Monday, September 25, 2017

The Trailerable Trawler

A trailerable boat is much less expensive to own than a boat you have to pay to have hauled out.

After looking at a number of big boats in the North Country, we've given up on the concept of owning a large boat. And in retrospect, I wonder what the hell I was thinking in the first place. The problem with large boats is that once you get above a certain size, say 30 feet or so, you have to pay somebody to haul the boat out of the water anytime you need to work on it or have it serviced.

Each haul out can cost hundreds of dollars, which gets to be very expensive after a short period of time. In addition, you have to pay dockage and storage fees which can cost thousands of dollars a year - more money than most people actually spend on a boat.  We were looking at boats that had $8,000 a year storage and dockage fees, which is more than I've actually paid for my first boat.

The third thing is that these large boats rarely go far from the dock if they are used at all.  As I noted in my previous posting, a lot of people use these huge boats as floating condominiums.  They drive up from their suburban enclaves for the weekend and wax and polish the boat and sit on the back deck and make cocktails and chat with their friends in the neighboring boats.  It becomes sort of a social club and less of a yacht club.  Once in a while they take the boat out for a short trip but they never usually go more than fifty or a hundred miles away from their home dock. The boat is not really used for traveling so much as it is a floating condominium.

And if that's what you want to do, I guess that's fine, although it's an expensive hobby.  People do the same thing with RVs.  We are staying in an RV park near Rhinebeck, New York, and most of the RV's here are park models which never leave the park.  People come up from New York City and its environs and spend the weekend "in the country" in their RV, sweeping the pine needles off the roof and chatting with their neighbors and having cocktails and barbecue.

Again, this can be fun in its own way, and I guess it's a way of having a vacation home on the cheap for many people.  But there is another form of RVing, just as there another form of boating, where you actually travel and go and see things.  And for traveling you really need a smaller RV just as you need a smaller boat.  Dragging a 35 or 40 foot travel trailer or driving a 40-foot motorhome cross-country is not any fun.  You have to stick to the main highways and carefully plan each exit because you can't go over bridge that has a load limit of five or even ten tons.  Worse than that, you don't want to get in a situation where you can't back up or turn around.  As a result, the big rigs tend to stay to the main highways and the luxury RV resorts with the pull-through sites. They tend to miss the of-the-road attractions and smaller and more interesting things that we can see with our tiny Casita.

In one of my earliest postings about motorboating, I noted that having a trailerable boat really is the most affordable way to go boating.  Actually, the best way to go boating is if you have a property on the water in your boat is parked right in front of your house or condominium.  You can just step off the dock and into your boat and go whenever you want.  And since you don't have to pay for dockage fees the overhead cost is pretty minimal.  Of course, waterfront property is scarce and expensive.

But the next best thing is have a boat that is trailerable. With a trailer boat you don't have to pay for haul-outs.  You just back your pickup truck down the ramp and put the boat on the trailer.  At our local marina here on Jekyll Island, it can cost upwards of $500 a month to leave the boat in the water at the dock and perhaps $300 a month to leave it in rack storage in the barn.  It costs only $40 a month to leave the boat on the trailer in the storage lot behind the barn.  As you can see there is a huge cost savings in trailering.

Not only that, if you want to work on the boat, wash it, wax it, clean it, or do other maintenance, you can drag it home, park in your driveway, and work on it at your leisure.  For larger boats that require haul-out, you have to pay for the haul-out fee and then pay a daily charge for storage on the outside rack where you can actually work on the boat. Granted, in some marinas, if you are a seasonal customer, you may get a number of free haul-outs for your annual dockage fee, and they may allow you to keep your boat "on the hard" to work on it for a limited amount of time without charging you.  But then again you are paying $6,000 to $8,000 a year for this privilege.

