Camaraderie, I am not trying to be provocative, but I need to make my case and clarify the core question:
Will boats be included on this list because a sailor with personal experience recommends them, or because they meet certain design criteria? Or a little bit of both?
I believe this is a pertinent question for several reasons:
(a) As you have accurately stated, people have different needs, budgets, and very varied opinions about what constitutes a blue water boat. There won’t be a single definition covering these. (b) People tend to recommend the boats they know best or own – and, to some extent, to carry miscellaneous prejudices against those they don’t know.
No disrespect to John Neal or anyone else, but I am not convinced that experience from a long voyage in 1974 qualifies as valid comparison in 2009. Of course John Neal has done much more than that, he is an authority, period. He too has moved on, btw, he sails a Hallberg-Rassy 46 now.
I do, however, question the preponderance of old boats on this list, which I suspect has little to do with the failings of newer boats but quite possibly happens because some people are not posting here.
In short, if I (hypothetically) were to ask a few world-traveling Beneteau owners to send their recommendations to this list, would the boats be included, or would they be excluded based on some overriding judgment based on design preferences and personal theories?
I am not bothered whether Ovni makes the list or not, its cruising records speak for themselves. Personally, I doubt that Neal left it out for a reason, I assume he just forgot. It is clearly not warranted for you to speculate on why, as you just did: was it some “other quality”, was it perhaps “corrosion in marinas”? Neal could answer the question, you cannot on his behalf. Fair is fair.
In a way, you said it yourself: “If I was single handing, and on a strict budget, there isn't a 27 footer being built today that I would rather try it on compared to a well found Vega.”
That, Camaraderie, is bias. The Swedes, where Vega was built, have their own site with recommendations for blue water sailors, also with reports from actual owners. Among the recommended work to undertake before a long voyage are: Strengthen the mast support, ideally with a base led all the way to the keel; strengthen the stay supports; modify the rudder mechanism; replace the diesel tank with stainless “as it will sooner or later leak”; modify the windows so that “they are not crushed in by a wave.” There are weak points in the join of keel and hull halves. The Swedish site ends on a somewhat amusing note, referring to a famous voyage to Antarctica in a Vega which was covered on TV: “The Vega sank inexplicably near land one night, which may be taken as an argument for steel boats.” The list is longer, but my point is: this list is not “maintenance”, it is “modification”, and if similar latitude were granted many modern production boats, they too would make the grade.
The couple Martin Vennesland and Anne Brevik sailed seven oceans for 9 years and lived for 15 years onboard a 40ft GibSea. They write: “What makes a blue water sailing boat ideal is an extremely subjective topic.” That is an honest statement, which is why I would err on the side of including boats rather than excluding. To say “there isn’t a 27 footer built today…” etc. is a rather extreme judgment. Give me the funds to modify one of today’s stock production boats as much as a Vega requires, and I’ll give you a better boat.
You make good and valid points of course, but I take issue with any suggestion that boat production has not advanced in 40 years. By the same token, a great sailor could take almost any boat around the globe. I like Vega, that’s not the point - I would feel more confident if the list could begin with taking CE certificate for Category A as a baseline before evaluating other features. Boats made prior to 1994 did not have to meet this scrutiny.
But, since you mention him, why not quote John Neal: “Because of a real shortage of quality ocean-cruising boats in the 3-10 year old range, and the high cost and amount of time involved in upgrading a solid 10+ year old boat, purchasing a new production boat is more attractive now than it has been for many years. Example: if you purchase a 15 year old boat for $80,000 and spend $50,000 replacing engine, sails, wiring, tanks, rigging, electronics and epoxy bottom job using 1-2 years of potential cruising time in the process, you end up with a 17 year old boat, probably worth around $90,000. A better choice might be a new boat that costs more initially but returns closer to 100% of your investment. You will be out cruising 1-3 years earlier with fewer mechanical breakdowns. For a confirmation of this, read Tom Neale's articles in Cruising World of the unending breakdowns and repairs of his old Gulfstars and Dan Spurr's articles in Practical Sailor of all the years and money he has spent upgrading his old Tartan 44, Viva.”