How to find, examine
and buy a sailboat

Galleon Contact me.

This page updated: January 2012

Process For A Specific Boat
Checking Out The Boat
After Buying
Frequently-Asked Questions

My Survey Checklist page (Excel version prints better)

David Pascoe's "Boat Buying 101a"
Robert Doty's "The Buying Process"
"9 Steps to Boat Ownership" article by Robert Doty in Mar/Apr 2001 issue of Good Old Boat magazine
"Looking for a Boat", part 2 article by Hal Roth in 5/2001 issue of Cruising World magazine
Several boat-buying articles in 9/2003 issue of Sail magazine
Several trailer-sailer articles in 8/2004 issue of Sail magazine

From "The Cruising Life" by Jim Trefethen:
Buying mistakes:


David Pascoe's "Buying a Boat" articles
Robert Doty's "Dealing with Boat Brokers"

New versus Used:
  • New boats are expensive !

  • New boats depreciate horribly in the first few years, and then again at the 6 or 7 year mark when engine and sails and rigging need overhaul/replacement. Either 2-year-old or more than 12-year-old might be "sweet spots" to buy used.

  • A used boat has already "decided" whether it will blister or not; a new boat is a gamble.

  • A new boat may have significant defects; quality control is not as good as in cars.
    Turf To Surf's "5 Lessons in Outfitting a New Boat"

  • A used boat, like any other used thing, may have suffered abuse that is hard to detect.

  • A new boat may have more modern equipment, but maybe the manufacturer chose skimpy equipment.

  • A used boat may be sensibly equipped to cruise; the previous owner worked out solutions to common issues.

  • In many cases, old boats were built stronger than new boats.

  • In many cases, new boats are faster, easier to handle, and/or have more consumer-friendly features (e.g. swim platforms, davits) than old boats.

  • Some great boats are scarce on the used market; the only way to get one might be to buy new.

  • A new boat can be ordered with the layout and features that you choose (within limits).

  • A new boat would have some level of warranty protection.

From "Offshore Cruising Encyclopedia" by Steve and Linda Dashew:
"... the initial cost of a new boat is merely the first drop in the bucket. The list of gear necessary to make a new sail-away vessel really cruiseworthy is staggering. Without doubt, the best bet is to find a good used boat in sound structural condition. ..."

Best area and time of year to buy a boat of the type I'm considering:
Consensus: buy boat near area that you will be using it in, so that it'll have equipment appropriate for that area. Also, moving a boat from cold to hot water, or from fresh to salt water, can cause problems (blisters, corrosion) that didn't occur in the previous environment. Perhaps the worst is to move a boat from hot water to cold water, where moisture in the coring can freeze and expand and delaminate the hull.

Implications of buying in foreign country ?

Is there a best time of year to buy in Florida / Caribbean ?
Response from John Dunsmoor:
Short answer, no.

Long answer, it is an individual per-boat circumstance that will dictate level of desperation. For a deal you have to be there, with money. I have seen boats firm at $100,000 sell for forty-five on a particularly bad Thursday afternoon, "God, get me out of this damn boat".

From Gary Elder:
... We were very disappointed with the results we got by visiting sailing centers like Miami, Fort Lauderdale, etc. Because this market is so thinly scattered, we did better by having our broker send us copies of listings, wherever they were. I would then get on an airplane and fly to that location to check out the boat. It is probably a mistake to visit the big sailing centers, planning to walk the docks or knock on brokers doors, looking for a 'not new' 45-footer. Generally, the bigger the boat, the more difficult they are to find. Many of these boats are tucked away in little out-of-the-way marinas and back yards. It's easy to find the locations of boats for sale by using the phone to contact the appropriate brokers.
Response from John Dunsmoor:

I agree that just showing up isn't the best method; do your homework. You need to hunt all the major classifieds.

I disagree that south Florida is not the place to buy a boat. There are more boats here for sale than any place in the country. More boats change hands here than any place in the country.

So while there certainly might be the perfect vessel in some swamp inlet in Georgia and it certainly would be worth going there to look at it, there is probably six of the same model parked on the city docks in Fort Lauderdale for less money.
Further response from Gary Elder:
... When we went to the greater Miami - Ft Lauderdale area to find THE boat, we found only one. This boat was an unadvertised brokerage boat located behind a private residence in a Miami suburb. It was a wreck. We talked to virtually every broker in the area, with no luck, but we were looking for a specific model [Morgan Out Island 41 with a certain layout]. If your search is for 'any' boat that falls within your list of specs and dimensions, you may have better luck.

Those trips to the "swamp inlets in Georgia" can be fun adventures, but can seem to be counterproductive because the entire trip is dedicated to seeing just one boat; if it is a dud, the trip seems wasted. But some great boats sometimes hide in those out-of-the-way places. Most of the best boats we looked at were not in commercial marinas.

Damaged / salvaged boats:
Picture of sailboats damaged in Grenada by hurricane Ivan 2004

SailNet - Don Casey's "Rebuilding a Damaged Boat"

If asked, insurance companies and marine lenders will put your name on their list of people interested in buying damaged/repossessed boats.

National Liquidators (Fort Lauderdale FL) (formerly BentBoat)
Cooper Capital Specialty Salvage

From Capt Mooron on alt.sailing.asa newsgroup:
... I have a friend who winters on the BVI's and purchased a hurricane-damaged vessel several years ago. It was a "deal" and he thought to refurbish it at his leisure. Once he started factoring in the storage fees and costs of purchasing needed equipment outside of the USA, the "deal" suddenly disappeared. The boat is repaired, sailing, and ongoing renovations should be completed within a few years ... but he could have purchased a better used vessel in the United States and completed the same work for less money. ...

From Douglas Heckrotte on the Morgan mailing list:
"My 'free' boats have been the most expensive ..."

From Dick Beard on the Morgan mailing list:
... I have first-hand experience at buying a boat for not a lot of money and spending a great deal of money and time fixing it up. The boat I own is a 1965 Alberg 35. A good old boat. Original purchase price was $18k. I have invested about another $20k in upgrades and replacements. The boat as it stands is worth about $25k to $30k. I am in the hole about $10k easily. I have put in about 2000 man-hours over the last 5 years of my time. If I had it to do over, I would buy a boat that required less work and do more sailing. The plus side is that I have replaced or repaired almost everything on the boat and know it inside out, from rebuilding the engine myself to replacing all standing and running rigging and adding all new electronics. There are few surprises left. When you spend this much time and money, you develop an affinity for the boat that is hard to explain. There is a certain joy and satisfaction in the compliments I get.

I watched a neighbor buy a 42' boat for $45k, spend almost a full year upgrading and repairing and spend almost $45k doing it. He had most of the work done by someone else. There are some very nice cruise-ready boats to be had for $90k investment without the pain of a year in refitting as well as the hassles.

My conclusion is that unless you derive pleasure from working on the boat and like to see your efforts get a lot of compliments, buy the boat "ready to go" and sail more and work less.

From 'bella on the SailNet liveaboard-list:
Have you got really really deep pockets and endless patience? And more time on your hands than you know?

If not, then run really fast in the other direction from a project boat. Trust me on this ... I know: I did not run fast enough ... Two years later I am still in the throes of the refit ... and ready to just walk away.

From Jerry on "Persephone": high heat (as from a nearby fire) damages fiberglass in a way detectable only by destructive testing: it gets weaker and more brittle. Stay away from fire-damaged boats.

Charities may have donated boats available for sale. Check with maritime museums, or charities in a boating area.

Try calling up various marinas and asking if they have any abandoned boats that they're trying to get rid of.

From Jeff / s/v Island Mistress on the World-Cruising mailing list:
Personally, I think that people who are looking for deals need to look in back yards, talk to brokers, insurance claims, repo's, etc. Internet forums are made up of people who actually use their boats, and many times these are their homes. You need to look for people who are finished boating. Go to marinas and bum around looking and asking about who doesn't use their boat any more. People don't advertise real deals - they are found. Like all real deals it takes lots of legwork.

Chris Caswell's "Winning Auction Tactics"

Very cheap / neglected boats:
From John Dunsmoor:
Deals exist and there are some absolute wonders for the man with cash in the right time/space continuum.

But ... and there is always buts in this game. Sometimes the deals aren't worth it. IF your goal is sailing, then spending piles of money and time trying to turn a sow's ear into a cruising yacht may be more than one cares to invest.

So you have this sliding scale and it is balance you are seeking.

[Re:] older cruising vessels, ones that have been cared for but have outlived their owners desire to sail. Pearsons, Columbias, Catalinas in the late sixties and early seventies, the common history is they were purchased ten years ago as perceived value and turned into good cruising yachts by knowledgeable owners. Now all their new gear has ten years of wear and tear, and they find themselves, for no fault on the market again.

We are talking twenty- to forty-year-old boats that were built to standards that just don't exist any more, boats built by boatbuilders and not bean counters. Boats built before petrol products became so valuable.

So here we have a thirty year old foundation on the market with a three year old Beneteau, both forty feet, and one goes for $139,000 and the other goes for $48,000. Now part of the process is when the old boat was first put on the market the owner "knew" he had the better boat, added to the perceived rarity of the craft and so the boat started out on the market for over a hundred grand. But after four years of un-use and no sale the price and condition of the vessel has now plummeted.

This scenario is also apt for one-off custom vessels, especially ones that might be made of materials other than GRP. Steel, aluminum, ferro-cement, wood, cold-molded, C-Flex, it is such a shame to see these boats go for pennies on the dollar investment.

And when you take possession of this custom-built, Euro-something steel, 20 ton, 45 foot, $20,000 cruising yacht ... understand that at the other end of your boating career you will face the same crisis.

So come on down to the dock, with cash and surveyor in hand and jump right into the game, it is only money.

From "Offshore Cruising Encyclopedia" by Steve and Linda Dashew:
"Don't worry about cosmetics. A dirty boat with paint in poor condition and generally a mess below is going to sell for a lot less than a boat that sparkles. What we're concenred with are size, seaworthiness, and gear. Paint and polish come cheap, especially if you supply the elbow grease yourself."

Buying a formerly-chartered boat:
From Jeff H on Cruising World message board:
I have cruised with a friend who bought a used charter boat that I believe was a Moorings boat.

In most regards the boat looked OK but the sails were blown out, much of the deck hardware was on its last legs, and the engine needed to replaced within a year of his purchase (coked up turbo charger lead to overheating problems that could not be found until too late). The boat had a terribly paint-sick bottom that need to be taken down to bare glass.

Think of it this way, visualize buying a boat that is as inexpensive as you can buy that can still maintain a modicum of reliability. Install the least expensive sails and smallest deck hardware that can work, do not tear down a winch or lube a traveller in 5 years, but use the boat every possible day that you can, six days a week most of the year. Slap cheap bottom paint on the boat year after year with minimal prep, and then repeatedly turn the boat over to people who are unfamiliar with the boat at best, or people with minimal sailing skills at worst.

It's not something that I would do. Now then, once these boats are out of livery some poor guy like my friend will dump $50K into replacing sails, engine, instruments, deck hardware and fixing up the bottom and have a pretty nice boat that they end up selling for $10K to $15K over the price of a boat that just came out of livery. That is the boat to buy if you are sure the boat is the type that you want.

