My wife and I completed a similar quest to Steve's in Aug when we bought our dream boat. We had been planning and saving for this for over 15 years, and got very serious with the search early last year. In the other many years we did not own our own boat but sailed and raced on family
boats, friends boats, and did a fair number of bare boat charters. Our savings plan was actually calculated by the question: "If we owned a boat what would the moorings costs be this year" - and put that much away. Our goal was to match our target retirement
date of next spring, and we really thought we'd have a semi-custom "perfect" boat built for us so needed the lead to time to select the boat and have it built. Over the years we took lots of notes and pictures and had lots of discussions of course, including some level of critical commentary probably about every single
boat we stepped on. None are perfect.
As this was all dream world the first thing we did in our "get serious" phase was to go visit the Hinckley factory in Maine
. It is truly amazing to watch them build boats and the passion they put into them. For the record
, I'm also impressed by visiting a Ford assembly line. Of course Hinckley makes a virtue out of moving slowly and carefully - because they have to (make it a virtue) - this is not a commentary on if that's better. I'm no expert on boat building, but their Kevlar/Carbon based SCRIMP hull
process was very cool, and their attention to detail throughout was extreme.
That being said we found the designs of their sailboats behind the times. We love the classic look of the long overhangs, but ultimately that makes for a much smaller boat on the inside, and especially small cabins in the aft cockpit
designs. Modern production and semi-custom builders have better layouts in my opinion. Our "build us a Hinckley" dream was diminishing, but not dead. It seems that's a trend for their sailboats as they haven't built a new one in several years, although their powerboat line seems to be going strong.
Ok, what next? The most valuable thing we did was go to the Newport boat show
in the fall of last year and spend one day crawling through new boats, and another day crawling through the "brokerage show" of used boats. That was really the best thing, and the experience of seeing so many fantastic "used" boats on the market, of course priced well below a new boat of similar style/quality, made us wonder why we would even consider a new boat. Again, lots of notes and pictures and discussion. We also found a favorite, but probably more importantly met a broker on that boat that we really clicked with and started working with. It turned out he was part of the Little Harbor brokerage, which is part of Hinckley. So we were staying in the same league that we dreamed about, but with older boats.
We got very hot and bothered over that one boat over the winter, but called off everything in January when I got a lousy medical
diagnosis that pretty much stopped everything. Happily I got through that and, as one does, examined my life and decided to retire immediately and start the boat quest anew. Having been up and down a couple times now, and with a lot of time on my hands, we slowed down our passionate side and got more practical in our search, using that same broker. We revisited all the boats we liked from the Newport
show last year, plus looked at new ones that came on the market. Notice I didn't say we sailed on any of them - that just couldn't be arranged and many were not in the water. By now we really knew what we wanted, knew what compromises we had to deal with, and had seen enough to have a top pick. It was a Little Harbor 46. We had it put in the water but on our planned sailing day there was no wind
. Arrg. Next we spoke with several owners of these boats, including an early owner of this very boat, to learn how they were used, how they sail, etc. The broker was excellent at hooking us up. We had to go on that, and finally made the call. Phew.
I guess this is a long story, and I've enjoyed reliving it (pardon my indulgence if I've gone overboard). It was fun, agonizing, confusing, exciting, scary, daunting, tiring, etc., for months. But I would do it all over again to find what has turned out to be really the boat of our dreams, even with it's flaws and imperfections. Thankfully she's a joy to sail, handles big winds and seas well, and yes, is very comfy at anchor