This article is meant to assist you in making a decision when purchasing your first boat (whether it’s a motorboat or a sailboat).
You should consider the following factors: Fuel efficiency/costs, (your) work effort, sailing characteristics, comfort, and safety.
How much the boat may cost is of course the most limiting factor for choosing the type of boat, but even with a very small budget, it is possible to find a boat that suits your needs.
Maintenance (your work effort)
All boats require maintenance, but older boats will generally require more than new ones. However, you should never expect everything to work smoothly, and make sure to get a thorough review by the previous owner before you buy the boat. There is wear and tear that affects different parts of the boat, which requires continuous care and repair.
Inexperienced sailors could benefit from a boat with less work effort required while learning. It may not be so important to pick a particularly fast boat if you plan on using it primarily in calm waters or inland waterways where the extra speed is not necessary.
The less technical a boat is, and the less equipment there is on it, the simpler the project becomes. This will obviously have an impact on sailing characteristics, comfort, and safety, which are addressed in detail below.
What do you emphasize?
Before buying a new boat, you should consider what type of sailor you and your family are.
There are, in fact, three basic choices that are often somewhat compromised by each other:
1. The sailing characteristics of the boat
When we talk about sailing characteristics, we’re primarily concerned with how quickly the vessel travels through the water and how it regains its composure after being tossed around.
If speed is your priority there are many options on performance boats. A disadvantage would be that they have less storage space onboard, limiting the amount of equipment that can be carried.
Try to think of a racing boat. There are often no cabins and comfort is not prioritized at all. However, there are also a great number of boats that have been adapted for other types of sailors.
In general, these boats should be thought of as being very complicated to handle and the owner must have a lot of sailing experience. These types of boats can quickly become expensive because due to their greater performance compared to other types, they require more equipment and upkeep.
When we talk about a boat’s characteristics in terms of handling with wind and waves, there are four main components:
1. Vibration when going through the hull.
2. Rolling or tilting sideways when moving through the waves.
3. The amount of heeling (turning over to one side).
4. The way the boat climbs up and down through the waves (slapping).
A boat with good sailing characteristics can quickly regain its composure after being upset by wind, sea or waves. This is especially important because there are many inexperienced sailors who do not understand how to handle their vessel in difficult environmental conditions, therefore compromising safety even more than just climbing up and down wildly on the water surface.
This characteristic does depend on the weight of a boat and it will sometimes be more about maintaining a certain speed rather than going faster, which makes handling easier for both novice and experienced sailors.
Boat models called “cruiser” and “comfort” belong in this category of boats.
If you have difficulty luring your spouse out sailing, then you should choose a boat in this category, and only sail out with your loved one in light weather on short trips.
Comfort often costs dearly on the weight of the boat. When you prioritize comfort, it is important to be aware that it will not make the boat faster (in fact, the opposite may be true).
Comfort can, for example, consist of comfortable accommodation, and equipment that makes life easier (ex: large tanks and kitchen/bath equipment).
Some very comfortable boats are not suitable for sailing in moderate to harsh weather because they roll violently to wind and sea.
Boats that are safest also sail badly, and boats that sail well are often not very safe. The balance between safety and sailing capabilities is very important. For this reason, it may be difficult to find the perfect boat for your own needs because you always have to compromise on something to get everything else right.
You can estimate whether a boat is safe by looking at the build quality of the hull (especially around entrance hatches), cabin construction, accommodations size/layout, equipment (life rafts, etc.), and rigging set-up.
If you are in doubt about which of the above three categories a boat falls into, consider asking an insurance company.
You can get a good indication of what type of boat you are dealing with by contacting an insurance broker. They price the boats’ insurance conditions based on various parameters that you can get information about when you have a specific boat in mind.