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How to Purchase the Perfect Boat: Evaluation to Final Sale

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Discover how to purchase the perfect sailboat. Learn about evaluating designers, builders, and brokers, making informed decisions, applying performance and self-survey criteria, negotiating, financing, and finalizing the sale.

Ensure your investment with tips on moorage, insurance, and maintenance.

Evaluating the Designer, Builder, and Dealer/Broker

The reputation and background of the designer and builder should be important factors in your purchase decision. Their reputations should give you a general idea of the expected performance, seaworthiness, and quality of a given boat. In addition, their reputations and past practices should suggest what you can expect in the areas of resale value, warranty service, and maintenance.

You should also do some research on dealers (and brokers, if you’re looking at used boats), if potential warranty work, quality of boat commissioning, and postpurchase service will be important factors in your decision.

Focus your assessment of designers, builders, and dealers on the areas mentioned below. You can obtain most of this information by talking to other sailors and reading. In addition, don’t hesitate to call, write, or visit the designer, builder, and dealer. If still in business, they are usually happy to answer reasonable questions from prospective clients.

The Designer

How long has the designer been drawing commercially salable boats? What specific designs are credited to this designer? Do these designs generally match the type of boat you are considering?

For example, be wary of the first fiberglass racer drawn by a designer who has always done wooden cruisers.

What is the general reputation of the designer’s boats? What are some of the specific histories of boats designed by this person, such as number of hulls constructed from a specific design, racing results, or cruises undertaken?

The Builder

How long has the company been building sailboats and how many has it built? How long has the designer or design team worked with this particular builder? A close relationship generally results in a better-built boat.

How long has the builder been constructing the specific boat that you are considering, and how many have been built? Was this boat ever constructed by a different builder? If so, inquire about the performance of previous versions.

  • Check the reputation of the builder with other sailors;
  • from anecdotal stories concerning cruises, storms, and races;
  • and in boat evaluations and reviews in the sailing literature.

Can you go to the factory and inspect a boat under construction? This is worthwhile if you are serious about a specific boat, know what to look for, and can easily make the trip. Will the builder accommodate changes or modifications at a reasonable cost? What is the extent of the warranty on paper and in reality based on other owners’ experiences?

The Dealer/Broker

How knowledgeable is the dealer (or broker, if that’s the case) about sailing, sailboats, and the specific boats it is selling? How long has the dealer been selling sailboats, and how long has it been selling its current line of boats? Does the dealer have a yard and a service manager? What is the quality of its work on warranty, commissioning, and repairs? What do other customers say about the quality, timeliness, responsiveness, and cost of its work? Is the dealer reasonably accessible by auto and boat?

If the dealer is using high pressure, be careful not to commit yourself until you are ready.

Making the Decision

Now that you know more than you ever cared to know about sailboats and the many alternatives and compromises you must face in making your decision, you need a rational process to sort everything out.

There are many ways to narrow your choices, but I think the following method is particularly good at making sense of a large amount of data. In part, it summarizes steps outlined in detail in How to Buy a Boat?earlier articles.

Preliminary Steps

First, review the “selection prerequisites” list that you prepared when you began the process of deciding whether to buy a sailboat. Discussed in How to Choose the Perfect Sailboat: Tips on Selection, Ownership, and Alternatives“I Want a Boat! How to Choose the Perfect Sailboat for You”, this outlines your anticipated utilization and financial constraints and is the starting point for your sailboat search. At this stage, you should already have a rough idea of your size requirements.

Decide what your best alternative is for gaining access to a sailboat (discussed in Alternative Ways to Access a Sailboat“I Want a Boat! How to Choose the Perfect Sailboat for You”). Consider crewing with friends, a sailing club, chartering, building a boat, buying a used or new boat, shared ownership, and chartering your boat to others for profit and/or tax purposes. Be tough with yourself and pick an alternative that best meets your current circumstances.

Sailboat on the lake
Source: pixabay.com

If you decide to build or buy a sailboat, make an initial decision about the type of construction material for the hull and deck:

Decide what type of rig or sail plan would best match your needs:

Consider the type of underbody that would most suit your performance requirements:

Based on these decisions, develop an initial list of potential “candidate boats”. You can obtain ideas for this list by attending boat shows, reading the sailing literature, visiting a wide variety of dealers and brokers, touring marinas, and talking to sailing friends. Develop a file on each candidate, incorporating relevant articles from books, magazines, and materials obtained from dealers, brokers, builders, and designers.

