Dream of Sailing as a living
A couple quick thoughts here, I am not sure that there are easy ways to make a living while cruising. I guess one way to produce income while cruising would be to develop a good set of boat husbandry skills. Refrigeration and engine repair skills are needed almost anywhere that cruisers gather. Marine Electricians can usually find work easily. Good marine carpenters can usually find paying projects of varying types. Even refinishing skills will yield some income while cruising. I suggest that you try to get a copy of Anne Hill''s book, "Voyaging on a Small Income" for other ideas.
In terms of a ''good boat'' I have a couple suggestions here. First of all, asking "what to look for in a good boat" is a little like asking "how long is a piece of string". We each develop our own set of goals and priorities for what we want out of a boat and that some what shapes what each of defines as important criteria for selecting a boat for ourselves.
For example, in my case I wanted a boat that would be easy to single-hand or cruise long distances with two people on board but comfortable with a small group (maybe 4 or 5 people) for a weekend. I wanted a boat that was optomized as a coastal cruiser but which I could take offshore. I wanted a boat that offered good performance in both extremes of heavy and light air. I wanted a boat that could be raced at the club level but which was optomized as a cruiser. I am very much into the engineering of a boat and had certain structural criteria that I felt needed to be met. I had a limited budget (under $50K) for the size and type of boat (38 feet) that I ultimately bought.
Those were my criteria and so would not be everyone''s ideal but I mention them as an example of the kinds of criteria one might set for themselves.
There was a very recent long discussion on the merits of Catalina''s that included a long list of happy Catalina owners praising their boats and some counterpoints as well, so I will not talk to the specific issues of the Catalina other than to suggest that you look for that recent thread.
I will say that Catalinas, like Hunters and to a lesser extent like Beneteaus are optomized as good family coastal cruisers. (Beneteau makes a number of model lines, so while most Beneteaus that are seen in the US are similar in intent to Catalinas or Hunters, Beneteau also makes more specialized lines that are more biased toward racing and other lines that are optomized as offshore boats.) While boats built by the big three builders (Beneteau, Hunter and Catalina) are certainly taken offshore that clearly does not appear to be their intended purpose.
This is not to be viewed as an automatic bad thing. Coastal cruising places different demands on a boat than offshore cruising. Coastal cruisers need to be able to quickly adapt to changing winds and currents, they need to be more versatile sailors. Offshore boats are often deeper for a more comfortable motion, coastal boats are often shallower to sail in shallow venues. Coastal cruisers often optomize openess and lounging areas while Offshore boats often optomize storage areas and have tighter passages and berths so that you are not thrown about and berths and galleys that are set up to be comfortable at all angles of heel and pitch. Coastal boats need really good ventilation; offshore boats should have small portlights, ports, and hatches. Coastal boats should have large open comfortable cockpits,while offshore boats should have smaller cockpits with big drains. Every aspect of a boat can and ideally should vary between a boat aimed at coastal cruising vs a boat aimed at offshore work.
So in order to advise you properly you need to know what you want to do with sailing. To do so, you really need to spend as much time on the water sailing as many different kinds of boats as you can. After a while you will learn what you like and dislike in a boat.
I will tell you that to get that kind of experience you really should to learn to sail well and I will also tell you that it is way harder (if not imposible) to learn to sail well on boats of the size and type implied by the C420 and C470. These are big boats and so feel is pretty minimal compared to smaller sized boats. I would suggest that you learn to sail on boats that are maybe 23 to 30 feet in length (with 23 to 26 or so being most ideal), with a tiller, a fin keel and a spade rudder. These tend to be more responsive and show give you more feed back on what you are doing right or wrong. I would suggest that perhaps you consider buying a small keel boat to learn on. Small, older boats make a great platform to learn to sail on and practice boat owning skills. They can be bought with minimal investment and if cared for properly can often be sold for close to what you have in them especially if you do not go hog wild trying to make them into something that they are not namely a new boat.
I will also tell you that there are a lot of cruisers who have sailed many successful miles who are really not very good sailors. They understand basic sail trim and boat handling but really do not understand in any depths how to properly trim sails for speed and comfort. That is not meant as put down. Like I said, we all come to sailing with our own goals and priorities and I don''t fault someone for not caring about developing sailing skills.
If you do chose to learn to sail well, you are more likely to be invited to sail with people and so get the kind of experience that it takes to learn what is right for you. More likely than not you will find that a 42 to 47 is really very big boat for 2 or 3 people, but then again there is no one right answer here,so you may decide that this is the perfect size range for what you have in mind.