Fall is approaching and it is boat show time once again. I say once again, but this year is unlike any other show season ever. For the most part, we have moved past the Covid crisis, after many months of cancelled events, activities…and boat shows. Add to this the staggering interest in boats of every shape and size to satisfy the demands of hundreds of thousands of people who want to get out on the water for the first time.

Yes, the Fall 2021 boat show season will be unique as organizers scramble to find boats to fill the docks, which has proven to be another first. There simply aren’t many new or nearly new boats sitting around dealer yards, and boat builders continue to struggle with their own issues of getting supplies and materials to continue or increase production.

Even experienced boaters find themselves in this crazy mix, as the lockdowns and narrowed lifestyle opportunities push their boating dreams to the forefront. Many boat owners are looking to move up, get that dream boat, or begin that cruising dream sooner rather than later.

It is an exciting time for sure. But for many of these potential buyers, there is a bit of trepidation about the process of buying a boat, whether for the first time, or a cruising boat that is way more expensive than just about any other kind of lifestyle purchase. Face it, boats cost a lot of money. So how does one make sure a boat for sale is a good one, its condition good enough to not cause problems soon after it becomes yours?

That is why I always recommend using a professional boat broker, someone who not only knows all the details of the process, but is also an active boater who knows systems, brands, and has enough experience to help the buyers find the right boat for their plans. Seasoned brokers will also help get past the dream factor that is all to common. Buying a boat that is too big, or too complex, is good for no one, and can quickly sour the lifestyle experience.

I recently had the opportunity to be part of what turned out to be an ideal buying and selling event. A friend of mine, an accomplished sailboat racer who decided to come to the dark side a few years ago. Bob can detail every angle of how best to sail down Chesapeake Bay during a race to Bermuda or Newport, but he is at a loss when it comes to mechanical systems and understanding what makes a modern cruising powerboat.

Bob and Mary first bought a Back Cove 26, a small traditional day cruiser. It is a good first boat, big enough to go anchor and watch the Blue Angels fly over the Naval Academy, but a bit too small to really go cruising. After a couple years, they found they liked having a powerboat, which offered more accommodations and performance that their other boat, a J/105 racing sailboat. But the 26-footer was not quite big enough, so they began looking for a bigger boat, and bought a used Back Cove 29.

(Seen below: Example of a Back Cove 29 Downeast)

back cove 29 downeast 

While they intended to cruise this boat to New England, Covid notwithstanding, the couple spent a good amount of money upgrading the boat with the latest electronics and improved systems. But it still had a wet head, and Mary grew to dislike the forward V-berth. It was too hard to make the bed properly, and difficult to get in at their age. While it is a fine choice for a younger couple, it is too much like camping for senior boaters. So, not long after they finished upgrading the boat, they began a new search. This time they aimed for a larger boat, still within the Back Cove line as they were comfortable with look and finish of that line, similar to our own line of Legacy Yachts.

Bob saw a Back Cove 34 come on the market, and immediately called his neighbor and friend, broker Erik Haaland. Erik helped ease the couple into the world of powerboats, and knew what they wanted despite their own unfamiliarity with powerboats.

(Seen below: The Back Cove 34 Bob and Mary had interest in.)

 back cove 34

This particular Back Cove 34 was up in Milford, Connecticut, and the couple made an offer that was accepted. Bob then invited me and another friend (also Bob, who owns a nice Eastbay 43) to accompany him for the survey and sea trial. He was afraid he wouldn’t know if something wasn’t right and felt our combined experience would keep him away from a bad deal.

Erik listed the couple’s BC 29, and in no time there were four offers, most at full asking price, so Bob and Mary felt confident they could go ahead. As anyone who has owned two boats at the same time knows, it is not for the faint of heart.

