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CAN I BUY a 35-45' liveaboard sailboat for 20-35k? What would you buy?

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PLEASE share with me the benefit of your combined salty dog wisdom and help me from making rookie mistakes when purchasing the sailboat that hopefully will become a comfortable home and base for adventures, making new friendships and journeys around New Zealand and possibly other parts of the South Pacific.

I love writing and photography and wish to realize my as yet unfulfilled creative aspirations during my retirement years. 
Having rather modest financial resources I want to make a smart purchase of a 35 to 40+ foot boat that doesn't require significant investment to get cracking and wont break the bank maintaining. Hopefully I can avoid too many obstacles and embark my journey exploring photographing and writing, living in the beautiful coastal New Zealand environments, my front yard the beautiful ocean and my back garden the stunning New Zealand coastline.
I have a budget of around $20 to 35,000.......  the sailboat must be suitable to live aboard and single hand and have the storage capacity for an insatiable magpie, driftwood odd shaped stones, trinkets and tools etc.
I'm 62 years old and pretty fit and able. So I'm not afraid of the boat that needs a bit of muscle from time to time.
I have building experience and will like to do all my own maintenance as much as possible.
So that brings me to study the market and I see seems to be a buyers market at the moment.
I find that very exciting boat prices being very affordable!
Inexperience and impatience can end up being very expensive, and probably my main obstacle to achieving the retirement I hope for.
You guys know a hell of a lot more than me about making a smart purchase.
I will be eternally grateful for any advice I can get, I got a lot to learn and I'm all ears!
So what do you think what we do during my situation what kind of boat would you purchase.
I want to live on the boat solo and have friends and family on occasion.
Thanks again in advance for any advice!
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There's been a lot of threads on the sire on this topic and they always come back to the compromise of cost/condition and unknowns.  Search them and have a read. 

Also good to trawl you tube for ideas. There are lots of "I bought a cheap boat and went sailing" channels. They'll give you great insights. 

Lastly you've asked what you could get in tbe price range - answer is lots of things. You're best to make a list and go visit some listed in your area. You'll begin to get an idea of the range of size configuration condition of vessels in your price range. Don't be in a hurry. If you have time look at 50 boats before making any decisions.

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Wow thanks for your answers!

Anyone know what size and make of boat the salty dog guy in YouTube sails in?
I would like to get something like that if its affordable,
Should I try to get a Glass boat or would you recommend glass over kauri?
I heard not to buy Ferro Cement, what build material do you think will get me the most boat for my budget?
Also thought about steel hull but I have very little idea.
Basically I am seeking out advice and will purchase based on the best information I can get.
I got until the end of June to research and buy my little slice of maritime real-estate.
I arrive back home from Asia to Auck NZ middle of April and will purchase a runabout Van and throw a mattress in it and hit the road heading north visiting marinas and talking to anyone with a smile, looking for-sale signs on boats and moorings, not that moorings have for sale signs. They have free ALE signs, right?
Without knowing much about the future, my main priorities appear to be having a spacious boat to call home and being able to single hand the boat. 
Out and out performance are probably less critical as I intend to spend most of my time writing and video editing and exploring and photographing sea and land from moorings. I prefer to spend 2 weeks to 2 months in 1 place rather than circumnavigate NZ and the pacific islands in a mad hurry. That way the adventure is a genuine life experience seen through the lens of the camera and the written ramblings of yours truly.
Anyway, thanks for putting up with me up to here and I prey some of you will come to the party and give me some pure gold advice and guide me toward making a good choice of boat.
Please save me from buying a couple of parkercrafts and tying them together with string a 4x2s.
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Sorry to sound pessimistic, but unfortunately I do not believe this is realistic.

To have a vessel capable of RNZ or to the Pacific requires a boat in good order and well equipped.

To go international you need to have a boat surveyed to Cat 1 standard, or you won't be given the paperwork to leave. The first time I did Cat 1 it cost me more than your budget to buy a boat, and my boat was already pretty tidy.

Unless you buy a vessel registered offshore (Cat 1 not then required - but for a NZ resident GST would be immediately due), in which case you MAY find something, but it wont be ideal for these voyages - IMO. Some people are happy to try to cross an ocean in a boat I wouldn't cross the harbour in though. 

