Sailboat Frequently Asked Questions - Buying And Selling
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Owning A Sailboat - Frequently Asked Questions

Owning a Sail Boat

The Seattle Yachts team are experts at helping you buy a sailboat, sell your current one, and even learn how to sail. Not only do we own Tartan Yachts and the factory, but we are also dealers for other new sailboat brands like Hanse Yachts. This list of frequently asked questions about sailing should answer many of the basic things new sailors want to know.

What does it take to learn how to sail?

Sailing is a sport that can be learned and enjoyed on many levels. The venerable Sunfish and Laser sailboats are perfect for a nice couple of hours on the water. Grab a friend who knows how to sail, and one can get an essential understanding of boat handling and sail trim in an afternoon.

For a more immersive experience, there are many sailing schools that teach the sport in all its forms, and they are an excellent way to learn one level at a time. Each has a specific goal for individual courses, and over one or two years, are one of the best ways to gain confidence, learn how to sail, while learning about other aspects of sailing, such as rules of the road, line handling, anchoring, docking, even engine maintenance and operation. These courses add to one's experience and lead to fun sailing vacations in paradise or even offshore adventure to foreign shores.

There are schools for just about anything related to sailing. Google "sailing instruction" and look for sailing classes near you.

What are the best sailboat brands?

While this may seem a valid question, it is a difficult question to answer. Just what is the definition of "best?" Best for what? Day sailing, weekend cruising, coastal cruising, racing, offshore sailing, or sailing around the world? Each is decidedly different, so it is impossible to provide a simple list of best all-around sailboats for sale.

Unfortunately, many of the most popular or desirable boat builders are no longer in business, a result of economic hardship over the last couple of decades. This means there are outstanding boats from the highest quality builders only available on the used market, as well as new boats from a much smaller universe of boat manufacturers.

The sailboat industry was at its peak during the period between 1970 and 1990, which accounts for most sailboats still out there in the U.S. The big names at the time, in total number of boats built, were Catalina, Hunter, Beneteau, Pearson, Tartan , O'Day, and J-Boats. Many of the other builders were household names back in the day: Ericsson, Morgan, Cal, C&C, Island Packet, Cape Dory, Sabre, Bristol, and Pacific Seacraft.

Tartan 4300 Sail Boat

Today there are fewer manufacturers in the world, and very few based in the U.S. The big volume companies today are all European builders, including Beneteau, Jeanneau, Bavaria, and Hanse Yachts

Another interesting point to add to this discussion is that the production boat builders only build their boats to a certain state of completion to match the needs of most of their customers. To keep prices in check, few builders complete their production boats where they are ready to head offshore. They know most buyers have no intention of crossing oceans or challenge the limits of the CE classification of Class A - Open Ocean.

So the added costs of finishing the construction and outfitting to that degree is unwarranted and unnecessary.

So, while these new sailboats might be inherently capable of serious offshore passages, buyers who intend to go offshore must complete the build out and outfitting on their own.

Hanse 548 Sail Boat

Top-quality builders include Valiant, Oyster, Hallberg-Rassy, Hylas, Morris, Little Harbor, Pacific Seacraft, Southerly, Garcia, Najad, and Hinckley. Yachts from these yards provide a high degree of owner satisfaction in finish and overall design. High-end yachts to be sure.

Today's production builders, Hanse, Jeanneau, Beneteau, Dufour, Tartan, Catalina, to name a few, build good boats, with modern interiors and comfort systems and can be outfitted and appreciated to whatever level one is willing to pay for.

Sailing catamarans have also been all the rage the last few years, as they are now well established as comfortable cruising boats, particularly in shallow waters and for living aboard. The number of builders continues to grow, and come from France, Germany, Vietnam, Turkey, Australia, and South America.

Interestingly, many people coming into sailing for the first time quickly take to the concept of the multihull. This is different from the general reluctance of experienced monohull sailors who grew up while the catamaran and trimaran evolution suffered growing pains. Structural failures, capsizes, and poor load carrying capacity hampered acceptance of early multihulls, and many sailors found them lacking when compared to traditional monohull sailboats.

Lagoon Sailing Catamaran

Attend the Annapolis Sailboat Show and you will find an enormous fleet of multihulls. And the builders out do themselves with attractive design features and layouts. St Francis, Antares, Gunboat, Fountaine Pajot, Leopard, Outremer, Excess, and Lagoon are some of the current builders of competent catamarans.

What is the difference between a sailboat and a sailing yacht? What are the different types of sailboats?

There once was more of a distinction between what is considered a yacht, and it had to do with overall length. However, this is less distinct today, and it is more appropriate to consider the sailing yacht to be the one with the comfort systems, interior room, aesthetics, and sailing performance to turn heads wherever she goes.

