cruiser vs live-a-board
I think you make a good point and, fundamentally, ask a question which applies to many folks who picture themselves cruising a lot, but who either plan to or end up cruising in more challenging circumstances only occasionally or even rarely. One reason boats of immensely different capabilities are seen in the Caribbean, or down on Mexico''s west coast, is that cruising conditions IN those regions can be fairly benign, transiting between islands and ports can be relatively easy and quick, and weather patterns are seasonal (meaning one can choose to be there when it''s safest and the wx most stable). In such circumstances, one can cruise with a cautious agenda in truly marginal boats, not that most of us would aspire to do so.
I would put an ocean crossing - even a relatively short run such as visiting Bermuda from the U.S. mainland - in a different category, however. If an ''occasional'' or even ''single'' ocean crossing is in the plans, I don''t know how to be concerned about the safety of the crew - let''s set aside the goal of the passage being a relatively enjoyable one - without placing significantly higher weight on the vessel''s offshore capabilities. The reason is that even major stable, seasonal wx patterns don''t exist uniformly, unwaveringly, across large areas of an ocean, and some level of disturbance (convective, subtropical, frontal) has to be anticipated. They''ve run the Caribbean 1500 for many years now, and the vast majority of the boats doing it have had mostly good conditions altho'' usually with a rambunctious period given the autumnal wx patterns...but the occasional boat has been abandoned and crew members have been seriously injured. The occasional loss of boat and life has also occurred in the ARC runs (and also individual passages) from the Canaries to the Caribbean, considered by most folks to be a rolly, convective-laden but warm and relatively safe run. When you start with a relatively inexperienced (re: offshore sailing) crew and an untried (re: offshore conditions) boat, and add in wx variability, you already are operating with a mix of unknowns that represent a significant level of challenge. To add to the mix a boat which brings inherent design and build weaknesses (re: offshore use) is to roll the dice much further, IMO.
I don''t know what you mean by ''coastal cruising both sides of the Pacific'', as that would imply a Pacific circle, in which case a truly capable cruising boat would be essential for numerous reasons. I''m wondering if you mean ''both sides of Central America'', instead. I recently corresponded with a fellow who did that in a Catalina 34 (Glen Herman; email address can be found on C34 owner''s website; he essentially cruised from California to Florida via the Canal) because I was interested in his impressions of how his C34 held up. His remarks related far more to systems (DC power generation, watermaker, canvas and cockpit protection, anchor gear, etc.) than long sailing runs or sustained heavy weather (altho'' he did see windy conditions on occasion) and I think that''s typical of what ends up being the important issue when doing extended cruising...but in relatively small areas with many coastal or island stopovers.
I''m also not sure what you mean about design features which offset long periods in cold waters. Perhaps you could elaborate.