Cheap boating: how to get on the water on a budget – Yachting Monthly

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Owning a boat can be an expensive pastime, especially now, but there are numerous ways to cut the bills for some cheap boating. Duncan Kent finds some ways to save you money and keep you afloat

Not all yachties are wealthy city folk with money to throw around. Keen sailors of all backgrounds and financial status manage to buy, berth and maintain their boats upon a limited budget by being fiscally astute plus carrying out many of the simpler tasks themselves, so cheap boating is not, by any means, an impossibility.

Buying a boat is only the start associated with your investment. If it’s your first, you’ll become needing lifejackets, harnesses and foul weather clothes, plus essential safety gear such as flares, VHF radio, charts, almanacs, pilot guides, logbooks, binoculars, hand-held compass and more.

A daunting list, but many of these items can be bought online or from sailing groups, clubs, and associations for much less. I wouldn’t cut corners with safety kit such as lifejackets plus liferafts, but I’d definitely hunt around for all the other bits in boat jumbles or online.

Cheap boating advice

Initial equipment costs are not the end of the matter. Finding somewhere reasonably priced to keep your boat is of paramount importance and will probably be the largest expense after purchasing your vessel.

In fact, these days it’s not such a bad idea to find your own ideal mooring first before buying the boat, especially if you want to keep her in one of the more popular coastal areas. Charges increase according to convenience, so if you’re happy to leave your boat on a buoy in a river or harbour and row out to it along with all your gear every time you use it, this will oftimes be the cheapest solution.

It can be even cheaper if you join a yacht club and are allocated a mooring, although there might be a waiting list.

A marina berth can be a major expense but for some it is worth it. Photo: The Photolibrary Wales / Alamy Stock Photo

Marina berths

Marina berths are usually the most expensive form of mooring, particularly in popular areas such as the Solent and most from the UK’s South Coast. Busy, working boat owners usually prefer marinas because they can arrive at any time of day or night and jump straight on board. The particular batteries will be charged, the fridge cold, the particular shower warm and you know the lines are checked regularly by the marina staff.

You can wallow in the particular marina showers and take a hot meal ashore, and in some marinas even get your clothes washed and dried within a launderette. It will be also simple to have work done on her whilst you are away or, if you are usually doing it yourself, there is usually often a chandler on site for parts plus advice.

The downside, obviously, is the high cost. An annual subscription to a marina is the cheapest and, though monthly direct debit payments are usually welcome, paying a year up front often entitles you to a further discount. Alternatively, consider a short-term summer berth contract (where available) if you have access to cheap winter storage.

Some marinas offer cut-price berthing for those happy in order to remain afloat during the winter. There are some benefits to this, not least that it’s warmer on the particular water than out upon a yard cradle so you might not need to drain the water system and can run your engine regularly. It also means you can extend your sailing season when you get
the few mild days in the winter.

Marina berth holders often have access to discounts on things like fuel and services.

The cheapest marina berths are those that dry out in some point as the tide goes out, but a semi-tidal berth will be okay if you don’t mind the particular restriction on your sailing times. And so long since you have twin keels allowing you to take the ground safely, or even the seabed is soft mud for your fin keel to settle into, you’ll be fine.

If you’re lucky, a person might find a drying mooring close to an all-tide visitor berth or town quay, in which case you can move there on an earlier high tide to pick up crew or load provisions the night prior to, ready to set sail the next day.

Most marinas, even half-tide ones, provide drinking water and metered electricity. Those with a fuel berth can often offer cheaper fuel for annual bertholders too. Some include a limited period of time ashore within the annual fee, although cranage and chocking up will undoubtedly be chargeable.

Others only offer a discount off the cost of yard storage to annual berth holders or limit the period associated with time allowed ashore. So , if you want to keep the boat out of the water from October in order to April, check with the particular marina first.

Recently, some of the larger marina groups possess introduced a scheme simply by which, if you let the office know in case you’re vacating your berth, and they manage to re-let it in your absence, then they will reimburse you a percentage of the fee obtained or even give you a credit towards your next year’s fees. The larger chains may also offer a number of free overnight stays at their some other marinas.

Coastal and river moorings cost less than a marina but require significant effort. Photo: Will Perrett / Alamy Stock Photo

Swinging or pile moorings

There are mooring buoys all over the particular coast, some owned by commercial organisations but many more by harbour trusts or sailing clubs. These are nearly always less expensive than marina berths. However, they do require a way associated with getting out to your own boat, along with your crew, gear and provisions, such as a dinghy or water taxi.

