You’ve probably heard that a boat is a hole in the water lined with (insert your choice of building material here) into which you throw money. For those of us who live from paycheck to paycheck it is very difficult to make the entry point into sailing. It’s one thing to budget the ongoing operational costs like moorage fees, fuel, bottom paint, sunblock and beer. Unless you are able to finance at a reasonable rate with a small down payment some folks just can’t meet the price of a new boat.
Forget new boats. You can’t go there. I did that once back in the eighties when payday put cash in my pocket and my savings account at the same time. So what do you do if a C-note is something you wring out of the budget by main strength and primitive guile? Check out the local harbor master’s office for impounded boats for sale. Typically these boats have been abandoned by their owners due to a reversal of fortune, divorce, illness, or a sudden need to leave town never to be heard from again. Some marinas will sell the boat outright especially if they have a brokerage operation as part of their business and they have secured a clear title.
In cases were the boat is seized through statutory authority, i.e. the law says they can do it with proper notice given and no legal challenge from the owner. In this case the preferred means is to offer the vessel at auction to the general public. Auctions may be by sealed bid or as the one I attended recently an actual auction may occur right on the dock a tthe boat in question.
If you have followed my previous posts you know about the Columbia 22 that I was interested in. Unfortunately my net worth that day was exactly $100.00. It was a very educational experience. The first thing I found out was that the sale was very poorly attended. This is an advantage for you. Only one person showed up to challenge my bid so she walked away with a hundred dollar sailboat. There were two other boats for sale also. A 24 foot Bayliner Buccaneer had no bidders and so did not sell. I don’t really like that design, but, if a person just wanted to get an entry level pocket cruiser that would have been an easy way to get one. Also on the block was a 37 foot yawl that has not left the dock for several years. She is built hell for stout but much of the interior was stripped out and the rigging was looking very neglected. The masts had not had a coat of paint, oil, varnish or anything protective in a scarily long time. It’s definitely a project but with potential to make a good live aboard cruiser. She went to a man from seattle for $100.00 because nobody else showed up.
All boats had the same minimum bud of $100.00. The marina is not looking to make a killing on these vessels. They say they are trying to recover the cost of unpaid moorage fees. I assure you they still lost money, however, they got rid of known liabilities. The moral of the story is “show up.” You could come away with a boat for next to nothing.
Is there a downside? Possibly, the devil after all is in the details. So, listen up when the auctioneer recites the terms and conditions of sale. generally they state that the marina does not guarantee your ability to obtain a good title. They are not responsible for liens or judgements against the boat. They do assist the new owner in getting the boat registered with the state. The more usual downside is the condition of the vessel. Abandoned boats do not get cleaned, repaired, painted or properly loved. You will be buying some amount of work, maybe a lot. You may need to be ready to move the boat out of the marina or start paying for a slip.
I’m disappointed that I didn’t get the Columbia 22 but there will be other opportunities and I can be saving up in the meantime so I can attend the next sale with a slightly fatter wallet. We should not get discouraged. There is plenty of ocean to go around and it’s waiting for you and your next boat.