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March 25, 2013 5:43 AM   Subscribe

A friend and I are looking into buying a boat and living on it whilst sailing around Europe next year, I understand that there are going to be a lot of challenges, but the first one: is it financially viable.

I imagine we'll have around £5,000 in savings altogether at the start of the trip, and we'd like to get a sailing yacht somewhere in the 24 foot - 30 foot range. The plan is to sail to the Mediterranean, not worry about jobs, live a hand to mouth existence, and have a bit of adventure. I understand it won't be utopic, but for now I'd like to focus on the practical issues surrounding buying it.

We are not averse to doing hard work ourselves, or living in a fair amount of squalor or discomfort. We also should have a place where we can store and work on the boat for free / minimal charge in the UK before we embark on the journey. Although we have experience of sailing inland, neither of us has done much on the sea.

I guess the question boils down to 4 parts:
  • Is a 24 foot sailer going to be suitable for living on for a whole year (for two early 20's males)?
  • What things are worth looking out for when buying one?
  • Is it best to buy in the UK where we're based, or in the Med, where we'd like to get to eventually
  • Is our budget realistic?
Any advice or anecdotes appreciated, thanks in advance!
posted by Ned G to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I would say that £5,000 for a boat and expenses for two people for a year is woefully low.

Looking at boats currently for sale, only a fraction would be in your price range to start with, many are ones that need a little TLC and even if you were to invest in the time and effort it would take to make them seaworthy, you'd have little to no budget to actually live on.

If you are going to do this, you're going to need to figure out how to work enough to keep food on the table and you should have some savings to cover repair and upkeep of the boat, especially if you're inexperienced at sea. The last thing you'd want to be is stranded somewhere without any resources to get you home.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 5:56 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


My friend has a 33 ft sailboat. A boat that size would be large enough, in my opinion, for two friends to live on for a year. But a 24 ft boat would be way too small, for me anyway. I would work toward a boat closer to the 30 ft range, but that will cost you more up front. Boats are super expensive to maintain. Just keep that in mind. My friend likes to joke that the smallest unit of currency in the boat world is $500.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 6:04 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you are a longtime boat owner, you know that owning a boat is a costly affair.

http://www.yachtsurvey.com/boatbuying.htm

And many other good pieces of advice (he deals with motor yachts, but there is a ton of just basic boating info there)

http://www.yachtsurvey.com/articleslist.htm

Sailing down the Atlantic without significant previous experience sounds outright dangerous, plus the whole South of Europe is bankrupt - surely there must be lost of good deals to be had. Of course, that also means a lot of competition for any kind of payed labor.

Just in case in helps, you can compare prices on the other side of the Channel here:

http://www.botentekoop.nl/rubriek/zeiljachten.html
posted by magullo at 6:07 AM on March 25, 2013


I wish you the best as you plan your adventure but a bit more time and more money will be very useful..You are sadly/woefully/pitiably underfunded--probably cramped and the phrase "living in a fair amount of squalor or discomfort" does not bode well for either you or the boat. take some time, save some more money and get some experience sailing in the open water. I can assure you that stranded boaters are not particularly welcome in any country, especially one in which you are just visiting. Don't give up just prepare more thoroughly.
posted by rmhsinc at 6:21 AM on March 25, 2013


I would look into finding a job working on someone else's yacht instead. My friend does this and she has gotten to see a lot of the world, albeit while making very little money and working hard. Maybe use your money to take a sea sailing course (if such a thing exists), then look for jobs together.
posted by chaiminda at 6:29 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is the £5000 of savings for living expenses or does that includethe boat cost itself?

I'm inthe process of importing a boat (albeit quite a different type to what you have in mind) and am paying very very close attention to the exchange rate.
I don't know about sailing boats, but I'm buying a dutch barge from the netherlands andthey are considerably cheaper there due to the abundant supply. I imaging the same is true of boats suitable for mediterranean sailing.

Although I'm surprised to learn that it looks like there are many reasonable looking 7 Metre Sailing Boats available for around £2500 and I'm not seeing a big price differential in UK or non UK. (I didn't check very thoroughly).

I would say buy the boat, spend a while learning it and making sure it is up to scratch and then save up some more cash and go for it. It sounds like an amazing adventure, but £5000 may not be enough for boat + expenses + emergency cash.
Don't forget that you might need some "getting back in the world" money for when you come back from your adventure.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 6:36 AM on March 25, 2013


Having traveled long in remote places for discovery, I will suggest 2 things:

Budget: establish a travel blog prior to, and religiously record your travels (daily) on the blog - with pictures. Your exposure will likely get picked up and you will generate cash from advertising dollars on your blog. Not great amounts - but to support you above squalor conditions. You may also be approached by product endorsements. This is not uncommon.

