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Old 28-01-2016, 16:17   #1
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Commuter Cruisers help - Buy/berth a boat on West Coast or East Coast?

I'll apologize up front as this might be a tad long winded. I'm looking to buy a cruising boat in the next 1 - 2 years, then do some extensive cruising when I retire in 3 - 4 years. The current plan is to buy a boat, sail her here in the SF bay, doing day-sailing and some short coastal passages for a year or so, getting familiar with her along with doing any needed refits. We think our cruising "style" will be more "commuter cruiser" than "live-aboard", probably cruise for 6 months a year then put the boat on the hard or in a slip the rest of the time. We're also not planning on selling our home. And more interested in coastal passages than ocean passages. So the issue at hand is should we buy and berth the boat close to home or look further afield, like in the Florida/Caribbean area. I've listed a few pros/cons below.

West Coast
Pro
- Enjoy the boat in our home waters. (we're currently "boatless" but sail with friends or with members of our sailing club most weekends)
- Easier to do repairs, both stuff that I'd do or engage with vendors, boat yards, etc.
- Enjoy being part of a marina community.

Con
- Fewer "blue water" boats available for purchase on the West Coast. Maybe. (I started a post on this question in monohulls.)
- Calif. taxes. Not a deal breaker but painful none-the-less.
- More difficult sailing coastal passages. Weekend trips to Half moon bay, or Drakes Bay are doable but getting to Channel Islands south, or Puget Sound North challenging.
- Main cruising ground would likely be Sea of Cortez (probably go down with the HA HA and continue from there. We understand Cortez is really nice. But where from there? Btw, we're not sure our sailing skills are quite up to a Pacific Crossing, but possible.


East Coast
Pro
- Greater availability of boats particularly BW boats.
- Save the Calif taxes which increases our boat budget.
- We like the BVI, and would probably enjoy island hopping in the Caribbean for a few years.
- While we find a Pacific crossing a bit daunting, a trade wind Atlantic crossing seems more doable.
- An Atlantic crossing gives us access to the Med, which is one of the cruising destinations we'd like to explore.

Con
- Given the difficulty of maintaining a boat across the country probably would wait on purchasing until a year before I retire, then try to refit and work on the boat during vacations.
- Would probably be based out of somewhere in Florida, and would have to figure out best places to berth the boat, diesel mechanics, riggers, best boat yards, etc.
- Any major refitting might make living on the boat difficult so might have to get an apartment to have a place to stay. - Maybe have to get a junker truck to get around.

Once again sorry for the convoluted tale. And I know I've missed or glossed over a number of important issues. Any thoughts or ideas would be appreciated. Would particularly like to hear from any "commuter cruisers" who cruise part of the year and berth their boats far from home. TIA
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Old 28-01-2016, 18:32   #2
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Re: Commuter Cruisers help - Buy/berth a boat on West Coast or East Coast?

Commuter cruiser (nice term) here. We bought the boat in Florida (she was 3 years old) and kept her in the Chesapeake while we organized our way to a sabbatical. We did a commuting trip to the Bahamas and back (November 2008 to May 2009) and then left for the southern Caribbean in October 2010. We arrived in Trinidad in late June 2011, and have kept her in the hard during hurricane season each year (Grenada since 2014). We have a landslide life, splash in December or January, and try to keep sailing until June. Even during sailing season we come and go some (elderly parents and other family, business interests). This works for us - we live our Caribbean stretches, still haven't visited all the islands, even in the east, have friends who do something similar. Maybe a bit more wear and tear (on us, at 60) but we love it. Hope someone comes along with a west coast story.


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Old 28-01-2016, 18:46   #3
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Re: Commuter Cruisers help - Buy/berth a boat on West Coast or East Coast?

I like the term. Having lived aboard for seven years and cruised the Carib for a year I can tell you, I have now reset my goal to commuter cruiser. Now to your question.

If money were no object I would say keep the boat local for a few years. You will sail more and will have more opportunity to do upgrades yourself. Taxes will be more but you can offset that with lower yard bills for the refit. You won't have to pay for every little thing and it might actually get done. Also, doing the work yourself will greatly increase your knowledge of the boat which will save you more money in the longterm.

