What would you buy for $100,000?
Ideal Chesapeake Cruisers under 100K
I have just gone through that very search for myself (except with a smaller budget) and the following represents my thoughts on this. To begin with, here on the Chesapeake Bay, there are real rewards for light air performance or little more speed. The Bay has an amazing ability to serve up just about any kind of weather that you can conceive of but mostly it serves up winds under 10 or 12 knots and often under 5 knots. I can''t tell you how much I hate to run the engine. Because of that aversion, the ability to sail at a healthy speed in light winds really increases the number of days that we can use the boat and also greatly increases the number of days spent without using the engine. We think nothing of sailing on or off the anchor, in and out of slips, or coming up to a raft up under sail. That to me is what voyaging under sail is about.
On the Bay, a 20/30 seconds a mile (PHRF rating) increase in speed can mean literally a dozen or more options for anchorages over a simple weekend and can mean hundreds, of more opportunities over a week long cruise. In the size range that you are considering, you should be looking for a boat with a minimum PHRF rating less than 120 and with a rating less than 100 being even more ideal. This is not about racing; it is about being able to cruise under sail. While we are talking numbers, I would suggest an L/Disp ratio under 200 (under 160 being even more ideal) and a SA/Disp ratio near 20 (with over 20 being even more ideal)
Much has been said about the need for shoal draft in the Chesapeake, but after nearly two decades of sailing into and out of creeks and rivers as far north as Harve d Grace and as far south as the Potomac, I think that you can easily cruise the bay with a much as 7 feet of draft. Obviously, closer to 6 feet is a bit handier especially in the ICW.
With our small tidal range, soft sticky mud or hard sand bottoms, wing keels and long keels are not too great if you run aground as you are more likely to be really ''planted'' than with a fin keel where it is easier to spin yourself out. Centerboarders are also a good option if you really want to get tucked back into obscure and shallower corners of the Bay.
I can''t help but comment on this raging debate on whether Beneteaus, Hunters, and Catalinas are a good option for the Bay. With the close proximity of anchorages, the fact that few people sail through the night on the Bay, the need for light air, and the near absence of the need for long term heavy weather performance, the Chesapeake Bay is about as ideal a place to own one of these less expensive, mass produced boats. Despite the hype to the contrary, over the years these manufacturer''s have produced some of their model boats that were reasonably well built and which had good performance and reasonable levels of finish.
Ventilation is important on the Bay. I like having lots of operable hatches where you can rig wind catchers but operable ports and dorades are also important as well.
In no particular order the following are boats that I consider good ''Bay Boats'' within your budget:
These are very well built and nicely finished yachts. They don''t have the best light air performance but they are really fine boats for the dollar. I am not a big fan of the rig proportions for short-handed sailing or reaching without a spinnaker. They are also a little short on ventilation.
-Beneteau First 38s5, First 38, and First 36s7:
Beneteau is the largest boat building company in the world and as such they offer a number of different lines of boats at a wide range of quality levels and price points. They build custom yachts that rival the best of the best, but they also build some basic ''value boats'' that really are nothing that I would ever consider. Their ''First'' series of boats represent a really nice compromise. They tend to be better built than their Idyle, Oceanis, and ''number'' series and seem to offer better performance and finish levels. I think that the 40.7 (which I have raced on) and the new 36.7 are really first class boats. I have spent a lot of time around and on the early 1990''s and late 1980''s 38s5''s and really think they are wonderful Bay boats with a great cruising interior (particularly the two stateroom vs. three-stateroom layout). One of Beneteau''s greatest strengths is that they typically employ world class yacht designers such as Bruce Farr, Groupe Berret, Groupe Finot, and German Frer''s to design their boats.
Come with us now to yesteryear. The Cal 40''s are a blast from the past and a bit of an exception to my rules. These are really nice older boats. On the Bay you see some really beautifully restored and upgraded yachted up versions of this venerable yacht selling at extremely reasonable prices.
-C&C 35, 36, 37, 40, 41
C&C is a well-respected company. Their boats are generally biased toward good performance and simple very workable interiors. Most of the C&C''s lack the kind of frills that look great at boat shows but which often do not amount to much on the water. Over the years different models of C&C''s have varied pretty widely in construction, finish and design quality with some C&C''s actually being pretty junky (Anyone remember the Mega?). many of the C&C models had the option of having a centerboarder and the C&C 41 Centerboarder is an especially nice model. One problem with C&C''s is that most of their models were sold pretty much ala carte and so there are some very stripped out versions with inadequate deck gear and few operable ports as well as some fully equipped models out there. This makes it a little more difficult to do apples to apples comparisons.
Catalinas are common as dirt on the Chesapeake. They are everywhere! Of the big three boat manufacturers, this is my least favorite in all ways. Still Catalina has a strong following and are easy to find. While they would never be on my list for myself, they clearly work for others.
And now for something a completely different. Conceived as the perfect Bay cruiser these trimarans were designed and built on the Chesapeake. While they are a little ''out of the box'', they make super boats for the Bay in that they are fast, weatherly and yet with their dagger boards and kick up rudders they can anchor in a teacup depth of water. The interiors are cramped compared as a 40 foot monohull but are far more roomy than I had expected before going below. There are some compromises here but they really offer a lot for that compromise. Their extreme shoal draft would be especially helpful on the Inter-coastal waterway. On the other hand they are also offshore capable allowing a quick offshore leap up and down the coast should you prefer to avoid the waiting at numerous bridges and constant vigilance that is the typical ICW fare.
