One thing you'll find is that most people fall in love with their first boat and lose some objectivity, myself included. What I will tell you is what I looked for and what I have found to be good characteristics for a first time owner.
I bought a Pearson P-35 about 4 years ago as my first big boat. My P-35 has the following good/relevant characteristics a first time owner may want to consider:
1. shoal draft full keel with centerboard. Only 3'9" with board up. My boat is moored in a relatively shallow bay, so this was very important to me, it might not be relevant to you unless you plan on doing significant gunkholing. If you look at a centerboard boat, make sure the surveyor takes a good look at the pivot pins and connections. I have not had any problems with mine, but this is one thing to look out for.
2. It's a relatively heavy boat, made back when they used a lot more fiberglass than they really needed. However, for a first time owner, this is not a bad thing. Every sailor runs aground at some point, a first time owner is likely to have more such events. The full keel design is solid, the boat is pretty bullet proof. It has a cruising PHRF rating of 192. You may want to check the PHRF rating if you really don't want something that is too slow for your taste.
3. While it's a 35' boat the waterling is only 25' and its beam is only 10' so it's interior living space is more like that of a 30' boat than a 35' boat. Don't think just because you're looking at 30' or 35' boat its going to have the same amount of living space.
4. With a narrow beam and long overhangs the boat is made to heel when its in even a moderate breeze. If your spouse doesn't like being in a boat that heels, find a boat with a wider beam to length ratio.
5. The long overhangs help make this boat relatively comfortable in heavy seas.
6. Beautiful traditional lines. Aesthetics, find a boat you think looks good.
7. Consider how much brightwork you want to maintain. The P-35 has a teak toe rail, teak cockpit coming and hand rails. If you're not prepared to do the upkeep, find something with less bright work.
Good luck finding your first boat, it's a great experience. One other thing. When I was looking I got behind the wheel and looked out over the boat and thought, gee this is a big boat. Once you get it in the water and start sailing around, you no longer think the boat is too big. Finally, I don't think there is a perfect boat out there so don't be too anal about getting everything you want at the price you're willing to pay.
Just do it!
It just occured to me in my list of points to consider I've sort of assumed that the boat is to be used for coastal cruising. If you are planning on serious blue water cruising you need to consider other factors as well. For example the cockpit of my P-35 is relatively large, which is great for sailing with a number of people on board but not great for a blue water cruise as it is easier to swamp in heavy seas.
Last edited by CalypsoP35; 08-08-2006 at 12:38 PM.