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martinojon 06-10-2001 08:19 AM

First time sail boat buyer
Hello everyone,
Let me start by saying I know nothing about sailing except for the fact that I really want to learn and will do everything possible to start. I do have a fair amount of experience with power boating and have owned a 24 ft cruiser. Now that I have graduated law school and am starting my first job I want to learn how to sail.
My question is what kind of boat do I want. I would like to purchase a sailboat (used) and know very little. I would like to use my boat here in Boston, for day trips, weekend trips, to sail around Boston harbor. But I would also like a boat that would have the ability to sail to New York for a weekend trip, or possibly if it could sail a bit farther to the Bahamas (after much experience and some professional lessons). I would like all this and a boat that I could take out and sail on my own as! Is there such a boat? What are your suggestions to start me off on my quest for the appropriate boat? Any suggestions on Size, make, tiller v. wheel, Inboard outboard, or whether to go with a trailer v. docking my boat will be great. Thank you so much.

JeffH 06-11-2001 03:35 AM

First time sail boat buyer
There are a couple significant and perhaps contraditory pieces to your question. As a beginner sailor, you will greatly benefit from getting a boat that comparatively small, 25 to 30 feet (or smaller), and that is light and responsive enough that you cna really learn how to properly trim (adjust) the sails for the conditions and also that won''t overpower your abilities. That is slightly in conflict with your goal to be able to sail to New York which involves a little outside work. Still, if you picked your weather window right a 30 footer would have a relatively easy time of it.

Under no circumstances would I ever recommend a wheel steering in a boat this size for a beginner sailer. Even with the advances in wheel steering, the increased drag and lack of feel of a wheel steering makes it hard to really learn to sail well. I know that there are people out there who have learned to sail on wheel steering, meaning they have learned enough to get from place to place mostly under sail. They may even have sailed for a lifetime, but they have never learned how to trim the sails properly and really finesse the boat. (Its a bit like the difference in skiing between a guy how does ''carves a turn'' vs the guy doing ''gorilla turns''.) I see these people out on the water all of the time. If they learned to adjust their sails properly they would be Heel less, roll less, be faster in most conditions and more comfortable in most conditions and not have to motor as much. It really does make a big difference in how much you get to enjoy your boat.

If you are only sailing in Boston Harbor you probably could get by with an outboard. If you are going to be sailing to New York, you would be far better served by a boat with an inboard. Inboards tend to be far more reliable and more significanlty, outboards are really useless if you end up in really awful weather or even a short slop left after a bad storm.

I think that we are talking about a boat that is probably too big to trailer and so will probably be at a dock. Here''s the deal. Trailering offers a number of advantages over docking, lower storage costs being a big one, and the ability to trailer the boat to distant locations being another. But trailering comes at a big price. Rigging and unrigging a trailerable is a major time consuming operation. When I had a trailerable the quickest I could get from the parking lot to the water was about 45 minutes and it took about the same amount of time the other way. That means you better have half a day if you are going to ''slip out for a couple hours''. My current boat, a 28 footer, can literally be underway in 5-7 minutes from the time that I hit the dock, covers off, lines run and ready to sail. It makes it much easier to grab a quick evening sail.

I don''t know how things are in Boston, but around here you can often get a slip at a private dock for very little money. (I have only paid for a slip 1 year out the 18 years that I have owned boats in Annapolis.) When I lived in Savannah, I had a slip at a small private marina owned by a shrimp boat operator that was about a quarter of the going rates at a ''real marina'' and in Miami I joined a small yacht club and kept my boat there for next to nothing. in the Northeast, moorings are often a real bargain and the boats take less abuse on a mooring.

