Everyone I know found new avenues of entertainment this past year as we spent time on our laptops and computers watching Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube. The never-ending sagas of personal journeys and wild adventures are a stark contrast to home confinement. While these restrictions are thankfully relaxing around the country, I believe this new form of entertainment hooked a lot of us.
The proliferation of young couples sharing their daily lives, rejecting traditional life paths in search of adventure and experience, is enormously enjoyable to those with a thirst for seeing the world on a different level. While these couples may differ in their chosen path, they are like minded, no matter if the journey is van life on the road or on a boat. The experience, the lessons, and the advice cross from one side to the other quite easily.
The many hundreds of thousands of subscribers who follow their journeys include many who hope to take their own footsteps in similar adventures. They look to the popular YouTube couples for inspiration, education, and reassurance that it is doable, exciting, worthwhile.
One young couple with two small children has been living full time in various RVs for the past five years. On one episode on their YouTube channel, the young man explained his reasoning for their purchase of a gas Class A motorhome, and the parallel to a cruising boat is uncanny as he went through his thought process. It was as if I gave him a list of talking points for buying the right cruising boat.
He said that for their budget, they could look at a diesel motorhome, but it would have to be over ten years old. Or, for the same budget, they could find a gas motorhome only a couple of years old. And that is an important point.
Much like boats, he knew that both need plenty of maintenance, regardless of age. But an older rig just adds exponentially to the potential problems and repairs. Bouncing, shaking, and flexing down the road, all RVs will have issues. The same is true for cruising boats, no matter if is a trawler or a sailboat. Things break, wear out, fall off, or disintegrate. Hoses get brittle, seals get old, and lubricants break down. Nothing lasts forever, and pumps, switches, batteries, engines, and mechanical systems will need replacement over time.
(Seen below: If buying a new boat is in your future, like this Schaefer 400 below, Seattle Yachts can take existing boats in on trade.)
While young people are resilient, and don’t mind some level of discomfort or the need for primitive living brought on by having to fix things in small spaces, it does get old, especially when small children are involved.
From a casual look around the popular YouTube channels, it seems typical for these millennial travelers to select boats, at least initially, that are 25 to 50+ years old, which is certainly not the path to carefree cruising. But it is what they can afford. And they are okay with that, at least when they start out. In one case, this turned out to be a major problem, as the bulkheads in their older boat were full of rot, more than could be fixed.
So began their search for a new boat, although now the couple is more experienced, knows how to sail and handle a boat, and the compromises of living aboard. And they are now aware of how much they don’t know. Which brings up a good point.
Seattle Yachts broker Greg Gelmann is building his career as a professional yacht broker. He is also a millennial. I asked him about the buying habits of his contemporaries, and he was quick to fill in the blanks.
“I think most people my age like to do a ton of research before they buy anything these days. We prefer to know everything about the product before we buy it to make sure it's the right fit. I know that I read articles and watch YouTube videos before I buy anything relatively expensive.
“On one hand, once we've already done countless hours of our own research, we feel that there's no need to seek further guidance because we know enough to feel comfortable with our decision. On the other hand, we want to be as well informed as possible, so I would definitely listen to an experienced person to help with the process.
“I tend to be more cautious than most the more expensive the product is, so if we're talking about an RV or cruising yacht, I would appreciate an expert opinion...but chances are I already have a specific make and model in mind.”
I would like to suggest that any of these millennials, whether they are the rock star owners of a successful YouTube channel or one of its many subscribers, think about this. Accustomed to doing your own research and making decisions on your own, you would still be best served if you ultimately connected with a seasoned broker to help find the best choice for what you plan and can afford. And if you are willing to fix it up a bit as you go, that can be filtered into the equation. There is no better way to learn a boat than taking it apart.
To Greg’s point, it is great that you do a tremendous amount of research in your search. It is ideal to do so. Once you have an idea of the boat you feel is a good candidate, why not take that research and go over it with a good broker.
What is a good yacht broker? One with experience in precisely the kind of boat you are looking for.
No matter how many hours one spends researching on a computer, it is just not the same as working with someone who knows these boats to a greater depth than a forum post or a journalist’s two-page magazine article from an afternoon sail. What the boat is really like in varying conditions, what it is like on a passage, how easy is it to dock, and how is it to live aboard?