From Jeff Twiss on Cruising World message board:
We just returned from a Caribbean charter. This was with a company I respected, have used several times, and had seriously considered a charter boat investment with. I ended up chatting to a few of the local staff over beers one evening after our charter. An unsolicited comment was "you really don't want to own one of these charter boats." I was surprised. Ends up that their impression is similar to mine: too many people with too little knowledge/sense/skill/experience are allowed to use/abuse your boat completely unsupervised - despite the best of maintenance, the boats will get trashed.

From BobG on Cruising World message board:
I had the occasion to be working on my boat in a boatyard in the VI. My boat was very near a group of charter boats being repaired by the yard. It was clear to me that they were doing the cheapest job possible. They focused on what showed, leaving more serious problems unrepaired, or covered over.

Also, sailing in the Caribbean, we encountered many, many charterers. Not all, but too many, were either incompetent or indifferent. They did dumb and dangerous things. The boats suffered.

I personally would not want to buy a boat that had been in charter service.

There are some sailors who are talented and enjoy rebuilding boats. For them, it would be OK.

From Brian Woloshin on Cruising World message board:
Charter boats, besides being abused, have different interiors - lots of cabins and heads. If you want the layout offered, great, otherwise forget about trying to change it.

From Bryan Genez on the WorldCruising mailing list:
Many boats are custom built for the charter industry with added berths. These berths replace what would be storage in different models from the same builder. As a result, storage can be very limited.

From Paul Marcuzzo on the WorldCruising mailing list:
After being on one that was at the end of its charter life and looked at some that already were. I would budget for a complete rebuild for within a year - engine, probably transmission, running rigging, sails, batteries, VHF, stereo, mattresses etc. Remember, for the most part these are rode hard and hosed off Sunday morning back out Sunday afternoon during the high season, so maintenance is "patch up mon until next time she breaks". And this is what I observed from one of the top names in chartering. If you can get a good price and don't mind the work to get her in shape, go for it.

From John Easteal on the WorldCruising mailing list:
I chartered for 2 weeks in the BVI, February this year [2000] from Sunsail.

It quickly became obvious that maintenance did not exist and that repairs were skimped.

I felt sorry for the owner of the Hunter that we had.

From Victor and Karen Macor on the WorldCruising mailing list:
I presently have a 42 foot Jeanneau yacht in a charter fleet; it is now ten years old. The maintenance done by the charter company on my yacht is wonderful. Although the yacht gets a lot of use, all normal maintenance and minor repairs are done to keep the yacht in good condition. Last year the Perkins engine was replaced with a new Yanmar diesel and all upholstery was redone; this year we are getting all new floors and have already redone all the standing rigging.

I am presently looking to sell this boat even though they are willing to keep it in the fleet. I would like to get a larger yacht that is presently being chartered and will continue to charter it as well. I am very pleased with the present charter company's care of my yacht (Barefoot Yacht Charters).

From Jeff H on Cruising World message board:
From reading posts and from talking to people who have done the purchase lease-back or bought ex-charter boats, I have come to the following conclusions. While not every boat that comes out of livery is trashed, most come out with defects, some minor, some major, some visible and some a product of wear or neglect that is waiting to fail.

You have to understand how these boats are used. First off, they are out of their slips, almost day in and day out. They are being used in the Caribbean, which is not an easy environment on boats. Lost of sun, high salinity, lots of breeze which all take a toll.

They are being used by people who in the best case are well-meaning and careful, but are not completely familiar with the operation of the particular boat they have chartered. In the worse case, are not competent and frankly don't care. Charterers run the gamut from people who are a bit timid and spend a lot of time at the dock, perhaps not all that well tied up and protected. To the other extreme, the people who feel they have rented this thing and by golly they will sail it or slog it at full throttle no matter how much wind is out there, to every type of personality in between.

Adding to the problem is that charter boats are often ordered with fairly minimal equipment, such as slightly undersized winches, travelers with almost no purchase, the smallest self-furler that can be expected to make it through the lifespan in livery, cheap sails made of heavy cloth, and so on.

From talking to people who have bought ex-charter boats, you might expect to have to upgrade, replace or repair items such as: engines, sails, deck hardware, upholstery, running and standing rigging, instruments, ground tackle, galley equipment, as well as the need to address cosmetic issues. In the worse cases that I heard, there were keel and frame structure problems from a probable hard grounding, and major electrolysis problems leading to a sinking when a bronze thru-hull gave up the ghost.

Now then, not every boat is going to have every one of these problems, but even if there is a minor mix of some of these, it can result in a lot of long-term high maintenance costs. In the end you have to ask yourself whether you couldn't buy a solid boat that was not in charter, which has better gear and less use, for less money and a lot less effort than it would cost to buy an ex-charter boat and put it in shape.

There was one fellow that I knew who had gone the ex-charter boat route and had replaced an engine, sails, awlgripped the hull and refinished the interior and replaced instruments and a lot of deck hardware that I knew of. He once said, "You know, the guy who buys this boat from me is going to get a great deal." He was probably right. The fact that the boat had been in charter will always limit its price and the fact that this guy had done a great job fixing it up meant that he had far more in the boat than he could sell her for. Perhaps, the right answer is to look for the ex-charter boat that some guy just restored and ran out of money to go further.

From Linda Campbell on Cruising World message board:
I know it is tempting, what with the lower price, but I wouldn't do it. I have chartered 3 times, and always felt grieved for the boat or it's owner (if it had an owner). Only one of the charters was from the Moorings ... and I expected it to be the best. But it was the worst. Not only did we have problems requiring the chase boat to come out and solve (interrupting our cruising time ... and he came with no tools ... ended up jury-rigging the damn water system ourselves after he left) ... when the charter was over, we handed in a list of 27 items that did not work on the boat. The Moorings puts their money into advertising ... not into their boats.

Engine on an ex-charter boat may have high hours, but be in decent shape because: it gets constant use, and it gets scheduled maintenance.

See my Chartering Out A Boat You Own page

Buying in Europe and importing into USA (because of strong dollar / weak Euro):
From bernie on Cruising World message board:
With all the boats in North America, why bother ...

A few months ago, I just sold a vessel in Monaco. In a way, it was a pain in the butt.

The boat had to have a VAT tax paid, had to have its exit papers, had to figure out what the officials were saying, then the flights back and forth, the exchange currency, the title search (which wasn't easy), then the USCG import fees/certification attached, not to mention the sail across the Atlantic.

... I think that the vessels in America are better maintained than the lazy Europeans ...


... no great deals are found buying in Europe, plus you have the added expense of bringing her home ... probably another $20K on top of the price after all expenses.

From John Chandler on Cruising World message board:
I bought a boat recently in Turkey, with minimal problems. The major issue is its country of registry - and conditions vary from country to country. If it's registered in the country where purchased, you face issues of tax and other liabilities. However, if registered in another country and you plan to register it in the US, you should not have much difficulties. Also, USCG documentation services are very helpful.

Having a good broker is critical. Don't try it without one, and if you don't trust the one you have, walk away.

Then there's also the problem of getting it home ...

From Scott Meyer on the World-Cruising mailing list:
Basically, the import duty on boats [into the USA] is 1.5% of the purchase price in US $. The purchase price is converted to US $ as of the date of purchase. You will need a dated bill of sale and possibly something like a wire transfer receipt or a cancelled check to establish the purchase price.

Depending on his experience level with boat imports and the value of the boat in question, the customs officer may handle the importation directly. However, it is probable that you will be required to retain the services of a customs broker. The broker will prepare the paperwork and will sell you a customs bond. The bond acts as a guarantee to the Government that everything is on the up-and-up.

In my case the price of the bond was $5 per thousand up to the first $100k and then $2.50 per thousand for each subsequent $100k.

Various fees are then used to round things out to "boat units".

You write a cheque to the customs broker (it'll feel like passing a small kidney stone) and the broker pays customs.

Buying in some remote place and bringing it home:
  • Trips to see prospective boats may be expensive.
  • Language barrier may make everything slower and riskier.
  • Boat equipment may not be suited for place you'll use it.
  • Have to transfer large sum of money across national boundary.
  • May have to get/transfer/register title twice (foreign and home).
  • May have to refit in a foreign locale (may be more difficult and expensive).
  • Have to sail unfamiliar/neglected/just-refitted boat on long passage soon after buying, to bring it home.
  • If serious problems arise, legal system of foreign country must be used.
"Shopping Abroad" article by Todd Scantlebury in 10/2001 issue of Cruising World magazine

From Rick Kennerly on The Live-Aboard List:
I had a couple of people take me to task about my advice about buying a boat in a cruising crossroads. It's not the first time this has happened. They've checked the brokerage listings in St Thomas and the BVI, they write, and haven't found any bargain boats being given up by people who ran out of cash or who got tired of cruising or both. All I can say is that people are bringing them back to Puerto Rico from St Thomas (a duty-free port) and Tortola all the time. I can only conclude people not physically located in the islands need some pointers. Unfortunately, this technique also requires some work and the expenditure of cash. You'll not find "steals" on the internet, in the back of sailing magazines, or by hanging out in hotel bars.

The way you connect with bargain boats is to go to where the boats are with a fist full of business-card-sized "want to buy" cards in hand. Then you roam around marinas knocking on hulls telling people you're interested in a boat "just like yours" and offering cash for the right boat. Ask them: "Have you considered selling your boat?", "Do you know of any liveaboards around here thinking of selling?", "Do you really want to sail the boat back to the States (or Europe or Trinidad) when you can fly?"

Do the same in beach bars. Hit the marinas early, before 10 a.m. and then do it again after 6 p.m. to catch the working folks. Hit bars late, when thinking is impaired. (Hint: carry a roll of tape so you can affix those cards to the hulls of boats where no one is home). I've known people to come down to St Thomas and rent a 1-bedroom efficiency apartment for a month, just so they can shop hard for the right boat.

Yard people and dockhands know all about the boats in their marinas and yards -- who's having marital problems, who's broke, who's sick of boating, and who's just plain sick. An iced case of Bud shared at the end of the day does wonders to get yardworkers talking. Offer $500 bounty to the travellift driver or yard worker who finds you the right "undiscovered" boat and you buy it. Put an ad in the local sailing rag or newspaper.

Hang around the emergency room or post an ad at the local county or seaman's hospital offering cash for the right boat. There's a guy in my marina who bought a cruise-ready Cabo Rico 38 off a dying man in an ICU in Panama. The guy signed the papers with tubes hanging out all over the place and died three days later. How did this guy get it? He was asking around a marina and someone mentioned this guy in the hospital and he had the nerve to ask. The owner wanted his family, mostly estranged by that time, to "have something" besides an old boat when he died, and didn't want them to have to mess with selling it in a foreign port. In this very marina last year, a 36 ft trawler was signed over to a young couple for $65,000 by an older fella eaten up with cancer and headed home to die. How'd they get the boat? They knew he was ill and asked about buying the boat. He liked them and wanted his boat to go to a caring couple. They paid as much as they could afford, and he felt as though he would somehow live on after his death by being remembered in their adventures. They had a plaque made with his likeness etched on it and sent him a picture of it before he died. It doesn't have to be as ghoulish as it sounds. I'm not saying steal their boat, I'm saying offer them a fair price to help them out of their dilemma. Some, sick and tired and without the energy to do anything about it, are actually praying that you will come along.