Applying Performance Criteria

Next, complete the data column of the Performance Criteria Checklist for Buying a Sailboat (see Boat Performance Factors Explained: Key Metrics and Analysis GuidePerformance Criteria and Self-Survey Criteria) for each boat under consideration. This information, discussed in Boat Performance Factors Explained: Key Metrics and Analysis Guide“Key Factors Affecting Boat Performance – Metrics and Analytics”, can usually be obtained from ads and brochures, articles, boat evaluations, dealers, builders, and designers.

If necessary, you can do some of the calculations or at least come up with an approximation. Don’t worry if you can’t get data for every criterion for every boat. Some data is better than none, and as you narrow your candidates, you can pursue further research.

Applying Self-Survey Criteria

Review the Self-Survey Criteria (articles Self-Survey Criteria for the Basic Boat“How to Choose a Boat? Quality Indicators, Keels, Hulls and More”, Self-Survey Criteria for the Rig“How to Choose Standing and Running Sailboat Rigging?”, Self-Survey Criteria for the Engine and Electrical SystemsHow to Choose Perfect Sailboat Engine from Various Types, Complete Guide to Below Deck Sailboat Systems: Ventilation, Marine Heads, Water Systems, and More“Self-Survey Criteria for Belowdecks”, Self-Survey Criteria for Essential Equipment“Essential Sailboat Equipment for Smooth and Safe Sailing”) and select five to ten characteristics that are critical to meeting the original selection prerequisites you’ve set for your boat. Write these on the Self-Survey Criteria Checklist for Buying a Sailboat (see below).

Self-Survey Criteria Checklist for Buying a Sailboat
Boat’s Name:
Hull No.:
Specific Survey CriteriaSpecific Survey DataWeightScoreWtd. Score

Then complete this checklist for each of your candidate boats.

Although you will have intuitively narrowed your list of candidates as you collected data, your list of boats may still be extensive. Dealing with this amount of data in any logical and analytical way is difficult because a boat that meets your standards in one area may be deficient in another.

Scoring and Ranking

Scoring and ranking the boats is one effective way to analyze the data you have collected. Assign a weight to each criterion on the two checklists (Boat Performance Factors Explained: Key Metrics and Analysis GuidePerformance Criteria and Self-Survey Criteria) based on its value to you. For instance, if light wind performance is important to you, give the Sail Area-Wetted Surface Ratio a weight of three. If of only average importance, assign a weight of two; if of little importance, a weight of one; and if of no importance or irrelevant to your decision, a weight of zero.

After you have assigned a value to each criterion, score each boat on how close it comes to your ideal. A one to ten scoring system works well. In the above example on light wind performance and Sail Area-Wetted Surface Ratios, the boat with the highest ratio would get a ten and boats with lower ratios would be given appropriately lower scores. Scoring is probably the most difficult part of this process because each criterion will require a different manner of scoring, depending upon the buyer’s selection requirements.

For example, someone interested in heavy displacement sailboats would assign boats with high displacement-length ratios a high score, while someone interested in ULDBs would give them a low score.

In contrast, someone interested in boats with moderate displacement-length ratios would assign progressively lower scores to boats as they moved away in either direction from the moderate mid-range.

The next step is to multiply the scores you have assigned by the values for each criterion included on both checklists. Then add up all the weighted scores for each boat. Rank all the candidate boats on your list in order of their cumulative scores. The total score for each individual boat represents a composite of your needs and how a particular boat meets those needs.

Sailboat on the sea
Enjoy the sailing adventure
Source: pixabay.com

Take approximately three to six of the top-ranked sailboats from your list and evaluate them in more detail. If you have done your research carefully, probably any one of these boats would meet your basic needs. This means your final decision is among boats that are comparable. The scoring and ranking process provides a benchmark to determine if you are headed in the right direction.

If you are still interested in a sailboat that didn’t get a high ranking, or if boats in which you haven’t any serious interest ranked high, something may be wrong with your decision-making process. You may have been unrealistic in determining your selection prerequisites, had inadequate data, selected criteria that don’t relate to your real needs, or weighted or scored the criteria incorrectly.