Storing a dinghy in a club or marina will incur costs, even though these can be eliminated when you arrive with a good inflatable in your boot.

Apart from saving money, another aspect of being on the swinging mooring I have always enjoyed is sitting on board, eating a meal and taking in the view, while additional boats go by. Early breakfast in the cockpit up a quiet water, watching and listening in order to the wading birds while you wait for the tide to return, is definitely one of the supreme delights of owning the boat.

There are, of course, downsides to a swinging, trot or even pile mooring, not least that your boat can be more vulnerable to passing thieves, as will your dinghy be in case you leave it on the buoy whilst out sailing.

Your boat or dinghy can also be damaged by boats passing too close and losing control, plus the mooring warps, chain and shackles can all wear and break aside if not set up correctly and inspected frequently. That said, if you join a club someone will usually be around to maintain an eye out for any boat in trouble.

Many marinas have a boatyard on site for storage, solutions and maintenance. Photo: Rodger Tamblyn / Alamy Stock Photo

Other compromises include the lack of power or fresh water. To keep your batteries charged you will need either a small wind generator or solar panel and you’ll need to fill your water tanks from the fuel pontoon or carry it on board in jerry cans.

Pile moorings have similar pros and cons to buoys, although the physical security is slightly better in that the vessel will be attached to the ground more substantially. Wear on the strops, though, can be equally ferocious in bad weather.

Piles with a pontoon between them are the best simply by far but usually cost more for the privilege of being able in order to unload your dinghy onto the pontoon before transferring your crew and gear to the boat.

Although it’s a lot easier to clean the boat and work on it from a pontoon, you’ll need to end up being wary of the wear on fenders, unlike with swinging moorings. If the mooring is susceptible to high winds and choppy waves then you’ll probably want to store your boat on land for part of the particular winter at least, so cranage and storage charges must be added in to the equation.

Finally, check your insurance coverage carefully as numerous companies want you to be safely stored ashore by the end of October at the latest and not relaunch until spring.

Budget cruising can be just as enjoyable with a few cost-saving tips


A little planning may save you loads. Buy most of your procedures in advance at the large supermarket, rather compared to pay top prices through small, local shops. Pre-cooking meals and freezing them down before setting off will save you going in order to expensive restaurants. They’ll also cut the gas required to cook them onboard and the power needed to
cool the fridge.

Find a few safe anchorages along your route to help save on mooring fees and use your tender for going ashore instead of expensive water taxis.

Solar panels can help save money by not really using marina power, in addition you can stay on the hook for longer without the risk of flattening your own batteries. A wind generator can also help cover you during overcast but windy days.


Although it is not actually against the law to keep and sail a boat in the UK without any insurance, you would be taking a huge risk in doing so. At the very least you should insure yourself against third party damage, as if you were to hit another vessel, or even worse still, injure or kill someone with your boat, you could become held personally liable.

Earlier and late season storms mean that insurance companies often have limits on where and when you can moor your boat. Photo: Brian Gavin / Alamy Share Photo

How much insurance a person pay will depend primarily on the age plus value of your boat, followed by your sailing experience and qualifications. Policies are usually tailored to suit. Certain aspects affect the premiums, such as where you keep it, your geographical sailing limits and in which usually months you sail. The particular cheapest policies generally cover you to sail in UK waters from April to October, whilst being berthed in a marina with 24-hour security, and on the hard inside a cradle with the mast down during the winter season.

Premiums increase if a person leave the boat unattended on a swinging mooring or you want to sail throughout the year.

Longer passages can often be covered by letting them know in advance, although for ocean passages it will depend upon your qualifications and crew.

To reduce costs it’s worth fitting a security alarm, gas detector and an automatic engine fire extinguisher. A sailing qualification helps, as does a higher excess on the policy.

Lastly, it’s most important not to let your insurance coverage cover lapse over the winter period. There are myriad reasons that a claim might arise, both ashore and afloat, including theft, fire, vandalism, damage simply by vehicles and, of course, storm damage.

Few options are more cost effective than a trailer-sailer or shared ownership. Photo: Graham Snook / Graham Snook Photography


The smaller the boat the less expensive it will be to run. Rather than give up cruising because of rising costs, why not downsize to the smaller boat? It’s surprising how costs fall along with reduced boat length. Not only will your mooring fees shrink but also the particular cost of maintaining the girl, especially cranage, antifouling, cleaning, polishing and the like will be considerably reduced.

