Thoughts on a mid size cruising boat
A lot of choices out there. I think you''ll find the larger end of your range will make you happier. 32 - 34 is a really nice size for the comfort features you are looking for.
A good place to start is to go to Yachtworld.com enter in say 32 - 34 ft, Used sail boat and maybe add a price range and start to see what is out there in your budget. Get your expectations right and match you budget to what you look at. Just look at what comes with various boats and get a feel for what is out there for sale. then you can start to walk on them and see what they are like. Going from a 21 they all seem huge.
I sail on the south end of the Bay and draft is an issue you never escape anywhere on the Bay. There is a shoal waiting for all draft of boats<g>. You have to have a depth meter and good charts. My draft is 5-3 and I wouldn''t want it much deeper. 4-6 seems like the trend down here at the south end of the Bay. You do trade performance when you give up too much draft. Don''t give up all the draft because you can still go aground no matter what you have. It''s not that bad either. You''ll do it a few times or you just are not on the boat enough.
My hard and fast draft rule would be to make sure you can come home and get in the slip at _any_ tide. When the Admiral has had enough you better be able to get into the slip or else.
Used Tartans and Sabres seem to be popular choices with the club we sail with but are by no means the only choices either. Any boat needs a good survey and I wouldn''t think just the brand name is enough. Also look at what gear comes with the boat and the creature comforts too. It can effect the price a lot. You want a lot for your money and a boat in good shape will cost you less in the first years.
Also note that once you can handle a boat 32 ft 38ft really is not a huge step up at all. Boats in the 35-38ft range are nice for family cruising. I think in weather that gets a little heavier 32ft plus will "feel" more comfortable even though a 28ft could handle it very well. Comfort on a short cruise counts a whole lot.
At 32-34ft you find you get the storage, tankage, and room to move on if you need to be on the boat for a whole weekend or more. I''ve done 17 days with my wife on our 33ft boat and it''s comfortable and we enjoy it. It also feels comfortable in 25 - 30 knots of wind. Above 30 knots and suddenly the fun factor starts to drop for me and the Admiral gets very very nervous. Comfort is the key. Buy as much as you can afford. Comfort on the water and comfort at anchor count both.