Since I have committed several days to the reading of this thread, I feel compelled to post in order to justify the time spent. And well spent it was! My days were filled with learning, confusion, laughter, and puzzlement, but mostly confusion. As a novice sailor saving and searching for my getaway boat, this thread of boat comparison and capability is what initially drew me to its review. I must say that most of my confusion stems from the fact that it ran rather counter to the majority of advice I have received from experienced sailors on choosing the right boat for me.
The feeling I got from many of the posts was that of justification, and possibly pushing the envelope at times. The theme seemed to say "this boat can go here" and go on to "justify" that capability with real life accounts. Boats and their manufacturers seemed to end up in catagories which were shuffled based on personal experience, manufacturer recommendation, or marketing rhetoric. In the end, it seems that a certain blanket statement made by many experienced and often highly respected sailors remains true; "Boats can, and often do, handle more punishment than the sailors who sail them". (My synopsis and not a direct quote.)
That being said, let me add a disclaimer. I am in no way an expert. My sailing experience is severely limited compared to those of you who have previously posted. I have enjoyed reading the various thoughts, opinions, and facts that have been presented here and only wish to contribute a newbie's point of view.
The advice I have recieved concerning choosing a boat revolves around personal needs. The fact of whether or not I "could" take a Beneteau or a Hunter across an ocean, or even within a 5 day weather window seems a mute point IMHO. The issue of whether or not I "should" seems a lot more applicable. In my opinion, it appears that most production boats are designed to appeal to a targeted, even if rather broad, market. The boat is then produced to a standard that reflects that designed use. Sure, the boat most likely will take harsher use and I believe this is that "safety factor" built into most products to absolve a manufacturer from liability.
This may be a good time in my discourse to state that all credible advice I've received on choice of boat clearly states that I should first decide on how and where I will use the boat. Since the tone of the discussion seems designed to narrow down a list of choices that can handle a given set of parameters, I must say that, in my opinion, neither question has been sufficiently answered. Where I intend to go and what conditions I am likely to encounter is entirely a personal choice and a question that only the individual can answer. That individual needs to purchase a boat that can handle those conditions in safety and comfort. Again, safety and comfort are a personal choice and relative to the individual. As a novice sailor, in all reality, I will probably buy a boat that is much more capable than what I need. But can't that be considered a way for me to build confidence in my own capabilities? The knowledge that my boat is forgiving and will allow me to make mistakes in my learning curve without catastrophic consequences is comforting to me, just as the extensive skills and abilities comfort the sailor who takes a less sturdy boat with less margin for error across an ocean. By the way, this is a sailor who is the exception rather than the norm, IMHO.
It seems that Smackdaddy has endeavored to define the limits of intended use at several points during the discussion. He has even set parameters for boat choice. Smackdaddy, please feel free to correct me if I am wrong, but without going back over the entire thread I believe the limits of intended use could be summarized thusly;
1. Distance achievable from land within a 5 day weather window.
Should this be applicable to the individual's area of operation, since I did not see an actual geographical location given? Also, since the boat's speed will affect this distance, should the window be applicable to each boat?
2. The boat must be '86 or newer, and cost less than $145,000.
I can't remember the actual amounts you stated off hand so please correct me. Also, I'm not clear if staying within the bounds of cost, perceived blue water capability, or with manufacturer is the priority. I have seen some boats that fall within the stated cost and model year that are considered transoceanic capable but do not meet the manufacturer names that are used extensively throughout this thread.
Perhaps a well-defined set of parameters is in order. I just realized that although you did attempt to set limits on the discussion, those same limits are rather open to interpretation. For example, boats that are widely accepted as transoceanic have been discounted but fall within price or year model. It also seems that many of the production companies offer a wide variety of capability in their product lines, depending on boat size, options available, or year produced. Is the discussion focused primarily on certain manufacturers whose boats were built on or after 1986 and can be purchased either new or used within a certain price range and are capable of being safely operated within a 5 day sailing range (does this include return trip) from land by a sailor of average skill?
I am certainly hoping at this point that Smackdaddy will post a specific specific area of use along with boat parameters, especially manufacturers allowed. Even though I did not fully understand much of the technical facts thrown out for our review, I do understand that many manufacturers made design changes over the years to boats in the same product line. These changes often changed the capabilities of these boats so that a boat built in, say 1987 would not be capable of handling the same conditions that a boat in the same line that was built in 2009 is capable of handling. It is also my understanding that most boats, reguardless of their manufacturer, can be modified to handle almost any conditions, if the owner has the $$$ to accomplish it. So I'm assuming we are talking about a stock boat with only minor upgrades rather than a boat that has been completely refitted for heavier use.
As stated earlier, I am a novice and in no way qualified to quote what boats are capable of doing what. I am simply hoping for a well-defined set of conditions the boat will be operated in and the thoughts of sailors much more experienced than me to enlighten the many novices in the background that are probably reading this thread in hopes that they will find usefull information to help them get out on the water. My comments may have pushed the intended scope of this thread beyond its purpose into the realm of "which boat should I choose" and while that was not my purpose, it is a question that many of us have.