Last October we shared in depth what we thought we were looking for in a Great Loop boat:
As a recap, here were some of the things that we mentioned that we were seeking:
- “As for boat length – 40’ seems to be our sweet spot, +/- 5 feet.”
- “Split front cabin / aft cabin layouts have been most appealing to us.”
- “Sundeck Mandatory!”
- “A practical dinghy that is relatively easy to deploy and board.”
- “Workable engine room.”
- “Geeky modern marine electronics.”
- “We want to have the boat “ready to go” by Spring 2017!”
Other than the Spring 2017 target date, we missed on ALL of these other stated goals.
Y-Not has no aft cabin, no sundeck, no dinghy, an engine room that is only accessible down a crawl space, and the onboard marine electronics could be outclassed by a vintage Palm Pilot.
And she is bigger and more expensive than anything we might have imagined buying back then.
How on earth did we go from seeking out a 40′ aft-cabin sundeck trawler – to buying a much larger, newer, and more expensive pilothouse motor yacht?
The same way we accomplish most of our goals, actually:
- Set a clear intention.
- Let go of attachments to the particular details of the outcome.
- Trust in serendipity along the way.
And in the end – we found the perfect boat for us, without feeling like we made many compromises at all!
Personal Financial Disclosure
We’ve always been pretty transparent about our costs of living a nomadic lifestyle. In the past we’ve fully shared our acquisition costs, maintenance, and renovation costs of our vintage bus conversion.
We share our ongoing monthly travel costs too.
And we don’t intend to stop now – this post gets into those details of how much we spent to buy our boat.
While we know we have no obligation to do so, we feel sharing the details and our decision points on approaching this lifestyle might help others in their own research, and it’s just easier to do using real numbers. And it’s not like we have anything to hide – the price of a boat like ours is easily found just by searching YachtWorld.
But we’ve honestly had some hesitation in getting around to this particular post, and the fear of unsolicited critical judgements that might come along with having played the cards dealt us in a way that allows us to afford the lifestyle we choose.
We recognize that everyone is on their own financial path, and we ask for your respect that we are on ours. What is “affordable” for us may be chump change for you – or way out of reach. And that’s ok.
Huge thanks to our Facebook community who showed overwhelming support when we expressed our hesitation about publishing this post.
What, You Bought a Boat??
Just Joining In?
You might want to get caught up on this whole boat thing. Here’s the rest of the articles in this series that we’ve already gone over various details:
- Our Great Loop Plans
- Great Loop Boat Specifications
- Shopping for and Buying Our Boat
- Tour of our Bayliner 4788 – Y-Not
- What about the Bus?
This blogpost details the journey that lead us to our boat.
Or – we have a video version if you prefer it (16m):
Setting Initial Intentions
When we first researched the Great Loop, our first few online searches turned up several listings for boats that seemed up to the adventure that were priced as low as $10,000 – $30,000.
A bargain for a floating home!
So when we first reached out to contact brokers to help us narrow in on what we wanted, we shared that our ideal target budget was $25k – $50k, though “we might stretch higher for something awesome”.
With so little potential commission to earn, no wonder so few brokers seemed eager to work with us. We’re thrilled Curtis Stokes & Associates took us on anyway (although we’re sure they rolled their eyes and knew we’d come around).
Our initial plan was to pay cash, and to have a “disposable” boat we could be done with after a year or two.
Ideally something that would be easy to sell after we had finished the Loop, but which would not tie up too much of our assets if we needed to sell quickly for a steep loss.
But then we started to hunt.
We met plenty of folks who had purchased awesome live-aboard boats in this price range – but we quickly discovered those on the market were typically in pretty rough shape and/or in need of major updating.
Sifting out the rare scattered diamonds would require way more time, patience, and boat expertise than we knew we had.
And after already having done years of major updating to turn our diamond-in-the-rough bus conversion into an amazingly comfortable home on land – we wanted our water home to be at least as livable right from the start.
We really aren’t looking to start from “rough” again!
We’ve been there, done that.
Got that merit badge.
Sure – we’ll tackle some upgrades and projects, and make anything we acquire our own.
