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Old 03-08-2013, 08:36   #1
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Sailboat Buying Considerations

This is NOT a "What sailboat should I buy?" thread. I know that the answer depends on how I'll use the sailboat, and individual preferences.

This is a thread where I'm asking the community to provide input and feedback on my decision making process. I will be a first-time boat buyer and would welcome feedback on my buying considerations.

First, a bit about me. I'm essentially a novice sailor (I have sailed at camp as a youth). My wife and I are in our mid 40s. We have been blessed with better than average financial means, have no debts or obligations, etc. We could probably retire in our mid 50s and cruise around the world... if that's what we turn out liking. As much as possible, I think we'd like to "couple sail" the boat (ie, shorthanded).

We live fairly near the Annapolis, MD, so we have access to excellent sailing.

My wife really dislikes "roughing it". She's the kind of person who would love day hiking through mountains during the day, as long as she can have an excellent warm meal with wine and a nice bed in a resort at night. No judgment, just telling it like it is. She also gets seasick on boats of all kinds (including cruise ships.)

My wife is amenable to taking ASA sailing lessons both to learn, and to see if we can get the seasickness thing fixed. She's amenable to considering purchasing a boat for cruising in the Chesapeake, if we succeed on the lessons.

In my fantasy world (trying not to dream quite as much as the Flyin' Hawaiian guy), we'll get ASA certified, practice for a summer in the Chesapeake through leasing smaller boats through a sailing club (or the training school), take a bareback cruise in the Caribbean the next summer, then buy a boat.

Then we'll gain experience in our new boat in the Chesepeake, and expand our range through coastal cruising up to Maine and down to the Florida Keys. Finally, in my fantasy world, after we've spent ~5 years developing experience, we'll do an ARC rally across the Atlantic and cruise in the Mediterranean for 1-2 years to kick off early retirement.

Question #1: Does this sound like a reasonable approach?

Question #2: Should we buy a sailboat sooner? If so, should it be a small starter and trailerable boat, or should we jump straight to a coastal cruiser? I don't even know what the considerations here are yet.

We can afford jumping to the coastal or blue water cruising boat right away, though we are fiscally prudent and I hate to spend money foolishly. But I feel like if we have a boat, we can learn on it, and we might come to love it sooner.

One consideration is that my wife is highly sunlight dependent and as I mentioned, hates roughing it. She really hates the idea of disappearing into the bowels of a boat. This leads me to look at boats with open designs like the Moody 45 DS, Beneteau Sense 46, and Bavarian Vision 46. Personally, I'd be perfectly happy with a more standard (or "blue water") boat, but I think my wife needs the openness and luxury of these newer boats.

Question #3: Given that I'll probably be buying an expensive boat, and that I think (though I don't know for sure) that I'd like to cross the Atlantic to cruise in the Mediterranean, how much should I worry about the blue water capabilities of our first boat? I see mixed messages about whether the Beneteau Sense and Bavarian Vision would be suitable for blue water cruising. I know that this is a bit of a controversial topic, but I'd love some insight into this.

Question #4: How much should I worry about build quality? We'll do what it takes to maintain the boat properly. I won't buy more boat than I can afford to maintain. Is there really that much variation in the newer "production" boats? I see a lot of attitude about Beneteaus and Bavarians on various forums and websites, but it is hard for me to tell how much of that is snob appeal or based on build problems in the past, and how much is valid. I am happy to spend money on quality but do not need to spend money on snob appeal.

Question #5: Given that at most we'll be cruising in the Chesapeake or light coastal cruising for several years, should I purchase/outfit the new boat with stuff needed for cross-Atlantic trips like generator, water maker, extra batteries, etc? Or should I wait? I'm not very handy so in some sense I'd prefer the factory to do it at time of boat purchase (or have it already installed if I purchased used) but I know that the equipment degrades a bit each day and having stuff depreciating while not being used is a waste.

Question #6: Given that fulfilling my dreams of cruising depends quite a lot on my wife being happy in whatever boat we choose, is it reasonable to make the choice on "quality of life" primarily and sailing characteristics secondarily? Or do you think I'll come to regret having a "nice to live on" boat that doesn't sail well later? I know this is super subjective, and that many boats offer both quality of life and great sailing, but I'm just looking for perspectives from people with more experience.