But it is more than just how many systems are aboard. A large traditional or contemporary sailing yacht, such as those from Hallberg-Rassy, Swan, Hylas, and Oyster, have exquisite interiors, teak decks, and stainless-steel hardware and finish that is second to none.

Hallberg-Rassy Sailboat

Look at a no-frills fiberglass production boat, such as the popular Catalina 27. It represents solid value to satisfy the needs of people interested in a lower maintenance, wash-and-wear recreational sailboat. When compared to much more expensive and beautifully finished sailboats, there is no question which are yachts. Sparkling varnished trim, shiny custom stainless-steel hardware, in-mast furling, and bright yacht club burgees flying from the spreaders indicate there are yachtsmen aboard. One expects to see them moored in the Mediterranean, Newport, Roche Harbor, Victoria, Ft Lauderdale, and other resort destinations around the world.

The boats in between represent solid construction, quality finish and excellent interiors. They are a healthy blend of quality and value. Brands in the U.S. include Tartan Yachts, Island Packet, Sabre, Valiant, and Pacific Seacraft. Others in this category are Hanse, Jeanneau, Beneteau, Ovni, Rustler, Southerly, Taswell, Outbound, and Passport.

Monohulls remain the most numerous genre of sailboats, but there is great diversity among the designs, materials, and features for convenience and ease of handling. Wide transoms are now common for the European designs, as are twin helms, dual rudders, hinged transoms with integrated swim platforms, and wide side decks for ease of moving around. Running rigging is now carefully designed to be out of the way yet provide low-friction control for sail handling.

What is the best sailboat for a beginner?

Experienced sailors have long suggested the best way to learn sailing is to learn in a dinghy. The reason is that small boats provide instant feedback to movements of the tiller as adjustment of the sails to harness the wind. One quickly understands the nuances of sail trim, and the effects on both speed and stability in the combination of wind, waves, and helm control. Small boats don't have the distractions of larger boats that have enough momentum to mask subtle changes in sail trim.

Once past the basics, however, many sailing veterans correctly argue it is easier to sail a larger boat, for precisely the same reasons. There is momentum, and the boat isn't as quick to respond, so sailing on a course requires less attention and focus. It is possible to set the sails to fit the wind and waves and then sit back while the boat sails itself. That is not the case in a small boat.

It is often popular to start with a sailing course, offered on many types of sailboats, from dedicated sail training boats (such as the wonderful Colgate 26) to genuine cruising sailboats that add a taste of the cruising life while learning to sail.

The big thing is to start with a simple boat and sail plan. A single headsail and main will be all one needs to get started, then to progress to more complex rigs and boats over time, once one achieves confidence in the basics.

The best advice, which applies to most of these FAQs, is also to establish a relationship with a professional yacht broker, once the decision is made to buy a boat. There is tremendous value in working with an experienced yacht broker who not only knows the process of buying and selling sailboats, but also the many kinds of sailboats, both specific brands as well as general categories. He or she will be invaluable in refining and interpreting your interests (and budget), then matching them with an appropriate sailboat, which usually is a steppingstone in the evolution of becoming a cruising sailor. A good broker can ease you into a great learning sailboat, knowing that it will be easy to sell as you move into a larger, more capable sailboat.

The normal term of boat ownership is 4-7 years, so expect over the course of a sailor's life, one may own several boats. As a result, many sailors form life-long friendships with their brokers, who remain there through the purchase and sale of several boats. A boat broker is an integral part of the process of becoming a sailor, as their knowledge and experience helps steer the new sailor in the right direction.

How much is a good sailboat?

If you want a new sailboat, or one that is nearly new, the biggest issue today is lack of inventory. This shortage is expected to continue into 2023, as boat dealers sell every new boat they get from the manufacturers. The days of spec boats sitting at dealers for six months or more are gone for the foreseeable future.

The list price of a new boat will likely include a sail away package, which includes lines, fenders, anchor and rode, PFDs, and some other basic equipment, but certainly not all the gear, electronics, and other equipment one will eventually install or stow aboard. Begin by choosing a layout that works for you, in terms of number of cabins, heads, and general arrangement. Beyond these basic specs, it is pretty much a blank slate for adding everything else, from electric winches to in-mast furling.

Here are some new sailboat prices:

  • 2020 Hanse 348 - $226,000
  • 2022 Catalina 445 - $375,000
  • 2021 Hanse 458 - $472,000
  • 2022 Seawind 1370 - $700,000
  • 2022 Jeanneau 440 - $475,000
  • 2022 Tartan 365 - $291,000
  • 2022 Lagoon 42 - $685,000

One can easily spend an additional 40 percent of these prices in outfitting the boat to go cruising.