But taking on a cruising lifestyle and the Great Loop was our intended upcoming adventure, not a year-long renovation project.
The Vision.. and thus the Budget… Grows
We have had a pretty intense few years – and last fall as we settled into the boat hunt we realized that we had gotten a little road fatigued.
It had been well over a year since we had stopped in any one place for more than a couple weeks, and we were craving an extended stay in one place for a while.
We were even contemplating parking the RV and renting a *gasp* house-type thing for a few months, just to catch our breath.
But we knew that would likely delay the boat hunt further.
What manifested instead was a vision of our future boat life becoming less about rushing to complete the Loop, and more about having a floating slow moving condo on the water.
After all – nightly marina fees can be ridiculously expensive, but monthly rates in city centers are actually surprisingly affordable.
What if we slowed down the pace of the Great Loop and stayed in cool cities along the way for a month or two at a time?
And then when it got too cold as we moved north, we could move back into the bus to continue enjoying the RVing lifestyle we love so much?
The idea of this future slow pace calmed our nomadic souls, and kept the road fatigue at bay.
Our eventual boat wouldn’t just be a short-term one-adventure vessel – it would be a long-term seasonal home. Something we would feel comfortable investing in upgrading, making our own, and living in for extended periods of time.
With this new vision in mind, we upped our budget and began looking at some nicer boats.
We had been saving up for “our next adventure” for a few years (between staying debt free, working way too long hours, managing our investments, and saving tons of money living in an RV) – and we had managed to earmark $100k for acquiring a boat and getting out onto the water.
So that became our target.
Older vs Newer: The Budget Expands More
Our first online boat crush in our new price range was the Jefferson 42 – a classic “Taiwanese Trawler” design from the 1980’s that seemed to press all our buttons. There were many on the market priced in the $70-80k range, right on budget once we factored in tax, survey and closing costs.
But as we researched further – we began hearing some horror stories about older boats of this vintage that appeared great on the surface, but which too often had major lurking issues (like rusting fuel tanks!) that could suddenly derail travel plans with the need for an extremely expensive and time consuming refit.
It seemed that boats of this era were “not when, but soon” when it came to needing major overhauls. And it would take more time than we wanted to spend to find the cream puffs that had already been updated, but which were not priced accordingly.
We kept the option of an older boat open, but faced reality that we’d likely need to start looking at higher end older boats, or go newer.
Both options would push the budget above our ideal $100k target.
This would mean either cashing out some of our investments, or considering financing.
Since we have excellent credit and the stock market has been on the upswing (not a great time to cash out while both losing potential gains and paying capital gains taxes to do so) – we decided that financing was a wiser choice.
Plus, we could write off our interest since the boat would be our second home.
It turns out that boats older than 20 years old are for the most part impossible to finance.
Our dilemma: older boats that were already updated and in great condition were too expensive for us to buy with the cash we had set aside, and yet they were too old to finance.
So newer & more expensive options that could be financed became our new focus.
The Hunt: Looking For Livable
Our next boat crush was the Carver 396, a newer boat that initially had us very excited, with solid examples priced in the $120-150k range.
The crush was shattered once we got on board one.
In person the Carver 396 felt more like a vacation getaway than a home, and nothing illustrated that point more than the ridiculously tiny kitchen sink and clothing lockers.
We then discovered the slightly older and less flashy but much more livable Carver 405/406 – which actually remained on our contender list right up until the very end. There were some great options in the $115-130k range.
We didn’t want flashy, and we didn’t want a weekend party pad. We wanted something well suited to two full-time nomads who spend a lot of at-home time.
Our next online boat crush was the Cruisers 455, jumping the price range all the way up to around $200k.
It was our first time considering a larger boat – it even had a jacuzzi tub in the master suite! We were drawn to the idea of a third cabin for storage – and wanted to see if bigger might be better.
But once we got on board – it felt both too big and yet simultaneously a bit claustrophobic.
Length impacts the long term cost of boat ownership substantially – from haul outs, cleaning, bottom paint, survey, marina fees and more.
If we’re paying by the foot, then every foot better be worth it!
