payments, the same people who were questioning your intelligence will swoop in and repossess the boat and the house, sell both at auction, and lose almost nothing other than a few ballpoint pens. You and your family could be out on the street.

Ok, I’m painting a greatly oversimplified and melodramatic picture. I admit, when it comes to money, I’m very cautious. Banks and credit card companies aren’t the Evil Empire, but they are in business. They exist to make money – not to do people favors or make friends. It helps to keep that in the back of your mind as you search for boat financing.

If you’re considering a new boat, you have one more possible option: financing from the factory. Many manufacturers have worked out deals with lending companies to finance their boats, and their rates can be attractive – often only 10 percent down. For example, West Wight Potter currently offers financing for their 15- and 19-foot trailerables through Priority One financial services. Loans from $10 000 to $25 000 can be made for up to twelve years, with down payments ranging from 0 to 25 percent. Rates and terms vary according to credit history and the amount financed. The application process can be easy as well, since the main business for these companies is financing boats. You still need to do the same income versus liabilities balancing act, but the overall experience is generally easier than dealing with a bank.

Boat Registration. Once you’ve bought a sailboat, the first thing you need to do is get it registered. All but the very smallest boats owned in the United States need some form of legal recognition. Most often they are registered with your state of residence. While boat registration procedures vary from state to state, the process is usually straightforward. State registration typically involves filling out a registration form, presenting a bill of sale, and paying the sales taxes and registration fees. A call to your county tax assessor or courthouse will get you started in the right direction. In Tennessee, all we have to do is bring the bill of sale and fill out an application at our courthouse. My total bill was based on the sales tax on the price of my boat plus the annual registration fee. Our state sales tax is high, at nearly 10 percent. That’s a one-time tax, though, and the annual boat-licensing fee is only $20. Don’t try to pull a fast one and save money by falsifying the bill of sale – if your tax assessor is like ours, additional forms will be required if the bill of sale is less than 80 percent of the book value of the boat. If you’ve bought a fixer-upper for $200, then expect some extra paperwork. A few recent photographs can be very helpful in explaining why your yacht was so cheap.

Our courthouse then sends the paperwork to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. The agency issues hull numbers and registration stickers, which must be correctly displayed on the bow of the boat. Keep your certificate of registration on board; you’ll need it if the Coast Guard inspects you.

In some cases your boat must be registered in the state where it is primarily used or moored. This is not often an issue with a trailerable sailboat, since most people will keep it at home rather than permanently moored a long distance away. But sometimes keeping the boat at a marina is a handy option, especially if you live nearby, and it might require special registration procedures. If this applies to you, check with the proper registration departments of both states.

The alternative to state registration is federal documentation, where, in a sense, your vessel is registered to the United States rather than your state of residence, and documented as a US-flagged vessel. However, most trailer sailers are too small to be federally documented; Comprehensive Boat Sale Agreement: Essential Clauses, Documents, and Samplesdocumentation is intended for larger vessels. The rule of thumb is that sailboats above 27 feet can be documented (a vessel must measure at least 5 net tons).

Some states also require separate trailer registration – check with your Department of Motor Vehicles to be sure you’re legal.

Boat and Towing Insurance. You’ll also need insurance right away, unless the seller is willing to deliver the boat to your home and it needs a few months of work. If this is the case, though, and a tree falls on your partially restored boat, don’t expect your homeowner’s insurance to help you. If you have to tow the boat with your own vehicle, then you will need insurance immediately.

Before you do anything, make sure you’re legal and insured. Auto insurance won’t be enough – you’ll need special coverage for towing your boat as well. Be sure you understand your insurance policy carefully. If you get your boat insurance from an agent, ask whether the coverage includes towing your boat with your car. You will especially want to ask what sorts of things might void the coverage, like towing your boat with an undersized hitch system.

Not all insurance agents are familiar with the needs of towing sailboats, so you might get better coverage at a lower cost by buying a policy directly. I have insurance with Boat US, and have been pleased overall, though thankfully I’ve never had a claim.

Boat US also offers supplemental towing coverage, which might be a good idea for you. This covers things like over-the-road problems – bearing failures, flats, and similar problems. I haul my boat infrequently, usually only once per season, so I don’t carry the supplemental coverage, but your needs may be different. Numerous companies offer insurance for boats, so be sure to do some research.

Do You have Time for a Boat?

Owning a boat is an investment in time as well as money, and this is especially true of sailboats. When you go sailing, it takes you longer to get to your destination than in a powerboat. Maintaining a sailboat, with its complex hardware, often takes longer than maintaining a powerboat, and most sailboat owners choose to do the maintenance themselves. If you work 55-hour weeks on a regular basis, you may not have time for a boat.

Boat ownership (and especially sailboat ownership) often requires an adjustment in mind-set with regard to time. Here in the United States, we’ve grown accustomed to the idea that «You can have it all» and «You deserve the best». All you have to do is whip out your credit card, rack up a mountain of debt, and spend the rest of your life working to pay it off.

While this makes the corporate community happy, it won’t make you happy. The first thing you’ve got to do (if you’ll permit me to rant for a bit) is turn off your TV – it lies. Its sole purpose is not to entertain, but to deliver commercial messages into your household. And the sole purpose of those commercials is not to enrich your life or make you feel good about yourself – it’s to part you from your income using any means necessary.

So what does this have to do with adjusting your attitude toward time? Time really does equal money – and you have to make a conscious choice about how you spend it. You have a finite number of hours in your life. The exact number will vary, but no one escapes death. Sure, we all have to work. But do you have to own a Hummer? If the answer to that question is yes, then you will spend a lot more hours working to pay for it (and the fuel to push it around).

«But sailboats are expensive», I hear you saying. «Some cost more than a Hummer». And you’re right. But the key difference is what we do with a sailboat. Everyone’s experience is unique, but for me, sailing is like being in a completely different world. It’s as if the real world is far, far away and, at that moment, surprisingly unimportant. What is important is the wind in the sails, the trim of the boat, her distance to the next mark, and her proximity to shoal water. I have enough food and water aboard for a few more days, some good books, and the most beautiful scenery that God has ever created. There’s still some ice in the cooler, and when that runs out I can find a marina and pick up some more. Perhaps I can take in a little fishing at the next anchorage, or maybe some snorkeling or exploring in the dinghy.

Now compare that experience to driving your Hummer to the mall and back. I don’t own a Hummer myself, but I feel fairly certain that the two experiences are radically different. I’ll take the sailboat, thanks.

Montgomery 17
Boating Montgomery 17

It’s difficult to shift from a fast-paced, highspeed lifestyle to «sailing speed». You may find that it takes some practice. But remember that on a sailboat, getting there isn’t half the fun, it’s all the fun. You’ve got just you, the wind, your boat, and your wits to get you there. And when you do arrive at your destination, whether it’s a harbor for the night or the ramp after a few turns around the buoys, there’s a real sense of accomplishment. If you did the same thing in a speedboat, it would be quicker and more efficient – but it just wouldn’t be the same.

So slow down and make time for sailing. An entirely new way of looking at the world can be your reward.

Author photo - Olga Nesvetailova
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