Offshore Sailing on a Micro-Budget

by David Omick - Cascabel, Arizona - USA

After a summer's work, Minimus is a new boat, with solar panels and self steering gear being just a couple of the many improvements.
After a summer's work, Minimus is a new boat, with solar panels and self steering gear being just a couple of the many improvements.

(Well, maybe not micro on a global scale, but compared to what most sailors spend on a similar adventure, it probably qualifies.)

Minimus ready for sea
Minimus ready for sea


If you’ve ever dreamed of sailing to exotic ports but didn’t think you could afford the cost of purchasing and outfitting an offshore sailboat, you may be interested in joining us (David and Pearl) as we outfit Minimus, our venerable little Cape Dory 25, for a year-long voyage to the South Pacific.  We intend to set sail from Southern California in February of 2017.  Meanwhile, we’ve uploaded pages describing our somewhat unconventional outfitting techniques.  Links to those pages are at the bottom of this page.

First though, a bit of history.  About 25 years ago I expressed to Pearl a desire to someday sail to the South Pacific.  In younger years, I’d sailed to Hawaii and other far-off places, but the lure of the South Pacific remained.  When she asked why I wasn’t doing it then, I told her it was something we could save for older age, embarking on more physically strenuous adventures while we were still young and able.  About 2 years ago, as my 60th birthday approached, she commented “You know, if we’re ever going to take that trip, we’d better get started.”(That Pearl encouraged the trip, despite being terrified of the water for most of her life, is an testament to her love of adventure.  She tells that story here.)

In keeping with our approach to life, we wanted to do this adventure on a relatively low budget. Much of the rationale influencing our preference for tiny homes also applies to boats.  Not only is the time spent on the water a more intimate experience, but I knew from past experience that the first step in sailing on a small budget is to begin with a small boat.  The reason being that boats increase in size roughly based on the cube of their length, with the cost of buying and outfitting them increasing at a similarly exponential rate.   Unfortunately, there aren’t many small sailboats suitable for offshore sailing and the few that are suitable are often quite expensive.  On the way to finding our little vessel, we looked at more boats than we can remember.

Then one day in early fall of 2015, as we were looking over the large array of used sailboats on trailers at Underway Marine in Eugene, Oregon ( a great place to shop for a sailboat), we spotted a craft that intrigued us.  Or at least me.  She was in rather desperate-looking condition, the decks black with mold and moss growing out of her topside woodwork.  Down below, her tiny cabin had largely been stripped, not that it was big enough to have ever sported much in the way of furnishings.  There just wasn’t room for much.  Despite her sad appearance, an initial inspection revealed that her hull and deck were sound.  Unlike the hulls of the more modern boats in the yard, most of which would flex when pressed, this one was rock solid.  In truth though, she wasn’t too many years from the wrecking yard.

In short, she was just what we were looking for–a basically sound boat built strongly enough for offshore sailing.  More than that, she was a blank canvas, a platform for experimenting with some of the innovative techniques we were interested in trying, rather than buying someone else’s dream boat.  It took a few days for Pearl to appreciate my enthusiasm, but by the end of the week she was on board and the boat was ours.  All $2500 worth.  And the price included the use of a trailer while we outfitted her for ocean work.

An hour and a half with a pressure washer improved her looks considerably.  We then towed her home and tarped her for the winter.  Over the winter we completed several projects on her, but most of the refitting took place in the summer of 2016.  The links at the bottom of this page detail the process of making her stronger, safer and better equipped than she’d ever been before.


Minimus is a Cape Dory 25, built in Massachusetts in 1974.    The CD 25 was by far the most popular boat in the Cape Dory line, with nearly 850 of them built between 1972 and 1982.  The Cape Dory 25 is not to be confused with its successor, the 25D, a significantly larger and costlier boat than the CD 25.

The CD 25 was so popular in its day that many of them can still be found for sale.  In fact when we checked, there were roughly a dozen advertised online for under $5000, mostly on the east coast.  They’re rare birds on the west coast and we were lucky to find her there.  It’s probably fair to say that she was also lucky we did.

Her numbers for offshore sailing are uncommonly good for a small boat, with a 42% ballast ratio and a capsize ratio of 1.83.

For anyone interested in more details about the refitting and outfitting of Minimus, we’ve posted the pages below.  Although some aspects of the refitting process are unconventional, most were done with an eye to improving safety and reliability while reducing cost.

Deck, cabin and hull work.  Extensive refit of all parts of the boat.

Standing rigging.  Includes chain plates and mast tangs, all of which we made ourselves and are stronger than the originals as well as much less expensive than conventional replacements.

Series drogue.  Storm management equipment.  Our design is an easier-to-build and less expensive adaptation of the conventional Jordan series drogue.

Sail and canvas work.  Sail inventory.  Also, an unconventional and possibly more durable alternative to expensive marine canvas.

Anchoring.  With an emphasis on reliability in anchorages with coral heads, while reducing damage to coral.  Also, an inexpensive roll stopper for comfort in rolly anchorages.

Self steering.  A homemade pendulum system based on Jan Alkema’s rudder head mounted design.

Stove.  Emphasizing safety and versatility.

Provisions.  Details on provisions and stowage.

Electrical.  A functional but relatively minimal electrical system.

Navigation and communication.  Seeking the best of what modern electronics has to offer while trying to avoid excessive technology.

Positive flotation.  This was a concept that made sense in theory, but not so much in practice.



  1. John’s comments DITTO’D

    just surprised that the shake down suggestion comes from one who has a habbit of building a boat the day b4 launch date 😉

    PLEASE KEEP US POSTED(more pics next post)

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