Frank's Corner: Chapter 3 - Buying a sailboat

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    You have discovered sailing, taken lessons, sailed with friends and now you want a boat of your own.

    The first thought to consider is that buying a boat is like buying a car; there are all kinds of sailboat boats. (Racing, day sailing, cruising, camping, off-shore, to name a few.)

    The second thought to consider is that boats are not cheap to buy or maintain. Having a boat is like sex the first years of a marriage, you do it a lot, then it becomes second to other priorities. I have rescued a number of sailboats from owners' back yards to give them a new life for another owner. A word of caution is to look at all the costs before stepping into boat ownership.

    The three basic areas of owning a boat; time, storage and maintenance. Of course, the purchase cost is also a major factor.

    Time - it takes time to sail; are you willing to allocate it? Is your family interested in sailing? When I married, I had a sailboat and it was an interest to both of us. Then came kids so we changed our way of sailing, more job responsibilities (longer hours), kids' sports, kids lose interest in sailing, lose a job so non-essentials have to go (some park their boats and forget about them), etc. Some of these may apply to your situation or there may be others. The point is time and your priorities.

    Storage is important because if a large boat is purchased it needs to be slipped somewhere and this can be costly, $3,000 or more per year depending on location and amenities. Storage can also be at home if you have room or you can store it on the hard at a local marina. Storage at home is the least expensive but you have to step the mast and launch each time you want to sail. If your choice of boat is larger, e.g. a 22 to 25 footer that is trailered, this adds to the time factor.

    Maintenance is the area where some time needs to be allocated. This can be before a sail or after. It needs to done on a regular schedule and if not followed could end up costing a lot of money. When a boat is slipped the bottom will need to be done every few years even if it is just cleaning. A good bottom job runs about $50+ per foot of boat length. Other areas that need attention are tightening bolt and nuts, cleaning and waxing, caring for the sails, tuning the standing rigging, cleaning and replacing the running rigging and yearly auxiliary care (in/outboard).
    This is the area that is most neglected. I am helping put back in shape a 1970's Catalina 22 that the maintenance was neglected over the years. Screws are missing, the mast step bolt was almost rusted through, water was inside so mold has taken over, the main sail was left on the boom so it needs to be repaired and cleaned, cleats have pulled through the deck, lines need to be replaced; but with a little TLC this boat will be sailing again in a few months.

    This is a quick summary of things that are involved with boat ownership. There are more, but do not let these stop you from owning a boat. In sailboat ownership the benefits outweigh the costs.

    Now let's look at the two options on buying a boat new versus used. New is always great, I suggest buying a used boat when skills are honed and a decision is made on the size of boat desired. Small boats are great for honing sailing skills and they are easy to launch, sail and store.

    A lot of owners keep moving to larger boats, but all boats sail good and a larger size increases ownership costs. There are benefits to larger boats: they provide areas to get out of the weather, sleep, cook, eat, etc.

    Deciding what keel style (wing, fin, or swing keels and center boards) is desired is the next choice. The center board and swing keels are very popular because they can be trailered and launched fairly easy.

    Another option is a shoal keel with a center board. This type of keel allows trailering and launching ease but better stability. This style of boat generally does not point as high as a wing or fin keel but this only matters if a person is racing. Fast boats do not win races; the person sailing them makes the difference.

    The fin keel generally has better stability with less weight (displacement), but becomes a problem if water depth is a consideration.

    The wing keel is a good overall choice because it has good stability, goes fast, drafts less, but may weigh more.

    The center boards are usually only in smaller boats (day sailors) that have a displacement between 200 to 300 pounds up to a 1000. Some day sailors/racers do have fixed keels.

    These are some of the things to consider when deciding on the desired boat; there are others, but this is a place to start a person thinking.

    Please let Frank know what you think about this new section of Sailing Texas. We need feed back!
    Email Frank.

    If you would like to add your thoughts on this or on any sailing topics, please Email Alison at and I will post your sailing experiences on this website.

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