S/V Ruby is for sale

S/V Ruby is up for sale!

Reason for sale: After a less-than-full sailing season, I’m putting Ruby on the market. Maybe it’s time to admit that I’m not going to enjoy this as much as I’d hoped, and that someone else can pick up where I’m leaving off. I lived aboard a Cal 28 out of college, moved up to a circumnavigating Tartan 37, before downsizing to the biggest trailerable I could find. I was inspired by the voyage of another Aquarius 23 named Lacuna from Seattle up the Inside Passage to Alaska.


That picture in front of a glacier convinced me this was a boat that could take me anywhere I reasonably wanted to go: any East-coast destination was do-able with grit. Ruby has been arranged for comfortable single-handed cruising and fun with friends. Trailer her home for easy winter maintenance, then launch for great sailing the rest of the year. I’ve owned Ruby and her Aquarius predecessor for just over 6 years now.

The boat: S/V Ruby is a 1980’s vintage Balboa 23 centerboard sloop. Balboa purchased the molds and rights to the successful Aquarius line and continued production with some modifications. Most notably, Balboa interiors are molded fiberglass and the rudders are stern-mounted with a fully-enclosed cockpit. The Aquarius owners group on Yahoo has extensive information about both models, their performance characteristics, and a slew of happy owners. Moored on the Middle River above Baltimore, MD, the slip could be transferred to the new owner (current rate is $100/month).


Hull, rig, above decks: Ruby is 23 feet long, just inside of 8 feet in beam. She draws less than 18” with the centerboard up. The stern-mounted blade rudder kicks up as early indication you’ve found the shallows. New “Ruby” vinyl letters on each side. Aluminum rub rail all around (forward port side shows some older hull repair from dock rash).

  • The aluminum mast and boom are easily managed even single-handed. I installed a new stainless mast-base hinge to permit easy raising/lowering of the rig. An aluminum gin pole and custom-made cat’s cradle provide additional leverage/support for the operation.
  • Standard fractional sloop rig with stainless shrouds all around, adjustable tension backstay (two-part block), and pair of windex indicators. Only two halyards: main and jib, with mast cleats.


  • Mainsail is in working condition. Partial battens, full-length mast and boom slot for attachment (pro: no loss of wind, con: not as easy to raise/lower due to system friction). Mainsheet is A-frame style across rear of cockpit.
  • Jib is in working condition. Probably 110% (feels a little small) with luff clips. Heavy-duty sheets. Non-tailing winches and cleats in cockpit.
  • Deck layout is standard for a large trailerable. No openings in the bow, raised cabin with 20” port on starboard side. Bow pulpit and stern pushpit of 1” stainless. I removed the lifelines but will provide the stanchions. Companion hatch converted to sliding-style with rails; original plexiglass two-piece hatchboards & bronze fox head. Cockpit has single drain (1 ½”) at aft end. Deck was painted this year with non-skid for looks/grip.


  • Maybe the most unique feature is the hard dodger. I made this as a prototype to see how I liked the feature. Has (5) opening ports for visibility, (2) solar trickle chargers mounted on top, screwed to the hatch rails and is removable. Coated in asphalt roofing tar ad covered in hull paint.
  • Rudder is stern-mounted with oiled tiller, red tiller cover, and push-rod for the kick-down blade. Newly installed clam cleat provides tension and safety when underway.


Trailer: Original EZ Loader galvanized single-axle trailer. Towed well on 2” ball. Added an extension for an additional 4’ of length to make launching easier. Tires new in 2011; maybe 200 miles on them. (4) galvanized jack stands provide long-term storage weight support (takes the weight off the tires and/or use in emergency to jack the trailer up). Light-bar attaches to boat to prevent submerging them. Comes with: (1) spare wheel carrier (uninstalled), (2) spare wheels (good rims, need new tires), and if desired a weight-distribution hitch for a 2” receiver.

Propulsion options, spares: I spent a great deal of effort getting options for alternative propulsion. Ruby is one of a few of these boats with electric propulsion capability. Motorguide Riptide 80 lb thrust with hull-mounted plug connects to (2) 12 VDC batteries in series for a 24 VDC system. Super quiet, fully maneuverable. I’ve cruised a full weekend on a single charger. 24 VDC shore battery charger, fusing, circuit breaker, and kill switch are installed. Great option is you are in quiet waters and just need to get out/in.


I’m moored at the upper end of a long river, and decided this year that I needed to renew a gas option. Currently installed is a 1990’s vintage Honda 8hp 4-stroke CDI outboard. Good condition, recently tuned up and many parts replaced. Mounted on a Garelick outboard mount, fuel hose, filter, and bulb in cockpit locker with thru-hull connection. Has 6A, 12 VDC charging capability (not installed). Comes with working spare motor with many replacement parts on hand.


Interior layout, fixtures: Pretty much a stock Balboa with the expected level of comfort. Think “glamping”. Normal arrangement for a sloop:

  • V-berth
  • Forward-facing head
  • Starboard-side settee berth with fold up table
  • Aft-starboard navigation station console
  • Port-side galley
  • Port-side quarterberth


Berths include two sets of cushions; tartan fabric in OK condition; back rests recovered with blue sunbrella. Thetford portapotty in head with shelf rack (will be cleaned for new owner, wink). Navigation console provides table-top an electronics mounting in convenient location. Cabin-top mounted chart storage. Floor has vinyl wood stripping for ease of cleaning.

