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Old 20-03-2015, 05:21   #16
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pirate Re: What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribb

My best and last suggestion (in my mind) is.. make up a list of boats from 37ft up that are up for sale near you that are accessable to viewing externally.. tromp the pontoons and check out the exteriors.. salty enough.. or trendy enough.. the way the exterior is maintained tells a hell of a lot.. not so much the gleaming S/S.. more the general appearance.. sloppy lines, mildewed running rigging.. the way the sails are stowed.. can tell one a lot before you even look below.. don't like it.. Scratch it..
A coupla w/ends of this you'll have a short list..
Call the brokers and set up 2 viewing a day for when suits then go for it..
Get on Board.. the more knowledgeable checks out the top while the other heads below.. now some boats.. I don't know why.. but as soon as you reach the bottom of the steps its.. No Way.
Not because its a mess.. just a kinda antipathy.. don't strike any others the same model off the list.. unless it happens again. Its wierd..
Anyway.. when you've both finished nosing around.. ask the broker for some time alone together one the boat.. no excited patter/chatter or this good.. that bad..
Thats for later.. this is bonding time.. sit back.. maybe lay on the bunk/s.. and open up.. you'll know what I mean when it happens.. that little smile with eyes closed on Both your faces means.. You've Found THE Boat..
And you'll go home and start scheming how to get it yesterday...
“I do not exist to impress the world.
I exist to live my life in a way that will make me happy. ”

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Old 20-03-2015, 06:49   #17
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Re: What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribb

We started with a 36 foot sloop when that size was considered a good sized boat. Moved to a 37 and then a 44 and after years moved back to a 42. The 42 is perfect for us, we are not getting younger and each of us can single hand it in pretty much any weather.

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Old 20-03-2015, 08:00   #18
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Re: What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribb

Originally Posted by Steady Hand View Post
Howdy Marblehead1!

I noticed this is one of your first two posts on the forum and you are new to the forum. Welcome aboard!

I am not a current cruiser/owner, so take my comments below with a splash of warm salt water. But, I am planning on the same thing as you are, so the same issue has been on my mind.

My thoughts are that the perfect size is one that you feel you can handle in ALL likely weather and sea conditions you anticipate and in all navigation situations you anticipate (such as docking, mooring).

But this means with the crew that will likely be aboard too. So, if that is only a couple (retired) then only two people of typical retired age (65+). And that means it might just be one person on deck at a time. So, then consider the weakest of the two people and ask them if THEY feel comfortable handling the sails and helm and if they feel they can safely dock the boat etc. Now what if ONE of the two was incapacitated for some reason (illness/injury)?

Given your experience with your current 40 footer, a boat that large or somewhat larger is probably within your comfort level (for handling under motor or sailing in normal or moderate conditions) but will it be in the years to come? Will the weakest member of the crew at that time in the years to come (and that could be a man or woman) be able and comfortable to do the needed tasks? I am in my mid 50s now, and still in good health and shape. But, when I am 65 or 70, I can assume my strength will not be what it is today.

Frankly, if I were planning the same with a wife who is likely much smaller and perhaps not as strong as me and if we were both in mid to late 60s or older, with a plan to live on the boat for about 10 years further (into our 70s), I would want the following to make life as easy as possible for ONE person to handle the boat and for us both to enjoy boarding, anchoring, sailing, etc.:

1. 40-45 foot mono boat (e.g. Seaward 46RK 46RK | Seaward Yachts)
a 38 foot catamaran such as Lagoon 380 (owner's version)
2. Electric Windlass
3. Electric Primary Winch and Electric Winch on mast (or electric hand drill for assist)
4. Furling headsail
5. Furling staysail
6. Furling Mainsail
7. Small Electric winch on dinghy davits, lightweight dinghy and small 4hp motor
8. Swim steps on transom (sugar scoop type) for easy boarding
9. No high ladders down to saloon
10. Pilot house or deck saloon style boat.
11. Bow Thruster (If the larger boat proves hard to handle in docking.)
12. Temporary crew (*young and strong) for passages.
An insightful post. Thanks.
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Old 20-03-2015, 08:47   #19
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Re: What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribb

Only you can know what is "perfect." I think Boatman's approach is best for that. But I suggest you change your question slightly. Instead of looking for the biggest boat possible, you should try to learn what is the smallest boat you, and your wife, can live with. What is the smallest boat the fits your needs for today, and to some extent your needs for tomorrow (although none of us knows what tomorrow will bring).

It's easy to go big(er). Generally speaking, bigger is safer, has more storage and living space, has wider decks and is faster. Proper skill and good tools allow people to manage quite large boats in small spaces these days, and sailing a large boat is usually no more difficult than a smaller one. So bigger seems immediately attractive. However, bigger also means higher costs and higher maintenance demands. It means greater reliance on mechanical and electrical tools (hence the maintenance issues). Costs for everything from running rigging to dockage goes up for every added foot.

