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Old 18-01-2010, 14:53   #1
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Help Narrow-Down the Field

Been on the water most of my early years. Mostly a powerboat for waterskiing, wakeboarding, etc but always wondered about the sailing life. Always thought it was too expensive a hobby to get into. But for some reason, now that the kids (10 & 7) are growing up fast, I am rethinking how we spend our time together always rushing from one activity to the next and very little downtime. Before I know it, they will be grown up and out the door.

That's part of why I am attracted to the lifestyle. Not looking for the latest gizmos or dvd players on a boat, just a decent sized boat that I can put my family and possibly a few friends on for some fun weekends and overnights down the road.

Step number one will be enrolling in a sailing school. Make sure I like it and have the aptitude. Step two will be to choose a decent used boat.
There may be times that I will be on the water alone or just with the kids and may need to do most of the work myself. Do I need a wheel or just a tiller (I am leaning towards a wheel to help everyone get more involved in the fun)? Don't have a slip or a trailer and probably live at least 60 minutes from the Potomac in Virginia. Is that too far of a haul?
How much do slips cost? What other expenses do you have?

Looking at the 25-30 foot range since most recommed it for starting out. How many people can you comfortably take out for the day?
I have been looking at the classifieds, ebay, CL, etc and curious if anyone has any feedback on some of these boats that are appealing:
83 Hunter 27 foot w/ inboard and pedestal wheel steering (6k)
85 Catalina 27 foot ($8500)
78 Cherubini Hunter 25 foot w/ fin keel ($3500)
76 Catalina 27 foot ($7300)

Your thoughts, experiences, and feedback are kindly appreciated to help me get my sea legs going.

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Old 20-01-2010, 05:34   #2
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Originally Posted by Jim Buffet View Post
That's part of why I am attracted to the lifestyle. Not looking for the latest gizmos or dvd players on a boat, just a decent sized boat that I can put my family and possibly a few friends on for some fun weekends and overnights down the road.

Although I’ve been aboard the Hunters, I have no extended sailing experience in the boats that have caught your interest… Nonetheless, I think your first cut at this is to become reasonably settled in your own mind what your boat criteria would be… as you get in boats above 30’ feet, the vast majority will satisfy your “family” requirement at some fundamental level – and a few extravagantly so; however, down around the 25’ foot range is an essential dividing line where many boat manufactures are simply marketing day-sailors that have a few berths and an overgrown cuddy-cabin that are more adept at holding sail-bags than people… Some skippers are content to essentially campout on the water at a minimalist level, while others insist that even a microcruiser have at least a few of the accouterments of their larger cousins (standing-headroom, tolerable comfort in a seaway, something of a galley -- whatever…).

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Old 20-01-2010, 05:50   #3
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I misread one of your selected boats as: "78 foot Cherubini" and was incredibly impressed...

I wouldn't bother with lessons. Save the money for far more important things (a small fridge set-up or good cooler for your new boat).

If you want experience, just find a club that offers casual racing, or a friend that owns a boat. You'd be surprised how willing people are to take you on an outing. You could also buy a pretty good small dinghy for the price of few formal lessons.
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Old 20-01-2010, 07:22   #4
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I never had a lesson either, but looking back, I would have saved myself a lot of grief had I taken them. Since your bringing the kids with you, please take the lessons. Setting up the rigging and launching most 27' boats is a hell of a job for two grown men. Please consider this and put her in a slip. Otherwise find something smaller with known easy launch capabilites (a swing or centreboard keel would be a must). The Macgregor 26X and the 26Ms are large family boats with easy trailing capabilites and a one man mast raising system. They are water ballasted so the trailer weight is reasonable. You can also put a 50 horse outboard and use it as a powersailer. Unless you plan on long off-shore passages, this boat might be the one for you.
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Old 20-01-2010, 08:31   #5
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I am a sailboat snob. And also a cheapskate. I would bum off friends until they started asking to sail on my boat. No friends? Get involved in some races. They always need warm bodies for ballast.
And I wouldn't sail a Mac unless it belongs to Lynx. He is the only one I have ever seen cruising with one
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Old 20-01-2010, 08:43   #6
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All of the boats that you have mentioned are going to be tough to trailer sail. Launching a boat that draws more than 2' of water requires either a really long trailer tongue or detaching the trailer and rolling it back into the water on its own (this requires a little engineering work) if you don't want to pay for a travel lift. You would also need a serious tow vehicle, at least a 3/4ton pickup and if you don't already have one, that will drive your cost up a lot. Honestly, it is probably the same cost and much more time on the water to get a mooring.