Galley includes wall-mounted papertowel rack, trashbag rack, trashcan, hooks, (2) burner alcohol stove, small stainless sink, 5 gallon water tank, and weather station. Pots, pans, cooking utensils, etc. included.

imag0913Safety kit: Mostly standard items, but enough to get you safely on the water.

  • Heavy cruising plow anchor
  • Danforth anchors
  • Fisherman-style anchors, plus rode
  • Lifejackets (so many lifejackets…)
  • Harness & jackstrap
  • Flares, flaregun, horn, first-aid kit
  • Stern chainplates mounted to tow a drogue or lines when heaving-to
  • Multiple fenders, including a large sea buoy-style for in-port use

Electronics & whiz-bangs: I’ve managed to collect an assortment of odds and ends over a decade of sailing that found their way onto Ruby. Some are installed and working great. Some are installed and working good enough for now, but could be improved. Some are not completely installed, but planned.

  • House battery: 12VDC deep cycle, under the nav station, fused. 110VAC battery charger with co-located outlet for shore charging.
  • Dodger-mounted 12VDC trickle charger (2)
  • (2) cockpit-mounted depth sounders (pucks not installed at this time)
  • 5 VDC microUSB charge cable in cockpit
  • Bluetooth command mic in cockpit (for using your cell phone)
  • 3” compass
  • 12 VDC tiller autopilot (uninstalled)
  • LED running lights (bow, stern, mast)
  • Handheld marine VHF (2)
  • LED cabin lights
  • 10m Yaesu Ham radio (console)
  • Antenna tuner & watt meter (console)
  • 2m Kenwood Ham radio (console)
  • Midland CB radio (console)
  • Apelco Marine VHF (console)
  • 12 VDC audio amplifier + unmounted speakers (console)
  • 7” Lenovo Android tablet w/ 16gB SD card (pdf manuals, and a great classical collection: will reset for new owner)
  • Weather station w/ wind speed, temps, barometer: cockpit-mounted anemometer
  • 5VDC charging cable (interior)
  • Non-marine Garmin GPS (I keep it outside for simple speed & geographic area info)

Current to-do list:

Centerboard: Like many A23’s, Ruby has a stuck centerboard. I purchased her in the water and wasn’t able to fully assess until I hauled out in 2012. The Aquarius owners group has extensive directions on best practices for removing, refurbishing, and/or replacing the ~120 lb steel plate.

Ports: I’ve gotten by with Gorilla tape for the last few seasons, but the ports need to be addressed at some point. I envisioned replacing them a la Lacuna with fixed Lexan or Perspex fixed with stainless screws. In the current condition there is minor weepage in the cabin during heavy rain.

Electrics: I’ve been in continual “upgrade/update” mode on the electric system for the past two years and there’s much left incomplete. I’ve been finishing things as I’ve needed them. A complete list will be provided and gone over during survey. The inventory provided above gives you an idea of the extent of my envisioned scope. If you search “Datawake” and “Technomad” you’ll see one of my influences…

Galley mods: I’ve been considering how to improve the galley and came to a conclusion that a new galley top would be a wonderful improvement. A new surface would allow the stove to seat better and provide for a better 5 gallon tank fixture and more working space.

Inner shrouds: Are too long. I have a temporary set of galvanized wires with stainless hardware serving well, but could use replacement.

Additional projects going along:

  • Rail BBQ: I have most of the parts collected for a rail-mounted BBQ, like the Magma bowl-styles.
  • Stove: I have some parts for an in-boat stove, stainless enclosure, etc. This would be in addition to, or alternative to, the propane heater
  • (1) Self-tailing winch and chain windlass for use in anchoring (was going to mount at bow area)

Additional items going with the sale:

  • Tool bags aboard: two collections of hand tools for use aboard
  • Spare blue & red Sunbrella, cushions, marine carpet, paint, and interior items
  • Sevlor inflatable dinghy with bag & pump
  • Full-size boat cover for use in the off-season (sized for pontoon boat; fits over lowered mast and fully over sides; some tears from last winter)
  • Mast, fins, snorkel for below-water expeditions
  • sleeping bags + camping kit for shore expeditions
  • Fishing gear
  • Collapsible hose, nozzle, and cleaning kit
  • Spare boom, mainsail
  • Spinnaker & spare jib (can be repaired but unuseable at this point)
  • Propane Buddy Heater for winter projects aboard
  • Carriers for mast when trailering
  • Sailing library: Every armchair sailor needs some good books to while away the winter nights. I’m including a selection from my library to get you started, along with some maintenance classics for those projects coming your way. There’s probably ~ $500 invested over time in these.


What’s coming down the pike for you: Hey, it’s a good honest question. You can sail comfortably today and for the foreseeable future. My annual operating costs feel high but were influenced by the many updates I wanted to accomplish. Required expenses were probably less than $300 (registration, fuel, simple repairs) plus slip. Rigging at the ramp takes 45-60 minutes (faster with familiarity) and derigging takes 30-45 minutes; in the slip I was underway in 10-15 minutes and packed away in 5-10 minutes. Looking out at the list of project above:

Centerboard replacement: Carbon steel will run a few hundred dollars or less, depending on the source. If you replace the board you may want to renew the antifouling paint all around.

