Join Date: May 2001
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Looking For A First Coastal Cruiser
Boxer, first off...what a great boat dog a Boxer is! Or at least ours sure did love the water. Ahh, the memories...
You have so many choices in front of you - and we know so little about your finances, how soon you plan to get beyond home waters, your hoped-for lifestyle afloat - that plucking out a specific boat mfgr. or model may not be real helpful (tho'' it sure is fun!). Perhaps Jeff will chip in with some boat recs, since he certainly has an abundant knowledge of older as well as newer models.
Instead, let me offer a couple of related suggestions...
1. Get some sailing experience on a mix of boats before firming up any opinions about which boat is for you. Multiple sails, perhaps in varying weather conditions, on multiple boats is a great way to learn what''s important to you. Sailing clubs, networking at marinas, meeting others at USCG & Power Squadron classes, the local college sailing program (if they have one) are all viable ways to begin getting on the water, not to mention chartering different boats for weekend sails with a skipper (initially). Also, don''t overlook Sailboat Shows that offer free sailing; the Sail Expo show in St. Pete is at a great location on the Bay''s edge and offers showgoers sailing in a mix of boats every day of the show, all for the price of admission.
2. Sailing along the Florida coast, laced on virtually all 3 sides by the ICW, can be relatively unchallenging to a boat if sailed cautiously. Sailing to/from & in the Bahamas is a different story: it''s great cruising with many protected anchorages, but moving a boat across the Gulf & thru even one region of the islands can be extremely demanding on both the boat & the crew''s skills. For this reason, your question is a little like asking what kind of car should you buy to drive around town and in the State Fair stock car race. Give some serious thought to either buying a smaller/cheaper boat for your intro period with the expectation that you may need to move up (in offshore capability tho'' perhaps not more in size) if you begin island cruising.
3. Were we to be cruising with a dog, I''d think about companionway height and sufficient tankage for ongoing dog hygiene that will keep belowdecks clean. This isn''t much of a challenge on a weekend sail but can be a big one when in the islands (with limited water supplies ashore) for an extended period. I''ll add that IMO I think most dogs - especially bigger breeds - don''t belong on sailboats despite the fact that they like being with the masters; it''s often just not a comfortable place for them, and it is harder these days to take a pooch ahsore for a walk. Just food for thought...
Good luck on diving in!