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A GREAT STRATEGY for buying a boat or a WASTE of EFFORT?

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I have given myself 2 months to purchase the RIGHT YACHT and mooring, a 35 to 40' coastal cruiser LIVEABORD.


I have 2 months to travel and explore the north island, I hope by visiting marinas and talking to people in person I might encounter the best opportunities to buy the right well-structurally maintained 35 to 40' yacht.

The right boat needs to be very sound with a 3.2m+ beam, and fairly heavy displacement to be stable at sea and on the mooring. It needs to come with good rigging and have no structural problems. I'm happy to redecorate the interior and refresh the exterior.

Of course, I will visit Facebook daily and look at trade me often.

Perhaps touring the marinas and yacht clubs and checking local notice boards might bring the opportunity to meet someone who is retiring from sailing and wants to pass their pride and joy to a responsible buyer without having to go through the hassle of selling it on the market.

I want to live on the boat hopefully in a quite scenic but sheltered Northland harbor. Haha looking for an idealist’s perfection, does anyone have suggestions for a good location to search online and ask around in person about these kinds of mooring locations? 

I am sure there are many landowners who have moorings just sitting there and they get tired of paying maintenance, but they don't think about selling or haven't bothered advertising.

What do you think, would it be a waste of time touring around looking for a boat and mooring?

The worst case is that I waste some time and get the cold shoulder, but I don't think this will happen.

The best case is that I get to spend time in the most beautiful places on the planet and meet people who have stories to share and I get to learn heaps about boats and local history and possibly make some real friends. Maybe I even find a boat!

Very interested if anyone has time to read and comment on my inquiry.

Thanks, and Cheers!

Adam Cinelli.

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Don’t give yourself a time limit. As you near on the deadline you will feel more and more under pressure to buy and the odds of buying a lemon are massively increased. 

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A mooring in Northland is going to set you back around half your budget. You will also be required to service the mooring every 3 years so there’s at least 1k/3y.

There will be semi regular inspections of your hull by NRC for invasive bio fouling. If found you have to haul and clean at an approved facility of which there are very few.

if you live on your mooring you will attract additional attention from NRC w.r.t. treatment and disposal of black water. You might need to furnish a plan and be able to prove compliance with the plan. As an example, AFAIR, there’s a local rule preventing you from emptying your tanks in the BOI or any harbour in Northland regardless if you’re 500m from shore or not. https://www.fishforever.org.nz/local-rules/sewage-discharge-laws-at-sea.html



heavy disp. The thing with heavy disp is that it’s hard to do anything with it. Anywhere you want to maintain etc means you need specialist equipment. Heavy is a PITA if you’re on a budget. 
Although heavy might feel like reliable, when things get heavy, all your deck gear rigging etc. needs to be larger to cope with the increased strain and force. Then you need enough sail area to give you enough power to move around out of your own way. If you’re sailing alone, you’re bless your boat is very well setup, and you are well experienced, heavy can become a handling issue. Don’t get me wrong, I think some old heavy disp boats are awesome (Tally Ho, for example) but they cost. 

If you’re by yourself, you could look for something smaller and more easily managed. Generally costs increase exponentially with length. 

Something you can beach easily means you can explore further up rivers and in shallow bays. something you can haul out on a road trailer means you can save $$$ on maintenance. If there’s a storm coming, find a sheltered mangrove without a big river and park up. 

Maybe even a nolex30? Lifting keel. Trailerable, good performance etc etc. charter one in the BOI for a couple days and see how you like the size.

Our boat is clearly not a Nolex, but I’ll never have a fixed keel again (touch wood), nor heavy displacement. 


So my advice is to evolve your dream and think carefully about your limitations (physical, mental, emotional, and fiscal) and then consider a narrower range or appropriate boats. Single them out and inspect. Don’t waste your time, effort and $ traipsing around the country in the hope of finding the needle in the haystack. 

there is no perfect boat for all occasions- if you get a good boat for one some things it will have resale and you can move it on if you decide to change your scope/activity. image.thumb.jpeg.c76550acab7ae3f0feb38f2d38c3cfa7.jpeg

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Thanks for the SUPER USEFUL information!!!

