Spoiler alert… there is no best boat….
Over the last couple of months I have exhaustively been looking for a boat. The two best places to do this are the two main web listings for sail boats for sale.
I have also posted a few threads on my two favorite sailing forums:
In all of this, I have learned a few truths.
There is an old adage about boats, they have three main traits:
- safety at sea
To a certain extent, because of boat design these are three competing characteristics. You only get two of the three.
Now, this isn’t the whole picture. MODERN boats (however you want to define that), with modern design and materials, are able to meet these three characteristics better than older ones. You can get 90′s boats that do well at all three.
But here is the kicker, if you are looking for a boat for a family, it’s going to be at least 40′ (or more) and you simply can’t afford these more modern designs. That leaves you back looking at 70′s/early 80′s boats and back to deciding which of these three you want to focus on.
With three kids, it’s a greater challenge. Planning to live onboard like we are, you need a bigger space, and each kid needs their own space to call home. Doesn’t matter if it’s just a coffin Quarter berth, but something that they can nest in and call their own. Of course, this would be solved by a couple of aft cabins, but that kind of modern design is beyond our means (we had budgeted $50,000). So searching for that bigger size, again pushes the age of the boat older, raising concerns about condition.
Sailing With Kids Tip
Use Google to your advantage and look for old 70′s boats that have recently been through a refit. Search for something like “40′ sailboat for sale refit”
So now, we are looking for a larger boat to hold three kids, probably built in the 70′s, recently refitted, and probably over our budget.
Let’s complicate that a little more!
If you are coastal sailing, or tootling round the Caribbean, your order of traits will be comfort > speed > safety. You are not really going offshore and don’t need that “bluewater boat”.
We live in New England, so we have to figure out a way to get to the Caribbean. There are two main choices, use the ICW to Florida and hop across to the Bahamas, then make our way slowly east, or to head across directly with something like the Carib 1500.
But if you are offshore sailing, you need safety > speed > comfort.
This dramatically changes the type of boats you are looking for. You start looking at Tartans and Bristol’s rather than Catalina’s or O’Day’s. Of course, one other consequence of this seaworthy design means less room inside and so your length (and price) go up as you try to sleep 5.
The annoying part is, of course, the offshore passage is a very small percentage of the time you will spend aboard a boat.
For us, this has meant that we were in some middle range of designs. A 70′s 39-43′ boat that was a compromise between comfort, safety and speed, and not excelling at any, been recently refitted, preferably with a rebuilt engine. As one forum poster said – “I read the list from bottom to top and burst out laughing when I saw the $50,000.”
A word of advice at this point, don’t give up! After reading hundreds of forum posts and reviews, hundreds of sailboat listings, and seeing about 15 boats, I had managed to find two.
- A Morgan 382, outfitted ready to go offshore.
- A Tartan 41, also refitted and ready to go.
The Tartan won by a squeak. In the end, the Morgan was simply too small inside for us and our three teak-rats. The Tartan has a great cabin layout with big pilot berths and an open twin aft berth area. Its speed, safety and comfort are a good balance for us and our plans. It was a over our budget, and will be more expensive to keep back on Lake Champlain, but should serve us well.
I have a deposit down, and now are looking for a crew to help me sail it back to Vermont. Now we just need to think of a name.