I know these are a lot of deep questions, most of which have highly subjective answers. Just looking for a bit of discussion and feedback for me to take into consideration. Thanks a lot in advance for helping a guy figure out his options.
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Old 03-08-2013, 08:58   #2
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Re: Sailboat Buying Considerations

I would not buy a boat right away. I would take the classes and do a few bareboat charters. Then you will know if your wife is on board or not. You will also know more about boats, and what you want in a boat that you are going to buy, by then.

Do it that way and you'll already know how to answer most of these questions for yourself by the time you are ready to buy.

I would also mention that my wife was a little hesitant about the whole sailing thing until we did a bareboat charter in the BVI. The sailing down there is great, the stops along the way are very nice, and after that she was completely sold on the idea of going farther and spending more time on boats.

Good luck to you.
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Old 03-08-2013, 09:13   #3
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Re: Sailboat Buying Considerations

Just four words: cat a mar an.
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Old 03-08-2013, 09:29   #4
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Welcome aboard.

Much of your plan is solid in my opinion. We did pretty much the same thing, reading, classes, talking to people, bareboat charters. What we did not do was buy a smallish boat first, then move up to a larger one, but jumped into what we felt would fit our needs long term. For us it worked out perfectly so far, as we purchased a 40ft catamaran outfitted with many of the things we knew we would have ended up installing anyway for long term cruising. We have had the boat now for about 1.5 years and live aboard part time. Each time we're on board we stretch ourselves by sailing farther, in more challenging conditions, and learn more through drills and new ideas. We also have added or upgraded systems we think will make our time on board more enjoyable. It looks to me like you will be successful in the long run, but more than anything enjoy this new part of your life, it's been a wonderful for us so far.
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Old 03-08-2013, 09:32   #5
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Re: Sailboat Buying Considerations

Very good questions. Basically, yyou have the right approach. The real "issue" is your first boat purchase. I would highly recommend buying a coastal cruiser first and learning all about boat systems before you try your hand at a long term purchase.

Nigel Calder's Cruising Handbook is a good book to learn about the features of cruising boats.

You need to learn to be a plumber, mechanic and electrician as well as a sailor.

Good luck.
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Old 03-08-2013, 09:37   #6
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Re: Sailboat Buying Considerations

After reading your situation, I think the biggest obstacle you will face is your spouse. She doesn't like "roughing" it and you have a dream. These things may conflict. The key will be to get her on your side and help her share your dream. To do that it means you must show her how good your dream can be.

Personally, if that were my situation, I'd avoid ASA, small boats, monohulls (agree with Snort: go catamaran at first), or anything resembling rough weather, and I def wouldn't be thinking about buying a boat yet. I'd be trying to bring her on charter catamarans in beautiful locations. Try to show her all the good up front until she can start to have the dream too, then you can get into the technical nitty gritty and harder stuff, like picking a boat to buy.

On the sea sickness issue: I was a very long time sufferer of it. Once I found scopolamine pills they changed my life. Everyone that gets sea sick seems to find something different that works for them, so don't give up, just keep trying different remedies until you get what works for her. Took me 20 years to find the right thing!
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Old 03-08-2013, 10:04   #7
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Re: Sailboat Buying Considerations

To the OP, you should read Target's blog. This skipper knows what he's talking about.
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Old 03-08-2013, 10:36   #8
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Re: Sailboat Buying Considerations

Quote:
Originally Posted by mogget4 View Post
....My wife really dislikes "roughing it". She's the kind of person who would love day hiking through mountains during the day, as long as she can have an excellent warm meal with wine and a nice bed in a resort at night. No judgment, just telling it like it is. She also gets seasick on boats of all kinds (including cruise ships.)
The seasickness could be a real issue. A catamaran would help, but if she gets sick on a cruise boat, that may not do it.
My wife is amenable to taking ASA sailing lessons both to learn, and to see if we can get the seasickness thing fixed. She's amenable to considering purchasing a boat for cruising in the Chesapeake, if we succeed on the lessons.
Depends on her..... some people may just get zoned out learning all the nomenclature, etc etc. I dont think taking classes will get someone hooked on sailing... but I could be wrong... it's personality dependent I suppose. If she will be more comfortable having taken the classes... then that is good.
In my fantasy world (trying not to dream quite as much as the Flyin' Hawaiian guy), we'll get ASA certified, practice for a summer in the Chesapeake through leasing smaller boats through a sailing club (or the training school), take a bareback cruise in the Caribbean the next summer, then buy a boat.