Your reply is EXACTLY the kind of info and debate I am seeking. People like me can learn a lot in a short time when someone like you shares their views and experience with direct candor.

Really have to have my head screwed on strait and not fall into trouble from not doing my research or just plain not knowing.

This change of life circumstances comes with a whole raft of considerations that many a dreamer would be deterred by.

I have been living in China for the last 17 years so I know all about meeting obstacles, I learned so much about being patient and developing the kind of fortitude that transforms one.

Fantastic to get your views about  resting the boat in the mangroves or such  a very sheltered place during testing weather.

I have heard that steel yachts are not as heavy as the are supposed by most people and possible buying a twin keel design in steel or glass, maybe wood? might afford the option of beaching the boat for various reasons. Not sure if its an effective  way to treat the boat on a regular basis because I have no experience with these keel structures or know the pros and cons of living on a boat in these circumstances.

I just had a peek at your profile, Saw some pics of an absolutely stunning grey boat FIREFLY, is that your boat?

That's a whole different kettle of fish WOW knockout!

Anyway, I am devoting my full time attention to finding hopefully not a lemon in the time I have available back in NZ, April May. Then I am back in China for three months to finish my countryside house - art studio and purchase and ship back to NZ the boat upgrade and other goods I will need to peruse my creative adventure writing video and photography life in New Zealand.

I will re-read and research the info in your reply and take it onboard as I progress toward my goal of owning a nice boat.

Best wishes....

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+1 for all of Dr Watsons points, the  NRC/NDC seem to be quite  assertive in policing environmental concerns with boats, e.g last two trips to the BOI they checked on my boats holding tank status but  I have never encountered this cruising the Hauraki Gulf.  I think once you are living full time on the boat you should expect to come under scrutiny sooner rather than later, not to say It cant be done but I would do your homework on the compliance picture first.

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17 hours ago, Enlightenment said:

I have given myself 2 months to purchase the RIGHT YACHT and mooring, a 35 to 40' coastal cruiser LIVEABORD.

Life is a journey not a race more so whilst seeking to purchase the right sail boat….

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I would also consider a look into Picton and Nelson.

Picton and Nelson are home to a lot of yachts that are owned from a distance - owners live in Canterbury, Wellington, west Coast etc.  This gets tedious pretty quickly and so the yacht sits, not being used but not actively for sale.

Brokers in those locations will know the target yachts

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All good advice here!

I have been keeping a lookout and researching the NZ boat market from afar for only a couple of months now but am getting a wee bit of feeling for what's out there, albeit from the viewpoint of someone with limited experience.

There are obviously plenty of suitable boats out there but also many wrecks that have been painted over and prepped to sell.  I'm sure navigating this minefield has burnt many first time buyers like me, who probably make up a big percentage of the boat sales market.

Buying a good yacht - suitable for purpose  is as elusive as finding a good match of wife of husband, which due to my own failures  is something I found challenging. These life choices require sound knowledge, skill, good will and good fortune.

I'm sure you guys can probably predict who is going to buy a lemon.

The boat scene is like a family because it requires huge dedication and  industrious skill and life experience to qualify.  Most people have no concept of the edge sailors choose to navigate. 

City lifestylers have no concept of experience a sunrise at sea where the ocean is like liquid mercury and the first rays of sunlight gradually reveal a symphony of colors dancing on the gentle swells and first rays of sunlight touch your face but warm body and soul from within the heart outwards and we know without doubt we have arrived. The sense of fulfilment that comes from returning home safe and sound after experiencing the power of nature and surviving unlimited potentialities at sea cannot be comprehended by average folk.

Time is a factor because my future boat life is linked to my creative process that MUST not be delayed indefinitely.

Finding a motivated seller with the right boat in my price-range might be challenging and take time and skill patience to bear fruit.

I take onboard that getting a decent deal on a yacht is most often done through boat clubs and race crew friends networks where boats history and quality are as familiar as the back of the hand. Often a proud owners motivation is wanting their pride and joy to pass to someone they are helping to step up, and knowing that person will value and maintain the boat may be more important than the dollar value.

