Boat Shopping I

We waited until the end of the sailing season in October and used our time to prepare for boat buying. We figured out it would be best to buy a boat somewhere in the east Med to be able to sail with the prevailing winds westwards. We also decided to buy a boat in the winter to minimize the costs of the berth.

We found that most of the boats that were in our budget were for sale in Croatia. The prices for relatively new boats (for example a 2006 Bavaria 39) were around 30.000 – 35.000 euros and looked pretty OK to us.

Right before we flew to Croatia we got in contact with a boat builder from the Netherlands who gave us some good tips. He told us to look into boats from 1980-1990 as they are generally better constructed for long range sailing than the newer boats. He recommended to look into Dehler, Sigma and Swan (haha). If we were to make an offer on a boat he assured us that ‘the offer is too high if you are not ashamed’. The boat selling market seems to be in our favor.

Our wish list at this stage:

  • A boat older than 1990
  • Polyester (definitely not wood or steel)
  • 36-41 foot
  • Ready to sail, max 1-2 months of work to be done
  • Teak deck (I really, really wanted a teak deck!)
  • With sprayhood and bimini
  • Preferably only one head
  • Three cabins
  • Max price 35.000 euro

Armed with Don Casey’s ‘Boat Buyer’s 30-Minute Survey’ we drove all the way to a remote Croatian island to look at our first boat. This Beneteau First 405 looked online like a well-equipped cruising boat, with great layout and a fair price. Out of all of our options in Croatia, we loved this boat the most and had very high hopes.

We took one look at the deck and suspected that it was rotted to the core. The sails were disintegrated and had a furling system that we had never seen before. This boat would definitely need a major refit before it could bring us anywhere. This wasn’t the one after all.

On our way back from the island we stopped at the Biograd boat show and hopped on some newer boats. We loved how spacious the boats are, with broader cockpits and higher saloons. Thomas could stand up in almost all of them. It was good to see a lot of boats in one day and notice the differences between the newer and older boats. In some newer boats you really notice the poor material quality and you can see how used up some of the charter boats are after 10 years in use.

The second boat we saw was a Sas 39, a Croatian boat which was pre-chartered. It looked quite basic but met all our needs and was within our budget so we decided to take a look.

The boat was accessed by an unlocked hatch as the owner had lost the keys. The inside looked like a bomb had gone off. When selling a boat, wouldn’t you at least do a minor cleanup? Especially when you have hide the fact that the electrics are in pretty bad shape, there is water in the bilges and the batteries are old. It was also a no.

The third boat we went to see was a Dehler 36 from the 80s. It was private owned and looked in pretty good shape. It was a bit expensive but we decided to have a look anyway.


The boat was great. It had low hours on the motor, the electrics were labeled (a sign of love for the boat from the previous owner!), the bilges were dry and it was equipped for longer passages as well as single handed sailing. My only concern was that it looked like an RV on the inside (so much plastic..) and Thomas’ concern was that he couldn’t stand up straight inside. But we found our first contender!

The last boat in Croatia we looked at was a Korean built Scylla 36. This was a center cockpit ketch which has a spacious layout and is suitable for live-aboard cruising.

It was awesome and affordable and I totally fell in love with it. Look at that wood! And the aft cabin was amazing, with loads of closet space, a big double bed and a small sink. On the downside, Thomas noted that it only had a tiny v-berth where we would not be able to fit any of our friends or parents and that it still had some work to be done. But I had already fallen for it.

We flew home with two contenders in mind: the Dehler and the Scylla. I vetoed the Dehler because it didn’t feel like I would feel at home surrounded by all that plastic. Thomas vetoed the Scylla because our guests would not fit in the V-berth.

We were back to the drawing board.

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