Here in Puerto Rico, people take the Fajardo-St Thomas ferry for $35 and spend the weekend walking the marinas, leaving cards on bulletin boards, knocking on hulls, and haunting boatyards. They copy down the names and hailing ports of boats that look like they've been laid up a while and use the USCG database (if an American vessel) to track down the owner to see if they've considered selling. Some will also catch the St Thomas to Tortola ferry or head over to St Croix and do the same thing.

A fun thought: Book one of those round-trip big-boat cruises out of San Juan that hits six islands in seven days. Then, instead of shopping for trinkets or hitting the beach to bake your hide, taxi among the marinas, yacht clubs and boatyards. You'll eat well between your marina-hopping junkets and you might just find the boat of your dreams already in paradise.

Be sure to take a camera and notepad, so you can remember a boat when the owner (or widow) calls you 4 months after your visit, wanting to sell.

Time your trips wisely. The middle of sailing season (winter) is not a good time to shop boats in the tropics. Instead, hit during the transition periods just before hurricane season (when cruisers are trying to decide if they should head south toward Trinidad or Panama) or after hurricane season when the fleet is preparing to head north from the 0-latitude areas toward the BVI again. A lot of people find that they just don't have another long passage in them and are willing to let the boat go. Actually, this is a fairly common malady among cruisers. They get one or two big passages behind them, feel like they've gotten off easy, and just can't work up the nerve to leave port for open water again.

So, you can find bargain boats in the tropics; you just have to work at it.

Places to find boats motivated to sell: Grenada, Trinidad, both ends of the Panama Canal.

Trucking/transporting/shipping a boat cross-country:
From Daniel Todd on the Yacht-L mailing list:
I recently (October '00) moved a boat from Jacksonville FL to Alameda, CA in the San Francisco Bay. The cost for shipping was ~ $7,600.

The boat was a 40' Beneteau weighing in at 19,000 lbs.

Including decommission, shrink wrap haul-out splash and recommission the total bill was almost $10,000 on the nose. This included rigging 2 new insulators in one of the backstays, repairing the deck lights, stepping the mast etc. Also, they re-calibrated the radar on recommissioning.

Overall stuff didn't move around nearly as much as I had anticipated, though the yard workers were a bit more rough on the interior than I had anticipated. The more you can take apart yourself the less expensive the work will be. We were not able to do a whole lot in Jacksonville due to weather the week we were there before moving the boat (we also spent many of the nice days on the river sailing, so ...) But when the boat was splashed in Alameda we were able to do much more of the work, including rerigging the stanchions, pulpit lifelines etc. Plates, etc were just fine as usually stowed for sailing.

Just a side note, with all the vessels built in NC and FL it is MUCH cheaper to ship boats to those cities than from. I think that when I asked, out of morbid curiosity, the cost was just about half to take a boat there if you were flexible with the schedule. Supply and demand ...
From Rick Riggs on SailNet's Gulfstar mailing list in 4/2002:
Gulfstar made a very intelligent decision when they designed the G-50. They designed the hull so that it was smaller than the DOT regulations for highway transportation. There are some States that have requirements over and above the DOT's, but on this trip from Georgia to San Francisco, only Texas and New Mexico will impinge on the price of the transport.

My Gulfstar 50 (1978 vintage) is 13'10" high when sitting on the 'low-boy' transport trailer (with bow pulpit, bimini, and steering pedestal guard removed). She is 13'11" wide in her normal configuration.

The cost of transporting her to San Francisco is approximately $8300 for the trucking. Am using a company called Atlantic Marine Transport. They have given me excellent service so far (as I said, the boat arrives this weekend). This does not include the expense of hauling her out, derigging and packing the masts and deck gear, or loading her on the truck.

A friend moved a 45' powerboat from Florida to San Francisco. Even though she was shorter, she ran almost $20,000 because she was overheight and overwidth. The extra $12,000 were for escort cars and permits for the trip.
From Ed Kelly on The Live-Aboard List 1/2003:
I trucked halfway across country last April. I think it will cost around $2.50 a mile.

We moved our Allmand 35 Pilot House (12' beam) via truck this last April from Tampa/St. Pete to Des Moines Iowa. There are a lot of truckers in this specialty market. We hired a good outfit who had moved the boat twice before that is based in Kansas, but they go coast to coast.

The total cost was about $3800. The fee turned out to be $2.50 a mile plus any tolls or permit fees. That was as close to standard as I could find. If I could have found someone deadheading one way, it would be cheaper, but I wanted to move on my schedule, not theirs.

There are a number of companies listed in Soundings and a ton on the web if you look with Google

Be advised that there are a lot of transportation brokers out there and they will try and contract with you and then broker with the cheapest trucker they find, who will schedule the pickup at his convenience. Thus I suggest working with a truck firm directly. They will supply a copy of their cover sheet of their liability policy for proof of insurance and will schedule for a date certain. You will have to arrange with the marinas on both ends to pull and recommission the boat. We found wrapping our mast with the Wrapping tape (plastic on rolls) from Staples or any office store was a great way to protect the mast and immobilize all the hardware you do not take off. We were able to leave our shrouds on and had no problem. We wrapped a ton of that plastic wrap -- its like Saran Wrap. After a bunch of revolutions with the wrap we put a piece of duct tape around it.

It is fast and pretty easy ... but it certainly lightens your wallet. ...

Buying through broker versus from owner,
from pdecat on BoaterEd forum:
I have bought both ways but prefer to buy from an individual owner. You can learn a lot about how the boat was used and cared for by talking direct. What I like to do is interview the seller. Let him do a test drive demo. If he hotrods it you learn he probably always drove that way. If he takes it easy then that is probably how he used it when you weren't around. Let him tell you everything he thinks is important and you will get a very clear idea how he treated the boat. If you spend enough time with the seller you will learn a lot that is not available any other way.


You also need to be aware that there are casual dealers who seem like an individual owner but really are people who buy boats and fix them up for resale. It is not hard to tell from a conversation if the seller really knows the boat.


Boat-sharing / joint ownership:
Building a cruising boat:
Huge boat made of folded paper

  • Very hard on your body, your life, your marriage/family.

  • Have to sacrifice vacations, holidays, weekends, friends.

  • You have to enjoy building more than sailing.

  • Not much cheaper than buying.
    Tools, materials, space, time are costly.
    May be better to spend the time earning money, then buy a boat.

  • Long exposure to hazardous materials: epoxy, fiberglass, solvents, paints, dust, power tools.

  • Need space for boat, tools, materials, working area.

  • Much riskier than buying: boat may have fatal defects, or sail very poorly.
    To reduce risk, buy design plans, get professional evaluations, have some work done by professionals.

  • May take a long time, greatly delaying sailing/cruising.
    (One example: 42-foot boat took 18,000 hours of work over 9 years. Amount of work is proportional to volume of boat. Hull may be less than 25% of total effort.)
    Your health or plans may change before you finish building.
    From "The Voyager's Handbook" by Beth Leonard:
    For every home-built boat that ends up voyaging, a dozen sit ashore abandoned.

  • Boat may be very hard to insure or sell later.

  • If you succeed, the skills acquired and pride of accomplishment can be huge.

  • Start small: build a dinghy, then a 20-foot daysailer.

Good book: "Building Your Dream Boat" by Charles E. Wood.
Some info in "The Dollars and Sense of Sailboat Ownership" by Jeff Spranger.
SailNet - Michelle Potter's "Building Our Sailboat"

From "Offshore Cruising Encyclopedia" by Steve and Linda Dashew:
"The last thing anyone going cruising for the first time should do is build a boat. No matter what you build, or how many ideas you fit in, you'll wish it were different when you have a year of cruising under your belt. The average minimum time for inexperienced people to build a boat (that is, for the small percentage who finally finish and get away) is five years. If funds are short and you're trying to stretch your boat size by building it yourself, don't. Buy a good, used, smaller boat, go and get some experience on the ocean, and then come back and build your dream boat."

From Collin Harty on World-Cruising mailing list:
As someone who is building from a bare hull (, my advice is don't go down this road unless you are absolutely as interested in building a boat as in sailing a boat. You will, without question, spend significantly more money working from a bare hull than buying used and upgrading. Of all the amateur/backyard builders I have talked to, almost none were able to keep to the schedule they imagined. I haven't. Building a voyaging boat of the size [38-45] you're talking about is an enormous undertaking that takes incredible perseverance and fortitude. Life always intrudes.

Given that, I also want you to know I wouldn't change a thing. I absolutely love this project and enjoy every hour I work on it. I've often observed that many of the pure sailors out there have no understanding of the boat-building bug. They seem to view it as some kind of burden to endure before you get to the good stuff. For me it is the good stuff, but then I have the luxury of being able to continue sailing locally as I build (which is as fine a motivator as there is). If you've been bitten, you'll know it. Somewhere deep down inside will be this clear, unflinching feeling that there is no other choice. If you do not feel that, my advice is to buy used and be free.

From Peter Ogilvie on World-Cruising mailing list:
"If you want to build a boat, build a boat. If you want to go sailing, go sailing. Don't try and mix the two as you'll probably accomplish neither." That's a piece of advice an experienced amateur builder, three boats under his belt, gave me when it was too late to heed. He'd been building boats for decades but never went sailing. He introduced me to the boat-building 'underground' in SoCal. Totally amazing the number of projects that were past a decade in construction and/or chewing up their third/fourth or even more owners. In those days almost every vacant lot and backyard in Costa Mesa had a semi-abandoned boat project in it. When we revisited the boatyard we built our boat in 10 years afterward, only two out of the 10+ boats had been launched. The rest looked little closer to completion than when we were building ours so long before.

We were already up to our ears in building our Westsail 32 from a hull and deck, at the time, so the advice was too late for us. Luckily, we ended up being the exception. We launched our boat a year from the date we started working on her, were sailing within 18 months and left for SoPac slightly over 2 years after we began.

Will never forget the first time we saw our boat. I climbed up on deck and unscrewed the plywood sheet covering the companionway and looked in. It was a huge empty FRP bathtub that we had to be turn into a cruiser. The reality of the immensity of the project hit home and I said to myself: "You've really stepped in a ton of s**t this time.. How are you ever going to finish it?"

As far as saving money, forget about it. The hull and deck turned out to be about a quarter of the total cost. If we'd bought a factory-completed boat and outfitted it for cruising, we could have been sailing for SoPac two years sooner and been way more than $10,000 richer.

The only valid reason for building your own boat is the sense of accomplishment and knowing how to fix/rebuild every system in the boat. Personally, I could have done without those benefits and been more than 1/2 way round on our cruise.

Oh, almost forgot about the 4 fingers I lost in a momentary lack of concentration using the table saw.

Assess your motivation. If it's to build a boat, by all means have at it. If you want to go sailing, buy a completed boat. Look for one that someone else has already dumped a ton of money into getting it ready and benefit from their dream at a discount.

My thoughts about building a boat (I've never done it, and never will):
  • Don't buy anything that can be postponed (engine, rigging, instruments, appliances, trim, etc) until the hull is done. Even then, buy only what must be installed very next.

  • Finish and install basics of hull and interior and deck before installing tanks, engine, wiring, plumbing, appliances. That way, you'll be able to maintain or replace them later without destroying the boat. This may imply bolting-in the interior cabinetry, deck, cockpit, bulkheads, etc instead of welding or glassing or gluing them in. This may seem strange, but you'll thank yourself five years later. Insert terminal strips or connectors in wiring near each appliance and fixture, so you can remove them without cutting wires. Appliances and tanks should fit through doorways and hatches. Bolt down the ballast instead of glassing or welding it in.