Owner References

To further evaluate this smaller group of top-ranked boats, you should discuss each boat with several (I recommend at least three) current or prior owners. Ask:

  • What are typical boat speeds under sail upwind and downwind, in both light and heavy air?
  • Does the boat respond quickly to the helm in calm conditions, heavy air, and in close quarters?
  • Will the boat track with little attention to the helm, on the wind and off the wind? How much weather helm does the boat have?
  • Does the boat have any tendency to broach or pitchpole when running in heavy wind?
  • Do seas ever enter the cockpit when beating or running in heavy weather?
  • How many degrees between close-hauled port and starboard tacks?
  • At what angle of heel does the boat sail fastest and have the best helm?
  • Does it sail around the anchor? Does the bow blow off during close-quarters maneuvers?
  • At what wind speeds are headsail changes and reefing done? How much effort does this require?
  • When pounding into a head sea, does the boat have any tendency to “oilcan”?
  • How much effort does sheeting in the main- and headsails require? Are the winches adequately powerful?
  • What is the boat’s performance under power? What are cruising speed and top speed into a heavy sea and wind? How does the boat turn under power? Will it back under power? What is the average fuel consumption? What is the amount of engine noise and vibration?
  • What has broken, been repaired, or required modification? Where does the boat leak?
  • Has any warranty work been done, and was it completed satisfactorily?

Ask about any other specific concerns you have. Most owners like their boats and will usually respond positively to the general question:

“How do you like your boat?”

To get useful information, you must ask specific questions.

The Test Sail

Should you take a test sail? – not necessarily. (Note that in some instances a deposit or charter fee may be requested before you can take the boat out.) Either take a test sail on all of your top-ranked boats under similar weather and sea conditions or don’t sail any of them. Otherwise, you will have information that will be difficult to compare. Ideally, you should sail each boat in light and heavy weather, and if it has overnight accommodations, take it out for at least one long weekend. If you have the patience, chartering the boats in which you are interested is an excellent way to get acquainted with them.

If you do take a test sail, I suggest that as a minimum you check these areas of the boat’s performance:

  • Is there excessive weather helm?
  • Will the boat balance and track true with little attention to the helm?
  • How many degrees between tacks when sailing hard on the wind?
  • How easy is it to use the running rigging? How much physical effort is required to trim the sheets?
  • Is the standing rigging tuned? Is the mast properly aligned?
  • How difficult is movement on deck and belowdecks?
  • Does the hull “oilcan”?
  • What are top and cruising speeds under power?
  • How does the boat handle under power in close quarters? Does the bow blow off severely? Will it retain steerage while backing down?
  • How much noise and vibration does the engine generate?

If you can’t take an extensive test sail, the Performance Criteria and the information provided by boat evaluations and other owners are critical since they provide you with your only estimate of how the boat will perform in a variety of conditions.

Doing the Self-Survey

The full Self-Survey Criteria from articles Self-Survey Criteria for the Basic Boat“How to Choose a Boat? Quality Indicators, Keels, Hulls and More”, Self-Survey Criteria for the Rig“How to Choose Standing and Running Sailboat Rigging?”, Self-Survey Criteria for the Engine and Electrical SystemsHow to Choose Perfect Sailboat Engine from Various Types, Complete Guide to Below Deck Sailboat Systems: Ventilation, Marine Heads, Water Systems, and More“Self-Survey Criteria for Belowdecks”, Self-Survey Criteria for Essential Equipment“Essential Sailboat Equipment for Smooth and Safe Sailing” should be applied only to your final list of top ranked boats. Go through every system on each boat with a fine-toothed comb. You will need a few tools: an inspection mirror and flashlight to look into odd corners; a small magnet to check for ferrous metals; a tape measure; a piece of No. 8 copper wire (the correct size for bonding all the underwater metals, mast, chain plates, etc.); and a notebook and pen.

Be prepared to spend at least half a day per boat crawling in and out of lockers and other odd spots to satisfy your curiosity about all the critical details that together make a proper sailboat. Comments from owners and from reviewers who evaluated these boats can be helpful in providing leads for your self-survey. In some cases, this third-party information will also reveal problems on construction characteristics that would be difficult to ascertain without dismantling major sections of the boat.

