So you’ve decided that you are a competent enough sailor and that a larger boat suits your lifestyle and your sailing goals. Buying a larger boat can be a little more challenging than buying a small one, mostly because the number of systems involved is much higher. But before we get to mechanical, we need to determine what we are looking for. So let’s talk about getting to the point of “I know what I’m looking for in a boat.” Here are some of the things to consider.
Total Cost of Ownership – In addition to the price of the boat, you need to have a general idea of the cost of insurance, storage or slip fees, as well as a budgetary figure for routine and non-routine maintenance. The last thing you want is to buy a boat and realize that you might not be able to afford the monthly slip fees at your local marina. This will help you understand your budget for purchasing a boat and narrow down the size and type of boat you are looking for into a general size category.
What do you want to do on your boat? Are you going to race it or is this more of a family cruiser? Do you want to be able to comfortably sleep your whole family overnight or for several nights? Are you going to liveaboard? These questions are not all mutually exclusive. You can race your family cruiser (we’ll address that in a different post). But the intent of use is important to drive you towards some basic idea of size and now features of your new boat.
Some more detailed questions how long do you intend to go between ports? This would help you understand cold storage, power, and tank requirements. Are you in a northern cold climate that an interior helm station or at least a soft wraparound enclosure would be an advantage? Do you prefer Lazy Jacks to a Mainsail Furling System?
What are the brands of boats popular in your area? If there are a lot of Catalinas and not so many Moodys you may want to favor the Catalina. There will be more local knowledge not only dockside but at your local chandlery and repair shop about them. That being said, your final choice of sailboat must meet your needs first, then you haggle over which make and model.
The above thought process will narrow down your choices. Once you think you have found a boat you like, actually set foot on it and maybe even done a test sail with the current owner, I would always recommend that a survey of a boat be done. What is a survey? A survey is an inspection of the boat by a professional that can identify easily proper and improper operation of systems on the boat. Your survey should tell you lots of things about the mechanical state of the systems of the boat. Things like running and standing rigging, sail condition, electrical system condition, water and head systems, and of course, engine system condition. I would wait until you have found a boat that, if the survey goes well, you are ready to buy. These survey’s cost some money, but are well worth it, in the long run, to keep you from buying a lemon.