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Old 26-04-2009, 18:01   #1
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Help! Buying First Boat!

My wife and I are relatively new to sailing, but we have been around water as far back as we can remember, and we want to purchase our own boat this year.
I've been sailing on/off with friends (and who ever else might need a crew) for ~5 years, getting more seriously in to it the past 2 years. I am getting comfortable on a sail boat, and feel that I am just a little ways away of being very comfortable on my own boat.
My wife is quite green, but took beginner sailing lessons last year, and she is feeling very comfortable now.
I love where we live in NE IL/SE WI, but the sailing season here is just too short. I don't want to stick a ton of money in to something that I can only use for 6 months out of the year (if we're lucky), but I have no problem in spending the money to get something reliable and in good shape.
We have sailed everything from 20' boats to 36' boats, and a few boats in between, and we had fun on all size boats.
We will be sailing 100% on Lake Michigan, which as most of you probably now, can kick up very quickly. It's not like sailing off-shore in the ocean, but it can get hairy very quick, so we need something that tracks great and is stable even in rough weather.
I'm writing this post so that I can hear from you experienced folks two things...1) what is the best size range of boat for our criteria below, 2) please list your top 5 to 10 proven boats for reliability (hull and general equipment) --- brands and models would be appreciated.
Criteria for our boat will be:
*Up to 6 adults on board at one time
*We will be using the boat primarily for day sailing, but 25% of the use will be for overnight trips of 1 to 3 nights, and 10% of the use will be for overnight trips to 4 nights or more with 4 adults
*Relatively comfortable accomodations in cabin
*Decent racer to participate in club races --- nothing major, but something that will keep up with the rest of the boats out there
*We would like to stay <$20k to leave room in our budget for upgrades, but if we can get a boat for $10k we would be thrilled
If I need to post any other desired details, please let me know.

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Old 26-04-2009, 19:38   #2
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I think a J 30 would meet your stated goals very well. There is one listed on the Northern Breezes multi-list with an asking price of 32K. Some Tartan 30s and Catalina 30s may come up in that price as well. A cal 25, or Catalina 27, may not be quite as big, beefy or roomy as you want, but they are often available at such good prices, you might want to consider the trade-offs. A Person 28 would be capable, but also a bit small for the numbers you suggested. Again, I suggest looking at the Northern Breezes multi-list ( Welcome to Sailing Breezes Online Magazine ) addition to and

I happily sailed Lake Superior for a summer in 26-foot Westerly Centaur as well as from Milwaukee to the Apostle Islands another summer. However, 6 for day sailing and 4 for even short cruises would really be pushing it on a boat that size in my opinion.

Boat buying here in the midwest is somewhat seasonal. The selection will start going down once we get into summer, so it pays to get on it early in the Spring.

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Old 26-04-2009, 19:57   #3
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I would suggest a Catalina 30:

They are plenty proven for near shore and extended coastal passages and plenty big for 1 couple..(A bit snug for 6 fat folks however..)

Quality seems to be good, so does factory support.

We have several friend who love their Catalina 30s..Great Bahamas boat.
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Old 27-04-2009, 10:11   #4
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Thank you for the feedback.

I figured the money figure I threw out there was somewhat unrealistic for a boat on the larger side, say 30'+, but I was hoping that for that price we could get something good on the smaller side.

All in all, I am most concerned about safety and quality, and much less concerned about price.

I have spent a fair amount of time on a 28' boat with up to 6 adults, and I found it comfortable and felt very safe. That was the basis for my 4 adults for an overnight trip. We're very used to packing light and camping in close quarters with others, so that kind of stuff does not bother us, but I also want to make sure that 4 adults (total combined weight of approx. 650 pounds) plus gear for a few nights would be safe aboard a 26' or 28' boat for on Lake Michigan or Lake Superior.

Honestly, 75% of the time on anything more than a day sail it is just going to be my wife and I, and the rest of the time it will probably be one other couple at most.

Is a 24 to 26 foot boat something that is safe enough for the above listed scenarios on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior?

I have been around power boats all my life, and in some cases I wouldn't think of going out on Lake Michigan in a 35' boat, but I have not been in rough seas very much on a sailboat. My most experience on rough seas came in a 28' boat with 5 adults on board, and I felt very safe and secure and was impressed on how a sailboat handled versus a power boat.
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Old 27-04-2009, 11:03   #5
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There are many factors that go into a boat's seakindliness or seaworthiness including, construction, length, systems, maintenance, the captain and crew's handling and of course what seas you take her out in. For day sailing it's much easier to choose your conditions that it is when cruising.

A friend of mine regularly sailed a 26-foot folk boat out of the Milwaukee area. I spent May - August cruising Lake Superior on a 26-footer, so yes one can sail those lakes on a pocket cruiser. I've also enjoyed the Apostle Islands in a 17-foot Sea Kayak. Then again, late season conditions also helped bring the Edmund Fitzgerald to the bottom. There is really no pat answer to your question, but I think your view of spending money on quality, not just length is sound thinking. In the end you just need to look at what's there and decide how it fits your own priorities. I know for me looking at a lot of boats, physically getting on them really helped make the trade-offs clearer. From what you've said, spending a little more on something in the 30-foot range as opposed to 26-28 may be worth your while. Go get on each, then hopefully you'll know.
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Old 28-04-2009, 01:24   #6
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I would suggest looking at boats with a keel that would fall into the moderate to heavy cruiser category - ratios like length/displacement, sail area/displacement, etc. can assist greatly in narrowing the search.

The other component that makes for a "safe" boat under a variety of conditions is up to you - reefing setup, preparing the boat for rough weather, etc., these are issues you need to address no matter which boat you buy.

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Old 28-04-2009, 06:26   #7
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First I'd like to clarify a very common mis-conception among new boaters.

Size has little to do with a boat's sea worthiness.

find and read John Vigor's book, "20 Small Sailboats to take you anywhere" Twenty Small Sailboats to Take You Anywhere: John Vigor: Books

good luck with your search

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Old 18-05-2009, 11:37   #8
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It is nice to see another Illinois sailor out there, A 26-28 footer can do very well on lake Michigan. Depending on your anchorage or marina, a smaller boat could lower your costs significantly. Obviously it is hard to find a boat that does well in races, is comfortable, and low cost, but if you are willing to compromise a little, you may find some excellent deals. I agree with Nautical62 that boat buying in the midwest is seasonal. Waukegan, Il has a number of boats for sale usually.
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Old 18-05-2009, 12:57   #9
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Aloha Scook,

Atom Voyages | Voyages Aboard the Sailboat Atom -* Good Old Boats List - choosing a* small voyaging sailboat and John Vigor's book are good places to start. You'll find that a "bluewater take you anywhere boat" will not be competitive in club racing. Racing and seakindliness are not mutually exclusive 100% of the time but it takes a much larger boat to have both. With anything you buy there is a sacrifice somewhere or another to get what you want. There is one boat that is competitive but may not have a following in your area. The 26' International Folkboat is raced in the San Francisco Bay and is a round the world cruiser for those who don't mind headroom for a "little person" (about 4'6"). It is very similar to the Contessa 26. They are great sailers.
Good luck in your search.
Kind regards,

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