Is sailing over the horizon more than just a dream, now with gas (and diesel) prices out of sight? Do you want to know the most essential things to look for before plunking down your hard earned cash on a cruising sailboat?

Only you are looking out for your own best interests. Not a boat broker, working off commission. So, get a piece of paper and a pencil and do a bit of analysis. Ask yourself these five questions before you consider buying a sailboat and save tons of money and time!

1. What Size of Cruising Sailboat Makes a Happy Cruising Sailor?

Not what you hear on TV, the movies or from a novel you've read! A small coastal cruising sailboat can be had for a fraction of the cost of a larger offshore vessel. Keep the size down to just as small as you can tolerate.  Spend less time at the repair dock. Save time and lots of money for cruising in a smaller, well built cruising sailboat!

2. How Often do You Go Outside of Protected Waters?

Do you want a boat for sailing to Bermuda, or would you rather crew on someone else's money machine? If far away destinations aren't in your plans, you could save years of wear and tear on your sailboat hull, deck equipment, sails and sailing gear by cruising closer to home.

3. Are You Prepared to Spend 50% More to Cross an Ocean?

Plan to spend about 33% over purchase price to equip a small sailboat with basic cruising needs. This includes sails, engine parts, modifications to hull, deck, and interior to make her coastal and offshore ready.

And cruising sailboats with weak build quality may cost 50% over purchase cost to get ready for deep offshore sailing. Buy a smaller, well built, well equipped coastal cruiser to save lots of money over the initial cost of purchase!

4. Where Do You Want to Cruise Over the next Two Years?

Deep keel vessels restrict your cruising grounds. West Coast sailboats have deeper keels because of the relative depth of water in places like Puget Sound and San Francisco Bay. Shallow draft sailboats increase your ability to cruise off the beaten path. Choose a boat with shallower draft to open up gunkhole cruising grounds "away from crowds".

5. What are the 10 Most Important Amenities You Need?

Grab your wife or cruising partner for this one. Make a list of ten creature comforts that you must have, from most important to the least important. For instance, if pressurized hot water comes to mind first, make it #1.

Caution: the more "nice to haves" on your list, the greater will be the complexity and expense of cruising. No matter what the brochures tell you, salt, corrosion and humidity break down complicated gear like refrigeration, freezers and generators.

If you must have it, be sure to set aside a budget for repair, parts and time for service. Keep it simple to spend less time dockside, waiting for repairs, and more time enjoying the freedom of cruising.

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Before you start your quest for the perfect cruising sailboat, take some time to do a reality check. You'll enjoy sailing more, save lots of money, and most of all, make your cruising dreams a reality!

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