Best Built Boats?
Very few cruising size boats were built with solid core decks. Solid un-cored f.g. decks would be very heavy if they are to achieve the stiffness that is necessary. Having the weight of a solid glass deck, that high above the center of bouyancy would greatly impair seaworthiness and seakindliness.
Balsa Core decks are not inherently problematic. Properly constructed they will last an extremely long time. I have recently been aboard a 35 year old Pearson that had balsa core decks which surveyed without any voids or problems. Balsa core decks that are not maintained obviously more problematic than high density closed cell foam but far better than plywood decks.
The thing about end-grain balsa is that theoretically the cells are oriented to absorb resin and seal the individual cells of the wood. Rot in Balsa,as with most woods, spreads along the cell lines. If you seal the ends of the Balsa theoretically rot would be kept very localized. The problem occurs where holes have been bored in the deck, exposing end grain and compressing the fibers. This permits water to move into the fibers and cause rot. As rot occurs sheer and freeze-thaw cycles peel away the surface of adjacent fibers from the end of balsa fiber and allows the rot to spread.
Still, except in the worst cases, core rot is usually pretty limited and relatively repairable. The key is to find a boat that does not have core rot and to then maintain it.
Back to your question at hand, it sounds like you are looking for a well built boat that can take you to the Carribean and back. Looking at surrogate formulas such as capsize ratio,and comfort index really tell you absolutely nothing about the boats in question including capsize resistance and comfort. These formaulas are terribly misleading. Using these types of simplified calculations really does not direct you to a boat intended to for offshore use. For example the Ericson 29 that you mention was a nice little coastal cruiser but the build quality (in the pre-Pacific Seacraft era) and detailing was never intended as an offshore cruiser.
I think that you need to back up a bit, and define your goals more narrowly, spend a bunch of time crawling around the list of "usual suspects'' to understand how they are actually constructed and how well they actually hold up. And then you should be able to end up with a short list of boats and criteria that will allow you to make reasoned decisions.
Last edited by Jeff_H; 02-23-2006 at 05:48 PM.