I would look to spend about $7500 on the actual boat, and leave about $2500 for upgrades, repairs, re-fitting, etc...
Buying a boat is not like buying a car in many ways. Boats, even brand new ones, generally have some things on them that each owner will want to change or customize to allow them to more easily sail the boat the way that works for them. Whether it is leading lines aft to the cockpit, or adding a solar-powered ventilator to help keep the interior cooler... there is going to be something you'll want to change, modify or customize on any boat you buy. Leaving a bit reserved for that will make your life a whole lot simpler.
I'm guessing you've been sailing at CBI, on the Charles River, since they have a pretty large fleet of Cape Cod Mercuries.
Other good candidates are Pearson Ariel, O'Day 23, Westerley Nomad, Bristol Corsair, C&C 24, S2 7.3, or the Compac 23. If you want something a bit faster...you might look at the Ranger 26.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.
—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)
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