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nicferrante 10-10-2007 08:50 PM

Any advice on first time sailboat choice. Wilard30, Coronardo 41, Catalina 36
My husband and I are planning to liveaboard in the next 1-4 months. We have no kids but we do have a parrot and a cat. We are in our early 30's, self employed and are in process of selling one of our businesses (cross our fingers). We will still have one business but the responsiablility will be shared by the two of us on a four day work week until we determine what our house will rent for and how much living aboard will realistically cost us. We would like to learn more and practice in the next 2 years and then cruise the California coast and down to Mexico. We are getting close to making a decision on our boat purchase and were hoping for a little advice from some seasoned sailors. We have just a little sailing experience and did take ASA 101 & 103. We currently sail on average about once a week. Our city only has slips that are for sale not rent so if we would like to liveaboard we will have to choose between buying a slip (in addition to buying a sailboat) or living in the anchorage. There are two boats in our harbor that are for sale with a slip, one is a 1976 Wilard 30 and the other is a 1988 36' Catalina. Both would be in an 35' slip in a harbor with laundry and bathroom, electric and water. Both boats would probably require some work, they do not look like they are used very much right now. We could ride our bikes to our work. These would probably run close to 100k each with the slip. In a certain way I feel like this might be a good way to spend our money because every year the price of slips increase and we are having a tough time deciding what boat will work for us. We would be forced to just choose one of two boats versus hundreds. It seems like all boats are going to loose money over time and this situation would ensure that some of our money would come back to us in the re-sale or rental of our slip in the future.
Our second choice is purchasing a bigger boat and living on the anchorage. We would like to live on the anchorage just to be in the open water and enjoy the full experience. There is a nice 1973 Coronado 41' that is for sale and seems in good shape and would probably only run $40k. The winter anchorage would be about a mile dinghy drive to the harbor. It is not a really protected anchorage so it will be a little rough. It is better to spend the money on a bigger boat? Or is it better to be in a harbor for the first liveaboard experience and then migrate out to the anchorage once we have some experience under our belts? I worry about my pets on the hook and if working while out there will be really difficult. I look forward to anyone's feedback on our choices. If any of these boats would be horrible choices for first timers or any knid of input.

JohnRPollard 10-10-2007 09:07 PM

Based on the good description of your circumstances, I feel pretty comfortable making a categorical recommendation: Buy the Catalina 36 with the slip.

The winter anchorage is too far away and will be an extraordinary hassle given the necessity to commute to work, bring pets ashore, etc etc etc. And there will always be the lingering concerns about anchor dragging etc when you are away from the boat. On top of that, the Catalina 36 is probably roomier than the Coronado 41.

For your circumstances, the convenience of the slip (not to mention the real possibility it will appreciate in value) makes the most sense.

Faster 10-10-2007 09:26 PM

I'd agree with JohnR, based on your listed options the Cat36 makes the most sense... it's a great layout, esp for a couple, with a decent galley to boot.

The Coronado would not be listed among the world's better boats.. and certainly isn't one of the prettiest either.

Good livability, a slip that will likely appreciate, and a boat that is always in demand and a popular model seem a good mix - and a good way for you to test the lifestyle.

If it works out you can move up easily from there.

nicferrante 10-10-2007 10:31 PM

thanks for the quick responses! Wow, you guys are great! I've never posted to a blog before but all the great stuff I have read from other threads has been really helpful. I have been inside the Catalina and liked it but all the running rigging and lines are in dire need of replacement and will be some work. We made a 'informal' offer and hope it will be accepted but its less then they are asking. Therefore we are going to check out the Wilard30 tomorrow to see how the space inside is. I have sailed several Catalinas and enjoyed them. How does a Wilard full keel sail in comparison to a Catalina? Have either of you sailed one?

Faster 10-10-2007 10:45 PM

Assuming you're looking at that Willard 30 cutter in Ventura on There will be no comparison performance wise - I'd expect the Cat36 to outperform the Willard, esp in light airs (but haven't actually sailed one) Close quarters handling will be much more difficult (docking, esp in reverse) maneuverability will be way down with the Willard too.

But from the pics (if they're recent) the W30 looks very well cared for and well equipped.

Comparing these two boats is not an apples-to-apples thing... a "character" boat such as the Willard is usually bought by someone in love with the look of that type. (or hooked on full keeled boats)

Both boats are similar lengths overall, so the moorage cost will be a saw-off (but then you're buying the slip anyway)

If you don't plan to leave the dock much or don't hope to do some light air daysails etc, it's won't matter - get the one you really like best.. If on the other hand there is a lot of daysailing and weekend cruising in your plans a Catalina (or similar) might better suit.

Don't forget that the Cat 36 you're looking at is not the only one on the market!

