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'We Need a Bigger Boat' - Managing Wants & Needs When Buying a Boat

By: Rick Layzell

Regal 322 Commodore at marina
Next to our 'new to us' Regal 322 Commodore

If you read my last article, What to Consider When Buying a Boat Together, you know I have long had dreams of owning a 30–35’ megayacht. Also known as... a small cruiser. The addition of a new partner, my kids having grown, and her kids being younger, led us to a 23’ Caravelle runabout. We had 3 amazing seasons on that runabout, loads of laughs, sunsets and memories.


To say my original dream of the ‘yacht’ never died would be an understatement. I longed for multi day adventures on the water, discovering new bays and feeling the release of being close to the water and away from stress of day-to-day life. In the spring of 2020, as the marina was getting set to launch the Caravelle, those dreams became a steady stream of overwhelming thoughts. I could not close my eyes without thinking about realizing that long standing dream.


I did, however, learn my lesson from the first purchase and knew I had to have an open dialogue at home to ensure my dreams – which also included her in my mind – met her needs & wants too. So on a quiet May evening after a couple glasses of courage I dropped the proverbial bomb: “Honey, I want to sell the Caravelle and take us into a small cruiser." My fear was this would be met with a string of reasons why my idea made no sense. What I heard was: "Well, let’s talk about what we both want and how we are going to use a bigger boat." I should note she is the calm in our relationship, although you have likely figured that out already.


First steps – determine fair market value for the Caravelle, make sure we have the right pictures (for some reason I had taken a ton of detail images the previous fall), put together the descriptive language to get her sold, and then get the word out to the market. We decided to list on BoatDealers.ca and the Caravelle was put on the market May 21st. Within hours we had hits and within the first 2 days we had multiple inquiries. Our one and only demo ride was conducted in late May – she was sold that same day. Just like that we were boatless. And so the shopping began, in earnest.


While the runabout sale was in motion, I spent hours online looking at boats I liked. When I would stumble across something, I would send my partner the link with a couple comments. We had daily discussions about our new boat meeting our mutual needs and wants. We found ourselves leaning towards an express cruiser – a flybridge may offer more space but we both really liked the look and usability of an express design.


How would this affect the kids and the time they spent with us on board? There are 5 kids between us now, ranging from 14 to 27 years of age. Looking back at our past season, we realized we had kids on board exactly 3 times – in a summer where she and I boated a ton. Clearly the kids were beginning their own journeys, and so this next boat was primarily for the two of us.


We talked about sleeping arrangements – for us and our friends and family. The cockpit seating layout and a comfortable helm station were a huge part of our conversations. A friend told me to focus on this area as this is where we would spend the bulk of our time, and in the end it was incredibly sage advice. How easy would it be to jump in for a swim? And how accessible would sitting in the sun be? And where? What were our needs for the galley and the head compartment? I am the cook in our home (she is the cleaner so the balance is perfect for us), so I knew an on board BBQ was essential.


My thoughts turned toward the drive systems: single or twins? What about a generator for heat & AC? We knew we were buying used so connecting with a reputable marine surveyor was critical. am not deeply mechanically inclined, and so I knew I needed an expert to help.


We talked about where we would keep her. Our 8-minute drive to the Caravelle was in the past as that marina was full and could not accommodate a larger boat, so a move was in order. But to where? Stay on Lake Simcoe or move the boat to Georgian Bay? What impact would additional drive time have on our boating activities? I should mention that we have a pool at home which requires regular attention and there are still 5 kids to consider. Being over an hour away from home simply wasn’t feasible for us.


And we shopped and we talked and we shopped and we talked.


One Monday evening we went through a dozen or more boats online. We spent the bulk of that evening looking at and talking about boats. When she said it was time to shut the iPad off for the evening, I figured I’d give her a couple of days to unwind, to let her own thoughts stir and then we could discuss again later in the week.


Which is exactly why I got up at 5:30 AM the next morning and went back online. When she came down for coffee at 6:30 I was bouncing – not because of too much caffeine (I had had a few) but because I felt like I had found our next step. Our dream boat had been listed overnight.


