Knocking The Boat Buying Habit & Spending More Time On The Water

Well, I sold my Rosborough 246. The new owners are driving it away in the picture above. It happened suddenly. Only a month ago I was committed to refurbishing the boat before offering it up. But I happened to mention it to a nice couple who were looking for a boat, and they expressed a keen interest in taking on the refurbishing project. Three weeks later it was heading down the road to a new home, leaving me with much needed shop space, some cash for other projects, and a ball of mixed emotions.

Selling this one was hard on me. Even though my reasons for buying it and ultimately selling it were all sound, it followed a boat buying habit in the last few years, boats that I worked on, but used little to none, before selling them; and I was sick of it. Sure, all of these boats taught me some things, but mostly they were a huge time suck, keeping me off the water. How very unboaty of those boats.

I am not going to say I would always rather be boating than working on boats, but I would like more balance in time spent. I do get a lot of joy from figuring out what boat might be best for my specific purpose, searching for the right one to buy (or build), and then going through it all and adapting it to my purpose. It can be a very satisfying creative outlet.

But I was developing a problem, buying boats for no good reason, buying the wrong boats for my need, or ones that needed way too much work. When I would get bored, or want a break from my paying job, I would start dreaming and shopping for boats. I can partly blame an employer I had for a stint that did not give me enough work, leaving my bored brain free to roam. I also went a bit crazy after moving back to Port Townsend after having lived in Tucson, Arizona for nine years. My planks were dry, and I just about drowned in boats.

I am wising up though, and a few personal rules and cautions have emerged to guide my future efforts.

  1. Don’t buy a boat you don’t really need. (Yes, yes, I know,”need” is as easy to manipulate as corporate profits.)
  2. Use the boat you have, or adapt it to suit your need. Forget about the perfect boat.
  3. No, you don’t need a bigger boat.
  4. Never buy a boat sight unseen.
  5. Never buy a boat that you don’t like the looks of, or one that does not fit your personality and values.

For many of my fellow boat-head friends these rules are pure hateful sacrilege; they live by golden rule #1 “there is no such thing as too many boats”. There are many of us, including some truly shameless hoarders. And we are so supportive of each other’s habits that I may be the only member of BBA (Boat Buyers Anonymous). For awhile I had a running competition with an old friend, that went something like this. The guy with the most boats wins, but you lose if your wife is the first to shut down another boat purchase. And we would constantly send each other Craigslist ads of irresistible boats, in an attempt at mutual marriage and financial destruction. Pretty childish and dysfunctional. I am lucky to have a supportive wife, and the fact that I don’t tend to lose money on all of this buying and selling likely helps. Still, boats should be a controlled substance. They are irresistibly interesting to me.

I am turning the corner though. Recently I applied rules 1, 2 and 3 when I adapted my CLC Skerry for cruising. I was sick of buying new boats, but I did need a little cruiser, so I figured out how to make the one I had work. I have used that boat more than any other boat I have ever owned, and intend to keep using it until my knees and back rebel. It did take months of work to modify, but I am happy with the result.

Sticking to rule 3 is challenging and rewarding. It is so easy to think that your existing small boat won’t do the job, won’t hold the gear you want to take, or won’t be comfortable enough. And you will find endless ignorant advice saying “bigger is safer”. Now whenever I start thinking my boat is not big enough, I ask myself “do people do it in a kayak?” Since the answer to that is almost universally yes, it blows a big hole in most bigger boat rationalizations. Sticking to this rule is very rewarding because it forces me to figure out how to make a small boat work safely for my needs. I love doing that.

Another boat buying habit mistake, a trimaran bought sight unseen.
T-gull 23 Folding Tremolino Trimaran Bought Sight Unseen

Buying a boat sight unseen has bitten me at least three times. I love multihulls, and had a seminal boating experience in a Tremolino trimaran in my youth. In a fit very much resembling a midlife crisis, I bought a folding T-gull 23 Tremolino trimaran, sight unseen. I picked it up in San Francisco on the move back to Washington state from Arizona. What I did not know, is that whoever manufactured that boat spent very little time fairing their molds. The hulls had terribly lumpy lines, and the boat had many other unsightly features. It offended at every glance. I would either have had to completely fair the boat, and redesign and rebuild a bunch of it, or get rid of it. So, after doing a bunch of work on it, and barely using it, it was sold. Hence rules 4 and 5. I am so glad I had not yet developed rule 2.

I could go into the experiences and reasoning behind the other rules, but you probably get the idea.

Does all of this mean I am done buying or building boats? No chance. But my current plan is to get four small boats fully functional, each of which does a different job. I should not need another boat for years to come and just keeping those boats maintained will be a constant job. Then I am going to start a magazine where I review other people’s small boats, so that I don’t have to buy any more. Wait a moment, Josh already had that idea. Drat!

What four boats? My Lavro Sea Dory will be an excellent little long range cruiser for going north, and good local knockabout. It is a big project, but with the Rosborough sold I suddenly have room in my shop, extra time, and cash for refitting. The Lavro will need a lightweight pram for going to shore, particularly when I have a guest aboard. I am thinking of building something in skin-on-frame for this. I will continue to use the Skerry as my sail/oar cruiser. And finally I need a lightweight car-toppable boat, for lakes and for shores not accessible with a boat trailer. I will build my 16′ Hummingbird design for that purpose. It will also be used as a shore and exploration boat on the Lavro when I am alone. Oh, and my wife also wants a kayak that I will find for her or build, but that goes on her boat count, not mine.

Eventually the Skerry may become too uncomfortable for an aging body. I have ideas for a little camp cruising multihull that could replace it, but I am going to resist that urge for as long as possible.

Most important, I am going to get out on the water more often while sorting all of these boats out. And let’s see if I can redirect my boat buying habit entirely into having great small boat adventures I can share with you.

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