Affordable boat ownership

Toronto is a fantastic city to learn to sail because there’s many clubs and schools (including Sailing Fanatics) where you can sail without owning a boat. However, owning your own boat is awesome. Since I started sailing 22 years ago, I’ve always owned a boat in some form or another. It’s like owning a house versus renting. You can customize, sail when you want, bring whoever you want and sail a boat you want.

Many people want a keelboat but I want to encourage you to consider buying a dinghy not a keelboat.

Why are ongoing costs important?

When buying a boat it’s important to consider ongoing costs. Ongoing costs are generally higher for a keelboat versus a dinghy.

Ongoing costs are important. The obvious reason to pay for upkeep of your boat is that you want to sail a boat that doesn’t fall apart or sink. However, if you don’t maintain a boat, the value of that boat depreciates quicker. So investing in your boat helps that boat keep its value for when you decide to sell.

Hobie Wave -

Buying a dinghy

There is not an abundant supply of used dinghy sailboats for sale. A small supply of dinghy sailboats keeps prices high but means depreciation is lower. Initial purchase price does depend on condition, age and demand. I found a few dinghy sailboats online, for sale. I have listed these boats below as examples of boats I would recommend for a great sailing experience.

Ask for advice before you buy. I’m always happy to give advice and so are many other sailors and stores selling boats/parts. This will help you understand if: the price is right, it’s a boat you’ll enjoy and ongoing costs.

⇒ 2008 Laser Bahia - A modern and fun performance, plastic sailboat. Can be sailed by 2-3 people. Plastics means low maintenance.

⇒ 2011 Hobie Cat Wave - A plastic catamaran, low maintenance, beach launching, modern, fun for the whole family.

⇒ 2007 Laser I - A single person fiberglass, modern and fun sailboat classic.

⇒ 2013 RS Vision - A plastic boat for 2-3 people. It’s low maintenance, modern and fun. RS calls this an all purpose boat, fun for just sailing, going fast or racing.

Ongoing costs of a dinghy

Sailing is more expensive than soccer and always will be. However, owning a boat doesn’t have to break the bank. To me, this is where buying a dinghy makes sense. For club membership at a club like the Outer Harbour Centreboard Club (, storage at the club, insurance and maintenance you’re only looking at spending $500-$600 each year. That’s peanuts compared to the ongoing cost of a keelboat.

Where to find a used dinghy

Reasons not to buy a keelboat - owning a keelboat comes with significant ongoing costs

Reasons not to buy a keelboat - owning a keelboat comes with significant ongoing costs

Reasons not to buy a keelboat

Many people buy used keelboats and they can be a great addition to your family! If you’re looking for a cottage replacement or want to race then they’re a great option. I think it’s also very tempting to buy a keelboat because they are inexpensive for the real estate you get. However, it’s good to do some research or ask for advice on what owning a keelboat involves, before you take the plunge.

There are a great number of keelboats sitting, rotting and not being used. This abundant supply makes a keelboat inexpensive and very tempting. However, that inexpensive keelboat is a boat no one else wanted, perhaps for good reason. The nail in the coffin for me is that because your keelboat is one of so many it is harder to sell at a price you might want, if you decide to go separate ways. My advice, ask for advice.

Ongoing keelboat costs

Keelboats also have significant ongoing maintenance, storage and insurance costs. The larger the boat the greater the associated costs. These include:

  • Pulling a keelboat from the water each winter using specialized equipment;

  • Cleaning and painting the bottom of the hull before launching;

  • Checking rigging periodically and paying for maintenance (so your mast doesn’t come down);

  • Engine maintenance and gas;

  • Club or marine fees (often in the high 100s or low 1000s depending on services / community);

  • Insurance and surveys for the insurance co.;

  • Other new parts and maintenance (e.g. sails, running rigging etc.).

Altogether, the yearly upkeep for a keelboat is in the 1000s and it adds up fast! Once again, ask for advice and take your time. That bargain boat might not actually end up being the Mediterranean cruiser you were hoping for.

Tom Winskell