Good luck

John
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Old 28-01-2016, 18:47   #4
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Re: Commuter Cruisers help - Buy/berth a boat on West Coast or East Coast?

One of the best BWB stories I've ever read follows. Look, boats like mine cruise to Southern California and back from SF Bay where I live. You can get to the PNW by boat, either on the bottom or by truck, your boat your choice. For what you say you want to do, a BWB may not be necessary. This comes from this very good thread here: New Sailors: Walk before you run! | SailboatOwners.com Forums

**********************
**********************

Funny or not so funny story..

A customer of mine was a newbie to big boat ownership and he contacted me for advice on buying a boat for coastal cruising the Maine coast. I gave him a short list of very well suited Maine coastal cruisers. He completely ignored the list.

He'd read on the "net" and in books that he really needed a BWB. He wound up with a kit built boat that was indeed a "blue water design". He was short on money so I let him work beside me on the re-wire. He finally launched her, after a year and a half, and sailed her for two years all the while dumping piles of money into the boat and there was still soooo much more to go..

Having been a racer he was distraught her her piggish performance in Maine's light winds. He was also rather distraught with the cramped accommodations for his family of four. Long and short he sold the boat, at a big loss, and bought one of the boats on my initial list, which he loves. He paid a good price and bought a boat in mint condition. She has been a joy for him though she is far from a BWB.

I had not known the transaction had even gone down until I got a call from the guy who had purchased the boat (without a survey). He too was a newbie and all hung up on it being a BWB. I was told, not asked, that he needed some stuff fixed asap because he was leaving in 48 hours for North Carolina. When I met the guy, after regular business hours, he knew less about actual sailing than a box of cereal yet could quote all the great Blue Water authors verbatim. He had all the answers but knew none of the questions. IMHO he was 150% unqualified for a solo offshore trip on this boat.

After confirming that yes indeed his radar, GPS and depth sounder were toast, I sat him down and told him flat out the boat was not ready for off shore passage making. It went in one ear and out the other.

He was more concerned about organizing his new set of dishes and could have given two $hits about; the standing rigging with fractured strands, the three leaking seacocks, the non-existent cutlass bearing, the 32 year old hoses connected to the seacocks, the bad transmission, the out of calibration compass, the non operational tri-color and steaming light, or the torn sails, the seized Pro-Furl furler and halyards that looked like worn out Raggedy Ann doll. Yes the new dishes where his top priority and he was heading off shore from Maine to NC in less than 24 hours regardless of any advice anyone could give him because he had a "rugged blue water boat".

Long and short I got an email from the original owner a few weeks later with a link to the USCG rescue & a photo, where the boat was lost at sea. Interestingly enough another customer was within 200 miles of him, in the same storm, and sailed onto Bermuda unscathed and just fine in his Sabre 34..... Difference being the Sabre 34 was in top shape and the owner actually knew what he was doing.. Same storm one blue water boat and one coastal cruiser. The condition & skipper matter....


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Old 28-01-2016, 19:49   #5
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Re: Commuter Cruisers help - Buy/berth a boat on West Coast or East Coast?

To the original poster: your plan to spend a couple of years of sailing on the Bay and then more ambitious cruising later is a good one. Please be aware that coastal cruising is far more challenging than ocean passages. Coastal cruising involves navigational challenges ranging from fog to lee shores and just about everything in between. Offshore, the wind is steady and almost always from astern (I am simplifying here), the water is deep, and about all you have to do is stand watch. Even on the Bay consider the high winds, fog, strong tidal currents, vessel traffic, and every time you go out, you will have to safely navigate a landfall. Two years of that and a passage to Hawaii will seem like a vacation.

Also be aware that there is no costal cruising on the West Coast between Point Conception and Neah Bay. The entire coast is a lee shore, the weather can be very bad, and what few harbors exist have a bar across the entrance so they cannot be entered when you most want to.

