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Old 17-12-2012, 18:31   #1
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How to choose a boat?

I plan on buying a boat in 15-18 months, so plenty of time to learn more. I've been reading here for months, pretty much every thread that I have the least bit of interest in, and I've learned a TON thanks to everyone sharing so much information.

Right now I'm spending a lot of time looking at boats in my price range (~25k) just to see what kind of boats I can expect to be available and trying to find out more about them. I'm mostly looking for information about things I should be looking for in a boat design. I'm not talking about things to look for in individual boats or what type of equipment to look for. To me that kind of information is more important in 15 months when I seriously start looking for an actual boat, not just browsing through the models out there (I could be wrong, let me know if I am).

My plan is to buy a boat to sail Gulf Coast, around Florida, up the East Coast, and possibly into Canada during the warmest months for the first few years (could be 2 years, could be longer if I keep finding things to stop and look at). Then eventually the Carribean at least, and then who knows where. I plan on single handing, not planning on a lot of visitors, and I will be working from the boat a lot, which means I need some actual office type space. I say all of this first to give an idea of what my requirements might be and hopefully to get feedback of things I might need to take into account that I haven't thought about yet, and secondly because it brings up my first question (there'll be lots of those). Is my thinking that the first step should be layout right or wrong? My thought process being that layout would be the hardest thing to change about a boat.

An example, just for discussion. I realllllllly like the Columbia 43 and there's a couple for sale in my price range. I don't expect those particular boats to be there in 15-18 months, but I would assume that if there are a few now, there'll be a few then? Either way, I bring up the Columbia 43 just because it's easier for me to discuss an actual than it is a theoretical.

In the case of the Columbia, I'll go ahead and admit, they're beautiful boats and I'm one of those people who think form is just as important as function. But, here's what I like about it. It's a big boat with 1 stateroom. The galley looks functional, I like the dinette, and the salon space looks like I could easily convert one side to an office type area. Also, there's not a huge amount of discussion about them on here, but what I've read seems to indicate a lot of storage. What I don't like about them, well they've got a 7' draft and I wanna go to the Bahamas eventually.

My biggest question is this. Is there really always going to be SOMETHING about a boat? Like I'm never gonna find the perfect one and I'm just gonna have to compromise? If I'm in a 7' draft boat do I just have to skip the Bahamas all together?

Also, really, I'm interested in any type of feedback that would help my search, even though it's in it's infancy. Are there things that I should look for in a boat that I haven't thought about but should considering what I want to use it for? Are there models that are similar that I might should look at? Am I going about my early research completely wrong? Anything really. Oh, and I will be a full time liveaboard on this boat. I don't plan on many marina stays except that I will need to store the boat for a week at a time a few times a year and for a couple of months Nov-Dec (at least that's my current plan), but I think I might can do that on a mooring ball instead of a slip?

Thanks in advance!
BG
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Old 17-12-2012, 18:33   #2
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Re: How to choose a boat?

holysweetJesus forgive me for the diarrhea of the keyboard there. Didn't realize I was so longwinded until I posted that and saw how long it was.
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Old 17-12-2012, 18:47   #3
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Re: How to choose a boat?

The design features you mentioned seem like the right ones, IMO, for the itinerary you've laid out, and I think you've correctly identified the deep draft as an issue - I think the Florida waters will be your biggest concern, as I know for certain that they are quite shallow in many areas - I'm less certain of the Bahamas, I've only been in big-boat waters in the Bahamas and don't know the restrictions for deep-keeled boats.

What I do know is that reef damage is closely monitored, taken seriously, and can result in very large fines.

However, in that price range you will NOT be able to get the "perfect" boat unless you get very lucky and move very quickly when the opportunity arises. You will likely have to choose (as you seem to have already) between interior comfort and access to shore.

But, if you stay diligent and get some brokers working for you it could happen that you are first in line for a boat that is a perfect compromise, in your price range, and ready to sail!
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Old 17-12-2012, 18:52   #4
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Re: How to choose a boat?