Is there a window where buying during a bleak winter might help to motivate the seller?

When I arrive back a second time to live permanently in NZ in October, summer will be in the air and the new sailing season could make a difference, sellers attitude may have changed and prices might reflect this.

Although I lack experience with NZ boats I do have the logic accrued working for most of my life in the product design - prototyping industry which I hope will help steer me from making a hasty purchase.

I thought about looking in Picton and Nelson, but not from the point of boats being owned by distance - owners living in Canterbury, Wellington, west Coast etc. This is a very logical so I will visit friends in Nelson and check notice boards and talk to yacht club local and especially see brokers who know what's what.

Best regards

Adam C



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I have read some but not all the novels written on your various posts. I think your budget is way too low for what you want to do. And your ideas still seem very scattered for someone giving themselves 2 months to buy from your position. 

A boat in your budget will likely have many major systems on the brink. Any one of them could need half of your budget plus to remedy. You say you have more money to fix, I’d tend to be looking at buying the best you can afford, not buying cheap and fixing, which will cost more in the end for certain. Imagine two boats of the same design and age are for sale. One fully maintained and one not at all. You can’t make the bad one good for less than the good one is asking, so if you can’t afford to buy the good one, you can’t afford the bad one either. Maybe you buy the bad one and accept it’s old motor and flogged out sails, but you’re going to single hand it round the coast of NZ, what level of risk to you and others are you will to create?

Quick thought on sails, lots of cruisers say they don’t race so don’t need nice sails. Nice sails aren’t just about racing, they make the boat sail properly, powering the boat forward in gusts or heavy winds, rather than just healing the boat over and going sideways. They allow you to sail off that lee shore, not along and onto it. They allow you to get down the coast fast enough to miss the looming bad weather. Sails with the right shape are important. Sometimes sails can be recut to be good again, but that comes at a cost too.  

At 25-40k for 35’-40’ or 35’ish if that’s what it is now, you’d be expecting an old motor (25k), old sails (10k), old rigging (10k), old paint (30k?), old canvas 6k+, old electronics (8k, old wiring (10k), old plumbing, old running rigging, needing a bottom job, the list goes on and on. Those who have maintained their boats in operable condition with all of the above, know the cost of such, and thus the value, it also tends not to happen often on boats/designs which are cheaper, as they attract buyers with less money to begin with. 

The trailer boat idea is OK. Again, the good designs which sail well and are sea kindly (you mentioned the Noelex 25) have kept their value - as those in the know, know they are worth it, many have seen better maintenance because of this, or maybe it’s that boats of the lesser designs often get no maintenance at all, and the low cost of ‘park it in a paddock and forget it’ means they are held onto for too long and in a sorry state when sold. I think you’d find the Noelex 30 on a trailer impractical single handed. You’d struggle to raise the mast alone without a very good system to do so, maybe not even then. Launching and retrieving at some places could be hard too - do-able, for someone with experience.

There are also very few boats sold cheap to someone because that person will look after it well. At least not as much of a drop as the boat you want for the money you want. Seems like very wishful thinking. 

For living aboard in comfort and safety, there are lots of things to consider that many boats won’t have. Heating, and a way to control the damp. Dinghy storage - you’d need quite a good one- it becomes your car, trips to shore for food etc, to save you needing a marina every week for shopping or what ever it might be. Then you need a good safe way to store the dinghy and outboard aboard the yacht. Water storage, water maker? More cost and ongoing maintenance. Decent / useable shower? - hard to get in a smaller boat. 

I’d say most boats are sold via a broker or trademe. Not too many via yacht clubs or racing, not cruisers anyway, maybe a few race yachts sell that way. The NZ market is also quite small. If you input your budget and size into Trademe, which will have well over half the options currently for sale in NZ, you get less than 20 listings, and some of them are clearly non suitable anyway.

Finally, your comment about living aboard costing no more than a room in a house seems optimistic. Maybe week to week, factoring in food and mooring costs. But add in insurance, fuel, repairs, antifoul, haul out, then eventually sails, rigging, motor, paint. There are many live-aboards hoping it’s cheap living. Many end up with a worthless boat as no budget was allowed for for the less frequent stuff, only the day to day, and the boat deteriorates badly. By no means does that apply to all live-aboards, many can afford their boats, and brought good boats to begin with, not end of life wrecks. 

