setting them up to cruise can easily run $50K. And most of them start at $150-200K. So my (new) budget – roughly $150K – is a stretch at best. Add into this how well the boat has been maintained, what would need to be replaced, the cost of replacing it (and labor) and you can see how quickly this can get convoluted. Many people count out catamarans that have been through the charter fleet – but I wouldn’t do that. I would, though, make sure I built into the price of the boat, my costs to get it cruise-ready (again, easily $50K). But let’s get this party started…
I’ll start with my progress to date:
My first offer was on a 1995 Fountaine Pajot Athena 38, with a ton of upgrades. They were asking $179K, but I came in around $140K. There was some back and forth, but we couldn’t reach a deal. Too bad, it was a heck of a boat and the owner had exhibited a ton of pride in ownership. The reasons I wasn’t budging on this particular boat:
- It’s damn near 20 years old
- It’s over budget
- It’s a 38′ Fountaine Pajot (not as desirable as some other brands)
- I would take a beating at resale
- It’s not a perfect boat to do what I want to do
The things that I liked about the boat:
- Small enough to single-hand
- Big enough to do the job
- Wouldn’t need to dump money into it to go cruising
- Had extra freezer space
- Had folding props, additional storage, dinghy/outboard, and huge house battery bank (more on this later)
Not making a deal on this one was a little discouraging, but I keep reminding myself how everyone else will be sitting in their cubicles while I’m out sailing, freediving, spearfishing, and exploring. That’s enough to get me going again. I spent the day following the declined offer going through a ton of FSBO boats on sailboatlistings.com and catamaransite.com. I called and talked to all of the owners on boats of interest. Four boats in my price range were of interest. Here they are:
- 1993 Lagoon 37′ TPI – good boat, solid reputation, small for my needs. It needed a bunch of TLC, was in the BVI, and needed almost all systems replaced. The good news is that it could probably be purchased for $85-90,000. Meaning that if I kept the outfitting to “need-to-have” instead of “nice-to-have”, I could probably make this work in my budget. Maybe even come in under budget. Three things kept me from making an offer: A) finding a better boat to make an offer on, B) valuing my time and the stress of a complete refit, and C) the chance that I’d underestimated the cost to get it ready to go. That last one is a real concern and one that could kill the the whole idea. There’s the possibility that I get to $150K into the boat and it’s still not ready – so I’ve blown my budget on a boat that isn’t worth the money into it, and I can’t go cruising on it. Not a pretty picture.
- 1992 Lagoon 42′ TPI – good boat, with a reputation for being tough-as-nails. Also had 5 extra feet of waterline over the 37 TPI. The issue here is really the sellers, and the location (Cancun). They’re insisting on a price at the very upper end of the cruising catamaran market ($165,000), and it’s definitely not in pristine condition, nor could I just jump on it and sail away. The seller is a bit (maybe more than a bit?) of a PITA as well, making me not want to work with him at all. They, like the owners of the Athena 38, put tons of money into an older boat that simply isn’t worth what they put into it. That’s sad, but not my problem. And I’m not itching to make it my problem.
- 1995 Dean 400 – cheap (asking $159,000) for the size and the gear onboard. Also been on the market for awhile so there’s likely some room for negotiation in there. Issue here is that there are original sails ($10K), original rigging ($15K), no watermaker ($5K), older electronics ($5-10K), etc. But yes, there’s an even bigger issue – the boat isn’t worth it. This particular Dean 400 sailing catamaran may be worth it, but Dean boats have had some pretty serious build-quality issues that have been well documented. So the market (as a whole) is a bit scared of them. I’d get slaughtered on the resale market, and they don’t sail all that well either.
- 1994 Fountaine Pajot Antigua 37′ – this is the predecessor to the Fountaine Pajot Athena, which I put my first offer on. By all accounts a capable boat, but an older hull design and not holding it’s value very well on the market. I found one that I liked (low engine hours, and other new stuff) but they are holding firm around $125,000. That leaves me with ~$25,000 to do all of the upgrades necessary, which would be tight (dinghy, outboard, solar, wind, sails, rigging, etc). But the elephant in the room: it will never be a $150,000 boat. So after all of that time and money to get it up to speed – I’m stuck with a boat not worth what I have into it. Once again – not something I want to be my problem.
I was beginning to get a little frustrated. I’m looking under the $200,000 mark, but I really need a boat to come in at $150,000 for this round of offers. Let me be clear: it can be done, but it wasn’t looking pretty (this is me resisting a Drew Barrymore joke). Under $200,000 – fully outfitted is dobable, if you’re flexible and patient. But under $150,000? That’s really tough.