Go to a few boat shows with some "old salts" (Sailors who have practically cruised much of the world). DO NOT BUY ANYTHING, NO MATTER WHAT IS OFFERED!. Get inside a few boats and look around. Do you intend to cruise the oceans (blue water sailing) or are you going to be a weekend sailor; there are boats in every size that will meet SOME of your needs. What is your budget? A 32 ft brand new, might cost around $150K USD; fudge in another 35% for extras. If it is going to be your first boat, unless you have deep pockets, buy a used one that was surveyed, by two independent marine surveyors. Your Old Salts friends will suggest to you a list of things that you "must have" as a minimum. Read a ton about boats, cruising, and take seamanship classes to gain the foundation. Charter a few times with a charter's captain; make it a learning experience, while enjoying the sailing. Before you invest major capital in this endeavor, make sure that you and your family like to "get wet". Take your time to educate yourself about the world of boating and cruising. Treat Old Salts to a nice fancy dinner; they will have earned it. Good luck!
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Old 17-12-2012, 19:08   #5
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Re: How to choose a boat?

Art - thanks for the info! I wasn't aware the Florida waters were shallow also. Will have to look into that as I want to spend some times in the Keys especially. I know finding the perfect boat ready to go in that price range is practically impossible, especially one "ready to go." My ~25k budget is really just boat and expect to have 15-25k budgeted for upgrades and outfitting. Your mention of boat brokers intrigues me. I always thought they were more boat salesmen, but do they act more like a real estate broker than just a salesman?

Teknav - I definitely plan on boat shows, even though I'm not even remotely looking for a new boat. However a friend of mine lives in Annapolis so definitely plan on doing that show next year. Plus her SO has a 41' Hunter that he lived aboard for a couple of years. He's very much the old salt type and super nice guy, and has offered to help in any way. I'll run anything I consider by him before even thinking about it.
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Old 17-12-2012, 20:02   #6
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Re: How to choose a boat?

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Originally Posted by bgriffin View Post
...........................An example, just for discussion. I realllllllly like the Columbia 43 .................they're beautiful boats and I'm one of those people who think form is just as important as function.................. well they've got a 7' draft ................
Who knows?.....You could fall in love with a bi-polar woman who owns 500 up pairs of shoes! You might have no defense, but the 7' draft gives up much of the Gulf Coast, half the Keys, a third of the Bahamas and some of the East US Coast,- Chesapeake too! .....and very important,- it gives up a lot of hurricane hideouts. Make a list of very strict function criteria that match what you should love and then find the form that fits. There's a lot of pretties out there,- you might as well have one that does the job.
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Old 17-12-2012, 20:26   #7
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Re: How to choose a boat?

Oh, great information, thanks! Sounds like I definitely need to look at boats with a shallower draft. Keys, Bahamas, and Chesapeake are all places I want to go. They made a centerboard version with a 4' minimum draft, but only 1 of the boats currently for sale is the CB version. And it's significantly more expensive. It's a small sample size (only 4 of these on yachtworld right now at all) but I wonder if that means they're less of them or more likely more in demand. Either way that brings up yet another question, possibly for another thread? In general, what are the difference between a normal keel and a centerboard? I mean I understand how it works, but what differences are there as far as safety and handling? I suppose I need to do some research on that too. SO MUCH TO LEARN!
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Old 17-12-2012, 20:47   #8
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Re: How to choose a boat?

Most boats over 40' will have a good chart and nav area. Older ones such as the Colombia should have a chart table the size of a full admiralty chart and would, therefore, double splendidly as an office space.

Look on as many yacht sales websites as possible and list as many important criteria as you can fit into the search fields, including your maximum budget. The good thing about having a lot of time to look is that you will see many great and seemingly irriesitable bargains; and the good thing about bargains is, there's always another on the next page.

Go to boat shows, visit marinas, and speak to boat owners at the marinas. Most people, when confronted by someone wanting to get information about boats to buy, will be very helpful and will proudly display their craft to you.

One of the benefits of going aboard boats which are lived on and cruised, is that you will get a better appreciation of the available living space...much more so than with a boat which has been emptied ready for sale.

Best of luck!
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Old 18-12-2012, 00:19   #9
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Re: How to choose a boat?