To get the newest design, construction technology, and trouble-free enjoyment, a new boat is the way to go.

For any number of reasons, however, budget and availability being two big factors, it may be best to look for a used boat. Your broker is vital when navigating this universe, with a hand on the pulse of what is out there, or soon coming onto the market.

There are many things to consider when looking at a used boat, in terms of size, age, and general condition. But there are some costs easily identified. Obviously, the initial purchase price of the boat must be considered. For a young, energetic person or couple, who have the time and attitude to take on a serious project, an old boat may make the most sense financially. There are some fine vintage sailboats out there. Even considering the inflated current prices in the used boat market because of Covid/lack of inventory, there are deals to be had. Buying a boat that is 30+ years old can be a good choice if it has good bones.

A casual look on the search engines reveals some typical vintage sailboats that could be considered across several price ranges.

  • 1992 Valiant 40 - $185,000
  • 1990 Catalina 42 - $70,000
  • 1984 Baba 30 - $40,000
  • 1979 Tartan 37 - $56,000
  • 1985 Passport 40 - $115,000
  • 2005 Beneteau 42 - $65,000
  • 2000 Tartan 3700 - $149,000
  • 1993 Pacific Seacraft 44 - $199,000
  • 1987 C&C 44 - $79,000
  • 2000 Caliber LRC 40 - $149,000
  • 1985 Norseman 447 - $179,000
  • 1989 Catalina 30 - $29,800
  • 1986 Hunter 34 - $39,900

Make no mistake, buying a 20- to 40-year-old boat is going to require work. But most production boats, if they have problem areas, they are well known, such as a history of loose keel bolts for that fin keel. When was the last time those were checked? Or fuel and water tanks that don't age well.

All systems, hoses, wires, fixtures, bushings - everything on a boat, in fact - ages, gets brittle, and needs to be replaced at some point. And interior furniture and bulkheads lose their luster over time. Cushions don't last forever. And what to do with that eight-track player!?!

For people who are 65 years old or more (an arbitrary age for the sake of argument), I am a firm believer of what I call the Magic Decade. When we reach a certain age, and most will know when that is, there is the realization that we are no longer as capable as we once were. But it is also reasonable to assume that we can expect to continue doing what we love for perhaps another ten years before we need to step back. Accepting that reality is important. And then using that reality to come up with a plan that works within that window.

If that is your situation, I absolutely recommend buying a new or nearly new boat, as it will have far fewer issues and problems during that Magic Decade, providing you 10 years of excitement and adventure without long periods of guaranteed downtime. If budget is an issue (and it usually is) then it might be necessary to scale back the size of the boat to keep its purchase within one's financial range. This cannot be overstated. It is far better for an older sailor (even 80+ years old, and I personally know a cruising couple and he is 100) to sail a newer, perhaps smaller boat than a large, old boat that will need constant attention, maintenance, and repair. A 38-footer can still go all the places where a 46-footer can cruise.

There is no wiggle room here. It is a fact of life.

On any old boat, it is quite possible that one will need to replace all standing and running rigging, the engine, fuel and water tanks, sails, safety gear, thru hull fittings, rudder and cutless bearings, windlass and ground tackle, dinghy and outboard, batteries and electrical systems (especially charging systems), and, of course, the electronics which are obsolete after a couple of years. These items could easily cost as much as the original purchase price of the boat!

Searching for boats built after 2010 would allow me to feel reasonably certain that I could get the boat ready to go without major ongoing expenses. The diesel engine would still be fine, tanks not rusted away or riddled with pinhole leaks, and all the other components should still have plenty of life in them for my Magic Decade.

Even so, if it was 10 years old, I would still replace all thru hulls, inspect and possible replace the ground tackle and other gear that may be just about reaching the point of replacement. (I would also probably replace the standing rigging and lifelines, just for the confidence factor. That is worth $10,000 to me.)

How much does a 50-foot sailboat cost?

50 Foot Sail Boat

Look for a 50-foot cruising boat? What are the current prices for a new 50-footer?

A sampling where the dealers publish list prices:

  • 2020 Beneteau Oceanis 51.1 - $524,000
  • 2020 Bavaria 50 - $525,000
  • 2020 Jeanneau 51 - $435,000
  • 2022 Hanse 508 - $355,000
  • 2022 Najad 505 - $879,000
  • 2021 Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 49 - $653,000
  • 2022 Excess 15 (50') - $1,100,000

But again, the price of a new boat is only the starting point, and one will spend an additional amount to make it cruise ready, depending on the level of desired outfitting.

