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back then. That means a Catalina 30—the classic small weekend cruiser at the time—was going for $30,000 in 1975. I’ll assume that works. I checked Yachtworld.com and saw that the modern equivalent (they don’t make the 30 anymore, which is too bad) is the Catalina 315 and it goes for about $120,000. That’s four times the cost since back then. Let’s look at inflation. I checked an online inflation calculator, and $30,000 in 1975 would be $126,000 in 2012. That means the boat is a little cheaper today in inflation dollars, plus you get a foot and half in length (it’s a 315), and they are all beamer (at least in the stern), and they are all built far better with more stuff. Not bad. But that’s only part of the story. Inflation is one thing. If you can afford one—income and other living expenses—is another. The median household income in 1975, adjusted for inflation, was approximately $45,000 a year, and the median income in 2011 was approximately $50,000. So median household income is up about 10 percent since then. This doesn’t sound promising. That means, though, that if all your other living expenses were the same (adjusted for inflation), then you actually could afford a better boat today than back then. But all other living expenses are not the same. The cost of living is the real determining factor. We all know that the cost of homes, food, health care—are all way up. And these things are more important than a sailboat (I think). Cost of living has increased about 150 percent (Social Security COLA increases have averaged around 4 percent a year) since 1975, which means few people will be buying boats in the 30-foot, $120,000 range these days because their more important living expenses are much higher. And the real proof that this is true is seen at the boat show. There’s a lot more people in the middle class than in the upper class, but the number of big, expensive boats (in the small cruiser range like a 30-footer) compared to the 30-foot range is about 10 to 1. Why? Because that’s what’s selling, and what’s selling is the real proof of what’s going on. I know this is a quick and dirty analysis, but it’s not far off and the proof is in the pudding, meaning what is selling and to whom, tells the real story. Sorry, but that’s the way it goes. But there is one good thing: There are an incredible number of good deals out there in used boats. And the number of great boats that were built in the ‘70s and ‘80s is huge. They just aren’t as user-friendly as today’s boats. So, my suggestion is get an old, solid fiberglass boat for dirt cheap, park it in your yard, and totally rebuild it. Go for the 30foot-plus range as that is a nice size. Bigger boats bang into the dock too hard if you hit it, anyway. Then there’s maintenance and slip costs, too, so keep it small. Of course, there has been an“inflation” in local communities and neighbors disliking big boats in back yards, so move out to the country where you won’t be bothered. Of course, you won’t find a job out there that pays much, but that’s just the state of things today. Good luck in your quest for a boat. Editor

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News & Views for Southern Sailors

SOUTHWINDS April 2013

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