Here are a few general questions for all of you out there.
1. What types of boats in your opinions are the smoothest sailing (comfortable) boats?
2. What gadgets/electronics are in your opinion a must?
3. What gadgets/electronics are in your wish list.
4. What are your opinions regarding what composes the best hull material (composit, wood, steel, fiberglass).
I tried this thread elsewhere and it took a 180 degree turn from where it was intended. Hopefully it stays on track here. Not that anyone was being foul or facetious there as they were all truly genuine in their responses.
I am generally the "other" opinion.
Unless you are about 100% sure you are going offshore, and I mean a stretch that would exceed 5 days or more at sea, the you will be the most comfortable on a production-type boat. My strong preference is Catalina, Jeauneau, and Beneteau - in that order. You get more room and creature comforts. They are not designed to go around the world, but instead to be comfortable for coastal and island hopping. I see people all the time buying bullet proof shoe boxes that they do not spend much time on because the boats are uncomfortable.
If your intention is to cross the Atlantic or other long distance travels, the production boat is not the best choice. If your budget is under 200kish, we found the best boats for both liveability and seaworthiness were the Tayana 42's and Passport 40's. Cannot comment on the speed of the Passport, but the Tayana 42 is solid (at 37,000 lbs dry) and will take a beating. It is a tank - and moves like one. Most of these types of boats are slow, which means unless you are in some nice winds, you will be motoring everywhere.
2. Chartplotter, dsc VHF, radar, ssb, water maker, ICE MAKER (not mentioned, but as a liveaboard you will love it), wind-depth-speed, autopilot, EPIRB, Liferaft, nice tender and motor, large solar panel array, maybe a generator, definitely air conditioning, davits, at least 2 anchors (both oversized and at least one with all chain), radio with IPOD interface, dodger and bimini.
3. Water maker, ssb, and liferaft for me. I think I have everything else ready to go. WIll not install watermaker or liferaft until we are about to cast off. WIll probably rip out the plastic Porthulls and go in with Bomar, SS Screw downs. I am also about to buy a cover for the deck that will be suspended just over the deck to shade the boat to keep her cooler. Move down south, you will find out why.
4. Fibergalss. No interest, at all, in others.
My boat is a Catalina 400. SHe is smooth, sure footed, and relatively fast. SHe is very comfortable. We have a lot of room and most if not all the systems are accessible. Her downfall is tankage and I hate those plastic portholes production boats (and many custom boats) put on. She is not nearly as robust as Dad's boat (who is going to go cruising with us) which is a Tayana Vancouver 42. It is pretty comfortable and has many plusses, including a LOT of storage and nice access to lazarette through galley. Negatives are that unles it is howling, she is not going to reach hull speed. Also, reverse on that boat is a joke. She just goes wherever she wants. Both are common downfalls of these types of boats.
If you find these gadgets are in your need list (not your want list), then you better go add some of them up. You can clear many 10's of thousands on them - easy. Keep that in mind as you start considering your purchase.