New To Boating - How Big is Too Big?

Discussion in 'Newbie Lounge - NEW' started by irrelevant, Jul 14, 2016.

  1. irrelevant

    irrelevant New Member

    15
    Jul 12, 2016
    Cincinnati Area
    Window Shopping 400DB, 440DB, 450EB
    boatless
    Hello all. Thanks to everyone who posts on the various forums here, I've been reading a lot over the last month or so. Continue at your own peril...this is going to be a long post.

    I've wanted a boat for a long time, but couldn't justify the time or expense. Once about 10 years ago, a co-worker took my wife and I out on a Cruiser 2870, and I got pretty excited about buying a boat, but we were still early in the asset-building phase of life, so I had to repress that urge.

    I live in the Cincinnati area, and there just aren't any nice lakes around here within a reasonable (less than an hour) distance, so that has also made me reluctant to commit to adding boating to our hobbies. I've finally decided that the Ohio River will be sufficient.

    So...

    Once my business sells, I'm interested in buying a boat. I have this idea that once the business is gone, I'll have (finally) time for some leisure activities. We're a family of 3, with a 6-year old son. I'm envisioning entertaining guests on leisurely cruises around the downtown Cincinnati area of the Ohio River. I'd also like to anchor away from the marina for overnight trips. Nothing real challenging, like the Great Loop.

    I've rented powerboats around 17-19 feet a couple of times, but other than that, I've only been on 2 other non-commercial boats, so I effectively have zero boating experience, and I'd probably be looking for someone with experience I could hire for some initial instruction. Outside my business, I'm a professional pilot, so I value training.

    I suspect it's going to be Fall or Winter before I have the business transitioned to a new owner, but once that hurdle is clear the hunt will begin in earnest.

    Here's where I started with my thinking, and where I am now...

    Acquisition budget of less than $150k...must be operational as is, willing to accept some items that need attention over time.

    2003.5-up 340DA. I started out thinking I want a boat that can go fast...like 40 m.p.h. fast, but it must have a lower cabin with sleeping/shower/galley facilities. I like the style of these years in the 340.

    Then I saw the 2008+ 350 has more headroom, so I started researching those. I suspect a good one is just a little outside my price range.

    Then I got distracted by the 2003+ 380. Seems closer to budget than the 350 - and it's a little bigger. Now I'm starting to get comfortable with moving slower...after all, I don't really have anywhere I need to go - right?

    Wait - look at that - 1999-2003 410DA's are available from $85k up to $150k. It seems some very nice ones can be bought underneath my self-imposed (well, wife-imposed) budgetary ceiling. Think I'd like a diesel-equipped boat at this level. Second head, and second private stateroom could be nice for entertaining...and the size seems like something we'd never outgrow.

    The 390DA's are interesting too, but honestly at this point I'm kind of overloaded with trying to keep all the different models straight. Sea Ray has made this ridiculously difficult with their naming convention changes every few years. It's tough for someone new to figure out all the different models. Like how is a 390 different from a 380? Why is the same boat called a 340 one year, a 330 another, and a 350 a few years later?

    So right now I'm leaning towards a 1999-2003 410DA (preferably with diesel, and towards the newer end of that range).

    Has anyone ever regretted buying a boat they found was "too big"? Is there such a thing as "too big"? Am I a suitable candidate for a 43' boat as my first foray into the boating world?

    I've read through the entirety of the "official" 340, 350, 380, 390, and 410 threads, and they all leave me with the sense I'm going to spend all my free time fixing broken stuff on the boat. I know that's the nature of internet forums about machines, but I just don't read any threads about how people are using their boats to have fun. Maybe having fun is obvious to all the veteran boaters here, but for someone who didn't grow up with boating, and hasn't really been exposed to it, it's kind of an unknown.

    Thanks in advance. I appreciate your thoughts.
     
  2. Boater420

    Boater420 Well-Known Member

    Mar 11, 2015
    Clearwater, FL
    '97 330 Sundancer
    V-Drives
    Westerbeke 4.5BCG
    Twin Merc 454's
    Hello and welcome to CSR!

    If you look at some of the signatures from the members here it looks like they all worked their way up the "size" ladder over time. I started with a 12 foot rowboat and now operate a 330. Personally I think anyone can learn to drive anything as long as they have the right teachers, time, and money to spend on the education. You can fly a plane so a boat shouldn't be too much of a learning curve.

    Is a 43' too big for your first boat? Not in my opinion. However, as you stated you're going to be doing a lot of maintenance on this boat since it's older and that's what might be too much for you or any first time boat owner. As the boat gets bigger, the list of maintenance grows. There were no systems on my rowboat that needed maintenance. On my 330 I need to keep the AC, generator, refers and plumbing operational not to mention 2 motors tuned and operational.