Sail and practice every weekend on the Bay, read every book you can, and then set off down the Hiscock Highway on a fine and safe adventure.

Paul
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Old 28-01-2016, 21:07   #6
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Re: Commuter Cruisers help - Buy/berth a boat on West Coast or East Coast?

I did the long distance boat ownership thing living in Hawaii with the boat in Alameda. Had one big advantage for a while with free airfare because I worked for an airline. Would fly to Oakland and ride my Bike Friday folding bike to the boat and spend the week or so I had free working on the boat. Never really had time to sail because of all the things I wanted to do to the boat to get it ready for ocean sailing. After a few years, the airline went bankrupt and I started to have to pay the airfare to get to Oakland which got old and expensive in a hurry. Out son and his family lived in the Bay area so had that excuse to baby sit the grandson occasionally and hang out with them. Then my son lost his job in the down turn and ended up relocating to San Diego. With only the boat holding me in SF decided to sail the boat to our home in Kona where I could continue to work on it and hopefully get in more sailing. In the 5 years I had the boat in SF was only able to sail maybe a dozen or two times,mostly day sails with one overnight passage around the Farallons and an aborted sail to Napa because I missed the working hours of the Mare Island lift bridge. FWIW, the boat had all the equipment I needed and I thought would be ready for a long sail with just a little work so wasn't planning the extensive work that I got into. The moral of the story is long distance commuting to a sailboat doesn't really work unless you've got free airfare and plenty of time to take off from work to go to the boat.

Find a boat in California and take it to the Bay if it's not already there. Alameda slip rentals were reasonable and there were all ancillary businesses within biking distance to get things done on the boat. You'll be able to take off work in the afternoon and go for a sail on a whim. There are a ton of places to sail to in the Bay and places to go to outside the Bay that are a day or less away. When you get it together to go sailing for longer distances and time, sail the boat to the Caribbean or the East Coast and cruise till you have to return to the commuting sailing routine. Hopefully the boat will be finished as any boat can be so you can fly back for long periods of continued sailing. Dry storage is reasonable in the Caribbean and East Coast and nearly ideal for leaving a boat on the hard.
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Old 28-01-2016, 21:53   #7
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Re: Commuter Cruisers help - Buy/berth a boat on West Coast or East Coast?

Here's a cruising boat in your area. Tayana Sailboat
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Old 28-01-2016, 23:53   #8
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Re: Commuter Cruisers help - Buy/berth a boat on West Coast or East Coast?

I'm glad that others are asking this question because we asked ourselves the same thing! My wife and I and our two young (4 &12) daughters live in Laguna Beach and have been struggling with the same decision- East or West coast. We decided that we'd keep the boat on the East coast, ultimately in Florida but we're having the boat delivered to Annapolis, where we'll commute to the boat for this summer (every other weekend). Then we'll move the boat to Florida and keep it there until we head off to the Caribbean for a year long adventure (18 months from now). Of course, we know nothing about East Coast sailing so we're trying to learn as much as possible from afar. It's an exciting time for us as the new boat will be splashed in mid-March and the adventure will begin.... Let us know what you decide.




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Old 29-01-2016, 09:12   #9
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Re: Commuter Cruisers help - Buy/berth a boat on West Coast or East Coast?

East Coast warm water sailing, nice islands to visit, lots of different cultures, Caribbean, Hurricanes, more places to visit.

West Coat COLD water sailing, limited places to visit in one week, Baja, Cortez, weather more consistent... up to now anyway, harder slogging up wind.

Have done both and my money is on the East coast.

Bill
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Old 29-01-2016, 09:34   #10
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Re: Commuter Cruisers help - Buy/berth a boat on West Coast or East Coast?

Hi Jimp,

I have been a commuter cruiser in the past and also an absentee owner so have plenty of first hand experience with this aspect. Have also spent a lot of time cruising the east coast and Caribbean so can help there. Never cruised the west coast but have followed those discussions very closely so can add my second hand opinions on that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimp1234 View Post
I'll apologize up front as this might be a tad long winded. I'm looking to buy a cruising boat in the next 1 - 2 years, then do some extensive cruising when I retire in 3 - 4 years. The current plan is to buy a boat, sail her here in the SF bay, doing day-sailing and some short coastal passages for a year or so, getting familiar with her along with doing any needed refits.

