*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Buying a tramp yacht... someday.

Toronto sucks, but Georgian Bay doesn't, and it's just hours away.  The main body of it is 200km long, and 80km wide, there are no tides of course, you can not only swim in it but drink it, you are never far from shelter, and most of it is little spoilt.  Oh, you can get to all the other Great Lakes too, if you have the cruising time or haul out your boat.  So I am writing up my plan for getting a boat onto it in a few years, and sailing all of it, and maybe Superior too.  Huron also, but Georgian Bay is the prettier part of that lake.

So, I'm trying to rope in a friend to share the costs.  You see, the season's only four months long in Ontario, so it's a bit much to pay full freight for such a short period. He and I are both teachers, so have the time to enjoy it, and we met rock-climbing, so are relatively rugged.  We both also prefer the Bruce Penninsula side of the bay to the Parry Sound side, mainly because it is less overrun with tourons and nouveaux riches.  My father shared a boat and stayed friends with his boat partner, and my father was an asshole.  My friend and I have trad-climbed together, so have already trusted each other with our lives.  My kids are young yet, and my wife'll kill me if I do this before we get a house, but in a few years it'll be my plaything in July while she's with the kids in Japan.  I am not a cottage person, and none on a decent lake are under a million near to Toronto anymore, and those lakes are full of stinkpots (motor boats).  Sailing, with the time off a teacher has, I am on one of the best sailing lakes in the world.

Sailing's not cheap, but not as expensive as people think, if you're smart.  First, you never buy new, because more than a few years used is a fraction the price of new, and boats don't fall apart like cars do.  Second, you buy as small as is safe on the lake and you find livable, because price doubles every 5' on the waterline. You can rent a boat, if you have the local sailing licence, but I've estimated each half of annual cost is $2500 (all CAD): just a little more than the weekly cost of chartering a boat on Georgian Bay the same size, $2200.  Even in the first year, if each of us sails it three weeks, the thing is paid for.  Sure, the boat's not as new, but that's not worth thousands.

Makes me wonder why I didn't live in a boat before marriage: $10000 investment and $500/month costs: and I get to sail my home.  Then I remember that I lived in Toronto and Montréal where the season's short, the winter's cold, and the sailing's mundane.  If I'd lived in Vancouver...

This is based on a 25' or 27' boat, like a C&C 27.  I'd want a few additions:
- one or two folding bikes in stowage
- bug and rain cover for the hatch and companionway
- bimini with bug mesh for sleeping/living outside
- 120v outlet for using electronics when hooked to shore power

If this is interesting, the details I sent to my friend follow the pictures.

I suggest we buy one on a round-numbered birthday year: your sixtieth and my fiftieth should be the same summer, and my kids will be old enough to take on a boat in life-jackets.  Summer previous to that or earlier, we take the Humber Sailing School course for something over $1000, and maybe even join the club for similar to get some experience on Ontario.  We'd have an agreement on the boat year to year and simply sell off the boat and reconcile the balances if one party wants out, or make an agreement on buying the other party out.

I'm thinking a used 25' or 27' sloop out of Owen Sound.  My father had a Tanzer 22 in Port Credit, but a boat a touch larger is going to be roomier and much safer feeling on Georgian Bay.  Ideally with a flushing head; showers and such are an unneeded luxury, but if wife insists I'll pay to have one in (she can shower at the Marina).  Owen Sound has a bus connection, which saves renting a car for us or for guests.  Further up the Bruce doesn't really work.  Fuck the Parry Sound side: busy, full of stinkpots (motor) and the traffic always sucks.

We'd split all unavoidable costs down the middle, but any personal upgrades we'd negotiate on a per item basis: if one doesn't feel it's needed, the other pays for all of it or chooses to forgo it.  That'd likely be me for spare sails, or a shower.  We'd write up an agreement and sign off on it.

Been looking online and costs come to about:
- boat and minor customization/repairs in first year, $8000-12000

Annually: $5000
- dockage, $2200
- on sight winter storage, $800
- repairs, $1500
- gasoline, $500, but we'd keep a log of engine use to share that most fairly
- insurance and sundries: $1000
Excess balance we can roll over year to year for major upgrades, upgrading the boat, or sharing back if we end the agreement or at the end of season.

So, that's a $7500/each hit in the first year, and $2500 each year after that.

- we aim to put in equal labour, especially in May before launch
- in case of accident the party in charge of the boat at the time eats any insurance deductible
- if accident is at the dock it is split
- a basic log is kept of miles sailed, and miles under power, so that costs can be fairly split (i.e. gasoline)
- water and fuel tanks are always kept 2/3 full or better
- waste tank not left more than 2/3 full (and try to use the marina)
- cabin, head, sails, etc. are left in 'ship-shape'
- when 'ship-shape' is not possible (a rush to catch a bus), a bottle of wine or similar is given in informal compensation
- other parties may take the helm under an owner's supervision and responsibility only
- Ontario boating rules will be followed

- we'll have a document for tracking this
- when sailing together it is shared scheduling
- if one party books longer periods of over a week, the other party gets priority on number of times, or similar balancing
- keep each other informed of last minute openings or taking unclaimed availability

I'd want it maybe three weeks in July, when my family is in Japan, but you'd not only be welcome but wanted to share the sailing.  I'd also like another week in August for my family to join.  I doubt I could convince wife to go for more anyway.  That leaves you the other half of July/August.  June and September we'd split weekends.  If you are retired you'd have full access to June and September weekdays.


  1. That sounds like a fair split. My co-worker recently bought a sailboat, she is from the Great Lakes area. Her daughters recently graduated high school and I foresee an early retirement for her... I have yet to visit her boat but I can tell she loves sailing. She does ocean sailing though. Good luck and happy sailing when the time comes.

    1. How big is her boat? I don't think I'd want only 27' on ocean, though people have crossed oceans in less, and cruising shores and making crossings are entirely different things.

      Even if I get a 27', and get up to Superior, I'd be flitting anchorage to anchorage and have the weather radio on constantly, but Superior is notorious. I went sea-kayaking on it a few years back with friends too stupid to respect it. Nothing bad came of it, but I won't travel anywhere with them again. Reminds me of an old rock climbing saying: 'There are old climbers, and there are bold climbers, but there are no old, bold climbers.'

      Why doesn't everyone live on a boat in L.A.? I would.