Buying a boat is a risky step. Dreams, emotions, the desire to do something completely different are big, fuelled by a kind of midlife crisis and some money. Some people do it without a midlife crisis and little money. So let’s look at the knockout criteria when buying a boat. A boat is perceived as promise and a placeholder for a dreamed-of better life aboard. But how much resouces (time and money) do you really have to live it? Our ports are full of berthed dreams. Even at perfect sailing conditions there are few white triangles seen on our lakes, bays or the sea.
How much money has already been spent for unlived dreams, how many relationships have already broken because someone leafed through boating magazines for too long, looked around at boat shows or got lost in the internet? That is why it is so important to look at personal circumstances as objectively and impartially as possible.
Advice regarding buying a boat or not
It would be a comparatively cheap to buy an outrageously expensive sports car. An exquisite convertible is way more reasonable than a standard series and not so thrilling series production boat. Further that car is compatible with a common landbased marriage. Passion for the car can be lived at home. Add to that the time, running costs and the fact that you usually live several hours by car or flight from the berth. Do you have a water property or live in walking distance to the boat? Who goes sailing repeatedly for a few hours in the summer afternoon? Who can afford a bosun so that you hoist the sails quickly?
What comes with the boat ownership?
Recently a client interested in buying a used Swede 55 contacts me. Apparently more of a realist than a dreamer. He is asking for a consultation, to “made aware to all issues of ownership.” He writes: “I became aware of you through your website, which I have visited several times gaining personal knowledge. I would like you as a mental sparring partner, because I can talk me easily into buying a Swede 55 myself.” To start with he sends a questionnaire. In my years of advising sailors I have not jet seen such a structured approach.
He has been sailing since his youth, currently a demanding modern sports catamaran. From time to time he charters with the family in the Mediterranean. Sounds like a good basis for Swede 55. As an experienced sailor, he would certainly be able to handle it after two summers. Then we talk about his personal circumstances, which unfortunately turn out to be several knockout criteria.
Four knockout criteria
First of all, his wife does not agree to buying a yacht. Secondly, he lives a good five hours’ drive from the Baltic Sea. This time estimate is based on a journey on german highways with no traffic jams. Third, the family has a house with a big garden. How could ownership of a yacht with maintenance, repairs and sailing fit to a garden? Fourth, he has another nice hobby.
Perhaps the wife could be persuaded to buy a beautiful boat. The bottom line is 3.5 knockout criteria. As is well known, a single knockout criterion is enough. That’s why the criterion is named knockout. You can try whitewashing this.
Next knockout criterion: crew
Nevertheless, we talk about the used boats in the market, the foreseeable, realistic and unforeseen repair costs (time, organization and money), the berth situation for a 52 foot/16 m boat and the seven foot draft (2 metres plus) in the Baltic Sea. I explain the pros and cons of marina and yacht club, report on the sailing characteristics, the habits of the Swede 55 in strong winds and rough seas. Then I ask the client with whom he will be sailing the boat regularly in the foreseeable future. He hopes to do it often singlehanded, to my mind another knockout criterion. In ideal circumstances, you pull a 52 footer out of the berth and get it back in later that day undamaged, but …
All in all, a difficult decision between indispensable realism and the dream of an interesting toy. I note the customer’s disappointment and his attempts to adjust the facts.
Although this is a boat purchase advice, the personal circumstances and his marriage are not my topic, my final advice is: “Should you do it nevertheless, don’t do it without your wife.” I’ve been on the water for too long on, have seen too many stranded projects at yards and boatstorage places. I observed too many fates to fool the client here. Hence my honest answers as a “mental sparring partner” to his questions. Swede 55 is tempting, a kind of dangerous boat in this regard. I am familiar with it since 1980.