The Cruisers 455 just didn’t feel worth it for us.
After we toured the Cruisers 455, the broker offered to let us peak into a SeaRay 420AC that was for sale on the same dock, priced in the $115-130k range.
We had been avoiding the mass-produced “dime a dozen” brands like SeaRay and Bayliner, but this tour opened our eyes to considering their higher quality flagship motor yacht models – which we learned tended to be better built than their more mainstream recreational counterparts.
With the more mass produced boats, it turns out you can get a lot more boat for your money – and there is also a lot more community to tap into for support, ideas and wisdom.
You just have to find the right models that have earned a good reputation.
Pilothouse – Perhaps Not So Pointless?
The next significant boat we toured that influenced our thinking was the Silverton 453, priced in the $170-200k range.
Touring this boat was a happy accident – our broker goofed when considering the height – it was WAY too tall for our Looping plans.
But this was the first pilothouse we toured, and it did open our eyes to pilothouse models.
Up until this point we had considered a secondary indoor driving area to be wasted space when not underway.
But the layout of the Silverton made the pilothouse a useable extra indoor space, apart from the main living area.
Hmmm… ideas were planted.
Who Needs An Aft Cabin, Anyway?
Now that we were open to mainstream Bayliners and to pilothouse layouts – the Bayliner 4788 kept coming up in our online searches.
We must have watched a dozen video tours before we managed to at last tour one in person – each time getting a bit more excited by the possibility.
We were seriously developing an online crush.
Though the Bayliner brand as a whole had a pretty poor reputation (having at one time been the largest mass-produced boat manufacturer with a lot of low-end models) – it turns out that the flagship Bayliner pilothouse motor yacht models had an excellent reputation (for coastal cruising), offering a lot of quality for the price.
We did lots of research, talked to a lot boat experts and friends – and the consistent conclusion we reached was that the Bayliner 4788 was a solid well respected exception to the ‘Barfliner’ stigma so many others had warned us to avoid.
Bayliner Resources Helpful In our Journey
- Bayliner’s Owners Club
- Bayliner Pilothouse (broker who specializes in these particular styles, with tons of history)
Even brand new, the 4788 only retailed for right around $400k – and our broker set our expectations that a sparkly clean used one would likely command a $200k price tag. It was definitely on the higher end of our budget, but within reach.
Funny Story: On our first anchoring out, a herd of Jetskiers slowed down to ogle Y-Not. We overheard them remarking as they passed – “Now there’s a million dollar yacht!”. Hah, hardly! Our boat actually is priced right in range with a quality used Class-A motorhome.
But – could we give up the idea of having an aft master stateroom and the large shaded sundeck overhead?
We finally toured a Bayliner 4788 in person, and discovered that this layout felt right for us from the moment we stepped aboard.
Our initial wish for an aft-cabin style layout was quickly forgotten.
Bracketing: Step Up, Step Down
The Bayliner 4788 was in production from 1994 until 2002. The predecessor model was the Bayliner 4588, in production from 1984 until 1993. It had 2′ less salon space than the 4788, is way too old to finance, and most of these older boats are getting very rough around the edges.
In 2003 Bayliner’s parent company discontinued the 4788, and then relaunched it under a new brand as the Meridian 490. It was almost the same exact boat – but without being associated with the low-end Bayliner brand they could sell it for hundreds of thousands more new.
The Meridian 490 was in production until 2008, and even used it still commands a price premium. We never saw one in person, but it would have stretched our budget quite a bit with little more than a brand name and slightly newer boat to show for it.
We also considered the Navigator Pilothouse models priced in the mid 250s. But the one we toured felt claustrophobic compared to the Bayliner 4788 (but it had an amazing engine room!) – so we passed.
The 4588 was too old, the Meridian 490 was too expensive – the Bayliner 4788 was just right.
Finding our 4788: Florida or Frozen?
By December we had begun to really focus on the Bayliner 4788 as our target.
Fortunately, having been a mass-produced model, listings were not too hard to find.
Despite dozens of active listings, most were on the west coast – particularly up in the Seattle area where the rainy weather makes pilothouse models extremely popular. Many that had been sold on the east coast had been long ago exported overseas during the Great Recession, and many of the remaining ones were in very rough condition.