In terms of make, there are a lot of good boats out there for your purpose. (This is my standard response. You actually have less experience than most people looking for a first boat today so I would not necessarily suggest that you look at the higher performance designs (noted with an *))

"There is no more controversial a question than what is a perfect first boat. To begin with all boats are compromises. They are compromises between optimum sailing ability and the need for accommodations or shoal draft. If a boat gets wider it gets more stable up to a point but then it has less reserve stability to right itself if it goes over. If a boat is too wide and blunt, it has a lot of drag but lots of room down below. If a boat is too narrow it has less drag but if too narrow won''t have much stability or room down below. Too much weight and the boat is slow and hard to handle, too little weight the boat is fast, fun, and easy to handle up to a point but at some point takes greater skills and athletic ability.

If you ask some sailors, they will recommend a traditional design because they are a bit harder to get into trouble with. I somewhat disagree. I really think that the boat you buy should be responsive enough that you can learn proper sail trim and boat handling. I have taught a lot of people to sail and I firmly believe that to really learn to sail the boat should be light and responsive enough that you can experiment with sail trim and sailing angles and see and feel the results. I recommend a boat with a reasonably easily driven hull and reasonably modern rig and underbody. I find that fractional rigged sloops are really the easiest to learn proper sail trim on. Much of this depends on your own priorities. There are a lot people out on the water who really only understand the rudimentary aspects of sail trim and boat handling. That works for them and I am not judging them. If you really want to learn the fine points of sailing then I would stick to sloop 30 feet or less in length and of light to moderate displacement and a fin keel and spade rudder. Beginners sometimes think they prefer wheel steering, but on the size boats you are talking about a tiller is far and away better both to learn on and to sail with.

The key is to figure out where you are going to sail, what your abilities are and what your real needs are. Different sailing venues favor different types of boats. Boats such as the: (These should all be under 25K, most have inboards which I think is preferable for cruising.)

-Albin Ballad (30 feet (1973-1978) $12-20K)
These are reasonably fast and very well built and finished boats. They are not especially roomy but are good boats for short handing. They are beautiful looking boats. Most have a Volvo 10 hp diesel.

Albin Cumulus (28 feet-(early 1980''s) $15-18K)
These fractional rigged sloops would be a ideal first boat. They are reasonably fast (although 60 sec''s a mile slower than my Laser 28) and easy to handle. They are nicely finished and typically have diesels. The interiors on these boats are not exactly plush but is reasonable for the kind of stuff we do here on the Chesapeake and on much of the Atlantic Coast.

Beneteau First 30 or 30E (30 feet (early 1980''s) $18-22K)
Fairly modern design that should sail reasonably well. Not the most solid boats but fine for most venues. They had diesels and pretty good hardware. The 30E might be a fractional rig, I don''t recall.

-C&C 26

-C&C Corvette (31 feet (1967- 1970) $15-22K) and -C&C Redwing (30 footer ( 1965-1970) $12K- 20K)
Attractive and reasonably venerable designs; they are not especially fast but OK for the era. The Corvettes are moderately long keel/ centerboard boats and so are great for poking around the shallower areas of the Bay. The Redwings are fin keel/space rudder boats. They are really not competitive racers any longer.

Cal 2-30 and Cal 2-29''s (just under 30 feet (mid 1960-early 1970''s) $10-18K)
These are reasonably built racer cruisers that have reasonable accommodations and pretty fair sailing ability. Like the Cal 25, the design is a dated and if the gear has not been updated will be less convenient than a more modern design.

Catalina 27''s: Venerable, common and cheap to buy. I have been sailing on these boats for several summers now. They are not especially well built and tend to blow up hardware but then again I am sailing on a 15 year old boat that has been raced hard for much of its life.

Dehler 31 (31 feet (Mid to late 1980''s) under $20K to mid-20K range)*
These are really neat little boats. They are not as fast as my Laser for example but are quite fast and look easy to sail and single-hand. They are fractional rigged and have a very nice interior plan. They would one of my favorites on this list for a first boat that can be both cruised and raced.

Dufour 2800 (28 feet (mid 1980''s) mid $20K)
These are OK boats with a reasonably solid following. They are not my favorite but they would not be a bad boat if the price were right.

Farr 1020''s (34 feet (Late 1980''s)
These are really nice 34 footers that have a reasonably complete interior for more extended cruising and are quite fast and should be easy to handle.

