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How We Bought Our Boat, Part 1: Narrowing the Choices

First let me get this out of the way: I wanted a monohull. But foolishly I let us charter a 40’ catamaran last year, and instantly our double hulled future was guaranteed. I argued that a cat had twice the cost, twice the systems to maintain, and would probably only sail downwind. She argued that on a cat the galley is above the waterline, and the boat doesn’t heel. End of discussion. Admittedly a catamaran does have a lot of space, and organizes it into useable spaces. Galley and dining up. Adults in one hull, kids close but not too close in the other. With two engines, it’s easy to maneuver. It can run in shallow water. Plenty of solar fits on top. But ugh, the price! We set out to find the most boat that we could afford in a certain price range. For us, that meant a 40’ boat at least 5 but more likely 10 years old. We considered Lagoon 380s, 400s, 410s. Various FP models, especially the Lipari. Leopard, anything from older 42s and 40s to the newer 38/39 variants. We looked at Owner’s layouts, charter layouts. Barebones boats, beat up boats, charter boats, mint boats, fully optioned boats. We looked at ads from Massachusetts, from Florida, from Croatia, from Trinidad. For more than a year we read listings on,,,, craigslist, pretty much everywhere. We talked to private sellers, independent brokers, charter companies, big dealers. In the end, we resolved a couple of key decisions that drastically narrowed the search, narrowed it down to a point that was manageable. Those decision: 1-Boats in the Owner’s Version configuration were more expensive, and often the owner’s hull while spacious was wasteful in the way it managed space. However, we liked the OV’s separate shower, and we resolved that we would never sit on a head to shower. Decision 1: we would be getting an OV, or at least a boat where the shower was separate from the toilet portion of the head. 2-Boats about 10 years old were at the best part of the depreciation curve. They were relatively affordable, and were on a flatter part of their price curve. Plus if they had been in charter for 5 years, they had since been privately owned for 5 years so the charter gremlins had been discovered and vanquished, systems had likely been modernized, and if the sails and rigging hadn’t been replaced, we could ask for discounts to address these upgrades. Decision 2: we would target a boat 10 years old. 3-Private sellers are often unrealistic about the value of their boat, and can be a hassle to deal with. And brokers are helpful when you’re standing on the dock...but are skeptical about helping a buyer from across the country which makes them a real hassle. We communicated with 3 different reputable brokers trying to get just one to give us the time of day. Not much luck. Decision 3: we would work with any broker or private seller that could handle returning a call or wiring back to an email. 4-Boat prices are higher in Florida, and lower where there is surplus (BVI) or far out of the way (Nova Scotia). Decision 4: we would shop in the Caribbean where it was warm, boats we're plentiful, and all the cats leaving charter put downward price pressure on older boats. 5-We didn’t want a barebones boat straight from charter. And we didn’t want a boat with prehistoric equipment lists. We did want a boat with a fairly modern chartplotter, solar, watermaker, A/C, low-hour engines, a functional dinghy, and electric heads….maybe we wouldn’t get all of that, but we wanted most of it! Decision 5: we would only look at boats that had most of our desired bells and whistles already installed.

Next time in Part 2: Our math for determining boat price, and how that led to our choice.

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