Other Questions

If you still have questions or concerns that haven’t been satisfactorily answered by the seller, other owners, a test sail, or your self-survey, contact the builder or designer directly.

Table below, Summary Data Format for Buying a Sailboat, provides a suggested method for summarizing:

  • the background of the designer, the builder, and the dealer;
  • the critical points from other evaluations;
  • the references provided by other owners;
  • the results of the test sail.
Summary Data Format for Buying a Sailboat
Boat’s Name:
1.Owner 1:
2.Owner 2:
3.Owner 3:


To know how much you are really paying, you should calculate a comparable price for each of your top-ranked boats. To do this, you will have to consider the cost of modifying each boat to make them all similar, though not necessarily identical. This requires adjusting the “sailaway price” of each for equipment and modification costs. For instance, if you want a kerosene stove and one of your top-ranked boats has no stove, add the cost of a new kerosene stove. Another boat might come with an alcohol stove.

Subtract the resale value of the alcohol stove and add the cost of a new kerosene stove. Many modifications may be too structurally difficult or costly, and you shouldn’t adjust the price to reflect them. For example, adding the cost of dorade boxes and vents to a boat is reasonable, but adding something like a bridge deck is usually such a large and costly project that you’d probably never undertake it.

Adjust the “sailaway price” by subtracting the credits and resale values associated with equipment you don’t need and adding the cost of extra equipment and modifications. You will then have a realistic and comparable price for each of the top-ranked boats. At this point, you have to decide whether the price differences are worth the substantive differences in the boats and whether there is any room for you to modify the seller’s asking price.

An interesting way to compare boats is by dollars per pound. To calculate this, divide the final comparable cost figure by the boat’s displacement. This provides a good benchmark to test your assessment of the boats. As a general rule, quality increases with cost per pound. A boat that you thought was of high quality but is relatively inexpensive by the pound may be underpriced and an exceptional bargain.

More likely, you have overestimated its quality and something in its construction justifies its low price. A boat selling for top dollar per pound is probably of very high quality. It may also, however, be overpriced due to an advertising-created, inflated reputation. Again, match the price with your own assessment of a boat’s quality. Pricing Worksheet, provides a method for determining the comparable real costs of each boat.

Pricing Work Sheet
COSTS (Plus and Minus in $)
Boat #:123456
Base Price (use sailaway or initial price)
+ Structural Modifications
+ Additional Equipment
+ Labor for Installation
– Credit for Equipment Not Received or Installed
– Credit for Repairs and Deficiencies
+ Shipping
+ Commissioning
Yard, Storage and/or Cradle
+ Taxes and Special Fees
COST PER POUND (Real Cost/Displacement)
COST PER POUND (Final Price/Displacement)

To be totally realistic about cost, look at the long term. Select a period – for example, the first year of ownership, your projected length of ownership, or the period of your loan. Calculate the full estimated costs of ownership during the period selected, including the down payment, monthly payments (less tax advantages), moorage, maintenance and repairs, extra equipment, and insurance. Keep in mind that a boat needs constant care to stay in good condition and that eventually even the best-maintained systems will require total replacement. Long Term Costs Worksheet – provides a suggested approach for calculating long-term ownership costs.

Long-term Costs Work Sheet
Boat’s Name:
COSTS (in $)
First-YearEstimated Length of OwnershipPeriod of Loan
Down Payment
+ Annual Excise Taxes and Registration Fees
– Income Tax Reduction for Interest Paid
– Other Tax Reductions, Savings
+ Insurance
+ Equipment and Modifications
+ Annual Maintenance
+ Repairs and Tools
+ Moorage
– Charter or Other Income
Estimated Net Resale or Equity Value after Adjusting for Any Loans
Est. Number of Sailing Days
COST PER SAILING DAY (Net Cost/Estimated Sailing Days – This provides a comparative cost for ownership versus chartering)


You should also consider the resale value of any boat you might buy. If a boat is unique, strange, one of a kind, or very expensive, it may resell, but it will have limited appeal and you may have to wait a long time for the right buyer. A popular boat from a known builder or designer or a boat raced extensively in your area will mean a faster sale.

