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Old 22-02-2020, 06:12   #1
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Experienced cruisers: please sanity check my approach to boat purchase

My wife and I are about 3 years away for cashing it all in and retiring to check off some of our bucket list items. We've started shopping around for a live aboard / long term cruising sailboat and would like some advice from the experienced cruisers on how to best approach our purchase decision. Our intentions are to spend at least the first year (probably two) sailing the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean before making the transition to the Pacific for a few more years. We have two children who will be starting their own lives at this point, but want to have adequate space to host them periodically; as such, we've decided on a Catamaran. Problem is, they're expensive...My desire is to execute this endeavor debt free, so can't really afford a new boat with all the bells and whistles.

My thought process is to buy the best boat I can afford that meets the following "no compromise" priorities: Seaworthiness (structure - including dinghy), rigging, sails, engines, electronics (to include safety items such as ePIRB, etc.). Once those are met, the remainder "sushi menu" items are: Solar / generator (or mix), water maker, air-conditioning, washer/dryer - as you can see, mainly comfort items. We will need to balance boat purchase with the cost of outfitting for the eventual passages we intend to make, which will need to be accomplished over time. I will have in our budget a "boat fund" to address standard maintenance and outfitting.

Here's where I need some advice: Is this thought process sound and from the experienced in the crowd, help me prioritize the "extras" because we will be upgrading those as we go, and certainly before any passage making (at least for solar and water-making). Am I missing anything; if so, what? Any advice on boat shopping and are there ways to minimize the outfitting cost (such as composting toilets to minimize water needs, etc.)?

Thanks in advance for the insight!
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Old 22-02-2020, 06:29   #2
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Re: Experienced cruisers: please sanity check my approach to boat purchase

Theres nothing wrong with doing it and there are a couple of threads each month here asking the same. You can save yourself a lot of time by searching through those in a single read.

Meanwhile I will tell you that if the group gets involved you are going to get a wide range of suggestions that are going to be against each other.

My recommendation is to take some lessons, join a club to sail, get the boat you want and skip the small boat route. Get what you will enjoy being on and dont worry if it seems a little “big” at first (unless you think you are going 50 foot plus it isn't) , don't get too caught up in the “fear” thing as whatever boat you chose is going to be able to “take it”. Dont let some old book, boat list, boat forum make your boat choice. Get the boat YOU like.

Good luck.
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Old 23-02-2020, 15:47   #3
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Re: Experienced cruisers: please sanity check my approach to boat purchase

I agree entirely with Sailorboy1.
There’s no harm in looking. But one thing I would suggest you do if you look at any boat which is for sale now—tell the owner you are not yet a buyer, and ask him if he minds showing you the boat. It’s not fair to look at a boat as a possible buyer otherwise.
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Old 23-02-2020, 16:13   #4
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Re: Experienced cruisers: please sanity check my approach to boat purchase

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Originally Posted by sailorboy1 View Post
Theres nothing wrong with doing it and there are a couple of threads each month here asking the same. You can save yourself a lot of time by searching through those in a single read.

Meanwhile I will tell you that if the group gets involved you are going to get a wide range of suggestions that are going to be against each other.

My recommendation is to take some lessons, join a club to sail, get the boat you want and skip the small boat route. Get what you will enjoy being on and dont worry if it seems a little “big” at first (unless you think you are going 50 foot plus it isn't) , don't get too caught up in the “fear” thing as whatever boat you chose is going to be able to “take it”. Dont let some old book, boat list, boat forum make your boat choice. Get the boat YOU like.

Good luck.


I second this. Join a club, sail OPB(otherpeoplesboats), and also try to charter or do a delivery with experienced people.

I think going small to learn might be beneficial as it teaches you to read the wind a little more, but you could probably learn that with some help.

