You know, you can buy a boat for remarkably cheap these days…

7 Jun

Really, you can. Alongside the ones rebuilding cheap houses I’ve got a whole group of friends here in New Orleans who are working on or sailing boats they bought for a few thousand dollars. It’s about the best market there’s ever been for buying high-maintenance things like a half-collapsed house or a sailboat (which, as a rule, is nearly always in some state of half-collapse).  So you’ve only got a few thousand dollars, and  like many of us new boatowners, are trying to buy a boat with only a vague idea of how to judge a good deal. Maybe you see a couple boats like these:

1971 Cal 2-24 $4500–Sail away, fresh paintjob  


                                       Pearson 30 $2800 -Needs work, no sails

How do you decide which is worth a twenty hour drive or a $400 survey? Well, setting aside preferences on size and speed for a moment, here’s something to think about.

When I bought my Cape Dory 28, for $4000, it was nearly 700 miles away and at best hastily surveyed. I bought it in large part because it has a great reputation as simple, well-built and reliable boat. I expected to do quite a bit of refitting work so my primary criteria was an affordable boat which I knew was likely to be in fair working order in the most essential ways. It proved to be a moderately successful gamble. Despite the work I’ve had to do I have been pleased to find that my Cape Dory is in remarkably good shape for a thirty-seven year old boat. The general structure and every bit of interior and exterior joinery on the boat is quite sound. Nearly all of the major hardware, including all the spars are in fine shape and still overbuilt by today’s standards. After a few repairs the boat appears to be in fine shape throughout. This is not unusual for a Cape Dory. Of a few thousand boats manufactured from1963-91 many are still being sailed in uncharecteristically varied parts of the globe for such small boats.

These boats, like a number of similar rugged, simple cruising sailboats from before the IOR era, can be found for as little as few thousand dollars, alongside piles of cheap Macgregors, Catalinas and Odays. The catch is, your bluewater boat at that price is likely to need some work. Cruiser or racer, if your plan is  to sail not so far from home and on occasion, you might be better off with a boat that comes complete with sails! But if you plan to use your boat a lot, and want to be able to rely on it far from home, you might find reputation to be more important, in the long run, than any quick survey could be. Don’t be fooled into thinking you can’t afford a well-built boat on a small budget. If you’re willing to some looking, and maybe some fixing up, you can get an awful lot of boat for not very much money.

Here’s a list I found very helpful in looking for a small bluewater boat- James Baldwin’s Pocket Bluewater Cruiser List

This article was syndicated from Safe At Harbour But Meant For The Sea: DIY Sailing with Paul Calder


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