Saturday, June 29, 2013

Affordable blue water sailboats in Mexico

Cheoy Lee Offshore Ketch     $39.9K
When I looked at my reader statistics I see that this blog entry has more hits than any of my others by far.  That brings me to think that there are a lot of folks out there thinking about getting into an affordable blue water capable sailing vessel.  Read on.  I've added an addendum at the bottom of this article.... sv 

Last month I was perusing the for sale board outside of Mazatlan Yacht Sales and was surprised at the number of affordable boats advertised there.  This broker has offices in Mazatlan, San Carlos, Puerto Vallarta, and La Paz so they have quite a bunch of boats available for sale.  Of the over 150 boats, I'd say more than half of these are blue water capable ranging from 37 ft to 52 ft.  This last cruising season we saw a lot of boats and a lot of boaters who were cruising the Mexico coast and most of those boats were in that 37 to 52 feet category with the average being about 40 foot long.

Rafiki 37    $40K
Of course there are boats less than 37 feet in length that are capable of cruising blue water and many over 52 feet are out there cruising but for our purposes, and this discussion (which I'm controlling so STFU) we're looking at the 37 to 52 foot range for the typical sailor.  I had focused on boats in the 40 to 45 foot range when we were looking because these fit our budget and I wanted a heavy displacement vessel with enough room for a crew of four to sleep, eat, and play comfortably.  Looking  back on the decision, I'm reconsidering.  Don't get me wrong, I love Traveler and am quite happy with her.  But now with some experience under my belt I realize that I could have outfitted a slightly smaller boat and have saved tens of thousands of dollars.

Today as I write this post I see (on the Mazatlan Yacht Sales web site) about 18 blue water sailboats advertised for under $40k, all between 37 feet and 40 feet with the majority in the 37 to 38 foot variety.  If you bring the price up to $50k then there are 24 boats in this category.  Some that stand out are the Rafiki 37 and the Tayana 37, both cutter rigs and both very solid blue water cruising vessels.  The Rifiki is designed by Stan Huntingford and the Tayana by Bob Perry, two very accomplished and serious blue water designers.  Yacht World has seven Rifikis advertised, with five under $50k.  The Tayana is a bit more expensive, usually, but a wonderful boat.

Downeast Cutter   $30K
The Downeast 38 is another nice vessel that can be found for under $50k.  Keep in mind that the selling price will often be much less than the asking price.  If you find a boat advertised for $52k then you just might get into the boat for $42K. These three are just a few examples of affordable blue water cruising sailboats.  There are many more.  I've read that you should expect to put about half the purchase price of a used boat back into the boat as you refit her for service.  Thus if you buy a boat for $40k, expect to spend another $20k on her to get her totally ready for sea.  I'm finding this to be true on my boat as we bought her for $93K and have put close to $50K into her since then.

Tayana 37     $47.5K
So what I'm seeing, with the older 37 footers, is that you could have a good solid blue water sailing vessel for about $60K to $70K (after the refit) if you choose wisely and inspect all the systems carefully.  I could be cruising for about half what I've paid thus far!  Holy Cow.

But then, I love our boat.  It is roomy and cuts through the seas like a freight train.  And she is sexy, very sexy with that rounded stern and polished teak.  Oh I just love to pat her rounded stern.

The upshot is... don't let me catch you whining that you can't afford a blue water sailing vessel.  There are dozens and dozens of them out there, many of them in foreign ports, just waiting for you to come take a look. Don't think that you have to buy your boat in the good old USA.  You don't.  Many of the really good deals are down south, and many boats are in Mexico where folks have cruised them for years and then put them up for sale because they don't want to sail them upstream and upwind to the good old USA.

The lowdown is this.  Get yourself a plane ticket to La Paz Mexico.  See what they have there then take the ferry across to the mainland.  Visit San Carlos and look those over, then take a bus south to Mazatlan and walk some more decks.  Then head south, again by bus, to Puerto Vallarta and look at some more.  Take about 8 days for the trip, two days per city, then cogitate on it for a while.  When you have narrowed it down to a few, get yourself a broker and a surveyor and make a low ball offer. You might be surprised at what you can afford.

Addendum -  Written February 2015 has an article written by By Zuzana Prochazka in October 2012 entitled "Classic Plastic: 10 Affordable Used Sailboats for Cruising"

This article was prompted by an earlier article about 5 affordable blue water sailboats.  Those five were totally out of my price range.  But this later article talks about some boats that I looked at while looking for my boat, most of which I had to pass up because I couldn't afford them.   I wanted to include these here for those who had a few more bucks to spend.  I've been on many of these boats and have some recommendations.  

Kelly Peterson 44  -  I made an offer on one of these and personally know three people who have them.  These are great boats with a center cockpit and aft cabin.  You can find them at a good price on occasion.

Liberty 458
Celestial 48
Hans Christian 38  -  A sweet looking traditional boat
Tayana 37 -  What I would look for if we lost Traveler to the sea.  Smaller but more affordable.
Passport 40 -  Good performer, faster than the Passport 42 but not as much storage and stability.
Gulfstar 44 - Very solid
Norseman 447 -  I saw one of these at a Seattle Boat Show and lusted after it.  Great layout, very stable.  A big hunk of a boat.
Hylas 44 -  Quality boat, probably drawing a high price still.
Cabo Rico 38 -  Have friends who took one to New Zealand and back.  A very nice design.

So there you have it.  These boats are not a super affordable solution like in the original article but they are really nice blue water cruising boats.  Oh, and let me add just one more suggestion:   The venerable Passport 42!



  1. Nice post! No excuses, here's the facts and photos to prove it.

  2. Affordable indeed. I want to buy one and sail with the one I adore into the sunset.
    Ed of

  3. Hey Scott - I've been enjoying your blog, went with the chronological approach. Perfecting my cruising plan everyday, thanks for your insight! -Adam