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Old 27-06-2013, 08:42   #1
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Quest for the Perfect Cruiser

I’m trying to narrow down choices that best meet my needs. My wife and I are approaching retirement, and thinking that once we do we’d like to cruise for 3-6 months at a time, targeting the Florida Keys, Bahamas, and perhaps eventually the Caribbean. We have no ambitions of crossing the Atlantic.

We’re thinking about a 35-40 foot monohull for this purpose. I’ve sailed for 30 years off and on and done some racing on 35 foot boats, along with some bareboating.

We’re looking for a comfortable cruiser of a quality make for medium-term voyages. Performance isn’t the primary motive, but I do like to sail. In narrowing down choices to something in our price range (about 75K, including refit) it seems I find two main categories of boat:

1. There are LOTS of older 36-40 foot boats (30-40 years old), previously very hardy makes, available for 30-35K, but needing what appears to be lots of work. Think Pearson 36 or one of the many 36-39 foot boats out there looking for some TLC, some with original sails, but often needing some canvas and electronics. It seems like you could trick one out fairly well for $35K. The danger here seems to be that the updates always seem to be more extensive than you realize – and those updates don’t increase the value. The temptation becomes "We don't really have to spend our whole budget, do we?"

2. There are a few more modern boats (around 20 years old) that appear to be better equipped and maintained, but also likely not perfect, but available for closer to our budget. They tend to be between 33 and 36 feet. Think Island Packet 32 or Caliber 35, though people seem to want closer to 90K for these boats.


So a few questions come to mind.

1. Are those 35-40 year old boats always money pits? What would be the key difference between a money pit and a bargain? Can you fix it up “just enough” for cruising and still cruise safely?
2. It seems that those out cruising migrate to bigger boats when they get a chance. Can you comfortably cruise on a 35 foot boat, or do you go stir crazy after a month? I'd like to avoid having to sell in a couple of years to purchase a bigger boat. If we really can't meet our goals on a 35 foot boat, we'd likely be better off saving for bigger initially.

3. What would be your dream cruising sailboat for around $75K?


I realize the above brings up many topics. Any and all commentary appreciated.


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Old 27-06-2013, 08:48   #2
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Re: Quest for the perfect cruiser

Too many variables. You have to judge each boat on its merits for you and realize the cost will probably be more than you expect. If you can find a boat that has already been reconditioned (right) in last five years you will get most for your money.
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Old 27-06-2013, 09:15   #3
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Re: Quest for the perfect cruiser

I realize there are lots of variables, and I could have asked each of these questions in different threads.

It's a three-parter, so answers to any of the three is helpful.

I always hate those "what boat should I buy" questions. Kind of like "what color do I like?"

Still, I've got to believe there are others who made this choice in the past, with similar needs to ours, who learned something. Experience is the best teacher, but for a change I'd like to learn from someone else's.
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Old 27-06-2013, 09:16   #4
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Re: Quest for the perfect cruiser

Quote:
Originally Posted by letsgetsailing3 View Post
I’m trying to narrow down choices that best meet my needs. My wife and I are approaching retirement, and thinking that once we do we’d like to cruise for 3-6 months at a time, targeting the Florida Keys, Bahamas, and perhaps eventually the Caribbean. We have no ambitions of crossing the Atlantic.

We’re thinking about a 35-40 foot monohull for this purpose. I’ve sailed for 30 years off and on and done some racing on 35 foot boats, along with some bareboating.

We’re looking for a comfortable cruiser of a quality make for medium-term voyages. Performance isn’t the primary motive, but I do like to sail. In narrowing down choices to something in our price range (about 75K, including refit) it seems I find two main categories of boat:

1. There are LOTS of older 36-40 foot boats (30-40 years old), previously very hardy makes, available for 30-35K, but needing what appears to be lots of work. Think Pearson 36 or one of the many 36-39 foot boats out there looking for some TLC, some with original sails, but often needing some canvas and electronics. It seems like you could trick one out fairly well for $35K. The danger here seems to be that the updates always seem to be more extensive than you realize – and those updates don’t increase the value. The temptation becomes "We don't really have to spend our whole budget, do we?"

2. There are a few more modern boats (around 20 years old) that appear to be better equipped and maintained, but also likely not perfect, but available for closer to our budget. They tend to be between 33 and 36 feet. Think Island Packet 32 or Caliber 35, though people seem to want closer to 90K for these boats.