Ports: Depending on source will run $100-$300 for materials to do them well.

Rigging & sails: Could be refreshed and get you a lot more performance: probably somewhere around $1000-1500 would get you well set up for years to come.


Bottom line: I’m familiar with this family of boats and the average prices they go for. I never thought too hard about investing money into something I really enjoyed, and I really enjoyed making Ruby a better boat than she started out as. You can find lower priced offerings out there. You’ll probably have to find an engine, trailer, or other substantial parts to get them going reliably. You’ll have to invest a lot of elbow grease one way or another! Ruby is priced to represent a lot of the odds & ends that add up over time but make her convenient and comfortable. You’ll still need elbow grease, but hopefully a good deal less.

Sales price: $2800 for everything. At this time I’m not interested in parting things out. You can probably make back a good deal of the purchase price by diligently selling off some of the spare kit (I’m just not interested in being diligent at this time either). In spring 2017 I’ll probably get her up on Craigslist for other potential buyers.

I can be contacted at my personal address travis.a.chapman(at)gmail.com to arrange viewing. My plan is to block Veteran’s Day weekend for trial sailing and/or a nice final cruise! I’ll probably haul out end of November.


Commentary: Volkscruisers Talks Maryland Sailboats

A quick combination commentary / Sailboat Sunday…

Bob over at Volkscruiser (I promise, I do have variety in the works), points out some of the advantages of living in the times. 

What struck me is the selling price of this particular Columbia 36. In 2002 I paid $8500 for my first sailboat, a Cal 28. $8000 still feels like a lot of money, relatively speaking, but I tend to agree that the benchmark prices have steadily dropped over time. Partly due to inflation, partly with these vintages of sailboats aging further.

I believe this is the Columbia in question. Nothing too fancy, but more than needful.

For those in the market, it is a good time.


An Annapolis marina waits for spring.

Coming up….

I’ve got a few things in the hopper. A post on risk assessment, sailboat head options, galley considerations, the story of purchasing our Tartan 37 in 2007, and more. I’ll try to continue our structure of a Sailboat Sunday analysis and Commentary as I can.

Thank you to all who have commented. Great to see others with experience on those particular models adding to the collective knowledge base out there. It was also a good reminder to clarify the intent behind the Sailboat Sunday posts. While I’m not looking to buy at this time, someone may be, and these analyses are a good exercise in “What if?” assessments. And who doesn’t like talking about boats?

I’ve missed my mark for the past two weeks now! Bad Travis. Unfortunately we’ve been occupied with getting a move set-up on top of a full spring. Hopefully my intentions can met real life head on, and I’ll be diligent in posting once again!

Photo credit: m01229

Serenity or the Millennium Falcon: Choosing My First Sailboat

What did Malcolm Reynolds of the hit TV series Firefly and Han Solo have in common? Well, I’d venture to say they both loved their ships. And that is a very important part of owning your floating home; if you don’t love her, she’ll be worth less than that dollar menu hamburger.  After all, love keeps her afloat…or in the air.

That said, there are several factors which influence the decision of which sailboat to buy. The most important thing to remember is this: there is no perfect boat. I repeat, there is no perfect boat. Every boat is a compromise between these factors. The key is to know where you’ll compromise, how much you’ll let those factors change, and your will power to let that be OK.

  • Money: Let’s get this out of the way. A sailboat will cost you money. The question is, how much up front, and how much to keep her? We’ll continue to delve into the holistic finances of sailboat living over the lifetime of this site, but looking from 10,000 feet, you need to think through:
  • How much will my purchase cost be, including any taxes, registration fees, and broker/dealer commission? You need to know the immediate cost if you agree to buy.
  • What are the average operating costs going to be? It’s usually best to think of these in terms of per-foot costs. Slips are typically priced on a per-foot basis, as are hauling out fees to get her on land for repairs, some insurance products, and others. This is also the place to think through the totality of your live aboard experience. If you don’t know where you’ll keep a boat, you’ll have a harder time making a rational decision, especially on size.
  • What are the estimate costs to complete necessary and desired improvements? There’s going to be something, it should be prioritized, and you’ll most likely be 50% off. But these are real costs too.

This post was previously setup as a high-level synopsis of all of our sailboat purchases, but I’m re-purposing it into a detailed look at my 2002 decision to buy my first live aboard, a Cal 28 flat-top named SeaWitch.

My new bride and I while I was moving off.

My new bride and I while I was moving off.

A Bored College Student

Well, maybe not bored, but unsatisfied. March of 2002 I took off with my girlfriend for spring break in London. A topic of conversation was my plans after graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy. Like my classmates, I would soon graduate and gain a commission as a naval officer, specifically a submarine officer. My next duty station would be Charleston, SC, to attend nuclear power training. Many of my friends were looking into various living situations: apartment complexes, buying a starter home, the decision of living alone versus roommates. Decisions every college grad will face. In my head, these seemed like perfectly fine things, but I really wanted to do something different.

A project mentor planted the seed in my head about living aboard a sailboat. His girlfriend and he were doing the same thing. He had many good things to say about it. Thus, after returning from England, I got to work doing my research. A guy in my unit grew up on the Chesapeake Bay and had a small 19 footer. I could take a look and maybe even spend a weekend aboard just to trial run things. I began checking out sailing books from the library, and spent hours searching through the limited online offerings from fledgling websites of cruising. My roommate was on the sailing team and had some thoughts as well, and my previous summers sailing for professional training helped frame some of my thoughts.

