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Owning Your Dreamboat – Is Now The Time to Buy a Boat?

7th March 2014
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Moody s31 Corona
The Moody s31 Corona sails past the tall ship Lord Nelson on Belfast Lough. Broker Lee Stevenson of Blue Flag Boats reckons this very completely-equipped performance cruiser would be ideal for anyone moving up from dayboats, or perhaps suit an experienced sailor down-sizing from an offshore racer.
Owning Your Dreamboat – Is Now The Time to Buy a Boat?

#boatsforsale – Time was when shrewd boat buyers went into action in the Autumn, when the post-summer downturn in enthusiasm might just make the used dreamboat affordable with a bargain end-of-season price. But these days, when most of us are urban-based with limited storage space around our homes, our boats are kept during the winter either in marinas or boatyards. Both options incur ongoing winter-long costs, quickly eroding the benefit of an Autumn bargain. W M Nixon suggests that now may be the best time to buy.

With good weather in the offing and the St Patrick's Day weekend on the near horizon, the boat-owning juices are beginning to stir. Not everyone wants to own a boat. But for those who do, it's an irresistible calling, a vocation which can only be deferred for so long. 

For sure, you could fight it well enough during the years of recession, when most of us were pre-occupied with simply keeping our economic heads above water. And even last Autumn, when things seemed at least to have bottomed out on the economic front, there was natural prudence in resisting the temptation to rush out and buy.

Now there is the added news that boat finance is being made available for the first time in five years through niche Dublin finance house First Finance and Leasing Ltd (FFL). It's the first time since the crash that a credit line is available for boats in Ireland.

So for the next few weeks, it's action time. And as Lee Stevenson of Blue Flag Boats in Bangor sensibly points out, many used boats for sale have spent the winter ashore, so if things get to the stage of seeking a pre-purchase survey, you don't incur the additional cost of a lift-out.

Down on the south coast, Hugh Mockler of Crosshaven Boatyard finds his continually-replenishing list of craft for sale is usually numbered at about 90 boats at any given time. While he can provide his services all over the country, his main area of operations is between Waterford to the east, and the increasingly important sailing area in and around Valentia Island to the west, with all the astonishingly varied sailing and boating paradises of the south and southwest coasts in between.

In the end, of course, it's people not ports that buy boats, so the large concentration of population in the Dublin area is matched by an intensification in broker numbers, with the main firms including BJ Marine where James Kirwan is the lead broker. However, founder Bernard Gallagher isn't averse to keeping his hand in with the occasional negotiation in the second-hand area from time to time, though his main focus is on new boats based on BJ's several noted marques, with the Beneteau brand dominant.

Martin and Gerry Salmon and their team with MGM Boats in the heart of the Dun Laoghaire marina area are likewise running a busy international firm whose used boat brokerage operations stemmed originally from their new boat sales with the Jeanneau range heading the fleet. But in recent years MGM's energies have been such that they've earned a European and even Transatlantic reputation for successfully selling top end second-hand craft.

Ronan Beirne of Leinster Boats in Dun Laoghaire is almost entirely focused on the used boat market, but with his extensive personal seagoing experience in boats of many kinds, he finds himself being asked to provide advice and professional expertise at all stages of the boat buying process, both new and second-hand. While he too can undertake work in all parts of the country, the main strength of Leinster Boats lies in doing what it says on the tin – his principal area of operations is focused precisely on the Leinster coast, which is Ireland's east coast between Carlingford Lough and New Ross in Wexford, where the River Barrow meets the sea far inland from Hook Head.

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Ronan Beirne brings extensive experience of all kinds of boating and sailing to assisting clients of Leinster Boats

Like all respected brokers, Ronan Beirne sees it as part of his job to discourage people from buying boats which might not be suited at all to their particular needs. Brokers who are in it for the long haul hope to build up repeat business, and quick but ill-matched sales are not the way to do it. Nevertheless as all brokers are themselves boat owners manqué, from time to time their enthusiasm simply bursts out, and that's how it is at the moment with Lee Stevenson's pleasure in bringing the Moody s31 Corona to the market.

The Moody boats around this size have a long and impeccable pedigree. It was a very long time ago that the distinguished yacht building firm of Moody & Sons descended into the turmoil of glassfibre series production with the Moody 33, which was a lot of boat for the money. Subsequent Moody production boats of mostly larger sizes continued, with designer Angus Primrose's theme of reasonable performance combined with incredibly roomy accommodation in a high volume hull manifesting itself in numerous models. But as Primrose's assistant Bill Dixon took over the design work, the lines became more refined, and by the 1980s the new look was personified by the Moody 29 which looked good and punched way above her weight in the accommodation and performance stakes.