This is where I should explain ‘2 footitis’– many boating families will start with an 18’ boat and then buy a 20’ a couple years later or buy their first 20’ pontoon and then a 22’. You get the idea. Expanding families and their boating activities along with advancements from boat and engine manufacturers inevitably draws people to their next boat, which is often bigger. And there you have - 2 footitis!


So, once I got her that morning coffee and allowed the first sip to reach her mouth…out came the iPad with a listing for a 1997 Regal 322 Commodore. I was beaming like a schoolboy when I showed her the pictures and described the amenities on board, which checked so many of our boxes from the list above. I was equally excited when the words came out of her mouth: "You should go see this one." I had already booked the day off work since it was the day the Caravelle was being picked up by her new owner. I immediately emailed the dealer brokering the sale, and later that afternoon I boarded her for the first time. While clearly in need of an owner who would show her some love and attention, she was a beautiful and well built 32’ vessel. For us, 2 footitis was quickly becoming a little closer to 10 footitis – kinda made me feel like an over achiever!


So much of this boat met or exceeded our expectations. Here's why:

  • Cockpit layout – huge U-shaped lounge with a table, 2-person helm seat, fridge, sink and lots of storage. Awesome for entertaining.

  • Massive swim platform for sunning, a generous sun pad on the forward deck, and an awesome rail mount BBQ on the swim platform. Swim, sun, and food. Perfect.

  • Galley with a 2-burn erelectric stove, microwave, coffee pot, ample storage, and a fridge freezer combo.

  • Head compartment including a shower, suitable for a 6’ 1” human.

  • Twin drives, generator, heat & AC, with lots of power & longer seasons.

The sales professional brokering our purchase insisted that my partner come and see the boat before moving forward. So I sent her pictures before leaving the marina and bounced my way home, chatting her up on the drive doing everything I could to convince her to see the Regal the next day. We did just that the following afternoon, and after less than an hour on board we committed to an offer. The paperwork was drawn up, the seller made a counter offer which we accepted and we were off to the races. Sort of.


I reached out to the surveyor I had chosen and he did his inspection about a week later (I didn’t love the delay but I respected his expertise). While drawing up the offer my sales guy strongly recommended the deal hinge on a successful survey and a positive mechanical inspection. The survey found multiple items that we all deemed as relatively minor. These have become a bit of a ‘To Do’ list which is great for me. But the mechanical inspection did uncover some serious issues with the drives and the generator. I am pleased to say the previous owner came good and the deal proceeded.


During this period I also struck an arrangement with a new marina on Lake Simcoe. Less than 5 weeks after we first laid eyes on her, she became ours and my dreams became our realities.

Our love for sunsets has evolved. We now watch the sun go completely down over the horizon, no more worrying about dashing back to the marina as we safely ‘swing on the hook’ for the night. Our meals are cooked on board and we enjoy watching those glorious sunsets become the moon rise. Our quiet evenings are the two of us, together, in the moment, enjoying each other and all that’s around us. Waking up to the sound of the waves on the hull, feeling the earth begin to wake, and watching the sunrise. Fresh coffee, hot breakfasts, morning swims, afternoon cocktails with new friends, and more sunsets have become the norm. We randomly stop the boat in the middle of the lake to swim, to sun, and to appreciate all that we have.


Our marina feels a bit like home but we have chosen to be boaters. We arrive at the marina with our boat bags full of supplies and leave the dock within moments. Some of our neighbours are in awe that we depart so quickly – we implore them it is not us being rude, it is simply our desire to get out to the water during the day and realize our dreams.


I should mention that during the month when we were boatless I also proposed and she accepted. So it is truly now ‘we’ and after much discussion perhaps partly why our new boat is aptly named Meant 2 Be.


We have learned so much in our first few months, and I sleep nightly dreaming about our next adventure. Is this our last boat? Heck no! I’m already wondering when 2 footitis will strike again. Maybe 40’ is our next size. As long as it meets the needs and wants for him and her.

To find the right new or used boat nearest you be sure to check out BoatDealers.ca.

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