Fundamentally, I worried about the following things:

1) How big or small of a sailboat did I really need?

2)  How much boat could I afford (both initially and on-going)?

3) What hurdles existed between sitting in my dorm room and being a “successful” live aboard?

The Challenges

At the time, several significant challenges existed which have largely been mitigated over time. Things such as:

  • How do you find sailboats for sale? The local classified ads in newspapers and the beginnings of some online brokerage sites were all that I had available. In the end, it was foot work and driving which led me to the Maryland Marina in Essex, MD, where I did my first surveys and eventually bought Seawitch.
  • How to purchase a sailboat? Thankfully my person bank had several options for boat loans, and my personal savings helped to supplement.
  •  How do I figure out all of the unknowns? I made a few “blind” purchases of recommended cruising books, hoping to gain the knowledge necessary to answer my unknown questions, and relied heavily on the experiences of others gained through conversations and the internet’s early forums. Much of it was valuable, much of it was suspect. I had to sort out a lot of chaff.

Finding My New Home

In April of 2002 I arrived at the Maryland Marina on a reasonably warm Saturday. In hand were color printouts of several boats they had for sale via their business webpage, a small toolkit with tape measure and flashlight, and a notebook. Sadly, digital cameras were not really as available, and I may have brought my super awesome Canon ELPH with drop-in film.

I asked the manager if I could spend a few hours looking over the sailboats in question. No worries, he said, and tossed me keys to each of them. The entire afternoon was spent crawling over each of three offerings, probing the recesses of bilges and under lockers. I learned a bunch that day, including:

  • Finding a sailboat under 30 feet with headroom for a tall guy was practically impossible.
  • Finding a sailboat in my price range over 30 feet was also unlikely.
  • The smell of musk in a locker would be ingrained in my mind forevermore.
  • While it would eventually feel much smaller, a 28 foot sailboat on stands looks huge.

After noting as many of the features as I could during my personal survey, I returned the keys and asked for contact information for two vessels. The Cal 28 had risen to the top of my short list.

A Cal 28 on the hard; similar to the one I found in Maryland

A Cal 28 on the hard; similar to the one I found in Maryland

cal 28 (4)

The Cal 28 sailing (note the dodger over the companionway; something I always wanted but never got around to)


After two phone calls and another afternoon going over the boat with the owner, I made the decision to buy SeaWitch for the sum of $8500 (2002 dollars).

Resources for those interested:
Stirling Law’s Cal 28 webpage; still the most comprehensive of any on this model

The Next Step of My Future

Back to the factors listed above, I financed my first liveaboard, so thought of things in terms of both monthly and total costs. SeaWitch was sold to me for $8500. Taxes and registration came out to around $400. I was responsible for the launch fee, since I would liveaboard on land for several months due to my work schedule. $400 for launch and getting the mast back up. The seller paid the seller broker fee, and I was not represented by a buyer’s broker, so no fee there. Total initial outlay: $9300. My note was for slightly more, with a monthly payment of $230.

At 28 feet, my per-foot costs remained pretty reasonable. My slip in Charleston, SC, was around $10/ft plus metered electricity. This averaged $30-40 per month. Cable TV was included (although I’m a proponent of doing without that burden), and for internet I needed a telephone line for dial-up, adding another $30/mo. Total cost to have a slip, parking spot for my car, electricity, water, phone and cable: $350/mo. This is $4200/yr

My plan was to haul out every other year to do maintenance on the bottom and tackle any odd jobs. Asking around the marina, I reasoned the total cost for haul out, storage on land for a week, and launch, would be around $500. There was a yard I could do my own work at (becoming rarer these days), which would have saved me some money. Including bottom paint, total bi-annual cost: ~$1000.
If you amortize that, I needed to save about $40/month for that cost.

Lastly, upgrades. All the normal items came with the boat: sails, engine, safety gear to pass a USCG inspection, and some interior accouterments. But to make her a liveaboard, I needed a number of “home” items, including dishes and kitchen ware, bedding, painting the interior, some rugs, and several small pictures and knickknacks to call it a home. I was also moving to the South, and I quickly realized living without A/C there was trouble. Then it turned to winter, and I needed to buy a couple of heaters. These small costs can add up quickly; like several hundred dollars in the first couple of months. I also had a running list of marine upgrades to better the boat itself: changing out from a portapotti to a marine head, adding better sail controls, and the worst offender: maintaining, and then replacing, the Atomic 4 inboard engine.

By the end of the first year aboard, I had spent an average of $300/mo on these kind of “extras” that ballooned out of control. Again, I hope to cover some of my “lessons learned” in future posts to discuss items I purchased, why they did or did not work, and the actual value of them.

One of the Best Decisions of My Life

Ultimately, the decision to move aboard was probably one of the best in my life. Some of the reasons were tangible, but most were related to those influential experiences a young man or woman can have.

