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From the Editor: The Price of Passion

In a rare unguarded moment this summer, while discussing the cost of boat ownership, I recounted aloud the full cost of keeping a 34-foot sailboat on the water in my part of New England. My position in this debate was that boat ownership was more affordable than most people think, and I still reckon it can be.

In a rare unguarded moment this summer, while discussing the cost of boat ownership, I recounted aloud the full cost of keeping a 34-foot sailboat on the water in my part of New England. Taking into account winter storage, insurance, mooring service, mooring fees and launch service, the total was not far short of $4,000—and that doesn’t account for bottom painting, covering the boat in winter and general maintenance. Say another $600-$1,000 or so for those incidentals and improvements—and that’s with me doing all the work myself. Call it $100 a week, winter and summer, in an average year—and in an exceptional year, such as this one when the boat needed an expensive professional repair, well, I don’t really want to think about it.

My position in this debate was that boat ownership was more affordable than most people think, and I still reckon it can be. If I had been smart enough to buy a house with room for a medium sized cruising boat in the yard I’d save around $1,500, and if we gave up the launch service in favor of buzzing out to the boat in our own tender we’d save a few hundred more.

Trading down to a smaller boat would trim hundreds more off the annual outlay. After the initial purchase cost, a daysailer that I could keep on a trailer in the winter would cost very little to maintain.

Or maybe I could share a boat. Sharing can make a lot of sense if the demands on your time are such that you couldn’t sail every weekend anyway. (Or if you share with a priest, whose weekends are generally otherwise occupied!) But the thought of cutting all those bills in half sure is tempting.

I could forget about owning a boat altogether. I could buy a Cruising 35 membership at the Boston Sailing Center for $6,475, which would entitle me to take out cruising boats the same size as ours for not much more than our average annual spend—and with no maintenance worries. At Boston’s Sailtime franchise, a $6,900 fee would get me at least seven outings a month on a nearly new Hunter 33, with no extra costs except topping up the fuel tank after a long cruise. I wouldn’t even have to clean the boat!

Any or all of these options could be worthwhile, I reckon, depending on your financial position and the amount of time you are able to devote to messing about with a boat as opposed to actually sailing it.

Speaking strictly for myself, though, the option of not owning a boat is not an option at all. Saving money? Pah! I can’t put a price on the pleasure I get from being on the water, and I even enjoy working on the boat. Saving time? For what? I can’t think of a better way to spend my time than being on or around a sailboat.

Still, you do need to be careful when you’re enumerating what you spend on your sailing. You never know who might be listening…

Peter Nielsen is SAIL’s Editor in Chief.

He keeps his boat in Marblehead, MA and

sails wherever there are boats to

be sailed 

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