So a few questions come to mind.

1. Are those 35-40 year old boats always money pits? What would be the key difference between a money pit and a bargain? Can you fix it up “just enough” for cruising and still cruise safely?
2. It seems that those out cruising migrate to bigger boats when they get a chance. Can you comfortably cruise on a 35 foot boat, or do you go stir crazy after a month? I'd like to avoid having to sell in a couple of years to purchase a bigger boat. If we really can't meet our goals on a 35 foot boat, we'd likely be better off saving for bigger initially.

3. What would be your dream cruising sailboat for around $75K?


I realize the above brings up many topics. Any and all commentary appreciated.

I belive all boats are money pits,old or new..If you buy an old boat in sound condition no need to spend 75,000 ,they are there for lots less,of course Im cheap like that..good luck with the hunt and remember if you start at the bottom and go up in the boat market you may find that 75,000 dollar boat for a lot less,whereas if you start by looking at 50,000+ boats you may miss the good deal on the good boat at a cheap price,does that make any sense? Fair winds
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Old 27-06-2013, 09:28   #5
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Re: Quest for the perfect cruiser

If you are patient you can find an older boat owned by someone who is not poor and loves working on their boat more than actually sailing. There are some gems out there.
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Old 27-06-2013, 09:30   #6
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Re: Quest for the perfect cruiser

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If you are patient you can find an older boat owned by someone who is not poor and loves working on their boat more than actually sailing. There are some gems out there.
Yes, please.

I've noticed that more people tend to go the "deferred maintenance until I realize the boat is no longer functional, and then price it so it won't sell for another year" route.
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Old 27-06-2013, 09:35   #7
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Re: Quest for the perfect cruiser

I brought an almost 30 year old boat 2 years ago and am in the middle of a refit. A lot depends on how well the PO took care of the boat. My PO, though he only owned the boat 3 years did a great job maintaining the engine, replaced the standing rigging and brought new sails.

Unfortunately he used a lot of silicon on the deck leaks- which I am now repairing. Also upgrading the electronics, but most older boats require that, redoing the plumbing and doing a total refit of the head area.

Overall I'll probably spend in the neighborhood of $6,000.00 fixing her up, got her for a good price and she was exactly what I wanted in a boat. She's also the 3rd boat I owned so I knew what I was getting into.

I was looking for a full keeler, u-shape galley, nav-station with a quarter berth, strong and sails well and around 34-36 foot range. I'm mostly a single handed sailor and feel the most comfortable with that size boat in both sailing her, maintaining her and maintenance costs. Retiring in 2 years and will have a fixed income...

Hope this helped
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Old 27-06-2013, 10:35   #8
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Re: Quest for the perfect cruiser

I have had my almost 40 year old boat for 2 years now. She was in terrible shape and I knew it and the price reflected it. I am at the end of the money faucet being on and can say that I have spent as much on her fixing her up and modernizing everything as was the original price. Still, if you add the price of the vessel and repair cost (I did all the labor myself), I'm still under what they are going for.
You can check out my blog and see the progress.
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Old 27-06-2013, 10:54   #9
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Re: Quest for the perfect cruiser

a) pick a boat that seems really comfortable and in the best shape you can find. If that is a Beneteau... that's fine for the Carribean and Florida!
b) Most of the gear on any boat is the same stuff; ie: a Oyster or a Hunter over 7-8 years old needs mostly everything not part of the basic boat replaced.. so it really doesnt matter if its a 1995 or a 1982 model.
c) Items that can get expensive that can be avoided entirely: teak decks, cored hulls, bolt on keels, worn out engines, riggin, sails.
d) Items that can get expensive and time consuming that cant be avoided, but watch out for them: Fuel tanks (if it's over 20 years old figure you'll have to replace it, if it's buried under furniture, dont buy it), water tanks to a lesser extent.

Be careful not to fall in the trap of "i can just spend $XX and have a great boat", what that often means is: "I can spend two times $XX and be doing boat work or having trouble with the people I hire for years"... instead of sailing!
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Old 27-06-2013, 11:03   #10
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Re: Quest for the perfect cruiser

1. Are those 35-40 year old boats always money pits?

To one degree or another ALL boats are money pits. Even brand new ones. Some pits are just deeper than others

What would be the key difference between a money pit and a bargain?