Late 70''s/ early 80''s Hunter 30''s, (30feet (15-20K)
These are under appreciated boats. We have had two in my family and again it is a matter of finding one that has been upgraded and is in good clean shape. My Dad raced his in PHRF and went for a couple years without finishing lower than a first or second. They are roomy and surprisingly fast.

Irwin Competition 30 (30 feet(mid 1970''s) $12-16K)
These were well rounded little boats that sailed well and had reasonably nice interiors. There was one that dominated its class in PHRF for years. Irwin''s were not the most solidly built boats and so you are looking for a well maintained example in reasonably good shape.

These were part of J-boats ''cruising series'' along with the J-34c, J-35c, J-37, and J-40. These are nice little boats and would be a good choice in a windier cruising ground. They have a nice layout and seemed to be nicely finished.

J-30''s (30 feet(Late 1970''s on) $20-35K)*
These were originally built as ''hot'' race boats and in their day they were really quite fast. Today they are seen as heavy and under canvassed. There are a number of model changes over the years and some resulted in a pretty nice cruising layout. These are good sailing boats but somewhat brutish to sail compared to soem later high performance boats. Ergonomically they are far from my favorite boats, BUT they have a strong following. Their perenial one design status have held their value up quite nicely. They have diesel auxillaries and are pretty easy to find. Be careful of problems with their coring as the Balsa cored and some of these boats have had a very tough life.

Kirby 30: (30 feet(Late 1970''s-early 1980''s)$12 to $25K)*
These were really intended as race boats but they do have an interior that can be cruised for limited periosds of time. They are one of my favorite boats from that era. (I owned a Kirby 25 which was a smaller version of the 30).

Laser 28''s (28 feet(Early to mid 1980''s) $16to24K)*
What can I say, I love these boats. I have owned mine for 13 years and she has been great as a racer, daysailor, weekender and cruiser for periods up to 11 or so days. They were boats that were a decade ahead of their time. Many are Kevlar/Vinylester construction which is a really tough act to beat in terms of durability and light weight. They had a clever interior with a nice galley and head. Many have pressure water and a shower and a few have hot water heaters even. They have a nice little Buhk diesel. After 13 years Ihave no doubt that this was the right boat for me.

MG27 (27 foot (Mid 1980''s) under $20K)
Nice little fractional rigged English boats. They seem to be well mannered and have an interior layout similar to my Laser 28. They have a diesel aux. They have tiny tanks that will need to get upgraded.

Oday 28 & 30 (28 feet and 30 feet(late 1970''s and early 1980''s) $12-20K)
These were not the best built boats or the fastest boats in their day but are common and sail reasonably well.

1970''s vintage Tartan 30''s, (30 feet( 1970''s) under $20K)
These are my favorite masthead sloops of that era. They are good all around boats. Most still atomic 4''s but you can find them with diesels.

Tartan 26''s: Quite rare little boats. They are nice to sail and have reasonably comfortable interiors.

(Other Tartans to look for are the Tartan Piper and Tartan 31 but these are more expensive boats)

70''s vintage Pearson 30''s (Not Flyers)*
These are very venerable racer/cruisers on the Chesapeake. They have an active one-design class and are also good boats for cruising the Bay. Of course they come in all kinds of condition from really well maintained and up graded with good racing hardware and a diesel engine to stripped and trashed. You can buy them from under $10K (but you would not want any in that price range) to something approaching $20K. You should find good boats in the high teens.

Pearson Flyers: (30(late 1970''s early 1980''s) $12-20K)*
These were intended as competition to the J-30. They were reasonably good boats pretty much on a par with the J-30 in many ways. They have not done as well in racing since they do not have a one design class to help perfect the Breed.

Ranger 29 (29 (early 1970''s) 10-18K)
These are good sailing and nice cruising little boats. They should be adequate for club racing and are certainly good boats. They were not the best built boats and so you should be looking for a clean and updated version. Still they offer a lot of bang for the buck.