Fiberglass would be your best bet IMO. Can be repaired easily, does not rust, corrode or rot.

Good luck with your dream.

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Sounds like you read the Lotus Eaters too many times.

The economics of liveaboard crising are not as they are depicted on YouTube. As IT says above, getting to Cat 1 (off-shore) could cost up to twice your stated purchase budget, or may not even be attainable depending on the yacht. 

In your price range, you wiill be getting a very used vessel.  It will be either badly compromised in design, or nearing the end of its service life.  Thats fine in sheltered waters within easy range of whatever you call home.  Outside that, its a recipe for disaster.

Operating costs alone for a 35 to 40 foot yacht will likely be around $10k a year, possibly more depending on condition.  Opex tends to go up as a square function of boat length so adding a metre or two in length for comfort comes at considerable cost.  While being handy is good, I doubt you will whip up your own sails, build your own standing rigging, or any of a scary number of things a simple but older yacht needs as it ages.

Glass, timber, steel and ferro all have good and bad points.  Ferro is a very common liveaboard because they are cheap - you get a lot of boat for the $.  If you are not hung up on performance they CAN be a good choice BUT many were poorly made in back yards and suffered extreme degradation because of this.  Steel and ali have corrosion and other specific problems, wood rots if its not well cared for, fibreglass can have osmosis and other construction failings hiden beneath a shiny surface.

Material of construction in this age of yacht is almost less important that level of maintenance during its lifetime and the opinion of a well qualified surveyor.

This all leaves aside the most relevant question - what is your sailing experience?

None of this is said to put you off.  The world is a far better place with people who follow their dreams.  But you DID ask for advice...

Of course, you can sail wildly in a completely inappropriate piece of sh*t if you want, you just have to choose where to leave from and disregard risk with blind confidence.  



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This person posted on a fishing site. Suggested they came here for advice. I do not know who they are. Like so many want to live the dream without the budget.

Good luck 

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D28 ,a few under 25k that look ok. Capable cruiser  big volume for size. Not sure about offshore capabilities. Hmm h28 cheap as chips a few ventured offshore.

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Good on you for having the the dream its where most of us started, as well as being a yachtie I did a bit of cycling for a few years, and a mechanic once told me to think of a bike as a  frame with a collection of parts. Those parts can be old, or new, expensive or cheap, flogged or unserviceable, obsolete or otherwise etc, you can easily spend 20K on a pushbike but cheap and cheerful or worth 20K both will get you to the dairy for a pint of milk and technically you are "Cycling"

Yachts are a bit like that , you can get a floating 40 ft yacht for <30K and it will be technically complete but at that price likely not safe to do anything more than sit on the mooring and drink Pink Gins while the sun sets over the yardarm. As others have commented you might have to dial down your ambitions a bit but do get a well found and seaworthy boat as it should be worth something when you eventually sell it. If you have a like minded friend or family member a partnership is always cheaper and will stretch your budget, it certainly takes the pain out of the ongoing bills.

Good luck with your search and when you come across something that catches your eye if you are happy with the Hull (frame) then start on the "Parts"  that will reveal the capability or otherwise of the vessel and give you an indication of the future cost to get it seaworthy and capable of meeting your requirements. 



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Thank you all for shining the light of experience my way! That is so kind.

I enjoy lively discussions and my feelings are less important than facing up to reality and discovering the actual facts that might keep the lives of myself, my friends, and my family safe.

Just a little bit about me, Adam Cinelli.

While I have decent amount of powerboat and a little less sailing experience, in my youth crewed on yachts for weekend excursions. I grew up a few hundred meters from Westhaven in St. Mary’s Bay and found myself fascinated by the boats and life in the marinas that attracted me to spend most of my time hanging out there.

From the age of seven yo I would take my dad’s 10-foot Parker craft out of the locker behind the corner shop under Ponsonby cruising club and fish solo all around the harbor bridge I remember every time a tug steamed past, the wake would almost swamp the tiny Parker craft, often I would have to start bailing frantically. I remember dragging that tinny, inch by inch up the concrete breakwater  stairs rather than rowing all the way around to the boat ramp.

