Your First Sailboat

5 Things to Consider When Buying Your First Sailboat

So you’ve checked out of ASA 101, 103 and you’re in the middle of completing 104. You know you like this sailing stuff and you also know that you are going to buy a boat of your own. Yachtworld.com has been bookmarked and your lunch breaks are spent scrolling, clicking and dreaming. We understand. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you consider buying a sailboat.

  1. What does the future hold?
    So you are not a time traveler and not much of a psychic, but you probably have an idea of what the future might have in store. Think about that as you assess your purchase. Will you soon outgrow the boat as family size increases or will you have too much boat as your weary old body goes on strike? Is your job likely to get more consuming or less? Is that kid of yours going to keep doing this with you or is the writing on the wall for another worthy pursuit? Boats usually stick around for a while, they don’t change but you do. Grab that crystal ball and buy the perfect boat – one that you’ll use year after year.

Your First Sailboat

  1. How much work is this thing going to be?
    A wooden sailboat is something to behold. It can tempt and beguile. A beautiful woody frees the imagination – you can easily see yourself, as clear as day, bounding over the waves in a 15-knot breeze, smiling with the sun glaring off your brand new aviators. Funny, you don’t imagine yourself on your hands and knees varnishing, because that will definitely be what’s happening. You should also imagine yourself cutting checks because that will also be involved. The same is so for a fiberglass fixer-upper. Yes, it’s priced to sell but do you really have time to replace that holding tank, windlass, and sticky bilge pump? If you work a lot at your job, get something turnkey, even if it’s a bit smaller than you hoped. The end goal is to sail and no one sails broken boats.

Your First Sailboat

  1. Is it for you or you and others?
    You must think of who will be part of this adventure. You want a fast boat but your partner isn’t going on this thing if there’s no place to pee. That’s a stated fact. It’s non-negotiable. And let’s assume that child of yours over there, the one that just barfed baby food on the carpet, that little one is going to get older quick and how do they fit in? Life’s a stage so to know your audience is to have great success.
  1. What do they really cost?
    This is the dose of reality that is no fun conveying. They’re a bit more expensive than one might think but not as bad as some make it out to be. This old joke: “You know what BOAT stands for? Break out another thousand!” is dumb and it’s not really true. It can be of course, but it’s definitely very possible to sail affordably without compromising safety or fun. One way is to learn how to do stuff yourself and another is to sail in a more basic way. In fact, if this is the first boat, that’s a great approach. Get a solid boat that’s not bigger than you need without too many systems. When shopping, look around inside and outside and imagine how much things would cost, should they need replacing. Like over there…the mainsail furls into the boom. That’s cool! How much does that cost to fix if it screws up? How many wires are holding up this rig? Will I need a diver? How much will that be? Do I know how to change the oil on that diesel? Should there be an issue, what on this boat will require me to call a professional? If you are on a budget, find a solid bare-bones boat, (maybe with an outboard?) that will train you for boats to come while having a great time learning and sailing.

Your First Sailboat

  1. Where am I going?
    We’ve said this before but knowing how you will realistically use the boat is huge. You don’t need a blue-water cruiser if you daysail on a lake and you definitely shouldn’t use a frail boat if you sail on the ocean. It seems obvious, but Yachtworld can corrupt your mind! So many people spend silly amounts of money to get a boat that is just way more than they need. They call them coastal cruisers because they are built just fine for coastal sailing. What you lose in a boat’s ability to travel safely through a hurricane is made up for in maybe an extra berth and a walk-through transom. Are you going to circumnavigate? You are? You’re saying yes but shaking your head no…I don’t understand. You want to but you’re not going to? Okay, got it. Get the solid Catalina 30 and we’ll figure it out when you’re ready to quit your job and sail away. Until then, you and your family are going to have a blast on that boat.
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Derek Dewitt
Derek Dewitt

My wife and I are thinking about buying a boat for next year, so thanks for sharing this. I like your point about not getting a boat that is bigger than you need. It’ll likely just be the two of us, so I’ll be sure to get a boat that is easy to sail with just us.

ASA

Let us know what you end up getting and what you learn from the process! Good luck!

Michael Kaiser
Michael Kaiser

Thanks for sharing. Another thought. If you’ve only done day sailing, try to arrange an overnight sail. Get the feeling of spending the night on a boat (an ASA 104 course is perfect). Some people just don’t take well to being below deck.

David V
David V

Thank you! We are getting ready to seriously start looking, and this is really helpful. In some cases, it confirms what we already thought–in others, it gives us something to think about.

Tony Jones
Tony Jones

The number one question I ask students that are contemplating a boat purchase is, “where are you going to keep the boat?” Answer that question first, including the cost of said storage, and that will eliminate a lot of uncertainty.

Butch Florey
Butch Florey

I have purchased several boats over the 30 yrs , from 1968 Catalina to a new 37 Beneteau. Each was special to me for many different reasons. the one thing that help me each time i bought a boat was the boat needed to be a turn key boat, that means could i use it right away. could I go sailing the day after i bought it? If the answer was yes, i would buy it if it was no, i wouldn’t. I always budgeted about 20% of the boat purchase price for the first year or two for up… Read more »

ASA
ASA

Great Advice! Thanks for sharing…

Bob
Bob

Great article. Many years ago my wife and I bought a new 1991 Macgregor water ballasted sailboat, on a trailer. Portable, low maintenance, and wonderful fun sailing the Chesapeake Bay and trailering to other locations. We had done a great amount of research and lucked out. Although not a blue water sailer, she met many of your criteria. Thanks for an excellent review.

Donald Woodhouse
Donald Woodhouse

Catalina Yachts founded in 1969 when the C-22 #1 was completed.

Tiffany Locke
Tiffany Locke

I’m glad that you mention how it’s important to consider what maintenance, repairs, inspections and other work will be required to keep the sailboat in good condition. One thing to consider would be whether you want to do the work yourself or find a local repair shop that is experienced with yachts or any other type of sailboat you have. Finding a local professional who is experienced with maintenance and other necessary services could ensure that the work is handled by someone who knows what they’re doing and has the right equipment necessary for the best results.