This may be your very first boat or the next in a long line of vessels that you have owned. Forgive me ladies, but boats are called she for a reason. They are as diverse, unique, captivating, complex, magical, sensitive and yes, expensive as any lady and they need to be treated as such.   

So… where to begin? Well let’s start with you, the reader. Are you single, a “DINK” (Dual Income No Kids), a little on the wild side and hence a candidate for a high-performance sail or power boat? Do you have a young family that wants to learn how to fish, water ski and anchor up for a day of lunch and swimming? Do you have the time to overnight, cruise for a week at a time and yearn to see the deep blue ocean?  

All the Important Questions to Ask

Regardless of your profile, there are some pretty simple choices to make. These include sail or power, trailerable or not, big or little, and new or used. Do you like to sail, or do you prefer to motor and go directly from point A to point B regardless of wind direction? Do you have a 4×4 SUV or pickup truck and how much can it tow?  How many people will you likely carry on your marine adventures? Do you prefer and can you afford a new boat and motor which usually has up to a 5 year warranty, or are you handy and willing to do a little extra repair and maintenance when needed?   

Only you and your family can provide the answers to these questions. Once answered you can begin to visit boat shows, look at boating magazines, go online to sites such as Boat Trader, Yacht World, boat manufacturer sites, Craigslist and eBay to see what is available in new and used inventory. Prices range from reasonable to unreasonable. If you find something you like but are unsure if it’s the right fit, you’re welcome to Ask the Tuna for a second opinion.

Sailboats vs Power Boats

Digging a little deeper, bear in mind that there is a huge difference between sail and power boating. Both are fun and can be exhilarating! Unless you already have a clear idea of which you prefer, you may want to take a trial run on a sailboat and a powerboat of about the same size. Many of us love both sail and power and I have owned several of each over the years. We had a 27’ Oday sailboat when our kids were little, but elected to switch to power when they reached the age of little league and soccer. All too frequently the sailboat just couldn’t get us home in time for a game.

To Trailer or Not to Trailer?

On the question of trailerable boats, in addition to tow vehicle issues, you may want to consider the one-time cost of a trailer versus the every year cost of a marina slip which can be $120 to $150 per foot of boat length per season. Trailers also support a much wider range of boating geography both locally and long distance. I have a 17’ center console boat with a 70 horsepower Suzuki 4 stroke outboard engine that I trailer all around Florida in the winter and sometimes bring back to Rhode Island in the summer.  You can have a lot of fun with a little boat.

On the question of size, boats up to 17’ can carry up to 4 or 5 passengers and 18’ to 21’ up to about 6 or 8 passengers. Every boat, new or used, has a Coast Guard rating label that defines how much engine horsepower and how many people any given boat is rated to carry.

One Boat, Two Boats, Old Boat, New Boat

On the question of new or used, at this point in time used sailboats can be purchased for a fraction of what similar sized powerboats cost. The cost of new boats and outboard engines is high. A new 60 hp outboard can cost about $8,000, a 140 hp about $12,000 and a 300hp about $24,000. Generally speaking with good maintenance, today’s outboard engines are good for about 2,000 hours or more of run time. This translates to 10 years at 200 hours per year of run time or 10 years at 100 hours per year.  Bear in mind that 100 hours is usually a lot of run time. Remember the engine is only running for part of the time you are on the water, and generally not when fishing, swimming, rafting up with friends or docked at your local seafood restaurant.

In summary boating is great fun and you have many ways to match your personal preferences with exactly the right boat and motor for each stage of your family’s growth. Sometimes that may even require buying more than one.

See you on the water!