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Old 22-01-2015, 23:35   #1
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Go big or training wheels?

Advice wanted.

FACTS - My wife and I are in a 5-7 year plan to become full time cruisers. We are located 15 minutes away from a decent marine north of Seattle. I have limited sailing wife even less, but we enjoy the time we have spent. Formal instruction is in the plan starting this summer.

We'd planned on buying a trailer able to learn with and then upgrading closer to our departure date, but boat porn got the better of us. We started dreaming and looking at 32+ ft live-a-boards and fell in love with the Morgan 38x series. We've looked at dozens online and now 3 in person and both agree that these boats are our "perfect fit".

QUESTION - do we stick with the plan, buy a starter, go cheap, save on moorage, and then upgrade?
Pros - minimal investment, easy to learn on.

Or, do we buy the boat we want and spend the money at the docks?
Pros - 5+ years experience and complete knowledge of the boat before long voyages. More use because no need to launch.

We have looked at a lot of other boats as well and realize that experience may change needs/wants.

Thanks for your advice.

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Old 23-01-2015, 01:51   #2
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Re: Go big or training wheels?

with appropriate help, some training and enough money, theres no reason to not buy the 38, make sure she's in good condition, you don't want to be learning and fixing at the same time.

then baby steps as your confidence grows.


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Old 23-01-2015, 02:01   #3
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Re: Go big or training wheels?

There is no reason that you can't do your learning on the 38 footer. My preference is to start smaller, because I feel that one learns better with a boat that is more responsive to inputs, both good and bad, but lots of folks have learned on larger boats.

However, don't delude yourself: while you now think the Morgan is the shining light of the cruising world, in a few years, as you gain actual experience in sailing and cruising, your ideals will almost certainly change. Essentially everyone's ideas change, and you won't be different. Possible that you will still be pleased with your naive choice, but likely that you won't. So, keep that thought in mind as you weigh the alternatives; none of us here on CF can help with understanding your preferences... you have to do that yourself.

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Old 23-01-2015, 02:27   #4
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Re: Go big or training wheels?

There's no objectively right or wrong answer to this, but I will agree with the posters above and say there isn't really any good reason to interpose the "training wheels" between you and the boat you already know you want.

It takes a long, long time (and unfortunately, a lot of money) to get a cruising boat to the condition and equipped the way you like it -- I'm in my sixth year with my present boat and still far from getting her "just right". So it will be a big advantage to buy the boat now so that you have this time for repairs and upgrades, and getting to know her. It is a huge mistake (a classic mistake, sometimes with tragic consequences) to set off into the sunset on a boat which you only recently bought, do not yet know well, and have not had time to fix up properly.

And if, as Jim Cates points out, the Morgan turns out with experience not to be the boat you really want, you will have to time to correct the mistake, if you buy the boat now, rather than waiting until just before you set off.

I will also agree with Jim Cates that it is really great to learn to sail in a small sailboat, especially a dinghy, which is so much more responsive than a big cruising boat. But I wouldn't, personally, let that stop me from acquiring the boat I know I will need for full time cruising later. An excellent compromise here would be to get involved in dinghy racing even though you've bought your cruising boat. You will learn more about sail trim and basic sailing dynamics from one season of dinghy racing, than you will from a decade of cruising under sail. The great thing is that you don't need to own a dinghy to do dinghy racing -- just join a local sailing club.
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Old 23-01-2015, 03:54   #5
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Re: Go big or training wheels?

Another plug for buying the cheap starter boat first, if only because a few years with it will likely dramatically change your ideas about what you want in a larger boat.

Boat are depreciating assets. The more expensive a boat you buy now the more you're going to lose when you sell it, so there is financial logic in starting small.
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Old 23-01-2015, 05:32   #6
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Re: Go big or training wheels?

How confident are you that your 5-7 year plan won't turn into a 10-12 year plan? Are you more confident of that than you are about whether or not you are prone to seasickness or will enjoy the cruising life you are about to invest heavily in?

Boats can be expensive. Bigger boats can be more expensive. Certainly anyone can buy a big boat and many would agree you should buy the biggest boat you can afford.