Then we'll gain experience in our new boat in the Chesepeake, and expand our range through coastal cruising up to Maine and down to the Florida Keys. Finally, in my fantasy world, after we've spent ~5 years developing experience, we'll do an ARC rally across the Atlantic and cruise in the Mediterranean for 1-2 years to kick off early retirement.

Question #1: Does this sound like a reasonable approach? Yes, but dont focus to much on the long term. Just get sailing and have fun.

Question #2: Should we buy a sailboat sooner? If so, should it be a small starter and trailerable boat, or should we jump straight to a coastal cruiser? I don't even know what the considerations here are yet.
Renting boats is not the same as walking onto yours and knowing what you have there and are comfortable with it. It may take a year of ownership to get your boat to where you have finally got most everything on it you need without feeling like you are "camping" every time you go out.

We can afford jumping to the coastal or blue water cruising boat right away, though we are fiscally prudent and I hate to spend money foolishly. But I feel like if we have a boat, we can learn on it, and we might come to love it sooner. It sounds like your spouse will be happier with some nice accomodation, that probably starts at 32 feet and gets real good at 40 ft. It is a conundrum though, if you end up not liking sailing, you take a loss most of the time reselling.

One consideration is that my wife is highly sunlight dependent and as I mentioned, hates roughing it. She really hates the idea of disappearing into the bowels of a boat. This leads me to look at boats with open designs like the Moody 45 DS, Beneteau Sense 46, and Bavarian Vision 46. Personally, I'd be perfectly happy with a more standard (or "blue water") boat, but I think my wife needs the openness and luxury of these newer boats. I share her opinion... so many of the very nice boats I've owned have been the traditional "caves". Nothing like sitting at the dinette, drinking the morning coffee and being able to see what's going on around you, as well as the feeling of light and open-ness. It's easy enough to get bored on a boat, in a cave it's worse. Another vote for a catamaran I guess!

Question #3: Given that I'll probably be buying an expensive boat, and that I think (though I don't know for sure) that I'd like to cross the Atlantic to cruise in the Mediterranean, how much should I worry about the blue water capabilities of our first boat? I see mixed messages about whether the Beneteau Sense and Bavarian Vision would be suitable for blue water cruising. I know that this is a bit of a controversial topic, but I'd love some insight into this. Tough one. It's more about the sailor than the boat, BUT, well found tough boats are more "foolproof". Frankly, at this stage... I would cross the Atlantic offshore requirement off the list and see what develops.

Question #4: How much should I worry about build quality? We'll do what it takes to maintain the boat properly. I won't buy more boat than I can afford to maintain. Is there really that much variation in the newer "production" boats? I see a lot of attitude about Beneteaus and Bavarians on various forums and websites, but it is hard for me to tell how much of that is snob appeal or based on build problems in the past, and how much is valid. I am happy to spend money on quality but do not need to spend money on snob appeal.
probably not, although an Island Packet or something along those lines is likely a step up from the highest production lighter boats.

