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Old 27-08-2008, 23:34   #1
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What cat for newbie live-aboards?

I posted most of this in meet and greet but as suggested by a kind moderator, it should really have gone here, so I'm copy/pasting some of it, with some edits. Thanks for your patience.... Here goes:

We'll be retiring and moving aboard around 01/2009, if we get everything taken care of by then and if no unexpected emergencies pop up. So, a few more months and our new home will be a hole in the water . Exciting, but also a bit scary since that means that we have to go out and buy ourselves a boat.

To some of you this may be the fun part but to us, it's a do or die thing, we either get it right, or we waste a chunk of our retirement fund on a lemon. To two neophyte boat buyers, this is pretty scary.

We're probably very atypical live-aboard cruisers:

-We're both in our early 30s, no kids as of yet but any boat we'd be buying would be bought with at least a some consideration of the viability of having a young child on board.

-We have NO sailing experience. None. We're taking a coastal cruising class before we leave for FL so we won't be totally clueless, just nearly so .

-We don't actually own a boat (of any kind) right now, and have never bought one before.

So... By now probably 90% of you are thinking we're insane and are going to get ourselves killed. Well.... we figure the best way to get experience is to get out there and do it. I've always picked up things fairly quickly so you might say I'm quietly confident.

We've done a lot of looking at online broker's listings ("aka boat porn!") to get an idea of prices and availability and it looks like there's plenty of inventory out there and some of it is even in our price range!

Now, to be honest other than looking at some nice pictures and checking out specs, I'm not really sure what I should be looking for in a boat.

I hope a good survey would go a long way towards us not getting stuck with a lemon but there's never any guarantees, and of course, every survey is going to cost us money - better to avoid surveying a non suitable boat in the first place.

So here comes our question: Given what we are looking for (let me sum that up real quick here):

- multi hull, 30ft to 40ft

- Somewhat roomy since we'll be live-aboards 24/7/365.

- Shallow draft (this is one of the main reasons we are looking at cats, that and stability)

- Easy for a single person to handle since it's just the two of us and we'll be doing 'shifts' on longer passages.

- Very blue water capable. We're expecting to eventually (when we feel ready, I realize this isn't something two new boaters should attempt) make an Atlantic crossing so we can cruise the med, and from there on, who knows

- Two engines for redundancy. Neither of us is a mechanic. I've rebuilt some bike engines in my time but I'm not kidding myself about how much that will help when it comes to boat engine repair. This one is not a show-stopper for the right boat, but it's a "very much would like".

One more (and probably very important) thing: budget. We're looking at spending about 150K or under on a boat, expecting to spend a little more on outfitting and still come in quite a bit under 200K. We realize this is not a huge amount of money in the boat world, but we're willing to go with an older boat as long as it's well maintained. We could spend more, but considering our age, the rest of the retirement fund is going to have to last us quite a while (hopefully) so we'd very much rather not spend it on more boat unless we find out we have no choice.

So... given those requirement, could you kind folks suggest some brands and models of boats we should be looking at?

And (in my opinion) even more important, what to stay away from at all costs? Let me elaborate on why I ask this.... I was looking at a made-in-China, designed in Australia boat last night. I'm sure some of you know exactly which boat I am talking about. At first it seemed a dream come true (LOTS and LOTS of boat for the money) but a little research revealed that as usual, if it appears too good to be true, it is, in fact, too good to be true. Every single review of the boat was negative, and in no uncertain terms, either.

I've been lurking for a while now and it looks like you have a great community going on here with lots of helpful people, I look forward to being a small part of it.

Thanks very much for reading my rambling 20 page post
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Old 28-08-2008, 00:01   #2
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your first boats should be