Regarding what boat is correct, I suggest doing some sailing before you make that selection. Crewing for people at your local yacht club is a great way to get some experience and try out many different boats. Once you have some sailing under your belt, then you should figure out what your enjoy about it and what you find frustrating. From there, you can develop a set of specifications for a boat and then look for the boat that comes the closest to meeting them. If you can say that you want a boat that is less than x length, less than x money, what rig type, sleeps x persons, less than x draft, then it is much easier to recommend a boat.
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Old 20-01-2010, 09:26   #7

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I'd go trailer sailer, if you have a tow vehicle already fine, if not you can keep it hi n dry at a marina. The slip fees and keeping a boat in the water take constant attention andd funds. I had a 23' swing keel that sailed a family of four tens of thousands of miles over a 12 year period while kids were growing up. The kids loved it and could get the boat underway and navigate at a young age.
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Old 20-01-2010, 09:42   #8
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We have a dodge durango with hemi and max. towing capacity at 8950 lbs. Having said that, not sure I want to tow her back and forth over an hour each way every weekend. And our neighborhood HOA frowns mightily on people bringing in boats, RVs, etc unless you keep them in the garage. Think it will fit ??
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Old 20-01-2010, 09:48   #9
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Form Follows Function


You're asking the right questions, and I think your short list is a good one, considering your intended use, to wit: daysailing with a family of four, or a couple of friends, and possibly moving into some overnighting/weekending. You need a boat that is able to be single-handed easily, has a largish cockpit to accommodate crew/guests, has sleeping and cooking accommodations for a family of four.

27' "production" boats (of the makes you mention: Catalina, Hunter, et al) are good choices for the cost-conscious inshore sailor. Any of the boats you mention will comfortably carry four or five people for a daysail, and sleep a family of four. Consider staying with a tiller: they are relatively easy to learn to use, and spare you a lot of space in the cockpit (esp. when not under way, when it can be swung up out of the way, leaving you with usable space from the companionway to the transom) that a wheel & pedestal will dominate. I think it's the better of the two choices for you.

Your big decision is between a 24', water-ballasted trailer-sailer and a 25–27' fin-keeler kept at the water. If I lived an hour from the water, and I wanted to maximize family involvement and enjoyment, I'd try hard to meet the extra expense of keeping the larger boat in the water. Getting everything packed up, towing the boat an hour to the marina (and if you don't have a place to store it at home, the first trip is to the RV storage yard), stepping the mast and securing the rigging, and launching, you'll be too tired and frustrated to enjoy your outing, and your family will always associate the boat with unpleasant hassle and work (and all the work has to be done again, in reverse order, after the sail is over). I tired of this very quickly, and kept the boat in a slip after only one season of that. Conversely, the convenience of getting out of the car with an ice chest, washing the boat down, pulling off the canvass and getting underway is worth a lot.

Calling a few marinas for quotes will let you know what that cost will be for a 27' boat. Always ask if dry-slipping is an option (boat is stored in their yard, and hoisted into the water for a fee when you arrive), as it is cheaper.

The class will be well worth it.

s/y Elizabeth— Catalina 34 MkII
"Man must have just enough faith in himself to have adventures, and just enough doubt of himself to enjoy them." — G. K. Chesterfield
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Old 20-01-2010, 09:58   #10
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Thanks Starbuck. Very good advice. We have a powerboat in storage and another powerboat at the beach that we share with some other folks and keep it at the Boatel. Very expensive but convenient. I have made some calls to find out costs and services offered at local marinas.

Still torn about the wheel vs. tiller. Guess I will find out once I get out on the water. Hopefully soon, but weather is 40s and dropping (freezing rain on the way).
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Old 20-01-2010, 16:52   #11
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For a boat in the size range you are looking at, tillers are often a very good option. They provide much better feedback to the helmsperson so you will become a better sailor much faster. The biggest downside that I can think of is that some tillers take up a lot of cockpit space but some do not at all.

