Pleasure without smashing piggy banks

Published on August 16th, 2021

When Scuttlebutt published The State of the Sport in 2020, the three key observations were:

• When the cost in time and money to participate exceeds the pleasurable benefit, people seek alternative activities.
• Better isn’t always best, as the natural inclination for improvement slowly eliminates those that choose not to chase the rising bar.
• We are capable of evolving toward extinction.

Following the release of the 2022 SAIL Best Boat Nominees by SAIL magazine, which highlights the new boats on the market, Dr. Paul F. Jacobs considers what the sport really needs from the sailing industry:

My dear, late departed father had a great saying: “The easiest thing in the world is to spend someone else’s money.” I fear this is a perennial problem for the sailing industry.

I do not just like sailing, I LOVE sailing. I am 82 and have been sailing since I was 15. About 45 years of racing, and another 22 years of cruising. Over the years I have watched the evolution of sailboats from wood, to fiberglass, to carbon fiber composites.

While performance has advanced considerably, so unfortunately have sailboat prices. I hate to break this bulletin to most of the current sailboat manufacturers, but not everyone is a multimillionaire who can spend $250,000 on a sailboat!

I would like to see a new, special category for the Best Bargain Boat of the Year. Again, it is always easy to charge MORE, the real trick is to charge LESS! Maybe I am living in a fantasy world, but I think a wonderful challenge to the industry would be to throw out a gauntlet for the best new sailboat fully-fitted and ready to sail, for under $50,000.

In the spirit of all of this, my wife and I own Pleiades, a 1990 Catalina 34 MK 1.5 we bought for $41,000 in 2012. In nine years we have sailed her from Maine to Long Island, routinely accumulating 60-70 days from May through November each season in New England.

For costs, we spend about $5000 each year on a mooring, haul out, winter storage, launch, insurance, and registration fees, an average of about $2000 per year on maintenance (bottom sanding and painting, an awl-grip job every 7-8 years, refreshing the bright-work annually, replacing the lifelines, etc.), and another roughly $3000 average each year on improvements (new mainsail, new jib, new interior cushions, upgraded safety gear, new electronics, etc).

Thus, for about $10,000 per year we thoroughly enjoy about 60-70 days doing something we both absolutely love. We take family and friends out sailing as often as possible, and try to spread the gospel of the joys of sailing to people who are not fabulously wealthy.

How many of this year’s “Boats of the Year” will still be providing vast quantities of pleasure to their owners 31 years from now without smashing piggy banks?

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