All of this was crazy freedom stuff that no responsible parents would never let their little kids do today.

Like most of us adventurers who have survived our youth, I’m not so reckless anymore but I did learn to apply my adventurous determination logically and have picked up some skills along the way.

As a young teenager living locally I made some boaty friends and used to crew on weekends from Westhaven on launches and yachts who mostly seemed to be in the volunteer Coast Guard community.

Anyone remember a guy named Burt Hamond and the Lady Luck? What a character.

I have actually built fiberglass boats in the past, in my teens I spent one year working at performance sail craft in Sydney, mostly cleaning waxing and repairing molds, spraying gelcoat and laying up fiberglass hulls joining decks and repairing gelcoat blemishes etc.

When living in Majorca Spain for six years I did a fair amount of boat related work, even doing some Teak work building and re-creating furniture on a boat called The Lady Mora.

I’ve recently retired from the product design industry, prototyping making models for advertising and movies. I’ve had various cottage industry workshops building hardwood and custom wood type furniture with spray booths and so on, most of my customers were European richies who wanted high-end design and builds, kitchens bedrooms living rooms and one-off pieces of furniture.

Being away from the boat related scene for so long now I feel it’s fitting to approach the everything as a newbie simply because my experiences are not relevant to purchasing a boat in New Zealand.

And I hope you guys will be direct with your opinions and advice.

Although I’ve recently done a fair amount of research read quite a lot and watched YouTube videos etc. this is not real experience and does not scratch the surface of the network that is required to find upgrade and maintain the right boat.

I feel the general consensus is that responsible boat  ownership comes with accountability so finding a well-maintained boat should be my highest priority because everything spirals from knowing the accurately recorded history the boats condition.

I only intend to spend a portion of my savings purchasing a boat so of course I have the financial means to both purchase and maintain the boat without undue concern.

It is possible to increase my purchase price, but being the optimist, I am hoping to luck out and find a great boat at a great price.

In the end when my purchase deadline arrives I will have to pay whatever it takes to buy the right boat. But I’m not going to say I have an unlimited budget when the boat I will purchase might cost $30-$50,000, I’m going to say my target purchase price is from $20-$35,000…… Which means I can stretch.

If I do my research and due diligence and if I’m fortunate enough to find the right boat - 1980s onwards? Which has lately had a refit and comes with fresh rigging and tidy sails etc. that boat probably won’t need serious work for another 12 or so years. That would be a good foundation to work from and I’m capable of dealing with routine checks and basic maintenance varnish work and fixing a steady stream of normal breakages that come with boat ownership then I will be extremely happy.

I would be much happier investing my money in buying and maintaining a boat I can be proud of …… my front yard the beautiful ocean and my back garden the stunning New Zealand coastline. Continuing my inspired life mission where I have all kinds of photographic and creatively inspiring opportunities, than paying rent to exist in a room in a house full of strangers in some random city suburb. Actually, the costs are similar. But the vision is very different!

It’s obvious to you guys that Bluewater sailing is beyond my budget. So, I’m taking that onboarding crossing Bluewater sailing off the list. Now I’m focusing on coastal cruising and having a comfortable boat home to live in.

I decided not to scale down. If I get a really beamie 32-footer that would be my minimum requirement. The boat I end up living with must have at least a 3.2 m beam, preferably wider. A 35-footer is plenty of boat, a 40-footer for single live aboard for someone on my budget could be considered something of a palace. So, this is what I’m aiming at 35 to 40 feet 3.2 m PLUS in beam. And over 1.8 m headroom in the cabin. I really want a heavy boat that will be stable at anchor and at sea. Also, I’m not doing any racing so I don’t want a deep keel, want to have reasonable access to more locations.

I guess, forget the $20,000 starting point but I want to keep it in as a negotiating factor. So let’s say I would negotiate between 25 and $40,000,ish. If I was incredibly inspired by a brilliant boat I might stretch the budget because I want to do upgrades that might be included anyway.

So what choices does this leave me?

Not being familiar with brands and models of boat available I need advice about what’s gonna work best for me, this is where serious local knowledge comes in.

