In the boatyard, it’s best to have broad knowledge, and when it gets to details, know whom to ask. Much like in sailing, I’ve been fortunate to surround myself with smart people. So many systems and disciplines are involved in boating that you often need a team of experts to find the right answer to even the most common of questions.
That’s the case with this common question from Mike S. about buying a boat from out of state.
Mike was curious if there are specific questions he should be asking, and he wanted to hear some rough cost estimates. We’re going to look at the cost question specifically as it relates to buying and bringing a boat in from the Great Lakes.
Buying a boat from fresh water is a big deal when people are searching for a boat or even selling a boat. There are some advantages to freshwater moorage, mostly on the mechanical side. However, there are some important questions to ask that can really change the price, especially once the boat gets to Seattle.
First, what paint is on the bottom? A common paint in the Great Lakes is VC-17, a good hard paint that goes on with a thin film. It contains Teflon to keep the slime off, but that can also be a problem.
If you never plan to leave freshwater, you’ll be fine, but the lack of copper in VC-17 will degrade the paint’s effectiveness once you hit saltwater. In saltwater, you’re trying to control both soft growth (like slime) and hard growth (like barnacles). Teflon will not impede barnacle growth.
There are lots of different theories on how to remove VC-17 paint, from pressure washing to wiping it off with acetone. In our experience—and the paint representatives will agree—that the best method is sanding it all off, which is time-consuming and costly. Once you have all the paint sanded off, you’ll need a barrier coat, and new bottom paint. On a 40-foot boat, depending on the condition of the bottom, this could easily add $10,000 to the price.
Trucking & Shipping
After factoring in the cost of buying new bottom paint, consider the cost of trucking the boat here. Using Milwaukee as a starting point, a 14-foot-wide, legal-height boat would be around $12,000 to transport. The boat gets longer with a mast on deck, and the price goes up. A TP-52 with the keel off would be around $18,000 to truck to Seattle because of the additional length of the mast. Pilot cars and police escorts are not free.
The next item to think about is getting the boat ready to go on a truck. This will vary depending on the size and if it’s a sailboat or a power boat. You’re basically trying to get the package to fit in an imaginary box on a trailer, so you must decide what comes off. With a power boat, you’re typically taking off props, any canvas, and the electronics on the arch. In many instances, the arch or the flybridge bucket need to come off to get under the height limit. Once those things are off, they need to be stowed for transit. Electronics and canvas are easy; they can go inside the boat. The bucket or arch often goes on the bow on foam blocks.
A sailboat is a little more complicated. After the mast comes down, the keel likely needs to come back off to get under height. If you’re close to height limits with the keel on, you can start looking at the cabin top winches, mast guards, or stanchions and pulpits. You have the same canvas to stow, and maybe a radar post on the stern that can come down.
Once the sails are off and the mast is down, the spreaders and rigging come off. The lights and antennas also come off, and the mast and the furler are packaged for the trip down the road. Taking the keel off is sometimes difficult.
Did the person that put it on use 3M marine adhesive 5200? Was it epoxied on? Is the keel/hull joint faired and glassed? Remember, whatever happens to remove the keel will need to be undone so the boat can be reassembled.
In broad numbers for a 40-foot sailboat with the keel off, you should expect a yard bill on each end in the $6,000-$9,000 range. For a 40-foot power boat, substitute the bucket and arch for the mast and keel, and you’re in the same range.
There are lots of things as an owner you can do to keep costs down. For a sailboat, take the canvas down, take the boom off, remove all the lines, and tape the threads on the turnbuckles. Taping the threads makes it that much easier to put the mast back together, because you’re taking the rig tension back to the tape marks. On a powerboat, you can take care of the canvas, deflate the dinghy, stow the cushions, pack up the interior, and purge the systems.
Whether sail or power, you’ll also need to think about winterizing the systems, depending on the time of the year. For the Seattle Boat Show this year, we had a boat coming in that spent four days stuck in a snowstorm. Fortunately, all the systems were winterized.
After factoring in all the costs, is the boat that you’re going to truck across the country still the best one on the market and the one you must have? There are other things that you should consider having done while the boat is apart. For a sailboat with the mast down, it’s a great opportunity to make sure the mast wires and the VHF cable and antenna are all good. It’s likely they are original. Are the lights all LED? Is the standing and/or running rigging in need of replacement?
For a power boat, the props come off. Does it make sense to send them in and get them checked? With the props off, what’s the condition of the cutlass bearing and shaft seal? Is there any soft wood or bad wiring in the arch that should be addressed before it goes back together? There are often items that the insurance company might require you to address before the boat can splash. It often helps to build a relationship with a boatyard during the purchase process. You got a survey, right? (Please, get a survey!) What about the items that surfaced there? After you have an accepted offer on a boat, you get the survey.
After the survey, there is another round of negotiations. This is when you can send a copy of the survey to a boatyard and have them give you some round numbers for any major issues. One last thing, don’t forget sales tax. It’s 10.1 percent in King County. Don’t be afraid of buying out-of-state, just make sure you run the numbers against a local boat. Often the added cost of getting a boat here makes the local boat a better deal than you first thought.