3 hour cruise?
May 1, 2009 7:02 PM   Subscribe

Sailboat fever?

It's getting warm out, and I live at the eastern US coast. I'm married with 2 kids. How much does an under 30ft sailboat really cost to own and maintain versus how much pleasure I would get out of it?
posted by toastchee to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Depends on much too much to give a single answer as asked (for one thing, for all we know you hate sailing!) but consider that people are apparently abandoning small boats in inlets all over the US because they are upside-down on their loans and can't afford the docking and maintenance.

If you live near a SailTime location you might look into membership or fractional ownership.
posted by nicwolff at 7:40 PM on May 1, 2009

I'm decidedly lower middle-class and have recently gotten into sailing. There are a variety of sailing organizations that you can join that maintain boats that you can take out. Since many (most?) aren't for profit, and you don't have exclusive use of any of the boats, the price to join is lower. Also you can take classes. Two examples near me. Here's a list of available boats at Courageous Sailing (it costs several hundred $ to a few thousand $ per year to join, depending on when you want to go, and how big the boats you want are). I can't afford that, so I joined CBI which is $240 per year.

I'm a bit of a newbe myself, so that's probably the most help I can offer. Other people may be able to help more if you gave more information about your past experience sailing.
posted by Humanzee at 7:53 PM on May 1, 2009

The most practical sailing fun I've had was when my brother had a little catamaran he kept in a garage near the water. We would tow it over, plop it in by hand, and do some radical intense speedy sailing.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:10 PM on May 1, 2009

Best answer: My fiance has a 30 foot sailboat and I've shared the last two summers with him (and it) so I speak from that experience.

Owning and maintaining a boat is a different thing entirely than just being involved in sailing. I don't know where it is that you live on the eastern coast, but where we live you have to factor in where you will moor your boat, where you will store your boat when it is not in the water, how you will get yourself to and from where your boat is moored, and how much time and money you will spend on yearly maintenance. You have to take care of the boat itself, you have to take care of the sails, and you will likely have to maintain a dinghy as well. I would guess that fiance has spent $5k-$7k each of the last two years on boat storage and maintenance, and he is very aggressive about how much time he uses the boat - for instance, his boat is going in the water next week and he usually leaves it in the water until November, where many others only use their boats from June-August.

Fiance races his boat weekly as part of a local sailing league, and his three crew members do not have any ownership in the boat but certainly get to enjoy a lot of the perks of sailing. They are on the boat weekly and often other times during the week. We generally take the boat out every weekend of the summer, and friends are always invited - maybe you could join such an organization near you and figure out if you want to take on ownership?

You say you have two kids....I have to say, fiance and I already have some difficulty balancing how much time he likes to spend on the boat in the summer vs. how much time I'd like for us to be doing other stuff (hiking, canoeing, etc.) I would imagine if you have kids that unless your wife is ok with you taking them out all the time or unless she gives you a lot of free time away from her and them, you might not have a LOT of time to spend on the boat, and boat ownership sort of requires that. Just a consideration.

FWIW, fiance's boat is a 1978 30 foot Pearson, and I think he purchased it for about $10k.
posted by DuckGirl at 10:13 PM on May 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

They don't call boats holes to pour money into for nothing.

This is my advice: consider camp cruising a small boat.

For the following reasons:
1) You can trailer a small boat anywhere you like. Maine for 2 weeks in the summer? Done. Great Lakes? Quebec? No problem.
2) Most people never stay overnight on their sailboat anyway.
3) Small boats are pretty darn cheap. Big boats are insanely expensive. Both to buy and upkeep. Although you might get a big boat for free these days. Why? Because they are expensive. People don't want them. Bad sign.
4) Camp cruising a small boat allows you to go to places you couldn't or wouldn't go in a bigger boat. You don't generally sleep on board, although you can. You are basically backpacking with a boat. There are many islands in Maine where you can camp for the night. It's seriously awesome, a very beautiful way to travel.

This is coming from someone whose childhood dream was to own a big cruising boat. I took one camp cruising adventure with a group two years ago and would really love to do it again. You can do it with pretty much any boat but there are a lot of seaworthy small boats. It would demand that you figure out how to sail safely and effectively but you need to know how to do that anyway.

Good luck!
posted by sully75 at 7:06 AM on May 2, 2009

A couple of the other answers assumed that you're looking at a cruising boat, which you may be, but your question asks about <3>Windrider 16, which was an absolute blast. About as fast as a Hobie Cat, but a little easier to sail and un-flippable. I sailed solo around the huge lake my parents had a cabin on (12 miles by 8 miles) and it was really a fantastic experience for me. Might be a little small for the whole family, but its great for 2-3 people. If you *really* wanted to have a good time, I'd get a windrider Rave, a trimaran with hydrofoils. I haven't sailed one myself, but it looks like the absolute most fun you can have in a boat with your clothes on.

If you did want something bigger, I like sully75's suggestion of a pocket cruiser. A lot of the maintenance expenses of keeping a larger boat is tied to (1) storing it and (2) dealing with the wear and tear that comes with keeping it in the water. A pocket sailboat solves both of these. Then, if you absolutely love love love it and want to spend weeks on the water, you can upgrade later on.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:34 AM on May 2, 2009

My family started sailing when I was eight years old. My mom and I spent those early trips in absolute terror, convinced that the heeling over of the boat was leading to a watery grave. We rejoiced if the wind died down, so we'd have to motor back. We got over that and learned to enjoy the ride. Twenty-two years later, Dad owns a C&C 35 - I think it's a 1981. He often races with crew who don't have their own boats, so don't let your lack of a boat keep you from sailing and learning about boats.

