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Old 12-31-2006
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The Bristol 35.5 is a lovely centerboarder, but may be bigger than you want to learn on. MUCH less boat, but perhaps easier to learn on, and quite quick in light air might be a Pearson 30. It will also be a lot less expensive. We have friends who started out with one, sailed it for two years, and moved up to a Ericson 38. They haven't regretted a day on the water in either boat. Another shallow-draft keelboat might be a J/24. It might represent a camping alternative instead of cruising, however. The large deck might help attract family-member crew for daysails. The costs, including "learning" costs, when you inevitably hit or break things, would be less. As Camaraderie suggests, getting a big slug (as are many full-keel boats) is to be avoided. Not only will it NOT be fun to sail in the Chesapeake's prevalent light air, but when you go to sell it after not having fun sailing it, no one else will want it either, because it isn't fun to sail. There are probably a good number of other boats that will fit your bill. You've got a good four months before the season arrives. There's plenty of time to refine your plans and determine a viable short list, then see what's available that you like.
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