There are other Magic Decade boats that are likely much closer to being cruise-ready, and they range anywhere from $250,000 to over $500,000. For high-end sailing yachts, one can expect to pay considerably more.

  • 2016 Bavaria 51 - $229,000
  • 2019 Beneteau Oceanis 51 - $388,000
  • 2019 Beneteau Oceanis 51 - $465,000
  • 2016 Hanse 505 - $306,000
  • 2018 Jeanneau 51 - $506,000
  • 2019 Dehler 46 - $482,000
  • 2018 Hallberg-Rassy 48 - $935,000

The following list of older boats from 1977 to 2015 in the 50-foot range are most all listed under $200,000. Some of the older boats include rebuilt engines, replaced systems, and will certainly come with more equipment than a new boat. The condition of each boat will, of course, vary in terms of how well it has been maintained.

  • 2008 Beneteau 51 - $159,000
  • 2009 Beneteau 51 - $182,000
  • 2011 Jeanneau 53 - $195,000
  • 2002 Beneteau Oceanis 50 - $182,000
  • 2008 Beneteau Oceanis 50 - $187,000
  • 2015 Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 50 - $187,000
  • 1982 Hinckley Sou'wester 50 - $195,000
  • 2008 Bavaria 50 - $187,000
  • 2015 Bavaria 51 - $194,000
  • 2006 Jeanneau 49 - $182,000
  • 2012 Hanse 495 - $199,000
  • 1995 Valiant 50 - $249,000

I need to point out that in today's market, where demand for new and used boats is at record levels, the sheer number of boats manufactured by the big four European builders (Jeanneau, Beneteau, Bavaria, Hanse) is greater than all other manufacturers combined, which is why a search for available sailboats results in mostly those brands. (As of August 2021, there are over 1,192 Beneteau boats for sale on one of the leading search engines, 522 of them in North America.)

What do I need to know before buying a sailboat?

Honest and realistic assessment of what you really want and need versus what you dream of. This comes back to the grounding effect of a professional yacht broker. He or she will no doubt steer you away from the unobtainable yacht you may have convinced yourself to have, even if the dream is nowhere close to your actual cruising needs.

Years ago, I kept my boat on the same dock as the new sailboats being commissioned by the local Hans Christian dealer. These sailboats, dripping with tradition in the form of teak decks, cabin sides, and heavy teak blocks, were beautiful. But they were also dreadfully wrong for the Chesapeake Bay or most any other coastal cruising ground. They need stiff breeze to sail and are difficult to maneuver in close quarters. They subsequently became weekend condos that never left the dock.

A good broker will steer a buyer away from such romantic fantasy, towards a much better choice for their cruising interests for the next couple of years. A boat that is middle of the road in many respects, not too heavy but not too light, draft not too deep but sufficient to sail well upwind, a rig that is contemporary but not extreme, and an interior that is just enough and not much more.

Is a sailboat a good investment?

No recreational boat can be considered a sound investment that will appreciate over time. While it may have some aspects to lessen the financial blow, such as qualifying as a second home, there are far better investments for one's money.

However, it is not really an investment of a financial nature, but rather an investment in quality of life. Sailing, and more specifically cruising, can be a life changing experience that takes one on a new path of emotional, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. It will introduce a sailor to a world seldom seen by those living in a structured routine on land. New cultures, new adventures, and the close camaraderie of fellow cruisers is something quite special.

If you goal is to use your time on earth wisely, a sound argument can be made that perhaps the cruising life is one of the best investments one can make in one's lifetime.

What are the different ways people use a sailboat?

Like any recreational activity or lifestyle, there is a wide range of ways people enjoy time on the water, and this is especially true when it comes to sailing. Some are dedicated racers, so their boats are set up for this purpose alone. But even within the racing community, there are many kinds of racing programs, so the selection of the right boat runs the gamut. Racing sailboats might by high-tech speed machines, with no interior to speak of, save to meet the basic requirements of a marine head. Look at the competitors in any weekend, one design, or Wednesday Night race program and you will find a lot of different size and style sailboats, from family cruisers to all-out racing boats with only the barest essentials to keep the boats light and fast.

Many people start sailing intending to have fun for the day or afternoon, and it is enough to be out on the water for a short period of time. As their experience grows, however, so does interest in sailing longer distances, perhaps to a quiet cove for an overnight cruise, which, for new sailors, is quite the adventure. Making a meal at anchor is a thrill for those new to the sport, and as experience grows, so might the interest in expanding the cruising envelope to include longer trip in home waters, maybe an occasional trip farther afield, perhaps through the San Juan Islands to Friday Harbor, or around Narragansett or Chesapeake Bays, or perhaps to Catalina Island. Those in Florida have many cruising grounds near and far.

