You want to buy a boat, eh?
How to make family boating a reality — it’s a fun activity that can also help you reconnect with family and friends
Estimated Reading Time: 14 minutes – Let’s start with a wish or perhaps a dream and call it, “I want to have a boat.” So far, so good. Next, you have to start doing some soul searching and answer the very first simple, but not so simple, question: “why?” Take your time and be honest with yourself when you’re trying to answer the “why” question. Write it down, think it through long and deep, and talk to your friends and family. Look for people who already have a boat.
One of the best places to find such people is in your local chapter (a.k.a. Squadron) of America’s Boating Club. You do not have to have a boat to join your local Squadron. Just bring your enthusiasm.
Start with answering “why?”
If you have already had a boat-buying experience, you already know the point that I am about to make. However, if it is to be your first boat, here is my first insight for you: A boat is not a car and your boat-buying experience will not be like buying a car. Most of your knowledge gained from your car-buying experiences will only minimally apply. So, trust me, while making your boating wish or dream become a reality, how you answer the first question of “why” will determine many other detailed considerations that you will have to make on the road to boat ownership. Why do you want to buy a boat? What would you actually do with a boat?
For example, these days it seems that new boaters want boats mostly for day trips, taking family and friends out for a few hours and then coming back home. Another new trend is having a kayak or paddleboard and having fun with it alone or with a group, not to mention a few other types of vessels with which you can go out and have fun on the water, anytime.
Choosing a recreational sail or motorboat
Let’s assume that you have answered the question of “why” and have decided to buy a sail or motorboat. Of course, the next question is which one is most suitable for the lifestyle you are seeking and what is your budget? Here is another insight for you: for sure, there is a boat waiting for you out there, no matter what your budget is. There are a slew of web sites, including Craigslist postings, plus dealers are selling boats every day. Once you start searching and talking to individuals or dealers, you may find that there are endless types of boats out there, enough to make you dizzy.
If you think in terms of cars, there are mass production brands such as Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota, BMW, Mercedes, and Tesla. The other group is boutique car makers, such as the Bugatti, Ferrari, and Maserati brands. For those car enthusiasts, I must mention that, here, I am not grouping them by whether or not they are luxury brands or uniquely expensive, but by the number of them sold in the market. For example, in 2017, there were 70 Bugatti Chirons, 8,400 Ferraris, and 246,000 Porsche that were sold. So, in principle, boat building would fall into the boutique production industry where only a small quantity of boats are produced every year.
Despite that fact, there are hundreds of thousands of boats out there, old and new, in every size, in the US and around the world. If you search boats for sale on the internet, don’t be surprised if you see 1970’s or even sometime 1960’s boats being sold on the market, not as a collectors item but for recreational use.
Free boats are also out there
If you have no budget and you are a DIY fixer-upper type of person, you may get an old, fixer-upper sailboat for free, by doing someone a favor by taking it off the owner’s hands. For that kind of free stuff, you need to be part of a boating community or living in a coastal community to have access to a network of people talking about an old boat that they want to get rid of. For example, I live in a waterfront community and two of my neighbors within the last two years gave away old 16’ sailboats that they could not sell. Nonprofits didn’t want them, but they wanted to get rid of them. So they gave them away free to whoever would come and take them away.
Don’t buy an old boat!
Okay, I am now stepping into very sensitive territory. For full disclosure, I have an old, 2004 powerboat. When I make a statement such as, “don’t buy an old boat,” I want you to know that I am one of those old boat owners and am sharing my personal observations and experiences with you.
When you buy an old boat, you must expect that things will go wrong with your boat, most of the time. Vessels on the water take a different and much harsher kind of punishment than the vehicles we use on the roads. (For instance, boats have to absorb a whole lot more vibration with waves than cars do on roads, not to mention the corrosive effect of being constantly surrounded by water rather than air.) With all old boats, things will break and will go wrong; with older boats, it will be even more so, again most of the time. If you buy an old boat, you better get a good boat mechanic nearby or plan to repair things yourself. As one of my boating friends jokingly puts it, “the definition of boating is repairing your boat in exotic places.” When it comes to mechanics, unless you know what you are doing and are capable of fixing engines and other things that may go wrong on your boat, you need to have access to a good mechanic. I do have one and my boat is maintained by a professional and is in excellent shape, for now. If it was not for him, I would not keep my old boat, full stop.
I met a couple who, despite the fact that they loved their boat as well as the small airplane that they owned, ended up selling both, just because they didn’t have access to good mechanics anymore. Again, if you are willing and capable of fixing your boat, this topic may not apply to you. Assuming that you will need someone to fix your boat, when needed, my recommendation is before you consider buying an old boat, make sure to locate a good mechanic near where your boat will stay in between the times that you will be using it.
