The St Francis Marine
44 certainly does have a decent reputation for performance, although as has already been emphasized, the weight of the stores for you and your family for a year of cruising will negatively impact the performance of any cat. Frankly, the somewhat beamier hulls of many of the more popular charter cats may in fact be better able to handle the increased weight if you are planning on bringing along everything 'but the kitchen sink'.
If considering used charter cats, in addition to Lagoon
and Fountaine Pajot
you should also consider Moorings (and the essentially identical Leopards, built for private owners/small charter operators). Although a little short on bridge deck
clearance, they are no worse than some of the Lagoons in that regard. The Fountaine Pajots tend to have better bridgedeck clearance and performance, but are slightly lighter in construction (and typically cost a bit more on the used market).
The problems with most of the Charter boats coming out of service
1. They often have a huge number of hours on the diesels in relation to privately used yachts of the same vintage. Many have over 5000 hours of use by less than careful charterers. It will not only effect reliability
, it will also effect your resale value down the road.
2. They are generally rather sparsely equipped for extended liveaboard/cruising. They will likely need new (and upgraded) battery banks if you intend on significant anchoring
. In the same connection, you will want solar panels
and possibly a wind generator
, a water-maker, upgraded ground tackle, safety gear
(including a para anchor
or series drogue) and a SSB radio
. The water-maker really is critical to safe (and cheap
, especially in relation to prices in the Bahamas) water for drinking and cooking
. And the SSB radio
is a virtual necessity for communication, weather
forecasts, cruising nets ( including up-to-date reports of crime etc. on individual islands/anchorages) and, yes, with the appropriate modem
You may wish to spend more for a boat that has already been equipped for extended cruising
by a private owner, as the purchase
of the above will add a significant amount of both time and money to your ultimate cost. This is to say nothing of the cost of replacing the running rigging
, standing rigging
, sails and upholstery as will be required on many cats that have just been taken out of charter service
Another alternative, of course, is to buy a boat that is a bit older in years, but was used privately and is equipped for cruising. In that connection, there are a number of used Privileges that are proven offshore
boats with extremely solid construction - albeit, with less of a performance bent than either the St. Frances or Fountaine Pajots. And, as already mentioned, there are generally also a good number of Mantas on the market. Finally, for less money there should be a number of PDQ
36 LRC's that, while smaller than the others, should be quite adequate for a Caribbean cruise
for yourself, your wife and small children
Some don't like the high forward coach windows in the early Privileges (or the glued on headliners), some don't like the lack of lounging space in the Manta's saloon
(or the head-bumping entry to/from the hulls to the bridgedeck accomodation). But lets face it, no matter what you buy you will be compromising. The PDQ's have decent performance (if not overloaded), bridgedeck clearance (albeit with a rather blunt leading edge to the bridgedeck) and construction (albeit not so much for crossing Oceans); as already mentioned, they will also be available as private owner boats for significantly less than your proposed budget.
I would worry much less about the vintage, the size of the boat and details such as galley
up or down, than I would about the equipment
inventory and the overall condition of the boat. If you are buying in the Caribbean
, I suspect that the last thing you will want to do is spend a month (or much more) refurbishing and upgrading the boat for your proposed cruise
. In addition, when you go to resell the boat, you will likely find a larger market for a well-equipped cruising boat than for merely another of the already huge fleet of former charter cats.
Good luck in your search.