I don't necessarily agree where less experienced folks are concerned. The very fact that big boats are more expensive can turn that "perfect" boat into an albatross tied around you neck.

My advice to start small. Small means inexpensive. This is key when you are learning because the lower the liability, the greater the return when it comes to learning. Get a cheap boat and get out there and screw it up good! What do you have to lose? Crash it into the dock, scrape the paint up, put a hole in the top sides. No worries.

Small also means more easily managed. Take that small cheap boat and get out there and run it aground! Then figure out how to get it off. Much easier to do with a small boat than a big one. Point being al great sailors have messed it up good once upon a time. How else do you think they got that way?

They made mistakes and then figured it out. Much less stress to make mistakes on a small cheap boat, you might even have fun doing it knowing that you are developing skills that will help you not screw it up on the "perfect" boat you will have one day. Most "perfect" boats are dock queens that never go anywhere anyway. Sad.

I gaurantee you will learn more in a season of messing things up on a small cheap boat you don't care that much about than you will in a dozen years of sailing your "perfect" boat.
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Old 23-01-2015, 05:49   #7
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Re: Go big or training wheels?

Although possible- 38' is a lot of boat. Especially for a beginner. Even if money isn't a factor they are a lot more effort than a smaller boat.

When I made the jump from 30'-35' I was pretty overwhelmed. Your talking about going from 0'-38'? That sounds risky to me.

38' boats have big rigs and big sails. Just consider a 20 knot wind, you have a 130 Genoa out, it's time to tack. Do you handle the helm, and make sure you get the timing of the turn right while your wife tacks a 350 sq ft or so Genoa, or does she handle the helm while you handle the big sail.

I almost always find myself single handing my 35 because since I've owned the boat my wife has either been pregnant or supervising little people.

People on this site may tell you single handing a 38' boat is easy, but my advice is that it isn't easy.

I suspect you would save yourself a lot of stress and frustration buying yourself a 27 to learn on.

However, people also make good points about how long it takes to outfit a boat for long distance cruising. Probably 3 years is a normal minimum.

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Old 23-01-2015, 06:04   #8
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Re: Go big or training wheels?

There is little chance you'll learn what you want/need in a cruising boat from a day-sailer. Getting the Morgan now allows you to make incremental changes/upgrades when it won't impact the cruising fund, assuming you can afford to get it now. Depreciation affects brand-new boats; older boats that are well-maintained hold their "market" value - the market may go up or down, but you don't know where it will be in 5 years. If you find the Morgan isn't "the one" after a few years of use, you will be in a much better position to know what you want.
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Old 23-01-2015, 06:06   #9
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Re: Go big or training wheels?

I had never sailed, took lessons, joined a club and sailed on a 32' boat on weekends for 3 months. Then I brought a 39' boat and sailed it for 2 years, then got a 43' than I've sailed for 4 years. Still have a year to go before heading out.

My advise; sailing is easy and you don't need a bunch of time on the final boat. Owning a big boat is expensive and has cost me on average $10k/yr that could have gone into the cruising kittery savings. So if you are happy weekend sailing on a trailerable boat do so until you are within 1 year of leaving to go cruising!

Cruising is just doing maintenance in different places. No really any extra learning to be had just because you do it at your home waters.
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Old 23-01-2015, 06:08   #10
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Re: Go big or training wheels?

My current boat is my first sailboat, I single hand it and so far it's not been difficult, but I have not been in any real nasty weather either. I know a real storm will be a different thing.
I understand that there is 25,000 lbs of inertia with this thing and take it easy, I think the ideal would have been to start on a smaller boat, but I wanted a boat we could stay on comfortably as we live 3 hours from the boat.
I'm on what is a 2 yr plan, maybe shorter based on job and my tolerance to continue working.
I believe it's going to take me a yr at least to get the boat re-fit for living aboard and extended cruising as I plan on doing it myself on weekends and sail some too.

I think if you buy and sell a couple of boats it's going to get expensive, so if your real sure, I'd say buy the "big" boat, although 38' isn't big anymore, you just have to respect the size and weight.