If you want to eliminate mooring and storage fees entirely you could buy a trailer-sailer. These are usually under 7m/23ft long plus often feature a lifting or swing keel to aid DIY launching and retrieving. They frequently have the self-hoist mast system as well, so that it could be stepped and unstepped singlehandedly, saving on cranage and rigger costs.

You might well have got to pay a launch fee, though, and a parking fee for the trailer, but this is offset by the ability tow her home at the end of the season thus avoiding yard storage space fees.

Storage on your own drive saves on yard fees. Photo: Graham Snook / Graham Snook Digital photography


Another popular way of reducing your sailing costs is by sharing with other interested parties or friends. Many use this method to enable them to sail a bigger yacht than these people could afford alone. This doesn’t just reduce the initial outlay, more importantly, this reduces the individual syndicate member’s annual mooring plus maintenance fees significantly and can often mean the particular difference between getting a professional to look after it or doing it your self.

Difficulties can arise, though, so this makes sense to have got a proper legal arrangement from the start. You are able to set up a partnership using a simple contract type obtainable from the RYA.

Typical agreement details covered include the proportion of each share, the methods of disposal of shares in the particular event of sale or even death, the allocation associated with sailing time allowed simply by each member, a summary of likely running expenses and the creation of a maintenance fund, plus an agreement on who shall carry out DIY tasks such as cleaning, winterising and antifouling.

Above all, flexibility is usually the key to any kind of partnership’s success.

Repairing sails using a heavy duty sewing machine saves money and extends their life


A good number associated with maintenance tasks can end up being carried out by the majority of reasonably competent owners and, if you join the club, there are very often like-minded folk close to offer physical or technical help.

It’s well worth doing a short course inside engine maintenance as a person can save a fortune by DIY servicing items like filters, oil, fuel systems, pump impellers, drive belts, batteries and thus on.

Likewise, browse a few of the many online groups covering DC wiring, buy a cheap multimeter and learn how to troubleshoot your own electrical system. A cheap battery monitor will also help you in order to look after your expensive batteries and not let them become too discharged and consequently damaged.

Sails, canvas and running rigging can all be cleaned, maintained, and repaired yourself (within reason). Search the web for the products needed and how to best apply all of them. A good sewing machine may also be invaluable yet make sure it’s tough enough to cope with sail material.

Winches need annual servicing to keep them smooth-running. The job is easy to do yourself but do take care when stripping them down so as not really to lose the springs and pawls, which often fall out when you lift the drum off.

Spread a tarpaulin under motorboat before scraping off antifouling from the hull. Photo: Graham Snook / Graham Snook Pictures

Once cleaned, make sure they’re-packed with the correct type of grease beforeassembling them.

Running rigging can be stripped out each year and washed in a bucket to remove any grease, dirt or even salt. Flushing blocks, clutches, tracks and cars regularly with fresh water, particularly just after sailing, will save a lot of function later should they seize up!

End-to-end halyards and sheets whenever you re-reeve them so as to relocate areas of high wear in items like turning blocks, jammers, plus clutches. Look closely with rope clutch and jammer cams for signs associated with wear.

With blocks, inspect them with regard to signs of elongation around the fixing holes and shackles. Also try rotating the particular sheave to check for excessive movement around the bearing, indicating excessive wear.

Finally, you don’t require to be a pro rigger to check the components of your standing rig. Shackles, split pins or rings, turnbuckles, wire, swages and mast fittings can be visually checked for wear or corrosion to some degree, and any broken items replaced or repaired before they become a more expensive re-rig job.

Hull careening is cheaper away from a boatyard but make sure it’s not in a MCZ. Photo: Wendy Johnson / Alamy Stock Photo

Drying out

Hull careening is a tedious annual task however you do it, but in a boatyard it will certainly be an expensive one too. There are scrubbing piles or convenient walls about the coast or upriver where you can dry your boat out between tides and scrape the particular hull clean.

Check first, though, that will the area you plan to do this isn’t part of a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) or similar, as these practices may be banned. Either way, even if allowed, take care not to scrape off a load of antifouling paint along with the barnacles as such a high concentration of paint can be quite toxic in order to the local marine existence.

It’s worth spreading a large, inexpensive builder’s tarpaulin under the particular boat to collect the scrapings to dispose of at your local tip, rather than leaving it in the environment.

You can paint a fresh coat of antifouling as well, between tides, but make sure you don’t sand down the original coating to avoid further pollution. Take this opportunity to check your anodes for wear, too, and replace them in the event that necessary.

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