  • Expect to have to adjust the rig (maybe relocating the mast) after test-sailing the boat (unproven designs often have ferocious weather-helm or some other problem). Would be nice to start with cheap used sails, so changing mast and boom lengths doesn't mean expensive new sails are compromised.

  • Get into the water and moving as soon as possible (with no appliances, maybe plastic over the holes where the ports and hatches will be, no plumbing, no stanchions and lifelines, motor around with no rig installed, etc). Gives you a sense of accomplishment, catches big mistakes earlier, makes you focus on essentials.

  • In my experience, everyone cruising either has or wishes they had good sun/wind/spray protection of the cockpit. Plan for a hard dodger or pilothouse of some kind, with solar panels on top and opening windows. Design the sailplan and rigging together with placement of dodger/pilothouse, solar panels, wind-generator, dinghy-davits, maybe RADAR arch.

  • As with any other boat, don't load it up with gear before getting some cruising experience. Cruise for a year before considering RADAR, HF radio, watermaker, fancy navigation stuff, genset, air-conditioning, etc. All you really need is: GPS, depth-sounder, VHF radio, refrigeration, engine, solar.

  • Fancy trim, inside and outside, is pretty. But you have to maintain (varnish) it, and inside trim gets in the way if you need to mess with wiring or the inside parts of deck hardware, or trace deck leaks. I would let outside wood go natural, and inside I'd have no liners or easily-removable liners.

  • Small items: Mounting batteries outside the engine compartment seems a good idea. Saw a big steel boat with a gantry built-in so the engine could be raised a foot or two, to allow major engine work on site if needed. All wall-panels around engine should be removable.

Factors that make a boat harder to insure: home-built; custom-built; non-fiberglass hull.

About long-term leasing a boat for cruising,
from Bob Schlobohm on the Yacht-L mailing list:
In 1993-94 my family of four (6 year old son and 13 year old daughter) did this same thing only for about a year. We looked at several options for obtaining a boat and as others have suggested the best alternative ended up being a lease from a private owner. We found a doctor in New Brunswick, Canada who was interested in leasing his boat. After about a year of negotiations we worked out a deal where he even included the insurance. I can't say it was cheap, but it was cheaper than a charter company and cheaper than the other two individuals who contacted me expressing interest. I advertised through Cruising World which generated about a half dozen responses, some of which were totally unrealistic. My biggest concern was that if I spent too much on the lease, I wouldn't have enough money left to undertake the cruise.

Boat Loan / Financing:
"Boat Loans" article in 6/2001 issue of Practical Sailor.

Getting a boat loan is easier if you will still have valuable tangible assets (i.e. a house) as collateral. If you're cashing out everything to buy a boat to live on, what will be the collateral for the boat loan ?

Easier to get a boat loan for a new or newer boat (valuation is easier), and for a popular / common boat type such as smallish motorboat (resale market is more liquid) ?

Easier to get a (consumer) loan for a smaller boat rather than a (mortgage) loan for a bigger boat ?

Do a home-equity loan instead ? Interest paid is deductible on USA income taxes ?

Interest on a personal loan is not USA tax-deductible; interest on a loan secured by a residence is deductible.

From Lisa Stanley on IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
Be very, very careful. If you are point-blank asked if it is to be used for a liveaboard (on the form I saw, it was __ Liveaboard, __ Recreational, __ Charter), and you do not answer TRUTHFULLY, then you are committing a crime called FRAUD. The same applies to NET WORTH inflation.

There are PLENTY of banks that will finance liveaboards. We would have had a very nice 41' boat except we ran into three problems:

1) Age of the boat. It was a 1977. The banks did not want to finance a boat that old.
2) Downpayment. We were putting 10% down.
3) I am self-employed and have been for only 1 1/2 years.

The banks that didn't care about the age, cared about my employment. Banks that didn't care about my employment, cared about the age of the boat. All banks said, that if we increased the amount of our downpayment, they would consider changing their minds. ...

Oh, and keep in mind, we have PERFECT credit.

So, here is what we are doing now. We are:
1) buying a smaller boat (cheaper) - a 28' O'Day to be exact.
2) moving to a smaller (cheaper) house/apt.
3) saving every penny we can and then when we are ready, we are going to buy our dream boat, in cash, no loans.

Even if you are not Jewish/Christian, this applies:
PR 22:7 The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.

(Banks say: You MUST have insurance, you CAN'T go outside the US ... etc.)

A broker in SF Bay area told me this (in context of buying a 50-foot sailboat): normally a loan will be 20% down-payment; if you happen to reveal it is for a live-aboard, they will want 30% down.

My thoughts:
Personally, I would never borrow to buy a boat. It's a depreciating asset, could be badly damaged or lost at any time, and could take a long time to sell, never for the price you desire. And while you're trying to sell, you'll probably be paying for slip space so buyers and brokers can see it easily.

And personally, I would never want to have a big share of my net worth tied up in a boat, for the same reasons. I wouldn't be able to sleep at night.

If you can't afford a boat without a loan or spending a big share of your net worth, choose a smaller, cheaper boat, or wait and work hard and save your money.

About BUC Net book values (maybe from, from Ronald Hiemann on Cruising World message board:
... the BUC values are averages comprised of numerous sales transactions reported by their broker membership. I believe the better yardstick is to seek out as many listings as possible for a particular boat and to draw conclusions from the particulars of those listings. Boat values are too much influenced by the sellers ego, the actual, true, overall condition and the equipment and age. At the end of the day, if you are willing to pay the price, then it must be the right price for the situation. If you want to buy or to sell, completely relying upon BUC valuations is meaningless. Just check the listings (BUC and Yachtworld, for instance). They start out high and the longer the listing remains on the board, the more the price drops. ...

From Bryan Genez on the World-Cruising mailing list:
... BUC books are wildly off. Sorry, but that's a fact. BUC has a habit of showing depreciation for years on boats that have actually appreciated in value. Just look at any Practical Sailor review of any boat ... you'll see that retail prices go up and down. BUC is very slow to pick up market trends. Unfortunately, many believe BUC is the boat version of the Kelly Blue Book for cars. It is not. There are too many different boats, and many don't see sales for years at a time ... so BUC just "assumes" what they'd sell for. I can go into greater detail if you want, but the bottom line is that BUC should be used very cautiously in determining the value of a boat.

Until about 18 months ago, many higher-quality sailboats were appreciating in the market. ...

If you buy a foreign-manufactured boat outside the USA, then bring it into the USA, you have to pay import duty (3% ? Less from NAFTA countries, none from Canada ?).

From Gary Elder:
When you look at any boat, within the basic model you are likely to see variations of the basic layout. In addition to that, optional cabinetry that totally changes the 'feel' of the boat, may or may not be present. Beyond that, some boats are highly customized. Bottom line? Looking at only one example of a particular model can be very misleading, especially if you don't like the first one.

From Gary Elder:
[Re: prefer having to replace all electronics (if factored into price):]
Inexperienced sellers tend to think their electronics will increase the price, experienced salesmen know that electronics will make a boat easier to sell to an inexperienced buyer, experienced buyers know that existing electronics on a boat will probably be replaced, and are not worth much to him.

On-line (Internet) listings:
From Rick Kennerly on the World-Cruising mailing list:
Of course, everybody's thinking of the traditional way of buying a boat.

Here are some other ideas:

There are distressed people with boats they don't want and need to get rid of and who don't have a clue how to begin everywhere -- divorces, widows, sickness, business going south. There are two things you must do. One is connect. The other is not fall in love with a particular boat.

1. Place ads in local newspapers and sailing rags offering immediate cash for the right 32-37 ft sailboat, diesel in good condition. Put signs up on local bulletin boards.

2. Have some waterproof cards printed up asking the owner if they've considered selling, make the offer "cash for the right boat", and walk the docks sticking them to companionways or lifelines or hulls near the ladder. Be sure you say "private individual" or "young family looking for the right boat."

3. Contact banks and boat mortgage firms letting them know that you have cash for the right boat. Offer a private referral fee to an individual (don't overlook the secretary or receptionist while you're waiting -- they'll usually know as much as the person behind the big desk and need the money even more). Loan departments will know which owners are desperate and might send some folks your way. The big commercial boat places have their own brokerage arrangements, but smaller banks and credit unions are often at a loss if they have a boat dumped on them. They'd rather steer somebody to the owner than end up with a repo.

4. Walk the yards and docks with a notepad or tape recorder noting the names and hailing ports of boats you're interested in, particularly those that look abandoned. If you don't know the yard, ask the yard help which boats are yard queens. Then run the name on the computer at the USCG documentation center to find the owner's address [don't think you can do this] and send them a note. Most states will give or sell you the state registration information for non-documented boats.

5. Chat up people you see on boats in marinas or in yards. They'll know that Bristol over there belongs to "Ol' George, poor old fella, just can't keep her up any more." They might even make the introduction for you. Hint: in almost every conversation "my wife and I are looking for a boat for our family" goes over better than "I'm looking for a boat".

6. Owners often spill their guts to yard folks, and I've known brokers who've paid travelift operators for referrals of certain popular boats. Offer travelift or other yard workers a $1000 bounty if you buy a boat they send your way. They'll know who's unhappy.

7. Be bold, be patient, and be persistent. Leave every encounter open ended with, "well, hang onto my card, just in case you change your mind or if you hear of a boat I might be interested in." A few nights sleep, a bad day on the stock market, a fight with the wife, who knows what will trigger a sale?

8. If you hit on a boat that you discover is listed at a brokerage firm, ask the owner to call you when the contract expires, maybe you'll still be in the market. Although most brokers don't see it this way, that's not exactly the same as making a deal for the boat behind the broker's back. You're just saying to contact you when the contract expires, which is no more underhanded than a broker not presenting all offers to a buyer, no matter how low, because the broker wants to keep the commission up or he "thinks" that the boat should sell for more, even if it's not moving.

9. Look in the cruising crossroads. I know of a cruise-ready Westsail 32 that went for half of what it should have gone for because the boat was in the Virgin Islands AND there was a divorce going on back in the States. The pressure was on to sell it and somebody decided it was worth the plane trip to close on the boat. Boats are harder to sell in the islands because people think that they're so hard to go see. One way around that is to combine boat-hunting with a big-boat luxury cruise. Several lines offer week-long San Juan to San Juan cruises that spend a day in all the popular cruising ports. Instead of hitting trinket and T-shirt shops, hire a cab and hit the yards and marinas on each island, leaving your laminated card on all the boats that interest you.

From Norm on The Live-Aboard List:
Make the acquaintance of as many folks living the lifestyle you wish to live as possible. Bring a 12-pack of beer or a big jug of wine.

The best boat is often a boat already being used for the purpose you want to put it to by folks who are becoming too old and fragile to continue or who want to upgrade.

Stay away from wooden boats unless you are a very special boater.

New boats are a pain to equip and de-bug.

Do LOTS of homework, it pays off handsomely!

Moving from theory to reality:
4/2000: I went to an "open boat weekend" in Alameda CA, just to tramp through a bunch of boats and get some "reality" into the process. It was a very good thing to do. Some things I learned:
  • I tended to oscillate between "This is cool; I can imagine myself sailing one of these through the Caribbean" and "I'd be crazy to shell out $100K for a decaying hunk of fiberglass !".

