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Old 29-05-2011, 12:58   #16
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Re: Family Boat...

Unless you can swing the cost of a cat, I agree with Charlie that a Beneteau is a good choice for you, alot of boat for the money. And get 2 heads, you'll regret having only one! And no, unless you want to rip-out the interior, you generally can't "add" a cabin. Get each kid a cabin - they are small.

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Old 29-05-2011, 15:09   #17
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Re: Family Boat...

How much sailing experience do you have? A bigger boat isn't that much more difficult to sail in open waters, but in tight spaces it requires some experience.

I would not be looking for anything over 45 feet. In fact, if I were in your shoes the boat at the top of my list would be a Pearson 422 center cockpit.
The can be had for 100K or less and your family will fit just fine. Your spouse will particularly appreciate the aft centerline queen.

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Old 29-05-2011, 15:25   #18
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Re: Family Boat...

I found the Practical Sailor boat reviews to be helpful. They used to have a book (maybe they still do) but for a 3 month subscription you can have access to the full text reviews. Practical Sailor - Sailboat Reviews - A
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Old 30-05-2011, 01:51   #19
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Re: Family Boat...

Originally Posted by Ranger06 View Post
I know, you’re all probably thinking, “Here comes another, what boat should I buy? thread.”

I’m on a 5-year plan and have really been inspired by some of the blogs out there. My family is fully on-board and we are beginning the planning. Thing is, I’m stuck in Afghanistan for a while longer, so you guys are what I have access to for now, no marinas, no brokers, no Barnes & Nobel, etc...

Just wondering where to begin my search. We want a “bullet-proof” (not literally, just solid) boat as safety is our number 1 concern. We would live aboard it and want to be able to go anywhere. I have little ones, 2 girls and a boy. We would have regular visitors so we would need a boat that could regularly take a couple with a kid or 2. I’ll have a retirement that will net me around $5,000/month to live/cruise on and a budget of about $100k to purchase/upgrade.
Originally Posted by Ranger06 View Post
There will be kids aboard! When I retire in 2016, they will be ages 11, 8 and 6. We plan on keeping them on-board until college, so...I'd say the long-term. Being landlocked right now certainly does suck. But, I will be returning home next month, then deploying to Miami to run operations for another mission set in September. I'll be there for 11 months doing that, so I should have ample time to crawl all over peoples boats.
Originally Posted by Ranger06 View Post
2 adults and 3 pre-teens couldnt live comfortably under 40 feet? I'm sure it would have its moments, but I think it would be doable with at LEAST 3 seperate rooms. We could get by with 1 head.

How hard is it to convert an older boat with 2 cabins to 3 cabins? Is it even possible?
You said you wanted to go anywhere. Let's limit that a little and say you are going to pass on high latitude sailing and are not interested in the canals of Europe. Once you have been sailing awhile you can decide if either of those would be interesting and change boats to suit the goal.

Let’s start with price. For offshore expect to spend 50% of purchase price to upgrade. But you have a significant pension and don’t necessarily want to leave immediately. If you can live on $4k/mo and put a $1k/mo into the boat for 1,2 or 3 years then the initial cost you can afford goes up from $66k to 75k, 83k and 91k respectively. Keep in mind there will be purchase costs such as survey ($1-2k) and perhaps delivery, but if you are retired there is no reason not to move aboard where the boat lies.

For offshore work 5 people means 4 good or excellent sea-berths, 1 for each off-watch person, plus a place for the on watch person to sit without bumping a sleeper. Better would be 1 per crew. An excellent berth would be a pilot berth, very good would be a quarter berth, good would be a settee (longitudinal benches) that has to be converted every night. Berths in an aft cabin would also be good, the motion at the end of the boat could keep it from being very good.

In evaluating quarterberths make sure there is ample overhead back under the cockpit, it may be more private for users to sleep feet forward, and it may be safer if the boat is pounding so decent overhead is a must.

If you opt for a center cockpit boat with an aft cabin keep in mind this creates additional problems in that you now have to have wheel steering which requires more maintenance and makes wind-vane self steering harder to set up. I'm not saying don't do it, but understand the tradeoffs implicit.

A convertible dinette (transverse benches, or U-shaped) would be problematic. It takes more work to convert nightly and produces a double wide berth is harder to subdivide into singles for use in bouncy conditions, underway or at anchor. Such a berth on a newer boat may have a bench that curves around the back. If the radius's of the curve are not removable the berth will be uncomfortable for anyone not fairly short. If the boat is just used for live-aboard with coast sailing only, no problem. Offshore get something better.

In bouncy conditions underway or at anchor the v-berth will be unusable.

The boats that interest me are older boats, 50's-70's, very few of which have multiple cabins. Assuming that each kids permanently gets a fixed bunk (ie no daily conversion), a curtain, reading lamp and personal fan will go a long way towards giving them each their personal space and maybe multiple cabins won't be necessary. If you decide you really need multiple cabins the Benie's are probably the place to start.

