Friday 29 March 2013

Boat Shopping 101, Part 1: Making the Case for the Wrong Boat

     "Another season passes by you..."
                          -Big Country

   ....  and you are one more season lost, another season spent dock-walking, fender kicking, online ad surfing,  ladder climbing, grinning, nodding, and doing everything but the very thing you need to be doing:

Pulling the trigger on buying a boat.

    If you're still standing on the dirt wishing you were feet-wet, and this condition has persisted more than 26 weeks, do not consult a physician.

   You're simply doing it wrong.

   Those of you who are thinking about buying a boat, a bigger boat, a different boat?

    Quit looking for the right boat.
     Find the boat, right now.

     See, here's the deal:

     There IS no "right boat."

     There is, however, a right TIME.


      Look, you can spend the rest of your dirt-bound life thinking, wishing, planning, hoping, dreaming, conniving, scheming, fantasizing, about loosening the ties that bind...

     And all of that strategizing still leaves you on the dirt.
      Gazing longingly out to sea.

     Which is wrong.  Way wrong.

   I'll let you in on a secret:

      Most of us are sailing on the wrong. Damn. Boat.

       That's cool.

      We're sailing.

      *Cue the music*

       Right now.

       Why is "sailing right now" so important, my friends?

        Because no one knows what tomorrow may bring,

        There is a proverb which, in Yiddish, is written:

         .דער מענטש טראַכט און גאָט לאַכט

         Loosely translated, "Man plans, God laughs."

       What has worked for me and for other Docksters may work for you...

... Or  may not, 
       ....  and I accept no liability, nor any congratulations, nor any damn thing, incurred along the way.


  But, having said that,

  We are on the water, and you are on the dirt.  

  How's that working out for you?



         Friends of the Dock (henceforth known, anonymously, as FODs) are looking for a boat. 

      9 months ago they were looking seriously at a Bayfield 25. 

     They asked me for my advice.

     I offered it:  

      (Come on, you think I am gonna keep my piehole shut?

       A Bayfield 25  is a good, solid, capable, full-keeled, well-equipped, comfortable, small cruising boat.  Under $10 K.

      Want a cheap, solid $ 4 figure cruiser? 

        The Bayfield 25 is a good bet.

        A boat that would be the queen of Dock Six.

         If it suits them, they should buy it.  

         Others offered the same advice.

       It was the first boat they crawled aboard; conventional wisdom says no one should ever buy the first boat they inspect.

         So, they didn't.

          It sold.

         No problem. 

          It's fall.  Other boats will come along before spring.

         Then, I screwed up.

         I suggested they attend the Toronto Boat Show .

         The FODs climbed all over the big shiny new boats on display.

        They talked to brokers. 
        Some good brokers. 
         Brokers I trust.  

         Brokers from whom I would buy a boat.

          Brokers who happily and patiently  listened to their needs and wants, and decided that the boat in which they were originally interested, a Bayfield 25, was...

           Too small, too slow, too spartan, too under-equipped.

            The Boat Show consensus was, and the shoppers involved agreed, that they needed a newer, more equipped,  big body, big dollar boat...

       ... like walk-through transom Catalina over 30 feet LOA, starting over $80 000.00

     10-15 times as much as the Bayfield 25 that was in their budget and their dreams last season.

          Those brokers who recommended expanding their budget and getting a bigger, plusher, newer, better equipped, more expensive boat aren't wrong...

        If their customer can comfortably write a mid- five- figure cheque for the purchase price...

        ....And if the broker and the customer are 100% sure of the customer's needs....

       ...  And if an example  of that "right" boat is available on the market.

          If not?

          Another season lost. 

         I argue that the perfect boat for you, (for anybody, for that matter,) is smaller, older, cheaper, slower and uglier than you think it is.


         See these folks?

      Marco  and Dee are less than $3K into their boat.

       Is it perfect?

      Is it their "ideal" boat?


      Are they out on the water, grinning?  

      Hell, yeah.

      Meanwhile,  waaayy too many other would-be sailors are burning off another season searching for the "right " boat.

      Those of you stupid enough to still be reading, here's what I want you to do:

      Figure out how much you can comfortably write a cheque for, today, right now. 

   Find a boat in 80% of that price range.

     Buy it.


    Next post I will explain why.

    Stay tuned.

   In the meantime, 

   "Talk the Dock!"




  1. My wife and I spent 4 months looking for our first boat. We were convinced a Catalina 25 was our boat... and it would have been a great boat! And an S2 8.0c was sitting in the yard and hadn't been in the water for over 2 years. Should we call the owner and ask if they would be interested in selling it? We decided it wasn't for us. It was old, big, ugly, and slow! Four weeks went by and that S2 couldn't get out of our minds. Both of us secretly researching the S2! One evening we admitted our secret love for the S2 and I finally cold called the owner and asked the question... a week later we owned the old, big, ugly and slow S2 8.0c! Guess what? We love that boat because we're sailing (when there's water in our lake).

    Great post!

  2. Brian is right there is no right or wrong boat.
    I have ( I'll have to get back to you on that one ) sailboats and so far haven't been able to eliminate a boat that I totally didn't like.
    Still looking for that perfect boat, which is a lot of fun.
    But op until I find that non existing boat I'll enjoy any boat that decides to keep me afloat to enjoy another sailing season.

  3. You are so right. I agonized and fantasized over buying a sailboat for years. Finally I took the plunge and for less than $2,000.00 I bought a Siren 17 a lovely little swing keel starter boat with a small cuddy cabin and a Mercury outboard and started sailing. I was planning to do all sorts of things to the boat before I sailed it, but after refinishing the minimal amount of teak on the boat, I started sailing. Life has never been the same since. After 2 years I ended up on the legendary and mystical Dock 6 at Port Dover for 2 seasons, coming under the tutelage and protection of Brian and Louise. Last summer, a friend of mine who had a fully booked summer offered me the use of his Hunter 26. We put that to good use even though it necessitated a move to what has now come to be known as the Dock 6 Annex (Dock 2). This year we have made arrangements to buy our own Hunter 26 and while it is not absolutely perfect its pretty good and the price was right, as in I can pay cash for it. The important thing is we will be on the water and having a great time. By the way the current lusting object is a Gemini 105MC Catamaran. See what I mean.
    There will always be bigger, more expensive, more fully equipped boats out there, to lust after, but anything that gets you on the water will do. If you want to shock yourself, just drive out the the harbour area of Fort Lauderdale. There are lots of big ones parked there. Just keep in mind Jack's first rule of sailing.

    "The bigger and more expensive the boat, the less people take it out from the slip and just enjoy being on the water"

    When he first told me this, I wasn't sure he was right, but after a couple of years of observation, damned if he isn't right.

  4. Hey Brian!

    My wife (who you met last summer - Teliki) always says that regardless of what the boat costs "the view from the cockpit is the same".

    Maybe we will see you at Dover this summer.