Looking at your tow vehicle, the boat would need to be small or use water ballast. You will never be able to use the max tow rating because it is based off of GCWR which means the more you load up the tow vehicle, the less weight you can tow. A lot of boat trailers on their own will weight on the order of 2000lbs. I was shocked when I pulled a trailer (30' deck) the other day and discovered that the unloaded weight was 7k lbs.
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Old 21-01-2010, 10:39   #12
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Until your boat grows up to be 32 to 35 feet you don't need a wheel. Even up to 40 many boats use a tiller. They are simpler, less prone to failure and provide feedback that a learning sailor needs.
Take lessons. You don't want to make the mistakes necessary to learn while you have family members with you and safety is paramont. You also don't want to learn bad habits that many club sailors have. Just a basic sailing course would be fine.
kind regards,
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Old 21-01-2010, 11:33   #13

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From our experience (since 6/09 owned 2 boats), which is limited, but we have gone through a lot of what you are questioning about. We consist of my wife and I, and her two young ones half the time, so they would also be going out with us. We also have a few grown kids that would want to come aboard at times. Before we bought our first boat, we had a plan to buy cheap, teach ourselves to sail, then sell cheap and buy what we wanted. That way we would have not wasted much if we could not resell or decided that sailing was not for us (yea, right).

First boat was a Columbia 26'. We bought it to learn on and did not expect to have it longer than a few months. We taught ourselves to sail by reading a LOT and watching tons of videos on YouTube. We quickly learned how much we really had to learn. We talk to many at our marina and took a lot of old timers' advice. It was more fun than we expected, and we quickly came to LOVE being at the boat and sailing her. We both run our office together, so we can make time to play here and there.

Advice to you is to shop carefully. Expect that the seller is lying about things and wants to screw you. Be nice, but get a survey or take a friend that really knows boats. Expect that you will be fixing some things here and there. You will be able to do a lot of things yourself, but will need to invest in some good books that are out there.

You will want something closer to the 30' to 35' range. Perhaps not at first, but eventually you will if you want to do any overnights. I REALLY recommend a steering pedestal, as opposed to a tiller. We had tiller on the first boat, and it took up space and would be a pain at times. Some here will differ, but if you had kids wandering around, the tiller can cause a lot of pain if you are not holding it at all times. Also think about the head room in the cabin. Our Columbia ad about 5.5 feet of headroom and I was always bending. Our new boat has 6.5 feet and it is great.

Point is that if you buy a boat smaller than about 30' and are planning to keep it, you will probably wish you had bought a larger boat to begin with.
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Old 21-01-2010, 11:48   #14
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Excellent advice from everyone. However, I would forget about tiller vs. wheel issue and concentrate on condition. With the vintage you are considering, condition is everything; and you want the best condition boat you can find in order to maximize your sailing vs. fixing time. Beyond that the boats on your list are really pocket cruisers ( not really familiar with the Hunter 25). In good condition they make excellent daysailors/weekenders, and they can be much more. A beefed up Cat 27 has circumnavigated. We encountered a solo H27 (‘79 I think) sailor from Maine several times in the Bahamas and Caribbean. We last saw him in the Venezuelan islands. For overnights I think an inboard diesel is very desirable if for no other reason than it will keep your batteries charged (an outboard won’t) so you can have lights, music, etc. It will also make hot water if you have a marine water heater; and it makes the possibility of spending a week on the boat far more attractive.
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Old 23-01-2010, 14:00   #15
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Here are some of my thoughts and suggestions as a seasonal sailor in Montana...
If you are coming from a powerboat, you might think sailing is too slow so try before you commit to buying.
Your family probably won't sail much in the winter so slip the boat from say April to October and store it on the hard the rest of the year. If you are an hour from the boat you can daysail when that is all the time you have, the R&R of one day on the water is remarkable! An outboard can be removed and serviced in the winter, or during the week and takes up less cabin space. I prefer a tiller for cockpit space and "feel". We have a Catalina 25 since 2003 and its been great. According to Dennis Conner the Catalina 27 is the best pocket cruiser ever. A fin keel version will give you good stability and performance. I think water ballast compomises performance, but I've never sailed one. has all the replacement parts you could imagine. Take a lesson, or buy the boat, with a survey now, and learn about it in the driveway til you launch, then hire an instructor to teach you on YOUR boat. The main thing is to get out there and sail.

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