What is the realistic cost of boat ownership?

Jessica Watson
Posted February 28 2016

I’m sure most sailors and boaties can relate to the experience of flicking through the Book of Dreams (aka Trade-a-Boat), seeing a renovator’s delight with a bargain price tag and thinking, ‘Hmm, maybe’. Thoughts such as, ‘Is this too good to be true?’ are quickly pushed aside. And many a boatie, myself included, finds themselves thinking, ‘Why not?’ and buying the boat.

Soon enough, the proud new boat owner discovers that the bargain price tag comes with added extras such as dripping stern glands, ill-fitting sails, corroded electronics or even dreaded osmosis bubbles on the hull. Even the savvy boat buyer who factors a bit of new paint into the purchase price quickly becomes disenchanted at the cash rapidly draining from their wallet and their weekends spent at the slipway rather than carving up the waterways.

So I thought it was time to take an honest, realistic look at the coast of boat ownership. Or in the words of superyacht captain and engineer Mark James, you need to think, ‘How much cash am I willing to spend every year and not cry?’ I’m not trying to ruin any boating dreams; I just don’t want to see those dreams end in tears.

Even a brand spanking new boat requires significant financial outlays to keep it sparkling. And, of course, shiny new paint comes with its share of deprecation so make sure you take a look at what similar boats are selling for on the second-hand market to give you a rough idea of a future sale price.

According to Captain Mark, a good rule of thumb to maintaining and enjoying a new boat, or one that’s been kept in great condition, is 10% of the purchase price per annum. While Mark’s advice is based on years of running superyachts, it’s solid advice for your average boat as well. It’s not rocket science to work out your own numbers, but the important thing is that you do consider ongoing costs instead of pouring every last cent into the purchase.

And for those boats that come with a bit more age and neglect, you’ll need to add on the cost of a refit before you can go back to a more modest yearly spend. A full survey will give you a good idea of what this refit cost is likely to be, and most definitely don’t forget to factor in a generous contingency.

So next time you’re flicking through the Book of Dreams, keep your ego in check: you may love that 70ft cruiser with the bargain price tag, but remember to account for what you’ll really need in order to sail off into the sunset. Cheaper isn’t always cheaper, or may come at the expense of a lot of time and stress. Maybe a 40ft beauty in perfect working order is better than a 70ft monster that will keep you at the maintenance dock, emptying your wallet.

2 people found this helpful. Do you?Thank Jessica Watson

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Tony Peach
Posted September 13 2016
Hi Jess, I agree mostly with your article. The 10% per annum is probably very close to the mark for Sydney area. I believe in Tasmania, it is closer to 7.5%, and, if you conduct most of the work yourself (Assuming you are capable) antifoul, engine service etc. in Tasmania it is closer to 6%. This may compute to 8.5% in Sydney area.

Second item is the statement dripping stern gland. Unless the gland is the ceramic face seal "dripless" type, I would prefer to see 3-5 drops per minute when running on a normal packing gland. Unless there is a minor amount of cooling water flowing past the packing it could overheat, and then the situation will change from a drip to a flow. The housing of the stern gland, when running, should only be very slightly warm to the touch, at most.
2 people found this helpful. Do you?Thank Tony Peach

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