Even a sailboat with high potential resale value is rarely a good financial investment. Since you generally can’t expect to earn a return on your principal or even break even, the major resale issues are quickness of the sale and the level of depreciation you should expect.

Putting It All Together

Now that you have collected masses of data, you can make a decision in which you will feel confident. Or, you can throw up your hands and flip a coin. Since you have done so much analysis and have carefully narrowed the choices, none of your alternatives can be too bad. If necessary, you can always revalue, rescore, and rerank the boats in your final list, adding price as another criterion. At this stage, also let your aesthetic and emotional biases and preferences play a major role in the decision.

Select the right boat for you, but wait, don’t tell the dealer or owner about your decision until you have read below.

Finalizing the Sale


To negotiate the best deal, be prepared to be hard-nosed. Dealers and brokers are professional salespersons, and if they are good, they will be experts in sales techniques. They want to convince you to buy, and they want to obtain the highest possible profit margin. Even the private seller of a used boat will want to get the highest price possible. Your objective, of course, is to get the lowest price, either so you can afford the boat or so you will have money left over to buy equipment or to finance your sailing trips.

The most important rule to keep in mind as you negotiate is that you must resist being prematurely pressured into a final contract. This can be very difficult as you envision yourself at the helm on a sparkling, breezy day. If you demonstrate a thoughtful and methodical approach to your purchase, the seller will be forced to deal with you on your terms.

Sailboat and the sunset
Yachting is fun
Source: pixabay.com

A reasonable delay to obtain more information, ponder your decision, or further negotiate the price will generally result in a better decision and better terms. On those rare occasions when a deal does fall through, remember that your second choice boat probably represents a much better selection than the average boat buyer makes. There are also many other “perfect boats” available that haven’t shown up in your decision process. If you lose one boat, take heart, reevaluate, rescore, and start negotiating on another.

One approach to negotiating is to create price competition among the sellers of your top-ranked boats once you have developed their comparable prices. This approach permits you to use a boat with a low cost per pound as leverage to negotiate the price of another boat downward. If you have a strong favorite among the boats under consideration, don’t tell that seller. The seller must be convinced that price is so important to your decision that s/he will have to offer the lowest price to make a sale.

Dealer profit margins on new sailboats typically run from 15 to 20 percent. On extra equipment, they may go as high as 50 percent. Use this information to your advantage when making your first offer.

For example, your initial offer might be 80 percent of the boat’s base price, plus 60 percent of the price of extra equipment, less any credits for unwanted equipment. A first offer on a used boat can be based on a review of prices asked for similar used boats, with adjustments for the age, condition, and equipment of the boat in which you are interested.

Your first offer on a new or used boat should be low but not unreasonable. If it is too low, you won’t be taken seriously. If it is too high, you will have given away part of your bargaining position before you even get started. When the economy is depressed, it is a buyer’s market and you can generally get a better price. In any type of economy, you may be able to buy for less than the boat’s fair market value if a seller needs cash or a quick sale.

If you are going to finance your purchase, you may want to consider having the seller make all the desired modifications and equipment additions so that you can include those costs as part of the price to be financed. This allows you to distribute your outfitting costs over the length of the loan and gives you use of the equipment and modifications from day one. Although your financing costs will be greater, you may realize corresponding tax benefits.

If you don’t want to finance new equipment with the boat, you can still realize savings of 20 to 30 percent by purchasing equipment via discount catalog or through a new boat account with a chandlery. Any equipment installations you do yourself will add further savings.

When you have negotiated a final price with the seller, it should be documented in a sales contract. The contract should include agreed prices for all labor for commissioning, installation of extra equipment, and repairs, as well as prices for all materials and equipment. It should specify warranties offered, list any special terms and contingencies, and identify any other costs – including:

  • taxes,
  • cradles,
  • shipping insurance,
  • and yard charges.

If the boat is used, you should request written documentation (and a promise of indemnity) regarding removal of prior liens before the sale agreement is finalized. If the boat has a doubtful past with many prior owners, you or your financing institution may want to do your own research to assure that you will receive clear title when you take possession.


There are three customary ways to pay for a boat: cash already in hand; owner- or seller-held contract; and loan from a financial institution. You might work out a plan to combine two or even all of these. Consider all available options. Seller-held contracts can take any form, although your goal will usually be to obtain the longest repayment term and lowest interest rate.