  • I learned very quickly what a spending plan was and why I needed to keep to it. Owning your own home has costs and they must be managed.
  • I learned to become more self-sufficient and a generalist. You can’t call the landlord and complain about a broken water pipe; you need to fix that quickly or else you’ll sink! Living aboard provided many opportunities to learn new skills, practice new abilities, and make decisions that had significant consequences.
  • I learned to ask for help. While I tried to do as much as possible on my own, I also had a community of sailors surrounding me who were readily available for help and advice. I learned more that first year from them than anyone could possibly gain through reading magazines, books, or articles online.
  • I learned about myself. During a handful of significant experiences, such as grounding the boat, a fire aboard, several near-sinkings, and facing the choice of sending my delivery crew home and continuing on solo, I had more opportunities to grow and learn about who I was than every before. These seminal experiences ultimately helped shape who I am today, and continue to be a source of positive influence on my life.

In a future post I’ll detail the same process that led to shifting resources away from the Cal 28 and towards a new future with our Tartan 37, Persephone, over on the island of Guam.

Note: Due to the poor timing of technology, most of my pictures of SeaWitch were either on film or my first digital camera, which were destroyed during several events later in life. I hope to recover some photos from friends or otherwise and add to this post later if possible. The glory of having a camera on every phone these days; one forgets how convenient that really is.

Photo credit: From the Stirling Law Cal 28 website, SailTexas advertisement, and my own collection

Sailboat Saturday: Columbia 29

While I’ve been delayed in writing this, the post on Craigslist continued to be available. Perusing the internets for a fun sailboat to highlight I found this ad for a Columbia 29.  The basic specifications:

$1500 o.b.o.
1964 Columbia Sailboat Model C-29
1997 15 hp Honda Outboard – runs great
Presently on the hard
Includes five jack stands

Columbia 29 sailing

Columbia 29 on the hard

Columbia 29 interior

Columbia 29 settee

What makes this a good potential liveaboard?

Well, a few things stand out to me. First, at 29 feet, this is slightly larger than the Cal 28 I lived aboard, making me just a little bit size jealous. It’s a good length for single-handing, and the layout down below appears to be usable in the same capacity.

Also, the hull form is something you won’t find being used much in newer vessels. A decently long keep with a protected rudder. See the layout drawings found at one of the Columbia 29’s owner websites here.

Some of the data on this model:

Length Overall 28′ 6″
Length Waterline 22′ 6″
Beam 8′ 0″
Draft 4′ 0″
Displacement early 7400, late and MkII 8400 lbs.
Ballast (lead) early 3120, late and MkII 4100/4120 lbs.
Fuel Capacity (with inboard) 12 gal.
Fresh Water Capacity 35 gal.
Sail Area 382 sq. ft.
Head Room 6′ 0″
Power – Concealed outboard well (standard), Inboard 8 HP Palmer (optional)

Note that last point, a big seller for me: an outboard well. In this case the specific boat had an outboard mounted on an external bracket. Not bad, but not great either. In my estimation the outboard well is one of the most unappreciated features in these 1960-1970’s era sailboats. Check out James Baldwin’s excellent builds over at Atom Voyages for examples of this feature being added in after market.

Factors to consider:

Certainly lots of things to wonder about with this specific boat, such as:

1) Price: given the low selling price ($1500 at the time I’m posting this) my spidy-sense is kicking in. Part of the price is due to a desire to sell quickly, but this also likely means there’s equipment missing or in need of replacement. Much like the Watkins 27 we looked at early, I’d look into what basic equipment is already provided and the state/health of these things. If I had a fictional budget of $8000-$10,000, there’s probably a lot that could be done. Such as:

– Buy a good gallon of epoxy and fillers to tackle any fiberglass projects that would crop up. It’s easy to learn to use, and given the vessel’s age there’s likely a number of holes and areas which could benefit from some structural loving.

– Electronics: I’d like to think I’d be cautious, but given the age and potential budget, there’s probably a lot that could be done to add some modern conveniences where they are absent. A good depth sounder, compass, and maybe a small chart plotter wouldn’t break the budget and could be found used on eBay or with further Craigslist searching.

– Propulsion: given the low price, I might consider changing out the engine. The 15hp would likely fetch something when sold, but a newer model high efficiency/high thrust long shaft would be a nice-to-have feature and probably better mileage. Brand new with controls and such it may run into the $3000 range, but is worth the money.

– Liveability: Much like the Watkins we covered, some self-sustaining gear to provide a better liveaboard situation, such as solar or wind power, possibly an additional deep cycle battery or two for house loads, and maybe a DC-powered freezer/fridge unit.

Of course, the trouble with low-price fixer-uppers is being honest about the need-want decisions. A diligent owner could really stretch their dollar and get a lot of boat for their money. At the same time, it’d be easy to sink a bunch of cheddar into low-priority fixes or conveniences which don’t improve the value or utility of the vessel.

In closing, there are a few other Columbia 29 resources I found. Given this one is on the hard, in a perfect setting to give it a good survey and dig into any problem areas, there’s a lot of potential for this particular vessel and this model in general. Sta y tuned for the next installment.

Sailboat Data basic coverage

Write-up at Bluewater Boats

Freecycling: Should I Even Consider A Project Boat?

Boat Graveyard

Bob over at BoatBits has a short note this week that struck a chord with me.

Every boat I’ve owned was used. My most recent one, a Balboa 23, was “free.” The thought process for me was rather simple.

1) The Balboa, while free, would have some initial expense. This came in the form of sweat equity to get it out of the water, a small ramp fee to do so, and the cost of discarding the hull of my Aquarius 23.

