Iíve been sailing for 40 years, but only properly graduated to cruising about 12 Ė 15 years ago. Iíve gradually traded up from a 23 footer to a 33 footer with a 25 footer and 29 footer on the way.
I have a few comments as follows:
1. You donít say where you are based and that would be useful to know to give you advice as to what to look for as makes of boats are quite different in Europe/UK and the USA. And there are differences in boat styles between UK and Europe
2. Donít buy a boat until you have had some experience. That will affect your judgement considerably, including about what to buy. Do a few Flotilla holidays. You might even meet future crew on these. The early and late season Flotillas often involve slightly longer trips moving boats from their wintering base to their cruising grounds which are great for slightly more challenging conditions as well as for meeting people and seeing places.
3. Get a sailing qualification. But most of all, get experience. Thatís where most of my learning
has come from. A lot of the issues are about making judgements in unexpected circumstances. In the end I think thatís what makes a good skipper
4. You talk about sailing in Europe
and a possible Atlantic crossing
. The seas in each area are quite different and one boat may not comfortably fit all (despite what the boat makers might say). Sailing around the UK is dominated by tides. That will also affect Northern European sailing (though to what extent I donít know). There are no tides to speak of in the Mediterranean
. Much easier! But if you have no experience of sailing in tidal waters and then encounter them, youíll have a steep learning
curve. A considerable issue in the Mediterranean
will be heat. If you sail there you will need a boat with a Bimini
to shade you from itís worst effects. But it can also get stormy in the Med and throw up nasty short, step seas. You wonít be affected by tides crossing the Atlantic. But the sea states you encounter will be very different, read up on that.
5. Get a boat that you can single
hand comfortably and feel confident about single
handing, but one where you can take crew if you want to.
6. Make sure your boat engine
is big enough for the types of trips you want to do. My current
boat is under-engined with an 18 horse Volvo
meaning I can find myself doing as little as 2.5knts when motoring against the tide. Painful!
7. If you are going to the Med and possibly elsewhere in Europe, you will need a holding tank
. If the boat you are keenest on hasnít got one, make sure she has the space to accommodate one.
8. If you are going across the Atlantic you will need a lot of tankage for fuel
. Or room for a water
maker. My last boat only carried 50 litres of water and 26 litres of fuel
. Some people wouldnít get further than the Isle of Wight on that.
My last boat was a Beneteau
First 285 Ė just under 29 ft. My current
boat is a Westerly Storm 33. Only 4 foot longer but a much bigger boat in reality. The Westerly will sleep 7 (tight), but also I can and do singlehand her, though picking up a mooring
single handed in a Force 6 is interesting. I wouldnít take the Beneteau
First 285 across the Atlantic, good little boat that she was. My Westerly would be just about be big enough for that. But the main thing is that sheís solidly built and a good sea boat, and also quite quick (Iíve caught and passed a Contessa 32 and a Beneteau 38).
If you are in the UK, Iíd look at Sadlers, Westerlys, Moodys, Nicholsons (donít rule
out a Nicholson 35), Rivals, Rustlers, Starlights and Island Packets. Some will be outside your £50k price
range. But many wonít be. Spend about about £30k (youíd get a Westerly Storm for that) and then spend the other £20k on upgrades to the engine
etc. Contessas are great but quite low in the water compared to others and thus potentially quite wet. They also have a lot less cabin
space comparatively. But how much space you need only you can judge Ė and some boats have poor storage
Finally think about a make of boat that you can sell on when the time comes. There are thousands of obscure makes that may be good boats but which have no Ďfollowingí. The above brands are well known and you are likely to get some interest when the time comes to sell, especially if they have been looked after and have a good pedigree.
But before buying
, get some experience first! That will help you buy a boat you are proud to own. There is nothing worse than splashing the cash and then wishing youíd bought something else instead. Iím very happy that my Westerly Storm is the best boat I have ever bought and it was absolutely the right choice for me.