An investment of the heart

Published on July 7th, 2018

When it comes to boat ownership, it’s best not to overthink it. As this report in The Globe and Mail reminds us, it’s not expensive if you love it.


Alex Kade knows he won’t make money off his 35-foot sailboat when he decides to sell it, but when he jumps on board at the end of a long workweek, that’s the last thing on his mind.

“I’m just focused on my boat, I’m focused on getting somewhere, on things going wrong, the weather,” said Kade, who works in technology at a major bank in Toronto. I come in Monday and I’ve had 48 hours of not even thinking about work, which is actually incredibly healthy.”

Kade grew up sailing in Kingston, Ont., so he’s always loved boating and being on the water.

“I like the fact that I can combine the sport with the socializing aspect – I have friends on the boat, I have a barbecue, or we can anchor out somewhere and meet up with friends,” he said.

But in a country like Canada, where there are really only four months of decent sailing weather, “you have almost be fanatical about it. To own a boat in Canada and not spend as much time [on it] as you can for those four months, it’s pointless.”

Adrian Mastracci, a senior portfolio manager with Lycos Asset Management Inc. in Vancouver, said that’s the first and most important question prospective yacht owners need to ask themselves.

“There’s no assurance that these things will hold their value; usage is probably the bigger item you have to look at,” said Mastracci. “If [you] can say you’re getting good use of the capital expenditure you have tied up in that boat, then it’s fine.”

Between mooring fees, maintenance and repairs, yacht ownership is often more expensive than boat enthusiasts anticipate, but if you can afford both the time and money to enjoy it, boating can also provide an opportunity to slow down and clear your head, he added.

“Boats have a special place in people’s hearts – if you like it, it’s wonderful. If you don’t like it, it’s expensive.”

That’s why it’s also important to think about what you’re hoping to get out of yacht ownership.

“Luxury and yachting mean something different to everybody; there’s no two boaters alike,” said Derek Mader, president of Executive Yacht, a Toronto-based yacht dealership and brokerage.

“Once we understand how they’re going to use the boat and what they expect out of the experience, then we can help guide them down the road to either something that’s pre-owned that fits their budget nicely, or something that’s highly customized and personalized that comes from Europe.”

If you’re buying a used boat, there’s a wide range to choose from: you could pay as little as a couple hundred thousands dollars, or opt for a super yacht that’s in the tens of millions. For that kind of purchase, a broker would travel with clients to shipyards and the buyers would pick everything from the fabric upholstering the seats to the wood the ship is built with, just like they would if they were building a custom home.

Another option, Mader noted, is to charter a yacht at your chosen destination. Instead of paying to own a boat in Canada year-round, some people choose to spend $60,000 for a week in Monaco and southern France. It’s something that works for those who want to be catered to and see remote destinations.

“They’re still enjoying the lifestyle, but to them, they see it more as floating resort,” Mader said.

Kade, who is on his third boat, has always opted for used vessels because he finds those bring the most value.

You’re also more likely to get some kind of return on your investment if you make the right ship purchase up front.

For Kade, that sweet spot can be found with a boat that’s around five to 10 years old, well-taken care of, and made by a brand that holds its value, such as the French Jeanneau (his current yacht), Beneteau, Dufour, or the American Catalina.

“Poor quality boats, no one’s really interested in after 10 or 15 years,” said Kade.  “[But if you] buy a good boat, take care of it, it will hold its value to some extent.”

Just make sure you have the vessel inspected by a nautical marine engineer to make sure you know what may need fixing – much like you would a home inspector if you’re buying a home.

“Sailboats for sure depreciate – not as fast as cars, but they depreciate and you have to do a fair bit of maintenance that’s costly,” Kade said. “You don’t buy a sailboat as a financial investment, but as an investment in your life and good feelings and all that? For sure.”

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