Questions to ask yourself before buying a boat

You need to think carefully about what type of boating will fit into your life bearing in mind your finances, skills, other commitments and family situation. Going boating is never an entirely rational decision, but at least when your heart rules over your head you will know what to expect and have your eyes wide open!


What do I want to do?

Be realistic about the type of boating you want to do and with whom.

There are a huge number of different craft available and many can be used in a number of different ways. A comfortable cruising sailboat for the family provides a very different experience to the excitement of a high performance racer, or the glamour of a motor cruiser.



⊚ Mostly sail or mostly power?

⊚ Do I want performance or comfortable cruising?

⊚ Will I stay on-board regularly?

⊚ Do I always want to sail in the same location or to have options to sail different areas or abroad?

⊚ Do I want luxury and mod cons or back to basics?

⊚ Dining in glamorous marinas, or stargazing in deserted anchorages?



Your skills and training

Taking charge of a boat and crew is a significant responsibility and not one to be taken lightly. It’s important to look objectively at your boating skills and those of the people you want to go boating with. It shouldn’t just be about the safety of your crew – but also ensuring that they have fun!

When people have limited experience on the water it is natural for them to be nervous of this alien environment. It is important that they feel safe, and if they are able to see that the skipper is relaxed , confident and in control it will put them at ease. That way they can get as involved as they want to and everyone has a good time. Make sure that you are not biting off more than you (or they) can chew!

Many relatively inexperienced RYA qualified Day Skippers can happily skipper boats for family holidays in the Mediterranean or Caribbean but skippering boats in more challenging UK waters is different. The Solent is the UK’s most popular cruising ground and a rewarding place to sail – with a host of beautiful harbours including Hamble, Cowes, Yarmouth and Lymington – but it’s challenges include a myriad of shipping, sandbanks and other pleasure craft, not to mention some very strong tides.

Part of the attraction of boating is the challenge it provides, but it’s important to be honest with yourself over the skills you have and it’s worth embarking on a UK based RYA training course – widely available in the Solent – to ensure to have the necessary skills to safely skipper a boat. It’s often said that if you can skipper a boat in the Solent, you can skipper anywhere.



⊚ What situations, weather and craft am I comfortable with now?

⊚ What is my long term goal?

⊚ Will I sail with novice family and friends, or nautical addicts that share the bug?

⊚ How will I build my own skills and experience?

⊚ Do I need to complete an RYA training course such as RYA day skipper sail or day skipper motor?

⊚ Is it best to train in the area I plan to go boating regularly in?

⊚ How will I get on-going support and involve my crew in this training too?

⊚ How will I get the training on the right type of boat for now and the future?



Socialising afloat and ashore

Many boaters enjoy meeting other people with a similar interest and participate in shared events.

Joining a club can make it easier for you to make these connections, as it is quite possible that you won’t meet the owner of the boat berthed next door to you from one year to the next! Traditional sailing clubs often have a lively social scene if you live close to them and most popular boat share clubs also offer a wide range of sociable club events.



⊚ How social do I want to be?

⊚ Do I live near enough to the boat to be at a local boat club regularly for events?

⊚ Are there other options for an online community or events outside of the traditional local boat club?



How much time can I spend?

The time afloat is what we all long for. Some people enjoy maintenance too, while others don’t have the skills, inclination or time to allocate to it. If you are going to do the maintenance yourself make sure this is factored into the time you allocate. Even if you are planning for someone else to maintain the boat, don’t forget the time you need to organise and co-ordinate this work.

Take a look at the time you are going to be able to allocate to boating and make sure it is realistic, allowing for the other life commitments that you have. Most boat owners spend around 15 to 25 days per year on their boat, but the cost per day for this level of usage by boat owners is significantly higher than those who choose to charter or join a boat share club.

Popping down to the boat for an ad-hoc summer evening when the sun comes out often isn’t practical unless you live close by.



⊚ How much time per year am I prepared to invest in maintenance?

⊚ How often will I be able to get away boating bearing in mind other commitments?

⊚ Are circumstances likely to change over the next few years that will alter how much time I can spend boating?

⊚ What is my travel time to get to the boat?


The finances

One thing is certain – the cost of boating is significant and in particular, boat ownership is expensive! It’s not just the predictable costs either. There are always some unexpected additional costs so it is a good idea to factor in a contingency fund. A good rule of thumb is to expect a boat to cost 10% of it’s purchase cost each year to run.

There is no point in stretching yourself to the point that you feel anxious about where the next expense is going to come from, or that you feel you can’t afford to take your boat out! YOU have to be realistic and, if you want to own, it may be better to enjoy a smaller boat than stretch yourself for a larger and more expensive one.



⊚ What is the initial capital cost and how will I finance this?

⊚ What is the annual cost going to be including mooring, maintenance of the boat and safety equipment, insurance, fees?

⊚ How much will annual depreciation be?

⊚ How much do I need to put aside in case of significant one-off expenses?

⊚ What will the costs be of my anticipated annual useage (fuel, provisioning, meals ashore, travel, mooring fees etc)?



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