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Is sailing an expensive sport to get into?

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

Short answer: sailing is as expensive or as cheap as you want to make it.

The nautical adage "BOAT" means "bank on another thousand" doesn't have to be true!

My first boat was an old Pirate dinghy off the Jericho lot compound that was going to scrap - it was an old sailing school boat and they'd just had a new fleet come in. It cost me $400 and it got to keep its place in the yard.

5 years later, me and "Pat" still get out most weeks together around English Bay. I've upgraded some of Pat's ropes and cleats, gave her some new toe straps that I made. But other than that just a whole lotta love!

The wetsuit I wear for sailing is a boy's wetsuit I found advertised on Craigslist for $15. The seller was based out in Abbotsford which would have cost me more in gas than the wetsuit, so I asked them to mail it, and, by the Gods of Craigslist, they did.

Often, the type of sailing experience you want will dictate how much you will probably end up spending. Dinghy sailing in and around your local bay is often the most affordable way to go.

Even if you want to get into keelboat sailing, learning in a dinghy first will really help you get to grips with the basics, like tacking and gybing, going head to wind, and basic rigging.

Look out for co-op groups where your membership will give you access to the club's fleet, meaning that you don't even need to buy a boat.

Club Locarno in Vancouver and also Viking Sailing Club offer memberships like this.

Boat sharing removes the financial burden of owning, storing and maintaining boat.

These types of sailing experiences require less investment and can be more accessible to a wider range of people.

But I want a keelboat NOW!

When you do decide to upgrade your dinghy for a keelboat, it's important to do your research. Get an idea for the kind of boat you'd like to start out with - maybe you have recommendations from friends who are also boat owners, or just like the look and style of one.

When I was looking for my first keelboat, I decided something no bigger than 27ft, I didn't want an inboard engine, no head (though now I slightly regret this) and I didn't want it to have had any significant repairs done.

I looked at quite a few boats, some Catalinas, Odays, and San Juans. In the end I went with a San Juan 24 for $6000. I could have got a cheaper boat but the reason I went with this one was because the owners had kept it in such good condition, you could tell they really loved it.

There were also no old electronics in it. It had an outboard, had a bunch of extras to use with it that weren't going to cause me additional money like, anchors, good ropes, fenders, depth sounder, tiller extension, a few sets of sails.

To budget for this, I saved up a few years of tax returns and also split the cost with my partner. Some people might not be able to split the cost with someone but even to save up half of the money happened quite quickly as I sold a few possessions and just spent a bit less than usual.

It can be expensive up-front - the boat was and still is the most expensive thing I've ever bought! But there are long-term cost savings.

Sailing is a sustainable and environmentally-friendly mode of transportation - I put gas in the tank maybe once a month - and can save money on fuel costs, hotel costs!! Staying at a marina is incredibly cheap, and anchoring up in a gorgeous empty bay is even cheaper.

As I don't have a car, I can enjoy going places by boat know that it's my transportation and also my home (at times).

When you buy a boat, you get far more than a boat...

I'd also like to briefly talk about the community and camaraderie of sailing, which is not something that you buy but it's what comes when you buy a boat I find!!! Sailing is not just a sport, it's a community. Sailing clubs and marinas offer a welcoming and supportive community of sailors who share a passion for the sea. This sense of camaraderie can be a priceless experience that enriches the overall value of sailing.


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