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Old 05-11-2012, 14:08   #1
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30-32 foot boat for a newbie

Hello,

This is my first post to the forum and I am a newbie in sailing, will very much appreciate input on a boat I am contemplating to buy.

First a bit of a background. I always had a passion in sailing. Even though I have lived in three different continents, no place I have lived before allowed me to go into sailing. About 4 months ago, I moved to San Francisco Bay Area and starting sailing immediately. Funny that I got my first US sailing certificate (Basic Keelboat) before I got a US driver's license, one needs to get their priorities right ;-) I took the path of learning via school, I recently got my Basic Cruising certificate, my intention is to get all US Sailing certifications up to and including Offshore Passage Making. I like my sailing school and learning things in a systematic and structured manner. I am an engineer by training so, a systematic learning suits my thought process well. I am fascinated by the idea of making an ocean passage one day. At this stage, this is more a dream but I am trying to get everything right to achieve this one day.

After this rather long introduction, here is the reason I am writing my first here on this forum: I would like to buy a boat to get me more into sailing and understanding things about boat upkeep, maintenance, bring closer to the sea etc. Since this will be my first boat ever and I have been into sailing pretty recently, I would like to start with something relatively cheap. The budget I have in my mind is plus minus $20k. I can spend $3-4k for some immediately necessary upgrades and about $2-3k a year to make gradual improvements. I could keep my budget higher but given that I don't even know what to expect, I would like to keep my potential losses at a minimum. At the end of the day, if I stay in $20k range, even if I lose all my investment (I will be unhappy but...) it will not be the end of the world. If I go higher, it's toll on me will be bigger. I am trying to avoid it at this stage.

Here are my overall criteria for a boat:

- My goal is a combination of fun, adaption to sea-life and learning. I hope to be prepare for an eventual live aboard in some (distant?) future.

- With my skill level right now, I am not planning to get out of SF bay, so no blue water cruising capability is needed.

- Anything smaller than 30 feels a little too small and anything bigger than 33 makes me feel uneasy especially with crew shortage or eventual single handing. So I am looking at 30-32 feet boats.

- I am not into racing. While I don't want an excessively slow boat, I am not particularly into high performance. Solid sailing that can teach me stuff is more important.

- I will want to spend 1-2 nights a week on the boat itself, so space and comfort down-below are also important.

- I prefer wheel steering over tiller steering but this is not an absolute must.

- I am an engineer by training and I am pretty good with technical things in general. But I don't prefer doing things myself when I can pay someone else to do it. I understand this is undesirable to keep the costs down but I am ok to do the research, analysis, planning etc myself and pay reasonable amounts to someone else to do the actual job. If the amounts become too high, I am ok and capable to do them myself. Since I have no background in sailing and boats, it may be easier for me to initially buy something where there is more information out there (for instance, I will prefer a 'production boat' over a 'custom boat' at this stage, for this reason alone. This assumes I can more easily find information on production boats)

- I haven't single handed any boat to this date yet, but given my personality I know I will end up sailing alone a lot. So I need to learn doing this and the boat needs to be suitable for a new sailor to learn and continue single handing it.

- I do understand that boats are not for investment and depreciate in value. I am ok for this, obviously I would prefer a boat that would depreciate less relative to other boats over a course of 2-4 years, in which period I will probably look for selling and buying a new one.

- Last but not least, I would love if I could get a boat that I like aesthetically. I collect art and decorative thin and one of the first things that strike me in a boat is its 'beauty'. To not to be too rigid, I can let this go as it might be too much to ask in my price range.

With all that said, I have been looking for boats on yacht world and other places that fit this criteria. It is clear that I need to look at 30+ year range to fit to my budget.

I have found several boats that are of particular interest:

- Two Catalina 30s from 1980 and 1984
- An Ericson 31C from 1977 which absolutely looks very beautiful but not sure will be too demanding for me to take care of
- Ericson 32 from 1971 that was apparently just sold

Before I get serious with any of them, I obviously want to pay an independent professional to do a survey. But until I get there, are there any opinions or suggestions given this criteria and the boats I have found so far?

Thanks for the time and very much appreciate your input.
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Old 05-11-2012, 16:07   #2
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Re: 30-32 foot boat for a newbie

I like'em all! I like the rigging and upgrades on the 1980 Catalina, but personally wouldn't be crazy about 11hp and a 32 year old diesel. The Ericson diesel says it was built in 1977 but has 10 hours on the engine. Either there has been a rebuild or a typo. The other catalina is powered better. In the end, you should do what I do when I buy a new guitar. Go play with all 3 and decide. And get a survey!
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Old 05-11-2012, 19:56   #3
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Re: 30-32 foot boat for a newbie

While I can't say that the Ericsons wouldn't suit you well, I think based on what you've said the Catalina 30 would very likely suit you well. I recently bought my second boat, I was looking into a Catalina 30 but ended up buying a 34 instead, mainly because I came across a nice one near me that was available for a nice price. But I think the same qualities that I liked about the 34 would apply to the 30. Both are known for being very roomy below, that was important for me as I will also be spending weekends and weeks at a time on the boat.