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Old 23-01-2015, 06:12   #11
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Re: Go big or training wheels?

Have you considered purchasing the smaller boat and using the funds saved to schedule several extended charters for the next year or two? The charters would let you see how well you like living on board and also let you see what changes re: the sailing experience when moving up to a larger boat.

Don't forget that ownership implies more than just sailing. You have to be able to comfortably deal with more (and more complex) systems on the larger boat.

When we were shopping for our first boat (last year), we saw some really nice boats in the 35-38' range, but opted for a simpler 30' boat. It has provided great sailing experience as well as served as a great learning platform for all of the systems comprising the boat without being overwhelming.

As others have said, there is no right or wrong answer, but you need to be honest with yourself regarding your sailing and maintenance experience, your willingness to learn and the amount of time you are willing to spend on keeping the boat ready for sailing.
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Old 23-01-2015, 06:56   #12
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Re: Go big or training wheels?

Since you mentioned starting with formal instruction / training, I'll throw out another "starter" option that was briefly mentioned by SailorBoy1. Some Sailing Schools also have Clubs that offer rentals / charters of a range of boat sizes.

As you move up the knowledge & skill ladder with certifications, you will be able to rent / charter a larger boat. It really pays dividends early when you learn on a small boat i.e.; J/24, then go out on your own on the same boat to practice often with a more experienced Club member early on.

It will allow you to get your "feet wet" without all distractions of ownership when learning should be the main focus.

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Old 23-01-2015, 08:26   #13
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Re: Go big or training wheels?

My philosophy is own small and rent big, but that is based on my budget and my (in)tolerance for learning how to do boat projects that are large, complex and expensive, versus projects that are simpler and relatively inexpensive. The money I save in the ensuing years will help me be buy a larger boat (if I still have the desire then) that will need less work.

I have chartered large boats and it is a blast, especially since I don't have to maintain a big boat. The cost of chartering for a week or two per year is less than the cost of owning a 40'+ sailboat. You can learn a lot about cruising and different boats by chartering, and you get to experience different cruising areas.

However, I came to realize that those cruising boats, while easy to sail, did not give me feel for sailing that small boats do. I knew that learning to sail well would come much easier/faster/more fun in a small boat.

There is no problem with launching; I keep my boat mast-up on a trailer. Putting it in the water takes about five minutes. Getting back on the trailer; about ten minutes. Time saved cleaning the bottom: ?? Plus, a small boat can be tied to a mooring or put in a slip just like a larger boat.

I do acknowledge that there are skills I am not developing yet, such as how to maintain and repair: inboard engines and drivetrains, water and waste plumbing and storage systems, power generation/storage/conversion systems, refrigeration sytems. But those are expensive distractions that just get in the way of the joy of sailing. I'll figure them out later, when I am closer to actually needing those skills, and I don't need to spend 5 days a week working to build-up the cruising bank.
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Old 23-01-2015, 09:02   #14
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Re: Go big or training wheels?

stick to the plan. get youself a cosair cat, catalina 27. bigger boats cost more to operate. you can get in more trouble, have less of a good time. 38 ft boat is a lot of boat for an experinced sailor.

take some lessons on whatever you buy. all boats have differnet sailing charteristics.

i single hand my 49 ft boat but i used to teach sailing and have been doing it for 35 years. its a lot to handle if you do not anticpate and know whats going on around you
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Old 23-01-2015, 09:12   #15
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Re: Go big or training wheels?

Get a 27ish boat in a wet slip that is ready to sail.

We looked at trailerable 22s and 25s and decided to just save the hassle and get a 27 that was in a slip.

We went sailing almost every weekend for a year and took a few multi week trips, loved it and when we broke something or had things go south it did not kill the budget.

Now we have a bigger boat we miss the care free and lower cost days on our 27, but not the small cabin and poor sleeping arrangements.

Initially when we started we thought a 36 or 38 would be a good size for our end up on boat, but after our time on the 27 found out a 30 was enough for us.


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