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Thanks for the follow-up, El. Hang in there on the homework and it’s good to hear this is helpful.
I completely agree with Jeff''s point about a longer boat (for that 20K displacement) being preferable. The snag is when it comes time to afford that boat, as typically longer boats suitable for long-term cruising and that have (for their length) lighter displacements are more carefully engineered and built, are fewer in number in the marketplace, and will consequently be more pricey. But that doesn''t impeach the preference.
A couple of thoughts about ‘systems’ for your planned cruise, as those decisions and your choice of boat are inter-related. Being clear about system needs up front can help you buy more boat if shopping on the used market. Finding ‘the right gear’, carefully maintained, on a used boat will help you avoid subsequent gear purchases and the time/cost of installation, thereby allowing you to plow more into the boat purchase itself. And I’d like to challenge your basic notion that the boat you buy for a Caribbean cruise could not eventually become a good choice for crossing the Pacific. You will find it immensely more cost and time effective to pick a strong and capable boat initially, and then incrementally improve her, should you decide on longer passagemaking, rather than trade up later, pay tax a second time, change out or add the necessary systems, and start a new learning curve. And some of the cruising challenges in the Caribbean can be formidable in one way or another. When you look at the sea conditions you might face off the Venezuela and Columbia coast enroute the San Blas Is., that can be tougher sailing than anything you’ll find enroute the central South Pacific outside storm season. And if planning to cruise e.g. the Roques and Aves off the VZ coast or the atolls off Belize and Mexico (common cruising destinations) the need for adequate water capacity and alternative forms of electrical generation are not unlike those you’d have in the Marquesas or Tuamotus of French Polynesia.
Your gear decisions seem compatible to me with your planned destination and route, with perhaps the following quibbles. Just about any boat you find with pressure water will have a water heater; I suggest you insure it is heated by the FW side of the engine as well as electrically. Any layout that offers a workable shower arrangement (ideally, a small stall) will, all by itself, make life aboard much more enjoyable AND allow you to consider less expensive dockage where shoreside amenities ashore are cruder, as you won’t need them. Using a fridge and SSB (since you have time, I hope you will consider a ham license so you can benefit by the excellent Winlink system – www.winlink.org) will mandate a high-capacity DC electrical system (at the least, a hi-cap alternator, 400+ amp/hr house battery bank and some form of alternative energy; wind suits best in the Caribbean trades). There are numerous vendors who can help you in this area re: education and system configuration (see e.g. www.jackrabbitmarine.com – nice folks). And please think carefully about redundant self-steering: you will be sailing short-handed, sometimes in robust conditions, and gear does break. You can passage-plan to reduce the length of your passage legs…but losing self-steering when it’s just the two of you can really take the bloom off the rose.
Two final thoughts:
1. I strongly encourage you to join the SSCA so you can receive their monthly bulletins, and especially to purchase their CD of their last 8 years of bulletins (only about $15, I think – www.ssca.org; go to the Store, shop under Publications). There is a huge collection of helpful, relevant info from other cruisers in there and it’s easily searchable by computer).
2. Within the Caribbean Basin, it is relatively easy to upgrade or add systems later, based on your own cruising experiences, rather than trying to have all the right answers upfront, before you’ve even headed out. There are reliable, affordable supply chains straight back to the U.S. in Puerto Rico, the VI’s, St. Martin, Trinidad, Grand Cayman and up the Rio Dulce in Guatemala. The more you can stick with the basics – picking a good boat and getting sound, basic systems set up – the more time you’ll have to sail her before shoving off and build your skill sets, which in turn will reduce anxieties and increase the pleasure factor once you leave.
Believe it or not, you will find you need ALL of that 2+ years of remaining time to adequately prepare yourselves and your boat for your new adventure.
Good luck to you both.