There were only two viable 4788 candidates in all of the southeast that passed our broker’s pre-inspection – and we toured each of them, twice.
They were both were a touch rougher than we’d like, but do-able.
There were several additional candidates up New York (or even Canada) that caught our eye. But, they were destined to be buried for months in cold storage before we could even get a look at them.
We decided we could wait until other listings came up if need be, which put us in a great place mentally to not feel pressured to have to buy now just to meet our ‘Spring 2017’ goal.
Heck, all our original goals were long out the window anyway, why not that one too?
So, why Y-Not?
Because of her radar arch modification that made her bridge clearance 12.5′ – Y-Not was actually one of the first Bayliner’s that came up on our searches. In the fall, she was listed at $199k. By the time we toured her at the end of the year, her price had been dropped to $179k.
The seller was clearly motivated, and after meeting him in person, we intuited he was motivated for the right reasons. He loved his boat, but knew he was getting too old to continue caring for his baby.
She had some rougher cosmetic stuff (in need of new carpet, faded wood, chalky gel coat, etc) – but she was clearly extremely well loved and cared for mechanically.
Y-Not was also a very unique 4788, having never had a boat deck and davit set up for storing a dinghy on the roof. In fact, she didn’t come with any dinghy at all.
We almost passed.
It was her price drop to $169k in mid-January that lured us aboard for a second look with our broker.
And after the second visit – Y-Not called us strongly enough to at least put in a serious offer before putting the boat hunt off for a few months.
At this price, we knew she wouldn’t be on the market for long, and we’d likely soon lose the option of this particular boat.
After some quick negotiations, we settled on a price of $152,000 with the seller and proceeded with survey (which she passed with few concerns).
And turns out, our instincts were right on.
We’ve since been in contact with at least 4 other Bayliner shoppers who were also just about to put an offer in on Y-Not.
Revisiting The Tradeoffs
Thinking back to our initial wish-list, we thought over the tradeoffs we would be making:
- Boat Length: The Bayliner 4788 is officially 47′ 4″ long, but when you factor in the bow pulpit and swim platform it is well over 50′. But the space felt so comfortable – neither too big or too small. The length would be worth the longer term costs of ownership.
- Split Cabin Layout: The 4788 by default has a third stateroom – with two bunks in a tiny room off the side of the master cabin. The wall had been removed to make the master feel larger, and this large sitting area also left us feeling enough separation between the guest and master cabin areas that we didn’t mind at all having the rooms on the same end of the boat.
- Sundeck Mandatory: Without a dinghy up top – Y-Not’s entire upper deck ends up working as a shaded sundeck for us. And the huge windows in the salon give us an amazing indoor space with a full view. And there’s a pretty spacious cockpit off the salon that serves as a shaded back porch too.
- Easily Deployable Dinghy: Every other 4788 we have seen has its dinghy on the salon roof, but now that we’ve had time to research the options we are actually excited to be shopping for a dinghy and davit system that will deploy from the swim platform instead of the roof. They’re much quicker and easier to deploy – which counts in both practical every day use and in an emergency. This initial negative turned into a positive for us!
- Workable Engine Room: The 4788 has a notoriously hard to access engine room crawlspace. But there is a relatively easy way to cut a hatch into the living room floor that vastly improves access, but it requires cutting into the carpet to do. We definitely plan to make this modification ASAP, and in this case Y-Not having old carpet makes this a no-brainer modification.
- Geeky Modern Marine Electronics: We actually did not expect to find any boat that would be up to our geek-standards, so we’ve always planned that we would need to tackle this upgrade project. And in this case it is a plus not to have to rip out newer stuff that had already been upgraded. Until we get around to doing this, the basics all work fine – and it is amazing what a pair of iPads can do when it comes to marine navigation!
As we thought everything through – it was clear that we had found a perfect match for us, even if it wasn’t at all what we started off looking for.