For my two cents your first two boats should be a sunfish and a hobie 16, combined they will cost you less than your first mistake sailing a larger boat. You will learn very fast on them, and most of your investment will be recoverable.
None of the cost of your first mistake on a larger boat will be recoverable.
You say you are not a mechanic then you need to know how to sail with confidence. Engines cause problems, when they do, you really need to be capable of sailing your way out of trouble.
The reason you should buy two small boats like these is that larger boats behave in the same way, but much slower.
If you take a boat out that weighs less than 500 pounds and make a small adjustment to the sails, you will instantly feel the effect of your change. Our current boat is a 36 foot monohull, we make a change to the sails, wait a couple of minutes and watch the speed log. You learn much more slowly on a larger boat.
Our first (only) catamaran was a hobie 16, we had been sailing similar sized monohulls, and took our cat out sailing. Well asside from the fact that it was much faster than we were used to, the techniques necessary to sail it, tacking in particular were different, and we had forgotten there was a trick. We ended up 5 miles down wind, and going and getting the trailer to take the boat home after a very fun and extreemly exhausting day.
I had a cheap lesson on my hobie never to have an inexperienced person do something that was very important, my older sister pulled in the jib when I told her to release it, and brought the boat up to full power when I was trying to beach it with the rudders released. The boat hit a tree stump. The cost was 15 minutes of streightening parts.
I had a not so cheap lesson on inexperienced help on my 36 foot boat, a line was miss handled, I had to replace the shaft because it got bent when the line went over the side. The total cost was around 2,000 dollars.
Good luck.
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Old 28-08-2008, 04:12   #3
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For my two cents your first two boats should be a sunfish and a hobie 16, combined they will cost you less than your first mistake sailing a larger boat. You will learn very fast on them, and most of your investment will be recoverable.
None of the cost of your first mistake on a larger boat will be recoverable.
You say you are not a mechanic then you need to know how to sail with confidence. Engines cause problems, when they do, you really need to be capable of sailing your way out of trouble.
The reason you should buy two small boats like these is that larger boats behave in the same way, but much slower.
If you take a boat out that weighs less than 500 pounds and make a small adjustment to the sails, you will instantly feel the effect of your change. Our current boat is a 36 foot monohull, we make a change to the sails, wait a couple of minutes and watch the speed log. You learn much more slowly on a larger boat.
Our first (only) catamaran was a hobie 16, we had been sailing similar sized monohulls, and took our cat out sailing. Well asside from the fact that it was much faster than we were used to, the techniques necessary to sail it, tacking in particular were different, and we had forgotten there was a trick. We ended up 5 miles down wind, and going and getting the trailer to take the boat home after a very fun and extreemly exhausting day.
I had a cheap lesson on my hobie never to have an inexperienced person do something that was very important, my older sister pulled in the jib when I told her to release it, and brought the boat up to full power when I was trying to beach it with the rudders released. The boat hit a tree stump. The cost was 15 minutes of streightening parts.
I had a not so cheap lesson on inexperienced help on my 36 foot boat, a line was miss handled, I had to replace the shaft because it got bent when the line went over the side. The total cost was around 2,000 dollars.
Good luck.
I hope I didn't give the impression we're just doing this without ever stepping foot on a boat

We're taking "no previous experience required" classes which are supposed to bring you up to the level required to bare boat charter. This means we'll be making most of our rookie mistakes on someone else's boat, hopefully.

As far as boat handling goes, I expect to at least be 'competent', if that's not the case, we'll wait and take more classes and/or sail near shore, where it's relatively safe, in order to build some more experience.

I'm very eager to get going but by no means suicidal.

The bigger worry for me (at least long term) is maintenance, but there's nothing that can be done there... I could take 5 years and take classes in diesel mechanics, electrical repair, sowing/rigging repair, fiberglass repair and many, many more things which are bound to crop up, and still not be able to handle all the maintenance myself.

I'm good at figuring things out on my own and I plan to stock up on troubleshooting books to help me but even so no doubt there will be things that I can't figure out on my own. At that point I will either throw money at the problem and let a professional fix it (while I hover and hopefully learn something!) or see if I can consult a fellow cruiser and gain some insight that way.

Your point of mistakes being much more costly on big boats is well taken, I just hope I can avoid finding out the hard way. Fingers crossed!

Thanks!
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Old 28-08-2008, 06:17   #4
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Sjpm, welcome to this site and to a commonly shared dream. First, let me say that what you are suggesting is not impossible, but it will be both difficult and risky. Please ensure that you take your time - get some real hands-on experience before attempting anything more than some daysails in decent weather. Move on to sailing in more brisk conditions and attempt anchoring in areas that are noted to be good holding ground. Don't fear the odd bump and scratch to your topsides while docking (you will get them). Practice maneuverability under power and docking with only one (and preferably, the 'wrong') engine. Turn off your chartplotter/gps and practice navigation by dead-reckoning. GO SLOW and develop the skills to gain confidence.