Be wary of balloon payments, unless you are certain they can be met or you can refinance. When you shop around for a standard marine loan, check with a large number of banks, savings and loans, and credit unions since loan offerings vary widely. Many institutions are more willing to finance a sailboat documented by the United States Coast Guard.

In deciding among specific seller-held contracts and conventional loans, compare length of time for repayment, down payment required, any limit on amount to be financed or type of boat or equipment that may be financed, level of monthly payments, interest rate and whether it is fixed or will vary, total amount of interest to be paid and any resulting tax benefits, any special fees, whether balloon payments are required, total cost of the boat over the entire period of the financing arrangement, and options in the event of default. Have your attorney review any financial agreement, including seller-held contracts, before you sign.


Most used boats of wood, metal, and ferrocement should have a full marine survey before you agree to purchase. In fact, most lenders require a survey on a used boat before they will make a loan, and most marine insurance companies require a survey before they will insure an older boat. The survey is expensive because it includes the surveyor’s fee, the cost of haul-out, and the cost of any repairs for damage (such as bored holes or pulled fittings) to the boat during the survey.

If you have done your homework, the survey will confirm your choice with further technical information concerning the boat’s condition. The sale should always be contingent upon your satisfaction with the results of the survey.

You can select a surveyor by writing to:

National Association of Marine Surveyors Inc. 86 Windsor Gate Drive. North Hill, New York 11040.

Even better, get recommendations on several surveyors from local boatyards (don’t ask one involved in your potential purchase), banks, and insurance companies. Contact those recommended and ask what type of survey work they do. Most good surveyors specialize – for example, wood boats only, no ferrocement, will look at engines but not rigging, and the like. Also request references from persons who have had recent surveys completed on similar boats and a copy of their survey form.

The surveyor you select should either spend a short time on board and tell you that the boat has serious problems or spend a half day to one or more days on a full evaluation. The surveyor’s report should include:

  • General summary with comments on the boat’s seaworthiness and fitness with respect to your selection prerequisites. Major faults should be discussed in this section.
  • Detailed report on each major area of the boat, with comments on the feasibility of correcting deficiencies.
  • Inventory of all equipment to be included with the boat.
  • Safety equipment list and inspection.
  • Technical performance data on the engine, mechanical and electrical systems, and similar items.
  • Optional recommended work list.

In addition to a general survey, it is often a good idea to survey the sails, engine, Self-Survey Criteria for the Rigrigging, and electronics separately. Many surveyors are not sufficiently trained to provide a good assessment on these technical items or systems, which represent a major part of your sailboat investment and have a high potential for problems.

If a large sail inventory is included, or if you are doubtful about the sails’ condition, take them to a reputable local sailmaker and have them evaluated. The cost is nominal if compared with the thousands of dollars represented by a large inventory. If you have to repair or replace any sails, the boat’s price should be discounted accordingly. If you actually finalize the sale, the sails can be left at the loft for any necessary repairs and recutting.

Engines, even on new boats, should be surveyed by a mechanic who regularly services that Self-Survey Criteria for the Engine and Electrical Systemstype of engine. This is important because sailboat engine installations are often inadequate and the engines poorly maintained. If you buy the boat, you will have a list of all the repairs and improvements necessary for a safe and dependable engine. You will save many dollars and much grief if you correct these problems immediately. If your boat is new, the warranty might pay for much of this initial engine work. If the boat is used, the seller should provide additional discounts that should cover all or at least most of the costs of repairs and upgrading.

Rigging – both standing and running – is another system for which a specialist surveyor may be necessary, particularly on a larger boat. If neither your general surveyor nor you feels comfortable in this potentially complex and expensive area, get some assistance, especially if the boat appears to be underrigged, poorly maintained, or has been or will be sailed hard.

Finally, if the boat has a great deal of electronic equipment, it will be worthwhile to have it evaluated by a qualified electronics technician. Again, a sizable electronics inventory can represent a large portion of the boat’s value, assuming it isn’t obsolete or hasn’t been severely damaged by salt, moisture, or misuse.