For the parents in port you will get the forepeak. Underway you will be bunking in the main cabin, but you will also each be spending a lot of time on watch in the middle of the night when everyone else is asleep and loneliness may become more of a problem than privacy.

I am going to assume that when there are guests aboard you will only be coastal cruising and not doing offshore passages. That means that the v-berth will be usable unless you get unlucky, so the total number of berths you need will be around 8, 6 or 7 if kids are willing to double up and sleep head to foot.

Your normal complement of 5 includes 3 kids who initially would not be able to contribute much to normal sailing and will be a slight distraction in bad situations, one parent will have to periodically check on them, and no way are you going to let them on deck when things are bad so they can't contribute even marginally. So in essence you are double-handed or slightly less. L&L Pardey, following the Cabo San Lucas fiasco in 1982, observed in one of their books that 40' was too much for a couple to handle in a very bad anchoring situation. I can imagine that really bad weather on passage would be similarly overwhelming. Given the size of your complement you really can't go under 40', but it would pay to keep the boat size in check as much as possible. If you are not going offshore, size becomes less of a double edged sword; you can have the larger personal space with less risk due to a boat that is too big to handle in rough conditions. With a larger boat nothing can be manhandled, everything has to be finessed, mistakes are harder to recover from.

My preference is for a tiller to steer. They make the boat cheaper up front, are easier and cheaper to maintain, there is no packing gland below the waterline, and it's easier to hookup to a windvane. A wheel may be easier for newbies to start out with but all of the regular folks on board will become used to the tiller very rapidly. That said a wheel may be necessary given the size of the vessel. If the rudder has a skeg or is unbalanced a wheel will be a necessary. If the boat has a weather helm problem the wheel may be necessary unless you can correct the problem.

Given the size of the boat an electric windlass will probably be necessary. Nobody is making manuals anymore for boats that size. An electric windlass is one of the first upgrades from bare minimum I would make on any boat as it makes it more convenient to up anchor and try again if the set doesn't feel good enough. More convenient means more it is likely to happen if you are hesitant, which means safer in general.

The first key thing to look for in an electric is the manual backup. Specifically does it have enough mechanical advantage? For a horizontal axis windlass if there is no gearing then all of the mechanical advantage is in how long the handle is. For a vertical axis machine it is hard to make use of a longer handle so gearing becomes important. E Hinz in his book on anchoring indicated 12:1 is good for fast retrieval, 40:1 is good for heavy loads and 25:1 is a decent compromise for a manual backup.

The second key thing is how big a hole do you have to cut in the foredeck to install it? If the motor protrudes thru the deck how much meat is there around the motor hole for the mounting bolts? Having the sucker rip out of the deck could ruin your whole day, in addition to not getting the anchor up you would be left with a gaping hole that can admit lots of water.

Regardless of how well the windlass mounts you should install chain pawls/stoppers the carry the anchoring loads and slack off the load on the windlass. The windlass should only be loaded when setting and retrieving the anchor.

Get lots of anchors. My suggestion would be to get a really oversized primary anchor with 150' of normal sized chain plus normal sized rope. Primary would be CQR, Bruce or Rocna/Manson Supreme. Secondary would be a really big Fortress with a boat length of chain and 400' or so of rope. Stern anchor would an undersized CQR, Bruce or Rocna/Manson Supreme. For rock and weed I would get a Luke with rode like secondary and store it in the bilge. I would also store an extra 150' of chain in the bilge. If I was feeling flush I would get a normal sized backup anchor in case of loss of primary. Backup would be of different type than primary in case there is a situation where primary doesn't want to hold, sometime different type anchor is the solution. Generally you can go a size smaller than normal if you use higher strength G4 chain, this makes up for the weight of the oversized anchor and the price is about comparable.

Unless you are willing to install a lot of fuel tankage you want good light air performance or you are going to motor a lot more, read spend money on fuel that may be hard to come by in certain areas and of dubious quality. Light air performance is directly related to sail area. In order to compare boats of different sizes and weights a ratio called 'Sail Area to Displacement' is calculated for each boat. The ratio is actually more complicated than sail area divided by displacement but the formula is close to that. There is no magical number you must meet for your boat to be "good", but the number is indicative of light air performance. To me a very good SA/D is in the 17's, excellent is above that, adequate is in the 15's. Published data is almost certainly for the light-ship condition, loaded for cruising the value is going to drop, more so for smaller boats. It is fairly easy to build a spread sheet to recalculate the numbers accounting for number of crew, stores, provisions etc.

For light air upwind you want a drifter. On a reach a drifter will work or a codeZero (a codeZero is an asymmetrical spinnaker cut flat so it will reach much higher than normal and usually set on a roller furling luff). The codeZero will be significantly bigger but also more expensive because of the added area and furling gear. Downwind you can use the codeZero or spread double headsails (Genoa and lapper or genoa and drifter), one to either side. Don't count on using a symmetrical spinnaker much. They require a lot more attention to use and require more people to set and douse and may require waking help to deal with at night.

