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puntapete 09-25-2006 09:35 PM

Where to start, what to buy.
Here's the deal. I'm a 60 year old wannabe sailor who has just enough experience to know how very much I don't know about the sport. I'm a novice. (I've sailed Flying Scots and a few small - 27' to 32' - cruisers, none of my own). My wife and I recently moved to the Annapolis area and I would like to buy a boat. My spouse supports me on this, but she does have some reservations.

My goals are to 1) gain enough experience so that I would be comfortable chartering a boat on vacations. 2) gain this experience by sailing around the Chesapeake on weekend trips. 3) eventually, when I retire in a couple of years, do some coastal crusing, say to Florida on the ICW.

I'm 6' 3", 200 lbs and in reasonably good shape, and reasonably athletic. My spouse is 5' 4" and 100 lbs. and she will admit to not being athletic at all. So, whatever we get, it will have to be pretty simple to sail since I will probably do most of the work. (This is where her reservations come in. She's not sure that she could handle many of the tasks expected of a crew member. )

A big question that I have is whether I should start with something around 27' and then, after I've got the experience and am ready to retire and go on longer cruises, buy a larger boat, say around 35 feet. Or should I start with the larger boat (with more room to make the spouse happy). The brokers that I've talked to almost unanimously advise me to go for the bigger boat at the outset, but I'm not so sure. The 'intro to sailing books' often advise one to get something smaller, usually because one can get a better boat for the same money, expenses are less, and smaller boats get sailed more frequently.

Finally, as I noted, I'm 6' 3" and bunk length is an important consideration.

I'm only considering used boats and am prepared to spend up to $50K (for the larger boat, $30K for the 27 footer). [I just did a search on Yachtworld and found 138 boats in the Mid-Atlantic Region, 27' to 36', priced up to $50K.]

What are your opinions - on where to start (27' or 35"), and on what boats to consider? Also, do you think it would help ease my wife's concerns if we signed up for some lessons as a couple?

sailingfool 09-25-2006 11:11 PM

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I encourage you to buy a popular 27-30 starter boat. Your experiences with this boat over 3-4 years will prepare you to sensibly pick the bigger, long-term cruiser. I think the chance that you can buy a first boat and have it turn out to be a boat you want to stay with in the futre, let alone sail distances, is very low. You'd be shooting in the dark.

I personally think 30' is the sweet spot, comfortable enough for a couple, but easy to handle. Some advice;
1. buy a boat that has been used as you intend to use it - cruised by a couple I guess. Look for self tailing, oversize winches, roller furling, all lines led to the cockpit. Your wife shouldn't need to do anything, other than watch, unless she wants to...
2. Buy a well-equipped, well maintained boat. Such boats are easiest to sell and are overall cheaper than any "good deals", below market price examples. Nothing is more expensive overall than fixing up someone else's neglected boat. This is especailly important for the first time buyer, as you can't imagine how much there'll be to repair or replace, or how expensive it'll all be.
3. Quality boats would include C&C 30 I, Tartan 30, Catalina 30, Sabre 30, Parson 303, and my favorite in this size Cal 28 II. Take a look at one

eryka 09-26-2006 06:18 AM

puntapete, a couple of thoughts (before I finish my first cup of coffee):

* teach your wife to helm. that saves your strength for the muscle tasks.

* consider "fractional ownership" (essentially, timeshare for boats) while you decide what you want. I've seen near-new Hunter 33s from Sailtime at Port Annapolis marina.

* the brokers may be steering you toward bigger boats out of their self-interest, not yours - bigger boats = bigger price = bigger commission

* I mostly agree with sailingfool; but I'd go even simpler/cheaper, try for minimal systems and mostly just focus on sailing for now. (You're going to want to learn about systems, and learn how to maintain them, if you intend to cruise ultimately, so why pay for someone else's choices?) This can point you toward some older boats, under <$10-$15K.

camaraderie 09-26-2006 11:03 AM

I disagree. I would get something like a Catalina 36 for the bay and beyond. It is easier to fall in love with cruising if you are comfortable and have the ameneties. It is EASIER to sail a Catalina 36 (properly rigged and fitted out than to sail a lighter "tippier" boat. By all means, take some lessons and learn the basics but don't be scared of the larger boat...The only thing harder about a larger boat is driving it under power to your slip and you might as well learn that anyway! (P.S. I am 6'4" and the additional headroom and bunk room WILL be appreciated! )

PBzeer 09-26-2006 11:16 AM

One thing to keep in mind, that is easy to lose track of, in the end, you have to do what you are comfortable with. You've gotten some good advice, and probably will get more. Take from it, what works for you, and don't worry about what anyone else thinks of your choices.


cassycc36 09-26-2006 11:29 AM

Even though your wife is small she should be able to do most everything on the boat. The funnest part of sailing is sailing. Don't let her miss out on that. Encourage her to talk to other chick sailors and crew on someone else's boat. The more she knows the more confident she will feel at the helm while you are doing the muscle work.

