Eleven Things We Learned Buying a New Boat
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Last Updated on October 3, 2020 by Amy
The following is a sponsored post in partnership with Atlantic Cruising Yachts. All opinions are 100% our own.
For most boat owners, the process building up to untying the lines is a huge ordeal. We first got the idea to go cruising way back in 2009 when my dad took David out for his first sail as an adult. He loved it and went down the rabbit hole of the online sailing community. After reading some of the classic sailing blogs the idea formed in David’s head that this was actually something we could do.
Fast forward four years later, and we’re really boat shopping; absorbing every bit of information we can get our hands on. We’ve done two charters, read books, taken sailing lessons, logged hundreds of hours on our 30′ catamaran, and now we are ready to upgrade to a blue water cruising catamaran.
Unfortunately, we did not have a good buying experience. The dealer we worked with was fairly small and new to the Fountaine Pajot team. Our process was rife with a lack of communication and we really struggled with our decision – once, we almost canceled our order. Shortly after receiving our boat, our dealer was no longer part of the Fountaine Pajot dealer network.
We are glad we stuck with it, and couldn’t be happier with our boat. For a cruising catamaran, she’s comfortable, spacious, and we sail faster than most of our monohull friends.
Read our 20,000 nm review of the Fountaine Pajot Helia.
Throughout the process, we learned so much about buying a new boat, including many surprises. And, since picking up our boat in 2014, we’ve become friends with many fellow Fountaine Pajot owners, offering advice and learning alongside new owners.
I hope you can learn from our experiences and, if you decide to buy a new boat, your experience might be better.
Buying a New Boat is Hard
There are a lot of benefits to buying a new boat, but one of the things we didn’t realize when we ordered our Fountaine Pajot catamaran was how hard it was. Of course, the used boat market is challenging too, but we expected buying a new boat to be a lot easier.
When buying a used boat, you might be lucky enough to find one that’s cruise ready. Maybe you take it out for a season. You may work out that you need something else, or, being the cruising newbie that you are, you broke something. Then you get to shop for it. Your shopping list shouldn’t be huge.
In the new boat market, you are starting completely from scratch, and you have a deadline. Decisions need to be made about every option on the table. That requires a ton of research; the factory provides X watermaker. Is this a good watermaker? Will it fit my needs? If not, what will? Rinse and repeat with EVERY SINGLE option on the boat.
You Don’t Work with the Factory
Just like when you buy a car, you work directly with a dealer (a company) when you order a new boat. There is very little communication directly with the factory; all of your questions go to your dealer. We were surprised how “hands off” Fountaine Pajot was in the purchase of our boat.
With your dealer, you are assigned a broker (a person) who helps you through the process.
Having a great dealer AND a great broker is the most important part of buying a new boat.
Our dealer was small and hadn’t been through the process with many private orders. They just simply didn’t know things.
An example would be our final payment. We asked about the timeline. When do we make our final payment? When does the boat launch? When is the handover?
We made our final payment before leaving for France, as our dealer said to do. Our understanding was that the boat would be launched within a week. Instead, when we arrived, we learned that the final payment initiated the scheduling for the transfer. Our boat didn’t get launched for three weeks and we found ourselves with some free time on our hands – we left La Rochelle to visit Paris, Amsterdam, and Ile d’Re in the meantime.
A big dealer like ACY has sold hundreds of Fountaine Pajots over the years. Atlantic Cruising Yachts is the largest dealership in the world for Fountaine Pajot Catamarans. They have the largest amount of availabilities, access to priority pricing, and access to preferred production slots. They know the process very well. Randy T, who’s ordered a Fountaine Pajot 45, says: “Our ACY sales rep was very attentive and responsive to our calls and questions.”
There ARE exceptions to the rule; just like Telsa, who are eliminating the dealer model, there are some boat manufacturers that don’t operate with dealers.
Production Boats Are Primarily Designed for Charter
I don’t have statistics on the percentage of Fountain Pajot boats that go into charter versus ones that are privately owned, but I suspect that most Fountaine Pajots go directly into charter service. From the factory’s perspective, charter companies are the ideal customer as they don’t have a lot of specific needs. The systems need to be simple to ensure that the people chartering the boat can use them. Boats in charter don’t really need things like watermakers, solar panels, and radar. The desires of a charterer are much different from someone who is going to live onboard full time. Katie, from Space Between, says: “If you plan for full-time aboard, understand that most boats will need additions and work to make it liveable.”
When purchasing a new boat for private ownership, there are some things that can easily be changed and some that can’t. For example, Starry Horizons is a three-cabin, three-head boat. We’d much rather have one less head and more storage space, but that’s changing the mold for the Helia, an unreasonable request.
An example of one item we did try to customize and were unable to is the Raymarine electronics. We wanted one big chart plotter at the helm and no chart plotter inside. Fountaine Pajot was unwilling to provide the components we wanted, so we chose not to buy our electronics through Fountaine Pajot and instead had them installed aftermarket.
