Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Washington State
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This reminds me of our (wife's and my) recent experiences buying boats. 3 years ago, we decided to buy a sailboat. At the time, I had a 1975 Tolly Sedan. GREAT boat, built like a tank, and I had it in top mechanical condition. I think this answers some of the age issue. Quality lasts (Tollycrafts are amazing boats), and there is no substitute for maintenance.
Still, it was time to change.
We looked at a LOT of boats, and kept coming back to the Catalina 310. It was 31 feet, we both loved it, and it just felt like "our boat." Unfortunately, at the time, used ones were hard to find in our area, so we thought REALLY hard about buying a new one. However, there was this used creampuff Catalina 350 for sale that was available for less than a new 310, and it was WELL equipped. It didn't really feel like "our boat," but the price and equipment list were right, and we were a little wowed by the value and scale of it. We went ahead and bought the 350.
Let me say right here that the 350 was a great boat, and I have no real complaints about the quality, or the deal we got, or even the performance of the boat. It JUST wasn't right for US. We sailed the daylights out of it, but for some reason, we never came to that place where we LOVED the boat.
Moreover, the 350 looks a LOT like a stretched 310, and was one of the reasons we THOUGHT we would learn to love it. Still, it was size that was the main issue. It was actually MUCH bigger than a 310. The beam was wider, it was almost 2 tons heavier, and the windows were so high, we had a hard time seeing out when we were below (we are BOTH short in stature). The extra size made it harder to board without steps or other aides. And as much as a bigger boat sounds great, it just wasn't "our boat."
We ended up selling the 350 last year. This year we took possession of a very nice used 310. I have to say here that we almost bought something else, but when the deal fell apart, a 310 came on the market that was BEAUTIFUL, and we ended up veiewing it, and making an offer. We are MUCH happier with this boat, and I am sure we would have been happier (and less poor) if we had listened to our hearts a little more 3 years ago. BTW - I have a significant other. If you do too, I encourage you to consider their feelings...
The conclusion to my long story here is this. Get on the boat, commune with it, sail it, and see if you can determine whether the boat is right for YOU. The difference between a 31 and 34 or 35 I can tell you from experience can be HUGE. If you are talking live-aboard, HUGE could be an under-statement. The apparent value IS a factor, but your experience and enjoyment hinge on much more than the price and equipment list.
Hope this gives you some additional things to consider. Good luck shopping! Shopping can be one of the more enjoyable stages in the boat ownership process.