Learning What To Look For In Cheap Boats

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Last Updated on August 8, 2019 by Brendan

Looking at cheap boats is both challenging and exciting especially for sailing newbies who do not have any idea on what to look for in sailing boats. If you feel that your knowledge about sailboats is still inadequate and you are all excited to buy one, it is best that you seek the help of a trusted sailor. There are a lot of affordable and inexpensive sailboats that could be perfect for you if you know where to look and what to look for.

However, before you embark on your journey into sailing, do your homework first. It is easy to be intimidated with all the terms that sailors use, especially if you don’t have a working knowledge on basic sailboat parts and the different kinds of sailing boats. Buying cheap boats doesn’t mean compromising on quality, so if you know what to look out for, there are some good value inexpensive sailboats on the market. You don’t want to be paying top dollar for a dud boat, right?

Getting to know the parts of sailing boats

Cheap boats don't necessarily have to have major things wrong with them. There are good deals out there

Cheap boats don’t necessarily have to have major things wrong with them. There are good deals out there

After spending countless hours on the water, you invariably learn the different parts of sailing boats and the terminology that goes along with them. But what about when you are just starting out? You don’t want to sound as though you don’t know what you are talking about. An awareness and understanding of the weather, the water, your boat and safety takes time to develop. It all comes with experience and patience, but you can speed up the process by reading up and talking to people and taking an interest. Spend enough time on the water and your sailing knowledge will become second nature. At times when you are out on the water, your life can literally depend on your sailing knowledge. A thorough knowledge will not only save you from getting into trouble but more importantly, it will make your sailing experience more pleasant and exciting.

Below are some basic terms that every sailor should know. And generally it doesn’t matter whether you are talking about cheap boats or their more expensive cousins – the terminology is mostly the same.

A brief look at the terminology of sailing boats:

  • Learn sailing jargon to increase your knowledge about sailing boats

    Learn sailing jargon to increase your knowledge about sailing boats

    Bow – is the forward part of the hull of a boat or ship

  • Stern – is the rear part of a boat or ship and is normally designated with a white navigation light when sailing at night
  • Port – the left hand side of the boat when looking forward, indicated with a red light
  • Starboard – the right hand side of the boat when looking forward, indicated with a green light
  • Centerboard –The movable or retractable fin or keel in a sailboat or dinghy that can be rotated or retracted upward into the hull of a sailboat to reduce the boat’s drag and draft in shallow water. This prevents the boat from slipping sideways when under sail
  • Keel – similar to a centerboard except not retractable and often contain lead to counteract the force of the wind to keep the boat upright and stable. Keels are more common on larger boats (eg. Yachts)
  • Hull – The hull is the body of the boat and everything below the deck
  • Mast – It is the tall vertical pole holding the sail. You can change the shape of the mast (the bend) to change the shape of the mainsail to maximize performance
  • Boom – this horizontal spar is attached to the mast and is used to extend the mainsail. When sailing you have to pay attention to the boom when changing direction (mainly when tacking and jibing) as it can swing across the boat rapidly and cause injury
  • Stays and Shrouds – These are the wires that make sure that the mast stays in position, especially in very heavy winds. Windsurfers and some dinghies (like the Laser) don’t have stays
  • Cleat – This is what holds the ropes or lines in place
  • Halyard – These are the lines that pull the sails up in the mast
  • Jib / headsail – this is the sail that is placed at the bow (or front) of the boat. Not all boats have these (eg. Lasers and some other dinghies don’t have a jib)
  • Mainsail – This refers to the sail attached to the back of the mast. As the term implies, this is the main sail of the boat
  • Spinnaker – This is a special type of sail (usually brightly colored) that is intended specially for sailing across the wind or downwind. It is shaped like a big parachute at the front of the boat to catch as much wind as possible
  • Sheets – These are the lines that control the sails
  • Rudder – This is what steers the boat. The angle of the rudder is changed by using a wheel (similar to a steering wheel in a car) or a tiller
  • Tiller – directly connected to the rudder, and is used to change the rudder’s direction to steer the boat.

So should you only look at cheap boats or inexpensive sailboats?

Inexpensive sailboats may be cheap for a reason

Inexpensive sailboats may be cheap for a reason

Now that we have gone through the basic parts and terms of sailboats, you will be in a better position to understand what to look for and talk about when you are looking for your perfect boat. But what makes cheap boats cheap? A lot of the time, you only get what you pay for when looking at inexpensive sailboats. So having the knowledge, or someone you trust to help you, can make a big difference. For more information on what to look out for when checking out different boats for sale, click here.

But, as with anything you buy, there are good deals out there, as well as some that are over-priced. That being said, different people also have different personal preferences. Some like to pay more for good quality, while some simply can’t afford it and their budget is lower. Classifying them into cheap or inexpensive sailboats is not the only consideration that a buyer should look at. Inexpensive sailboats may be cheap for a reason. An important consideration in buying sailing boats is the quality and the value for money. Even some boats that cost a hundred thousand dollars can still be considered cheap boats in their category when you consider the quality of construction and all the gear that comes with it.

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About Brendan

Brendan has over 30 years experience sailing dinghies, yachts, and windsurfers, but has recently started Laser sailing. "I found it difficult to find all the information that I needed when I started sailing my Laser, and I am sure that others have had the same problem. So I combined all the information I could into this website to help other Laser sailors get the most out of this sport. If you have any questions or comments, let me know... I will get back to you as soon as I can."


  1. Noah Rees on August 4, 2014 at 1:15 am

    Also when buying a laser its important to check that the joint between the hull an ddeck isn’t splitting.

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