So, if money and time really are no barriers, then go for the biggest boat you can learn to manage. Otherwise, start looking at boats from the other end.

BTW, you'll only know how to answer this question after you've owned, and lived on a boat, for some time. Chartering only teaches a few lessons. If you have little experience cruising I strongly suggest purchasing an inexpensive 28 to 32 footer and get a few seasons of actual living and cruising. You'll learn what you actually need so you can then go and find your "perfect" boat.
Why go fast, when you can go slow.
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Old 20-03-2015, 08:59   #20
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Re: What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribb

All of the above is good information. I own a 45' Gulfstar built in Florida in 1986 I bought it new. After 20 years we spent a bundle and updated almost any thing that moved including new floors, counter tops, through hulls, pumps, belts, electric, we sailed to Marco Island and bought a new 800 lb. dinghy with a 40 horse engine, a custom arch for the davits to lift it up. We also added a windless, 2 solar panels, wind generator, and a satellite KVH M3 dome with Direct TV. and all new updated Raymarine E120 chart plotter package with radar overlaid on screen and new sonar. We even love it more than we did before. My advice update your Gulfstar and keep it you already love it. I'm 70 now and don't want to go bigger.
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Old 20-03-2015, 09:15   #21
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Cool Re: What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribb

I noticed the recommendation of the Gulfstar 50. I want to second that. I sailed from Fort Lauderdale to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala, returned north to Galveston and then shipped the boat to California where I lived aboard in Marina Del Rey for three years before selling it. The boat was outstanding for my purposes, sailing with two or three total crew. Mine has an in mast furling main and that, at the time, was the most difficult thing which required two people to handle it. Other than that and , with the suggestions of power raising the main and if you need electric winches, be sure that there is a close by kill switch to be used if needed. Anoter suggestion, which we did was in the forward cabin, there are two small drawers on each side resting in a large unused space. We cut the top out, made a top hatch and had huge spaces to store supplies.
There was a water maker on board and I switched the water tank to fuel and after significant cleaning, made the fuel tank into water. With the generator, there was backup water capacity with our 25 gph 110 v water maker, but a 12 V water maker means freedom from worrying about a fail of the generator.
The gulfstar is a very good choice, though at this time I have gone to a 45' boat. People have lived aboard and cruised where you are going in larger and much smaller boats. If you are comfortable with the GS 40, it might work also, if there is enough storeage space., The GS 50 has loads of storeage space and is a proven cruiser. Your question is almost impossible to answer since every one of us has a different concept and all boats are compromises.
Best of luck with chosing your boat. The choices are endless.
I noticed a message from "olccal46skipper> I met Tom and Bobbie in Mexico about 1990. Greetings to you from Steve on Pathfinder and thanks again for the fresh water you gave me at the Baja HA anchorage.
I sold that boat, it recently came back on the market after two owners and lots of crossings. I bid to get it back. In the mid 1990's I owned a Cal 2-46. The Cal 46 boats are also great options. Perhaps yours might be the one the originator of this thread choses.
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Old 20-03-2015, 09:40   #22
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Re: What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribb

I like a boat at least 70 feet or so. It's large enough to carry a big enough crew to form proper watches and rotate duties. 115 feet seems just about right for a wooden boat, maybe a little smaller on more modern construction.
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Old 20-03-2015, 11:23   #23
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Re: What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribb

Have you thought about buying something already in the Caribbean? We work with The Multihull Company and 5 Oceans Marine Group (monohulls) in Grenada. With direct flights from Miami and New York, far enough south to avoid most major storms, amazing sailing and stunning anchorages - Grenada is a great place to start cruising! Skip the thorny path!
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Old 20-03-2015, 12:07   #24
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Re: What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribb

I have always liked what James Baldwin wrote on his website about choosing a boat; very wise. Check out and go to " good old boats" list. Personally I'd look at the Nonsuch 26 or 30 if I were you for roominess, performance and ease of handling.
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Old 20-03-2015, 14:14   #25
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Re: What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribb

Wow. Thank all of you for your thoughtful responses to my question. After considering many of your suggestions, and my budget, I will likely end up in the 44 to 50 foot range. Large enough to make my better half happy and small enough to navigate through tight quarters with two people. A furling main and electric winches will definitely be on the list. Someone suggested I keep my 1977 gulfstar 40, which we really enjoy for coastal cruising from Marblehead to Nantucket, Martha's Vinyard and Cape Cod, but it is a very bare bones boat without any of the standard cruising accoutrements one would need for comfortable long term cruising in southern latitudes. Thanks to those who offered to sell their boats, and while I would absolutely like to buy a boat already cruise ready, rather than spend the time and money to equip a non-cruise ready boat, it's about five years too soon for us to take the plunge. In the meantime, we continue to attend large in water used boat shows to get a sense for what will work. If anyone can recommend a good used boat show venue on the east coast aside from Newport, which we attend annually, please let us know.
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Old 20-03-2015, 17:24   #26
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Re: What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribb

Boatman's post is priceless. I'm saving it!