There’s my novel. Hopefully you can find one useful bit of thought / opinion in there. 

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One other thing to think about is power. Many of the boats in your budget will have very old electrics, does it need a rewire? Does it have an electrical wof for plugging in at a marina from time to time? Are there enough batteries? How will you charge them? Unlikely to get a genset, so you’d rely on solar and the main engine. How much space is there for solar? You maybe need quite a bit, $1k+? Would you need to have a solar arch built? +3k more? Then you’ll still need the main engine, standard regulator on factory alternator?  That’ll need quite a few hours at idle, or even at crusing revs to do anything. That’s more wear and tear, noise, diesel, servicing. Alternator and regulator upgrade, plus associated wiring, more than another boat dollar ($1k) there, maybe 2. 

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Good thoughts Mattm, 

I will carry out all the work myself as I am a retiring product designer and have a reasonable amount of experience in these kinds of builds. I spend, spent a lot of time (18 years) living in China and can source these product resources and ship them to NZ at 25 to 50 percent of the cost of buying in NZ.

NZ retailers have to source from exactly the same suppliers I have access to in China and then they ship, store, advertise, and pay employees, taxes, commercial rent and have to make profit on top of that.

With the free trade China to NZ the greatest expense is the labor which I will save as I will do the work myself. Maybe the biggest individual cost is then getting a marine electrician to certify?

also have access to various workshops who I have had long relationships with over the past 20 or so years. A little stainless pipe bending and welding can do in my sleep.

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Just a couple of examples of prices NZ compared to China, the power station cost the equivalent of $880 NZD in China

The top of the line e-bike costs $475 NZD in China

No import tax, just the cost of shipping and port fees, as I'm relocating back to NZ I have to pay household goods shipping anyway.



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I ABSOLUTELY agree with all of your points and appreciate you taking the time to share!, And I just love the point you make about not being able to make the bad boat good for less than the good one is asking price.

I cant afford to buy the good one, and yet I can’t afford the bad one either.

Boat size has shrunk to 32' + depending on what fits, see I am kinda listening and learning.

So yes I need to take my time and know when to make the right offer for the right boat!!!

I do believe there are really a lot of well maintained boats out there amongst those that are on the way out and have a fresh coat of paint.

Its just a matter of doing enough homework seeking out good advice, being patient and buying astutely.

From what I have gathered the more common and older 32 to 34 footers like a Cav 32 are all bracketed in my price range and I could pick one up for as little as $15k or so but by paying toward the higher end of the bracket I think I can pick up a gem with good qualities you have mentioned, sails and well maintained motor if I am patient enough and spend time looking Facebook trademe and around the ports and marinas.

After I have purchased a boat I will do whatever upgrades myself like robust solar etc. and I will also have a back up genny 

Being an incurable wishful thinker I think there are 2 markets to buy boats, the commercial and the networking methods of purchasing. For example cruising club members know most of what's going on in their region (I spent a whole lot of time at the Ponsonby cruising club as a kid, my dad used to drink there) members are in the position a buy a gem well before it comes onto the market because they are in the right place at the right time and have most of the right credentials a seller requires (maybe except money haha). A retiring owner of a well maintained boat wants their pride and joy to be loved by someone they know and trust while avoiding the hassle of selling it on the market.

All I'm saying is that the more I relate to the boat culture the better my decision making, knowledge and options become.

I will spend 2 months touring the Northland region in a camping van, looking for filming locations and local stories and inspirations for my videos while doing that I will try to find a base camp  mooring to rent and possibly to buy in future, also by the end of 2 months I might be lucky enough to have found THAT BOAT. In the next year or so renting moorings in various harbors and living on the boat in different locations will help me know better where to purchase the long term mooring.

A fool and his money are soon parted, I hear my Nanas favorite saying ringing in my ears.

I agree about the Noelex 30 being somewhat impractical because it may require too much might to handle and set up.           .

