low-budget performance passage-maker
Tim, your query illustrates what a good post should look like when requesting boat info; I wish everyone followed this pattern.
Rather than zero in on some of the specific boats you mentioned, I''d like to offer a few thoughts that could be applied to all of them. First, and while I don''t mean to disregard your preference for a good sailing boat, including light air performance, I''d encourage you to not overlook that you are probably planning an Atlantic Circle for the enjoyment, adventure and broadening experiences it offers, and not merely to be sailing for a year. To me, this suggests that having a boat somewhat suitable for your route is at least as important as sailing the route efficiently. When I think of J35''s with their tiny fuel & water capacities - and then think of the infrequent *convenient* availability of fuel & water along, as just one example, the Spanish & Portuguese coast - I picture you lugging jugs around each port rather than enjoying the Tapas menus or meeting some locals in a park. I can appreciate you are willing to ''rough it'' but suspect that is a different thing than setting out with the hope of *only* roughing it or being chronically less comfortable than you can be. Unless you come up here to N Europe (we''re wintering in London at the moment, after a last season in Scandinavia), you are going to be spending much of your time in semi-tropical and Med summer climates where shade and ventilation are especially important. You''re going to want to hydrate yourself thoughtfully without worrying about water. You will need to be prepared to handle an anchor from the transom while Med mooring, or alternatively be prepared to back into a pontoon and open your cabin up to passers-by, with the anchor handling gear somewhat beefy. None of these things specifically excludes barebones layouts & racing-oriented decks like the J35, but they do incrementally point out how much such a boat will need to be modified in order to suit its purpose. And while it may be true you will have 5 years to modify the boat, there are several things that work against you when doing so: mods cost money, they take precious time (a non-renewable resource), and they typically are done in a vacuum (of knowledge & experiences in the settings yet to be encountered) and so the mods must be further adjusted once the cruise begins.
So...what I''m hinting at is that some targeted research about the nature of the route you will be traveling and then laying up that information alongside your preferred sailing performance would result in, overall, a more satisfying cruise. There are a ton of sites with this kind of info on the Web, altho'' the best single, easily searchable source I know of is a CD compilation of montly bulletins from the SSCA (www.ssca.org, go to Store, Pubs, select CD). Cheap at $20, easily searched with Adobe Reader.
Second, you will find a lot of anecdotal evidence that any of the boats you''ve listed are capable of doing an Atlantic Circle. Mostly, this is because the most common routes involve exclusively in-season temperate climate sailing with - usually -relatively stable weather systems. As a rule (which has exceptions), you won''t find many survival stories when crossing the Atlantic either way and so the typical problems are more generic to sailboats as a group: chafe and failure of running rigging & sails; engine/transmission weak links (misaligned belts, dirty fuel in dirtier fuel tanks, all shaken as well as stirred); crew safety issues (from puncture wounds to staying aboard the mother ship); and of course the most common issue, reliable self-steering (and for that matter, the integrity of the steering system as a whole). This is where most of the problems exist, most of the time.
To spend just a moment at the other end of the weather continuum from what you mentioned (light air sailing), your most likely risks from heavy seas and intense winds will be the following:
- northern route from New England to Ireland (count on little viz and potentially heavy prevailing W''ly winds) or the traditional guide book advice of ''up to 38-40N, then ride the W''lies'' which fails to point out this guarantees a succession of lows and their frontal systems marching past
- crossing the Gulf Stream, which can always have at least a few surprises when a front, opposing current, and some form of localized convective junk are mixed together
- leaving the Med too late in the season(usually anytime from early Oct onward) and being beat up heading for Mediera or the Canaries instead of enjoying the Portuguese Trades most of the way
Why do I mention these? Somewhat counter-intuitively, the way one mitigates these threats today is the same way one avoids disappointing sailing in too-light winds, and it''s this suggestion I think is especially important to you, given your stated preferences. It used to be that we only had pilot charts and guide book advice to go on when planning a route. Once we left and the initial, local wx f''cast vaporized, we just hung in there and took what came. If the Azores High was a little north this year, we found disappointing winds. If the Spring to Summer transition came later than normal in the N Atlantic (this happened in both 2003 and 2004), then we got plastered with one front after the next, its clocking winds (which can head the boat and beat up both it and the crew) and its heavy seas. But this is the way it used to be. Today, it''s very common for boats making any ocean crossing to be pulling down real-time weather f''cast products, daily or perhaps even multiple times daily, and then reshaping their route as they sail it. E.g. in 2003 we could dial in our wind speed within a 5 knot range (and the resulting seas) simply by monitoring the Azores High''s position and the tracks of the lows to our north. When leaving Horta for Falmouth, where the conventional route has one going far west of the rhumb line to avoid being embayed in Biscay with successive gales, we were able to cut many miles off while monitoring N Atlantic systems and their respective tracks.
So...what I''m suggesting is that, to some extent, the kind of sailing you aspire to be doing is under your control NOT just by the kind of boat you pick but by how you prepare your boat & your self in obtaining wx data and using it knowledgeably. This will also help you qualitatively improve your local cruising, as well, once you arrive in Europe and again when you return via the Caribbean. There is a huge wealth of info available on the Web when you reach the point of preparing, altho'' it''s fair to point out the most complete single source of wx f''cast products at this time is available from the Winlink system (www.winlink.org), which requires an amateur radio license (and the time to get it), a SSB transceiver, a ''radio modem'' and a good backstay antenna. To offset these expenses, I''ll point out we have had onboard email (24/7) and abundant wx f''cast products since 1999 and have yet to pay a penny for them. And to get you started on examining some of the web resources when the time comes, I''d suggest you visit www.franksingleton.clara.net among other sites; very comprehensive re: Euro wx f''cast products.
And finally, while your Euro preparations may be less extensive than those of us planning to cruise here a while, you may find it helpful to visit www.svsarah.com/Whoosh/Whoosh%20Main%20Page.htm where I''ve placed some articles on preparing a N American boat for the Euro infrastructure.
I didn''t plan this to be so long; sorry abut that. Let''s see what others think about some of these specific boats...