They did most things right. They learned to sail and bought a 27′ starter boat for not very much money. They sailed it a ton for a few years and then decided to buy their 40-ish foot cruising boat. This is where things went off the rails for them.
They were far too trusting of the marine industry in general and the selling broker and surveyor in particular. They bought a used boat with a lot of problems and it cost them.
How NOT to Buy a Cruising Boat is a cautionary tale from a couple who are very open about what went wrong for them. It’s also a delightful tale of their journey from newbies with a dream to cruising sailors (spoiler: They did make it out there and are now cruising on their boat).
Deb and T.J. are both excellent writers and have done a great job with this book. In fact, they include a few of the most popular posts from their blog and the writing there is just as good. It’s refreshing to find such good writing in a cruising blog.
I giggled to myself as they each described the moment that Deb suggested they sell everything and retire on a sailboat even though they’d never been on one before.
The one weakness of the book is that they’ve only purchased two boats. They certainly have learned how not to do it, but haven’t had a chance (yet) to put their new-found knowledge to the test on the market.
T.J. does an excellent job of describing all the things to inspect, but is perhaps a bit unrealistic when he suggests that the seller should pay for the cost of upgrading worn out running and standing rigging, sails, engines, and other wear items. Certainly these are important bargaining points, but a seller would be paying T.J. to take his boat if he brought everything up to like-new!
I think one other important point that T.J. makes is that you shouldn’t just look at the boat. You need to understand the broker as well. They didn’t have good luck in the broker department! But you don’t need to walk away from a boat with a bad broker as T.J. suggests.
You can bring your own broker at no cost to yourself, and I highly recommend this approach to anyone buying an expensive cruising boat, especially if they aren’t experienced boat owners already. This way you can shop for a broker you trust and who understands your needs and then they can deal with the shady seller’s broker, find a good surveyor, make sure the deal is fair, and even arrange for boatyard help or boat specific training if you need it.
The only other point I’ll pick at is that T.J. makes a passing remark that lifelines do more harm than good as they give a false sense of security but are only tall enough to tip you over. I hear this argument from time to time and I need to strongly disagree.
I nearly ended up in the water while beating in 30 knot winds and was caught by lifelines as I fell from the top rail to the bottom (backwards). They may have saved my life that day. Remember that when the weather is calm, they give a visual reminder a quick place to grab. When the weather’s really stinky, you’re crawling, so they’re over your head!
I don’t want to sound like I’m getting down on the book, I’m not. This was a wonderful read and I’m grateful to Deb for reaching out to me and giving me a review copy. I’m not aware of any similar book on the market and I think that anybody thinking of buying their first cruising boat should read about Deb and T.J.’s experiences and what they would do differently.
Deb and T.J. have given new cruisers a real gift by putting in the incredible effort to create this well written resource. I highly recommend it How NOT to Buy a Cruising Sailboat.
Have you read Deb and T.J.’s book? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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