Sabre 28 (28 feet(1971 to 1986) $12-30K)
They have a reasonably high quality build, and are still supported by factory, with over 500 made The S-28 is one of the few boats which meets the ORC capsize screen under 30 feet. Nice teak interior and somewhat classic lines.

Shockwave (also called Schockwave 30, or Wavelength 30 )*
Pretty stipped out racers but really neat boats. They are quite fast and should be a lot of fun to own. They did have a sort of high tech interior that lacked elegance but worked reasonably well.

Wylie 28 and Wylie 30 (28 and 30 respectively(late 1970''s to early 1980''s) 10-15K)
These are neat little boats that sail well and are really pretty interesting. The few that I have seen have good hardware and have had simple but workable interiors. They came in fractional and masthead rig versions. There was a masthead version that did quite well on the Bay. There was a one design version called a Hawkfarm. They never caught on the Chesapeake but are still raced in S.F. Bay.

If you want some thing more traditional
Alberg 30''s
C&C Redwings and Corvettes
Pearson Coasters, and Wanderer''s

You will find that these traditional boats have less room and will have older equipment but they should be less money and may be better sailing boats than some of the newer boats on the market today."

Feel free to email me as your search continues and to kick around ideas.


jack_patricia 06-11-2001 03:05 PM

First time sail boat buyer

First, if you''re smart, you will print off Jeff''s reply and save it. In the odd event that you really do end up being as interested (and involved) in sailing as you profess, Jeff''s remarks are well worth reflecting on at length. I don''t agree with every word (see below) but IME you rarely run across such a useful, concise summary description of starter ''cruising'' boats and general, good gouge. Especially since so many of those boats are dated, which is what we mere mortals can afford, such info can be hard to find.

Second, I can not fathom how you ''know nothing about sailing'' and yet ''know'' you must do it. Taking you at your word, there''s no doubt but that you need some experience before you need a boat. It turns out that we ''sailors'' find many different things to be rewarding when we ''sail''. In fact, I find sailing normally pretty boring tho'' I enjoy being on the water; it''s the allure of visiting foreign ports, of managing my very own ''space ship'' as I travel to foreign lands that is my turn-on. Some get the juice flowing by sailing competitively, others by sailing ''well'', others by stroking and fondling their pristine boat while she sits in a slip, rarely used. ''Sailing'' means many, many different things to different folks, and the only way you''ll know what truly is worthy of your time, energy & far more $$ than you''d like to hear about is thru experience.

Now, having said all that, here are a few quibbles/additions to Jeff''s notes:
1. Put an Albin Vega next to the Albin Ballad; hardly anyone knows these boats today (ditto for the Cumulus) but of the 3 models, the Vega was built in the largest numbers, routinely crossed oceans, and yet was the sweetest sailing boat I''ve ever been aboard. It was 27'' LOA and had an inboard Volvo.
2. And it had no spade rudder/fin keel, which is another quibble I have with Jeff''s comments, tho'' he''s generally on the money with that remark. My point is that you don''t discount a sweet sailing boat because it doesn''t fall into some arbitrary classification.
3. Cal 27''s and 2-27''s were made into the early-mid 80''s and were great starter boats in California (where virtually all sailing other than San Diego Bay is ''offshore sailing'' - and I include San Fran Bay in that latter category!)