In theory and sometimes in practice this is a good plan. 99.9% of the boats in the world will need a good bit of work and TLC before fully ready to go cruising. So buying a boat before your planned takeoff date is

We think our cruising "style" will be more "commuter cruiser" than "live-aboard", probably cruise for 6 months a year then put the boat on the hard or in a slip the rest of the time.

My experience doing similar was not 100% positive. The problem is, boats need regular maintenance and TLC. Sitting unused actually is worse than using them on a regular basis. A boat sitting closed up and unused stuff tends to quit working due to the humidity that builds up, corrosion, gremlins, whatever. If you're doing this to cruise for months at a time then it might work a little better. Trying to commuter cruise to use the boat on weekend and vacations, not so much. When I tried vacation boating I ended up almost every time spending the entire week, weekend or even two week bits doing boat repair and maintenance. Bottom line, closer to home and the ability to visit the boat more regularly will help a LOT on this.

We're also not planning on selling our home. And more interested in coastal passages than ocean passages. So the issue at hand is should we buy and berth the boat close to home or look further afield, like in the Florida/Caribbean area. I've listed a few pros/cons below.

West Coast
Pro
- Enjoy the boat in our home waters. (we're currently "boatless" but sail with friends or with members of our sailing club most weekends)
- Easier to do repairs, both stuff that I'd do or engage with vendors, boat yards, etc.
- Enjoy being part of a marina community.

Yes to all the above.

Con
- Fewer "blue water" boats available for purchase on the West Coast. Maybe. (I started a post on this question in monohulls.)

I agree with other posts. Don't get hung up on the idea of "Blue Water Boats". First there is no hard and fast definition of what the heck is a blue water boat. Very often I see boaters with limited experience in open water sailing, passages, long term cruising or liveaboard read too many books and articles about the fabled "blue water boat" and come away convinced they need a super heavy, full keel, double ended, gaff rigged, ketch if they go out of sight of land. In my opinion, nothing is further from the truth. From my experience cruising, the overwhelming majority of boats actually out there are just good quality, regular production boats. I've made passages in some fairly nasty weather with your average production boats and never felt like I was cheating death.


- Calif. taxes. Not a deal breaker but painful none-the-less.
- More difficult sailing coastal passages. Weekend trips to Half moon bay, or Drakes Bay are doable but getting to Channel Islands south, or Puget Sound North challenging.

That is my understanding. Easy, local cruising options seem to be very limited in CA.

- Main cruising ground would likely be Sea of Cortez (probably go down with the HA HA and continue from there. We understand Cortez is really nice. But where from there? Btw, we're not sure our sailing skills are quite up to a Pacific Crossing, but possible.


East Coast
Pro
- Greater availability of boats particularly BW boats.

See above comment about BWBs.

- Save the Calif taxes which increases our boat budget.
- We like the BVI, and would probably enjoy island hopping in the Caribbean for a few years.

Some beautiful and easy cruising. Not without some difficulties and issues like the long beat to windward to reach the VI from Florida and there is hurricane season to watch but some of the best cruising in the world.

- While we find a Pacific crossing a bit daunting, a trade wind Atlantic crossing seems more doable.

US to Europe is not actually trade wind cruising. The easterly trade winds blow from southern Europe or maybe north African coast to the Caribbean. Getting to Europe from the US you need to go north of Bermuda to avoid the trades. Other option, start from the eastern Caribbean and sail N - NE across the trades to Europe or the offshore islands.

- An Atlantic crossing gives us access to the Med, which is one of the cruising destinations we'd like to explore.

Me too!!

Con
- Given the difficulty of maintaining a boat across the country probably would wait on purchasing until a year before I retire, then try to refit and work on the boat during vacations.

Agree but again, trying to do this on short vacations would probably be very frustrating. If you can plan longer trips to the boat then this would have a much higher chance of success. I had a similar plan and bought a fixer-upper six years ago planning to retire this year. I ended up trucking the boat to my property 15 minutes from my house and it was the best decision I made in the whole project.

