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Yearning for a Yacht? What to Know Before Buying a Boat

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February 5, 2016
Yearning for a yacht? What new skippers need to know before buying that boat

Thinking of trying out your sea legs with your own boat? Before logging a single minute on deck, dive into the depths of research.

Boaters need to “clearly define their own expectations and what they want to get out of this experience,” stresses Captain Lee Rosbach of Bravo's Below Deck TV show, who has skippered some of the most expensive chartered and private super yachts on the seas.

Have a budget in mind from the get-go. You may dream of the Queen Mary, but your budget will dictate if your boat may be closer to the S.S. Minnow. A reputable boat broker will ask the buyer several questions long before the sale, including gauging affordability, Rosbach says.

How Big?

First-time owners should start small, say the editors at BoatTest.com, which offers a buying guide.

“For someone ... who just wants to get out on the weekend with family to go fishing or sailing, a nice center console boat in the 30- to 36-foot range can be an attractive beginner boat. You can be taught to handle it fairly decently in a few days,” Rosbach says.

BoatTest recommends starting with a boat no bigger than 22 to 24 feet and “make sure any boat you buy is certified to carry all the passengers and gear you plan to bring aboard.”

Someone Else at the Wheel?

For those who can afford to buy a yacht, you might opt to seek out an experienced crew, especially for vessels that are 70 feet and longer. In fact, insurance companies may require that the boat be operated by someone with experience before they’ll approve coverage, Rosbach says.

The salary for a full-time, entry-level captain is around $80,000 to head an 80-foot boat year-round. The boat owner also typically needs to provide a benefits package, meals, and uniforms. For owners who only want to hire skippers for special trips, freelance captains are available. Rosbach charges between $550 and $750 a day, depending on the boat.

In addition to paying any crew, owners should plan for yearly maintenance costs, fuel, storage, and dockage fees, too, he said. The annual all-in costs for a 50-meter yacht (about 164 feet), not including repairs for major breaks, is around $1.5 million to $2 million, he says.

Boat ownership is not for those who are prone to complain about maintenance of their hobby, Rosbach emphasizes.

“Those are conversations real yachtsmen don’t have,” he says. “They just love yachting and they acknowledge it’s going to be expensive and they don’t care.”

And, he jokes, be careful around boats. “If you get bit by the yachting bug, it can be an affliction, but a quite enjoyable one. I’m a firm believer that being on the water will add years to your life.”

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