2) Sweat equity and lost sailing time from removing every piece of kit from the Aquarius 23 to later be installed on the Balboa 23 (same model boat, just slightly upgraded interior.)

3) The typical friction inherent to any project, where lots of decisions need to be made, time sucks, learning curves, etc.

The reward was practical: for little initial expense, I was getting a significant boost in interior renovation. The Balboa, while lacking many items, had a great interior that was much farther along than my Aquarius. I knew I’d sink a lot more time and money into the Aquarius interior before it would be up to my desired standard. I figured I could short cut a little bit of the process.

That said, it wasn’t easy to get everything in order to go sailing that season. I only made it out once in 2012, and it was over Veteran’s Day. In Maryland, the daytime might have been comfortable, but the nights are quite chilly. So much for opportunity.

Every once in a while on Craigslist there will be a “diamond in the rough”. That potentially great deal, which like a siren calls to a mariner. “Of course you can have this 40 foot world-girdler for the low price of $1000,” while the reality is there’s a significant outlay to be made to get her in good condition.

Then again, a patient person, with the right plan, and a large degree of self-restraint, could pick up such a boat with the intent of doing things slowly over time.

Frankly, that was the plan for our Tartan 37. A sailboat we could keep as long as possible, and just keep doing small upgrades over time while maintaining the basics. I can say from experience it’s a tough position to be in. If you are considering a project sailboat (a significant project sailboat; they all need something), then please heed Bob’s words.

(Photo Credit: Clicksy)

Consumerism and Sailing: An Almost Impossible Match

Buy Krap

Today’s thought comes from viewing a great video over at Doryman (and here), who links over from Annie Leonard’s site. The discussion is on consumerism, and it got my creative juices going. Not that I have an “audience”, but I suppose I have a platform.  If you find yourself with twenty minutes, grab a snack, a coffee, a whatever, and watch.

I was initially turned onto these types of short documentaries by the 35 minute film There’s No Tomorrow.  Since we don’t have cable, I don’t get to watch a ton of Discovery or Learning Channel, and these Youtube-style versions are filling the gap.

When I think on what consumerism is, I’m reminded of lessons learned from living aboard.  The plain fact is, there’s only a finite amount of room aboard any sailboat. It will be filled, in some way.  Maybe it’s chock full of foodstuffs, chock full of friends, chock full of junk, but it will be full of something. As a liveaboard, this is your environment, so you must learn to make wise choices on what comes in, what stays, and what goes.  Since your environment is small, and ever close, you quickly learn this lesson.

– You purchased the boat and it came with a typical assortment of 1970’s era life jackets.  Do you replace them out of concerns for safety, or because they smell musty, or because they look awful?

– You graduated college with your old 13″ tube-style TV.  Do you give up cubic feet on the boat to keep the TV or pitch it and get a flat screen?

– You want to refresh the look in the main cabin, but do you throw away the old cushions and replace, or recover what you’ve got.

It’s easy to think that these questions revolve solely around money. If I can afford to replace the life jackets with newer, safer models, I should. The TV probably uses more power than I can spare, and the cushions are full of evil chemicals; replace them all.

As a sailing consumer, we need to think about the other aspects of those decisions.  What is the impact of getting this _____ onto the boat, and what is the impact of taking _____ off the boat.


The Decision Two-Step

For things coming on:

  • Does this item serve a necessary purpose?
  • Will this item serve multiple purposes?
  • Where will this item live? Is there a space aboard for it?
  • What is this item replacing?
  • What additional work will having this item bring on me?
  • Will I get a substantial relative value from having this product aboard?

For things going off the boat:

  • Where is this item going to?
  • Can this item be reused aboard my boat?
  • Can this item be used aboard someone else boat?
  • Can it be recycled? (And where will I do that?)

Here’s an example from my Tartan 37.  The head was vintage 1980, with a substantial amount of plumbing missing.  I was overseas and getting parts would be problematic.  I wanted a bulletproof system, and went with a camper potty.  For the inbound toilet:

  • I had to “go” somewhere, so it was very necessary
  • It had its own water tank, holding tank, and seat, so I didn’t need to buy multiple pieces to create a system
  • It would be in the head, exactly where the old toilet bowl was and was measured to fit
  • It replaced the non-functioning marine head
  • I would have to purchase holding tank treatment and a spray bottle of cleaning solution, and later chose to keep some air freshener in the space. These were consumable goods that needed a life cycle decision of their own
  • Compared to ordering, shipping, installing, and maintaining a marine head system, this would allow me to do less work and have a lower potential for system failures, therefore provided substantial value

For the outbound toilet

  • The toilet had a number of copper fittings which could be recycled: off to the metal scrap yard
  • Sadly no, and what plumbing was left was of no value to me
  • In this case, no, because the head wasn’t rebuildable
  • Yes: at least the fixtures were and went to the local scrap yard

Most of your purchases should get this level of questioning before coming aboard. Protect your space, because many folks out there want to take it from you.

(Photo credit: Miz_ginevra)

How to Sell a Dream


Bob links over to this guy’s sailboat ad. Couldn’t have said it better myself.


What does captian kurt, popeye, captain hook and tommy lee have in common? They are all bad ass people. Why? Because they were all in command of ships. You should be in command of a ship. You should buy my boat.