- Would probably be based out of somewhere in Florida, and would have to figure out best places to berth the boat, diesel mechanics, riggers, best boat yards, etc.

Lots of options in south FL but going south from Ft Pierce prices go up every mile. North to central Florida could be half the cost.

- Any major refitting might make living on the boat difficult so might have to get an apartment to have a place to stay. - Maybe have to get a junker truck to get around.

Have done that and living in a construction zone can be a pain. Manageable if you keep it to one area at a time. You could also buy a camper/trailer and some boat yards will let you set up in the back lot.

Once again sorry for the convoluted tale. And I know I've missed or glossed over a number of important issues. Any thoughts or ideas would be appreciated. Would particularly like to hear from any "commuter cruisers" who cruise part of the year and berth their boats far from home. TIA
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Old 29-01-2016, 15:20   #11
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Re: Commuter Cruisers help - Buy/berth a boat on West Coast or East Coast?

Hi , I agree with Anacapaisland. I have done both extensively and in my opinion the East coast would be my pick. Lots of places to go. Outside sailing or the Intra Coastal waterway if the outside weather is not to your liking. I did enjoy the West but it just wasn't the same. In fact the entire East coast was probably one of my favourite adventures ... Glenn
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Old 30-01-2016, 00:12   #12
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Re: Commuter Cruisers help - Buy/berth a boat on West Coast or East Coast?

Jimp,

I've kept my boat in FL as an absentee owner for the past 20 years...yes, there will be additional maintenance issues that pop up, but if you dedicate some time specifically to maintenance you can keep and enjoy the boat as an absentee owner quite well. I have actually left my boat for as long as 18 months at a stretch on one occasion.

Now, I do enjoy maintenance and upgrading things myself...it gives me some kind of sadistic pleasure to beat a gremlin to death.

I would suggest you find a marina that permits live-aboards (not all do)...but you will get to know your neighbors and they can be very helpful in keeping an eye on things. They will also know good resources when you need help.

I have also had neighbors who lived in England and kept their boat there full time. They had their boat there for at least 15 years (I do not keep close track of them, but I think they are still there).

If you do decide to be an absentee owner, I would suggest you simply plan on making several trips in the first year so you can get an idea of what issues might crop up.

Some things you might expect are: batteries may need to be replaced more frequently, bilge pump switches may quit working, cleaning will always be required when you return (I plan a day for the deck and a day or two to snorkel under the boat and scrape the growth...that will vary depending on how often you haul...I usually take two days for bottom cleaning because lunch usually shows up and a well-placed speargun shot ends underwater work for the day).

There is an interesting long-term advantage to being an absentee owner for some period...you will acquire and keep on board almost every tool you will ever need to maintain the boat. That is obviously a big advantage no matter what kind of sailing you do.

I believe either plan you pursue is workable, both have their advantages and disadvantages as well as different maintenance issues.
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Old 30-01-2016, 06:14   #13
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Re: Commuter Cruisers help - Buy/berth a boat on West Coast or East Coast?

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, WindJunkie.
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Old 30-01-2016, 12:05   #14
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Re: Commuter Cruisers help - Buy/berth a boat on West Coast or East Coast?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul J. Nolan View Post
Also be aware that there is no costal cruising on the West Coast between Point Conception and Neah Bay. The entire coast is a lee shore, the weather can be very bad, and what few harbors exist have a bar across the entrance so they cannot be entered when you most want to.

Sail and practice every weekend on the Bay, read every book you can, and then set off down the Hiscock Highway on a fine and safe adventure.

Paul
Small correction, there really is enjoyable cruising from Monterey to Drakes Bay, even Bodega Bay, here on the NorCal coast. It's always cold, but it is a good area to prepare for longer distances and it's close to your home. All these harbors can be reached within an easy day sail of each other and none have dangerous bars in summer. You may be tempted but just don't go between October through March. And bring a rocker stopper if you anchor out!
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