So, some essential questions before buying. Do you know how to operate and do regular maintenance on a sailboat? The answer to that should be a resounding "Yes!" before you proceed. If not, you need to learn those things.

If you're in the eastern US, I'd hazard a guess and say there's lots of boats for sale in your area, so choose wisely. As Duckgirl said above, you also need somewhere to moor your boat - my folks moor theirs at a yacht club about a seven minute drive from their house. It has membership fees, docking fees, security fees, travel lift fees (to take the boat out the water for the winter), electricity fees, and a variety of other things. At our club (eastern Canada) it's about three grand a year. This does NOT include maintenance of the boat. Check out this thread on another board.

DuckGirl is correct - it is very time-consuming, so make sure it is worth your time for you and your family. I've known a few boat wives that despised "the other woman," but I know lots more who are avid sailors. My own mom likes the social aspect, doesn't race, and makes kickass snacks on the boat.

If you can afford this, go for it. It's a lot of fun and can take you to all sorts of neat places.
posted by futureisunwritten at 8:55 AM on May 2, 2009

I think a lot of people responding might sound like they are trying to scare you off, but it is all good information. Owning a boat can be expensive, depending on many factors.. but don't get discouraged!

I was crazy enough to buy an old 36' wooden sailboat a few years ago (crazy, because I knew ahead of time that it was generally a bad idea) and I'm not broke yet.

First piece of advice? DO NOT buy a wooden sailboat. The maintenance will kill you, but I figure none of us will get out of this world alive, and I'm just in love with the old classic woodens. That being said, the general maintenance gets done on weekends (half days, usually) over a month or two in the spring.. don't let the "month or two" scare you, it really isn't too much time total, and if you stay away from wood, the required maintenance goes way down. I have no idea what I'm doing most of the time, but i just read the instructions on the back of the varnish can and ask a lot of questions on the sailnet.com forums (which is an excellent resource - they have a forum for boat buying advice, I suggest you pose some questions there).

Storage for me is $2300 and that includes launch, mast stepping, etc (on a ketch, no less, so two masts). If I didn't rent an apartment in town, I would just have the boat trucked to my yard every year, which would bring the storage down to $800 (trucking costs, high estimate).

The boat yard is A-OK with owners doing their own work at the yard while the boat is on the hard, and they provide free power to do so. I am amazed at the amount of time friends have been willing to pitch in to help out.

If you can get a mooring permit, they are really cheap, ~$150 a year up here in Maine. The problem is that most towns in my area (Portland) have 5 or 10 year waiting lists. I post around on craigslist each spring and find someone who isn't using their mooring for a summer, and usually manage to find something for ~$300 for the season. If you rely on a marina, they will bleed you dry on mooring fees, dinghy fees, etc.

I know a few folks (one 23yr old girl who owns her own 50 foot cutter) that don't even have a mooring in the summer, they just anchor at various spots for a few days at a time - cheap, cause it costs nothing! But scary, since an anchor!=mooring. Luckily for them, the prevailing summer winds here in Maine are slight and gentle.. unlucky for me, though, as I need some drive to get my old tub to stand up and move.

All told, I've spent $15,000 on buying the boat itself, and another $15,000 in the three years I've owned her - $10,000 in general maintenance, storage, moorings, etc. The other $5000 was stuff you wouldn't necessarily have to deal with in your first three years if you got a nice boat in good shape (I had to rebuild the transmission - $1000+, replace the dead compass - $200, get a new engine panel and wiring harness - $1000+. You'll note a lot of this is that damn engine). Luckily, I'm doing this all with a partner, so my personal cost has been half what I've stated.

On the flip side, my father bought me a 14'2" Catalina Capri day sailor back around 1990 for $1400, and the total costs so far in almost 20 years of ownership has been... uhh... about an hour of cleaning each spring. I am absolutely not kidding about that. The boat is 350lbs sopping wet, so any car can haul it. You can have the mast up and lines all ready in 15 minutes. It has a 6 foot beam on it, so is plenty wide and can comfortably handle 4 adults. With the centerboard up it draws a mere 3". It will take a small outboard, as well. While I don't try to tip her over, it's kind of fun and dirt simple to get her back up again (even when I was 13, and hardly 100lbs myself).

Considering how cheaply you can pick up a small boat, I would suggest getting one (with a trailer) and seeing if sailing is right for you. I regularly see the same Catalina Capris on Craigslist (same vintage, too) selling for... $1400. So, even if you quickly decide that you do want a bigger boat, you probably won't lose your shirt getting rid of the small one. If you're looking to do ocean sailing, then you probably need to go a bit bigger; I'd start in the 20' range in that case.

I am sure more people will chime in and tell you that you're crazy, but I think it's a great way to spend an afternoon, or a whole weekend. If you are DIY, and know how to ask questions and do your research, you can have your own boat, sail to your hearts content, and do it very cheaply. Good luck!
posted by mbatch at 11:49 AM on May 2, 2009

One other thing to keep in mind. If you buy a small boat and have a blast you will probably think that if you sell that and buy a bigger boat you will have a bigger blast, but this is rarely true.
posted by sully75 at 5:05 AM on May 3, 2009

This is an example of a pocket cruiser that you could build relatively inexpensively, sail anywhere coastally, and trailer wherever you liked. It's weird looking but cute.

posted by sully75 at 6:33 AM on May 3, 2009

Linktified: Micro
posted by sully75 at 6:33 AM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

An old quote worth mentioning;

"There are only two good days with boats;
the day you buy 'em and the day you sell 'em"

posted by DrtyBlvd at 11:16 AM on May 5, 2009

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