While you probably know all this, it's always helpful to remember:

Three things to check

Like any boat, check it out, but here are three things I suggest to everyone:

1. Dipstick access. If it's a pain to do, you won't, nor would the PO. Is it easy to get to or do you have to tear the cushions out?

2. What engine? A spare parts reasonably available? Yanmar parts are hard to get (worse in Canada). And very expensive. Not a deal killer, but... Universal engines are Kubotas so tractor stores have the parts. Yanmar are reputed to be available world-wide, Kubota not so much, but they're both tractor engines on boats in the 30-38 foot range.

3. Sleeping - try out the berths. Really. Our boat has what I have found to be THE largest V berth of any boat in its size class, even the C36s. Try out the berths. Try out the berths...
Stu Jackson
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Cowichan Bay, BC, (Maple Bay Marina) SR/FK, M25, Rocna 10 (22#) (NZ model)
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Old 20-03-2015, 17:38   #27
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Re: What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribb

Originally Posted by Sandero View Post
My concern is sail handling for a retired couple in a breeze and especially if you do the thorny path from FL through the Bahamas. Light winds with electric sail handling is not much of a problem... maybe moderate... But the forces on a larger boat get up there pretty quickly.
I agree. My Passport 47 had as big winches as would fit on the coamings. I had some two hand winch handles also. In a hard breeze, even with the 115% genoa I couldn't move the winch! with both hands, in the easy direction, with a leg braced. I'm not a big guy (155-160#)and was maybe 52 yo at the time. But... size matters!
Had as much fun on my 30 footer than any. Everything was simple. A few big pulls and the main was up!
I'm thinking 36-40 is perfect.
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Old 20-03-2015, 19:30   #28
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Re: What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribb

33 ft. Offshore Catketch. Room for two, bullet proof construction, free standing rig. Easy to sail, forgiving, Walter Scott design. Room enough but not too big for two to handle. Balanced sail plan doesn't require winches for the sheets due to low pressures. Just turn and sail on opposite tack. Think automatic transmission.
Anyway, sail what you have and love's all good!

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Old 20-03-2015, 19:34   #29
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Re: What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribb

Interesting discussion.

My wife and I had been looking every year but one over nine years at yachts on display at the biggest on-water boat show in the Southern Hemisphere. We started out thinking 40' was about right, then as the years went on, homed in on 46'. Each time we left the show for that year, we had it down to a choice of three in that size range, but the next year we would start over again.

Finally, for whatever reason, we walked away in 2011 absolutely convinced as to the size and the boat. We took delivery of our boat in 2012 and have never once regreted our decision on the size or (for our budget) the model.

To give some more perspective, this was our very first keelboat, and we were both 59 back then. Since then we have noticed that boats, once in the water definitely shrink over time. What seemed huge, now seems OK, but we recognise that money, berthing charges and draft restrictions dictate that we must remain content, and we do so with little effort.

Our criteria amongst many was that we should be comfortable for months at a time, we should have the room to stow the 'necessities' of a cruising life, and of course that we should be able to comfortably handle the yacht.

Two features in particular I would not have chosen in a fit, but being a run-out model, we had no choice. We are now so glad we have them - in-mast furling, and 'Dock & Go' The boat is a Beneteau Oceanis 50, and for an older couple, handling that big main for slab reefing, would mean we would not bring it up nearly as often as we do. My fears of jamming seem unfounded, and the extra weight aloft is not such the issue I though it would be. The 'D&G' I use only when there is no other option, and in that mode, I retain my handling skills, while having a 'plan B' should a berth be otherwise essentially unviable.

The foc'sle we would not have had on a smaller yacht is invaluable, the extra space for living appreciated. Everyone is different, but for us 50' is the practical ideal.

Getting the sails down at the end of each season - with technique is quite manageable, and there is always someone around should you need another pair of hands.

Go for what suits you, go for the options that will extend your use despite advancing years, and remember - for most cruising folk, sailing is supposed to be more pleasure than challenge!

David - SV Te Anau
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Old 21-03-2015, 07:40   #30
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Re: What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribb

Why not look at a catamaran? For the length, you'll get a lot more space.


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