KeelHaulin 10-11-2007 01:17 AM

Wow, only 3 boats in So Cal that are suitable? It seems like there should be much much more available; although I understand the situation regarding slip availability. Something you might consider is getting on the wait list for a non-purchased slip and while you are waiting take your time in finding the "right" boat. Even if you do more looking and kicking fenders you might run across the boat that fits your needs rather than a boat that fits in terms of the slip or mooring it comes with. The three boats you mention are entirely different in design and sailing characteristics. It seems to me that you have not narrowed your search to the particular type of boat that will fit for your long term needs; but rather have chosen based on slip/mooring availability. More often than not this is a bad position to put yourself in when it comes to buying a boat.

With only beginner sailing experience I think you should do more chartering, start looking at different brokerages and go to Strictly Sail Pacific next year; look at different boat designs and attend as many seminars as you can. It will really help you narrow down the type of boat you will want, and help you learn what boat/equipment you will need to go cruising. I don't consider a Coronado 40 or Cat 36 particularly well suited for offshore use. Daysailing in SoCal is generally light wind (in summer). If you want to mostly daysail you will be better off with a performance oriented boat but it also will probably not be your ideal cruising boat. This again is where chartering might be a wise decision until you have the experience. SailTime as owners might be an option but again the offshore performance of a 36-40' Hunter won't be very well suited to your goals.

Remember, once you move aboard your ability to go sailing also gets reduced 10-fold. You have to pack up your life before you leave the dock or mooring. As for living aboard on a mooring; probably good practice for when you are cruising but for everyday life I would say that it would be a BIG hardship (dingy to/from shore rain or shine, cat and parrot care, the uncomfortable feel of a rocking boat, boat repair/maintenance, keeping your batteries hot: solar/wind power required or you will constantly be running an engine or generator). I think your quality of life would be MUCH better if you lived dockside; but still you might not find it a palatable long-term lifestyle. I know one couple in my area that made it about 1 year aboard a 38' boat with cat and are now putting the boat back up for sale. The boat almost never left the dock.

winddancer88 10-11-2007 03:30 PM

If you're interested in a Catalina 36 you might look at a few 34s too. I looked at a 36 before buying my 34 and like the layout of the 34 much better.

eherlihy 10-11-2007 04:08 PM

Free advice is worth what you pay for it...

That said, I would make sure that it is understood that your offer on the Catalina 36 was contingent on the results of the vessel being surveyed. Then I'd spend $500 to $700 to get her surveyed. I would then negotiate the final price based on the results of the survey.

No offense meant by this, but; IMHO for you and your hubby, as newbie sailors, to consider living on an anchor with your cat, and parrot, is nuts. You will all be much happier in a slip.

Gene T 10-11-2007 04:44 PM

Just a comment here to make sure you can live aboard, meaning you are allowed to live aboard. A lot of people think that living on a boat is a good way to save money, then they find out there is a 5 year waiting list. Each arbor and marina has it's own rules, don't believe the seller, ask the marina management.

Cruisingdad 10-11-2007 05:23 PM

Boy there is more to diuscuss here than I have time for right now, but I will throw some thoughts out.

First, 100k for a Catalina 36 1988 is absurd. I guess the prices is because they are throwing in the slip as well? If so, I have no experience about that. The 36 is a great boat, and one of my favorite. I seem to be writing a lot about them lately for some reason. It would be a good liveaboard boat with a couple of compromises that I do not like: 1) No seperate shower, 2) V berth for a master. If that is a MkI, I assume you do not have a seperate 2nd cabin. That sure would be nice. As a cruising boat, it is great. THe only negatives are the low tankage and not quite as much stowage as I would like. Still, it is probably THE most poplula cruising boat Catalina makes under 40 feet.

I have lived aboard. The reality of living aboard versus the dream of living aboard are two different things. I hope to soon be LA with the family again, but I shall warn you it is not all sun sets and margaritas. The wrong boat can take something that 'could' be wonderful and turn it into a nightmare. For example: What do you do when your head goes out? You only have one? How are you going to wash your clothes? Where will you go to get away from each other (this is important, as everyone wants their own space eventually). The list goes on.

I agree with the poster above: wait and find the right boat. Get an apartment until then. If you can save up, buy the boat, then go cruising... you will likely be happier. If there is any way you can buy the boat now and find a slip for it somewhere and not live abord, I would suggest it. Throwing yourself into that all at once might be culture shock and doomed for failure. As far as living on the mooring ball - no way. Not until you are cruising. THat is another recipe for disaster.

Hang around here and learn what you can. Save your money for the right boat. THe C36 is a great boat, but the MKII, for example, is better and you could buy a very late model one for 100k that is in great shape and ready to go. THere are other boats to suggest... too many to write here.

Remember one of the great truths about boats: They are "easy" to buy and hard to get rid of. All that being said, it is a great way of life and I cannot imagine living any other way. But it is like backpacking: without the right conditioning, no matter how beautiful the scenery, you will be hurting all the way to the pass.

Best of luck. Not trying to talk you out of it... just want you to know what you are getting in to. I want to make sure we KEEP you as sailors.

- CD

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