  • 44 feet LOA is pretty huge.
    Maybe I don't need something quite that big.
    (I ended up buying a 44-footer, and I'm glad I did.)

  • Two boats that are both 39 feet LOA can have totally different interiors: one big, well laid-out and good headroom, the other bad on all counts.

  • A lot of my "theoretical" feelings are confirmed: don't want a bowsprit, don't want center-cockpit, want single-masted rig, want a pretty big boat.

  • It may be a buyers market; some of those boats looked like they've been sitting for a while.

  • It is just possible to get 6'2" headroom in 37 LOA; it is common in 40+ LOA.

  • All boats had limited access to bilges and engine; the very new ones (1999 and 2000 models) were only slightly better than the old ones (1980s). Maintenance and repair is going to be a royal pain in the butt.

  • Most of them had no dinghy or liferaft on board. Maybe this was a ploy to make them look more spacious ? Or maybe they were all daysailed and marina-based.

When looking at boats, concentrate on the big things, not the little things that are easily changed later. Don't worry about ugly furnishings, bad smells, worn-out lines, hoses, dirt, obsolete electronics. Focus on whether you fit into berths and cabins and cockpit, overall size and configuration, engine type and condition and access, etc. Condition of hard-to-replace systems: engine, water tank, fuel tank, maybe holding tank. Condition of fiberglass laminate structures. At haul-out, condition of hull and rudder.

From "The Essentials of Living Aboard a Boat" by Mark Nicholas:
When you decide which boats to include and exclude, try not to focus on "accessories". Good accessories do not make a good boat. A good boat is a good boat whether or not it has a good RADAR system. Unfortunately, a bad boat does not become anything other than a bad boat just because it has a $2,000 chartplotter. ...

Many boat buyers, primarily novice ones, will create a spreadsheet of their "needs", which might include lists of "dream" accessories. Example: "I need a windlass, chartplotter, lazy jacks, RADAR, watermaker" and so forth. If you find a boat with all this gear, will it be a good boat ? Who knows ? Will it be a better boat because it has all this gear ? No. Could it be a bad boat ? Yes.

Process For A Specific Boat

Do things in this order, I think:
  1. Your inspection, using a checklist (such as my Survey Checklist page; MS Excel 97 version prints better).

  2. Try to get an informal sea trial (test drive).
    Or at least start engine and run it, and/or hoist and lower all sails in slip.
    Consider chartering the boat for a day.
    (Owner/broker may refuse any/all of these. Maybe this is a clue that you should reject this boat.)

  3. Go home and research the boat's history, specific equipment and boat-model some more.
    Contact owners of similar boats (through owner's associations, mailing lists, etc).
    Examine listings for other boats of same model for sale.
    Read reviews of this boat-model.

  4. If a major refit will be needed, get a professional (boatyard) to size it (time and money) for you.

  5. Consult a surveyor to get their off-the-cuff impression of the boat.

  6. Decide that you really, really want to buy THIS boat.

  7. Make offer, negotiate, agree, sign contract (conditional on passing survey, sea trial, tests, etc), and give deposit.
    (Examine title and registration closely first.)
    (Include a stipulation that the sea trial must be conducted in open water for a minimum of two hours.)
    (Include stipulations about what happens and who pays/repairs how if problems are found in survey, sea trial, tests, etc.)

  8. Go with surveyor to do survey (in-water and hauled out).

  9. Do sea trial.

  10. Send engine fluids to testing service.
    (But not if boat just had oil change.)

  11. Have mechanic inspect engine.
    (Compression test, or injectors pulled and cylinders inspected with a boroscope.)

  12. Have sailmaker inspect sails ?

  13. Renegotiate price. Subtract value of defects found from offer price.

  14. Close deal (pay money, sign paperwork, take possession of boat).

Robert Doty's "Buying Process"

From Jim McCorison on Latitudes and Attitudes Cruisers Forum:

A recent thread on another board suggested a modified plan of attack that made a lot of sense. The sequence, arranged with all parties before hand is:

1) Hire the surveyor to perform an in-the-water survey of the interior, all visible structures, and all systems.
2) Have an engine survey performed.
3) Take the sea trial. In power boats this is frequently done in conjunction with item #2 so the engine surveyor can inspect the engine under load. This makes sense in the sailboat world as well.
4) Haul the boat and have the surveyor complete the survey by examining the hull.

At any stage in the above sequence you can back out of the deal, assuming you made the offer contingent on the surveys and sea trials. You did, didn't you? The above sequence basically goes from cheapest to most expensive in incremental steps. So if the boat you're looking at has rotted bulkheads, or soft decks, you're not on the hook for a haul-out as well.


From Louis and Mariella on the World-Cruising mailing list:
As a recent boat buyer, I can suggest a few things:

1. Do your homework in selecting the best boat, not the perfect boat. I don't believe the latter really exists. This sounds trite, but I've learned that it's the absolute truth.

2. Once you determine which make you want, research, research, research. Learn about the different configurations and options available for that boat. This will help you determine a best-guess value for the boat. Also, find out from existing owners or owner associations the common problems associated with that particular make. Education provides the best leverage.

3. Contact repair riggers, sailmakers, etc. to see what costs are associated with each of the common problems. This will help you arrive at a reasonable figure for the initial repairs.

4. Don't mention any timeframes or how you plan to use the boat as this will indicate to the owner/broker what your options are in the present market. Of course, this entails a bit of risk since an honest broker may dissuade you from your chosen model for good reasons.

5. Don't hesitate to offer a low price for the boat. There is always room for negotiation in your price range.

6. Start looking for a reputable surveyor now if you have an idea where you will buy the boat. Finding one in the days following the acceptance of your offer will add needless stress and may result in selection of a bad surveyor. Don't be intimidated to ask them questions. As an example, we found one who claimed to have sailed around the world with thirty years experience on classic boats. When we asked him about his familiarity with the boomkin, he replied, "sure I know what it is, it's the attachment behind the gooseneck." Make your selection carefully. I can't stress that enough.

Reasons for doing your own "survey" before contract/surveyor:
You need to check some things before committing:
  • Basic suitability: draft, headroom, layout, rig, aesthetics.
  • Some idea of major work needed: delamination, cracks, blisters, paint, hardware, engine.
  • Some idea of major expenses needed: sails, dinghy, liferaft, other equipment.

Your examination can be:
  • A backup to that of the surveyor.
  • Used to establish a low starting (before survey) price.

From John Dunsmoor:
Once you make an offer, it is accepted and you submit a deposit, even if the sale is contingent on survey and sea trial it is still hard to get out of deal if you decide you just don't like the boat. You have to have a list of failures, broken items and such to submit. You really do not have the choice of breaking the deal. That will usually come from the seller.

If you have a list of twenty or so items, large cost items that the seller did not disclose, and this is important: DISCLOSURE. If the seller says the boat is full of blisters and he is not going to repair these, then you are not in a position of saying, "I am no longer interested in the boat because it has blisters".

Boat Sales Contracts:
Some people feel that all areas of boating should be informal and friendly and trust-based. But there is no escaping the fact that large boats are worth a lot of money, and boat-buying is a business transaction. So a contract is very appropriate. And any contract should be balanced somewhere between "vague and incomplete" and "contorted and Draconian".

Key things a contract should spell out:
  • What happens if the buyer doesn't like the way it sails ?
  • What happens if serious/major problems are found ?
  • What happens if small/minor problems are found ?
  • What happens if seller wants to back out ?

Use the following contracts at your own risk; I'm not a lawyer; this is not legal advice; no liability accepted.

I doubt you'll get a seller and broker to agree to use one of these contracts verbatim. But they are starting points, or vehicles to see what might be missing from someone else's proposed contract.

Example sales contract from Bernie Jakits (I fixed some line-wrapping).

Example sales contract 2. (I started with Bernie's, but made major changes.) This contract is hard to get out of for buyer or seller, tries to address many contingencies, tries to be very specific.

Two more contracts, without mention of broker: Example Sales Agreement, Example Sales Agreement Form.

From a California broker: CA Contract, Funds Authorization.

From Joe S on Cruising World message board: contract.

Of course, when I bought my boat, we didn't use any of the contracts above (do as I say, not as I do). We made up simple contract 1, then renegotiated and did simple contract 2.

USCG Bill of Sale CG-1340

How to buy a US-documented boat, that has a lien on it, in a private-party (no broker) sale,
from Russell on Cruising World message board:

(1) Determine a closing date.

(2) Go to the Coast Guard Vessel Documentation Center and download the forms and instructions for (a) exchange of documentation, (b) release of lien, and (c) Bill of Sale.

(3) Get the seller to put you in contact with the bank that holds the lien. It will be important for you to have a contact there, and that that contact understands -- from the seller -- that you are the purchaser. Find out if this bank has sent satisfaction of liens to the Coast Guard, previously. The Coast Guard isn't terribly picky about this, as long as it has adequate information, but obviously, it would be optimal if the bank will use the CG's form. Get from the bank a payoff amount for the closing date. Get wiring instructions from them. Pass these on to your bank.

(4) Prepare these two USCG forms: Application for Exchange of Documentation and Bill of Sale. You want to be familiar with these prior to closing.


(5) You give the buyer a check for the sales amount, LESS the lien payoff.

(6) You instruct your bank to wire the lien payoff to the seller's lienholder. This will cost about $10, but it is much cleaner than waiting for lienholder to receive your check in the mail, get it to their lien processing department, find out you've passed the deadline for that closing amount, figure out what to do about THAT, etc.

(7) You and the seller execute two ORIGINAL, notarized Bills of Sale, using the USCG form. They ARE picky about this. You may copy the form with most of the information on it, but the signatures and notary seals must be original on each.

(8) You get the vessel's documentation from the seller.

(9) You take possession of the vessel, pour champagne to Neptune, etc.


(10) Send the Coast Guard the two Bills of Sale and the Application for exchange of documentation, per their instructions. Before you stick this package in the mail, copy everything, in case the USPS loses it. But remember: the Coast Guard gets BOTH original Bills of Sale.

(11) Call the seller's bank every other day until they verify that they have sent the Coast Guard a release of lien. Remember me saying it was important to have a contact there?

(12) Wait until your new documentation arrives in the mail.

It worked for us. Good luck.

A private-party (no broker) sale using a marine escrow company,
from Marie on Cruising World message board:
I purchased my present boat via private party two years ago. This is what the seller and I did. Essentially it is the same as buying a boat thru a yacht broker but you don't have to deal with a salesman who primary interest is making money for himself.

I found my boat private party ad. Looked at boat twice before making an offer. Made the offer in writing, of course offered less than the asking price. I had also researched the market. As far as the paper work goes I used a standard yacht offer/purchase form, same form a broker would use. I made a deposit check out for 10% of the offer price to present with my offer. Seller thought about countering my offer, but decided to accept my offer. Therefore signing that he accepted my offer and my contingencies. The deposit check and paper work were then deposited into a marine escrow account (the same marine title companies the boat brokers use). The marine equivalent to a real estate escrow company. The marine escrow company charges a fee of course, they can tell up front what it will be. The buyer and seller can agree to who pays what. My boats seller and myself were more comfortable having a third party handle and distribute the money. As the seller still owed 20K on the boat, the marine escrow handle all the financial movements. Of course seller and buyer were sent paperwork to fill out and sign. Buyer and seller can set the date for closing the deal, usually within 30 days. Obviously you need to allow time for the sea trial, hull survey, engine survey, rigging survey and what ever other inspections and contingencies you put into your offer to buy. I'm assuming you have researched what inspections and contengencies you wish to put into an offer.

