My Thought Process on Buying a Boat + Aftermath

Common knowledge says that buying a boat is a pretty dumb financial thing to do, and yet I find myself on the precipice of buying one. I’m in a familiar holding pattern where I haven’t actually made any committment to doing something, but I also realize I’ve done enough research to know I’m probably going to do it. Normally I research, do the thing, and then write about it, but this time I thought I’d talk about it before I did it.

About a year ago I realized that you could ski in Las Vegas. I hadn’t thought to look before, for obvious reasons. Skiing was a ton of fun, especially with my wife and friends, and it actually increased how much I like Vegas by a couple percentage points.

That realization made me think about what other things Las Vegas might offer that I’ve never even thought about, especially outdoors things. People who live in Las Vegas often say that the nature is their favorite aspect, which was totally counterintuitive to me at first. I spend all of my working time indoors, so it makes sense to look for outdoor activities for recreation.

The big obvious attraction is Lake Mead. You always hear people talk about it and you see it from above on certain flights. It looks amazing and unlike any other lake I’ve ever seen. I searched and the marina is under an hour away from my house.

I don’t really care about waterskiing or even swimming, but I do like being on boats. My cousins have a nice boat in Vermont and when we go up there they just blast the boat out into the middle of the lake, cruise around, and then drift somewhere while we hang out on the water. The best time to go is sunset. If I had a boat, I would love to just cruise out there and relax on the water.

On a lark I looked up scuba diving in the lake and it turns out you can also do some pretty cool wreck dives there, including one of a B-29 airplane (though it’s temporarily prohibited). My wife is a diver too, so maybe it would be fun to go out there and dive.

I knew nothing about boats, but after a day or two of research with few constraints I learned a lot about them. At first I thought my ideal boat was a pontoon boat, since I don’t care about water skiing. Then I found deck boats, which are sort of like speed boats with tons of open seating on the top. I found cuddy cabin boats, which are like speedboats with a tiny cabin in the front. I liked the idea of being able to sleep on the boat, but the cabins looked pretty miserable and I figured that maybe I would never actually use it.

Then I found a 2003 Bayliner 285 for sale and fell in love. It’s a 30′ boat which has a full cabin downstairs, like a miniature yacht. It has two beds, a dinette that turns into another bed, a small kitchen, and a full bathroom. Upstairs it has two decks that you can hang out on, and on the back it has a huge swim platform.

It’s also just about the biggest boat that still has a single engine, which is good for maintenance and fuel economy. The big question mark in my mind is currently fuel economy. I’ve done some research and found that it only gets 2mpg, but I think the distances I would travel on the water are pretty small. I’ll have to figure out where the good spots on the lake are and how much it costs to get to them.

The boat only costs $25,000, which is surprising to me. It looks like it’s worth four times that. From what I understand, I should budget another $5000-7500 for the first year or two for maintenance, and then expect fewer expenses in the future.

Of course, my plan is to split the boat 2-4 ways to make it very inexpensive to own and maintain. Who wouldn’t want to pay ~$7k to own a little yacht on Lake Mead and get to take it out whenever they want? I’m looking forward to spending time out there swimming, reading, working, and maybe even scuba diving.

I wrote that before ever looking at a boat or visiting Lake Mead. Shortly afterwards I checked out the boat I mentioned and while I loved it, it was in really rough shape and wouldn’t even start. Just going to the marina and seeing the boats out there made me sure that I’d buy a boat, though, so I got a friend to split one with me and kept looking. We had an agreement to buy a Larson Cabrio 274, but then the sellers backed out on closing day. The marina was facilitating the sale and were embarrassed, so they offered us the same price on a much better boat that they had received in a trade-in. It’s a Cruisers 280CXI and we absolutely love it.

It’s funny reading the post above because I wrote it less than a week after having the idea of buying a boat, and it all turned out to be true, except it turns out I enjoy swimming in the lake a lot more than I expected I would. My favorite thing is to go out with my wife and/or friends, swim around in the middle of the lake and then cook some burgers on the grill as we drift. We’ve also done a few overnight trips at the beaches on the other side of the lake.

I’m not sure if this post is very interesting, but at the time of writing it I thought it might be as I don’t usually capture my mindset before a big unusual purchase / activity. I could easily keep writing and talk about boating all day, but I’ll save that for another post.

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Picture is us pulling up at one of the beaches last year. It’s too bad the lake is closed for coronavirus because I’d love to be out there more!

My latest coronavirus obsession is 3D printing. I’ll write about it soon.

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