Old enough to know better
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Beacon, NY
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Re: Need help buying a good used sailboat/live-aboard
Really most any boat in that size range is going to at least be of reasonable quality. Even the "production" brands like Catalina and Hunter are really nice in the over 38 foot size. Keep in mind that fiberglass has an almost infinite life, common commercial fiberglass boats have been made for well over 60 years now and most are still on the water. So in your price range you can look at a newer, and likely faster and more spacious boat, or an older more heavy duty boat with "character" and much smaller cabin per foot of boat. Keep in mind boats are built to a budget, and with certain activities in mind. So you can have a coastal cruiser that is meant for a comfortable spacious boating near shore. Something like that is going to be good for cruising around Florida, the keys and the Caribbean up the east coast to Maine and even beyond. Now if you want to truly cross oceans then look into a heavy cruiser. They will be more comfortable in a storm but will be much slower in light winds. The other issue with a heavy cruiser is they tend to have very narrow ends (good for rough weather and following seas) and that limits space below a lot and they can seem claustrophobic in comparison foot per foot. Light winds are more common than not. You can go with a racing boat and get great performance but will have less room and amenities and might even have "pipe bunks" instead of comfortable bunks. All have been lived on by people happily. Some are happy on a 27 footer, others find a 47 foot boat to small. If I had an 80,000 budget I would likely spend $40-60,000 on something like an Ericson 38, Irwin 37, Catalina 38, Cal 35, Hunter 40, Jeaneau, Beneteau or such and spend 10-20,000 on a basic refitting and budget 10,000 on future upgrades but don't go too wild as you won't know what you really want for a few years.
80,000 can get you a lot of boat, but I bet any "high end" boat in that price range will need as much as the purchase price to get up to snuff. Avoid things like teak decks as they are very costly to repair, better to get a well maintained production boat than an ignored luxury brand.
I know Doug is a big fan of really big boats, but I really don't see the need for the added expense. As he says what he thinks is entry level live aboard is $200,000, not what you are looking for. I am well past the stage in my life where I need to impress anyone, and am happy with a mid 30 foot boat for myself but to each there own. I would not want the added maintenance of a bigger boat and would rather spend time sailing instead of working to make money to repair a big expensive boat. I don't want to be a slave to any material things, as I said I am past that. I have lived in big houses and have driven expensive cars, but not anymore, for me the name of living aboard is simplicity. No TV, no microwave, just enough space to be comfortable in. And I would not leave a boat unprotected in the Boston winter, regardless of size or quality unless it was a work boat. Water gets between lots of parts and freezes and pushes them apart making small cracks bigger and loosening stanchions and all kinds of fittings, causing leaks and other issues. To associate it with someone homeless is really just plain offensive and bad advice. I am sure most if not all the other boats in his marina wrap as it is the best practice in the North East. But you don't have to deal with that in Florida what you call winter we call the fall here in the north east.
In Florida you want to pay particular attention to draft, as you want to be able to access places that have fairly shallow water, such as the Keys and secluded bays. I would try to keep it as close to 5 foot (or less) as possible. You may wind up with a wing keel or centerboard in that size range but the performance hit is worth it down there.
Last but most important, get a survey! Do not use a surveyor recommended by a broker as they often favor the seller. You might ask here and will likely get good recommendations for a local one.
Last edited by miatapaul; 08-21-2013 at 08:54 PM.