Leadership: one of you must be the leader. He can consult with the other, but he has final say. This helps tremendously as the trip begins to present difficult passage and choices (while at sea or on land). No journey of 2 or more should ever be without a captain.
posted by Kruger5 at 6:41 AM on March 25, 2013


Hey there, to clarify:

Is the £5000 of savings for living expenses or does that includethe boat cost itself?

The £5000 would ideally cover buying the boat and any upkeep / repairs that the boat needs for a year. Living expenses would be separate.

Also, we are very aware of the dangers of being out on the sea, and would have some training and a lot of practice outings with the boat before setting off.
posted by Ned G at 6:54 AM on March 25, 2013


Could you spend 6 months working, maybe in a boat or sailing related job, and save some money then spend six months on your boat?

There is a saying that "boats are a hole in the water you throw money into." I thing the amount of money you have is crazily low as there are going to be a lot of things that crop of over the course of a year that are hard to account for. The boat will break, one of you may get sick, you'll need to pay in some places to dock or moor the boat, etc.

You also want to make sure that you have enough money not just to buy a boat but to buy a boat which is in good repair.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 6:56 AM on March 25, 2013


There are oodles and oodles of threads dealing with this over on Sailnet.com
posted by undercoverhuwaaah at 7:09 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not an uncontroversial topic in boating circles.

Cruisers forum is an excellent and active place about sailing and the details of living on the water. The most agreed answer to "how much does cruising cost" is "as much as you've got".

Can two guys that are *handy* and resourceful get away with sailing on a pittance, no certainly not, well except for the guys that are doing it. Sailing, having a great time, staying under the radar.

Can you find a free place to store and work on a boat? Not at ritzy marinas. Get down on the waterfront, does it look nice? Keep going, does it look a bit scary/rundown, getting closer. Don't dress up. Talk to the old guys. Bring cheep beer.

The international rule on anchoring is essentially anywhere that's not a shipping channel is available for anchoring, and except for a few ritzy towns free. (safe is another issue but figgure that out).

Go for it!!!
posted by sammyo at 8:09 AM on March 25, 2013


One winter, three friends and I resolved to meet in south Florida, find a derelict sailboat, fix it up, and sail off into the Caribbean. Hold Fast is a "video zine" about our trip: both the story of being broke while repairing a completely wrecked boat in Ft. Lauderdale, as well as the story of what we learned about sailing as we inched across the ocean towards Haiti.
Those folks did it for much less than £5,000.00. The linked video of their adventure is worth watching.
posted by notyou at 10:11 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


1. is 24 ft sufficient ... well yes and no, depends on the boat.

I was going to suggest a used contessa 26, which is a slow, very forgiving, very safe, very repairable sailboat that has been sailed around the world, but it appears to be ridiculously expensive in the uk. Its sort of overkill safety wise, but if you don't know what you're doing is actually perfect.

2.
Get a surveyor to check out your hull and rig.
Make sure the engine works and is repairable in the countries you want to go to. Some manufacturers don't have parts in certain areas etc.

3.
Pick the most economically depressed area you can reasonably buy in. Boats are a luxury item and the first to be sold and lose value.

4. Not really. It depends. Do you have general repair skills?
posted by captaincrouton at 11:01 AM on March 25, 2013


Here are some cost comparisons.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:20 AM on March 25, 2013


If you are handy and take your time choosing a boat that could work. And by handy I mean can break down and rebuild small engines, water makers etc. do basic wiring and fiberglass repair and own and know how to operate various power tools. You could spend a grand on the tools you're going to need alone if you don't already have some of them and they don't come with the boat. If you're young and fairly handy you can often make money by helping retiree cruisers do boat repairs (climb the mast? $25!) so something to consider.

One other thing about sailing in the Med that might confound someone coming from the British Isles is the frequent lack of wind. If you're there year round there will be months with little wind and there are definitely not too many sail on- sail off anchorages. Consider how much motoring you'll be doing and figure fuel prices in. Also mooring prices for places you might want to hang out, I doubt there are many free ones these days.
posted by fshgrl at 12:25 PM on March 25, 2013


Thanks for the answers everyone, I've been pretty immersed in the links you've given me over the last few days and I've got a rough idea of what's what now. Also, thanks for the film notyou, I watched it last night, and didn't get much sleep because I was so excited!
posted by Ned G at 4:12 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


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