The One About Boat Shopping

A few months ago our family got the opportunity to attend the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS.) No, we weren’t boat shopping! FLIBS was a bucket list experience for Brent. Unfortunately, instead of being able to cross it off of our list, it will get added to the “must do” list every year. The whole family had a blast.

The show gave us the opportunity to see a ton of boat brands and products all in one spot. We toured several new boats, which was a highlight for the kids. Lots of Loopers and future Loopers attended the show and we enjoyed meeting many of them.

Also, after countless virtual conversations, I finally got to meet Dan, from KnowWake, in person. I’ve been writing for KnowWake for several months now. (Incidentally, when there’s a drought in the boating content here, you can always check out my new posts there.) And we got to catch up with several friends including one of Brent’s best friends from childhood.

Our favorite thing about the weekend was circling back to our boat shopping days.

Admittedly, I think we did it a little differently than almost everyone. But then again, boat shopping is really strange these days! Maybe there’s no longer a “right way” to do it.

I detailed a little about our boat shopping experience in a very early Captain’s Log post: The One Where We Rewind Back To The Beginning. In a nutshell, Brent boat shopped online for years. He was so clear on what features he wanted, he drastically narrowed down our options. In the end, there were only a handful of boats we wanted to see in person.

So what were those things that were so important to us when shopping for a boat?

Obviously, we needed 3 staterooms. And 2 bathrooms. We were pretty adamant about boating the Chicago River which meant we wanted to stay under 17′.

The engines were a big deal to Brent. He knew he wanted 2 diesel ones. And prefered one of the better known brands. We aren’t mechanically minded, so being able to find help and parts seemed important. Brent also really wanted a boat that had been moving vs. one that had been sitting. In other words, low engine hours didn’t necessarily impress him.

Additionally, Brent wanted a great dinghy with an accessible spot to store the dinghy. We prefered dinghy storage on the swim platform, but that wasn’t a make or break decision. Retrospectively, we really love that our dinghy is on the swim platform. Brent also prioritized the height of doorways and headspace in the rooms. Being 6’3″, he didn’t want to constantly hit his head.

Having spent far less time doing research, my list was more of a “practical mom” wish list than anything specifically related to boats. I really wanted good outdoor space. And felt like closets and drawers were a big deal. I also loved the idea of an Aft Master. In hindsight, my preferences have proven to be some of our favorite things about our boat.

Other features we weren’t necessarily looking for in our boat shopping days, but we’ve grown to love:

  • Massive Shower With Full Jacuzzi Tub: We love the space in our bathroom!
  • 4′ Draft: The further down your boat sits in the water, the more limited your options become. At just under 4′, we’ve had the ability to go everywhere we’ve wanted. Several of our favorite places around the Loop have been extremely shallow. So far, we haven’t said no to anywhere due to depth.
  • Outdoor TV: We added a TV to our outdoor space post purchase. However, when we were boat shopping Brent noted the perfect spot for one. We use that TV more than any other on our boat.

On the flip side, there are a couple of things we were really excited about that we don’t use at all:

  • Desk in Master: Originally designed to be a makeup desk, we saw all the possibilities for an office or homeschool spot. I thought the 4 of us would be fighting to work there everyday. Yet, I can count on one hand the number of times anyone has actually used the spot.
  • Second Shower: Prior to moving on our boat, everyone had their own bathroom in our house. I was a little nervous about the idea of only having 2 on the boat. However, since the day we moved onboard we’ve treated our boat like a 1.5 bathroom home. The kids’ shower quickly became what I called our “laundry room” (which really meant it was just our laundry pile.) Then we got a cat, and their shower turned into the perfect spot for a litter box.

Our Cruisers Yacht 4450 is the shortest boat we could find that included all of our must-have details. And that’s important because everywhere we go, we pay per foot. Also, at our length, we’ve pretty much been able to go anywhere without dockage being an issue.

One major thing we’ve learned over the last few years is that all 4 of us feel very differently about boat shopping.

Brent and Mary Grace could look at boats all day, every day. They both love discussing dream boats for the future. They learn everything they possibly can about every boat they come across. On the other hand, Miller and I are only in it for the social aspect of boat shopping. We enjoy meeting people at shows like FLIBS and when we walk the docks. But we really don’t have a major interest in learning about every specific boat!

It’s been almost 2 years since we saw our boat for the first time and I can honestly say we love it more today than we did when we bought it. It’s truly become home in a way that I never thought would happen. The layout works perfectly for our family. We haven’t seen a boat yet that we would trade for Light & Salty. We’re obviously bias, but hopefully everyone ends up feeling that way about their boat.

One final pro tip: when you finally find your boat and take a quick picture to commemorate the memory…check the picture before you leave! Case in point:

As always, thanks for keeping up with our adventures. You may also enjoy reading:

The One With All Our Boatschool Secrets

The One About Holidays On A Boat

The One All About Our Boat, Light & Salty

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