We drove up to Milford from Annapolis, and were ready for the survey and sea trial the next morning, a beautiful September day with glorious weather, cool temperatures and low humidity. The Back Cove 34 sat in her slip, glistening from a recent cleaning, cushion in the cockpit and everything put away. I could tell this owner cared a great deal about his boat and spent both time and money to ensure it was pristine and in perfect condition.

(Seen below: The survey begins.)

back cove 34 yacht survey

We soon were talking with the owner, and he said he is obsessed about keeping his boats in absolute top condition. He and his wife previously owned a Sabre 38, then moved up to a Sabre 42 which gave them all the luxury and comfort they desired. But after a couple of years they decided to downsize and go with a smaller, but similar, Downeast style boat, so they bought this 34-foot cruiser. The boat is easy to run, has both bow and stern thrusters, and the single Cummins diesel is easy to maintain. (And the engine access is exceptional.)

The boat has an air conditioned helm, with an outstanding Stidd chair for the helmsman. That is really impressive, as running this boat on a steamy summer Chesapeake day would be lovely. She is equipped with all of the best brands of gear: Simrad, Imtra, Isotherm, Garmin. Nice.

(Seen below: A view of the inside helm.)

inside helm station

But much like Mary’s feelings after cruising in their Back Cove 29, his wife soon felt it was just a bit too small. So, after a year and a half, the couple set their sights on a 40-foot cruiser that was for sale, with twin pod drives. It would be perfect for them at this point in their lives. But they had to sell this one first.

And that is what struck me about my day in Milford. Two sets of owners, all experienced boat owners, were quite comfortable trading up and down their current boats every couple of years, as their moods or plans changed. In the case of Bob and Mary, they wanted increasingly larger boats as their confidence and cruising experience grew. While some owners may keep a boat 20 years, I suspect that is more the exception these days.

The condition of this 2015 Back Cove 34 was superb, spotless in every detail. The owners had obviously spared no expense to keep it that way. Which is the same as how Bob and Mary keep their boats, including their race-winning J/105. Since both couples maintain their boats in perfect condition, it is not surprising they get full asking price when it is time to sell.

Another point worth mentioning is that as the 2015 Back Cove 34 is still relatively new, Bob and Mary can be confident the boat won’t need lots of expensive repairs anytime soon.

I came away thinking there are two important lessons here. First, rather than agonizing over the ideal boat that will take them over the horizon for the rest of their lives, both couples were focused on the present, and looking for a boat that works for them now. Switching boats, up and down, is pretty common in this area of Connecticut, according to selling broker, Bill Kolkmeyer. People take really good care of their boats, which makes it relatively easy to find buyers looking for that kind of boat.

The other lesson is closer to home, having done this myself with the recent sale of my beautiful Hunt Harrier 25, which is about the prettiest boat in the harbor. Keeping a boat in outstanding shape is much more than simple pride of ownership. It is also about knowing she will bring top dollar when it is time to sell. This is an important element in the boat ownership equation to ensure that trading boats every couple of years will not be a financial nightmare. Quality boats hold their value when kept in better than new condition, especially in this market.

(Seen below: My recently sold Hunt Harrier.)

hunt harrier day boat

I felt positive energy throughout day, with everyone in the same place, having fun messing around boats. The father/son team of surveyors did their thing, and I doubt they would find much to comment on. The two brokers assisted as necessary, and having such professional and seasoned brokers involved took all the worry out of the process. It is all about building great relationships, which last from one boat to the next. Both brokers were there for the couples as they continued to go up or down in size or type.

And I noticed that it didn’t hurt that both seller and buyer were of the same fabric, men who would always keep their boats in perfect shape, even as they looked to the next one. When it is time to sell, the boat sells itself.

So, as you attend the boat shows, keep this in mind. Focus on what you need now, not what you think you might need for the rest of your life…as there is no such thing.

And if you already have a boat, make it sparkle. See you on the docks.


Do you enjoy downeast-style yachts? Seattle Yachts is a dealer for Legacy Yachts, a highly-customizable, well-equipped downeast cruising boat.


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