Let's face it: Boats are EXPENSIVE.
Assuming you want to own a yacht of an appropriate size for long-term cruising- say 12 metres (40 feet) LOA- you currently have four options:
- Buy a new, ready-to-go cruising yacht, often with a price tag north of \$350,000.
- Buy a new day-sailing boat and upgrade it to offshore cruising standards. The basic boat may be under \$200,000, but the design will often be inappropriate for offshore work and may require substantial hardware and systems upgrades.
- Buy an older cruising boat and refit it. There are plenty of sub-\$100k boats available that are in good shape, but a complete systems overhaul is a major task that can easily consume several years and an unpredictable amount of money. It is quite easy to pour \$100k of work into a \$100k boat and end up with something whose resale value is only \$130k.
- Go to a custom builder and have something whipped up to your own specs- or build it yourself. It'll be exactly what you want, but a custom build takes a great deal of time and effort.
What's missing from this list? As far as I can tell, nobody is currently mass-producing a basic, ready-to-go cruising boat at a price that an average middle-class couple in North America or Europe can afford. Such a boat should:
- Cost significantly less than the average single-family house. Taking on a \$200,000 boat is comparable to taking on a cottage in northern Ontario or Quebec, which a great many families already do. Taking on a \$400,000 boat is a much scarier prospect for people whose primary residence is probably worth about that much (or less).
- Hold its value at resale. A \$200,000 boat that you can sell for \$150,000 after your five-year cruise costs you \$10,000 per year in depreciation. A \$400,000 boat that you resell for \$250,000 after the same trip costs you \$30,000 a year in depreciation. The difference between them more than pays for the insurance, port fees and fuel! To hold its value, the boat should be well built and sturdy, with good reliable hardware and systems, and it should be sufficiently "normal" that there is an ongoing demand for the type.
- Be ready to cruise straight from the factory. All the essential gear should be there, and it should be good quality, reliable stuff. Having an under-spec'd windlass, head pump or boom vang fail in the middle of nowhere is Not Cool while you're stuck for eight weeks as a replacement is shipped. Getting caught in a storm, only to find that the boat has no drogue and no place to tie one, is also Not Cool.
- Be devoid of unnecessary luxuries. Yes, it's possible to have complex systems that are very reliable, but good complex systems cost a fortune. The money we'll save by not spending \$40,000 on exotic varnished hardwoods for the interior will pay for an extra year or two of cruising. We can save another \$10,000 to \$100,000 by omitting the 3D, multi-station, multi-function dedicated nav computer system in favour of laptops and one dedicated plotter. By being reasonable in our demands for electricity, we can avoid the need for a \$15,000 generator and tens of thousands of dollars in extra wiring, batteries and power conversion gadgets. Keeping the boat simple will also help to keep her light, quick and easy to handle.
Simplicity and efficiency alone, though, won't get our yacht's price down to something reasonable. We'll also have to strip out a lot of the marketingand distribution overhead that yacht builders typically carry. And we'll have to sacrifice tradition in favour of practicality in many cases: swaged rigging ends that cost \$100 a pop might be ditched in favour of cheaper and more reliable spliced eyes, a hard-to-fabricate steering pedestal will be replaced with a balanced tiller helm; a white painted interior with a bit of wood trim will replace the traditional varnished hardwood.
What we'll be left with, after all this design and optimization work is complete, is a sturdy, reliable, simple 12 metre (40 foot) offshore cruiser with a target price of under \$200,000 (USD / CAD). She'll be able to carry a live-aboard couple just about anywhere. She'll be easy to maintain and repair in the field. She won't have the latest in gadgets, luxuries and exotic hardwood brightwork, but her owners will be able to cruise for several extra years- and with fewer maintenance headaches- on the money saved.
Does such a boat exist? It will soon. Captain John Harries is calling her the "Adventure 40", and a team is being put together to make this a reality. If you want one, join the list soon- it looks like they will be selling like hotcakes for at least the first few years of production.