As to the boat of choice? It seems that you are set on a catamaran and I certainly won't dissuade you. Frankly, I have found that the lack of heeling makes it much more comfortable and therewith, much easier for novices to handle. There are numerous threads here covering much the same 'wants' as you have set out and I would commend those (search back on the 'discussion' heading under multihulls).

Your budget is realistic, although I would suspect that you would be wise keeping your purchase price under 150K if you want to have her refit and ready for 'well under 200K'. The choices really come down to this:

1. An older, likely British built catamaran that will be solidly constructed, offshore capable and safe, albeit slower than most current designs. Decent ones are available within a range between the mid 70's to 120's. Consider Prouts, Cherokees, Catalacs and Solaris yachts.

2. A Gemini - and at your price range, you should be able to find a very good example. Decent sailing performance but rather lightweight construction and not really suited for offshore passages. They are, however, extremely popular and may not be a bad choice for a first cat - you should be able to sell one readily if/when you decide to cross oceans.

3. PDQ 32/36. The PDQ 32 is a terrific boat, but again, not really suited to offhsore passages. The 36 is capable, albeit a little on the light side. Nevertheless, both boats sail well and are better built than the Gemini. You should be able to get a decent example of the 36 without diesels within your proposed price range.

4. Likely well-used Lagoons, FP's, Moorings and Leopards in the 35 - 38 foot range. Most will have been charter boats and will likely require a considerable investment to get ready for any serious cruising. Still, there are some good deals to be had. As with any of the boats listed above, you can find threads on virtually any of these boats.

5. Home-builts, one-offs etc. Some great buys are available, but recognize that the resale value will be low and that there are more risks involved than in buying a used production boat made in significant numbers by a reputable builder.

Anyway, just my thoughts. MAKE SURE YOU GET A SURVEY no matter boat you are considering. Once you have looked at a number of alternatives, ask some boat specific questions and you'll likely get opinions from some current/past owners that will assist.

Brad
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Old 28-08-2008, 07:09   #5
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Wow, SJPM... I was wondering if an old post of mine had come bubbling up to the top reading yours.

We are in the same "boat" sort of speak and share a lot in common except my wife and I did *not* get a boat with a kid in mind. (most cats have more than ample berthing for a 4 person family, however)

We chose the Catalac 10M.

Brad has posted what I consider to be a very realistic and accurate set of information - information I was about to post myself, but he beat me to it!

Getting survey after survey after survey is indeed very expensive. A better way would be to have someone help you eliminate the "bad boats" before you get to the point of survey... because keep in mind... when you get to the point of survey, you also will have had to put down your deposits on all the boats you are surveying. That's just how the buying process works.

I just went through this process last winter and there is a lot of junk out there on the market. Many *many* of the cats in this price range are delaminating. This lead me to personally buy a cat with a solid fiberglass hull. I pay in terms of weight, but I'm not so keen on working with delamination issues. All things are tradeoffs.

Also, you are making a very wise decision not to blow the whole retirement fund on the boat. Many people do. Your approach is right on.
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Old 28-08-2008, 08:00   #6
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Originally Posted by decktapper View Post
For my two cents your first two boats should be a sunfish and a hobie 16, combined they will cost you less than your first mistake sailing a larger boat. You will learn very fast on them, and most of your investment will be recoverable.
None of the cost of your first mistake on a larger boat will be recoverable.
You say you are not a mechanic then you need to know how to sail with confidence. Engines cause problems, when they do, you really need to be capable of sailing your way out of trouble.
The reason you should buy two small boats like these is that larger boats behave in the same way, but much slower.
If you take a boat out that weighs less than 500 pounds and make a small adjustment to the sails, you will instantly feel the effect of your change. Our current boat is a 36 foot monohull, we make a change to the sails, wait a couple of minutes and watch the speed log. You learn much more slowly on a larger boat.
Our first (only) catamaran was a hobie 16, we had been sailing similar sized monohulls, and took our cat out sailing. Well asside from the fact that it was much faster than we were used to, the techniques necessary to sail it, tacking in particular were different, and we had forgotten there was a trick. We ended up 5 miles down wind, and going and getting the trailer to take the boat home after a very fun and extreemly exhausting day.
I had a cheap lesson on my hobie never to have an inexperienced person do something that was very important, my older sister pulled in the jib when I told her to release it, and brought the boat up to full power when I was trying to beach it with the rudders released. The boat hit a tree stump. The cost was 15 minutes of streightening parts.
I had a not so cheap lesson on inexperienced help on my 36 foot boat, a line was miss handled, I had to replace the shaft because it got bent when the line went over the side. The total cost was around 2,000 dollars.
Good luck.
I don't post on this forum anymore because I don't like being censored for silly reasons. But I do stop by from time to time to glean good advice.