I can fondly remember the battles we had throughout the 1980s racing in Class 3 against the Moody 29 Mystique of Malahide campaigned by Robert & Rose Michael, a super boat which cruised as successfully as she raced. More recently, an excellent exponent of this Moody size and type has been Donal Walsh's Dungarvan-based Lady Kate, a Moody 31 of later vintage, being the 1986 interpretation of the Moody 29 concept. Just last year, Lady Kate won the Irish Cruising Club's Round Ireland Cup for an exemplary circumnavigation of our wayward island.

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The Moody s31 Corona has a sensible and unextreme shape with the safety and convenience bonus of a sugar-scoop stern.

Corona is the 1996 development and enlargement of this theme, and she's a 31 footer which packs a good performance with an exceptionally comprehensive range of equipment, as in her seventeen years of life she's had three loving owners each of whom seems to have hoped to outdo his predecessor in lavishing care and goodies on the boat. The price of £45,000 reflects this very full inventory, and also the fact that the boat has been immaculately maintained. For a family thinking of moving into the performance cruiser bracket, she's a very manageable boat, absolutely ready to go. And with her proven performance and comfort, she might also be ideal for someone thinking to downsize from a larger offshore racer while not entirely hanging up the racing boots.

Down in Crosshaven, the Afloat.ie brokerage site draws attention to an interesting larger boat on Hugh Mockler's books, a boat which he admits has been well and very actively used, and thus she might need a bit of TLC. But with a price of just €37,500 this 1987 Jeanneau Sun Shine 38 has to be interesting, even if you note things that show you how much has changed in the 37 years since this boat was built, such as a Yanmar Diesel of only 24HP.

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The 1987 Jeanneau Sun Shine 38 is that perfect size which suggests all sorts of cruising possibilities.

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The Sun Shine 38 looks well-lived-in, but a bit of TLC will bring her back to showroom condition.

Nevertheless, the interior photos show us a boat which those of us whose boats are earlier than 1987 would think is in very sweet order indeed. And 38ft is for many sailors the perfect size – just big enough, but not too big.

Back on the east coast, James Kirwan at BJ Marine has two interesting craft in the same size range, but at very different prices. Around 2000, Beneteau up-graded their previously rather bulbous-looking Oceanis marque, and produced a range of boats which were notably handsome, with very positive and elegant sheerlines, and a nicely balanced profile. They looked well in all colour schemes, but they looked sensational in the Beneteau blue, and the Dublin office of BJ has a 2006 Beneteau Oceanis 373 in this particular shade of blue - she looks well in any company.

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The Beneteau Oceanis range was at a handsome stge of development around 2006. This Oceanis 373 is for sale through BJ Marine at €79,900.

Her engine size reflects the change in attitudes to available auxiliary power over the years, as it is 40HP compared to the older Sun Shine's 24HP, but the use of a Yanmar is continued. The price is €79,000, which feels right, and you get a fine cruiser which might just surprise the opposition in club racing.

Another BJ boat which talks more clearly of racing potential is a First 40 which was sold new by the firm in 2009. In fact, this was one of the very first of the boats which replaced the well-proven First 40.7, but as she wasn't intended for racing, she has the shoal draft configuration. The year after she was built, the deep keel version of this new First 40 achieved international success by taking first and second overall in the 2010 Sydney-Hobart Race. But despite that, this boat has stayed resolutely in cruising mode – "neither raced nor rallied" as they say in the car business – and is on the market for €149,000.

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This five year old First 40 from BJ Marine is the shoal draft cruising version of a racer which dominated the 2010 Hobart Race

Meanwhile MGM boats in Dun Laoghaire are in the almost-new area with a 2011 Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 33i at €79,950. It makes you realise how completely Irish life came to a stick-in-the-mud halt during the depth of the recession years, as this boat is now three years old, yet she looks super-modern by comparison with almost all of the current Irish fleet. And there's more to her than meets the eye. She has been used only in fresh water, and she's the lifting keel variant. Not everyone needs that option, but for those who might, it greatly broadens the scope of your sailing where the water is thin.

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A Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 33i from MGM Boats is unusual in having a lifting keel, and she has only been used in fresh water.

