With all due respect, and at the risk of being a little off topic, but in the interest of providing an alternative view point, what Pacific Seacrafts (and most of the other boats on your list) do exceptionally well is to provide a great platform for offshore and distance cruising in a short sailing length. Accomplishing that in itself is no small feat. They are also visually appealing boats from almost all angles which another good thing in my opinion.
But with all due respect to the owners and lovers of Pacific Seacraft, they do not make a very good platform upon which to learn to sail skillfully and so if learning to sail a boat well is a part of your goals then a Pacific Seacraft would be a very poor choice for your first big boat. If you really want to learn to sail well, based on my experience teaching a whole lot of folks to sail over the years, the ideal platform to learn to sail on is a boat that is comparatively small, light, simple, and responsive that you can actually tell when you are doing the right and wrong thing. And for all of Pacific Seacraft's many virtues, they lack the kind of simplicity and responsiveness that is so important in a first boat.
Similarly, the last thing you should be thinking about is converting from a tiller to wheel steering. As I read your posts, you clearly are at the very start of developing the skills to be a cruiser. There is nothing wrong with that, we have all been there. But if your goal is to become proficient then the direct feel of a tiller will provide the helpful feel that can greatly shorten the learning curve in aspects related to proper sail trim and boat handling.
In almost any other complex field of endeavor, people seem to understand that some kind of an apprenticeship and training period is required to develop the wide range of skills that are necessary to survive. With all doe respect, I would suggest that you slow down, buy an inepensive, well maintained but older used, production, moderate displacement, fin keel, spade rudder, sloop and take the time to learn how to sail and maintain it. The cost of buying and owning something like that will be tiny compared to the cost of broker's commission, depreciation and repairs if you buy the wrong dedicated offshore cruising boat, bang it up learning to sail, and the dump the poor thing in frustration, as way too often is the case with folks trying to buy their 'forever boat' for their first boat.
P.S. Commissioning refers to getting a boat into condition to use it. It can be used as simply as loading sailing gear aboard at the beginning of a voyage or sailing season. Decommsioning is the opposite, which again can mean taking a vessel out of use permanently, or as simply as removing sailing gear at the end of the sailing season, or even just stripping a small boat of sails and lines at the end of the day.
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Curmudgeon at Large- and rhinestone in the rough, sailing my Farr 11.6 on the Chesapeake Bay and part-time purveyor of marine supplies
Last edited by Jeff_H; 08-10-2010 at 11:32 AM.