Question #5: Given that at most we'll be cruising in the Chesapeake or light coastal cruising for several years, should I purchase/outfit the new boat with stuff needed for cross-Atlantic trips like generator, water maker, extra batteries, etc? Or should I wait? I'm not very handy so in some sense I'd prefer the factory to do it at time of boat purchase (or have it already installed if I purchased used) but I know that the equipment degrades a bit each day and having stuff depreciating while not being used is a waste.
NO
Question #6: Given that fulfilling my dreams of cruising depends quite a lot on my wife being happy in whatever boat we choose, is it reasonable to make the choice on "quality of life" primarily and sailing characteristics secondarily? Or do you think I'll come to regret having a "nice to live on" boat that doesn't sail well later? I know this is super subjective, and that many boats offer both quality of life and great sailing, but I'm just looking for perspectives from people with more experience.
YES, most any boat will take you there, to each his own. A Westsail 32 is not a great sailor yet people have sailed them all over the globe for 30 years. Whatever boat fits you fits you.
I know these are a lot of deep questions, most of which have highly subjective answers. Just looking for a bit of discussion and feedback for me to take into consideration. Thanks a lot in advance for helping a guy figure out his options.
My answers in bold above, hope this helps. If you can afford one a Cat is a great answer to your questions. Comfortable, fast, stable, no heeling, roomy, daylight and good vision....
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Old 03-08-2013, 17:02   #9
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Re: Sailboat Buying Considerations

Thanks for all of the great responses, everyone! Lots of good things for me to think about. I really appreciate the advice from everyone.

I'm now seriously drooling over the Discovery 50 Catamaran (and from what I've learned of build quality so far, it ticks all the boxes).
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Old 03-08-2013, 17:22   #10
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Re: Sailboat Buying Considerations

Try to not get too disillusioned about the romantic concept of cruising. Everyone in your situation has their perception of what it's really like but very few ever face the realities which is why there are so many boats for sale in the typical destinations enroute.

Try sleeping in a cold, damp closet which is rocking in 3 separate directions. If that works, ask your wife to do the same but wake up in the dark, crawl to the bathroom and do her business while sea sick sets in. Then cook breakfast while rolling after trying in vain to find the intended ingredients which have been destroyed by stray water. After not eating, run out to make emergency repairs in the stinging rain with tools you just dropped overboard.
Repeat for 12 days and you have a good representation of your first crossing. Write back and let us know if you are looking for a new condo instead.


note - I have not seriously exaggerated as that set of events plus a lot more is typical of my experience and I did leave out the good part - getting there.

My only point is to walk slowing into this adventure with your eyes open and after getting some experience.
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Old 03-08-2013, 18:38   #11
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Re: Sailboat Buying Considerations

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the romantic concept of cruising
Thanks, I will take your advice. I'm sure you folks get a lot of hopeless romantics on these forums--it has to be something about the freedom of the sea--and I certainly might be one of them. I appreciate that it is important for you to splash a bit of the cold water of reality on the romantics' faces.

However, I have experienced serious privation and discomfort while on multi-week backpacking and canoeing treks into the wilderness with nothing but what I can carry on my back. At these times out in the elements with minimal physical baggage I have felt the most intensely alive, and I've found that for me the lows (like bad weather) are interesting in their own intense way and make the highs feel that much higher.

Any privation that involves indoor plumbing, an actual bed, and an occasional roof over head seems doable to me. The things that I fear on passage making most that I haven't experienced are chronic seasickness, being dependent on gear that I might not have the knowledge or tools to fix, and dying by falling overboard or in a storm.

As I said earlier, my wife doesn't like privation so I'm not sure whether she'd like cruising. So I will take it slowly as you said, and also introduce her via a Catamaran in BVI as others suggested.

There are other things that I think would strongly appeal to my wife, such as independence, self-sufficiency, great weather, freedom, etc. Plus I know both of us have a goal of seeing as many World UNESCO Heritage sites as possible before we die, and a lot of them are accessible by boat in the Mediterranean. If she doesn't like it after a few charters, we'll have not lost much.

