“Never buy a boat unseen” – this is the general consensus of boat owners around the world, and is very good advice. If possible, and you are able to, this is an important step in finding the right boat and can make or break a deal. This piece of advice we were not able to follow, due to travel restrictions at the time, and we were fortunate (or clever) enough to find the right boat, at the right price, in the right condition. More about this later.
“If you buy a boat in this price range, expect to double your costs by the time she’s ready” – This bit of advice we chose to follow. So, if we had $50,000, we would be looking at boats in the $25,000 price range, with an additional $25,000 to use for registration, insurance, boat work and upgrades. We cannot emphasize this enough. There will be some unexpected and unforeseen costs, it’s almost guaranteed. If you buy a boat for $50,000, you leave yourself with nothing in reserve and the start of your sailing and cruising lifestyle will be a frustrating one, and it’s where many dreams are sunk.
Personally, we would like to add another snippet of advice, coming from personal experience. Try not to put yourself in a position where you NEED to buy a boat, as this adds stress to the process and can create unwanted urgency. We still had two years left of our 8-year plan but spent most of our spare time just looking at listings, just to see what was available out there, and for what costs. So when we started the purchase process on a 1976 Pacific 38 sailboat, built in New Zealand, named Maia (Maori – to be brave), we did not NEED to buy a boat, we just felt she was the right boat at the right time. If you give yourself this freedom of purchasing without urgency, you can be sure the right boat will eventually find her way to you and together you can really start the dream.
“Get to the price already” we hear you ask, and yes, it’s coming. Last bit of advice, promise… Do your homework. Research, research and then research some more. At this stage you should already have a list of what you are looking for in terms of design, layout and safety. You should also have narrowed down where you want to purchase and what the costs and procedures are, locally or internationally, for registration, surveys and boat work. Armed with this non-urgent environment and time for research, this is the timeline and information we were able to compile:
The first time we came across a listing for Maia was in 2019 when she was completing her 2-year voyage from New Caledonia, through Asia, and nearing Singapore. She was listed at $39,000 and her upgrades and features were completed just before the start of her voyage. The price was later dropped to $33,000 and she was sold early 2020. We are not sure of the agreed purchase price but she disappeared from our radar until mid 2021 when she was listed once again, this time at $28,000. Unfortunately for her then owner, Covid had put the world on lockdown and he was not able to pursue his dream.
To request a survey, you will need to make an offer. Usually, 10% of this offer (if accepted) would have to be transferred to an independent institution or person before a survey can be conducted. You might lose some of these funds through exchange rates and bank fees so be prepared for these charges. We offered $25,000 for Maia, which was, thankfully, accepted. This offer can be re-negotiated depending on the outcome of the survey. These surveys should be conducted by independent surveyors and it’s recommended to source your own surveyor, checking background history, experience and online presence. We requested an initial survey which would be a brief walk-through, to give us an indication of her general condition and help us decide if full surveys would be worth the time and money. We also sent as much information about ourselves to the surveyor which would help him to give us the feedback relevant to our experience and requirements. This initial walk-through was quite thorough and we were sent important details and many pictures, which gave us a good idea as to whether we should continue the process or not. Surveyors are straight shooters and don’t pull punches, this is their job and I think we found the right one. He gave us a few opportunities to chat and discuss his findings and he did not sugar-coat the results. As this was just a walk-through, no information could be given about her hull, engine etc. until a full survey was completed. He also did not offer advice as to whether we should go ahead or not, this was up to us, and he made this very clear. Armed with this information, we decided to go ahead and request a full survey.
Initial survey: $250 (including all pics and telephone discussions) Full survey: $400 (including in-water report, haul-out survey and sea-trial and follow-up discussions) Marina haul-out fees: $400 (in and out)
We should add that the above costs should be paid up front so again you have to give yourself time for bank transfers and be prepared for some small losses in bank fees and exchange rates. These survey and haul-out fees are not refundable.