You are waaaay early in the process (which is where every single one of us has been, so that''s not in any sense a negative) and so, feeling like your outside the ballpark, peeking over the fence, you may not realize what follows. Hope I don''t offend but these are super important points for you to consider:
1. Almost any marina and yacht club doesn''t mind well-intentioned interlopers who properly ID themselves, ask to walk the docks, and generally ''big nose'' around the place.
2. Many folks with boats would welcome an interested novice who''d be willing to trade a little sweat equity (wash down the boat after a sail; bring the chips & beer; whatever) for a day on the water. OK, so maybe the guy who''s finally managed to get that cute gal at work to spend the day with him doesn''t fit this description, but lots do: older folks, single folks, sailors who want to spread the joy, etc.
3. Given 1 & 2 above, you can find tons of opportunities to get on the water at zero expense (beyond some effort & a few munchies) and, because this would mean sailing with a variety of folks, you''ll learn far more - about sailing & boats, as well as yourself - than with 1 "professional instructor" or on your own boat. Racers need crew...and what you don''t know, you can learn. Maybe a racing boat isn''t your first sail, but it''s not a stretch to join a crew that''s minus a sick crewmember for sail #5 or #10, perhaps in a Wed night Beer Can race (informal, still competitive). Read the Bulletin Boards at all those marinas/yards/clubs you visit, stick up some ''Bright Lawyer/Dumb Sailor'' ads of your own, and generally cruise around just being ''you'', introducing yourself in a way comfortable to you, and asking each skipper if they know of someone looking for crew or help aboard the boat for the day. (After all, you need to learn about boats FAR more than you need to learn about sailing!)

I''ll be around here for a few weeks (before heading back to Trinidad) so, like Jeff, I''d be glad to field any specific, add''l questions you might have. Hope some of this is helpful, as sailing & cruising have added immeasureably to my and my wife''s life and we certainly would like to pay it forward a bit, if possible.


BigZ 06-11-2001 07:09 PM

First time sail boat buyer
The above comments are valid and good. However, I always recommend to new, potential sailors that they first purchase a very small sailboat, something like a Sunfish, Laser or other boat of similar design. The reason is that you get a much better understanding of how the wind and water interact. On a keelboat, the first time buyer would not be tuned to the subtle nuances of the wind and the water. The knowledge gained in sailing a small boat (even if you only sail a few months on it) can be transferred to sailing a keelboat; but it is more difficult to pick up the subtlies from a keelboat.
Consider a cheap small boat as a sacrificial learning expense. You might be better off. Anyway, good luck with whatever you decide.

martinojon 06-12-2001 06:44 AM

First time sail boat buyer
I would like to start by thanking each and every one of you for your informative comments. I have printed them all out and am going to educate myself futher on them. It was defently a great starting ground. I encourage many more comments and I will post questions as I learn more, thank you all for your help.

varopt 06-13-2001 12:47 AM

First time sail boat buyer
I''m a first time buyer, although I have a reasonable amount of experience as crew. I recently checked out a 1977 Endeavour 32,
asking price 18K, although probably will sell for less than that. Any thoughts on the Endeavour 32 in general? Boat will be used in the Chesapeake for day/weekend cruising with the occasional several-day mini-vacation.


JeffH 06-13-2001 04:20 AM

First time sail boat buyer
The Endeavor 32 began life as a Irwin 32. The Irwins had centerboards and so sailed much better than the shoal keeled Endeavours. I understand that here was also a change from a higher density ballast to a lower density meaning that the Endeavour has less stablity than the Irwin as well.

The shoal draft of the Endeavour 32 is convenient on the Chesapeake but these are not very good light or heavy air boats and so are at a real disadvantage on the Bay. The Bay really rewards boats with light air performance with a lot more sailing days and a lot fewer motoring days.

Members of my family have had two Endeavours over the years (a 37 and 40). Both had a range of build quality problems. 1977 was also the beginning of the period during which blister problems were most prevelent, although I have not specifically heard of problems in the Endeavour 32.

Then there are the usual old boat suspects; such as old sails, tired engines and upholstery, electrical components, standing and running rigging that is past its useful lifespan, deck delamination, chainplate attachment problems, out of date and warn out electronics,deck hardware and galley gear. A thorough survey and war chest is in order.