Now that we know I’m not a complete novice when it comes to the sea and sailing experience and I’m reasonably capable of understanding the requirements of being a responsible boat owner and of maintaining my pride and joy meaning boat as I can do most of the maintenance myself. Still, I want to retire so I don’t need another full time boat project, more like a turn key ownership at least to start with.

Does my budget buy the boat I want?

If so, what boat can I put on my list?

If you guys were me, what boat would you choose within this budget?

Keep in mind I am a dreamer, I have the whole winter, I’m not in a mad hurry so possibly if I’m lucky I can find a great boat and negotiate a great price!

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That's a novel.  Good to get the background though.

Pulling back to coastal significantly changes the picture and your budget becomes far more realistic.  Still tight though.

Now you have a more defined target, I'd say look at lots of yachts in the size range you are looking at.  Rule out nothing.  Most NZ yachts are built in the performance cruiser mold and your requirements fall just outside that model.  However, it's a continuum not a fixed point so your boat is out there somewhere.

Don Senior, Lidgard, and others built beamy cruisers with good headroom.  There are many more....

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Stage one of the purchase process  for me was to assess what is available at what price and then inspect any promising candidates while making it clear to the owner  that I am at the beginning of the process. After a period of time I knew which vessels were financially realistic and represented good value at which point I became a motivated buyer.  Its the same process as buying a second hand car, do your market diligence before deciding what is a good deal, of course if you like boats this can be an enjoyable process. Don't discount brokers a good one will note your requirements and contact you if something becomes available, they can also give you a reality check :-) 

Since you have time on your hands get on to Trade Me as most boats, including those at brokerages seem to be listed there.

As part of the process, think about where you are going to berth it and what that costs, also what it will cost to insure it as rates have gone up quite  bit lately. If the vessel has a recent survey report available (less than 12 months old) that is a win because it save you the cost and the insurance company will require it and some require that the standing rigging be less than 10 years old. Older designs can have underpowered engines and seemed to use the rule of 2 hp per ton of displacement at some point that changed to 4 hp per ton of displacement (ish) e.g 10 hp in a 29 foot sloop will struggle when pushing tide and wind, 18 to 20 hp is more appropriate. if it is an older  fibreglass hull ask if it has had osmosis treatment aka a "Bottom Job" 

Good luck

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Thanks for the clear advice,

Do you think that owning an older boat 1960 and 70s is like a rabbit hole of uncertainty where you might find the hull or decks or both have been quietly rotting away unnoticed for the last 20 years and suddenly it becomes apparent that the whole boat or a percentage of it requires significant investment to stay safe on the water.

Or do you think a surveyed older  boat can actually have a clean bill of health and can be as sound as a newer boat at least on the level of hull and deck and keel and rigging? I Just mean the fundamentals without including  the outdated fittings and accessories rigging, electronics and so forth on older boats in the conversation.

What I am trying to say is do you think a well surveyed older boat 60-70s or so could be a sound investment, like a fully restored classic car?

Or is what's hidden under the fiberglass layer like an unknowable rabbits hole of uncertainty and do classic boat owners inherit with the boat this kind of anxiety?


Because I am recovering from surgery right now and have a bit of time I have had time to foolishly disturb my mind by looking at boat sales all around the world (usually gorgeous models slightly or totally beyond my means) and it is startling how much more affordable boats are in Europe! The commonly available models are mostly different with more glass boats whereas NZ are mostly crosslinked or plied wood glassed over.

I feel that a patient buyer could really pick up a surveyed boat very affordably in Europe and less so in USA.

I am only going on what I see and read and have no real experience of these markets.

Anyway buying in NZ is probably my best and only option as I am not a blue water sailor.

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Get a survey.  If you don't do that, at least get a survey.

You'll need one for insurance anyway, and the surveyor is not emotionally invested in the deal.

As I said earlier, a well maintained older boat beats a poorly maintained younger boat hands down.

And get a survey.

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And always remember, boats are just like strippers, they only work while you're throwing $100 notes at them.

If you only use 1 piece of advice that's been offered up so far, listen to Aardvarkash10 & get it surveyed.

Good luck Pal, you're gonna need it. 

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