As one's experience grows, so do opportunities to crew aboard other people's boats, and experience what it is like to go to sea in a sailboat. Whether a leisurely cruise to an island or perhaps an offshore race to Bermuda or Hawaii, this is an ideal way to ratchet up one's understanding of what works and feels right. It is the best way to grow as a sailor, crewing on other boats. The onboard activities involve the new sailor to a host of activities that are both necessary and part of the program: standing watch, working the foredeck when adjusting sails, cooking in a galley that is cramped by design, cleaning, sleeping, even learning about personal hygiene while living in a narrow hull that is heeled over and crowded with sleeping crew.

For some new sailors, who dream of going over the horizon, these adventures are key attractions to sailing. For the older crowd it might have started with a book by early sailors, such as Hal and Margaret Roth on Whisper, or Lynn and Larry Pardey on their small wood boats, or the Hiscocks. For an entire generation it was the famous National Geographic series of Robin Lee Graham going around the world on his small boat, Dove.

For the more later generations, enter YouTube, where there are dozens of young couples living the dream on a sailboat. Traveling, exploring, and sharing their weekly adventures with a dedicated (and often paying) audience. In today's world of wanting experience instead of accumulating possessions, this lifestyle has a strong appeal. If they can do it, so can I!

Can you live on a sailboat?

The better question is what would I need to live comfortably in a small space? For younger people, especially, living a minimalist existence is not only possible but desirable. Who needs all the comforts of home, which often require a large boat just to contain them? I lived for several years as a single guy on a wood Tahiti Ketch in the Pacific Northwest, and later a Baba 30 cutter on the East Coast. I was single, and my needs were easily satisfied by my "tiny home." I made it work and still look back with a great smile. It was a wonderful life.

There were tradeoffs I accepted that I would no longer tolerate today, especially as I am no longer alone. Living with a wet head, for example, is not for everyone. The shower is part of the head, and everything gets wet when one takes a shower. No big deal at the time, as it kept the head spotlessly clean. But today I want a separate shower. On larger boats a short tub would be nice.

It takes creativity to organize one's life living on a boat, and figuring out how to separate the sailing life from the liveaboard experience. I know folks who put their "home office" in one medium-size Tupperware container to hold office supplies, envelopes and stamps, stapler, and other supplies. Thankfully, most banking and bill paying occurs online these days, if one has a reliable Internet connection.

One also must embrace the tiny home culture in the sense that when you buy a new pair of deck shoes, you give up a pair that it replaces. There just isn't space to accumulate possessions.

I knew a couple who lived aboard a 27-foot sailboat with a teenage son, at anchor full time. I know their budget and expenses were quite different from another couple who live on a Taswell 58, complete with a new Tesla parked in the marina.

Living aboard a sailboat is only part of the equation, however. What is your livelihood? If you have a full-time job that requires business casual in an office, your wardrobe will be decidedly different than one who is self-employed, works from the boat's chart table, or is in a more casual job. For some number of years, I needed to wear a suit on occasion, and given the realities of living on a boat and having a traditional job, I kept my leather shoes in the trunk of my car. Changing from boat shoes to freezing, polished wingtips in the winter was not particularly fun.

Hollywood has provided a glimpse over the years of professionals who lived on sailboats: detectives, doctors, even medical examiners, living a different sort of existence than their contemporaries. Life in a marina offers a different view of the world for sure.

Most sailboats have a suitable galley, head, table, berth, and storage for living aboard. I still think living aboard is one of my favorite memories, and today I would easily move onto a 40-46-foot sailboat without a second thought.

One of the realities of living on a movable platform is that even assuming one stays put in a marina for most of the time, certain necessities, such as getting packages and mail, require some adjustment. Many states do not accept a P.O. Box as a valid address for a driver's license. There are workarounds, perhaps using the home address of a family member or friend. Talking to other liveaboard people will provide a look into this unique but rewarding lifestyle.

The liveaboard community is super supportive of each other, and they collectively deal with most situations as a group. Two examples of this might occur if one lives aboard in Boston and the water on the dock is shut off for the winter months. How does one get fresh water during those cold months? Another issue is being able to pump out the holding tank. In many areas, there is a pump out boat that travels through marinas and anchorages to pump out holding tanks for a fee. But this is often a seasonal service, so what does one do in the off season?

If there are two of you, or more, it will take agreement from all people to make it work. But it can be the perfect setting for a lifetime of memories, and stories that could not happen any other way.