Good luck

Ethan_nyc 07-07-2001 09:52 PM

First time sail boat buyer
Jeff, your response was exceptionally informative and I too printed it out for future reference. In the meantime I have a similar question with a nuance. I learned how to sail two months ago and have been sailing every week since on a 23'' Sonar. I love that boat and it would make be exceptionally happy to have that boat if only it had a head and a bed in the cabin. I am very impressed with the size of the cockpit and have no need for a cabin aside from the head and bed. I am trying to find out what inexpensive used day sailers exist similar to the Sonar in size, performance, etc with a similarly LARGE cockpit. I believe the Colgate 26 is a good alternative but how could I find others? If anyone knows of any, please let me know...I haven''t been able to find an easy way of identifying the size of a cockpit since most specs that I have come across do not state this information readily. The Sonar has 11''7" cockpit which is great for me. I will be sailing on the Hudson/Long Island Sound and have just friends, family and overnights.

zencruiser 07-11-2001 09:58 PM

First time sail boat buyer
2 yrs out of undergrad I bought my first boat, a new Pearson 26. While I was saving those 2 years I read maybe a thousand sailing books, and took all the USPS classes I could. I''d never sailed a yard until the day I took off out into Lk MI. The first time I''d ever set foot on a moving sailboat was the first leg, Holland (MI) to Muskegon. Spent that summer sailing around Mich. The next boat was a Pearson 30, then an Irwin 31 - this over 20 years. Now I''m boatless, saving for boat #4, tweaking my short list.
Forget starting w/ small boats - buy the biggest boat you can afford; they''re more sound like you''ve got some common sense: you''ll go slow. Get a wheel - or a tiller: it doesn''t matter..they''re apples & oranges..those who start on tillers have to learn a wheel later (or visa versa),and then, once learned, they never look back....learn a wheel (or tiller) now or later:it doesn''t matter. Get a boat you can sell because you WILL want to move up: either to get out of sailing or to stay in it. Go out! Every friggin'' chance you get.

intubater 07-13-2001 02:44 AM

First time sail boat buyer
Hello, great responses from Jeff & Jack, even saved jeff''s recommendations for my next eventual purchase :) First and foremost, as a new sailor, learn to sail. Try to start out on something small and forgiving. I grew up in Northern Michigan sailing sunfish''s, force 5''s, hobies, god knows what else, as well as cruising/racing on the "big" boats. Go buy yourself a used small boat that you won''t be afraid to put a few dings into. Believe me, the first time you take your new boat out on your very first sail, and you bring it into the dock a bit too fast and get to hear the wonderful sound the pulpit makes upon kissing the dock, you''ll wish you learned on a small boat how they operate. They are much easier to start/stop for exp. and they are much less expensive to fix when the ineveitable happens. And it will, trust me and the others, you''ll bang her up a bit, and the bigger the boat, the bigger the wallet needed to fix her. You need to learn the basics first and the small boats are very forgiving, and very responsive. You need to learn the feel of the wind, what it can do for you and your boat, and how all the tweaking you do with trimming etc affects the way the boat handles. Force 5''s and Lazers are great little boats with big boat features, main as well as jibs, vangs, outhauls etc. And please Martin, do yourself a favor and disregard the comments about wheels. Start with a tiller, and stay with a tiller. They give you such a great feel of the water, and how the boat is running. A tiller will clue you in to the true conditions of the seas much earlier then a wheel will, think of it as an early warning system. Once that tiller gets to be a handful to hang on to, then its time to reef. A wheel won''t give you that kind of feel, although if you want to be able to turn on a dime......On the boat sizes that you are looking at, a wheel will take up way to much room in your cockpit. Sure, my tiller makes a wide arc and precludes anyone else from sitting in my "space" but at anchor/dock I can get it up out of the way and use all of my cockpit for lounging. Let''s see you do that with a wheel. Take some classes, sail with whomever you can beg, borrow and stow away on board with to learn different tricks of the trade, rigs, set-ups etc. Surf the web, read books, ask the crew next to your boat, hell, take em out for sailing on your boat when you get her. Most sailors are really great people, kinda a fraternity really, and are more then willing to help out a novice. The way I look at it, that novice may be sailing next to me some day, and I sure as hell dont want him tacking into me ;)
s/v Bout Damn Time! lying Lake Erie Michigan

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