Surveys were conducted with the surveyor, owner and broker present and we anxiously waited for the results, which understandably can take a few days. To be honest, we were both quite shocked when we received the details, and also, quite excited. We based all of our requirements around safety and costs. We wanted a solid hull, no major upgrades such as rigging or engine work. Her sails would need to be in good condition and she needed features which would allow her to be registered or insured. Yes, there were the expected costs such as batteries and a whole host of other issues, but nothing which caused great concern (except for a leaky shaft seal). Following a few discussions with the surveyor, and armed with the results, we dropped our offer to $24,000 and a few days later we were the proud new owners of a classic, solid sailboat, and our new forever-home.
Remember what we said about buying a boat unseen? There are actually a few pros to buying a boat unseen. Firstly, you do not make emotional decisions regarding looks and layouts, instead you make decisions depending on design, safety and construction. This was always our main priority, the ability of Maia to keep us comfortable and safe. If you have faith and trust in your surveyor and he/she gives you an un-biased and objective report, you have the information you need to make the right decision. Our survey report ended up being very accurate and informative, for which we are extremely grateful.
What’s next..? The seller needs to de-register the vessel before you can go ahead and register yourself. Once you have received these documents, you can go ahead and register, and then get the essential insurance.
Registration costs (including MMSI) for first year: $965 Required vinyl stickers: $40 Insurance for first year: $800
Now you can see where the money is going, but we still not done yet 🙂
At this stage she is back on the water and waiting for us to arrange her next haul-out so work can begin, which would include bottom work and engine service.
Marina haul-out fees: $350 (including chocking and hard-stand facilities) Monthly marina fees: $380 per month (long term rates) Electricity and water fees per month: $55
Work on her bottom, including sanding down to gel-coat, primer and anti-fouling and a hull polish. Purchase of one new starter battery and two new house batteries. Total cost: $6,350
Work on the engine included full service, replacement of shaft seal, installation of cutlass bearing, straightening of prop shaft, installation of flexible couplings and replacement of engine mounts. Same contractors also replaced two sea-cocks and all through-hulls (6) and installed battery charger. Total cost: $4,450
Remember what I said earlier about having funds in reserve? So the costs are adding up, but we’re still not done yet. Now you also need time and patience. Maia was splashed back in the water on 18 May 2022, a fantastic and exciting day filled with much joy and sense of achievement. The splash date was just over 3 months after she was taken out for the above-mentioned work. That’s 3 months of sourcing parts, waiting for shipments and back-and-forth discussions between ourselves and contractors to agree on a plan of action and get progress reports. We spent a month together on board before returning briefly to The Maldives, after which Derek returned for 3 months to complete various other projects and get her cruising ready.
Right, so now she’s back in the water and all necessary and essential work has been completed. Now starts the “home improvement” tasks. These tasks were completed by us:
Wind anemometer: $450 AIS upgrade (cable and registration): $300 Service manual bilge pump: $60 Install 2 new automatic submersible bilge pumps (including plumbing): $240 Installation of life lines: $120 Replaced all interior lighting: $300 Replaced all interior fans: $300 Replaced outboard carburetor: $60 Cockpit canvas and dodger replacement: $450 Replaced all fenders: $240 Replaced fresh-water plumbing (including faucets and shower head): $230 Installed holding tank (including vents, new sanitary plumbing and pump-out): $600 Refurbished solar trays: $180 Chain markers: $80
We were fortunate that we did not need to purchase any tools except for a cordless power drill. The previous owner left an extensive collection of tools which was unexpected and a huge money saver. If you have no tools and no collection of spare parts on board, things will get costly. We also replaced some items out of choice, not necessity and did a few upgrades on electric and plumbing connections. We then sourced and stored some glues, epoxies, paints and cleaning materials, on top of regular service items such as engine, gear oil and cleaning solutions.
Maia, as well as ourselves, will now enjoy a much-needed break before we return to Malaysia early 2023 and start our cruising lifestyle.
We have learned a lot over this past year and although it’s been a lot of hard work, we are excited about starting this next adventure in our lives.
Sure, there could have been a variety of different ways to get to where we are now, with many opinions about what we did and how we did it. We do, however consider ourselves very lucky to be able to call Maia our new forever home, and would not do anything differently.
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