The marine escrow company will do as part of its service a search of liens against the vessel, outstanding loans, etc. As well as collecting and paying to the state any applicable sales taxes. Also if the boat is not Federally documented and you wish to get it documented this is a good time to do it. I had getting Federal documentation as one of my contingencies of my purchase.

The difference in a private party deal was the seller and myself spoke directly to each other throughout the process, as well as the marine escrow company. We eliminated the boat broker and that hassle. I'm not completely anti boat brokers but most are equivalent to used car salesmen, and don't always represent the product in an accurate light. Also no commission went to a broker, so the seller potentially keeps more money and the buyer may get a little better price. Boat brokers here in the North West charge 10% of the boats selling price for their commission.

The seller and myself both had a good experience selling and buying private party. And both of us would not hesitate to do it again.

Good luck with your pursuit, and remember to always keep a walk away attitude. If you don't get one boat, there is a better one out there for you.

A private-party (no broker) sale,
from Bruce K on Cruising World message board:
I had been visiting brokerages, looking at boats in our price range, but none of the offerings were right for us. Then I spotted an ad in CW for the boat we drooled over 25 years ago, and vowed we'd have one day. We made an appointment to see her, fell in love with her immediately, and decided we would have her. After a few discussions with the owners, who we liked personally, we made a verbal offer about 10% under the asking price, and agreed that a minimal deposit would be required to seal the deal, a mere 1% of the pruchase price, 1/2 of which would be tendered in the form of our personal check with a written offer - the other half upon completion of a favorable survey. These amounts kept settlement in the realm of small claims courts should thing go awry. Even if we couldn't recover our deposit, it would not have killed us, and was a reasonable risk. After all, it was just a little money on a boat, not my house and family.

We drew up a purchase agreement ourselves, and had an attorney friend look it over for us. I'm sure a standard agreement could be found as a guide. Basically, we just identified the boat (manufacturer, model, length, hull number, state registration number, and location), the owners' names and address, our names and address, the purchase price, and the terms of the purchase. We also incorporated the owner's sales packet which listed the equipment sold with the boat, and included photos.

The terms stipulated how the deposits would be handled (we paid them directly to the seller), set a closing and delivery date, acknowledged a lien the owner's bank had on the boat, made the deal contingent on acceptable survey and sea trial and stated what would happen if these were unacceptable, stated what would happen if the boat passed survey and sea trial but we backed out (forfeit deposits), the owner's warranty of title to the boat, who was responsible for any outstanding storage and maintenance costs and taxes, and when the responsibility for insurance would transfer from the owner to us (at closing).

We mailed two copies of the signed agreement to the owner along with 1/2 of the deposit, they signed one and returned it to us.

We then arranged for survey, sea trial, insurance, and financing. Our bank searched for liens for us, and the insurance company helped find a surveyor. We had a little trouble getting everything together by the closing date we had chosen, so we agreed by acknowledged letter with the owners on a revised closing date, and how we would actually effect the closing. We met them at the marina to take a quick inpection of the boat to make sure it was still intact. Then we went together to the owners' bank with a cashier's check made out to the owners for the balance of the purchase price. Their bank cleared the lien, they signed over the title, we took possession of the boat, notified our insurance company that the deal was closed, registered the boat, paid the sales tax, and applied for title.

Our purchase came off without any problems, and was probably more work for us than if we had gone through a broker. But I liked dealing directly with the owner. Maybe we got a little better price, maybe the owner pocketed a little more, but we were thrilled (and still are) with our purchase.

Minimum paperwork, I think:
You must do a bill of sale. "Joe X buys sailboat Y from Jim Z for $Q as of date D". Signed by both parties.

You need to transfer title. If a federally documented boat, do the federal "transfer of documentation" form and pay about $90. If it is a state-registered boat, get title from previous owner, and go to county or state tax office and transfer title (make sure you fill in new ownership on the title before you go to the office). And pay taxes.

In either case, you have to go to county or state tax office and state-register the boat. And pay taxes.

Have to do the same for the dinghy, if it has a motor. (I'm unclear if it's best to have a separate bill of sale for the dinghy.)

Do this very soon after the sale, or else the tax people will charge penalties and interest.

Questions I asked the Coast Guard Vessel Documentation Center:
> Does a successful title transfer mean that there are no liens ?

No, liens "go with the boat" regardless of who holds title or how much it is transferred; you have to get an abstract of title to guarantee that there are no liens.

> How can items of the documentation (such as
> the "hull depth" value) be corrected ?

You have to re-document; costs $84.

[Turns out that "hull depth" is not the same as "draft", so I didn't have anything to "correct".]

See One-Time Costs section of my Costs Of Buying And Cruising On A Boat page

Checking Out The Boat

Henry Mustin's "What A Pro Looks For In a Boat Survey"'s "Boat Buyer's Guide"
Sail Far Live Free's "Sailboat Inspection Tips for Prospective Buyers"
SailNet - Sue and Larry's "The Importance Of A Pre-Purchase Survey"
SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Boat Buying Tips"
SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Pre Purchase Tips"
SailNet - Don Casey's "Looking Past the Sizzle"
Chris Caswell's "Survey Says"
"Buying Right" (mostly surveying) article by Susan Canfield in issue 2002 #2 of DIY Boat Owner magazine
SailNet - Tom Wood's "Optimizing Sea Trials"
BoatSafe's "Buying Your Own 'Hole In The Water'"
David Pascoe's "The Top Twenty-Five Design Errors"
SailNet - Tom Wood's "Surveying a Diesel Engine"
David Pascoe's "It's Got Recent Overhauls!"
David Pascoe's "What Does an Overhaul Entail?"
BoatSafe's "Hull ID Numbers"
USCG's Boating Safety Circular 70 - HIN 101 (PDF) (HIN format)
USCG's "Vessel Documentation Number Query" (look up documented vessel by number)
USCG's "Vessel Documentation Name Query" (look up documented vessel by name)
Transport Canada's "Vessel Registration Query System"
USCG's "Manufacturers Identification Code (MIC) Database"
USCG's "Recalls"
David Pascoe's "How To Avoid Purchasing A Stolen Boat"
"25 Clues to Used-Boat Condition" article by Don Casey in 7/2000 issue of Sail magazine

Good books about surveying:
"What Shape Is She In ?" by Allan Vaitses. (Good about fiberglass, good diagrams.)
"Surveying Small Craft" by Ian Nicolson. (Big on materials/structure/wood.)

From Ralph Naranjo, in Cruising World's "Safety At Sea":
Boat Checklist for Offshore Sailors:
  1. Hull/deck strength and stiffness.
  2. Keel attachment and security of ballast.
  3. Rudder design and strength.
  4. Mast step load spreading.
  5. Chain plate attachment.
  6. Hull/deck joint security.
  7. Coach roof structure.
  8. Windows/ports.
  9. Hatches/companionway.
  10. Heavy item hold-downs.

From Merrill and others on Cruising World message board, plus other sources:
Some things to do and questions to ask a potential surveyor:
  • Ask the broker to recommend a few surveyors to you.
    He will naturally give you the names of his buddies.
    Immediately scratch these guys off your list and hire someone from outside the immediate area of the brokerage.

  • Are you a NAMS Certified Marine Surveyor ?

  • Do you carry "errors and omissions" insurance ?
    (Get copy of certificate of insurance)

  • Do you typically survey for buyer, seller, or insurance/bank ?

  • Check with insurance company to see if this surveyor is on their "acceptable" list.

  • What boats are you certified to survey ?

  • Do you have a lot of experience surveying this TYPE of boat ?

  • What kinds of sailing have you done ?
    An ocean passage on a similar boat ?

  • Ask for copies of some surveys he did in recent past on similar boats.
    If lots of padding (counting fire extinguishers, etc) and no meat, don't use him.

  • What will/won't be included in survey ?

  • Will check for moisture in fiberglass, rotting core ? With instruments ?
    "Vagaries of the Moisture Meter" article by Dave Gerr in 6/2001 issue of Sail magazine

  • Will do dye and magnetic testing on fittings ?

  • Will you go up the mast ?
    If he says "no", then you say "no thanks".
    (But most surveyors these days won't; they say "hire a rigger".)

Dan Steadham's "Choosing Your Surveyor"

From Joe C on Cruising World message board:
Lessons learned: Pick surveyor carefully, get recommendations from other boat owners and if you are borrowing, the money source (they definitely do not like underwriting junk). Talk to at least 2 surveyors. Run their names against the two national associations? Take a look at the Better Business Bureau to see if there are complaints? Do they know the boat/model? Do they know the broker and if so how much work have they done on boats represented by the broker? Do they have preferences on yards for haulout? What do they think their strengths and weaknesses are (the surveyor I used, was unwilling to pass judgment on rod rigging and steered clear of doing a serious engine survey)? If you know boats or have your uncertainties, point them out to the surveyor in advance, preferably in writing.

From Jeff H on Cruising World message board:
... I pick surveyors carefully. I wait for one I trust to be able to do the job. I talk to the surveyor beforehand; talking through my areas of concern and goals for the boat. I ask the surveyor beforehand what he will be examining and specifically ask what will not be examined. After the survey I try to debrief the surveyor. I typically try to be there for the survey to hand tools to the surveyor, assist in assembly and disassembly. I will take things apart that a surveyor would not. I'll take the risk of being responsible if something breaks which surveyors prefer not to. ...

From John Dunsmoor:
Blisters, they are the pox of fiberglass hulls. No one, I mean no one really knows exactly why blisters form or exactly how to stop them. One of the engineering problems is time, ten years may have to go by before the first blister appears. You will see someone using a moisture meter of some sort on a hull making a determination as to fitness and blisters. So authoritative are they. Well most of this equipment is revamped from the lumber industry and was never designed for the purpose they are being used. Number two, the presence of moisture is a poor indication of blisters. I have gone down the ranks of vessels in a boat yard with one of these moisture meters checking vessels with blisters and no blisters only to find very little correlation between moisture content and blisters.

Case in point, Ivory Star had a high moisture content, the vessel is 33 years old, does not have blisters and never has had blisters. Explain that ye old experts?
[see "Vagaries of the Moisture Meter" article by Dave Gerr in 6/2001 issue of Sail magazine]


We were on a vessel that had one million quarter-inch blisters in the gelcoat. Little pockets all showing up about eight years after the vessel was built. Not so odd, except that it was only one side of the vessel. One side had acne and the other side did not. Who knows ?

From Steve Honour on Cruising World message board:
Take pics and follow the surveyor around asking questions ...

If you suspect that the halyards are old, you may want to bring a suitable replacement and show up early. My surveyor refused to ascend the rig citing "aged halyards". He also did not try out the stove which turned out later to have a problem.

The best thing you can do is to take all the pics you feel like taking and plan to get real dirty going thru everything on the boat. You want to go thru all the lockers with a flashlight and a mirror looking for cracks and signs of water damage. You want to try out every piece of equipment on the boat and verify that it is operable. Anything you can think of to ask the surveyor you should. You have hired a professional to evaluate the boat and he is working for you. But he is only human and will proceed according to a checklist unless you bring up any other items. He will check major stuff as best as time and experience allows, but if you are there to try out other equipment, he will assist you in evaluating its condition. He may also wish to show you some things first hand which might be difficult to describe in his report.

