We live on a Catalina
400 (actaully about 42' LOA). We have two boys, 6&9. We lived aboard before this on a Catalina
There are way too many variables to give you any really good advice. What is your budget? What is your comfort level? Etc. I think this was pointed out above also. So, all I can do is tell you what works for us and you can go from there.
We would love to have a over-under berthing arrangement for the boys. However, we split the Vberth with a board to give them their own space. We feel everyone should have their own little space that is independent of the others. This arrangement works well. In fact, it was in place long enough that we recently removed the baord and the personal space has still been maintained. I personally had no interest in having the kids sleeping in the salon
. Other parents do and that is fine. Our personal comfort level (and budget) allowed us to avoid that. The problem for us was that we enjoy spending time sitting up in the salon
after the kids go down. Enjoy a glass of wine, watch a movie
, read a book... etc. That would be difficult for us with a child sleeping in the salon. You will find that down here, the no-seeums and rain storms may prevent you from spending as much time in the cockpit as you would prefer. As such, I would not count on it being the escape that many people profess it to be.
Equally important to us was a place that we, as parents, could escape to. SOmething independent from the kids. Our boat has a very large master cabin with seats to either side. You can read in bed
(not as well as in other boats as it is an aft cockpit), but the seats and large sleeping quarters make up for that. Of course, everything is a tradeoff. All I can say is that having a place to escape to is heavenly on a boat - more so with kids I think than adults.
Another key factor is that with kids, storage
is critical. I cannot emphasize this enough. We have found many boats that look good at the boat show
, nice an roomy down below, but there is little storage. Luckily with a destination
south, you will avoid many of the bulky items (blue jeans, jackets, LS shirts, etc), but this space will quickly be eaten up with toys and books
of every shape and size. Many of the modern production boats are very devoid of good cabinetry (mostly due to cost) so if you select that route
, be thoughtful of how you might modify the cabinetry to allow for the considerable toys and items you will need to put on board. This is also true for food
stocks, tools, spare parts
, etc that are necessary for long term living aboard
and cruising. In a word - storage is a premium so look beyond the space as much as posssible.
Other things we look for is a place to stretch out and a very comfortable cockpit for at least 4. Many of the blue water
boats have relatively tight cokpits by design. You will eat a lot of your meals
up there and will spend a lot of time there - so be counscious of how and where you can all sit, play games, etc. I would not overly concern myself with the functionality of the cockpit for sailing. Let me clarify this as it probably sound backwards, but you will spend the majority of your time on the hook and a very small percentage going. The kids will probably have to be tpo side with you for most of that as they may be susceptible to sea sickness
. Plus, when sailing down here, it gets hot down below and uncomfortable, even if they do not get sea sick. But you are not racing
. Better you have to stretch to trim a sheet than being in a cockpit that would be uncomfortable with 4 people. This may not be true in other destinations... just this one (in my opinion). Still, make sure (very important) that you can single
hand this boat and your wife can single
. That is pretty much how it works for us. Somebody ineveitably has to keep an eye on the kids which can be a full time job!! And for saety's sake, being able to comfortably single hand is paramount. Again, my opinions here.
You will find you go through a lot more water
than you might expect. A watermaker
, though not mandatory, shoudl would be nice to make your adventure more comfortable. Think about that and how you could mount it (and where). I also prefer, for down south, a boat with a lot of hatches and airy. It sure makes the hot days more tolerable.
Considering these criteria (just the tip of the iceberg), we found that our comfort level for a boat was in the 36-42 range. We also preferred the productino types of boats as they met most of the criteria for us. Other people will have a different comfort level and different priorities, so you may be able to go smaller or may find you have to go larger. I would caution against getting too large as they tend to be a lot more work, harder to single, and much more expensive to maintain.
Those are our thoughts. Hope to see you out there. Fair winds,