Buying early versus last-minute

We’d been advised by more than one smart person to wait until the last possible moment to purchase our boat. Jim Trefethan, in his book The Cruising Life, particularly warns against buying a cruising boat too early; the costs of storage alone can knock significant time off your cruise.

We didn’t do that.

The boat in Texas, hoping we would buy her.
The boat in Texas, hoping we would buy her.

There are plusses and minuses on both sides of the argument. In delaying your purchase, you miss out on all the costs of storage, haul out (for those of us in cold climates), dock fees. If you arrive at your boat right before departure, you’re more likely to only upgrade the items you think to be vital, instead of tinkering around with switching out all the cabin lights to LED and feeling like you must have a new inclinometer before you even think about pushing off. You can spend your inherent savings to get a better, more cruise-ready boat.

The other way to go: buy your boat in advance, and take on the fixer-upper. Spend less money initially, and get the boat more how you want it. Spend the time to search out sales and comb through eBay. Do all the work yourself. Get familiar with sailing the boat before you depart.

It’s hard to estimate how much additional money our boat has cost because of our decision to purchase two and a half years in advance. Oconto storage, lift-in and haul-out, and jack stand rental cost us about $900 a year for two years; this winter, we’re paying about $1000. We paid one summer of slip rental at a fancy marina that first year for $1200. Insurance, diesel, pump-out fees–those costs are unambiguous. Would we have gone LiPo on the batteries if we were in a last-minute rush to go cruising? No way; but how much more did that cost, for doubling both our usable power capacity and the life of our new batteries? Hard to say.

Happy and comfortable, right?
Happy and comfortable, right?

There is NO DOUBT we are adding on things that are not required for cruising, as we sit out this last long winter making plans; a certain expensive fishing reel comes to mind. But there’s one thing that the last-minute purchasers miss that we think has been invaluable to us: our kids love the boat. We were all about the positive association game that first summer. The boat, in their mind, was synonymous with the marina pool, family movie nights and donuts. They know that won’t be so much the case going forward, but in their little reptilian brains, when you mention “the boat”, their pleasure-centers light up, even if they don’t know why. (Bribery and manipulation–the keys to all successful parenting!) Getting the boat early, and letting F and T become familiar with the space, has given them less fear of the many upcoming unknowns about this trip.

Truth be told, the same logic applies to the parents. Michu has explored every nook and cranny of the boat at this point, and more often than not replaced whatever wire or piece of hose he’s run across. He knows more about the electrical systems and engine that he’d really like. We both understand navigation better than we did two years ago, and are actually able to fall asleep while at anchor, instead of being terrified of dragging onto the rocks. It’s been confidence-boosting all around, and we’re all a little less terrified moving forward.

4 Comments on “Buying early versus last-minute

  1. I’ve never actually understood buying a boat just before you take off. It makes me shudder to think of sailing down the west coast in an unfamiliar boat with unfamiliar systems. Yep, too true we’ve spend thousands of dollars keeping Galapago in the local marina, money we’ll never get back. But we know the boat inside and out, and Mike is intimately familiar with all of her systems. If something goes awry, he’s likely to be able to fix it. Hey, can you check your blog post emailing system? I subscribed a long time ago, but I never get updates. Tried to subscribe via email again today, but it won’t let me because I’m already subscribed. Glad you commented on our blog to remind me to come check yours. Cheers!

    • Hi, Melissa! Sorry about the emailing system. We work with MailPoet, because it was easy to install and free, but it lands easily in your spam box. We changed some things on it last week, so it now comes from “Deb” instead of “admin”, and the subject line is less spammy; but that’s probably where it’s been ending up for you. Hopefully, you can find us in your spam box and add us as a contact. We are very non-tech people over here, but those changes have worked for us.

      Nice to hear from you!

  2. Definately don’t discount the Pavlovian effect of donuts on kids!

    We’re another family in the “buying it early” category. I think that our kids associated the boat with potato chips and eating at Panera (on the way home) for the first six months. We bought ours in December of 2014, finally got her in the water in July of 2015, and have been living aboard at a marina since August 2015. There are grand cruising plans to leave New England in the fall and, much like you, we plan to know this boat inside out and sideways before that happens.

    We’d love to try and meet when you make it to the east coast. The more kids boats the merrier.

    Best wishes.

    • The donuts work on the parents, too. I could go for a donut right now, actually…

      And we’d love to meet up! You can email us directly at sailingmilou at gmail dot com.

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