Buying and selling a boat.

Cheap(er) Boating

There’s an old chestnut that the two happiest days of a boater’s life are when they buy a boat and sell a boat. What can you do about keeping those two days as far apart as possible? This column is about that.

For Starters
First, never compromise safety for dollars. The sea, as I keep reminding you, is a hostile environment. It makes no sense to scrimp on safety gear or on the boat’s inherent seafaring abilities. With that said, there is no sense being on a boat if you aren’t having fun. So, before we start, safety and fun are the two unalterable goals of the exercise.

If you are contemplating buying a boat as we head into the “high season,” be sure you buy just enough boat — and no more. There are some real bargains out there in marinas, boat show rooms, and the internet. Many of them are there because the skipper bought more boat than he needed and, subsequently, could afford. If the bays and creeks are your goals, you don’t need a 40-foot boat, no matter how cheaply it is priced. Big boats are just inherently more expensive to maintain. When you factor in bottom paint, dockage charges, and just having more “stuff” aboard, it all adds up. And the fuel cost is not twice as much for a 40-foot boat versus a 20-foot boat, it is likely to be four times as much (my guesstimate.) It just takes a lot more energy to move a larger boat through the water.

Cheaper vs Longer?
On balance, longer wins. Cheap-grade vinyl “windows” for cockpit and fly bridge enclosures will soon discolor and crack. I’ve used higher grade Strataglass in the past and it lasted much longer, saving lots of money in the long run. I’m wary of “discount” motor oils. While you may still change the oil each season, which makes the brand oil seem more expensive, I wonder what is going on with the engine that the oil is protecting.

Do It Yourself
The more maintenance and repair work you can do well yourself, the more you’ll save. But know your limits. Certain things should be left to trained professionals. Tackling these projects is asking for trouble and big expenditures. Examples might include working on electronics, refrigeration, and repairs inside the engine that cheap oil may have precipitated . . .

Things that many can do or can learn to do is engine repair. (Remember, these are car engines modified for a maritime environment, and didn’t you tinker with the car engine when you were younger?) Many maintenance items can be managed by the weekend mechanic, such as changing an impeller, a raw water pump, a thermostat, and alternator. Starting problems may need no more than a cleaning of battery terminals. Changing a solenoid, replacing bilge pumps, inspecting connections and perhaps adjustments, and repair of deck and plumbing leaks are not outside your consideration.

Be a student of the game. Go to seminars at boat shows. Read boating magazines and invest in marine how-to books. The right tools are better than money in the bank. They may be expensive, but if you use them well, they can save you a fortune.

Avoid wearing out things unnecessarily fast. Use good chafing gear to avoid abrasion, which can ruin a line in one blow. Good chafing gear (old garden hose wears like iron) is very inexpensive and can save you big bucks. The boat itself will wear out faster if you drive it hard and fast. And you’ll save a lot of money if you throttle her back.

And don’t forget your insurance. Do you have what you need and no more?

All food for thought…

By the way, if you are interested in being part of US Coast Guard Forces, email me at or go directly to the D1SR Human Resources Department, which is in charge of new members matters, at DSO-HR and we will help you “get in this thing . . .