You are in an enviable position and your timing could not be better. It is certainly a buyers market for boats. I would suggest a few things.
, in all cases, is much more important than the boat. Whatever you spend on the boat, is cash tied up for a long long time, that cannot be used for anything else, such as investing, travel, living and food
. You will blow a lot of cash in the beginning of your cruising life, good to have as much as you can.
It is certainly possible to get a great boat in the $90-150k price
range. I would not go higher than 140 (really, 125, and hope much less) in any circumstance.
Valiant's are certainly great boats and many have carried livaboards and cruisers for years. As have Tartan's, Tayana's, Bristol's, Island Packet's, HC's, Shannon's and Wauquiez's, among many other's. I would agree that if you are going to sail solo, get a boat that YOU can solo. You will find that most people just do not have the time or patience to make transits with you. I would then put your range somewhere 38-42 with 38-40 being ideal.
When looking, consider speed and tankage. There is one segment I do often, Lake worth
inlet to Key Biscayne, about 65-70nm. You want to be able to make a segment like that in daylight and thus you need a boat that will clip that off in 10-12 hrs. A crossing to Bimini
is the same. A slower boat makes these particular segments a longer trip that needs more planning....not a big deal...leave in the early morning before sun rise..etc. Just a point to consider. So....LWL and PHRF can tell you *something* about a boats speed.
Of course...re: the above, you will be motorsailing a lot. Thus consider a boat's tankage and engine
. You want to carry a good amount of fuel
, but not too much (weight) and you want a boat with a big enough engine
. Some boats come underpowered, some over. Over would be nice. Big prop too...for plenty of bite.
When looking...measure everything. Boat designers are very clever and the space down below can appear more spacious than it is. Measure the berths, in particular, and the settees. I bet you will be surprised at the differences. Measure the head
. Many 38's will compare favorably to many 40-42's. Displacement
and LWL can give you *some* ideal of how much space a boat has down below.
Finally, you will need a good amount of cash to add the things you need for cruising. SSB radio
, dink, upgrades to electronics
. New batts, reconditioned starter and fuel injector pump
on the engine. New fuel lines. Safety gear
. Figure $25-30 min.
Hope this helps a bit. Best of luck.