The subtitle of this new book is enticing: “The fine art of selecting a great boat, outfitting it, living aboard, and cruising it on a minimal budget.” If you find this resonates with your adventure gene, I urge you to buy this book. Why this book, among the many others purporting to answer the same difficult questions? The reason first and foremost: Todd Duff is brutally honest with his opinions.

And, he knows whereof he speaks: He’s a liveaboard who has cruised thousands of ocean miles, most with his children aboard, visiting 37 countries; owned more boats than you, me, and the bank together; sold more than a thousand boats as a broker; is an accredited marine surveyor and holder of a U.S. Coast Guard masters license; and a good writer widely published in sailing publications.

Readers always seem eager to pick a fight with sailing pundits, so if you’re feeling ornery, prepare your arguments for one of these Todd Duff lines in the sand:

  • No multihulls for offshore work because they stay upside-down after a capsize.
  • Waterline lengths between 27 and 42 feet.
  • Beware modern boats with “flatter runs fore and aft” that will “pound heavily when going to windward.”
  • Desalinators, refrigeration, and air conditioners are optional. Be realistic about your ability to maintain sophisticated systems that are bound to fail.
  • The asking price of a boat is not the real cost to buy. The apple of your eye might look cruise ready, but no boat ever is. “Boats are very expensive to keep in top condition,” he writes. Your cruising future, and your financial investment, he wisely warns, are at risk.

Todd’s wide view of cruising prompts him to include discussions of the best places in the world not only to sail but to buy a boat, from Europe to the South Pacific and beyond. Of course, the backstory is that many of these boats were left there because their owners had had enough of cruising; your job will be to take it from there to wherever and back home…if you’re able.

Chapter 7, “Fixing Up an Old Boat: Knowing What is Possible and What is a Lost Cause,” dispels numerous myths, such as old fiberglass boats are twice as thick as they needed to be, little cracks in gelcoat don’t mean anything, moisture in a cored hull is always localized, and external ballast is better than internal encapsulated ballast.

Believing (as I do) that there are many good used boats of sufficient build quality and sensible design, available at far more affordable prices than new yachts, Todd has included two-page write-ups of more than 40 that meet his persnickety criteria. These range from the Contessa 26 and Tartan 27 to the Kelly Peterson 44 and Bristol 45.5. Drawings are part of the discussion.

This book isn’t an expensive production with lots of color photographs, but it has been well-edited and honestly written. Therein lies its considerable value.

Bargain Boats and Budget Cruising by Todd Duff. Seaworthy Publications. 162 p.