    Keeping the outside of the boat is just as much a maintenance item as the plumbing or electrical. There's wax to be applied, stainless to polish, glass to clean, and vinyl to clean. Personally, I do these items while out enjoying the day on the boat. I can't sit still for too long so I clean, but others like yourself might want to just enjoy the day with your family and friends.

    It's always a lot of work owning any boat but there's even more maintenance on a big boat. Maybe you can afford to pay others to do it, but then you face the challenges of having your boat in the shop, or dealing with those who do less than a professional job.

    As far as going to big at first, I'd rather have too big than too small if I could afford the difference financially. It's easier to deal with having extra space you don't need vs. not having enough space. Being cramped in tight quarters is enough to kill a boating experience for me so I'd rather have plenty of room I don't use.

    I'm sure others will have even more information for you to digest so I'll end my post here.

    Good luck with the decision.
     
  3. magstang1

    magstang1 Active Member

    May 30, 2010
    Lake St.Clair
    1998 31 Sedan Bridge
    Twin 350 Marine Power
    You're obviously open as far as size is concerned so maybe let operational and maintenance costs be a guide.

    With a family of your size I would think a 330/340 would be the minimum comfort level for sleeping over the weekend. We are a family of 4 and spend every weekend on the boat. I had to move to a bridge. Look for a boat that has a comfortable sleeping arrangement for everyone. One bad apple spoils the bunch...

    I always tell everyone to buy their second boat first. It skips a lot of time, money and hassle. Worst comes to worst, you sell and downsize. See, that just sounds silly doesn't it? That's because very few move down. Buy the 41 and enjoy...
     
  4. sdleo26

    sdleo26 Member

    523
    Feb 5, 2011
    Long Island, NY
    290 Amberjack 2004
    350 5.7 MAG MPI Horizons w/ V-drives
    General rule is buy the biggest boat you can afford, however, that has to be balanced with newer versus older models unless you have unlimited funds. Do not just think about the purchase price of the boat, it's the maintenance, fuel, summer dockage and winter storage as well. A boat that size can easily run you 10-15k annually without even turning the keys to start it.
     
  5. Boat Guy

    Boat Guy Well-Known Member

    400/410 is pretty manageable single-handed.... Just need to go slow and practice.
     
  6. irrelevant

    irrelevant New Member

    15
    Jul 12, 2016
    Cincinnati Area
    Window Shopping 400DB, 440DB, 450EB
    boatless
    Thanks all so far. I forgot to mention we also own a pretty complex airplane that has been out of production for about 30 years, so I'm familiar, and comfortable with maintenance and fixed costs.

    I kind of feel like I'm going to need something to do while "relaxing". I just really don't know how to relax, after so many years of working two or more jobs.
     
  7. Strecker25

    Strecker25 Well-Known Member

    Nov 20, 2014
    Rochester, NY
    1998 290 Sundancer
    Twin 5.7EFI/Alphas, Kohler 4kw
    something is always dirty, you won't be bored. Sometimes I just float around in the dinghy cleaning the hull sides. Go for the 400/410 if you can find a good example. We went on a trip with 3 of them ranging from 1997 - 2001 recently. I was initially "looking" for a 380, but I've since started checking out the 400 market. The cockpit and cabin layouts are amazing and the second head/stateroom make a huge difference with guests
     
  8. irrelevant

    irrelevant New Member

    15
    Jul 12, 2016
    Cincinnati Area
    Window Shopping 400DB, 440DB, 450EB
    boatless
    Thanks again for your thoughts. I'm kinda thinking that the number and complexity of systems on a 410 aren't significantly greater than those on a 340...does this seem correct? Outside of the plumbing for the second restroom, and maybe a second AC unit, a 340 seems to me to be pretty much as "complex" as a 410.

    Of course the storage/dock fees would be higher with the bigger size.

    I very much am a "do it once, do it right" person. If the AC, galley, and overall comfort are not acceptable to my wife, this isn't going to go well. I can't really see loading her up with a tent and sleeping bags and driving out to the woods for a weekend.
     
  9. Strecker25

    Strecker25 Well-Known Member

    Nov 20, 2014
    Rochester, NY
    1998 290 Sundancer
    Twin 5.7EFI/Alphas, Kohler 4kw
    I would agree, once you get into that size range things are generally close in complexity aside from what you mentioned and a few extra feet of fiberglass to wax. Diesels are of course a different animal than gas (not saying that negatively) but the people I know who run them absolutely love them and would never go back. That being said, 2 of the 3 we were with had the gassers and beinglake boaters they didn't have an issue with the gas power. The higher storage fees is a valid point, but around here they only get us for about $75/ft summer dockage and $10/ft winter storage. The difference between a 30 and 45 footer at those prices really doesn't work out to be that much in the grand scheme.
     
