Solings and thoughts
It's one thing to sink a Soling in a race, and another to sink it on a daysail.
I race Etchells, and take friends and family out on it all the time with no mishaps.
My thoughts on all of this are that you should DO IT. A few years back I lived in a marina on the Gulf for a few weeks with a very interesting group of folks. You will find that there are two types of sailors, those who do things themselves, and those who pay ridiculous amounts of money not to worry about it.
I wish I was in the latter group, but like you my circumstances don't allow for that. In any case, I know of folks who have fixed up old boats and sailed off to Mexico from the Seattle area, which includes going down the West Coast. Not a novice move by any means.
What you WILL find though is that it will cost you more than you ever imagined and take far longer than you thought.
I started a journey like the one you are talking about a few years back, and over time I have gotten more and more picky and the boat has gotten nicer and nicer. I could have purchased a boat in better repair and have been done with it, cheaper and sooner, if I would have known.
It wasn't an option at the time (though it would be now), so I started to dive in. it can be done. As far as "Smoke Technology" it usually isn't all that complex. I've helped wire three or four boats and done other wiring jobs on others. In every case I had capable help. Really I had someone who knew what they were doing telling me what to do. Friends like that can be found though.
Engines likewise are not all that complex if you have the right help. Good advice will save you months of work and re-doing projects. The point is, if you aren't ready to learn a lot of new things, don't get involved, and don't go cruising.
As mentioned above make sure you have strong standing rigging and if nothing else replace your forestay.
We lost a shroud in the bay this year and had our stick crumple into three pieces. No one was hurt, but it taught me a lesson in reality. Have your chainplates checked as well, and don't forget to replace all of the through-hulls.
The boats you are talking about are capable boats, and all of them are small enough that if you are afraid of engine mechanics, you can always throw an outboard on.
Good luck. There really is more jobs than you can imagine, but less than you would think. I can't explain that except to say that you will spend a lot of time on things you never thought of, but find that there are fewer systems than you imagined as well. That's the best I can do. Good Luck,
Last edited by engele; 12-30-2008 at 04:28 PM.