He will have a certain amount of time allotted to do the inspection and if it takes longer, you will be billed extra. Have the owner make certain that the boat is in running condition prior to the day. A barnacle encrusted propeller cost me extra $$ because it delayed our progress to the haul out. Don't bring any guests for the survey/trial unless they are knowledgeable sailors who are there to help you dig thru everything. You don't want to have aunt Martha and the kids there to waste the surveyors time.

I asked the seller to fill the fuel tank during the survey. I wanted to see that there were no leaks and make sure the fuel was clean. Sure enough, filling the tank caused some dirt to clog the filter and we stalled on the way home. I offered to pay for the fuel.

Since the bottom was dirty, the boat had to be cleaned for the out of water inspection. The buyer must pay for the haul out, but I got the seller to pay for cleaning, reasoning that it is his boat and a properly maintained boat should be kept clean. The surveyor said that usually the buyer must pay for that.

Don't be afraid to ask questions even if they seem silly. This is your one chance to have someone knowledgeable and impartial explain things to you.

From Todd J on Cruising World message board:
I think that we probably tend to either expect too much or too little from a surveyor. We need to be realistic about what we expect from a surveyor. Having just gone through this process, I've learned a lot of things.

1) Do your own survey of the boat first. There are a couple of books and videos that are really helpful with this. I was rather proud of myself when I found some less-than-obvious deck rot on a boat I was interested in.

2) Research the hell out of the boat before the survey. Talk to other owners, etc., find out everything you can about known problems with the boat before hand. ...

3) Consider having a rigger and a diesel mechanic come in and do "mini" surveys, before having the full scale survey done.

4) Talk to the surveyor at length before the survey. Find out exactly what he will and will not do (go up the mast, survey the engine, etc). Also, list any issues that you want specifically concentrated on (based on your previous research, and your needs). Find out just how much the surveyor will let you participate in the actual survey (insist on this!).

5) Be there for the survey! Participate as much as you can. Take your own notes.

From Clyde Sisler article: "Save surveyor time/money by prepping boat (i.e.: spread sails, empty lockers, all electronics, gear and equipment)."

From Dan Goldberg on Cruising World message board:
Remember that your surveyor is just a person with an experienced opinion. He or she can be wrong, and often view things from a different perspective than you (what the surveyor views as "very important" (lack of marpol sign, or not-to-code installation of some piece of equipment) may not be that big of a deal to you). Not that these things should be disregarded, but in the context of whether to buy or not to buy, surveyors don't always focus on the right questions. In some instances, it may behoove you to ask a trusted yard manager for an estimate on cost and feasibility to repair/replace/upgrade an item. In the end, it is this estimate that will be most important to you.

From Christopher Gordon:
I've used many different surveyors over the years and found that they could have a real hit or miss quality. The worst were "drive-by" surveyors who spent an hour on site. ... I found a sailboat-specific surveyor who has made numerous trans-Atlantic crossings (in sailboats) and who does sailboat deliveries to Bermuda in his off-time. I made it clear to him from the start that my expectation was a full day's work from masthead to keel.


In order for the ship to pass the sea trial, it had to meet the design expectations given its sail area and not just be able to remain afloat.

In other words, given the displacement, LWL, draft, beam, hull and keel shape, mast height, rigging, plus the sail area (including the cut of the sail) it's easy to calculate the performance window (speed, angle of heel, turning speed, tacking ability, etc.) for the ship. This performance data should also be easily available from the designer or manufacturer.

So, if during the sea trial, she handles contrary to the designed performance level given the wind and weather there is either some mechanical flaw (ie rigging or steering problems), the helmsman is inexperienced, or the ship is a dud.

If the surveyor had determined that the issue was not mechanical or human related, the sea trial would not have passed. If it had determined that there was a mechanical issue, then I could have negotiated the price accordingly.

That's why I feel it is so important to spend the money on a quality surveyor with relevant experience.

From Jim Edwards:
... it is a good idea to have a couple of check points during the survey that you can stop short and not pay the whole amount but an hourly rate instead. (After the first hour / quick look for major problems, and after the boat is hauled, preferably early in the survey).

My experience:
The written survey I received is not very interesting. The surveyor's comments to me as he did his job were good; I took lots of notes. None of that good stuff was in the written report. Even most of the faults found were not written up in the report; the surveyor said "that would make the report 5x longer, more expensive, and kill the deal or hurt chances of getting insurance".

After owning the boat for six months:
The survey didn't find or predict the problems I've encountered so far: engine heat exchanger broke, dinghy outboard motor carburetor clogs often, cracked chainplate, halyards needed replacement, air conditioner clogged after a couple of months and needs new evaporator (expensive), several deck leaks, pressure water system often gets air-locked, some wires have crumbling insulation, davits broke (from bad installation and/or water leaking into dinghy keel). Survey didn't even point out mizzen running backstay that was tied off fairly far forward, with no clear attachment points aft.

Some important (and expensive) parts attached to the engine seem to be "consumables" (they wear out after 3 or 5 years). Check the age and condition of: the heat exchanger, the exhaust manifold, the exhaust riser and elbow.

I think I would not pay for a surveyor next time (except if I planned to get insurance, I guess). Don't think I got my money's worth from the survey. I'd probably snorkel under the hull to inspect it, and do the rest of the inspection myself too.

See my Survey Checklist page (MS Excel 97 version prints better) for things to check during:
One key question:
How/where has the boat been used in general and in recent past ?

If ocean passaging right up to present, probably is well-maintained and fitted.

If was used for day-sailing and has been sitting idle at broker's for 6 months, probably is not well-maintained and fitted.

If the boat has been unused for a long time:
  • Batteries may be sulphated; replace.
  • Engine: replace impeller, hoses, oil, filters. Check coolant. Replace fuel, maybe get tank cleaned. Squirt oil into cylinders through injector ports, turn crankshaft by hand to make sure it turns. Then re-attach injectors and attempt to start engine.

From Gary Elder:
Here are some of the tactics/strategies I have used when looking to buy a larger than 40' cruising boat. These are my opinions, I'm sure there are others.

I would NOT reject a boat simply because the following items are inoperative, inadequate, or missing. Except as noted, I might not even mention the individual items, but group them together as a total value issue. They represent a small percentage of the total value, and may have little influence on the seller.

PUMPS: bilge, galley, head, washdown, refrigeration, air conditioner, engine cooling, etc. On any boat, any of these may quit within six months. I would simply change all the impellers when I take possession and carry spares.

CABIN CUSHIONS: Color and condition are not important at this time. You may wish to change the cushions to a firmness that better suits you. Also, if the covers are worn you can have new ones made in whatever colors and fabric type you want.

ELECTRONICS: Many older boats have outdated electronics on board, and those newer gadgets that some sellers install to sell their boats add little value and may not suit your "style". Either way, you may want to replace them shortly after you take possession.

AUTOPILOT: On a boat this size, a good below-deck autopilot can be a blessing. Many of the older ones work very well, even if their reference is an old magnetic compass. I would check to see if the manufacturer or an aftermarket company can overhaul it. On a brokerage boat, it may be difficult to demonstrate the autopilot. Each one is different, and the broker may not know how to operate it.

BATTERIES/CHARGING SYSTEMS: Any older boat may have a 12 volt system that is badly outdated or in poor condition, and replacing house batteries and charging devices can put a dent in the cruising kitty. You or your surveyor should check them, and if they are bad it should be noted. One possible downside is that on a boat that is little used, batteries that check good at the dock may quickly "go bad" once you shake them up with a few days of sailing. Also, you may wish to upgrade the 12 volt system to suit your needs.

GROUND TACKLE: The chances are good that what is aboard is worn out, inadequate, or both. I would pay little attention to it. The boat selling price probably reflects the ground tackle condition. You can upgrade it before you make the big jump.

ANCHOR WINDLASS: Some people believe that a good electric windlass is worth it's weight in gold. If the boat has an older one, find out if parts are available. If the boat doesn't have one, I would plan to buy one.

DECK HARDWARE: Most deck hardware is nickel and dime stuff, but sheet winches are not. If THE boat has inadequate winches, I would not reject it, but I would plan to buy better ones.

STANDING RIGGING: Definitely a survey item. This is worth a good look, but bad standing rigging can sometimes be used as a negotiating tool. After I own the boat, I would not sail it with obviously cracked swages. During the demo sail it's the owner's and captain's responsibility. I love to buy boats with bad standing rigging because it's sometimes possible to make a great deal, and after I install new rigging, I know exactly what I've got.

RUNNING RIGGING: I use a similar approach to standing rigging, I would never let the presence of worn out sheets and halyards stop me from buying THE boat. I would replace all of it with New England Rope's STA-SET and be done with it, forget that Spectra stuff on a cruising boat.

HULL BLISTERS: Definitely a survey item. I would not necessarily reject a boat just because it has blisters. I would not necessarily "repair" them either. There are many approaches to dealing with blisters, some of them seem to be aimed at lining the pockets of boatyards and chemical manufacturers, others are little more than a cosmetic "band-aid" that is temporary at best.

I WOULD reject a boat simply because the following items are outside my parameters.

KEEL TYPE: I would reject any fin keel, all wing keels, and all spade rudders. Skeg rudders are marginally ok. Fin keels have a bad habit of getting wrapped up in their own anchor rodes, wing keels can be difficult to get un-stuck from the bottom, and spade rudders are very vulnerable to damage during groundings. You are planning to run aground aren't you?

DRAFT: This one is difficult. For SW Florida, the Keys, and Bahamas I like 4.5' max. Other people are successful with five feet or more, it just depends on your style and where you want to go.

MAST HEIGHT: I would never accept a height greater than 65'. With my present boat I can squeak under a 56' (55' MHW) bridge if the water is 5' deep, but if the mast were one foot shorter, I would breath a little bit easier.

ENGINE: For me, the engine must be no smaller than the standard engine that the boat was built with, and sometimes that is marginal, one size larger is preferred for cruising. Cruisers do a lot of motoring, sometimes in bad conditions where some extra horsepower can save your bacon.

LWL: The longer the lwl, the further you can travel in a given time, period.

RIG TYPE: My favorite is the ketch, very versatile and very easy to sail. Also, [the mast of] this rig is shorter than a sloop/cutter.

LAYOUT: This is very important. If you are going to live there, it needs to be as close to how you want it as possible, or at least acceptable.

If you ask your surveyor to note any items that you think are important, such as bad standing rigging, you may be able to use it as a negotiating tool to either have the item corrected, or to get the price reduced. However, if the seller refuses to do that, you may be stuck with the repair because your insurance company will probably require that all survey items be corrected before coverage begins. If the surveyor doesn't note an item, the seller may be even less motivated to correct the problem or reduce the price, and if the insurance carrier doesn't know about it you can do the repair at your convenience. That sounds a little like a rock and a hard place.

Also, if you have the boat surveyed before you talk to your insurance provider, you may pay for two surveys and two haulouts because many insurance carriers require that you choose a surveyor from their "approved list". I can vouch for the fact that "approved lists" don't necessarily guarantee a good surveyor.


I would NOT reject a boat that has a badly corroded mast step. I would simply replace it. I would NOT reject a boat that has a badly rusted steel plate under the mast step. I would simply replace it. I WOULD reject a boat that shows serious corrosion on the base of the mast. If you can see serious corrosion on the outside of the base of the mast, the chances are good that the inside of the mast is corroded even worse ... Not a good situation unless you want to replace the mast.

