First, my wife and I commend you and your husband on 'refusing to go quietly into the night' - we too are about to sell off everything and, in our case, sail our cat down to the Caribbean
where we have bought a small beachfront property and are building a small inn/bar/restaurant. Many of our friends also think we are crazy as we have no offshore
sailing experience, speak minimal spanish (it is a spanish speaking island) and no experience in this line of business. Still, we believe that the best years of our lives are ahead of us, so long as we refuse to 'retire' - i.e. stop, and instead move on to some new and exciting challenges. We have dreams to pursue and ultimately, no one can stop you from pursuing your dreams except yourselves.
Having said all of that and with apologies to Johnathon Swift, can we make a 'modest proposal'? SLOW DOWN! Seeking the opinions of others concerning the 'ultimate boat' for your purposes is no more useful than listening to the advice of those who are trying to discourage you from this undertaking. Everyone has an opinion or mental image, but the 'perfect boat' is something like the unicorn - lovely to spend time contemplating, so long as you keep in mind that it does not exist.
At this point you can have no idea of what you will ultimately
want - and believe me, what will ultimately work (or be perfect) for you will take some time and experience to discover. Unlike some of the earlier posts, we urge you to start with an interim boat. Buy something smaller and much cheaper than you will ultimately want, but get out on the water
for a year to learn about sailing, anchoring
and most importantly, yourselves.
Get something that will be easy to re-sell and which, even if you are forced to take a loss, will be an amount you can afford to lose. What you cannot afford to lose is tens of thousands of dollars by getting it wrong at the outset.
Something like a Catalina 30
can be purchased for $20 - 30,000.00 equipped. They remain popular as they are good at what they do and provide huge 'bang for the buck'. For that price
you will get a boat that can be readily used for short cruises of up to a month. Will you want something bigger? Of course, but you won't at the outset want something bigger when it comes to learning
how to sail, dock
etc., etc. Docking
a 45 foot boat in a cross-wind can be an intimidating experience. Even reefing the mainsail
(or for that matter, putting on the sailcover) on a 45 footer is much more difficult because of the height of the boom. The forces on the sheets
are also exponentially greater and with that, the risk of serious injury should you incorrectly tie on a jib
sheet, or misuse a winch
. Think of how nervous you will be coming into a dock
or a concrete wall with your shiney, new to you 45 footer. You will not laugh off the inevitable scratches (or worse).
Furthermore, if you have everything tied up in your dream boat, you will be risking it all should you make a mistake in navigation
and run aground at the wrong time in the wrong place and the wrong conditions. You will lie awake at night worrying whether you have set your anchor
properly and whether a forecast wind
shift will cause you to drag into other boats, or the shore. You will replace the worries of shore life with a new and much more threatening set of worries - and ones that you will be, due to your inexperience, ill-equipped to handle. You will cease to enjoy what is meant to be (and can be) enjoyable.
Before we bought our current
boat I had owned about 10 other sailboats ranging in size from 17 to 36 feet and Jane had owned a couple herself. We knew what WE were looking for and felt confident in our abilities to handle the boat (and more).
Prior to buying
our property in the Caribbean
we had numerous (over 50) trips to various islands in order to discover what worked for us - our wants, our needs and our budget
. And ultimately we found what we believe to be the perfect location for US.
We urge you to compress what takes years of experience for most of us, into one or two. Afterall, you will have the time to do
this full-time, rather than merely on holidays and weekends over a number of years. Get something which is manageable at the outset for two inexperienced sailors. Sail in various conditions, anchor over different bottoms, learn basic navigation
skills. Don't sweat the odd scratch to the gelcoat
, grounding or dragged anchor. Learn and have fun!
The Catalina 30
is merely a suggestion - I have never owned one but do know that in Florida
it is a hugely popular boat. One that should hold its resale value and allow you some space for some short cruises to anchorages
in the Gulf and to the Bahamas
, when you feel up to it. There are, of course, many other boats that are available and which would well suit the short-term needs of neophyte cruisers. Just be sure to get one that has a ready market for resale.
Catamarans? Definitely something you should (and we suspect, ultimately will) look into. But very few Cats are available at prices that will make this notion of a 'disposable boat' work. Still, if you are bound and determined to spend all (or a significant portion) of your available boat budget
at the outset, then a cat may prove to be the way to go. Unlike a previous contributor, I find a catamaran
easier on the knees than trying to walk on the heeling deck
of a monohull
- it is, as you know, sideways pressures that can really cause problems.
They are also much shallower in draft
(depth) than monohulls of comparable size - this means you are much less likely to run aground. Significantly, it also means that you can anchor closer to shore in generally calmer conditions and with better scope
(the ratio of the distance your anchor rode
- i.e., line and/or chain, goes out versus down). The greater the scope
the greater the holding power.
And while people can get sea-sick on any type of vessel, the literature actually suggests that sailing on a catamaran
likely to bring about such a reaction: the inner ear is not confused by motion in two different direction (pitching and
heeling); there is more light and the ability to see the horizon from down below; there is much less 'rolling' motion.
Most catamarans have twin diesels which makes docking
and manouevering under power much
easier - in fact, they can typically be turned in their own length. The second diesel
also means that you have a 'spare' engine
should one fail.
Meal preparation is much easier (and safer) in a boat that is not heeling - in fact, the same is true of virtually any physical activity from getting dressed, to using the head
, to removing items from a locker (try opening a cabinet door when the boat is heeling towards you - you can guess what happens to the contents of the locker).
I suppose one compromise would be to buy a catamaran that is somewhat smaller and less expensive than the boat you will ultimately want/need. The Gemini
series are built in Florida
and are hugely popular. They are safe, reasonably easy to handle and capable of cruising through the Caribbean (and some would even say beyond). Used ones are readily available at a wide range of prices, many under $100,000.00. They seem to have a very good resale value (and related thereto, a ready market) and even though you won't be getting twin engines, you will be getting all of the other advantages of a cruising catamaran.
Anyway, please understand that our advice is no different that anyone else's - it is worth what you paid for it. But we do urge you to slow down and pursue this in a methodical way. Ask yourselves, what approach is more likely to create stress/worries rather than reduce it. Should I first learn to drive in something huge - i.e., a transport truck, or a car? Am I ready to decide what will be the ultimate boat for us, or am I apt to make a mistake at this point. If I buy the 'ultimate' boat now, is it apt to be my ultimate boat, or someone else's. What is the best way to pursue our dream and to enable us to learn all of things we need to learn, and to have fun while we are doing it.
Brad and Jane