This was my second choice for my own ideal choice as a ''Bay Boat''. In my book these boats had two strikes against them. They had masthead rigs which are not as good for short-handed rigs for coastal cruising and with their standard keel they are a little deeper than I could get into my creek at low tide. Still these are extremely well built and well thought out boats that make nice cruisers and very good racers. There were a number of very nicely finished interiors on these boats. (The workmanship on these boats was spectacular).They varied from really Spartan racing interiors on the earlier boats to their ''C'' (for cruising) interior which was about as close to ideal for a 37 footer as I could imagine. These boats really have held their value quite well and are selling for pretty much the same price that they sold for new.
Farr 11.6 (Farr 38):
This was the boat that I decided was my ideal ''Bay'' cruiser. While not quite as fast as the Express 37''s, these were better offshore boats and their shallower draft and fractional rig was better suited to how I use a boat. Like J-boats, most cruisers think of Bruce Farr as only designing serious race boats, but throughout the history of the firm, Farr has designed marvelous performance cruisers. The Farr 11.6 was Farr''s early 1980''s idea of a perfect cruiser/racer. These boats have collected quite a record both as cruisers and racers. Easily handled and with a really nice layout for cruising these are really neat boats. For me it does not get any better than this (at least within my budget).
Frers 36 (F3), 37, 38''s:
These were semi-custom yachts delivered in a wide range of gear and levels of fit out. Some are stripped out race boats with very deep draft but others are really beautifully fit out and finished performance cruisers.
Hunter 36, 37 and 375:
There are some people who can''t stand Hunters and won''t even look at them with enough of an open mind to fairly assess these boats. Mythology aside, Hunter has built some specific models that are really nice boats. In talking with surveyors, the one thing that I universally hear about Hunter is that they know how to build a boat that meets all standards. This is not true of many even more respected builders. That said, they are designed and engineered to meet a price and a narrow range fo useage. That useage would include the conditions that you describe as your long term goals.
There are three boats that stand out as good boats in the price range that you are considering and a 4th that is a bit more of a compromise. In the early 1980''s Hunter built a 36 foot sloop and a 37 foot cutter that were really nice boats. These two boats have done a lot of serious cruising and have been used pretty widely as live aboards. Obviously they are getting pretty long in the tooth so you can expect to put a little money into them but you can but these boats for small portion of your budget.
The 375 is a pretty nice fractional rigged sloop. This is a more modern design then 36/37 and a faster boat as well. I have only been aboard one of these and was quite surprised at what a nice boat these were. Obviously they are not as robust as some of the other boats on this list but the one that I was on, was raced pretty extensively and successfully and then was cruised through the Carribean for a number of years.
The last boat in the Hunter inventory is the Hunter 40/41. These are a mixed bag. Good ventilation, nice interior layout, cheap to buy and good sailers but they also have a ''cache'' of being cheap that shows up in a lot of details. Some of these boats have been massively upgraded and are a real bargain as well as a good boat for the kind of thing you have in mind.
J-34c, J-35c, J-35, J36, J37[c], J-39, J-110:
Most cruisers think of J-boats as being a builder of race boats. While this is a well deserved reputation, in the late-1980''s, J-Boats started building it cruising series. The first of this series was the J-40, which is outside of your price range but which was quickly followed by the J-37. J-boats cruising series are really spectacularly good boats for Bay cruising. They offer simple well thought out interiors with nice ergonomics (especially for a J) and good, comfortable, workable layouts. They tend to have good hardware and be well thought out for the purpose.
I have also listed the J-35 and J-36. These were clearly race boats. That said J-36''s have done circumnavigations and both have been used as short-handed transatlantic racers. You can find later J-35''s with nice and complete but slightly Spartan interiors.
While not exactly common, these were high quality boats that sail very well. I am not a big fan of the rig propostions but still they are a lot of boat for the money.
Morgan 38 (not an Out Island):
These are a tamer possibility than some of the others on the list. The Morgan 38 (Sometimes listed as Morgan 382, Morgan 38 II, etc or as Brewer Morgan''s) were Brewer designed cruisers. These were pretty solidly built, reasonably nicely laid out and finished cruisers.
Oyster Lightwave 39:
These are one really cool boats. Again available in a number of different levels of interior, these are spectacular Carl Schumaker designed performance cruisers. Essentially these are an expanded version of the Express 37. The one that I have been aboard had a beautifully finished interior that would rival the best of the best.
-Pearson 35, 36, 37;
The 35 is a venerable centerboard cruiser. Not as fast as I would prefer but still a good boat for skinny water. The 36 and 37''s were really nice performance cruisers that can be purchased for half of your budget. Good solid boats with good solid sailing traits.
Sabre has consistently produced boats that are good quality and offer good performance. The finishes on early Sabres were not that great but in a general sense these are good boats. Over the years Sabre has built a lot of models within the price and size you are seeking and almost any of them would work well for what you are trying to accomplish.
This is sort of an odd one. Mark Soverel designed the 39 as a no holds barred race boat. His original prototype can be bought for something like $30K here in Annapolis. Unfortuneately the prototype is stripped out and has a grand prix rig in it. BUT Tartan eventually put these boats into production with a nice interior and good build quality. Despite the asking prices, these boats can be bought quite cheaply (mid 450k range I would guess) and offer a lot of boat for the dollar. They are a little deep and are definitely performance biased.
Tartan, like Sabre, has consistently produced boats that are good quality and offer good performance. The finishes on early Tartans were not that great but in a general sense these are good boats. Over the years Sabre has built a lot of models within the price and size you are seeking and almost any of them would work well for what you are trying to accomplish. That said I am not much of the fan of the first Tartan 37. I know that they have reached cult status and pricing but they have never done anything for me and are a poor choice in the short chop of the Chesapeake.
These are really neat semi custom boats that would be really nice for the Bay.
IMX, X402 and X119:
Really nice performance oriented Scandinavian boats. Not all that common on the Bay though.
There''s the list,