I assume that you are asking which low cost cruising boats I would recommend as being a better choice for a circumnavigation than the Bristol 32. (I already mentioned a few above.) In many ways this is not a simple question because like most things in sailing, there is no one right approach to selecting a boat for distance cruising. Each of us approach boat selections based on our own goals, experiences, tastes, and fears, which would push one person towards one category of cruiser, but another person to a different type of cruiser. In other words, I think that there are four categories into which I would group the possible choices for a circumnavigation; Traditional Cruiser, CCA era, Moderate displacement cruiser, and higher performance cruiser.
Even setting the price range for the list is not that cut and dried. You can buy beat to death versions of a Bristol 32 for as little as $9K, but I think that a fairer way to look at the price range would be the cost at the time that the boat was ready to go to sea, equipped and upgraded to go. More or less, a circumnavigation is roughly the equivalent 20 to 30 years of normal coastal cruising and I would want the boat to be as fresh as possible before leaving.
If I were making a recommendation or doing this for myself, I would strongly suggest fitting out fully before leaving and would probably recommend buying the boat and fitting out in the States, New Zealand, Australia, or South Africa. Bought and fit out in the U.S., I would expect that one would have somewhere between $50,000 and $80,000, or more, into a Bristol 32 that was fully fit out, ready to go, depending on how much of one’s own labor one put into the prep. Of course one could go less prepared for less money, doing less upgrading, but the money would be spent doing the repairs and upgrades somewhere out there, and personally I would prefer the reliability of fitting out before going. So I tried to stick with boats that I thought could be purchased and be ready to go in that same general price range.
I don’t intend this to be a comprehensive list every good choice that is out there as much as a sample of the boats that I think are useful to show that there are a whole lot of very good options that are out there. I have not included custom or semi custom boats because they vary so widely. That has somewhat reduced the choices of material. In a general sense I am not a big fan of steel boats, but there certainly are metal designs that make a lot of sense for distance cruising, especially in the Pacific. When I was working with Charlie Whitholz I worked on a small steel cruiser that I thought would be a spectacular little cruiser if one really wanted a simple steel cruiser. Dudley Dix has a number of metal designs that really appeal to me as well.
Also for my own use, I personally am not a big fan of traditional boats for long distance cruising. I still enjoy sailing traditional boats, but after owning, cruising and restoring a 1939 Stadel cutter and a 1949 Folkboat. I personally prefer more modern designs. That said, from my perspective, there is a lot that can be said for the better traditional designs in terms of motion comfort, robustness, and ability to take to ground with minimal damage.
In putting together a list of traditional boats that are suitable circumnavigators I would also include some designs that are not strictly traditional circumnavigators. In fact, in the price range in question, my first choice for a circumnavigator for a couple would probably be the Bob Perry designed Valiant Esprit 37. Rounding out the list of traditional boats that I see as better choices than the Bristol would be:
Allied Seawind Mk 1 and Mk 2: (31’ and 32’ respectively),
Allied Princess 37,
Atkins Eric (32’): Atkins was a genius at modeling heavily displacement cruising boats that were based on traditional working craft. His boats sail very well for their very heavy displacement. Quite a few versions of the Eric have been built in fiberglass. Westsail 32, a Crealock redesign of the Eric, is probably the best know version. I personally prefer the versions that are closer to the original Erics in freeboard, displacement and ballasting.
Atkins Ingrid: This is another beautifully modeled traditional design and probably would be one of the best choices on this list to slug it out in the most extreme heavy going. There have been dozens of versions of these as well, but the best known is probably the Alejuela 37.
Bristol Channel Cutter 28 (These have suddenly gotten very expensive but you still see older partially finished hulls around within the price range in question) ,
Pacific Seacraft 31,
Southern Cross 31, and the
Tayana 37 (Ideally a fiberglass decked version).
Again while I am not a fan of CCA era boats, there were boats designed during this era that I think are more suitable than the Bristol 32. Probably my favorite CCA era racer/cruiser of that era is the Tartan 34, an S&S designed K/Cb’er. I have already mentioned the Brewer designed Brewer 32 and Bristol 33/34 which are also boats that I also like a lot from this era. One thing about boats from this era, the differences in sailing ability could not always be found in the ‘numbers’ as different designers were modeling hulls very differently and these differences resulted in very different performance, seaworthiness and motion comfort. Most of these began life as coastal cruisers and will need a lot of effort to make them into decent offshore capable boats. They are also all 35 to forty year old boats with designs that are even older. A list of some of the better CCA era boats would include:
Nicholson 32 (1960’s era rather than the later Ron Holland design),
Cheoy Lee Luders 36,
Chris Craft Apache,
Hughes 38 Mk II (1969),
Invicta 38 (although not one of my first choices) ,
Lecompte Northeast 38,
Niagara 35 (the Ellis Design),
Nicholson 32 (1960’s era rather than the later Ron Holland design),
Tartan 34 ,
Tartan 37, and the
Tumlaren 32 (These were a fairly limited production of the earlier wooden boat)
I think that later more moderate designs are better boats for longer distance cruising. Like the CCA era boats many of these were oriented towards coastal cruising and so would need adaptation. Some better examples in this price range might include:
Cheoy Lee Pedrick 35,
CS Merlin 36,
Ericson 38 (early 1980’s era),
Hallberg Rassey Rasmus 35 (1970’s era),
Hughes 40 (Hughes 2040),
Hunter 37 Cutter (early 1980’s),
Westerly Conway 36 (aft cockpit version), and the
Westerly Falcon 34
Although they come with their own compromises, I personally prefer higher performance boats. Some of these will need some serious beefing up, but some possibilities in this price range (albeit at the top of the range) might include:
Albin Novell (Nova)
Dehler 37 (1980’s)
Farr 11.6 (Farr 38)
Heritage One Ton 37
Sabre 34 (Mk I)
Wauquiez Hood 35 and Hood 38