Obviously, one can move from one location to another on a whim, or as a seasonal migration with other liveaboard cruisers. We also highly recommend learning about knot-tying and all of the different ones that will come in handy.

What costs come with owning a sailboat?

When you own a boat there is always something that needs to be repaired, maintained, or added. Winches need routine servicing, sails need to be cleaned, inspected, and repaired, and some new products, such as a roller furling system for that new Code Zero sail, just beg to be purchased at the boat show. It is one of the joys of boat ownership, keeping things in tiptop shape and bringing one's sailboat up to the latest levels of perfection and cruise readiness.

As far as annual maintenance costs, it is reasonable to expect to spend 10 percent of the price of the boat for a 10+ year old boat. Perhaps half that for a newer boat. That does not include insurance, slip fees, shrink wrap or cover and/or hauling for winter, winterizing and spring commissioning, and other expenses.

Do sailboats hold their value?

A new boat will quickly depreciate from its original price, but once it is properly outfitted for cruising, that sliding depreciation levels off to some extent. The market is normally full of used boats, owners getting years of enjoyment with their boats. Properly maintained, these boats are every bit as cruise worthy as new boats, likely even more, as the bugs have been worked out and the equipment sorted out.

It is not surprising in these times of high demand to find high-quality sailboats that are 30 years old still commanding prices between $200,000 and $250,000. While mainstream fiberglass production boats depreciate the most, which is not surprising, it is all relative they were built to provide the most value for the least amount of money. And the market may be flooded with identical, cookie cutter boats.

The worst-case scenario is where an owner decides to make drastic changes or modifications to the boat which degrade the value of the boat when it is time to sell. I am not talking about replacing the original wheel steering with a tiller, or some other change that involved experienced technicians to do it right. What comes to mind is adding a hard dodger that screams DIY in a backyard. I have seen some supremely ugly additions to a perfectly fine sailboat, especially when the boat is no longer a cruising sailboat, but rather has morphed into a cheap place to live in a backwater marina.

What should I look for in a used sailboat?

When shopping for a used cruising boat, it really helps to work with a broker who is connected within the network of professional brokers. Working within the yacht brokerage system, he or she can remain on the lookout for the jewel of your search, a boat that has just returned from a long cruise, for example, perhaps a circumnavigation, already fully equipped in every important area, with the latest safety gear, life raft and SSB radio, sail inventory, electronics, and electrical system. As most people only go cruising for a couple of years, the boat is well maintained, remains in good shape and systems stay current. Gear like Wi-Fi extenders is pretty much a given for cruising boats today, and the previous owners already figured out what worked on the boat, so you don't have to. Beyond that, it is important to understand the quality of design and construction. A good design that is poorly constructed is nothing you want to own, especially if it is old. Conversely, if the boat does not sail well, it will be frustrating. The Westsail 32 is such a boat. Its cult status in its day was all about the cruising lifestyle, not having fun sailing.

Westsail 32 Sailboats

While long passages are not frequent, being able to sail at least 150 miles a day can be a safety factor. (To avoid weather systems, some experienced sailors insist 200+ miles a day, although that requires a long waterline beyond the scope of the boats we are discussing.)

A sail plan that is simple to handle is something to look for, as one normally sails with one or two people at any given time. I am a fan of the Solent rig, which has two headsails on rolling furling gear, one for going upwind and the other for off the wind. It has proven to be very cruiser friendly.

Again, a good broker will know what to look for or who to ask. There are some other considerations, although this is hardly a complete list.

Accessibility

My number one priority of any boat is accessibility. Being able to reach every major component of the boat is not just preferred, it is critical. Access to all sides of the engine, for example, would seem a major priority, yet some builders obviously don't put much emphasis on the owner's ability to change a raw water impeller. Are the thru hulls easy to physically handle? If the boat has its pumps, systems, and batteries hidden or buried behind bulkheads and furniture, walk away.

Handholds

There should be plenty of grab rails, handholds, and other places to stay attached to the boat under way. And this is important for every member of the crew, not just you. Moving about inside a heeled sailboat or jittery catamaran requires a firm grasp of the interior, whether the edge of a table, an overhead railing, or the back of settee furniture. Easily overlooked at a busy boat show, this is important. In the case of my earlier comment about builders not finishing the boat to be fully ready to go to sea, can these handholds be added? Hopefully so. And that is true on the exterior, from cabin to grab rails to tall lifelines. Staying aboard is important.

Reasonably deep bilges

I would not care to own a cruising boat with shallow bilges only a few inches deep. That is for a daysailer, not one that can could get water aboard. I'm not talking about hitting a shipping container, or being attacked by a pod of Orca, but rather the kind of water intrusion that can occur in normal cruising.