Another attraction of the C30 and C34 is that both have very active user communities. If you haven't already, you should definitely check out the C30 owners association website at International Catalina 30 Association. Also the C30 forum at Catalina 30 - SailboatOwners.com. Like you, I'm not really looking to do a lot of work on the boat myself but I do want to research things before I have something done, and there is a lot of information available for Catalinas. From what I've heard the factory also does a great job of supporting owners.

Good luck.
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Old 06-11-2012, 15:11   #4
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Re: 30-32 foot boat for a newbie

Aloha and welcome!
Lots of choices in that range of boats and prices. Get something well cared for and whatever speaks to you when you go aboard. I like Catalinas and Ericsons have a good reputation for build quality. Of the ones that you are looking at I like the appearance of the Ericson 31 (Independence). I would not choose wheel steering in that size of boat.
Try to get as much experience aboard as many as possible before choosing and always get a survey from a reputable surveyor.
Good luck.
kind regards,
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Old 06-11-2012, 23:24   #5
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Originally Posted by SkiprJohn
Aloha and welcome!
Lots of choices in that range of boats and prices. Get something well cared for and whatever speaks to you when you go aboard. I like Catalinas and Ericsons have a good reputation for build quality. Of the ones that you are looking at I like the appearance of the Ericson 31 (Independence). I would not choose wheel steering in that size of boat.
Try to get as much experience aboard as many as possible before choosing and always get a survey from a reputable surveyor.
Good luck.
kind regards,
No wheel steering on a 30 + sailboat? For heaven's sake, why not?

On a wheel sailboat, you concentrate on where you are going, and a tiller, you are constantly reminded where you have been.

It is all a matter of preference. I loathe a tiller in my hands, in my knees, in my ribs, and in my face. I have owned five tiller sailboats, and one Edson helm wheel sailboat, and one thing is for sure, NEVER going back to a tiller. Don't wish to drive a car down the highway with a stick coming from the back seats either. Lol

I understand people really preferring one over the other, tiller or wheel, but I cannot understand a person advising another person to adopt one, and shun the other. Both work well, as long as it is something the person wants to work with.
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Old 07-11-2012, 06:49   #6
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Re: 30-32 foot boat for a newbie

Welcome Tendos!

It is wonderful to see someone as enthusiastic as you! It seems that sailing has grabbed your soul, and let me tell you - it will not let go!!

Buying your first boat is a big step. Whichever boat you'll get will teach you more than any class you have ever been in. I'm not saying that structured learning is not desirable (I'm a US sailing instructor), but every time you go out in your boat, you will learn something new.

That brings me to the point I want to make. You are in the wonderful position to be able to pay people to do work on your boat. That is very helpful when you don't have a lot of time due to your work schedule. Never the less - doing as much work on your boat as possible yourself will give you a much better understanding of how your boat works, and how all its components work hand in hand. I know that all new sailors want to get out there and spend as much time as possible sailing. It is equally important - IMHO - to be as familiar as possible with your boat. By doing maintenance and repairs yourself (as much as possible) you will acquire knowledge that will be applicable to any boat you will own in the future.

Oh - Skiprjohn is absolutely correct. Sail as many boats as you can before making a decision, and YES, GET A SURVEY!!! Don't use the surveyor recommended by the seller or his/her agent. Find a reputable surveyor preferably unknown to the seller.
Good luck, and have as much fun as you can!!!
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Old 07-11-2012, 08:02   #7
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Re: 30-32 foot boat for a newbie

Here's a story to give you hope. A young fellow (late 20's) appeared on a nearby mooring with a Cal 34. He had some sailing experience on other's boats but had not owned more than a dinghy. He spent three months preparing the boat for an ocean voyage. I visited him a few times and was impressed with how much more space there was inside a Cal 34 than a Dana 24 (a very spacious 24 footer).

Since he had little money he did his own work, including laying it up on the sand to clean and paint the bottom ("Can't afford a boatyard"). He left Morro Bay and the trip down the coast to LA was his shakedown cruise. After fixing a few things he headed for home which was Australia. No problems and I'm sure he did some single-handed sailing although he had one friend along most of the time.