This post by decktapper is very, very, very good advice, in my humble opinion.

sjpm - you're planning on retiring and moving aboard in 5 months and you're just now starting to figure out what boat you want? - and learn to sail at the same time? I wish you luck, I really, really do. You'll need it. My suggestion: slow down. You're young and have lots of time. Go charter some boats. Get that Sunfish/Hobie and master them. Then follow Brad's advice.

One other thing - don't plan on getting any insurance for a big boat you buy in the next couple months. You very likely won't be able to find any.

Nonetheless, I hope you eventually get out there.

Dave
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Old 28-08-2008, 08:55   #7
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Wondered where you had disappeared to 2hulls. Welcome back! Sound advice, but I know one couple who bought a C&C 34 as their first ever boat, having essentially no prior sailing experience. And this was a boat that had been rigged for (and used for) racing, not cruising. A disaster? Actually, no. Yes, they have dragged anchor, bumped the dock countless times, bent the prop shaft after getting it fouled with a dock line and scared themselves silly on occasion. However, they at least have limited themselves to sailing/anchoring in protected waters and seem to be getting the hang of it, so to speak. In addition, they now appreciate how much more they need to know before venturing offshore. And fortunately for them, despite the bad experiences, they seem more committed than ever to sailing (and are already talking about moving up in terms of boat size).

Is jumping in with both feet the best way to proceed? I doubt it. But if one proceeds with some caution, it is not impossible.

Brad
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Old 28-08-2008, 08:56   #8
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sjpm,

I am keeping an eye on your thread... because I am very much in the same position as you. I am taking it a bit slower though (plan on buying sometime in end of 2009 early 2010). My wife and I want to get our kids on the boat as soon as possible before they get too old to let go of a room full of stuff. Wish you luck! And I agree with some of the advice. I have been sailing with a friend on his hobie 18 for a bit now and we are having fun learning the boat. Hobies can be found pretty cheap to practice on! The hobie picks up a side pretty easy.. I am hoping its not the case with a 40 foot + cat. lol

Cheers
Conrad
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Old 28-08-2008, 09:36   #9
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Agree with all previous posts - practicing on smaller, less expensive boats is one way to learn, but so is learning while you live onboard. Seems like now is a good time to attempt living on board - many folks are unloading their boats at bargain prices. We just purchased 1996 36' PDQ with two diesels and were well under your financial limit. They are well built, and there's a wonderful owner's website with good folks sharing info.

We had owned smaller monohulls before, but were only weekend sailors. Last month, we brought our new used yacht home to Cleveland from North Carolina. We came up the ICW into the Chesapeake, down the Delaware and outside for the run up to NYC. Then up the Hudson and across the Erie Canal. We learned lots along the way due to breakdowns and run-ins, and had scary moments but nothing life threatening (I have high anxiety levels). We did hire a delivery captain www.sailami.com to assist us the first 10 days and make sure we'd be ok with all the new systems. There are several PDQ's on the market right now - check them out, and if you are anywhere near Ohio, come and visit. Good luck following your dream!
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Old 28-08-2008, 09:38   #10
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BTW, we found very reasonable insurance through Safeco - less than $900 annually - although I've also used Boat US for insurance in past (we keep all insurance with the same provider, so that may have influenced their OK of our policy).
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Old 28-08-2008, 10:07   #11
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There isn't much I can add to what has already been said.

