Re: Help me find my next boat 24-29 foot
I was in your situation this last year, looking for a boat in the same length range. I recently bought a Pearson 28-2, recommended previously in this thread. It does fit your criteria quite nicely (it has been described as an ideal 'first big boat'). I agree with Alex, however, that you're unlikely to find one in your stated price range, unless it needs real work.
Here are some tips from my search, in case they are useful to you:
(1) Come up with a list of desired characteristics, based on how you plan to use the boat. Try to keep the list of deal breakers short and to things that cannot be modified. Some people come up with a short list of models at this stage and restrict their search to those.
(2) Ask for advice but recognize that (a) there are lots of different opinions on size/keel/draft/engines and (b) everyone loves their own boat. You'll get a lot of suggestions for the boat the poster owns, or has owned.
(3) Find a good previous owner! Honestly, once I found a great PO my search was over. Get a boat that was well-cared for and you won't spend the next few years scratching your head over their incompetence or bemoaning their neglect.
(4) Expand your budget if you can to get a boat in better condition. And be prepared for the other costs: (a) survey (b) slip (c) insurance (d) taxes. Depending on your sailing area, these might add up to half of your stated budget.
Good luck with your search!
1987 Pearson 28-2, Deale MD