And we couldn’t be more thankful for working with Curtis Stokes & Associates as our buyer’s broker – they were with us every step of the way, providing education, support and tons of patience during our hunt down the coast. They defied our conception of what a broker would be like. They were totally non-pushy and never hurried us (in fact, we had to push them a bit to impress upon our timeline), and everyone we worked with up and down the coast had a wonderful educational attitude. We highly recommend them for listing or buying (if you make contact, let them know Technomadia sent ya).
Creative Thinking About Financing
We have both avoided being controlled by consumer debt our entire adult lives (thanks Moms and Dads for the valuable lessons – it’s really quite simple, don’t buy something if you can’t afford it).
Living debt free is a wonderful thing, and extremely freeing – there is no doubt about that.
When it comes to buying a home, financing is not necessarily evil. We’ve grown really accustomed however to minimizing the number of payments that come out of our highly variable monthly income. And we loathe having the burden of a big mortgage payment over our heads again.
But why cash out investments that are performing well and pay capital gains on them? That didn’t seem wise at all.
What if we could finance AND not have it feel like a monthly payment?
So here’s what we did…
Boat loans typically require a 20% downpayment, inclusive of sales tax. Done.
And then there’s all the boat closing fees – survey, documentations, registrations, etc. Done.
That left enough of our original cash budget to put away 5 years of auto payments into a reserve fund. We don’t feel the payments that way.
And this strategy pretty much spent our $100k acquisition goal without cashing out any investments. It got us a better boat, and actually left the bulk of our budget still liquid. Hooray!
Of course, we’ll have to replenish the payment fund as the loan is for 15-years. We figure if we still see a long term future with Y-Not after five years that will not be a problem to contribute towards.
Notes on the Challenges of Financing as a Nomad
The challenge we ran into was finding a lender who would both finance a nomad who has used mail forwarding service for a decade as their legal address, and who is self employed.
It’s not that banks necessarily hate nomads, but the Dodd-Frank Finance Reform laws put extra paperwork in place for banks to finance livable vehicles that are also serving as a primary home. It’s complicated, but that’s how one of many finance agents explained it to us before turning us down.
Full time RVers frequently come up against this when seeking financing too. Escapee’s RV Club partner Alliant Credit Union is a great resource there (and we did contact them for possibly financing our boat, but they weren’t sure what to do with our situation of wanting TWO nomadic vessels.)
Before fixating on more expensive boats, Curtis Stokes & Associates put us in touch with Chris Hungerink of Coastal Financial Corp in Michigan, who had one bank willing to write a loan to someone in our situation.
Besides the normal paperwork mountain, financing was a relatively easy task thanks to them.
We’re of course are keeping our eyes wide open and know there will be substantial ongoing costs to owning a boat.
Not just in normal living costs like fuel & marinas, which we anticipate will be a bit higher than our RVing averages – but maintenance, repairs and of course upgrades.
That’s all coming out of a separate pot of money we’ve been saving up for too. There’s no way we would have even considered this lifestyle without being realistic that ‘BOAT’ has earned a meaning of ‘Bring Out Another Thousand’ (or, Ten Thousand).
The general rule of thumb is to anticipate about 10% of the purchase price of a boat in annual maintenance, so we’re using that as a base figure going forward. And we are allowing a lot more for our first year as we tackle establishing a maintenance baseline.
One reason financing was palatable to us is it left more cash accessible as our emergency / repair fund. We’re of course still income earning nomads, and all that money that was going into saving up for this adventure will now be replenishing various funds as they are spent.
It’s way too soon for us to share what the actual ongoing costs will be, but we’ll recap down the road (river?).
Other Relevant Posts:
- Our Great Loop Plans
- Great Loop Boat Specifications
- Shopping for and Buying Our Boat
- Tour of our Bayliner 4788 – Y-Not
- What about the Bus?
- Boat vs RV – First Impressions of Living Aboard a Boat & Differences from RV Living
- Our First Month Aboard our Boat – Burnt Store Marina, Florida
Ok, I think that wraps up all of our ‘buying a boat’ posts for now.
It’s time to start getting into more fun topics and sharing more about the adventures we’re up to!
Whew, it feels good to get this behemoth post off our plate!
Thanks again for following along and for virtually joining in the adventures!