  10. Gofirstclass

    Gofirstclass Well-Known Member GOLD Sponsor

    Apr 20, 2010
    Tri Cities, WA
    1995 550 Sedan Bridge,
    2010 Boston Whaler 130 Super Sport,
    1981 Boston Whaler 130 Sport,
    CAT 3406C's, 580hp.
    I'm another who believes in buying your second boat first. Buying a "starter boat" ends up costing a lot of money and wasted time. All it teaches you is what you don't like about it.

    If you fly a plane you can pilot a 410. It's a matter of spending some time with a captain who can teach you how to handle it and helping you to learn how to drive it, dock it, etc.

    You probably have already discovered Yachtworld and that it's a great place to search. You're close enough to the Great Lakes that that area should be where you're searching.

    In a boat that size you'll probably want diesels, especially if you think you will (a) own it for several years (ten or more) and (b) think you will be doing some long distance cruising. If you're the type who trades cars every 3-4 years and would likely do that with your boat, don't waste your money on diesels.

    Good luck with your search. Don't be in a hurry, take your time and go on board many different boats to get a "feel" for what you like and don't like. And take your Admiral with you so she can see what SHE likes and doesn't like. If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody gonna be happy.
     
  11. Quint4

    Quint4 Well-Known Member TECHNICAL Contributor SILVER Sponsor

    Oct 6, 2006
    S.W. Ohio
    330 Sport Bridge
    5.7 MPI 350 Merc Bluewaters
    As a pilot you will be a quick learner with a 40 ft or so vessel.

    Before you drop 150K explore the Bridge boat vs Express cruiser option.

    Welcome to CSR.....I am in your area.
     
  12. sbw1

    sbw1 Well-Known Member

    Oct 10, 2006
    West Michigan
    This is listed in my signature
    This is listed in my signature
    We have a friend who was new to boating and purchased a new 42 foot express cruiser. He picked the boat up in Holland Michigan at the factory and spent two weeks with a professional captain learning how to run the boat and use the electronics. We met him on his first crossing of Lake Michigan in Sturgeon Bay Wisconsin. After a few days together, he and his wife took off on their first cruise, the Great Loop. A year later we ran into them again in Sturgeon Bay. They had just finished the Loop. Had a great experience and no problems. I believe they now own a 58 footer. While not for everyone, bright people who handle technical issues well can do many things.
     
  13. trflgrl

    trflgrl Active Member

    909
    Jun 23, 2014
    Middle Tennessee
    1989 Sundancer 300
    Twin 350 Merc/Alpha 1 Gen 1; Quicksilver 4.0 gen
    If you binge read threads dedicated to particular models, you're immersed in the "how to," which naturally will make it sound like we spend 100% of our time maintaining or repairing.

    If you binge read threads like the "summer 2016," "flotilla 2016," or "New Year's in the Keys," you'll think everybody and their brother has elves that work in the dark of night to keep engines running and gel coat gleaming.

    Yes, there's maintenance/repair, both regular and unexpected. First Mate and I spend 75% of our spring/summer/fall weekends at the dock or on the water, and about 25% of our winter weekends....but most of that time we're simply enjoying boating!

    I can't help you decide among the models you're considering, but I can echo the others on one thing--buy your second boat first if at all possible. If that means shopping for a year or more, keep shopping. You'll be SOOOOOO glad to find the right one, touch up or upgrade a few things, know you budgeted properly for the purchase and the care and feeding, and settle into a comfy boating life. That's way better than realizing within one or two seasons that you don't just want but NEED something different and facing the prospect of selling/buying.

    Kick a lot of props and take as many tours of cockpits and cabins as you and the Admiral can! Hopefully some CSR members from your neck of the woods will chime in and offer to show you their setups....nothing like talking to those who have BTDT. (Listening to others' experiences helped me decide not to get a sedan/fly, which absolutely was the right choice for me.)

    Have fun in your search!
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2016
  14. irrelevant

    irrelevant New Member

    15
    Jul 12, 2016
    Cincinnati Area
    Window Shopping 400DB, 440DB, 450EB
    boatless
    I hadn't even considered a bridge boat. Thanks for your suggestion. Some of the 2000-vintage 400db might be worth researching.

    I wonder if a bridge boat might be moving a little away from the social aspect of boating? Do you find guests tend to hang out in the salon, while the Captain gets isolated on the bridge? I'm an introvert by nature, but I can see it feeling weird being up top alone while the party is downstairs. I'm already a "bus driver" at my job. Kinda don't want that in my hobby also.

    What kind of transportation issues are there with a bridge boat? I imagine some assembly/disassembly would be required. Anyone have any rough costs on that aspect? I've seen $4/mile quoted here, but that doesn't cover labor to take the boat apart and build it back.

    Good to hear. Quality training can help keep one safe while they're out making mistakes - whoops, I mean building experience.