Low maintenance exterior

There was a time when teak was king, and every new boat glistened with shiny, varnished trim, teak decks, and maintenance-intensive brightwork. Today, that is no longer desirable. I have friends who complain they put their varnishers' children through college with the annual upkeep of their brightwork.

There are so many other factors that are both subjective and diverse. I would prefer, if I had the choice, for lead ballast inside the keel over a bolted-on keel. Just less risk in the event of a hard grounding. And I could go on about uncluttered side decks, a proper anchoring set up where I could wash off the chain and anchor coming aboard without have mud running down the foredeck. A simple design element could eliminate this, such as a dam for the muck to drain overboard at the bow.

Comfortable cockpit seating is also important but sorely lacking on many older boats. The sides of a cockpit can be quite uncomfortable to sit against by the third or fourth day of a passage. One may not notice this on an afternoon sail, but it becomes an issue when cruising.

Other little things can become quite irritating, and only noticed when one is out there. The boat's steaming light is a good example. When motoring at night with the mast steaming light on, it can light up the foredeck and kill night vision. Better to fasten a shield to block the transmission of light onto the boat deck.

Is it hard to sell a sailboat?

The answer to that question depends on the brand of boat, its condition, and the area where it is located. There are currently more than 500 Beneteau boats for sale in North America, while finding a Morris 46 may be a waiting game until one comes on the market if it gets that far and is actually listed. Word of mouth and being connected to the right people can make all the difference. Another reason to befriend a yacht broker who has relationships with the right people.

All boats eventually sell, and while special and unique sailboats are often snatched up quickly, there is another argument for owning a mainstream production boat that can fit another's boating needs without breaking the bank. Such boats offer a wash-and-wear boating experience with lower maintenance than an exotic one design.

What is the best cruising sailboat?

To answer that question, one needs to honestly decide on where they plan to go cruising, with how many people, and for how long? And what is the budget?

Cruising Sailing Yacht

If you live and cruise in northern waters, such as the Pacific Northwest, the Great Lakes, or New England, having a sailboat with a raised saloon and large windows might be an outstanding choice to bring the outside into the boat, while staying protected, dry, and warm. There are some boats that even have inside steering for cruising in rainy or cold weather. That is a very nice choice for those waters.

However, that same boat in the tropics would be hot, a veritable greenhouse, impossible to keep cool without running the generator and air conditioning.

A deep draft boat is also not the best choice for shallow water cruising, such as Florida, the Keys and Bahamas, or even Chesapeake Bay and the ICW. It is not an issue on the West Coast, though, if that is where you plan to be.

The point is that there is no one ideal boat for everything. Couples planning to cruise northern latitudes might find an insulated, aluminum boat is perfect, such as the semi-custom boats from Boreal, Garcia, and Ovni. Cruising where there is ice is an ideal environment for these tough, go anywhere cruisers, most of whom come standard with diesel fired furnaces for that environment. Buttoned up, with protected steering stations, one can confidently explore places where there are no other boats, and the experience is vast and untouched.

Those cruising the Islands want the opposite kind of vessel, where great ventilation provides a pleasant living space with large hatches to take advantage of the steady seasonal winds. Certain sailboats, such as some from Scandinavia, are not as well suited to the tropics. The line of Swan sailboat come to mind, where one just can't take advantage of the breezes to keep the boat and crew cool.

If you happen to attend a boat show where there are many kinds of boats, you might observe that some boats are delightful to be aboard, with the ports and hatches open and the boat quite comfortable. Compare that to other boats, perhaps in the next slip, where they have the air conditioning running as there is no other choice to have a livable interior.

And the most important question to ask is one that your broker really must help you determine. Just how good is good enough? If you have a good boat that fits all your needs as is, is there much point to continue searching for something that is even better, higher perceived quality, and better finished?

If you can get all that you need for satisfying cruising in a fiberglass production boat big enough for your needs and no bigger, why not stop there and just enjoy the boat? It is a common situation I have seen time and again. Marketing is behind this, of course, and pursuing a larger boat is largely unnecessary for an enjoyable cruising experience. And more complicated, and more expensive.

I've been guilty of this in other ways. Do I really need a lithium ion battery system with exotic electronic control modules, or self-steering gear on a boat that I won't likely use. To get to the basics, do I really need refrigeration, air conditioning, and a generator? In some cruising areas, absolutely. But it is not always a requirement. Today I could navigate quite nicely with an iPad. Do I still need the entire $20,000+ electronics package that is almost a knee-jerk purchase?

