Buying on the used market can be complicated by the fact that sellers and buyers may have divergent points of view on the value of a particular sailboat. It is therefore important to familiarize oneself with the prices of what is generally available.

The prices given in the accompanying article about affordable keelboats are realistic (as of 1996), but they are definitely in the low end of the spectrum. Newer boats that are in good condition can easily go for 10% to 20% more than price examples given during the peak selling season. If you are after the best possible deal, you may have to do most of your shopping in the off-season and check out the large and very active used boat market in the Toronto region. Whatever you do, don’t forget that bulletin boards in area sailing clubs and local brokers (Ottawa & Kingston) can be the source of some surprisingly good bargains.

When surveying the used market, be sure to keep track of the listings in „Boat for Sale“. This publication can be found at most of the larger news stands in the Ottawa area, and it carries a value guide which gives suggested prices for hundreds of sailboats in all size ranges (this value guide does not always accurately reflect the market, but it is interesting nevertheless). You should keep track of the listings in GAM, a non-glossy magazine with an informal style, and a very large classified section. Unfortunately, this Toronto-based sailing publication is difficult, if not impossible, to find on local news stands. Their phone number: (416) 386-1559/fax:(416)368-2831. By the time mid-March rolls around you should also keep a keen eye out for deals in the classified sections of the Ottawa Citizen, the Toronto Star, and to a lesser extent, the Montreal Gazette.

Although there are many good bargains waiting to be had, would-be buyers should be warned that the boats on the used market are starting to get a little old. Since very few new sailboats have been built in recent years, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find anything less than ten years old. In fact, 15 year old boats are typical of what you will find on the used market, and it is no longer an oddity to come across models that have been around for 20 years or more. But generally speaking, you will find that the almost „indestructible“ fibreglass boats that were built in the 70’s and early 80’s are holding up surprisingly well.

Surveying a Sailboat

The best way of ensuring your peace of mind when shopping on the used market is to have a professional survey conducted on the boat you are considering purchasing. Although a survey can be a little pricey at $100 to $200 when purchasing a small boat that may only cost a few thousand dollars, it may be worth it when spending climbs to $10,000 or more for a larger vessel. In most cases, you will need a recent survey report to obtain insurance for any boat over 10 years old.

The first step in deciding to buy a particular boat (or in determining if it is worth spending money to have it surveyed) is to conduct your own examination of the vessel. Be sure to closely inspect the rigging, hull-keel joint, and rudder attachment points. Look for signs of water leakage along the hull-deck joint and around the chain plates. Keep an eye out for leaks around any deck fittings and check for a extremely mushy deck – a sign that a plywood core may be rotting. Osmosis in the fiberglass hull is another potential problem. Mild cases involving a limited number of barely noticeable pea size blisters below the waterline can usually be corrected with lots of hard work, but the price of the boat will have to be discounted accordingly. Serious osmosis problems should be avoided altogether. Moreover, if purchasing a trailerable boat, be sure to inspect the swing keel and swing keel housing that are usually found on these types of vessels. Any trouble here can be a real headache. And finally, don’t forget that your nose can be just as useful as your eyes or hands when determining if a boat has been well maintained.

In addition to verifying the seaworthiness of the boat, it is also important to ensure that you are getting value for your money. Pay particular attention to the condition of the sails, deck hardware, cabin cushions, sailcover, outboard motor, trailer, etc… If many of these items need immediate replacement, you will find that your boat will cost you several thousand dollars more than its purchase price. In fact, in some cases, you are better off buying an older boat that has been revamped and is on its second suite of sails, and 2nd or 3rd outboard motor. The components on such a boat may still have another 10 or so years of life left in them.

Sailboat Operating Costs

The operating costs of a sailboat can vary considerably with the size of the boat, the type of sailing you will be doing, and the location where you will be keeping your boat. Expect to pay $150 to $250 (for 20 to 26 footers) annually for insurance. Launching, haul out, and mooring fees can be next to nothing if you have a trailerable boat and keep it in your backyard. But trailering a boat to a ramp and launching it every time you want to use it can be a real pain. Don’t forget that public ramps are very busy places on nice weekends.

It is also possible to keep costs down by dry-sailing a boat from a yacht club (store it on land, launch when you want to use the boat). The boat sits on its trailer with the mast up a few hundred feet from the ramp between outings. The ramp will not be too busy if its use is limited to club members. This arrangement (including club membership) may only cost a few hundred dollars a year. But you still need a good vehicle to launch and haul out your boat. As a general rule, dry-sailing a boat up to the size of the Siren 17 is feasible, but it becomes problematic for anything larger.

Other than this, it will probably cost you between $400 to $1000 a year to keep a 22 to 24 foot boat in the water at a slip in the Ottawa area. At the Nepean Sailing Club, for example, a slip will cost approximately $20.00 per linear foot of boat per year (the price in 1996). On top of this you have to add a couple of hundred dollars for membership fees and taxes. Haul out and launch may cost anywhere from $50 to $200 a year. The exact figure will depend on policies of your club and the extent to which you rely on commercial services.

Under current laws (as of 1995), you do not have to licence (or register) a boat under 20 tons and powered with a motor of less than 10 hp (a definition which covers most sailboats up to 26 feet in length). Nevertheless, many people do licence such boats. If you are buying one that is already licensed (which is often the case), you will have to fill out your name and address on the back of the licence given to you by the previous owner and mail it in to a Canada Customs House. In a few weeks you will receive a new licence in your name. The whole process is marvellously simple and is still free. Note that the government will likely be charging a fee for this in the near future. Also be aware that the licence transfer procedure allows the provincial government to track down the new boat owners to charge them sales tax on their acquisition.

Note that under current laws (as of 1995) no operator licence is required in Canada to operate a private pleasure craft of the type referred to in this article. Although a day’s worth of instruction will take most of the mystery out of sailing, it is highly advisable for beginners to sign up for recognized boat safety courses (such as those offered by the Power & Sail Squadron) or sailing/cruising courses (as those offered by Sailing Schools accredited by the Canadian Yachting Association). Successful completion of such courses usually qualifies people for lower insurance rates.

Written by Michael McGoldrick, (1996).

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