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  • Michael Lipari

Buying your Forever Boat - Part 1

During our first Educational Panel discussion, we talked to five boat owners that have recently moved up from their weekend lake cruising/racing boat to a large live aboard style boat. Although for some, this may not be their last boat, it is a big shift in their boating lifestyle.

Our panel purchased a wide range of boats between 37 and 44 feet. Let’s take a look at how they found the right boat for them.

Finding the right type and model of boat

Everyone agreed that the most important thing to do is to determine the type of boat before you fall in love with something that might not be right for you. Our panelist included 2 blue water cruisers, 2 production cruising boats and 1 production racer/cruiser. Note that although the three production boats are not considered “Blue Water” cruisers, all are rated for Ocean Crossings and have been sailed thousands of miles and crossed oceans.

Type/Style of Boat

Determining the type of boat you are looking for is not only the first step, but might be the most critical step to finding a boat that will be your forever boat. Being realistic on how you will use the boat and the amount of work you want to take on is critical to boating happiness.

Not only is the type or style of boat important, but there are tradeoffs in the price, age and amount of work needed. Each boat owner evaluated the age of the boat and readiness to set sail relative to the cost and type. Note that even a new boat needs work within days of launching. One owner started out looking at an older boats that were ready for a restoration before determining, with the help of his wife, that they wanted something newer that needed very little to set sail.

Two of our panelist purchased boats considered to be Blue Water Cruisers. Both of these boats have keeled stepped masts, encapsulated keels, skeg hunk rudders, long keels and displacement to length rations ranging from 230-330 (considered heavy boat). Although one of these boats is built by Catalina, one of the United States leading manufacturer, it was designed as by Nelson/Marek for Morgan Yachts before Catalina took over production. Three of our panelist purchased production boats from some of the worlds largest manufacturers including Beneteau/Jeanneau, Dehler/Hanse and Hunter. The benefit of production boats is that you typically get newer designs and newer boats for the same price. All three boats feature deck stepped masts, steal/iron painted keels, and tend to have much lower displacement/length rations ranging from 160-200.

By the numbers:

For years designers have used various ratios and numbers to compare boats of similar lengths. There is no right number, but boats tend to be classified based on their ratio with Blue Water boats being heavier and with less sail area, costal cruisers typically being lighter with moderate sail area and racer/cruisers or pure racers being much lighter and with more sail area relative to both their length and displacement. Here are some rules of thumb for various types of boats as well as the actual numbers for the boats purchased by our panel.

Comfort Capsize

SA/Disp Disp/Lgth Bal/Dis. Ratio Screen S#.

Blue Water 15-20 275-350 35 Plus 30-50 Less than 2 1.5-2.5

Costal Cruiser 17-20 170-225 30-38. 20-30 1.8-2.2 2-3

Racer/Cruiser 20-25 150-170 30-38 20-30 1.8-2.2 3-4

Racer 24-30 Under 150 30-38 20-30 1.8-2.2 Over 4

The Sail Area to Displacement provides a sense of the power a boat has, think of it as the horse power rating compared to the weight or displacement. The Displacement/Length provides a sense for how heavily built the boat is compared to the length at the water line. The ballast/displacement is a ratio of the amount of ballast (typically in the keel) compared to the overall displacement of the boat. This ration has less meaning than some, because it does not indicate where the ballast is located. Therefore, two boats with the same ratios can have very different righting moments depending on placement of ballast. For example the Hunter above has a 32% ballast to displacement ratio and a 5 foot shoal draft keel while the Varianta 44 has the same ballast to displacement ration, but with a 7 ft 3 inch bulb keel; therefore the righting moment is very different on these two boats even though the ballast ratios are the same. The Comfort Ratio looks at the boats motion with the higher number providing a more forgiving easy motion while underway. This is based on displacement, hull design (length compared to beam) and other items. The Capsize Screening formula is based on the beam of the boat compared to displacement. Finally, the S# is shows how fast the boat is based on SA/Disp and Disp/Length ratios. To learn more about these ratios go to Select any boat and under ratios select (Definitions). Or check out: Sailing Magazine.

Choosing the Boat

One of our panelist decided on a smaller, blue water cruising style boat. She wanted a boat that was between 36-40 feet that she could single hand. Although she does not necessarily plan to sail around the world, having a safe and comfortable cruising boat that was easy to manage was important. She chose a ketch design which provides more sail configuration options as well as smaller individual sails for sail management. This means lower sheet loads, and easier sail handling per sail, but for each maneuver you have three sails to manage. In addition, she loved the classic design and the canoe stern. Having a closed stern was important for safety. Although the boat is the smallest, it is actually the most expensive boat in the group if comparing boats to the same age and quality. Other boats that would have fit the needs of this panelist included Valients, Cabo Ricos, Tartens, Sabre, Island Packet and Morgans.

Our next couple also chose what most consider a blue water boat Center Cockpit boat. It was important to them to have easy access to the engine room for repairs and expansion (e.g. generators). Although the boat is a little lighter than the Pacific Seacraft with a Displacement/Length ration just under 250, it is still a heavily built boat weighing in at almost 4,000 pounds more than the lightest boat. The boat combines classic lines and teak with fairly good performance. The skeg hung rudder and long keel means it tracks straight in heavy seas. Again because of the quality of boat, she costs about the same as the production boats of the same size but that are 10 or more years newer. Boats that meet the same needs include heavier production boats including Beneteau Ocean Series, Gulfstar, Tarten, Passport and CSY as well as from more custom manufacturers including Island Packet, Caliber, Brewer or Hallsberg Rassey.

Two of the panelists purchased popular production costal cruising boats. Both of these boat manufactures sell hundreds of boats and utilize standard gear and equipment including masts, winches and sail handling equipment by the leading manufacturers from Seldon Spars to Lewmar Winches and Harken blocks. This makes it easy to upgrade or replace and repair equipment because it is all provided by the leading manufactures. Many production boats are designed to maximize living space and both of these boats pack a lot of living space in a 42-44 foot boat. Both boats provide a great balance of beautiful wood interiors with easy to maintain exteriors (minimal wood to varnish). Many of these boats were built for charter fleets. Most charter boats will be priced between 15% and 20% below the same models for sale by private owners. Both owners plan ocean sailing but with shorter passages and doing more costal cruising. Boats that also meet the same needs including Catalina, Hunter, Beneteau, Jeanneau and Bavaria.

The last panelist also purchased a boat from a leading production manufacturer, but purchased a racer cruiser. The boat was based on a cruising design that originally competed for sales in Europe with both the Jeanneau 42 and Hunter 44/45 but was reengineered for racing by simplifying the boat and removing weight. As a racer/cruiser it was also built with a much deeper draft with the standard boat having a 7 ft 3 inch draft compared to the Hunters 5 foot shoal draft or the 5’6” draft on the Jeanneau. One of the goals was getting a newer boat that needed little maintenance due to age. This boat was priced similar to the other boats but was 10 to 20 years newer. Boats that meet similar needs include the Beneteau First Series and the Jeanneau Fast Series.

While this section focused on determine the right type of boat, our next installment will discuss finding the right boat, and budgeting.

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