Final Price Adjustments

When all your surveys and evaluations have been finished, you should have extensive information on the boat’s condition. If you find that your original judgment about the boat was erroneous, you may want to look for another boat. If the problems identified are minor, correctible, or ones you can live with, you will be a fully informed purchaser. Your list of problems should also be useful in any further bargaining with the seller that you may wish to do.

Since you should have insisted that the sale be contingent upon the survey findings, you have a right to ask for modifications in the price based on the cost of correcting the deficiencies identified in a complete survey. When you propose price adjustments, base them on commercial retail rates. Don’t assume that you will donate your labor unless you assign no value to your time.

Keep in mind while bargaining that some wear and tear is to be expected even on the best maintained used boat and that the seller may have already discounted the price if the boat is less than perfect in one or more areas.

Other Aspects of the Decision

Before you completely relax with your developing exper- tise on boat buying, there are some other aspects of the decision that you should be thinking about before you take delivery, and perhaps before you even sign a sales contract.


Where are you going to keep your boat? Will its location be a convenience or a hassle? Serious moorage problems can spoil sailing as easily as a balky engine. As you evaluate moorage, consider a number of questions.

What is the annual cost of the berth or mooring? What are future rate increases likely to be? Are electricity, water, and parking available? Is the moorage secure from vandalism and theft? Is it secure from wind and wave damage? What is the exposure to storm conditions, and what is the length of the fetch between the moorage and the windward shore? Will motor-boat wakes cause any problems?

Are there any extreme or unusual electrolysis problems at the moorage from other boats, leaking shore power, or another source? Is the moorage in fresh or salt water? Electrolysis and corrosion of above and below water metals (particularly electrical equipment) are much less of a problem in fresh water. Wooden hulls, however, are more susceptible to rot if moored in fresh water.

Will ice affect moorage use during the winter? If you have to row out to the mooring, is there a nearby dock that can be used for loading for long trips or for dockside maintenance?


Typically, boat insurance will cost 0,7 to 1,5 percent of the value of the boat and its contents. It will be written to cover a specific geographic area, usually the local cruising area. Coverage for sailing beyond the policy’s geographic limits can be arranged by amending the policy to cover specific trips. Small boats can be carried on a household insurance policy, but larger ones, including all those that are not easily trailerable, require a more comprehensive marine policy if possible.

Since boat prices have been inflating rapidly in recent years, a “replacement value” policy is a good idea. It will provide coverage at current prices for repairs and equipment-less the deductible-up to the policy’s value. Of course, you will need detailed records and receipts for all the equipment and improvements to the boat so that the true value of your boat can be substantiated for a claim.

Because of the high cost of offshore coverage, many sailors forgo hull insurance and sometimes even liability insurance. With the money saved, they buy a bigger anchor, more chain, a better life raft, and the like-in effect buying a form of self-insurance. However, in survival conditions, such as the Cabo San Lucas disaster where dozens of boats were lost, even the best preparation may be inadequate. A high deductible, catastrophic policy will give you the option of starting again with another boat if you ever face a devastating, total loss.


Sailboat maintenance is both time-consuming and expensive. My own rule of thumb is that one day of work is required for each day of sailing. Paying for maintenance is one solution, but it can be very costly. Diesel mechanics are paid at least $30,00 an hour, and boatyard labor costs a minimum of $20,00 an hour. Even if you hire someone, you have to plan the extent of the work and oversee its quality, since one disconnected hose or missing cotter pin could cause a disaster.

You still end up doing a great deal of the work yourself, although this does have the advantage of making you and your boat more self-sufficient, a cardinal requirement for serious cruising or racing. You will find that your maintenance skills will grow to accommodate longer and more challenging sailing to ever more remote places.

There are some ways to keep your maintenance to a minimum and your sailing to a maximum. Don’t buy a boat-charter or go with a friend. Select the simplest and smallest boat that will met your requirements. Keep a work list and maintain your boat all year long. Don’t get behind and let the work accumulate. When you have work done at the yard or by a professional, ask if you can work alongside. You will save some labor costs, as well as learn new skills. Work on functional items first and cosmetic items second. Invite all the friends and relatives who sailed with you during the year to a work party.

The Finale

Make the best decision possible, pay your money, take delivery, and go sailing – enjoy the fruits of your labor.

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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