You’ll Have a Lot of Questions
When you’ve got absolutely all those decisions to make, questions come up – A LOT of questions. Our dealer and broker had a hard time answering our questions. What they didn’t know, they had to ask the factory, and it often took at least a week to get an answer.
This is where having a more experienced dealer and broker really comes in handy. A company that has worked with a lot of private owners will be able to anticipate questions and, most likely, will already know the answers. I asked Katie from Space Between about the team they worked with. She mentioned Rudy Vereen, Yacht Consultant and Partner at ACY: “He’s honest, friendly, and on the rare chance he doesn’t know an answer about Fountaine Pajots, he’ll definitely be able to find out pretty quickly.” Additionally, ACY has a team of commissioning experts who guide you through every step of the commissioning process.
The Owner’s Community is SO Valuable
David and I are both actively involved in the Fountaine Pajot Catamaran Owners Group on Facebook. This is THE place we post when we have an issue with our boat. Odds are very good that someone else has had the same issue and can give us advice.
Every manufacturer has a network. Some of them are organized by the factory, while some (like the FP group) are started by the owners. It is well worth joining because you never know when that question is going to pop up that can only be answered by someone with the same boat. Additionally, you will be able to meet people who have ordered the same boat as you from the same dealer as you, sometimes even being launched the same month as you. It’s amazing to be able to compare your experiences with others.
This FP group was not around when we were going through our process, and we wish it had been!
Test Out Your Boat with a Charter First
While we did not test our specific boat before we ordered it, we did charters on both a Leopard 38 and a Leopard 46. While living full time aboard a boat is very different from a one-week charter, spending more than a few hours of time on the boat you are interested in is well worth it.
Chartering enables you to spend a week testing out and getting comfortable with many of the important systems in your boat. How does the galley feel when cooking for six people? How easy is it to raise and lower the mainsail, work the sheets, and trim the sails? Are you happy with the boat’s performance?
The Waypoints® program by Atlantic Cruising Yachts has a large variety of Fountaine Pajot models available for charter, and their Try Before You Buy program ensures that you are choosing the right boat for your needs and desires.
Pick Up at the Factory
Meeting your new boat for the first time is wildly fun, exciting, and nerve-wracking. We were very glad to have our broker join us in La Rochelle to help us move aboard, oversee the handover, and take us out for a test sail.
Watch our video of the launch of Starry Horizons.
Read about moving aboard and our first sail in La Rochelle.
Atlantic Cruising Yachts has a full-time staff member living in La Rochelle with the title Commissioning Project Coordinator. This person is there to help smooth the transition and get you settled into your boat. What a service!
Commissioning and Aftermarket Organization
Our commissioning and aftermarket work was in three steps: in La Rochelle, in Florida with our dealer, and in Florida with a consultant.
We did so many projects (watermaker, Raymarine electronics, etc) aftermarket with Uchimata in La Rochelle. We had a great experience with Pierre and his team, and Uchimata is also used by many of the dealers for aftermarket work.
Some friends have not been so lucky with their aftermarket work. Friends with an FP purchased their boat through a dealer in the Caribbean. When they made their option selections, they assumed that some equipment (like the ice maker) would be the factory-installed ice maker. However, that was not the case. Their dealer chose to save themselves some money and install the ice maker aftermarket instead. Said icemaker never worked. This is not the only story I have heard like this.
It’s important to hash out what projects you will do, where the boat will be for the projects, and when they will happen. As we know from years of cruising, boat projects always take much longer than expected and contractors are often difficult to work with in the marine industry.
Your dealer should provide you with aftermarket sales support. As our dealer is no longer a Fountaine Pajot broker, we have been left hanging. Thankfully, we’ve made connections at Atlantic Cruising Yachts who have helped us sort out issues we’ve had.
Atlantic Cruising Yachts has a reliable team of commissioning experts that coordinate with Uchimata to get work done in La Rochelle, Annapolis, and Florida.
Your Boat Looks New, and You Can Keep It That Way
Boats come out of the factory sparkling new and clean. We’ve worked really hard to keep Starry Horizons that way. We patch fiberglass dings, don’t allow aerosols on the boat, and David washes with boat soap regularly, plus polishes the stainless steel until our boat is one shiny girl.
Starry Horizons still looks amazing. Guests still oh and ah over her. We’re very proud of how well Starry Horizons has aged over the years.
There’s No Mess From Previous Owners
There have been many instances where we (errr…David, usually) went over to help another boat on a project. One time specifically comes to mind; a friend’s bilge pump wasn’t working. At some point, I’m sure the wiring was correct and orderly, but the previous owners (POs) of this Beneteau had made the wiring an absolute mess.
Granted, we did have a few issues coming from the factory, but in general, most owners will create mayhem around the boat. If you are a beginner, trying to fix something on your boat might be easier if you don’t have to deal with a PO’s mess and instead can work with factory diagrams and wiring.