Most older boats are sloops, but consider adding a removable forestay, intermediate shrouds and running backs for a staysail. With a hanked on staysail, I would be more comfortable with a roller furling headsail. The staysail allows you to break up the jib area, a low cut staysail combined with a high cut moderate headsail give you almost the area of a really large genoa, but handling is a lot easier and visibility is improved. You don't need to change sails nearly as much, just drop/raise/roller/unroll the ones you have. In light/moderate air both are up. A bit more wind the staysail comes down. More and the staysail goes back up and the headsail is rolled/dropped. In really heavy air you would swap out the staysail for a storm staysail. Reefing of the main also occurs at various points too. In really light air both staysail and headsail are doused in favor of a drifter or chute depending on point of sail. The staysail rigging provides more support for the mast generally and redundancy in case some of the normal standing rigging fails. The forestay is also slightly inboard from the bow so marginally less bouncy in heavy air and there will be more room to work.

When you do motor consider that dropping your speed for hull speed to 5kt will almost double your range and you are still making 125nm per day. At 4kt range will be about 2-1/2 times what it would be at hull speed.

Get a windvane to steer the boat on passage. They are more expensive to buy than an autopilot, but with the added costs of extra electrical charging capacity and batteries the price difference is not as big as would seem at first blush (they also add more weight to the boat). Windvanes are also more reliable and easier to maintain. Get an autopilot as backup, for motoring and for very light airs, but not for normal use. If you get a very large boat it may not be possible to find a windvane that will work in which case oversize the autopilot and bring a backup, hand steering day and night for more than a day or so will get real old.

For the primary dinghy there are a number of tradeoffs to consider here. With a hard dinghy you have to find storage on deck, which blocks visibility underway. With an inflatable you have to have a very reliable motor, they really don’t row worth beans. If your motor is out and you want to set an extra anchor because of rising winds, a hard dinghy can be rowed long after it becomes pointless to try with an inflatable. Inflatable are more stable. Hard dinghies are more easily repaired, and use less power and fuel to motor. If you decide to go with a hard dinghy, by building your own nesting dinghy you can get a bigger dinghy than would normally fit in an available space. Adding a floatation collar of bumpers or foam swim noodles could somewhat alleviate the stability difference compared to an inflatable. With kids on board you are going to want multiple dinghies.

Here are the boats I would suggest as a start:

COLUMBIA 43 MIII Sailboat details on and COLUMBIA 43 Sailboat details on Good: 4 good or better seaberths, 8 berths total, good to very good SA/D depending on model, excellent deck space, sink near centerline, nice tight galley, wonderful headroom. Bad: rather deep draft, a bit heavy.

COLUMBIA 50 Sailboat details on Adequate SA/D, 3 sea-berths, 7 total. 1 seaberth (double) could be converted to a pilot and a transom berth making 4 good or better. 2 heads. By lengthening the boom and adding a bowsprit the SA/D could be improved significantly.

CAL 40 Sailboat details on Good: 6 good or better sea-berths (2 quarter-berths completely out of main cabin offering very good privacy), 8 total, excellent SA/D, nice wide side-decks, large cockpit, reputation for durability as several have been around the world. Bad: Off-center sink, divided galley.

CAL 43 Sailboat details on Good: 6 good or better sea-berths (2 quarter-berths are in a separate rear cabin that has the main companionway and the traffic that would entail, 1 quarter berth is a double) 8 total, excellent SA/D, nice wide side-decks, large cockpit, tight galley with sink near centerline, secondary companionway into main cabin, 2 heads. Partial skeg.

CAL 48 Sailboat details on Good: 6 good or better sea-berths (2 quarter-berths are in a separate rear cabin that has the main companionway and the traffic that would entail, 1 quarter berth is a double) 8 total, excellent SA/D, nice wide side-decks, large cockpit, tight galley with sink near centerline, secondary companionway into main cabin, 2 heads. Similar to Cal43 but bigger.

In reality most of these boats are kind of deep draft, except the Cal40.

My recommendation would be the Cal43, the minimum length with no minuses and all the pluses and almost the lightest.

The following would be my suggestions for reading material when you can get hold of them.
John Vigor's The Seaworth Offshore
Don Casey's This Old Boat
Lin & Larry Pardey Books SelfSufficient Sailor, CapableCruiser and CostConsciousCruiser.
Annie Hill's Voyaging on a Small income
Beth Leonard's Voyager's Handbook
Nigel Calder’s Cruising Handbook.
A house is but a boat so poorly built and so firmly run aground no one would think to try and refloat it.
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Old 30-05-2011, 05:29   #20
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Re: Family Boat ...

Apart from finding and equipping your boat you will need to investigate home schooling options for your children.
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Old 30-05-2011, 09:23   #21
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Re: Family Boat ...

Thanks everone!
Adelie, great information, thanks for taking the time to explain all that to me, very helpful.

Curmudgeon, good point. My better-half has been browsing some of the options out there and with the link provided by a member in another topic, we have more information than I can digest in a week!

Thanks again for all the help everyone!!!

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