The C42 is a fine boat. We had to decide between the C42 or the C400. First, let me give my perspective of several issues brought up here.
Wing keel versus fin:
THe fin should be the better performer. You should be able to point higher and run a bit faster. However, and here is the BIG however, if you can't get near shore or run the ICW, it is an irrelevant point, isn't it?
You WILL run aground, all the time, in SW FL (outside of Tampa) at 6.5. You will run aground periodically at 6, especially anywhere near Port Charlotte south. I am 6 with a wing. I have run aground on this boat more times than I can count. Several of these times have been in the middle of the ICW, incidentally, which is supposed to be maintained 7. Many of the holes and passes are 5 1/2 feet unless you have good local knowledge, catch a really high tide, or are flat out lucky. So, for your intended cruising area, I would avoid anything over 6, with 5.5 better. People that consider 7 or better an option crack me up. I would love to know their experience sailing these waters. Just so you know, when I have 12 inches under my keel, I feel like I am in deep water. DOnt like the wing or the small performance you will lose, then don't come here or be very careful where you go and where you can go. I mean, just look at the water depths off of Rodriguez Key (where you will wait to jump to Bimini, Bahamas). I bet I didn't have six inches under my keel. SO for this area, go shallow. Another reason to go shallow is if you ever want to sell the boat, you may very well rule out a huge percentage of the buyers if they sail or plan to sail any of these waters. You can sail a shoal draft boat in deep waters but you can sail a deep draft boat in shallow waters.
Inmast versus Slab.
Inmast is another performance loss. Funny story, but when I got my c400, I was checking with the owners groups to see if anyone wanted to change out masts for a slab and I would pay for their exchange. At that time, I think the inmast was a $10,000 option. Well, no one took it and I decided to at least give it a go. Now that I have used it and logged thousands of miles, I will tell you that I will never go back to a slab reef (unless for racing). Never. I have been in some really nasty weather and never (not once) had a jam. I also find I am much more likely to use the main than with slab reefing, or more likely to drop in a reef or shake one out. It is easy, and safe. The trick is understanding that it is not a slab reef main and there are nuances to doing it. You cannot reef or shake one out like a traditional main. I find almost all of the jams are do to people not understanding how to properly use the system, or they are old systems. I can go through all this in another thread if you want. But basically, you can do everything from the cockpit of the boat. Assuming you also have a RF Jib
, no one ever has to leave the cockpit in any conditions. I find that safety aspect much more valuable than the off chance it might jam and I would have to cut it down.
Great cockpit. Sails comfortably. A little more tender than some boats, but not bad. Pretty fast, comparatively. Nice "garage" in the locker beside the galley. Lots of storage. The head in the V can take a washer/dryer. Nice access to second head from Salon. Ability to up tankage under salon floorboard.
Not as sure footed as a 400, and not as fast. The 400 has a much better Hull-deck joint and an aluminum toe rail with "holes" to secure the odd things. Curved settees (I hate them) as they do not make good sea berths. THe Nav station is undersized and all the way to the forward of the main salon. I do not care for pullmans. The problem with pullmans is that when one person always has to crawl over the other and this becomes a real issue at night when you need to take a pee, check the anchor
, get a drink, etc. Think about how many times you get up in the middle of the night now and consider doing that on a nightly basis. Better yet, practice it with your spouse now and crawl over her every night for a week when you get up. Now, you can get a different layout (no pullman), but then you lose some of the positives of the original layout.
For those that think the C42 would not cross an ocean, history (and current events) have proven you wrong. We even have a poster that posts here that just crossed the Atlantic in his C42... by himself to boot. (I think his boat is named Reboot). Personally, I think there are better boats for doing that run (Tayana 42, Cabo, Valiant, etc) because of the tankage and other benefits of those boats, but those same benefits are detrimental for the cruising you want to do. I would make that run in my boat, but I have also dumped in tens of thousands of dollars in modifications on my boat. Even so, I would prefer to ship it (though I would prefer to ship any boat).
In essence, I think the C42 would be a fine boat for your purpose. She has a great owners group, great support at the factory, and was one of the best boats Catalina has built. See ya out there.