Additionally, we have sailed every mile under Starry Horizons’ keel and have either done projects ourselves or watched over shoulders as we had projects done by contractors. We know everything there is to know about our boat; there are no hidden secrets from when the PO hit a reef here or improperly installed something there.
New Boats are NOT Maintenance Free
While Starry Horizons has been a great boat and certainly requires less work than an older boat, she has not been without issues from the factory. Some examples; the first time we blasted the hull while hauled out in Whangarei, New Zealand, the primer all came off. We went back and forth with the factory about it; obviously, the hull wasn’t properly prepared for the primer, but Fountaine Pajot held their ground. Another example would be that one of the wires on our cap shroud broke after less than three years. In this case, Fountaine Pajot was able to ship us new cap shrouds in a very timely manner. Every new boat is going to have issues like this; some minor, and some major.
We’ve detailed how much we’ve spent on repair & maintenance in our blog post about cruising costs. While we spent more on the boat than some people’s entire cost of cruising for a year (there are some REALLY budget cruisers out there), we are nowhere near the “10%” rule for maintenance costs.
Is Buying a New Boat Worth it?
At the end of the day, the goal is to have a boat that you love. Starry Horizons has been an amazing home for us. We’re about a year away from completing our circumnavigation and we’ve always felt safe along the way. We have plenty of space for toys and spares. Our boat is usually (maybe 75% of the time) the nicest and biggest boat in the anchorage. But at the same time, we sail better than most of our cruising friends.
While there are certainly low points while cruising, having a boat that you enjoy makes it very worth it. Buying the boat and working with the dealer was one of our biggest pain points. If we were going through the process again, ordering another Fountaine Pajot, there is no doubt in my mind that we would work with Atlantic Cruising Yachts.
Another quote from the owner of “Space Between” (John Michael D’Archangelo) to Ken Krasko:
…But I mainly wanted to say thanks for all your help! We had a great experience with you and all the work you put into the Space Between has performed great. The few complaints we do have are with the factory – not you guys. But we are realizing those are mostly complaints about boating in general. Ha. We are always happy to recommend you to any cruisers we meet who might be in the market for a new boat.
Are you buying a new boat? I hope you’ve found this post helpful. If so, please share it:
nice article. As a prospective boat buyer myself, I can totally resonate with having TOOO MANY questions. Blogs like this answer some if not most of them, so thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge.
Wow, educational for sure. However, one statement sticks in my head that says no matter how good ACY is, or any other broker for that matter, nobody should but an FB period. THEY stuck to their stance concerning the improperly prepared hull????? That should be posted and reposted throughout different forums.
I think you said it already but not in connection to the primer issue and that was, FB is just a cookie cutter charter catamaran.
Thanks for the insights
You pretty much either buy one of the big three, where they are mostly produced for charters and are less set up for direct customer service, or you spend more money on a manufacturer that’s more willing to be flexible with boat owners.
We love our Faintaine Pajot as many others do. Each boat is a compromise.
This was a very interesting article! I just have one question. Why do you avoid aerosols on the boat?
If I had to guess, it would be that aerosols disperse product that goes absolutely everywhere, finding its way into even the smallest of crevices. Dirt and grime would stick to product, sometimes in areas you just cannot get to… an arduous task.
That is correct!
Aerosols also can have product that actively eats surface materials, eg we have some bright white ikea cabinets that have a slight haze on it from one area…….was from someone spraying aerosol sunscreen near it 🙁
Excellent article Amy. We could not agree more with the “charter before you buy” suggestion. We chartered almost all models in our price range before deciding to buy the Lagoon 42 and we could not be happier. There were models we thought we would love (e.g., the Bali) and then were surprisingly disappointed after chartering. We also agree 1,000% with the importance of you being at the factory for the commissioning process. We could not do this as our boat was purchase through Dream Yacht Charters and they have their own commissioning process. Well, there were mistakes made during commissioning that we would have caught had we been there. Nonetheless, we are still at the honeymoon stage with our boat and much looking forward to one day starting cruising!
Glad you approve! We should have chartered more, but I can’t imagine a boat being better for us than SH!
Hi Amy, great article! You mentioned you spend nowhere near the 10% rule of thumb for maintenance on a new boat. We are considering a comparable boat. What would you say a new cat rule of thumb would be? 5%-7%?
Hey Jeff! Have you read this post of ours: https://outchasingstars.com/cruising-budget-first-year-new-catamaran/
That might help answer your question….with a lot of details you didn’t ask for!
We have been following you since your launch oh so long ago and watched all your adventures thus far.
Great summary of the ups and downs in buying new. We are in our final years of work with the intentions of selling up and ling term cruising. We helped with an Atlantic crossing last year on a cat as we had mono experience, this was to cement our decision in going for it. Our initial plan was to purchase new, but after hearing so many friends that have new boat teething problems and issues with after sales, it’s putting us off a bit. So next plan is to hunt out a well loved and looked after used catamaran. At not ridiculously over priced.. The hunt goes on . Fair winds and keep adventuring.
I am sure that buying used has it’s own struggles. Hopefully you find something just right for you!