For those who might be interested in an American take on modern cruising yacht design, MGM have a 2000-built Hunter 340 priced competitively at €39,950. This will be of particular interest to someone who's utterly realistic about the kind of sailing most of us do in the Dublin area, as she has a very commodious saloon, and a large cockpit. If we're honest about the way we sail and use our boats, this is an arrangement which ticks most boxes.

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The American-designed and built Hunter 340 has an exceptionally large saloon and very roomy cockpit

Leinster Boats by contrast have a cruiser which has classic seagoing as a priority. She's a quality Swedish-built Malo 36, yet though she's well able for ocean voyaging, and is kitted accordingly, she has generally been lightly used with short-passage cruises in the hands of a fastidious owner.

The price reflects the boat's high standard, indeed you'll have to contact Leinster Boats to find what it is, but the company have no hesitation in stating the price quoted for their Springtime bargain. For €13,400, you can secure a vintage Rival 32, designed by the great Peter Brett. The boat has been laid up for three or four years, but she's a gallant cruising yacht, and at a very manageable price.

Last year' whirlwind tour of Ireland's East Coast by the Old Gaffers Association for their Golden Jubilee cruise gave prominence to the "plastic gaffers" which are now an accepted part of the OGA fleet. We've been accustomed to the Heard range based on the sea-tested Falmouth working boats, craft such as incoming OGA President Sean Walsh's own Tir na nOg, but last summers events brought to prominence boats which more thoroughly exploit the possibilities of glassfibre construction while continuing to set gaff rig.

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The Cornish Pilot Cutter 30 from Crosshaven Boatyard is the sister-ship of a successful participant in the Old Gaffers Association Golden Jubilee events in 2013.

One which particularly impressed was veteran gaffers Tim and Liz Dodwell with their new-style Cornish Pilot Cutter 30 High Barbaree, which spectacularly got the best of the squally start for the Leinster Plate race in Dublin Bay. Now there's a sister-ship of High Barbaree for sale in Cork. Hugh Mockler of Crosshaven Boatyard has her on his books for €97,500, she's in mint condition having been built in 2004, and as she has a centreplate and a 29hp engine, this is one versatile boat and definitely of interest to anyone who only feels happy sailing under a four-sided mainsail.

But if you feel only happy with a four-sided mainsail atop a vintage hull, shape your course for Gareth Courtney at BJ Marine in Bangor, who has the classic 1920 48ft Dickie's of Tarbert gaff ketch Morna on his books for £129,950. She has recently had a major refit and has an immaculate teak deck, while the rig is notably easily handled, and there's just something very special about this boat.

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The 48ft gaff ketch Morna is pure gold classic, yet easily handled with her compact rig while having a good sailing performance.

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Morna's large area of teak laid deck is impressive, but such beauty doesn't come cheap

Another vessel in the higher dream stakes is on Lee Stevenson's books at Blue Flag Boats, this is a Hylas 49 fom the Sparkman & Stephens' board. This yacht really has sailed the oceans, yet you'd think she is fresh out of the box, and the price is £245,000 absolutely ready to go across the high seas with quality sailing.

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The blue water dream is just ready to come to life again. This immaculate Hylas 49 from Blue Flag Boats has already proven her ocean sailing credentials.

But those who have done their duty by sails are always on the lookout for a powerboat which would appeal to former sailing folk, and Hugh Mockler in Crosshaven reckons he has her on his varied list. She's an Oyster LD43, built 2005, flawless condition, oodles of power to match that stunning hull, and yours for £235,000. And yes, that – like the Hylas – is indeed sterling. Dream on.

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The perfect fast powerboat for former sailing fanatics – the Oyster LD43 on sale with Crosshaven Boatyard.

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Restrained style with impressive comfort – the deck saloon in the Oyster LD43 is the essence of good taste.

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WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland and internationally for many years, with his work appearing in leading sailing publications on both sides of the Atlantic. He has been a regular sailing columnist for four decades with national newspapers in Dublin, and has had several sailing books published in Ireland, the UK, and the US. An active sailor, he has owned a number of boats ranging from a Mirror dinghy to a Contessa 35 cruiser-racer, and has been directly involved in building and campaigning two offshore racers. His cruising experience ranges from Iceland to Spain as well as the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, and he has raced three times in both the Fastnet and Round Ireland Races, in addition to sailing on two round Ireland records. A member for ten years of the Council of the Irish Yachting Association (now the Irish Sailing Association), he has been writing for, and at times editing, Ireland's national sailing magazine since its earliest version more than forty years ago

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