It can be a little intense buying a boat without knowing too much though!
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Old 23-02-2020, 16:31   #5
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Re: Experienced cruisers: please sanity check my approach to boat purchase

I won't join the folks advising on how to buy a boat, but will make one observation that could influence your decision:

Many of us had the idea that our children and grandchildren would come to visit if we had good accommodations for them, and this moved our size requirements up a notch or two. Reality for us, and for many of our long term cruising friends is that it seldom or never happens. Kids have their own lives to lead, and those lives often involve lots of activities at home. They have limited vacation time, and limited travel budgets. As your cruising leads you farther from home, travel time and expense increases rapidly, and the practicality of their visiting lessens with the inevitable result that your extra cabin or two don't get used very often... if ever, for their intended purpose.

Your family might be different, but I kinda doubt it. At any rate, keep this in mind when deciding on boat size... you can spend a lot of unnecessary money on purchase and maintenance for an unused facility.

Final thought: deciding upon a catamaran before you have learned to sail, based on watching videos and reading magazines is premature. Get some time on the water and try to sail on a bunch of different boats before making this sort of decision. You sound like your budget is not unlimited, and there are fiscal advantages to monohulls as cruising platforms... and in some opinions, other advantages as well.

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Old 23-02-2020, 18:00   #6
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Re: Experienced cruisers: please sanity check my approach to boat purchase

Great input, thanks and keep it coming! I'll take Jim's warning to heart regarding the potential to over spend based on an unrealistic need for more space. Great advice...

For the record, we're not new to sailing - I've been sailing my whole life and we have many bareboat charters under our belts. We will just be new to the live aboard lifestyle...
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Old 23-02-2020, 19:42   #7
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Re: Experienced cruisers: please sanity check my approach to boat purchase

I'll give you a thought "tree" to use.

When you are thinking about adding something to your boat, ask yourself the following question:

If I was anchored at a remote atoll in the Pacific Ocean and this thing broke, could I make it home?

If the answer is "YES" then it is a luxury.
If the answer is "NO" it is an "essential" and you need TWO of those things (at least!)

Now, that is not saying that a "luxury" is a bad thing. For most of us (not interested in being monks), luxuries make life fun and worth living. But the idea helps put it in perspective. We have lots of "luxuries" on our boat. To us they are worth the money, time, and effort required to maintain them. But we pay special attention to all those things that are "essential" because, that is what they are!
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Old 23-02-2020, 20:10   #8
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Re: Experienced cruisers: please sanity check my approach to boat purchase

My hunch is that if you were to query cruisers gone one year or longer asking if they had more or fewer guests than planned, vast majority would be fewer. Not only do your kids have their life, you will too. Unless you're holed up somewhere for a few months, will be tough to coordinate schedules.

Boats are a compromise. Especially if you're on a budget. There are some excellent threads on CF describing actual expenses (sailorboy has one that is excellent). Set a budget with a decent buffer and work backwards from there. Makes little difference if a mono haul or catamaran. It's an! adventure.

Cruising dreams often die because they run out of money. I'll go a step further and say the reason they run out of money is the dream starts with a deserted zero-cost anchorage but reality is a $100/nt marina plus electricity and water and happy hour. Or folks buy a boat that is more complicated than they can maintain and they are always searching for qualified workers at $100/hr. Figuring out what will work for yourselves will help you be successful.

In my opinion, once you figure out the lifestyle, the rest falls onto place naturally as long as you are faithful to the lifestyle decisions you've made (marina, yacht club, deserted anchorage, etc).
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Old 23-02-2020, 21:04   #9
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Re: Experienced cruisers: please sanity check my approach to boat purchase

A large part of cruising is fixing your boat in exotic places. The more luxuries you put on your boat, the more of your time and money you will spend keeping them running.

You will pay a lot more for a catamaran that meets your priorities than you will for a monohull. What the cat gives you in return is a less rolly platform at anchor with more room for sundowner parties. If the cat investment is a major part of your net worth, then you will probably want to insure it, with all the expense and hassles that entails.

When you are thinking about composting toilets to save water, your inexperience is showing. Most boat toilets flush with the unlimited supply of water the boat floats in, and I'm surprised you didn't learn that on your charters.

