Friday, March 21, 2014

The elephant in the room

Our first boat (Cal 21) came with a trailer.

Our second boat (Catalina 22) came with a trailer.

Our third boat (O'Day 25) came with a trailer.

Having those trailerable boats allowed us to avoid the issue of moorage - our moorage was our driveway. 

Ah, but here in Seattle, having the space to park a boat on a trailer at your house is the very, very rare exception.  Many houses (and even more condos and apartments) don't even have space to park a car, let alone a boat on a trailer.

So, for that elusive prospective new cruising sailboat owner, there is really only a single realistic alternative:  moorage at a dock.

Now lets put things in perspective:  my kids were offered a well-equipped Catalina 27 in good condition,  For FREE.  And they turned it down.  Why?  Because the moorage was more than their budget allowed.

The cost of moorage is also the second-most common question asked of me by folks who are potential new cruising sailors.  It is a not insignificant portion of the cost of owning a boat in Puget Sound.

Like space at a boat show, the cost of moorage has done nothing but go up, up, UP.  In fact, since we moved to Shilshole in 1999, the price of our slip has almost exactly doubled.  Why is this?  Because every new boat sold increases the competition for the existing slips.

And it takes an act of Congress and an army of lawyers to add new slip space - the Port of Everett did it, but that is a rare exception in modern times.  In fact, the Port of Seattle spent millions to renew and reconfigure Shilshole,  but ended up with fewer slips at the end.  Fewer, but larger slips.  Slips in the 30 foot and under length were the primary victims.  Slips which would have served those just entering the cruising sailboat market.

So as I see it, here are the barriers holding young families from entering the cruising sailboat market:
  • New, small cruising boats are too big of a jump financially, for a family not sure if this is something that will work for them.
  • Used boats come with no guarantee/warranty, a problem for folks entering the cruising market and who don't yet know boats.
  • The adventurous family, one that uncommonly already has the skills and knowledge to purchase a used boat, is then faced with another financial hurdle: moorage.
It's not difficult to see why the demographics of the cruising sail market are aging:  Those who are in the market are staying.  And aging.  But efforts to actually welcome and entice the potentially interested young families are almost entirely lacking, or at best are going WHOOSH right over their heads financially.

This in spite of the fact that there has never been a better time to buy a used boat, a boat that moves for free.

While diesel sells for nearly $5 at the dock. 


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