Some engine installations have better access than others. When you have a 20+ year old diesel engine, you want full access. This is important.
And on vintage boats, either cruising sailboats or trawlers, are engine and other parts still available? Engine replacement is an option when it becomes impossible to find local sources for that old Thornycroft, Lister, or Perkins engine. Or transmission. Having parts shipped from another country is problematic even when you are sitting in your home marina.
And let us not forget how much time you will spend fixing leaks and repairing other aging equipment.
Cruising is often defined as fixing one’s boat in exotic locations. That is true enough with a new boat. But it is a prison sentence for those saddled with an older boat far from mainstream services and parts. Think I am making this up? Follow one of the popular channels where the couple has a 16-year-old catamaran in dire need of major repairs, from cracked exterior windows to a list of mechanical problems that are not solvable with J-B Weld. Yet they are stuck in an island group that offers none of the parts or services they need. And they are far from the nearest major mainland facilities, and know it is foolhardy to plan a long ocean passage to reach a distant mainland with so many systems down.
This is not quite the experience or adventure they were searching for.
Another young couple cruised the East Coast in their older Taiwan trawler for a couple of years. The young man was somewhat experienced for his age and obviously mechanically inclined as he spent time fixing the mechanical systems to keep the boat running. He knew enough to figure it out and had many of the right tools aboard to do most of the work himself. But he is an exceptional young man.
Which is a point worth mentioning. Most, if not all of you young couples are not seasoned sailors, and you come at this with enthusiasm but not much experience. If that is your situation, that is great and welcome to the cruising lifestyle. But it does validate my argument that a good broker is even more valuable to you, as he or she will offer lots of information and advice as someone who has been there and learned from his or her mistakes.
One couple, comparing four different potential boats, did not realize that one of them was built in such a way that every piece of gear in the boat—engine, tanks, batteries, generator—could be taken out and put back in the boat, without taking apart furniture or joiner work. That is significant, especially on a boat that is over 25 years old. I would look no further.
(See below: This young couple discusses their experiences of living on board a trawler and a sailboat, along with the pros and cons of each.)
A good broker will point out features, concerns, and super helpful details that one might not find on the Internet. What will it be like to be in rough weather given the lack of hand holds? Or what about the lack of accessibility to the batteries, raw water pump, fuel filters, through hulls, and bilge pumps? Cooking a meal while underway may be fun…or challenging. Repairing the boat’s toilet is probably not fun in the best of times, but it is ten times worse if you can’t reach the nuts or bolt heads underneath the porcelain fixture.
For those of you interested in pursuing this lifestyle, the absolute best way to begin this journey, even if the goal is to eventually cruise the world like many of these couples, is by starting with the newest boat that will do the job for now. A boat that is new or a couple of years old will offer mostly trouble-free service, beyond normal maintenance and wear and tear, before the aging gremlins surface. While it may not be the best boat to circle the globe, it is perfect to get started, learn boat handling and living aboard, and enjoy the cruising experience...without the maintenance responsibilities that come with an older boat.
And if you stay in touch with your broker, he or she will keep an eye out for that perfect world cruiser when it comes on the market, and hopefully the stars will align where it makes sense to change things up. That is a win win.
Generally, millennials do not feel the need for the traditional learning curve many of us grew up with. And that is a good thing, as you are not held down with traditions and thinking that today are mostly irrelevant. The set-in-ways mentality that keeps people from embracing catamarans and power cruisers that do it all does not apply to you.
Not everyone expects to become popular through social media and have sustaining income streams from high quality video vlogs. To produce them right is enormous work, although for those with a paying audience it is worth the effort.
But even if you do not intend to make your mark on the social media circuit, the joys of experience and adventure are out there, waiting for you.
Let a broker help you make it happen.
Enjoy these other boating and cruising articles by Bill Parlatore:
- Dawn Of The Paperless Helm
- Letting Go But Still In Control
- Learning To Handle A New Boat
- Improving The User Experience
- A Paradigm Shift In Cruising
- Consider Buddy Boating
- A Matter Of Staying Safe While Boating
- Should I Carry A Gun While Cruising?
- A Boater's 3-to-5 Year Plan
- Boat Tools: A 4-Part Series
- Provisioning Your Yacht For Extended Cruising - Bahamas
- Provisioning Your Yacht For Extended Cruising - Alaska
- The Evolution Of The Trawler Yacht