Except: You don't say where you are, but if you lived near me I'd take you for a sail. I guess others would do so as well, many people need a crew from time to time. Every sailor is willing to help newcomers. The more boats you sail, even if only for a few hours, increases your understanding of what makes the perfect boat for you.

Read Rosie Swale's two books. In 1970 she and her husband were in the same position as you are now. Early 30's, never sailed, no children. Three years later they had two children, one born on board, and had sailed round the world, becoming the first catamaran sailors to sail round Cape Horn. And in a 30ft Oceanic catamaran that many wouldn't take out of sight of land.

Don't go too big. We were very happy with our 32ft Eclipse. Now we have a 34ft Romany (currently in Va but we will be sailing south in a month) bought for less than half your budget.

Dinghy and beach cat sailing will help you learn about wind and waves but won't make you a seaman. You need to sail bigger boats to do that. So maybe you should spend time learning seamanship and worry less about the finer points of actually sailing.

Good sailing!

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Old 28-08-2008, 10:36   #12
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You might find some inspiration here:

www.theslapdash.com

Cheers, and good luck.
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Old 28-08-2008, 10:57   #13
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You might find some inspiration here:

www.theslapdash.com

Cheers, and good luck.
Excellent link.

I really enjoyed the financial portion of their site, since that is the part I tend to stumble over.

I was hoping they had a comment section so I could ask if their cruise was just the 4 year plan, or open ended.

My personal strategy is to pay off the boat and have a kitty and some retirement grease saved up before we go, so I can have a shot at an open-ended cruise.

It's interesting in that many of the voyagers in my generation seem to do it as a quick 'round the world cruise with a timeframe (like Bumfuzzles did), then move on to something else. I am hoping to have the cruising/working lifestyle be the way of life until I'm physically unable anymore.
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Old 28-08-2008, 11:17   #14
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my two cents

I'd like to respectfully give another view on the "first boat" issue. I do not think that a Sunfish is an appropiate first boat for an aspiring liveaboard couple. In favor of this view point is that a Sunfish is dirt cheap and forgiving in the event of an error (if you capsize you just flip it back over and try again). Where I differ is in the idea that a Sunfish, dinghy or Hobie can somehow simulate sailhandling on a large cruising boat. My wife owned and raced a Sunfish before we met. I had never owned a sailboat, but had crewed on other people's boats. Our first boat was a 25' Catalina Capri. We moved up to a 42' Catalina Mark I (now for sale). I do not think that either of these choices was inappropriate for us. We are now moving up to a large catamaran. We plan to live on the boat when we retire, and cruise long-distance. I would not do it over again diffierently. Yes, there is a lot of moving mass and inertia in play if you make a mistake, but larger boats handle very differently from tiny boats, and sailhandling is not at all the same. In some respects, they are more forgiving...imagine comparing the sailhandling of a Laser to a 40' cruiser!
I would never be so irresponsible as to advocate buying a large boat with no experience whatsoever and attempting to sail over the horizon. But let's say that a couple bought a cruiser, lived aboard in a marina, took sailing courses, and then ventured out for a while with experienced sailors aboard to help, then doing a lot of daysailing near port by themselves. If you combined this strategy with a LOT of reading about sailing and cruising, it would not be inherently unsafe. Perhaps the largest risk is that the novice buyer might find that sailing is simply not for him (or her), or that inexperience led him to buy a boat unsuited to his particular needs when more experienced. I still think, however, that there is no substitute for just going for it. The advice of an experienced and seasoned friend regarding the appropriateness of specific boats would be invaluable. "Starting big" is not always wrong.

Rocky
(if interested in my boat, check the classifieds, pictures to be posted shortly)
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Old 28-08-2008, 11:31   #15
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addendum: I'm also leery of "Don't go too big" as a blanket statement. Some small cats are simply too small for "blue water" cruising: They lack the beam and stability of larger cats, and the amount of cruising gear a long-distance cruising couple might want could easily overload a small cat, rendering it substantially less stable than a larger cat. I think I would caution prospective buyers to go "neither too big nor too small" for a blue water boat (of course a daysailer is another matter). Where is the sweet spot? Unfortunately, only experience can answer that one!
Rocky
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