Sunday 7 February 2016

The Benefits of Bottom Feeding

  "But I gotta stay paid, gotta stay above water..."
                                              - Three Six Mafia

*Originally published in Ontario Sailor magazine, now published here.  Enjoy.

    I admit, I am hard pressed to find the value in a new boat.
Before anybody goes grabbin' pitchforks and torches, let me disclaim here for a minute:

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying a new boat.

  At all.


   Some sailors  like to buy new and trade the uncovered unknowns of an old boat  for the hopefully-warranty-covered unknowns of commissioning, others have scrimped and saved and worked damn hard over the years to trade up and up, with the goal of buying a boat that is not just new-to-them, but brand-spankin' NEW, while other others are just plain filthy rich and wouldn't think of anything BUT buying big, brand new and blinged out.

   Good on 'em, I say!

   If that is what floats your boat and puts a smile on your face, Neptune love ya!

   But I can't do it.

   Or, more correctly, I won't do it, because if I can't justify the value, I definitely can't justify carrying the 25 year note, so "can't" and "won't" are damn near enough interchangeable  in this equation.

    I am a bottom feeder- and I like it down here.

    As my 40th birthday gets ever smaller in the rearview mirror, my gut gets bigger, and 50 looms at damn near the next exit on my life as a highway, a few stone truths have become apparent:

     I was never all that good looking.

     I was never  all that talented.

    Compared to the dreams I had when I was 18, I am a damn failure.

    I never became a rock star, I didn't get a three book deal and a 6 figure advance cheque, and I didn't become a multi-millionaire by 30.  Thus, to 18 year old me, I failed.

     And, I am okay with all of that.

     Because I am a failure, because I am nothing but unrealized potential stuffed into a pair of Dockers, (aka Toughskins for adults) I have learned the life hacks and workarounds necessary to live like I made it.
Which is why sailing is perfect for me.

     There are virtually no seaworthy 40 year old 30 foot powerboats on the market for less than the price of a 2007 Hyundai...

     ... But, there are a crapload of perfectly acceptable sailboats out there for four figures.

 The best part?  I can sail the bejeezus out of a $5000 boat for four or five seasons and likely sell it for....

and if I can't?
    Hell, even if I have to give it away five seasons down the road, my loss is only $1000/year.
   Less than $3 a day.

   A draft beer a day.

   Domestic draft.

     When was the last time a draft beer gave us this much fun, this many grins, this much excitement and life?

     Yes, I hear you, Yeahbutniks:  "Yeah, but, there are repairs and maintenance and upgrades and dockage and ..."

    ...and all of that is cheaper down here on the bottom as well.  When you buy an expensive boat, the idea of buying used gear is, to some, a little unseemly, and rightly so.  Used gear on a newish boat devalues the boat and raises suspicions of the next buyer.
On the bottom, used gear looks LESS out of place and LESS suspicious than NEW gear.

   It is also a lot less nerve-wracking to drill new holes in an old deck than it is to drill new holes in a new deck.

   As Gunny Highway said, "You improvise, you adapt, you overcome."

    Oh yeah, back to that nerve-wracking thing- with less invested, there is less risk in attempting new skills and new (at least to you) ideas to refit or upgrade your ride.

    A generation ago, a 30 foot cruising boat was what you traded up TO, and you kept her for 20 years, because you'd made it- you had space and luxury, and comfort to cruise or weekend comfortably- it was the boat you never felt you would outgrow...and most didn't.

    Today, a 30 foot boat is marketed as an "entry level" cruising boat, a boat to start with, and trade out of as quickly as possible.


       Because the more often a boat is traded, the faster it depreciates, and the sooner it hits the bottom of it's depreciation curve, which means there is a whole new batch of boats at the bottom of their depreciation curve sooner,  hopefully for new generations of adventuresome failures to discover.

   And the price of admission is only a draft beer a day.


    If you're a bottom feeder, keep on keeping on. And take a newbie for a sail every once in a while.  We need more greenhorns sailing.

After all, we need someone to sell our boats to.

Thanks for stopping by.  Please, feel free to "Talk the Dock!" Pass the word!


  1. I have no pride no shame and no money, but keep loving how these old sailing boats give me a feeling that they came out of the showroom yesterday.

    And for people that can't afford a beer a day send them over to my place.


  2. Our boat is almost 30 years. Buying new simply wasn't an option for us. To be honest, I kind of like the fact that we've got a proven blue water cruiser (a Moody 346). Sure she might be a little dated and doesn't have the bells and whistles of a new boat, but she works for us. Great post! Cheers - Ellen

  3. I love this post, BD. The other thing that's really cool about older boats? After a while, they go from "bottom feeder" status to "classic" or "antique" status, and their romance and cachet starts to rise again. Just gotta be patient ... and isn't patience somethings all we sailors have to have in order to get into this sailing thing to begin with?

  4. Speaking of wannabe romance and cachet, I just bought a Westsail 32 in Miami, from Michigan, sight unseen. I finally saw her on Sunday. There's a bit more work than I had pictured through my 'rose-colored glasses' but no heartaches. The refit fun begins. Proud to be a bottom feeder! Thanks for the post.