A Glimmer Of Hope
The day that contract expired, I sent out another one to a 2000 Lagoon 380 out of the country. It’s still up in the air, so I can’t talk too much about it. But I can say that it’s out of the country, and if in the US it would probably sell for significantly more. It’s not as extensively upgraded as the Athena, but it’s a more desirable boat, an owner’s version (way better), unchartered, and with less hours, on bigger engines. Not a bad deal on the surface, but it’s a long way from a done deal. The biggest concern here is: we don’t have enough information. And getting reliable information (via a survey) is going to cost $1K or more (haul out, survey, travel costs). And I can’t just take off work, buy a plane ticket and head down there without knowing more. And it’s at the very upper end of my budget.
Our initial plan was this:
- Get the contract
- Get a detailed equipment list
- Get a simple survey ($300) – preliminary, no hauling, not full-blown
- Go check it out in person
- Do a sea-trial
- Decide yes/no
At any point in that process, for roughly 30 days, I can choose to kill the deal. We were having a little trouble finding a person to do the initial survey because of the location of the boat. We eventually found someone, but they’re charging us $65/hour for travel time to and from the boat. For $830, they’ll do a full sea-trial and in-the-water survey. But then, if I want the hull surveyed (ie – they pull the boat out of the water and check the entire hull), I have to either pay them to come back out or fly another surveyor in from Florida. Both not cheap. So, at this point it looks like we’re going to do the full-survey, including haul-out (an additional ~$500), get the results, and decide if it’s worth going down there personally. This brings my total additional costs to $1,500 and I haven’t even stepped foot on the boat.
I’m not sure if this is worth it. It’s definitely a gamble, but one that may pay off. We have a very limited amount of information, but what we have seems to point to a boat that has been fairly well maintained, possibly upgraded well, and hopefully not seen hard use, for about 25% under market. We will see. Looking past the cosmetic is the key here.
This is a big emotional roller-coaster. The only thing I can compare it to is dating an emotionally unstable girl in college – you have no idea what’s going to happen, but it’s going to cost you money (and might be entertaining).
The Importance Of Experience
I’ve been fortunate when boat shopping, having picked a knowledgable broker and having two additional e-friends that help me evaluate my boating options. I met one via Crusiers Forum and another via this very site. I think it’s important to have other people to bounce ideas off of, especially when you’re new at this (as I am).
Here’s my public thanks. I’ve never met them, but they’ve been sounding boards (via email) for me as I’m evaluating all of the options. And there are a million options. Travis – thanks man for sharing the results of your research. Bob – the amount of knowledge you have about cruising catamarans and the market is mind-boggling. I’d be up shit creek without both of you. And I’ve heard shit-creek isn’t all that fun of a place.
The big thing that the two saints above have helped me with is estimating costs of replacing things, and understanding what the “market value” of a particular boat, set up a particular way, is. On that note, I’ll share some of those numbers in a post over the weekend (this one’s getting a little long). Update, here’s that post: Cruising Equipment Costs
Still reading? You’re a glutton for punishment…
To add to the confusion, my Mom still hasn’t committed to the trip yet – which could dramatically change my options and our requirements. It would give me a better idea of what to look at and what I can afford if I were to wait until she’s committed (or not). But I can’t do that. The worry is that if I’m not making progress every day – the dream may wither and die. I can’t allow that to happen. My Mom is, though, taking a bluewater catamaran sailing class soon – after which she’ll let me know where she’s at on being part of The Nomad Trip. This is one of the larger concerns right now – Mom needs to come, at least part of the time.
More chaos? Coming right up. Recently another storage unit deal came to my attention, this one looking more promising than the last and I hope that there’s something here. It would take a massive amount of legwork and add another level of complexity to my already chaotic life, but it could guarantee me some level of monthly stability – which may, in fact, be priceless. Of course, this is yet another tie to “back-home” – but I’m not sure that being completely unattached is the right answer either.
“Challenging” Is An Understatement
I’ve read stories of people doing similar things and there’s a recurring theme – this process is tough to get right. It can take many years, as it’s a fundamental change in your life – where you’re risking everything on a few decisions. My impression is that these doubts and concerns are amplified when you’re doing it all alone. Sure, I can talk to people – but who really understands this besides someone who has been through it? It’s a challenge, and not one many can relate to.
But that’s exactly the point, isn’t it? If everyone were doing this – it wouldn’t be worth as much.