Boating doesn't have to be costly, especially if it's self-propelled, writes David Lockwood.
Here are the 10 best boats you can buy for less than $10,000. OK, they're not all boats per se, with paddle- and pedal-powered, plus wind craft in the mix. But the idea is the same: get afloat and gad about your favourite harbour, bay, river or creek with a minimum of fuss and expenditure. These cost-effective conveyances distil your precious downtime into a potent and personal just-add-water experience.
1. Stand-up paddleboard (SUP): The fastest-growing water sport in the world, no other conveyance is such hot property among Sydney's boating clique as the SUP. Available in inflatable, foam, plastic and fibreglass variants, stand-up paddleboards team skill with discipline, exercise with adventure. Strike a statuesque pose and use your core muscles to keep upright. The inflatable types make excellent on-board accessories. From $800 to $1800.
2. One-man kayak: The one-man plastic kayak offers days of fun and fishing for about $500, or less for second-hand. Explore the feeder creeks of the Hawkesbury, Cowan Creek and Berowra Waters, Middle Harbour and Lane Cove River. Partake in some twitching - the scene of a stunning sacred kingfisher hunting on the Port Hacking River sticks in my mind - and angling for Australian bass in the backwaters.
3. Sea kayak: The bumpy waters of Sydney Harbour, Broken Bay and Botany Bay require a different paddle craft altogether. You need waterline length for speed and a swooping bow for seaworthiness, a foot-operated rudder to assist with tracking, and a comfortable lightweight paddle and personal flotation device. Trace the foreshores at first light to ogle the friendly fish life, troll a lure for the catch of the day and strike out for a waterfront cafe as your reward. About $800-$2000.
4. Pedal power: California-based Hobie has successfully redefined the sea-kayak market with its radical MirageDrive pedal-powered system. Two pedals drive two underwater fins with such efficiency you can outlast a conventional kayaker expending twice the energy. As your paddling hands are free, the pedal propulsion system is perfect for 'yak fishing - hot these days - with steering effected by a simple finger-operated toggle and a rear-mounted rudder. The Mirage Pro Angler 12 (released at the Sydney boat show) is the latest purpose-built pedal-powered 'yak fisher with more beam for stability and an impressive array of features. About $3500.
5. Sailing trimaran: Hobie's single and tandem tris get along smartly thanks to a decent roller-furling battened mainsail and performance carbon-fibre rig. The Adventure (single) and Tandem Island models are popular with Sydney's alternative sailing set, moving with surprisingly alacrity. They also break down into pedal-powered touring kayaks in no time. From $4450 sail away (add $2690 for electric drive), $6100 for the tandem. The wind is free.
6. Rubber ducky: The inflatable tender exemplifies all that's great about portable boats. The best new models have a stiff inflatable floor, rather than wooden slats or an unwieldy fibreglass or alloy hull, with some vee in the bow for sluicing the waves. Add a lightweight two- to five-kilogram outboard and you can potter about after an easy launch and retrieval. Prices start about $2000. Inflatable kayaks in a backpack open up an altogether new realm of back-country boating.
7. Car toppers: Grey nomads with their highly accessorised campervans are at least partly responsible for putting the humble car topper back on the roof racks and shopping lists of Australian boaters. Clever new boat-loading devices assist with the lift - see boathoist.com.au - and turn something like the Anglapro 374 Lite into a maxi car-toppering option for $6850 including Suzuki outboard engine.
8. Savage 415 Big Daddy: If you're bitten by the fishing bug, a bigger tinnie on a trailer beckons. The popular new class is the 14-footer, which boasts greater freeboard, higher sides, a smoother ride and a lot more volume. But the new Big Daddy offers something else again - a sub-$8000 price with 30hp Vortex two-stroke outboard on trailer.
9. Windsurfer: It remains a compact and cost-effective conveyance for keeping fit and exploring the waterways on the strength of wind alone. As they are considered passe these days, you can snap up bargains galore. Expect to pay about $2000 new, while used sailing rigs sell for about $350.
10. Sailing dinghy: With more than 300,000 gadding about worldwide, the Laser from the pen - and so-called million-dollar doodle - of Canadian designer Bruce Kirby has proven a sail-away hit. Single mainsail (cat rig) and basic strings make for a great all-round family dinghy. The fibreglass hull weighs 56.7 kilograms and was designed to be car toppered. New from $7990, $1000 for used.