My basic approach:
Sort things into 3 categories (some are in multiple categories):
  • High-value: Hull, engine, sails, spars, dinghy, liferaft, inverter/charger, HF radio, windvane, anchor windlass.

  • Hard to change/fix later: Hull, engine, spars, stove fuel, windvane, plumbing/tanks. Layout of cockpit and interior. Access to engine.

  • Want old and needing replacement (so you can choose your own and get the latest): all electronics, dinghy, liferaft.

All items can be used to adjust price down.
Categories help to decide if you want this boat.

  • Get titles and bill of sale for boat and dinghy.

  • If boat is foreign-owned or foreign-manufactured, make sure you are not going to have to pay import duty to import it into the USA. An advertisement that says "not for sale in the USA" may indicate that you will have to pay import duty.

After Buying

From Night Swimming on Cruising World message board:
Just hooked up with a girl and a boat.

Don't know what the heck to do with the first, but I'm pretty excited about the second.

To ask previous owner:
  • How stale is the fuel; does it need to be polished ?

  • What kinds of paints/varnishes/oils have been used (everywhere, but especially on fiberglass on bottom and topside) ?

  • Any special maintenance things to do or problems to watch out for ?

  • Any pieces of equipment previous owner is unhappy with ?

  • Any special "tricks" to know ?

  • Best local mechanics and riggers for the boat ?
  • Best local boatyards ?

To do:
See "What to do after getting boat" chapter in "Cruising in a Nutshell" by Tony Gibbs.

See "Refitting / Fixup / Spares" section of One-Time Costs section of my Costs Of Buying And Cruising On A Boat page.

Don't throw away weird tools/spares/materials that you don't understand. You may realize two years later that the item was something obscure but essential.

  1. Do absolutely immediate stuff:
    • Title/registration.
    • Insurance.
    • Security (locks for dinghy, outboard, liferaft; alarm system).
    • Basic safety items (PFDs, fume alarms, propane leak test, fire extinguishers, etc).
    • Basic keep-afloat items (check through-hulls, hoses, bilge pumps, etc).
    • Basic required and operational items (VHF radio, anchors, dinghy, charts).
    • Find nearest hurricane hole.

  2. Organize the to-do list.
    Paraphrased from "This Old Boat" by Don Casey:
    When buying / refitting / repairing, organize by layers from most important to least:
    1. Structure: hull, deck, hatches, ports, bulkheads, rigging, sails, engine.
    2. Features: furniture, appliances, lights, cleats, winches, handrails, electronics, cushions.
    3. Finish: paint, varnish, laminate, fabric.
    Then make a 2-D table with layers on one axis and priorities (1-2-3) on other axis, and assign each work-item into a box in the table. Highlight safety-related items. The distribution of items may be revealing.

  3. Documentation:

    • Photograph or videotape everything.

    • Engrave your driver's license state and number on valuable equipment.

    • Record part numbers for all bulbs, filters, belts.

    • Get a service manual and/or schematic for every major piece of equipment.
      Even if you can't use them, they may be very useful to the repairman/mechanic you hire in a remote place.

    • Trace all wiring and make a master wiring diagram. Trace AC wiring from shore power and inverter to each outlet, checking for proper color and connections. See Electrical section of my Boat Electrical page.

    • Trace all plumbing and make a master plumbing diagram.

    • Find all through-hulls (including sensors installed through the hull), make a map of them, and put map in emergency drawer.

    • Find all zincs and make a master list of them. See list of possible locations in Electrical Corrosion section of my Boat Electrical page.

    • Find all seawater filters/strainers and make a master list of them. See list of possible locations in Plumbing section of my Boat Equipment page.

    • Find all fuel, oil and air filters and make a master list of them. See lists of possible locations in my Boat Engine Maintenance page.

    • Check and note direction of impeller vanes in engine raw-water pump.

    • Measure all sails (including locations of all hardware on them) and make a master list of them.

    • Measure all rigging and make a master rigging diagram.

  4. Paperwork:

    • Rename boat ?
      Do before redocumenting.
      Pick a name that will be easy to understand on the radio, not cutesy or risque, something you won't get tired of after a week.
      Make the lettering big and plain and very visible.
      Use vinyl (maybe "high-performance" 2-mil) instead of paint.

    • Re-register the EPIRB, DSC, etc.

    • Transfer or obtain radio licenses.

    • Notify manufacturers of boat and major equipment (engine, liferaft, inverter, appliances, etc) of change of ownership, so you get notified of any recalls/updates.

    • Join owners association and mailing list.

  5. Fixes:

    • Check/install fume alarms (see Safety Equipment section of my Boat Equipment page).

    • Change all the engine and transmission fluids, change all the engine hoses, change all the belts, service all the thru hulls, check every single hose for condition and change if at all suspicious.

    • Examine at least the bilge (and maybe entire inside of hull) for any unsealed holes/voids in the inside of the hull; dry and seal them.

    • Take everything apart and put it back together again, to learn it and service it.

    • Calibrate instruments to see if they are accurate: depth-meter, engine hour meter, knot-meter, oil temperature, compass deviation tables (one with engine running, one with engine off), etc.

    • Get a USCG Vessel Safety Check. Vessel Safety Check Web Site

    • Even though something seems to be working, it may not be right. 18 months after I bought my boat, a bilge-pump hose siphoned water in and almost sank it. Turned out the hose was missing a vented loop, and probably had been for years. I noticed that at some point but ignored it because it seemed to be working fine. Wrong.

  6. Practice / Learning:

    • Go through engine compartment and fit a wrench/screwdriver to every nut/bolt, to make sure you have appropriate tools. Don't use any adjustable wrenches.

    • Look at every item and think "What would I do if this broke ? Could I fix it or use a backup ? Would I still be able to sail ?"

    • Look at every hatch and port on deck and think "What would I do if this broke in a storm ?"

    • Read all owner's manuals, service manuals, previous owner's records and logs.

    • Survey your boat for fire potential: sources of heat near sources of fuel.

    • Look at every potential fire source (batteries, stove, heater, tanks, etc) and think "What would I do if this caught fire and I was below/above deck and forward/aft ? How could I fight it or escape ?"

    • Pretend water is rising in the cabin. Practice quickly checking all through-hulls (including sensors installed through the hull) and head and sink.

    • Look around and think "What would happen if the boat went through a complete capsize ? What would break, fly around, etc ?"

    • With clean bottom and propeller, determine boat motoring speed at 500 RPM increments, and record in a table (useful for ded-reckoning later).

    • Practice: docking, anchoring, mooring, all points of sail, reefing, MOB maneuvers.

    • Test/drill getting back on board after going overboard.
      Simplest aid: rope hanging from stern cleat, with foot-loops in it.
      Try it tethered with harness, and untethered.
      Try it when boat is at rest, and in motion.
      Practice bringing up another person, or recovering a buoy attached to a bucket.

    • Practice living for a day without electricity and engine.

    • Do a stowage survey (find every space in boat), and look for ways to increase stowage space/utility.

From John Dunsmoor:

I would suggest that you use the vessel for about a month, maybe three, then you will go to the yard with a legal yellow pad of around ten thousand items to look at, repair, add, remove, replace and there will be at least another ten pages of stuff you never thought of once you are in the yard. Just accept it. Don't get mad, don't get depressed, just accept it. There will be items that you want to do, make this list real small. There will be changes you wish to make, resist.

It amazing how many times I have seen a new boat owner change something in the first yard visit, only to have to change it back a year later because they finally figured out why the previous owner did it that way in the first place.

HERE is a wood carving platitude: "Don't lose perspective, the goal is not to have the perfect boat, the goal is to go sailing. There is life after the boat yard."


I would suggest that you plan to sit at the dock for a month, doing day sails and such. Make your list, get your supplies and go to the yard ready to tackle the mission like a surgical strike. Get your list complete in as little time as possible, engage all the help you can get, set a goal, three weeks 24/7 and then get the HELL out of the yard. Do not be deterred, do not be distracted, GET OUT.

Go sailing, for at least six months. The fact is that this will be your chance to realize the dream. This has been festering for years, maybe decades, this is the big opportunity to set the tone for the rest of your cruising life. It is this six months that is either going to cement the dream or taint it.

Plan on going to back to shore, boat yards, and repair experts after the six to eight months of sailing. In this way you will be able to put off, out of your mind these pesky items that you know you are going to have to do something about, but they are not dangerous or threatening enough to stop and do right now.

Not that you will not be doing little jobs all the time, maybe some will not be so little. But the perfectionism in all of us has a tendency to keep us in the bilge instead of enjoying the best darn sunset we have ever seen. Perspective, perspective.

This second yard trip will be more important than the first. You will know you boat by now. You will understand the weak points and failures and strengths, she will become special. She will become "she".


From Michael Cannon on the SailNet liveaboard-list:
A word to the wise. I thought I would have my boat ready for liveaboard status after I bought her, in a matter of a couple of months. 14 months and many thousands of dollars later I am about to have her ready. Count on work taking 3-4 times as much time as planned and that you will need experts working with you, even if you plan to do much of the work yourself. I am handy and mechanically inclined but busy and there are plenty of jobs on the boat that I am not now qualified for and won't be until I take a diesel course ... business keeps me more than occupied so I have to count on professional help. My boat passed hull and mechanical survey with flying colors but when I began working on her it just snowballed in to a gigantic rebuild project that I am thankfully almost finished with ... At this point I have spent more on my '89 hull than I would have paid for a new one ... it makes it a tough question, whether to buy new and work to pay for it, or buy old and pay for repairs and upgrades ... but she sure is a beauty now ! ... if I ever get another boat, which I doubt, I will probably go the new route, or at least newer used boat.

  • Pick something short and easy to say on the radio.

  • Pick something other people can pronounce and spell correctly.

  • Cute puns or jokes may get tiresome quickly.

  • Keep it short (easy to say, fits on stern, etc).

  • Naming after your mother is better than naming after your wife; you may change wives but you won't change mothers.

Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is my boat worth ? How much should I pay for boat X ?
There are "blue books" such as and NADA's used boat values (see Chris Caswell's "Best Bet Blue Books").

But the big-boat market is so fragmented/small/random that looking at listings for comparable boats is a better gauge of current prices.

But, but: apparently identical boats (same model, same year) may have different configurations, various modifications over the years, different equipment, different condition, and be in quite different locations. And listings give asking prices, which are subject to owner's delusions or desperation.

A boat is worth what you can sell it for, or what you're willing to pay for it.

While you're waiting for the price to drop, or one particular perfect boat to become available, you're not sailing.

How can I avoid paying sales/property/use tax on my boat ?
You can't. Governments do everything they can to make sure you can't escape taxes. Some USA states don't have sales tax, but do have an equivalent "use" or property tax. If you buy a boat in a no-tax state and then use it in a taxing state, that state will want you to pay "use" tax. Some USA states require marinas to report your presence. Marine patrol and harbormasters may ask to see tax stickers. Brokers may be required to collect sales tax at time of sale. USA federally documenting your boat doesn't make it immune from taxes.

You may be able to avoid USA taxes by taking the boat out of the country and staying out, but some other countries (Canada, EU) have even worse taxes.

You should be able to avoid double-taxation in the USA; paying tax to one state means you won't have to pay it to another state too.