Thanks everyone for their comments so far. The Pearson 323 and the C&C 30 are good suggestions, as is the suggestion to go out and visit some boatyards -- we've got some time until next season to shop around, so we'll probably go and take a look at what's available, then perhaps see if someone will let us do a test sail in March or April.
Also a very helpful member PM'd me a (favorable) review of the boat, which can be found here: American Beauty
Here's a summary of what I've gathered so far on the pro's and con's of the Vanguard:
- It's a beautiful 32.5' sailboat
- Affordable entry to 30+ foot cruiser class
- Classy overhangs, nice lines, and aside from a bit of weather helm, reportedly good "relaxed" sailing ability (by "relaxed" I mean not racing)
- Hull built like a tank's
- Large number built
- Heavy, full keeled hull should translate to good angle of vanishing stability (nod, however, to Jeff_H's comment in an earlier thread that the number may not mean much in practice), no worries about keel steps, more forgiving in a grounding situation, etc.
Cons I personally don't really care about
- Short LWL for the LOA (slow)
- Full keel (slow and difficult to motor backwards)
- Tender (I read in another thread that the boat was built with less ballast than Phil Rhodes had in mind)
- Tight interior
Cons I do care about
- Questionable deck-to-hull joint (anyone with insight on this?)
- Several potential problem areas
* Mast step (not stainless)
* Water seepage in the bilge
* Water seepage into the deck
* Degradation in the plywood cored deck
- Originally built with tiller steering and an Atomic 4 gas engine (though most Vanguards on the market seem to have been upgraded to a wheel and a diesel)
It seems from this list that if I avoid the problem areas (i.e. bring an inspector with me when buying), and spend a few grand on re-stepping the mast and polyurethaning the deck if needed, the Vanguard is a good choice.
Any feedback on this list? For those who've sailed in a Vanguard, how tender is she really? I've sailed Cape Dorys, which are also quite tender, but they tend to heel quite a bit but then settle. I get that it'll be uncomfortable but how safe is the Vanguard with 2 reefs in the main and a storm jib in 6-8 foot rollers and 35-40kts of wind?