Buying a sailboat is an emotional experience no matter what your purpose is. And, buying a boat to live on full time brought the excitement and anxiety to a new level. Our old boat had been a new 39′ feet, a fairly light production boat, perfect for Bay sailing. In a previous life, I sailed off shore to Block Island and the Bahamas in an old Endeavor 40, a substantially heavier boat. We wanted the option for the same kind of sailing.
First we sold our 39′ boat. Our rule was that we couldn’t own two boats at once. Then, only three months later, our hunt began. It started out as a rational exercise, complete with comparative spread sheets with lists of must haves, nice to haves and the like. In the end, we bought a 2000 Tartan 4600. It’s big (46′ for living comfort even though we’d never sailed such a boat), older (15 years old so we could afford big), heavy, but fast (28,000 pounds of stability that slices the water instead of bouncing through it), and beautiful (navy blue hull). Was it the best decision?
Lesson Learned: If you don’t have time for a lengthy search or buckets of cash, make some trade offs and finance. We met people who spent several years searching for the right boat at just the right price point, but we didn’t have that much time. We wanted it in our hands by fall 2015 (just four months after we sold our 39′ boat). And, the more we learned about what we wanted in a boat, the more the size, quality and hence price went up.
Knowing we were going into a limited income situation with retirement, we looked at boats that were at least 10-15 years old, knowing we would need a loan because we couldn’t pay cash to get what we wanted. We financed about half the price. Rates were low, so the monthly payments were quite reasonable. Yes, the value of the boat will decrease, not increase, but having a small instead of a large loan will return some cash to us when we sell it in about 5 years.
Additionally, we lived the rule of older boats — Be ready to spend anywhere from 20% to 40% more in outfitting and repairs during the first year of ownership. That means you should have a good idea of the extent, types and costs of work that will be needed and what of that work you will do and what you will need to contract for. Then double it.
Lesson Learned: Understand what you and your crew are physically capable of. We gave up in-mast furling, adding a stack pack to enhance its traditional mast-boom configuration. Not the best decision for two short people in out late 60’s. It’s a 10-12 feet above the deck to attach the main halyard, but it was OK because after some practice, some extra mast steps, and some simple rules about when and where to prepare for raising the main sail, either of us can do the job. However, all sheet and reefing lines lead back into the cockpit which is a very important must for our short handed aging crew.
Lesson Learned: Bigger gives you more deck, engine power, and momentum. While I fell in love over its beauty, John fell in love with Dolce Vento’s spacious flat decks and large cockpit. Maneuvering into and out of the slip with only the two for us, stern or bow first, proved easier than we thought, after just a bit of practice. Being older, we learned that we needed more practice than we needed on the smaller boat. Everything is bigger, takes more time to execute, and the boat itself reacts much differently because of its size, sail configuration, and weight. The more experience on the water with Dolce Vento builds our handling confidence.