In my opinion and experience a money pit IE costs more to fix than buying a better boat for more money up front, will be one with serious structural problems or needing very expensive parts or repairs. Examples: boats with a wet core and delamination, rotten bulkheads, needing new engine, rig or other expensive stuff. NOTE: if you get it cheap enough to offset the cost of expensive stuff it may be worthwhile

Can you fix it up “just enough” for cruising and still cruise safely?

Certainly. Don't worry too much about spit and polish, fancy amenities and such. Just get the hull, rig and engine right and go.

2. It seems that those out cruising migrate to bigger boats when they get a chance. Can you comfortably cruise on a 35 foot boat

Yes, absolutely

, or do you go stir crazy after a month?

Depends on you and your personality


I'd like to avoid having to sell in a couple of years to purchase a bigger boat. If we really can't meet our goals on a 35 foot boat, we'd likely be better off saving for bigger initially.

If you don't have enough time in boats to determine what will make you happy long term it would pay to try out the life first. Do a charter, crew on a trip with someone or buy a smaller, cheap boat to putz around in locally to see how it works.


3. What would be your dream cruising sailboat for around $75K?

The one I have now, Pearson 422

I realize the above brings up many topics. Any and all commentary appreciated.
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Old 27-06-2013, 11:14   #11
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Re: Quest for the perfect cruiser

I think for what the OP says they want to do that the best thing to look at is the space to live on the boat! IMO the best answer is going to be a 90s era Hunter/Benny/Catalina. This would be good living boats, fast, more than enough to go longer distance in the correct season and still pretty new so that it isn't all beat up.

I bet a Hunter 40.5 or a Beneteau 393 could be found in the price range that doesn't need really anything done to it other a new person to love it.
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Old 27-06-2013, 11:31   #12
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Re: Quest for the perfect cruiser

Find a boat that has an EXTENSIVE owners group. That way you won't have to reinvent the wheel finding solutions for issues.

Most issues are electrical, engine and chainplates. All fixable. Depends on what you know how to do.

The REAL money pit is having a "yard" do the work for you. Plus, if you're off cruising on a boat where someone else did the work, you're SOL. YOU need to KNOW all this stuff.
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Old 27-06-2013, 11:50   #13
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Re: Quest for the perfect cruiser

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The REAL money pit is having a "yard" do the work for you. Plus, if you're off cruising on a boat where someone else did the work, you're SOL. YOU need to KNOW all this stuff.
Amen to that. The secret to fixing up an old boat is how much you can DIY. If you are going to pay a yard to do it you may as well go ahead and buy a brand new boat.
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Old 27-06-2013, 11:54   #14
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Re: Quest for the perfect cruiser

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The REAL money pit is having a "yard" do the work for you. Plus, if you're off cruising on a boat where someone else did the work, you're SOL. YOU need to KNOW all this stuff.
Totally agree with Stu. In the boatyard I'm in now, there's at least half dozen boats where the owners started having the yard work on them, got the bill and then abandoned the boats!

And nothing like rebuilding your boat to know it inside and out! What's great about working in a yard with a lot of other DIY boat owners, if you don't know how to do something- you'll get a dozen opinions of which 1 or 2 are the right way to do.
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Old 27-06-2013, 12:13   #15
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Re: Quest for the perfect cruiser

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Originally Posted by Celestialsailor View Post
I have had my almost 40 year old boat for 2 years now. She was in terrible shape and I knew it and the price reflected it. I am at the end of the money faucet being on and can say that I have spent as much on her fixing her up and modernizing everything as was the original price. Still, if you add the price of the vessel and repair cost (I did all the labor myself), I'm still under what they are going for.
You can check out my blog and see the progress.
I'm in a similar situation. I bought a very neglected boat that was 25 years old when purchased. Paid 20-25% less than the same boat in "ready to go" condition. Been working part time and weekends on the boat for three years now and when I'm done will have 10-15% more invested (not counting my time ) than the mythical "ready to go boat". But I will have new sails, new standing and running rigging, new plumbing, new holding tanks, all new pumps, new refrigerator, new inverter/charger, alternator, totally overhauled wiring and more.

Considering all those ready to sail boats might have replaced all that but by the time you buy it they will be at least a year or three or five used and not too far from time to replace again, so I still feel like I got a good deal. Plus as Bluemansailor said, nothing like knowing your boat inside out.

By the way, I really like the HRs. If I had found one in my budget when I was ready to buy I might have a different avatar.
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