I can offer you the opportunity to be in command of this Catalina 27 sailing ship for about the cost of a lot of the stupid stuff you bought, buy or are thinking about buying. I present the following:

Malls & Nipple Milk
I can tell you this; the boat I am selling is less than the cost of that couch you bought at Pottery Barn* after spending 3 weeks researching it on Google**. I don’t care if your favorite mall doesn’t have a roof on it and has a theme. You should be ashamed of half of the mall things you spent hard earned cash money and time on. None of it will take you across oceans and it will not get you a buffaloes milk at Two Harbors (or a nimby cup). Not even close. Do you want your only source of alcohol laden milk to be your pregnant girlfriends nipple because I guarantee it doesn’t have 8 types of rum and 4 types of artificial sweetener in it. If it does muchacho then you should be hanging out with jcvd on a regular basis and won’t be needing this said boat. Back to your mall things.. If you add up the cost of your bed frame, mattress, headboard, box spring, stupid fancy pillows from Target, decorative duvet cover with a cool pattern from ikea and your designer pajamas it probably costs as much as I’m asking and you can have a f*$king BOAT of which can sleep 5 people and will guarantee you more bidness. You won’t find that guarantee in the bedding department at Macy’s. Note: your lame duvet made from rare dead birds is always on sale, you did not hit the Macy’s Bed Bath and Beyond jackpot and score a 300 feather count for 35% off, everyone did and just because you laughed at some actor making fun of Bed, Bath and Beyond doesn’t give you a pass for going there or not going there. And are you really spending your miniscule amount of free time on Earth counting feathers or laughing at jokes about retail stores? And by the way, if you are the type of person who covers your bed with any amount of (especially more than two) decorative pillows, please do not call about my Boat. I am not interested in selling this to a decorative pillow type which is too bad because you my friend are the type that needs this boat more than anyone.

Recreation, Drinking and Sea Monkeys
I understand you have many options on how to spend your free time. How you choose to recreate says a lot about a human being. What I am offering you is the open Pacific Ocean, fishing, going to islands, breathing salty air at sea, breathing atomic four gas powered exhaust fumes, drinking rum, drinking whiskey, drinking cheap beer, drinking expensive beer, drinking the dead sea monkeys floating in the drink that your friend backwashed, spear fishing anything that moves, endless supply of gold colored fish to make into tacos, trapping crabs, getting crabs, free membership to hbyc, a money pit, a fist pumping teeth grinding laser eating dance platform, a new kitchen, a boom that might hit you in the head, a $270 slip fee, the ability to t-bone a stand up paddle boarder, the ability to bbq a t-bone steak, the ability to bone in the v-birth, the chance to see whales, the improved chance to bring a whale out of najas and tying knots. These are fine things. These are gentlemanly things. They certainly beat sitting in car traffic towing your sand rail or three wheeler past a bunch of meth labs to glamis or driving a boat in circles in the std filled cess pool commonly referred to as “the river” or any other so called lake. Does a real man or woman want to recreate in a standing pool of “fresh water” or in a hot desert with a bunch of drunk yahoos with engines strapped to their backs?

Fast Transport
This boat travels as fast as your Audi on the 405. 6 knots at best. And you spent over $30K. Way more than a domestic car just because of the cool logo, neat ads and foreignness of it. Not to mention the way it makes you feel when you look at it after you park it. You could have got a Ford, a 3 wheeler, a sand rail and this boats for the same price. Enough said.

360 Degree Ocean View and the Mexican Navy
Always wanted an ocean view? See above description of how lucky you are. This boat comes with an ocean view of your damn choosing! Imagine a house that could do that. Those creepy realtor types would be drooling all the way to the bank. (Please no inquiries if your picture is on your business card). For the price of a ocean front strand house you could buy a boat like this every month of the year. In fact for $3,000,000 (reasonable price for a strand house) you could buy 600 boats like this. That’s more than the entire navy of Mexico. What would you do with that many boats? You could tie them together end to end and stretch them from Manhattan Beach pier to Hermosa Beach pier 1.7 times. Toss in a few more and you could have a two way sailboat highway spanning the two piers. This would be enough to move the annual 6 man party to sea and save the fun in a town loosing its charm faster than antartica is loosing glacial ice. Everyone would be happy because the kids could again dress up, beam each other with volleyballs and drink booze in the open sun on a WEEKEND. You would be the damn Kevin Bacon of the beach area. People would make movies of how you returned the joy to such an under privileged area of LA. (Math: 1.8 miles between piers = 9504′ / 27′ boat length = 352 boats required for a one way span.)

Screen World or Water World?
Each day the average person spends ?? hours staring at a computer screen, ?? watching a television screen, and ?? hours looking at a smart phone screen. (You do the math). The hope is that eventually there will be enough devices “invented” whereby 24 hours of your day is spent looking at a radiation emitting electronic display screens. These devices with clever names starting with i will range in size to span every increment of that Home Depot tape measure you never use. This will be toped by the inevitable invention of a gigantic screen that allows up to three people to be imbedded in, is only 2 microns thick, is named after a fruit and hurtles through outer space endlessly. I have good news for you my screen collecting swollen eyeball friend. This boat comes with an lcd tv screen and there is cell service all the way to Catalina Island! So you don’t have to skip the pirate dress up wine mixer because you are worried about missing all those great things happening on social media and on dvd.