The other advantage of a trailer boat as you can take it to places and go boating as opposed to being limited to how far you can travel in a larger boat.  Larger boats such as the one we looked at in the Thousand Islands, get only one or two miles per gallon, if that.  So you can spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars just traveling a few hundred miles from home.  Not only that, since most boats only travel about 30 miles an hour or so, it can take you a very long time to get to where you're going.  And while it may seem romantic to travel up the Intracoastal Waterway, many people report that it is mile after boring mile of the same sort of thing.

When we had our 27-foot boat, we kept it on the trailer when it wasn't in the water.  People asked me how fast the boat could go and I said it would do 70 miles an hour - on the trailer.  Also it was capable of getting 10 miles per gallon on the trailer being towed by the pickup truck.  In the water, it topped out at about 35 miles an hour in about 2 miles per gallon.

If you want to go boating in Key West, it could take you days to get there even from Georgia and you'd use thousands of dollars in fuel - I know this from experience. We drove from Jekyll Island in our last boat to Fort Myers Florida, and the round trip used over $3,000 in fuel.  Yes, marinas charge far more for gas than gas stations so - and you can fill up a trailerable boat at a gas station for far less.

So a trailerable boat is a much more inexpensive alternative in terms of boating compared to these larger boats, which rarely leave their marinas or go very far from them - and cost thousands of dollars a year in overhead. The question is, what kind of boat do you want to get?

Our 27-footer was a go-fast boat, capable of planing and going over 35 miles an hour.  It could pull a water skier if we wanted to.  It was a very inexpensively built boat though, and it did use a lot of gas. Like most boats of its type, it was powered by a converted automobile engine, this case the venerable small block 350 Chevy.

There are other, slower boats known as trawlers which have displacement hulls which are not capable of planing.  They go through the water at a much slower speed, usually around eight to ten knots and actually get several miles per gallon, which doesn't sound like a lot, but in the boating world - much like the RV world - it is pretty impressive.

One of the boats were looking at is the 25 foot Ranger Tug.  This is a very stout and seaworthy boat powered by a small diesel engine.  It's layout is almost identical to our Casita travel trailer - very compact but very efficient in space.  It may not be a very pretty boat, like our 27-footer was, but in terms of rough weather, it could handle a lot more and also last a lot longer.

One problem with this kind of boat is that they didn't make very many of them, and thus there are not many for sale. We looked at a few of them but the sticking point seems to be price.  They sold for about $150,000 new, ten years ago, but many owners are asking $80,000 to $90,000 for used examples.  The odd thing is is some models, only a few years old, are only asking $110,000, which tells me the older models are severely overpriced.

Usually any motorized form of transportation depreciates about 40% to 60% every 5 years depending on the make and model of the item.  Based on the asking prices people are putting on these trawlers, they are depreciating less than 40% after a decade which is nothing short of astounding.  They are overpriced, period.

But as I noted in my posting about Corvettes, asking prices are not sales prices.  As I noted in that posting, my friend put his Corvette for sale on AutoTrader after seeing asking prices from a number of other people.  However after six months he didn't have a single phone call for the car and in fact all the other cars that were for sale were still for sale on AutoTrader.  Since you can leave your ad on AutoTrader indefinitely, it doesn't cost anything to leave the ad up even if there no inquiries.  And people say they "want to get their price" and refused to sell even when they have some reasonable offers.

And again the same old thing with Constipated Commerce.  The boat ends up not going in the water for a year and sits on the trailer, and then slowly degrades over time.  The stubborn owner refuses to sell,and eventually he dies and the widow lets it go for a pittance.  I guess the secret is to find that Widow and hope the boat hasn't completely rotted in the interim.

But maybe this trailerable trawler is like the Corvette - the car that nobody drives, nobody buys and nobody sells.  Since people feel that selling it for anything less than what they paid for it is "giving it away" they hang on to it, and since the cost of keeping it is very low because it's on a trailer they feel they can afford the overhead (but fail to account for depreciation).

In any case, we'll just keep looking. There's really no reason to jump in feet first on a possession that really isn't necessary for our existence at this point our life, and, if purchased wrongly could be a serious detriment to our finances.