At the end of the day, if I can easily launch and retrieve my dinghy, and row or motor to shore, I need to ask myself the most important question. As I look back to my sailboat as I get farther away, does my heart sing with joy that my precious cruising sailboat is the most beautiful boat I have ever seen?

Nothing is more important.

What is the best sailboat for crossing oceans?

Ocean Crossing Sailboat

There are considerations that separate a boat capable of crossing oceans from your typical coastal cruising sailboat. The most obvious thing is the tankage on the boat for both water and fuel. Making a three-week crossing may entail considerable time under power, so any capable boat should have sufficient fuel to be able to motor quite a distance. Marine consultant John Neal recommends being able to motor at least 600-800 miles under power. That is a minimum, as there is another reason besides motoring range. While cruising, there may not always be a fuel dock (with clean fuel) everywhere you go. The onboard fuel may have to last a while. A friend told me on his circumnavigation they turned on the engine if boat speed dropped below five knots. His Hallberg-Rassy 43 carries 104 gallons of diesel, enough for motoring over 700 miles.

Considering this, one can easily see that the 20-gallon fuel tanks on most sailboats are woefully inadequate. The same is true for water tanks. Watermakers are great but they are finicky. You must carry enough water for the crossing. Again, my friend's Hallberg-Rassy carries 172 gallons of water in two tanks, and it was adequate for the two crew on each leg of their trip around the world.

Recent surveys show the most popular size of sailboats crossing oceans is between 36 and 46 feet. Big enough to carry the provisions, gear, and supplies needed in a hull large enough to make good progress at sea. But not so large as to be beyond the handling skills of a short-handed crew on a passage.

There are many criteria that can be debated on this topic, and one's broker should be helpful in showing the choices and tradeoffs. Some prefer an aft cockpit, while other insist on a center cockpit layout. Both work and have been out there crossing oceans for a very long time.

Some form of autopilot or self-steering gear will be necessary to cross an ocean, and it is important to have redundant systems for self-steering. Losing an autopilot in the middle of the ocean means someone must steer 24/7, and that is tiring. Better to have multiple systems of varying types, both mechanical and electric.

An easy-to-handle sail plan and layout is important, so it is easy to reef the mainsail and headsails. Today's in-mast and boom furling mainsails are well proven and of great value to a short-handed crew. Modern reliable furling systems offer a great alternative to ketch and other rigs and sails. And electric winches are the efficient and reliable way to handle sails and sheets and ease the effort of sailing long distance.

Obviously, a boat with a comfortable motion, and one that does not pound are characteristics one should seek.

Another requirement that will surprise old salts is today's need to generate electricity under way. The demands of modern comfort system, electronics, and other equipment have raised the bar of traditional power generation. A small array of solar panels doesn't cut it anymore, nor do the trailing generators of years ago.

Running a large catamaran offshore down to the islands was a shock, as it was necessary to run the generator almost continuously on that passage. There were domestic refrigerators and freezers on the boat, and the household comforts required way more electricity than we could get otherwise. It was kind of weird sailing a boat while running a generator. Where was the quiet simplicity of sailing that was so much a part of the sailing experience?

We all had the same thought. Perhaps this owner would be happier cruising on a trawler yacht.

How big of a sailboat do you need to go around the world?

The best way to answer this question is with another question.

Just what is the experience you are looking for?

People have sailed around the world on a variety of boats, and that includes some small boats. For an interesting read, pick up A Speck on the Sea: Epic Voyages in the Most Improbable Vessels , by William Longyard.

As I mentioned before, several sources state that most sailboats that go world cruising are between 36 and 46 feet. I know several Baba 30s have made circumnavigation, and I have a friend who took his family around on his 83-foot Camper Nicholson. So, there are exceptions to any published probable range of likely cruising boats for a circumnavigation.

The popular YouTube channels of couples exploring the world show an assortment of cruising boats and sizes, but this is just a tiny sampling. According to world cruiser Jimmy Cornell, there are about 10,000 sail and power boats currently cruising various parts of the world, not all on a circumnavigation but certainly exploring distant shores. The majority are sailboats and one can only imagine how varied this fleet must be.

But it is safe to say that for a couple cruising on their boat, the range of 36 to 46 is a great focus point for you and your broker. Budget will be a factor, as will all the other points we have discussed. It is about matching your requirements to what is out there, while being patient to find the right boat for you. It can take a couple of years to find the right boat, but during that time, one can become well versed and experienced in many of the topics we have brought up in these FAQs.

With the assistance of a broker, completing sailing courses, even chartering a sailboat with friends to taste the cruising life, one will develop enough skills and experience to set sail with confidence.

On a boat that is just right for your sailing plans, today.

 

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