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In every keen sailor’s heart there is, without doubts, the dream of buying their own boat. There’s no denying that, being ship owner of their “own beauty”, taking care and customizing her personally, and being able to dispose of it whenever and as you wish, certainly has its own beautiful charm.

The fact that, as well as a heart, the majority of us should be given a brain (even though in some cases there is no apparent trace) and this important organ should, at least, have its part in the decision of buying a boat. One can’t command the heart, everyone knows, but raise their hand whomever, at least once in their life, didn’t screw up big-time and perhaps is still paying for it.

Well, the big-time scr… mentioned above is a very concrete danger when talking about buying your own boat, so much so that – in my personal statistics – I can affirm that almost all shipowners get wrong the first purchase (and sometimes the second too).

I know, that statement sounds a bit harsh, but I’ve seen really too many shipowners sail on boats that were not “meant for them” for dimensions, features and commitment required.

Choosing a sailboat means to take into account many factors. If you are readers of my articles, you should know by now that here I almost exclusively talk about sailing, so the decision has been made: you are going to have a sailboat.

The big questions:

Life is dotted with existential questions; buying a boat concentrates very crucial ones. Let’s try to list some.

  1. Do I really have to buy a boat?

Man, now that’s a question. But didn’t we just say that this article is about buying a sailboat? Of course, but in my opinion before the big step it is necessary to ask yourself this question, that represents a very important crossroad.

A pleasure boat – we all know that – it’s a purchase, not an investment and as such shall be treated. Owning a boat is a balance in which is only present the “giving” column and that’s why it’s necessary to be honest with oneself. Am I going to use the boat for a number of hours such as to justify the purchase rather than chartering? If my navigations were limited to one weekend per month and fifteen days of summer sailing, I honestly would hesitate to recommend you the purchase; chartering market offers interesting and cost-effective solutions. If you want to take a total reasonable decision, this solution could already cut off the 30% of the purchases.

Are you still there? You have survived to the first screening but the doubt still grips you? Good, there is also aplan B, which is to create a society of fact for purchasing and managing (we are still talking about owned and operated not professionally) the boat.

You will forgive the obviousness to the limit of banal if I point out that the purchase must be made with people you share the spirit and the “project of use” with; with people who you trust and you respect as a person and as a sailor.  

  • Can I afford it?

This is a question that comes right after the first one. We already said that a boat is balance without assets, meanwhile liabilities are many and full-bodied. Considering as a basis the purchase of a new boat we could easily say that its managing and maintaining annual cost would be a value around 20% of the purchasing cost itself. If this seems you an exaggeration you can try to do the math and tell me if I were wrong. Of course, this is also about our ability to unravel in the meanders of managing a boat. if I am a super busy professional and all I will do is make a phone call and delegate every single operation, the price will be far higher than the one of who can manage personally buying spare parts, take care of little work, of relationships with the navy that’s welcoming him, and of the shipyard that does the hardest maintenance. It is necessary to meditate on that, you may now want to go back to the point 1 question.

  • Do dimensions matter?

One doesn’t buy a boat per meter, neither per kilo. Excluding the obvious qualitative differences from shipyard to shipyard, buying and managing a 18 meters boat costs much more than the double of managing a 9 meters one. Having said that, nothing is more directly proportional to the comfort than the boat dimensions. Everything on the boat can be changed but not its dimensions. The waterline length determines the actual top speed and influences the volumes. This is a parameter to take into account, while the length one will give information on the moorage costs.

A big watershed is the division between watercraft (boat length shorter than 10 meters) and  boat (over 10 meters). The first one will enjoy a series of undoubted advantages, which a beginner could use in their first purchase: it won’t be necessary to submit the boat to Ri.Na periodic monitoring, it won’t be registered and when it will be time to cede it, you will be able to sell it as it was a bicycle.

  • New is better (?)

Undoubtedly, from a certain point of view, a new boat (especially if I turn my attention towards a reliable shipyard and a tested model) represents the safest choice that – at least theoretically – secures you against unpleasant surprises that a used boat may reserve. In addition to that, purchasing at a shipyard allows you to customize your boat, which can represent a plus for shipowners that know exactly what he wants for his boat. Pay attention, however, at not creating a double-edged weapon: if I – thereby exaggerating – get a 45 inches boat built, with the master cabin only «because I only sail with my wife», it will be hard to sell, hoping to find a buyer with the same needs as mine.

On the other hand, the used boat one, I have to take into account the fact that even though on one side the average devaluation of a ten years used model is between 50 and 55% of the purchase price, you shouldn’t underestimate that the boat you have set your eyes on will need a certain amount of refit.

An effective rule is to allocate the 50-60% of the available budget for the purchase and the remaining 40-50% for fixes and changes to which will be added the routine maintenance and storage. Let’s not bite off more than we can chew. Nobody likes a boat stuck at the port or at land for luck of necessary funds.

  • What will I use it for?

This is the queen of the questions, and it is the one that 90% of future ship owners falls for and, therefore, gets the purchase wrong. To answer this question you have to go back to the previous ones and be totally objective and honest.

A sailboat can be used for short daily boat trips with friends and family; you can plan longer and more challenging boat trips; you can be passionate of navigating and cruising, or fanatics of windward-leeward races or off shore.

 Alright, the bad news is that these uses are completely incompatible with each other and especially, they need from us clarity of purpose and a very careful analysis of our project and financial resources. A pure racing boat  (or even one of the popular 60-40%) will undoubtedly be less comfortable than a cruising boat and more expensive to manage. If buying a set of racing sails scares me and puts me in financial difficulty, it will be better to forget about it, resign yourself and settle for racing in the back with a more comfortable and elder boat that, on the contrary, will be great for swimming with friends, appetizer at sunset and stop at bay during the summer family cruise.

You must be very sincere and rational on this, to avoid misunderstanding with yourself and eventual partners. There is nothing more unpleasant than realise that made the wrong purchase, that you have misjudged your partner’s choice and end up sailing with a boat “not for you”.

  • Do I really have to buy a boat?

I am now realizing that I almost only spoke about brainy choices. Actually, buying a boat is something more and different, which involves many factors, especially many emotions. Psychological studies have showed that all methods to make the right choice are only used to justify a decision we have already taken within us, even though we won’t admit it. Anyways, I think there is not a “right” choice. There is a right choice for us in this moment. This implies that we must shoulder the responsibilities of the outcome of our choices. If we are ready to do that, every decision we take will be the right one.

Moreover, as we all know, a sailboat is the slowest, irrational, uncomfortable and expensive means of transport to go from A to B.

And that is why we love it so much.

Fair wind to everybody, see you at sea.

Renzo Crovo