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Sailboat Shopping for the Financially Hindered

by Audra Spangler 11 Sep 00:37 PDT
The power of the Internet - boats for sale © SW

Do you dream of exploring pristine bays and beaches by way of a sailboat? Out of curiosity, I decided to look at sailboats for sale. Watching all the sailing channels on YT is so inspiring. I was amazed at what one can purchase for $5000. But, I don’t have that kind of money.

Amazingly enough, there are many options for around and under $2000.

Facebook marketplace is a goldmine of affordable sailboats and Craigslist is worth a peek. I have been having a blast looking around.

Let me share what I have learned. Keep in mind that I am not overly experienced or a professional.

Some boats are in need of various repairs, and others are ready to sail.

You will find that those around 20ft are often trailerable and in the best conditions. These will be day sailers or weekenders with very little in the way of cooking, refrigeration, or storage.

Liveable cruisers, if you’re willing to be a bit cramped as a couple, will be larger than 25ft. However, I have found the occasional smaller sailboat that was set up very well for cruising. The upper twenties and low thirties will offer a head (often with a privacy closure), a settee, and a sea birth.

Bigger boats will be out of budget or in need of major repairs.

Things to look for if you’re shopping.

Many of these things can be gleaned from the photos. Zoom in and look closely.

Try not to harass sellers with a bunch of questions if you’re not serious about the boat or purchase.

Look out for water damage.

Particularly on the floors and around the port holes.

Can you see the chainplates? Look for leakage and soft spots here.

Search for the datasheet for that model and year, this will provide you with measurements and technical data. You will find things like comfort rating and capsize ratio.

Is the boat on the hard or in the water? Depending on the situation, you may need to pay to have a water-bound boat pulled out for servicing. And putting a boat into the water will also be an additional cost.

Ease of sail if you’re new to sailing. A masthead sloop is a great choice for a beginner.

The image above is a masthead compared to the one below, which is a fractional rig.

Important features for a small cruiser

A gimbaling stove for cooking at a rolling anchorage or at sea.

Water tank or water maker.

A windlass for anchoring.

An updated electronics system. Including VHF radio, Depth finder, AIS, and other built-in navigation aids.

Refrigerator. An icebox is fine for a weekender but it will frustrate and limit you as a cruiser.

A safe cockpit. One that you can’t fall out of easily.

Spray dodger and or a bimini. Staying dry and not being burned to a crisp will raise your chances of enjoying yourself.

Snagging a fixer-upper is another way to get into a sailboat without a bunch of money.

There are a bunch of YT videos of people doing this. It isn’t easy and it isn’t free.

I highly recommend you do a TON of research on the boat and how it came to be in need of great repairs. Be sure you know what you’re getting into.

You want to buy a sailboat!

Before making a purchase and becoming a proud boat owner there are a few more things to do. I won’t get into this full list here, but I will stress the importance of safety.

Be sure to take classes if you’re not experienced. This is the base of your safety pyramid, knowledge and experience.

Don’t skimp on a good life jacket and other personal safety gear.

If you're doing repairs be sure you have proper PPE.

Have fun looking at listings.

Do what I haven’t...

Go look at some boats!

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