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Old 07-01-2012
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Coastal Cruising Boat Selection Help

We have been building our sailing kitty and over the past year, honed in on what we need as opposed to what we want. What we need the most is to make a decision and start sailing! I would appreciate any comments, advice or suggestions!

The 5 Year Plan - Weekend sailing around the Gulf Coast Barrier Islands with my wife, our two boys (currently 11 & 13) and the occasional friends. 75% of the time it will just be the 4 of us.

The 5+ Year Plan - Extended trips from the Gulf Coast through the Keys, the Bahamas, the Exumas and the BVI's and back with my wife for 4-6 months at a time during the winter. Extended trips up the Tenn Tom Waterway during the summer.

Boats currently being considered:
  1. 1996 Hunter 29.5
  2. 1987 Island Packet 27
  3. 1983 Pearson 303

The Hunter appears to be a bit more conducive to accommodate larger groups of family & friends. But I am unsure if the Hunter is really the boat we want when it comes time to sail to the BVI's. I worry about the lack of back stays and the open sugar scoop. Of course the kids love the open sugar scoop and large cockpit. Also, this boat is at the higher end of our budget and would limit our ability to buy any additional toys such as a dink & kayaks.

The Island Packet 27 seems more appropriate for the 5+ Year Plan but not exactly the boat that would comfortably accommodate 6+ people for an extended weekend. I really like the 3'8" draft and the 38'6" bridge clearance. The current price tag however is a bit much for our budget and would completely wipe out the sailing kitty.

The Pearson seems to be a good fit and the price tag is within our reach. Quite roomy below and what appears to be adequate space in the cockpit. While every 1983 Pearson 303 that I have seen thus far has the mainsheet traveler in the cockpit, this one is on the cabin roof. I am unsure if this is standard or a modification made by a previous owner. While I certainly prefer it on the roof, I worry about the integrity of such modifications made by someone less than qualified.

While safety is obviously my major concern, comfort is a close 2nd. I could never be comfortable unless I know my family and friends are safe.

Being a 1st time buyer, there are many things that have me confused. Aside from the obvious boat selection decision process, I am intrigued mostly with the actual offer process. I am having the toughest time committing to make an offer on a boat when the best I can do is climb aboard.

It goes against my nature and my logic to make an offer, put up a deposit & pay for a survey without even the possibility of a test ride. What happens if we go through the process and, during the sea trial, structural problems are discovered and/or we decide we don't like the boat? This just seems illogical! I understand sellers cant afford test rides for every tire kicker and I am sure there is a certain amount of liability/risk but it would seem there should be a happy medium. Is it unheard of to ask for a pre-offer test ride? Perhaps I am naive but I would sure feel better.

At this point, my wife and I agree on one thing - we want the buying process to be over. I am certain we are going to make an offer within the next two weeks and would greatly appreciate any help, guidance and suggestions with the above or alternate boats.

Thanks in advance!

Excited but exhausted,

Bob
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