As you'll be discovering while looking for your "perfect" boat they are always a compromise in one way or another. You'll have to give up one thing to have another and no one boat has everything.
Having owned several boats and sailed on many more I would choose something in the 36 and less boat length and since you'll be doing more sailing on the east coast I'd consider a shallow draft. No wing keels because they like to stick in the mud and sand like an anchor. You'll compromise windward sailing performance by having a shallow draft unless it is combined with a centerboard. If you have a centerboard you give up simplicity. You see how it turns into a compromise.
Good luck on whatever you choose and you've gotten some good advice about going aboard as many boats as possible so you get a feel for what's out there.
kind regards,
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Old 18-12-2012, 00:44   #10
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A 7' draft for poking around the keys and the Bahamas is not going to be as much of a delight as a shorter keel. May want to rethink sailboats, or figure out modifications to travel plans. My 32 has a draft half of yours, and that will get me in and around places nicely should I ever get shy of Nebraska.

Aft cabin sailboats would make a nice separate office area.
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Old 18-12-2012, 07:01   #11
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Re: How to choose a boat?

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Originally Posted by GaryMayo View Post
A 7' draft for poking around the keys and the Bahamas is not going to be as much of a delight as a shorter keel. May want to rethink sailboats, or figure out modifications to travel plans. My 32 has a draft half of yours, and that will get me in and around places nicely should I ever get shy of Nebraska.

Aft cabin sailboats would make a nice separate office area.
There is a centerboard (swing keel) version of the Columbia 43. Maybe Griffin will get lucky and find one of those.

Nebraska! Gary you should migrate South! I moved to the New Orleans area from Omaha recently and bought a bigger boat. Still looking for the time to sail out further into the Gulf.
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Old 18-12-2012, 07:27   #12
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Re: How to choose a boat?

Griffin,

ON boats everything (unless you have lots of moola) is a compromise. My boat has a 7 foot keel. Will that be a problem when I sail the carribean - yes. Do I care? Well, I'm going RTW in it and therefore the 7 foot keel gives me other advantages (like a much greater sail area).

The other thing you should think about is that your first boat is rarely your last. This is because no matter how much you read, no matter how many old salts you talk to, you needs and wants will change over time.

You do not know yet HOW you will use your boat. You think you know, but you don't. Buy one and sail it for a couple of years, then you'll know a lot more. Maybe you'll keep your first boat (I doubt it) maybe not.

The colombia sounds reasonable and it sounds like a boat that will sufficiently meet your needs the first couple of years. Then you can "upgrade"

good luck

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Old 18-12-2012, 09:33   #13
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Re: How to choose a boat?

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Your mention of boat brokers intrigues me. I always thought they were more boat salesmen, but do they act more like a real estate broker than just a salesman?
Broker's will act as agents to help you find a boat. You only have to remember that, unless they state otherwise, they legally represent the seller and the seller's interests.

In practice, though, they represent their own interests and their interest is earning a commission, and that means either (a) selling you a boat they have for sale, or (b) finding a boat that someone else is selling for you to buy.
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Old 18-12-2012, 09:56   #14
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Re: How to choose a boat?

With your budget, think smaller and newer/better condition. Boats are expensive. I've done the Bahamas with 6'4" and it was doable but a PITA. Find a boat you can afford that has a good engine and recent sails, those things alone could set you back more than your budget!
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Old 18-12-2012, 11:25   #15
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Re: How to choose a boat?

Thanks for all the great responses guys!

cookwithgas - I've seen that, but I'm guessing they're rare? Either way only one available right now, which doesn't mean anything since I'm 15 months + from being ready to buy a boat. Either way it's $85k, slightly out of my budget, lol.

There seems to be some advice to maybe look for a smaller boat? I will need to get aboard some to get a feel for space but I'm not sure I want to give up that much space, but that might be the compromise I have to make, since I'm definitely going to have to make some. I like a lot of things about going smaller. Cheaper to buy, cheaper to maintain, cheaper all around, plus most likely easier for one person to keep clean and maintained, not to mention a shallower draft to get to the places I really want to go. In 1974 or 75 Columbia actually made a 35' version of the same boat. Almost identical except smaller. However they only made 5 of them.

The other thing I've been mulling around from the responses. I'm in the middle of a remodel of my house. My plan is to finish and sell in spring of 2015, which is what's funding this, and why I'm 15-18 months away from boat buying. I had planned to buy a boat very soon after and live aboard for a year or so getting it ready to go and doing daysailing and short trips to gain skill. Now I'm wondering if I should instead find a cheap apartment somewhere there's lots of boats for a year so I can get aboard, maybe get out on the water with some people, etc, before jumping into a boat.
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