Good boat for singlehanded cruising
Jim, I think you got a good deal of useful advice from Jeff. But also some generic statements that may not serve your purpose well, so I''d like to add these thoughts:
The length of the boat is not the critical factor IMO but rather, within reason, the displacement & therefore amount of power (sail area) required to cruise the boat. As one example, consider adapting a Cal 40 with more easily handled sails than when it was raced: light displacement, decent volume, great sailing performance, and routinely sailed by single-handers. The fact it''s a 40 footer is secondary.
Sail handling, ease of self-steering, a functional navagation station in proximity to the cockpit, and working the boat in confined spaces (e.g., ID''ing & passing thru reef cuts, anchoring) are critical issues for the single-hander. Given that a larger boat''s sail plan can be broken into smaller, more manageable size sails, I don''t think any of the above issues suffer from a 40'' boat. Having said that, a 32-36'' boat would certainly be adequate for your needs, wouldn''t it? This time out (about 18 months) we''ve seen soooo many cruisers who felt they needed bigger, more complex boats, I''ve got to believe its essentially a trend made possible by the profitable 90''s. Twelve years ago, we saw far more smaller boats with less complex gear and think the folks were perhaps enjoying themselves more. My point: don''t get more boat than you need, as there isn''t more pleasure in bigger or more complex.
Vane + autopilot means you''ll have redundancy. Were I single-handing, I''d even consider duplicate autopilots or a good selection of spares. We''re a husband/wife team, and have both a vane & a/p because that''s how essential they are for our passages; we''d hate to lose both. (I highly recommend the cockpit-mounted CPT a/p now sold by Scanmar. It handles our 23,000# Pearson 424 easily. You could carry 2 of these for half the price of a full below-decks a/p system, tho'' the latter will give you redundant steering should you lose the steering cable).
I understand Jeff''s aversion to furling gear but would definitely NOT give up our Profurl. And while we don''t have lazy jacks, they are on my list to add. Both systems generally make sailing short-handed (I single-hand at times, both day & night) easier. Schaeffer has a nice arrangement for making lazy jacks instantly removeable from the mast (to accommodate putting on the sail covers as much as to avoid sail fouling); I recommend you look at it.
Finally, don''t overlook the value of navigation by laptop or chart plotter (tho'' ONLY in addition to keeping a current DR on paper charts), *especially* if coastal cruising. We left without this gear, added it later, and have found the added peace of mind & ease of navigation when short-handed to surprise us. It gives you situational awareness (the "bird''s eye view") unavailable in any other form when sailing along an indistinct coast with poor nav aids). But as I said, only as a supplement to the stone-simple navigation practices we should have all learned first.
By the way, a great boat choice to consider IMO: The Tayana (Vancouver) 32, which is still being made on order by Tayana, or a Vancouver 32 or 36 that can still be purchased in the UK (by Nor''Star?). I mention these if you truly are interested in going offshore as they''re not well known but great designs & boats.
Normally aboard WHOOSH, currently lying POS, Trinidad, WI