Thanks again to everyone for the excellent advice.
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Old 03-08-2013, 19:41   #12
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Re: Sailboat Buying Considerations

Your approach is a lot more realistic then mine. looks like you have a plan put together and all that. I will put another vote in for a cat. more amenities for the first mate. Always heard and starting to get it first hand"you learn more on a smaller boat" so if the ms. is up for bareboat on nice big boats maybe you should hook up with some guys at the local club and get some experience on some smaller ones. 20-24 .. get blown around a little and really learn how to tune your sails.

all in all looks good have fun keep us informed.
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Old 03-08-2013, 23:27   #13
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Re: Sailboat Buying Considerations

Lotsa good replies here. We will add two rules...
  1. Take your time! There are a myriad of choices you will have to make, many of which you would not even know about just now. Time will help you to learn about both those choices and your own preferences.
  2. Sail on (charter and test sail) as many vessels as possible. You will learn heaps about both the vessels and your own preferences.
We'll also specifically endorse the posts to the effect that you need to assess your Admiral's reactions to real time at sea before you make any decisions; that's yet another reason, of course, to "take your time" with the whole process. Go sailing (charter or test sail) together, as often as possible.

We also endorse the posts suggesting you lean toward catamarans. After many years on monohulls, the Captain here was reluctant at first to move to the 'dark side', but he's now 100% sold. From very little experience at the start, the Admiral's now a fairly experienced sailor with some solid 'blue water' miles and no issues with the big conditions, but she's still adamant she's not at all interested in doing any seatime on a monohull...and the Captain's very happy with that now too!

Good luck in your search...and wishing you fair winds and following seas always.
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Old 04-08-2013, 00:13   #14
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Re: Sailboat Buying Considerations

I'll also endorse the suggestions of a catamaran, or at least put a high priority on evaluating a few. Don't forget that catamarans are much bigger (and more expensive) than monos of equivalent length.

I don't know how yous are placed for spare time but a few charters in the Caribbean may be more effective (and financially comparable to) than buying a starter boat.

It's a distance from Oz but my impression is that rough seas there are the exception rather than the norm. One rough trip could be enough to put an end to your cruising plans so starting in one of the more pleasant Caribbean areas may be the go.

And there's always the possibility that your wife may be quite happy with you barbequing at the back of a boat sitting in an expensive marina with the odd cruise thrown in or some equivalent situation. Not what you have planned but if company is what you want then it's a possible alternative.
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Old 04-08-2013, 00:34   #15
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Re: Sailboat Buying Considerations

You described our situation five years ago almost exactly, now in our mid fifties we're out doing it, first in California on a 45ft Hunter and now in the Med on an Oyster 53... only, I'm the one with the seasick issue, which can be solved.

A couple of things: Go o the boat show an look at the Oysters, Discovery 55, etc. and you'll find them build specifically for a cruising couple, right now there are over 40 couples sailing around the world on an organized Oyster world rally, not to mention many more like us who live at least 4 months of the year on their boats.

Buy the boat with the generator and watermaker now, otherwise your wife will be turned off by boating... mine was even though it was originally her idea. Without those two important items... you'll be camping, period... 'nuff said.

I know I'll get lots of criticism for what I've said, but go to the boat shows and see for yourself. My wife never felt secure in our (you place the name of the production boat here) Hunter, the security issue has more to do with ergonomic hand holds, no creaking inside, lot's of storage, everything held in place when the boat heels and no hull slamming when the boat is underway. You won't find those qualities in the Beneteau Sense line, but they do look really nice at the boat show.

Ventilation of fresh air is HUGE. Forget about counting on air conditioning, most of the time you'll want to open up lots of windows and portholes. When you eventually head out sailing to places like the Med., you're going to spend most of your time in very little clothing just enjoying the fresh breezes, not deep inside a boat with the air conditioner and generator turned on. Look for BIG opening windows at the show, Oysters have those huge forward looking opening windows which are a big asset...one small extra that means a lot while cruising.

A fifty foot boat and above is a nice size for what you have planned, any smaller and it gets tight and feels more like camping; you'll need the extra space for extended stays on the water.

Meclizine HCL 25mg is my wonder drug for seasickness. No drowsy side effects; I take two in the morning on days when we have a passage planned and I'm good for 12 hours. You can buy it over-the-counter without a prescription.

If you don't mind the outward appearance, look at a 45ft catamaran. Our friend's lagoon 450 is enormous, costs about half what a new Oyster costs and has all the traits you're looking for. If someone were to offer me a Sunreef 60 in a 1:1 swap for the Oyster... I'd do it. Catamarans are just like you haven't left home.
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