SimonV 09-26-2006 11:30 AM

It does not matter what size boat you buy, it will still not have enought storage for holidays or crusing. If you own a 30 footer you'll dreem of a 40 footer. 34 to 38 is a good point to start if the spouse is happy you'll be happy

NCountry 09-26-2006 11:51 AM

Puntapete: I generally sit back and read what everyone else has to say. Usually I have a considerable amount of humor associated with what I read on these forums. Some postings are from people that have a genuine love of their boats and they take great care to do all the upkeep to keep them nice. Others are more along the lines of the self appointed experts. You'll have to do a lot of reading in these forums to know who is who.
I started out as a youngster sailing an AMC Sunfish. Later on I owned a Catalina 22 and now I have a 30 Islander Bahama. All of them taught me something about sailing. With that said I'll offer my humble opinion. (and I don't claim to be an expert.)
The sunfish was great for getting the basics. The downside was that it was not something I would go out in when the wind went above 15 knots. It was also a great way to stay wet so it wouldn't be my choice in colder climates.
The 22 was great as a day sailor and for some overnights. It was small in the cabin but since I'm only 5'7" it was cozy. Based on your size I would discourage you from a boat without adequte headroom.
The 30 is actually easier to sail than either of the other two. It also gives me the ability to sail year round. It is a great family cruiser BUT is by no means a boat I would take on an extended cruise and I'll be upgrading within the next 2 to 3 years to a blue water cruiser. (since I've now owned several sizes of boat I feel much better about my abilities to judge what I need in a cruiser.)
With that said I think you have a basic problem "TIME" as in you don't have a lifetime of it to learn what you need to know. Your only option, as it appears to me, is to, A. take a costal cruising course and, B. plan on getting the bigger boat. BUT---make good friends with someone that has that lifetime of experience and listen carefully and strongly consider their judgement when buying the bigger boat. DO NOT let the writers of an internet forum be your reference source in this situation. Don't get me wrong, these forums are a great resource and there are some very knowledgable people that frequent these boards BUT there are also way to many "self appointed experts" that will offer opinions and not being able to see them in person and have a conversation with them is a terrible handicap when trying to decide if they know what they are talking about and if their opinion is valid.
With all that said I would offer 2 pieces of advice.
1. SHOP SHOP SHOP.....spend all the time looking at boats that you can BEFORE you decide on the one you will purchase. You'll see lots of "stinkers" that brokers will try to pass off as great boats and you'll see some real gems that will show obvious pride of ownership.
2. Spend time at any marina you can with a lot of boats and don't be shy about offering to crew on as many boats as you can. You'll gain some very valuable sailing experience as well as learning about many of the features that you will ultimately want on you boat.
Just my 2 cents...........

Fair Winds to all

sailingdog 09-30-2006 04:50 PM

You and your wife should both be capable of sailing the boat single-handed, as that is essentially what you will be doing if you cruise as a couple. The boat, regardless of size, should be rigged to be single-handed. I would go with a 30-35' boat, rather than a <30' boat, as it will be far more comfortable for you, and not all that much harder to handle than a smaller boat. Anything larger than 35' is going to be a bit too much for you, especially given your limited experience.

You and your wife should both take a good "coastal cruising" course, but I would recommend that you take them separately, rather than as a couple. In many cases, when a couple takes a cruising course, one of the couple will often learn far less than if they had taken them seperately, since one will often defer to their spouse.

Also, join a local yatch club and race or sail there, as a season of sailing on a racing boat will teach you a lot more about sailing than a season of just sailing by yourself. Also, the techniques you learn about tweaking the performance on a racing boat will be useful when you're sailing a cruising boat in light winds and need to maximize performance.

Goodnewsboy 11-04-2006 12:56 AM

I bought a used boat this year and have the following thoughts to share:

1. You should own the boat and not vice versa. Don't spend a fortune on it. There are plenty of good "starter" boats around that can be bought for reasonable money. Choose a few solid designs that you like and then look around the boatyards. You will probably find a few that haven't been used for a while.

2. A boat that needs a good cleaning and some cosmetics can often be bought at the same price as one with a serious defect.

3. Make absolutely sure that you have identified all of the problems before you make an offer. A good surveyor is worth his fee but don't accept his findings blindly. If it doesn't look good to you, find out why.

4. Sails and rigging, especially standing rigging, are important. Check them carefully.

5. Make a list of the items that must be done to get the boat ready for use and price each one. When you add all the money you must spend to put a boat in serviceable shape to the purchase price, the total must be a good deal less than what the finished project might sell for. 80% or less is a good target.

My purchase was a C&C 30 MkI that had been unused for over 10 years without benefit of any intervening maintenance. For what it is worth, here is what it has taken thus far to make it usable:

*Reupholster all interior cushions.
*Repair frozen diesel engine.
*Strip bottom and repaint. (Took advantage of this to apply epoxy barrier coat also.)
*Polish topside gelcoat
*Pull propeller shaft, clean, polish bearing and packing areas and reinstall with new packing and zinc.
*New topside handrails
*Refinish topside woodwork
*New companionway drop board
*New Compass
*New ground tackle
*New VHF
*New dodger
*Refurbish sails (sailmaker)

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