I would suggest that you decide on the boat you think you want, then charter it. Take the boat out into the open ocean and see whether you like it on various points of sail. Then anchor it and live on it for a couple of nights. I'm currently RV shopping, and taking my third rental RV out this week--the van was too small, the next one was too big, and I'm hoping that this one is just right.
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Old 23-02-2020, 23:07   #10
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Re: Experienced cruisers: please sanity check my approach to boat purchase

Quote:
Originally Posted by ATCPinto View Post
My thought process is to buy the best boat I can afford that meets the following "no compromise" priorities: (structure - including dinghy), rigging, sails, engines, electronics (to include safety items such as ePIRB, etc.).

Once those are met, the remainder "sushi menu" items are: Solar / generator (or mix), water maker, air-conditioning, washer/dryer - as you can see, mainly comfort items. We will need to balance boat purchase with the cost of outfitting for the eventual passages we intend to make, which will need to be accomplished over time. I will have in our budget a "boat fund" to address standard maintenance and outfitting.
Regarding the washer/dryer thing, there's a lot of good discussion over here: https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums...gy-227442.html

What do you other people say about AC? Any cruisers around actually regularly using it?

I've always thought it would be pretty much useless in real life, unless docked with shore power? Or running the generator a lot ... which in itself seems annoying.
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Old 24-02-2020, 05:16   #11
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Re: Experienced cruisers: please sanity check my approach to boat purchase

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Regarding the washer/dryer thing, there's a lot of good discussion over here: https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums...gy-227442.html

What do you other people say about AC? Any cruisers around actually regularly using it?

I've always thought it would be pretty much useless in real life, unless docked with shore power? Or running the generator a lot ... which in itself seems annoying.
We agonized over AC when deciding on equipment for our refit. Our Willard 36 is not a large 36 footer. AC and generator would be a significant expense. In the end, we opted to include AC due to anticipated cruising grounds of heading from California to Florida via Canal. She will live in Florida then, with cruising to Bahamas and The Loop. Heat/humidity and mosquitos were our concern. It's something we could afford and felt it would make for a more enjoyable cruising experience despite the cost and maintenance associated with the additional system.
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Old 24-02-2020, 05:20   #12
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Re: Experienced cruisers: please sanity check my approach to boat purchase

Will also add that when we've chartered in the Caribbean, AC was not needed when anchored as the breeze always kept the boat pointed into the wind and flowing through the boat. Was only in marinas that AC was needed. In the Bahamas, have been nailed by hot weather and mosquitos a few times. Same in Florida.
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Old 24-02-2020, 06:02   #13
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Re: Experienced cruisers: please sanity check my approach to boat purchase

The problem is with a multi-hull. In order to be safe they must be built light , and light building is always far more expensive than heavier.

There are no stone crusher aircraft , yet heavy mono hulls do fine at ocean cruising.

A very large multi hull is relatively lighter but costly to maintain.

Contemplate a lead sled , used , and get underway.
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Old 24-02-2020, 06:22   #14
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Re: Experienced cruisers: please sanity check my approach to boat purchase

Buy one with all the bells and whistles already on it, They are out there, Blue water ready, Sail away,

First, Find a Cat you both really like,
Then find one with all the bells and whistles,

Thats what I did, Found the best boat for me that I really liked and did every thing that I wanted it to do,
Then I looked for one with all the bells and whistles, I actually found two identical boats for approx the same price, They came with everything already on board,
Then it was distance that decided my choice, 12000 miles or 2000 miles,

I couldnt sail at the time, So it was the 2000 mile one I chose,
2000 miles, I could drive it home on the motor at 7 knots,
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Old 24-02-2020, 06:36   #15
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Re: Experienced cruisers: please sanity check my approach to boat purchase

I second Jim's comment regarding friends/family visiting. Relatedly, it often makes sense when they do visit to stay in one place and have them stay ashore, as the logistics of moving with them to other ports can get complicated with weather, flight plans etc.

I also agree strongly with Don. Simplicity is your friend when it comes to boats. The more you can do without in terms of mechanical conveniences and systems the better.

As far as boat shopping goes, buy the best maintained boat you can and dont worry about whether it has an EPIRB or other ancillary equipment. The cost and headache of refitting would far outstrip the benefit.
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