    Thanks for suggesting I read the threads where people are getting together. I'll go check them out.

    The "buy your second boat first" sounds just like the "buy your second airplane first" mantra, and I agree with it. Airplanes make sense to me though, whereas pretty much everything about boating is new to me. Lots to learn.

    Thanks again all. Keep it coming.
     
  15. Quint4

    Quint4 Well-Known Member TECHNICAL Contributor SILVER Sponsor

    Oct 6, 2006
    S.W. Ohio
    330 Sport Bridge
    5.7 MPI 350 Merc Bluewaters
    Depends on the model and layout of the boat. Everybody hangs up top with me on my boat.

    IMG_0885.jpg
     
  16. magstang1

    magstang1 Active Member

    May 30, 2010
    Lake St.Clair
    1998 31 Sedan Bridge
    Twin 350 Marine Power
    Same with me. We had 7 people on my bridge last weekend. It depends on the layout of the boat though.

    When we slow down and drop the hook, sometimes it's nice to have separate areas to congregate. It seems like ladies hang on the back deck and the guys gather up top if we do part ways. Otherwise everyone just mingles.

    I would strongly recommend you at least take a look at a bridge.
     
  17. FootballFan

    FootballFan Well-Known Member

    Jun 20, 2012
    Florida
    Marquis 59
    MTU Series 60
    My thoughts,

    Until you start spending time on a boat - it is really hard to know what is important to your experience.

    It all looks good going in - but then you may find out - what is important you may not be in the boat you just bought. You look at that cabin and think - this works for me - then spend a couple nights and you find it doesn't work. Or I can totally work with this cockpit - then you find it sucks when the weather is bad, not enough roof - and not enough room for my guests.

    You said you will be on the river - not doing the great loop - but you may change your mind after you start boating. You may just enjoy the social life of the Marina - with short jaunts or you might start thinking about long trips spending more nights on the boat.

    The percentage of people who can pick the perfect boat for themselves, when they have not been boating in the past is - I would guess - pretty low.

    Not so much advice about the size the boat. If you are a pilot - the navigation part will be easier than flying (just my opinion).

    You jump into 40ft - just get some training. Your used to controlling an airplane - you will do fine.

    Best advice I could offer - you really don't know what matters to until you have been there. I would really think it would be hard to pick a boat that is a 10 year boat without ever experienced it - staying over night, etc.

    So that brings me around to the point - maybe look at your exit strategy on a boat up front. Lean toward a model/boat that is attractive on the market. If you made the right choice out of the gate - great - keep it. If you decide after a year or two that your requirements are better defined - then dump the boat and move to 2nd boat.

    The choice to move to the second boat is much easier if you can wash out the first one without a lot of financial penalty.

    We have been through 2 Sea Rays so far. Our thoughts were our retirement boat will be our 4th boat. That's just our plan.

    Not sure if we will go to an interim boat now - or jump over the third and go straight to retirement boat.

    Since you have a bit of time - I would recommend going somewhere and doing a bare boat charter. Spend a few days on a boat - you will decide what is important to you.

    Mark
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2016
  18. Gofirstclass

    Gofirstclass Well-Known Member GOLD Sponsor

    Apr 20, 2010
    Tri Cities, WA
    1995 550 Sedan Bridge,
    2010 Boston Whaler 130 Super Sport,
    1981 Boston Whaler 130 Sport,
    CAT 3406C's, 580hp.
    We've had as many as 22 guests on board for a Christmas Lighted Boat Parade. As you can see in the photos, some tend to gather up above, some enjoy being inside. It seems to work that way no matter how big or small the group is.

    APC070998.jpg APC070999.jpg APC081018.jpg

    BTW, when I was shopping for a bridge boat I really felt it necessary to have two helms. After owning this one for 6+ years I find I've only driven from down below twice, and both of those were just to see how it went.

    It's all about being up where you can see a long ways, but then you already know that from your work.
     
  19. irrelevant

    irrelevant New Member

    15
    Jul 12, 2016
    Cincinnati Area
    Window Shopping 400DB, 440DB, 450EB
    boatless
    Space to separate into smaller groups does appeal. I'm afraid to show my wife the photos of the cabins of the bridge boats. Maybe that should tell me something? :)

    Looking at the bridge seating area on the 400db, it's a lot bigger than I initially thought it was.

    Thanks for your perspective Mark. You've really nailed what I'm struggling with. There are so many different options, and lacking a boating background, it's tough to feel comfortable that any particular choice is the correct one. The exit strategy is definitely worth considering.
     
  20. irrelevant

    irrelevant New Member

    15
    Jul 12, 2016
    Cincinnati Area
    Window Shopping 400DB, 440DB, 450EB
    boatless
    Well, now that looks like a fun time...no one changing zincs, or chasing down leaks on that boat. :)
     

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