You are in SF and you couldn't be in a better place to get started in sailing. Many boats to choose from and many people (and boatyards) to give you support. Sailing in the Bay gives you plenty of wind without the kind of rough water you can encounter in the ocean. Many do all their sailing in the Bay and never want more, but, Drake's Bay and Half Moon Bay are not far away and I highly recomment them (when you are ready). Just read the Cruise Guides about the difficulties of the tides at the Golden Gate.
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Old 07-11-2012, 08:08   #8
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Re: 30-32 foot boat for a newbie

Just what a 30' boat needs, a wheel. You definitely want vague steering and not knowing which way the rudder is pointed without diving over the side and looking at it. Really nice to have the thing blocking fore and aft access without climbing onto the far outside of the cockpit. Nice to have a device that may defeat a pendulum servo self steering vane, the most efficient self steering for the cruiser. Nice to have that neat piece of wet stainless steel beating up your fingers and sucking the warmth out of your body. Nice to play lord and commander at the very aft end of the boat where you a sitting duck for any nasty piece of cold water and wind the ocean can and will throw at you. Nice to have a steering device that you have to use at least one hand to steer instead of a tiller that you can use any convenient part of your body to steer while you use your hands to do little things like trim the sails.

After 40 years and more than 10,000 miles of open ocean sailing, had a brain fart and bought my first boat with a wheel. It was hate at first sail. Really kick myself for not getting rid of it immediately. After 4 years of fighting the damn thing, finally tore it out and put in a proper tiller. Best money I've spent on the boat.
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Old 07-11-2012, 08:23   #9
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Re: 30-32 foot boat for a newbie

Welcome,
Try a Hoby cat or paper tiger first, 14 footer, they are very cheap to buy, $500-00 it will teach you to sail and the knowledge gained can be used on any sail boat you get in the future, knowing how your boat travels in the wind is the first part,

And it wont cost you any thing if you accidently park it on a reef or beach or rocks, where your bigger one will,

Enjoy your new life sailing, Its fun fun fun,
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Old 07-11-2012, 08:45   #10
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Re: 30-32 foot boat for a newbie

A thirty-foot daysailer with a wheel doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I tend to think of a wheel as a necessary evil once a boat gets over 35', depending on the boat.

Jump around on the foredecks of older Ericsons. If you feel any give or any softness, walk away.

If you're serious about singlehanding, check out the Wyliecat 30. A great bay boat, and one that's not encumbered with weight from interior teak furniture.
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Old 07-11-2012, 09:00   #11
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Re: 30-32 foot boat for a newbie

While I understand your comment about wanting to stay in the 30-32foot range due to single handing, don't be afraid to go up to 34-35 feet. If the boat is rigged fornsingle handing, you can learn to sail it. I singlehanded a 34 lots of times. Just practice when conditions are right
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Old 07-11-2012, 09:30   #12
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Re: 30-32 foot boat for a newbie

Your criteria are pretty detailed and well described, but are also very basic. Basically any good sailboat in that size and price range will meet your needs.

First impressions will probably mean a lot to you. If you fall in love with one of them, buy it.

Beyond that, look for upcoming maintenance items. Find out the maintenance history of the running rigging - that stuff can be expensive and difficult to repair.

Unless you plan to motor extensively, I wouldn't be overly concerned about the engine. If it starts and runs smoothly, it will meet your immediate needs!
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Old 07-11-2012, 09:58   #13
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Re: 30-32 foot boat for a newbie

Those Ericson 31C have to be one of the most beautiful boats ever built in that size range. real head turners, and better built than the others you are looking at. So it gets my vote! Of course boat condition matters. I sailed the whole west coast in a 30 footer, it's a great size for cruising.
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Old 07-11-2012, 10:23   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roverhi
Just what a 30' boat needs, a wheel. You definitely want vague steering and not knowing which way the rudder is pointed without diving over the side and looking at it. Really nice to have the thing blocking fore and aft access without climbing onto the far outside of the cockpit. Nice to have a device that may defeat a pendulum servo self steering vane, the most efficient self steering for the cruiser. Nice to have that neat piece of wet stainless steel beating up your fingers and sucking the warmth out of your body. Nice to play lord and commander at the very aft end of the boat where you a sitting duck for any nasty piece of cold water and wind the ocean can and will throw at you. Nice to have a steering device that you have to use at least one hand to steer instead of a tiller that you can use any convenient part of your body to steer while you use your hands to do little things like trim the sails.

After 40 years and more than 10,000 miles of open ocean sailing, had a brain fart and bought my first boat with a wheel. It was hate at first sail. Really kick myself for not getting rid of it immediately. After 4 years of fighting the damn thing, finally tore it out and put in a proper tiller. Best mooneney I've spent on the boat.
One point of view, shared by some, not shared by everyone. If the OP wants a wheel helm, some of us, see nothing in error with that desire.

I like to see a few tillers on every slip, because it gives the birds somewhere to roost. Lol
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Old 07-11-2012, 10:47   #15
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Re: 30-32 foot boat for a newbie

Had a few of both, prefer the wheel at about 30 ft and above. A tiller swinging accross the cockpit side to side can be a PITA too. You can sit in the cockpit with one hand on the wheel and have your back supported, with a tiller you are are having to move your body alot to steer and cant reach it sitting back and relaxing.
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