Welcome to the forum,
A lot of the questions you ask are a bit complex. The complexity lies in the issues that come to the conclusions that the length of the boat is the net answer. Rather than length look at the displacement
is the ability to haul stuff, as in tonnage, and in your stuff. You water
, personal gear
and actually anything not directly attached to the boat. That includes things you know you need like an anchor
. If you can forget about length as only one measure of size the answer gets less complex.
For cruising on the weekend or say a week or too the boats mentioned can carry enough stuff for a trip of that duration. Longer trips tend to require more stuff as your need to carry spare equipment
starts to increase. The amount of water
and fuel you can carry sets up limits as well.
The one I'm thinking of purchasing is a 1981 Sunstar 31, Cruising Sloop built by Spencer Yachts in Vancouver.
That seems to be a bit over specific for a first boat. I was able to find a 1981 28 ft listed for sale
. I would not consider them overly remarkable either positive or negative. The 28 ft is 6000 lbs displacement. For a typical long distance cruising trip you need 3 tons of stuff using minimal numbers. The 28 I saw was far short for water and fuel tankage. So I would say the 28 is not something to head
off into the sunset BUT it would work fine for two people to do short hops for a week or so with not a great deal of amenities. Space requirements can be confusing. It's easy to say you need a king size bed
with 6ft. IN. of head room but that requirement might take a very long time and a lot of money
. The queen sized berth with 6 ft of headroom
is only a little more money
How you both get along living in the back of a pickup truck will help you figure out if the boat is too small. For me 31 ft is too small but I've owned a 33 ft boat I thought was actually quite big. We now have a 36 ft boat that is as much boat as we require and all I can afford in terms of time (not being retired) and money. The little bit bigger boat costs a lot more to maintain.
There really is no lower limit to a boat except the short comings that go with it. California
has been done in a boat 8 ft 9 inches. The guy that did it was not like you or I. There is a huge part of this that is about you and not about the boat. You are in the end out to have fun. With that primary purpose it becomes even less about the boat and more about you having fun? So how fun are you. What do you think is fun?
I would use your time and lessons to start getting a better feel of the boat and what it is like to be out on it for long periods of time. You need to really find your own sense of cruising be it short trips or extended trips. You need some experience under your belt to see what you really want and need. The more you can do on other peoples boats the better you will fit to any boat you decide is "it". It is easy to find a first boat but then fixing it and selling it to get the right boat can take a few years. It's the process of really knowing. Spend some time and read the stories here. One of them may be just like you while all of them seem to start just like you.
Boat expenses! We have many many discussions already posted and reading many of them will give the sense of what it entails. There is no end to that topic and so we talk about it every day. It costs a lot to keep a boat and gets harder as the boat gets bigger. New boats take a lot of work as do older boats that need even more work. You should enjoy the work in one sense because you need to do a lot of it. It becomes a way to forget about time because everything on a boat takes a lot longer to fix than jobs you take on around the house or car. Ordinary expenses include a basic haul and bottom paint
every year or every other year depending on climate. Cleaning
of just about everything is common. Replacement of a few things is to be expected. Good sails last a good long time unless you race
to win requires new sails often and they cost a lot more. Racing
can be fun and may be a type of sailing you would like. Go out on a boat and crew for a race
. Many skipper
always want at least one new person now and again. It is just another dimension to sailing to help you find your own style. A 30 ft boat once paid for is about $3000 / year plus marina fees
for a boat of some age but starting in good shape. As you move toward upper 30's it gets bigger quickly. Mostly due to more things on it that all need something. If you buy a used boat
it takes 9 months to shake out what is wrong with it and another 9 months to actually get it right. That assumes you have the time and the money on hand to get at it.
You need an unlimited number of small parts
that you are always running to the boat store for and never getting out of the store for under $20 no matter what you thought it would be. Some of the parts
are wrong and you have to go back and lose another $20. One bounces off the deck
and splashes in the water so back to the store again. The things that actually break are mostly unexpected but in the process of fixing it you find two more that don't look as good as you thought even just a day ago. You have to repair things you can see but can't imagine how you will get at them in such small tight places.
Here is the really bad news. You do need fuel as long trips include a lot of motoring. While you don't consume as much as a power boat
you do consume a lot of expenses. In the end the fuel costs are nothing compared to all the other costs. My fuel bill so far is about $80 this year as we have not be able to do any more than 4 days per trip. We had decent wind
this year so sailed more but now head into slow winds and summer heat - more motoring. If you want to do long trips you need to be able to motor
well period. If you do short trips you know the wind
before you leave. The difference is subtle yet quite dramatic. The Pacific NW should keep you plenty busy with things to learn. It has all the fun things required with strong currents, cold water and cloudy weather
. dealing with the not as nice parts so you can get to the perfect anchorage is all part of the game
and some seasoning is required.
This all can be done but you need to start planning and adding up numbers to build a better base so it really all can be fun. You need a new language and sets of new skills. You are starting out so finding ways to make and keep it fun is the critical ingredient.