Boat Includes
— 4 sails
— Atomic four engine
— Mast
— Boom
— Hull
— Rudder
— Tiller
— The book sailing for Dummies (You must have an IQ of at least 30 to learn how to sail)
— A bow with no arrows
— A bunch of life vests

Attention Doomsday Preppers
If you are a doomsday prepper then you have just hit the powerball lottery scratch off confetti falls out of the sky jackpot. Feel free to go into one of those evangelist religious on stage convulsions right now because when shit hits the fan in L.A. (and it will) do you want to be on the roof of your liqour store with a high powered riffle or in the open ocean reading moby dick with a milky rum drink in your skilled knot tieing hands?

In Summary
This boat is cheap, it gives you access to buffaloes milk, it is more fun than your current hobbies, it is fast enough, it has an ocean view, it comes with a TV, comes with everything you need and it might be helpful in case of a disaster. Most importantly it puts you in command of a ship. Go ahead break a bottle of Champagne over the bow, leave your mall things on land and grab the tiller.

$5,000 OBO / trade offers accepted


** Google = Best slot machine ever invented. Insert letters instead of coins. Output hyperlinks instead of cash. Google is paid by 3rd party XYZ business for the participants pleasure of playing this terrible slot machine for “free”. But participants pay end up paying in dead brain cells instead of cash and XYZ business trades cash for a snowflakes chance in hell of converting a mouse click to a sale. Only benefit of all this is it finally puts bad newspapers out of business.

*** If you happened to buy a mattress from that old white guy who shrieks “if you find a mattress for a lower price your mattress is free!!!” please, please, please, please don’t f$@king contact me. Did you really think that A-Hole is going to give away a free mattress if you found one for a lower price? Have you heard of anyone getting a free mattress from that damn place? How can our government allow such a thing. I will not give you my boat for free if you find one for less. In fact you will probably be more likely to sink would be my guess. And if you are the type that needs the government to protect you or wastes time complaining about the government also don’t contact me.

Decisions Decisions: Factors in Sailboat Upgrades and Improvements


 I’ve long been a fan of Bob’s writing, having enjoyed almost 7 years of daily (practically) posts from the Caribbean. He switched off of “BoatBits” for a while now, but started up a blog known as “Volkscruiser”, the implied meaning being a cruiser for the masses.

 I didn’t know it at the time, but I was joining the Volk when I purchased SeaWitch in 2002. An aged Cal28, she was one of the thousands of reasonably priced fiberglass production boats of the 70’s available in the U.S. These “classic plastics” are an ideal choice for the young, or beginning, liveaboard. If one sticks with a firm understanding of ROI.

Return on Investment

As a financial phrase, ROI means the ratio of profit to the amount invested. In life, ROI is a flexible term with a subjective meaning. Investment could mean time, money, attention, or effort. But harder to measure is “return”.

 In 2004, while on patrol with my first submarine, USS Rhode Island, I made the choice of bringing out the latest Defender catalog. Based in New England, Defender is a well-known source of all things marine. I spent several evenings flipping through the pages with a notebook next to me, jotting down ideas for upgrades to SeaWitch’s systems. Sometimes the pictures would remind of a part I knew needed replacing. Sometimes it was an improved product that promised additional utility or efficiency. Sometimes it was a whole new concept that I “knew” I needed to incorporate, i.e. solar charging for my batteries.

 I don’t regret spending the time day dreaming, but such behavior can become destructive with an older boat.


 When doing an initial survey or taking stock of what you’ve got, there are a few important things to keep in mind.

 1) No boat will ever be perfect: Even if you had unlimited resources, there’s always “something” else that could be improved. And use will always cause systems to fail, given enough time. The state of a sailboat is constantly changing. In that way, it’s really a living thing.

 2) You must understand the minimum effective state for your vessel: Call it whatever you want, but there’s a minimal amount of equipment or capability that a sailboat must have to sail properly and safely, and to carry you (and others) from point A to B. Any future purchase should be married to one of these things.

 3) Define what success looks like ahead of time: Measuring return is tough unless you know what it is you’re looking for. If I spent $1000 on a solar charging system, but always stayed at marinas, what was my return? I charge on shore power at every opportunity, maybe my engine charges, and I have a large capacity battery bank. Those solar panels aren’t doing anything other than making me look like a “real cruiser”. Vanity may be an appropriate measure, but just understand what it is ahead of time. Do you want to look like a cruising boat, or be a boat that cruises?

 Your Money or Your Life

 Most upgrades will not provide a financial benefit to the resale value of your sailboat. That’s just facts. It’s not much different than doing home makeover and improvements; most won’t pay for themselves, but some are more valuable than others. You should try to ensure that any effort made at improving your sailboat adds real value, in the form of convenience, safety, performance, or comfort, and if it does those things, then it will likely add to the “real” value of the vessel as well. If those $1000 solar panels leave my batteries topped off at all times, no need for shore power, and I spend a significant amount of time away from other sources, then I won’t mind if the resale value of my boat doesn’t go up by the total cost of installation. But, all things equal, a sailboat with good working systems will outsell one without, especially if marketed correctly.

As Bob mentions, a good filter to test purchases is the traditional advice: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

What systems do you look at first when deciding to upgrade or replace gear? Are traditional areas of concern still valid?