Think of how many times a month or year you will use your boat
The question of how many times a month or year you will use your boat is as important as lining up a good mechanic near your boat. This is because chances are you will not use your boat as much as you wish to. If your boat is docked in front of your home, you may use it much more than if it’s in a marina. If your boat is some distance from your home, it will become a destination for you. Whenever you want to go out and have fun, you will have to get there. Once the luster has worn off and you get used to having a boat, depending on the distance, it will take more of an effort every passing month and year to go out to your boat. Eventually, it will negatively affect your will to use your boat and have fun. In other words, life will happen and your priorities may change.
I live on the waterfront and am surrounded by a reasonable number of similar properties that have their boat tied up to their docks. Guess what? I see most of those boats going out only a few times a year during the boating season. If they need repairs during the season, that, too, takes the boat out of commission and effects the usage percentage. In short, although nothing is wrong with it, millions of dollars worth of investment is sitting out there, idle, for a very large portion of the year. In my case, I am a destination boater. It is okay by me if I am not on the water every week. My trips are more than a day long. It all goes back to deciding on “why” you are doing boating. Next, we’ll cover the “how” part of the topic.
When it comes to boating, you can have your cake and eat it, too
So far, if you have been reading this post since the beginning, you may have started to feel discouraged about buying a boat. My recommendation is not to be discouraged. Given all the facts that I told you above, boating is still one of the most all-around fun activities you can have. All you have to do is think creatively, out of the box. Start by becoming a member of your local boating club. Believe it or not, some of the boating clubs are 50-60 miles away from the nearest waters. So don’t assume that you don’t have a boating club near you. Next, having answered the question of why and what kind of boating you want to do, if your answer is the weekend type of fun on the water, start locating and talking to new boat dealers. (They will also generally sell newer used boats.)
At this stage, if the cost of the boat is way beyond your budget, don’t be concerned. The important point is that you are only looking for a type of boat that is no older than 3-4 years old. Just keep in mind that all brand new boats significantly lose their sales value within the first year. However attractive it may be, do not consider any boat older than 3-4 years. Once you locate the boat you want, start talking to your friends and family. Form a formal or informal boat-sharing club. You may want to use a time-sharing type of formula or some other approach. Once you split the cost 2-10 ways, you’ll be surprised at how affordable the boat will become. Remember my above points about usage. No matter how much you want to, especially after the first year, chances are your usage will be modest, so having a new boat and using a boat-sharing approach is one way to afford a new boat. In addition to boat sharing with family/friends, there are two basic formulas, boat clubs, and fractional boating programs.
Consider joining a time-sharing boat club membership
Boat clubs cost considerably less while providing new boats to use. If you are starting boating or giving up on your old boat, and at the same time are not wanting to invest a lot of money on a new boat, that should not stop you from boating. If you are a day-long recreational boater and mostly stay in your local area, here is one of the best options for you. Join a type of boat club that has a fleet of new powerboats that they make available to their members. The Freedom Boat Club is the largest and oldest boat club of the United States, with over 2,000 new boats in their fleet. They have a variety of powerboats, which includes deckboats, pontoon boats, bowriders, inshore and offshore fishing boats, as well as some sailboats. They provide hands-on training and deliver maintenance-free service. If you are a full-time member of their club, they provide you with reciprocal access from seashores to lakeshores in 31 states, as well as Canada and even Europe.
In the case of the SailTime Club, they use a fractional membership (ownership) model. When you join SailTime, you become a member of a specific boat, with only a handful of other members who share your love of being on the water. Each member is guaranteed usage every month for a fixed membership fee. The membership fee also includes the cost of insurance, marina fees, cleaning, and maintenance. In addition, with the SailTime Plus program, you can go sailing with SailTime in your local waterway or around the world at any SailTime location. With over 35 locations worldwide, SailTime members have access to over 100 boats at some of the best sailing places in the world.
If any one option still keeps you on the fence for boating, try this
If all else does not appeal to you, but you still like boating, well then, remember the old saying, the smartest boater is the boater who has a friend with a boat. Join your local squadron of America’s Boating Club and become part of a boating community. However, first, take a few safety courses that the Squadrons offer, then when you are on a friend’s boat, stick with boating etiquette, and try not to be “that guy.”
That’s it for now. I hope to say hello to you and shake your hand if you spot my boat, Life’s AOK, in one of the locations that I am visiting during 2020.
I bid you Fair Winds and Following Seas.
1 thing I learned
- There are differences between Boat Clubs and Fractional Boating Programs. SailTime offers you more information on that front.
7 things I recommend
- First, join your local America’s Boating Club. Watch this video. Take a few boating safety classes. It will prepare you well.
- Next, join BoatUS. You can start with a basic membership. Members of some local Squadrons are able to get a BoatUS membership discount. Ask them about it.
- If you want to buy a boat review this booklet.
- If you do not have a boat, do not want to invest a lot of money, and are still asking yourself why you should join a boat club to use a boat, here are additional points for you. Join a boat club, try out different boats, and see which one fits your family the best.
- If you want to take advantage of a sailboat fleet, rather than buy one immediately, try SailTime.
- If you want to take advantage of a powerboat fleet, rather than buy one immediately, try Freedom Boat Club.
- Avoid 9 mistakes new boaters make.