Its not a problem to get help BUT help is not always available in the remote places where I want to visit, solo.

I do find a trailersailer VERY appealing although not very comfortable.

I am thinking about option of building a comfortable housebus with all the amenities and living between shore and the boat therefore the boat amentities are less of an issue and the trailersailer option becomes pretty good, I could go on missions for up to a couple of weeks and it would be bearable and it could be left on the mooring with the mast up most of the time. When I go overseas to Asia 4 months a year I can dry store the boat fairly conveniently. Although the investment is quite high for a quality glass trailersailer, the benefits are good because maintenance costs are somewhat less. I saw a "supposedly" tidy Noelex 25 on a decent trailer for under 15k recently.

Security is a real issue that is always on my mind when planning this lifestyle, cameras and quite a bit of equipment hmmmm.

Really good point about living aboard and costs etc.

I factor into my costs the earnings I make from the lifestyle. Paying rent in the city means one has to have somewhat of an income and that is coming from city life where one is based.

Being based in the countryside or in this case on the coast on can either be a tour guide or a fisherman or such.

In my case I am writing and perusing creative exploits that provide my living, so in effect I am living off the country lifestyle.

The boat is a fundamental resource that is conveniently located in paradise, that allows me to make a living, its as much a tool like a camera or a paintbrush necessary for the job at hand.

Thanks for sharing!






afford to buy a boat 

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4 hours ago, mattm said:

One other thing to think about is power. Many of the boats in your budget will have very old electrics, does it need a rewire? Does it have an electrical wof for plugging in at a marina from time to time? Are there enough batteries? How will you charge them? Unlikely to get a genset, so you’d rely on solar and the main engine. How much space is there for solar? You maybe need quite a bit, $1k+? Would you need to have a solar arch built? +3k more? Then you’ll still need the main engine, standard regulator on factory alternator?  That’ll need quite a few hours at idle, or even at crusing revs to do anything. That’s more wear and tear, noise, diesel, servicing. Alternator and regulator upgrade, plus associated wiring, more than another boat dollar ($1k) there, maybe 2. 

You will be denied entry into the marina without insurance which will in turn require a recent survey which will at least document the faults  but possibly mean it cant be insured, rinse- wash- repeat.   

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You will have NZ laws and regulations to deal with also. You are not allowed to DIY AC electrical work, so will need to pay a qualified AC electrician, who will likely want to supply the parts too. Same for any LPG work.  Also, any AC electrical item must be approved as complying to NZ rules. If no one has imported the exact item before, it won’t be complied. If it doesn’t have an NZ plug on it, it doesn’t comply even if the model has been approved with a NZ plug. Perhaps no one will check, so you will get away with it unless the item causes an issue. This applies to gas appliances also, so again, no China import or you won’t get a gas cert. needed for insurance and marina entry  

You won’t import paint, anti foul,  new motor, or running rigging either, so will be paying NZ prices for many things. 

Is that a petrol generator? You’ll be the most hated man in the bay for the noise, then there is the danger of the fumes to you, the fuel use etc. Portable generators are not popular, but the e-bike will need charging….

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5 minutes ago, Black Panther said:

On his budget he won't be going to marinas.

Unless he wants work done by a pro - gas or AC he can’t do himself, then it is far cheaper at a marina, assuming he can find a tradie who would come to his mooring to compare the cost too anyway - it takes much longer to get to the boat, to return for extra bits or tools, and it typically risks getting the tradies gear wet on the dinghy ride, which is unpopular. 

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As someone who over capitalised a 26 foot boat by about, oh....$100K, guys like Panther and Mattm are speaking the truth.
You sound, with all due respect, green as grass - much like I was 7 or 8 years ago.  EVERYTHING ends up costing you DOUBLE if not TRIPLE what you think it will -  and yes, you will be paying NZ's exorbitant prices for everything from paint to rope to fittings - everything marine (if you want quality) is damn expensive in NZ.  Even the chinese sh#t fixtures and fittings sold by a lot of Chandlers is expensive.
Save up $60 - $70K and buy a nice comfortable 28 -32 footer, which some other fool has spent tens of thousands on to bring up to spec.

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