What Our Bluewater Boat Cost

16 Apr

Charlie Doane recently posted an article titled Bluewater Sailing On a Budget, about the purchase of his first bluewater sailboat in 1994. Adjusted for inflation he paid about $65,000 to purchase and outfit a boat for circling the Atlantic in. I enjoyed reading it and thought I'd write something similar.


In my case it won't be my first bluewater boat (though many would argue that my first boat, a 35' Wildcat Catamaran wasn't a bluewater boat) this is our idea of a bluewater boat on a budget. Our catamaran cost us over three times what we paid for this, our 1982 43' Spindrift. $157,000 versus $48,000.


People ask us all the time why we chose a monohull this time around and there are two reasons. One is that we had no desire to simply relive our first adventure. And two, the big one, is money. When we first set out to sail around the world in 2003 we were flush with cash, and more importantly, had every intention of sailing, finishing our trip, and returning to work.


Of course after sailing around the world, and experiencing all that comes with it, who in their right mind would want to go back to work? So for the past five years we've been traveling on a different budget than we had back then. I feel no shame in admitting that.


So anyway, back to the boat. We started looking for boats again soon after our daughter was born. We concentrated on pilothouse monohulls simply because we've never liked monohulls that feel more like submarines than sailboats. We checked out a 37' Fisher in Florida but found it a little too small and then decided to focus on Spindrifts. This was based solely on pictures of boats from Yachtworld, not from any actual first hand knowledge.


We decided to fly out to California to look at one that had been listed for a while but then right before booking our trip Ali did a quick Google search to see if there were any others we had missed in our Yachtworld searches.


That's when she stumbled on this boat. The Craigslist listing had gone up that day, a 1982 43' Spindrift for $48,000. About fifty thousand dollars less than any other Spindrift listed. The four small Craigslist pictures looked pretty good so I gave the guy a call. He told me straight up that the boat hadn't left the marina in twelve years, that the motor likely hadn't been started in six, and that the outside was in pretty rough shape.


He seemed honest enough about it that I decided to call a friend in San Francisco to ask if he could go have a look at it for me. It was a two hour drive so this was no small favor. Fortunately he is what could loosely be described as self-employed and was able to drive out there that afternoon. His report? “Dude, it was like a scene from Indiana Jones. The marina was deserted, I let myself in, walked down the dock, saw this boat covered in leaves and cobwebs, climbed on, opened the unlocked hatch, and it was like a vault full of gold. The interior is beautiful. The outside needs some cleaning up. I'll send you some pics and a video.”


Ali and I liked what we saw enough that we called the owner back that night and told him we'd take it for $48,000, without stepping foot on board and without a survey. This is generally how the two of us live our lives; by the seat of our pants.


The paperwork cleared in a couple of weeks and we flew out with our seven-month-old daughter, a travel crib, and two duffle bags, to move aboard our new home.



So what did we find when we arrived? Surprisingly, nothing too surprising. The outside was a mess, but who cares about cosmetics? What about inside?


The engine compartment had two feet of water in it, though wasn't quite reaching the engine itself. We later found this was water dripping from the shaft and that the bilge pump had long ago stopped working. On the upside, the boat was in a marina far enough up the Sacramento Delta that the water was fresh only.


The electronics were all getting thrown out. Every last piece. An ancient SSB got sold on eBay for two hundred dollars, a radar that looked like it first appeared in a WWII submarine movie was tossed, the 1992 chart plotter was sold for a hundred bucks, and the 80's era VHF went in the bin as well. That completed the nav station.


The interior woodwork was gorgeous and didn't need a thing. The plumbing seemed mostly to be unhooked, though the kitchen sink did have a trickle. The main toilet didn't work all that well and the other has yet to be tested two years later (that bathroom is designated as a closet until the kids get older).


Overall we were well and truly pleased with our $48,000 find.


So what have we done since the purchase? Well the good thing about buying a boat for half of the rest of the market's asking price is that you can dump money into it and start with all new stuff.


First off, new bilge pump emptied the bilge. Then after some routine maintenance, fresh oil, new impeller, and… nope that's it, the engine started on the second try. It stalled shortly after that, but after draining the old fuel, giving it some fresh stuff and bleeding the lines, she fired right up again.


Five new house bank batteries and a new starter battery got the DC up and running again. A bit of minor plumbing work, a couple new faucets, and a new pump got the water flowing throughout the boat.


New TackTick wind/depth/speed instruments, a chart program for the computer with a twenty dollar puck GPS, and a handheld VHF rounded out our entire electronics component.


After a few months we moved the boat south to the Bay without incident and while there continued the small projects that all boats have. We also installed a Raymarine autopilot and had a refer guy out to get the AC and engine-drive systems up and running again.


With that we left and sailed the boat to Mexico. Along the way all the sails died, just as they should have I suppose, and so we had a new set of sails made and sent in from Thailand. We also had new dinghy davits made to go with our new 11' RIB and 15HP Yamaha. A dodger, a bimini, and a whole bunch of new fabric around the boat were our big Mexican expenses.


That about rounds out what we've done to this boat to enable us to live and sail in Mexico. We've still got things on the list to do, like haul the boat out and get some bottom paint on it. It's only been fifteen years after all. Though again, that was all spent in fresh water, so it's not quite as bad as it sounds. In fact the bottom was clean when we left the Delta. We also need some solar panels, and would like a watermaker at some point before crossing oceans again. But for now we're just happy to be out cruising and living life.


We've spent about eighty-eight thousand dollars on a big honking 43-foot full-keeled beast capable of handling any ocean that we ever intend on sailing to. I don't know if that qualifies as Blue Water on a Budget, I suspect it doesn't, as there are certainly capable boats out there that will cost a person a lot less. But we feel like we've got a strong, sound boat, with a lot of new gear onboard, for close to what the selling price of any of the other Spindrifts on the market with all their old crap aboard would have sold for.



1982 43' Spindrift Pilothouse


misc. boat bits


3 new sails, main lazy bag, shipment to Mexico


autopilot with install


dodger (welder and canvas) done in Mexico


canvas (sunshades, saloon) done in Mexico


15 hp Yamaha outboard bought in Mexico


new hyphalon RIB


TackTick wind/speed/depth


new batteries (5 house/1 starter)


300' chain




companionway hatch




engine parts




refrigeration service/parts















Roughly a zillion more photos and more stories than you could ever want to read are at www.bumfuzzle.com

We've also got our Cost Page with our monthly expenses.


  1. Paul

    Thank you for this article (just found it almost 2 years after you posted). I found your experience to be very exciting and would be interested in knowing how this all turned out. Follow on article?

    Safe sailing!

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