Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Annapolis, Md
Thanked 234 Times in 185 Posts
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opinion - Cape Dory 25 d- Morgan 28 OI-Privateer 26
It sure sounds like you have caught a bad case of the ''sailing bug''. I am never sure whether to congratulate some one with this malady (as you might do when informing someone that they are expecting a child) or to hang my head and say, ''I am sad to report that the results came back positive. You have the sailing bug''. Fortunately the sailing bug is rarely fatal. I myself have lived with it for over 40 years and I am still healthy. 8^)
All kidding aside, I come at sailing from a slightly different perspective than many who are on this BB and so hopefully others will jump in with other recommendations as well. I tend to be more performance oriented in my thinking than many cruisers. In my mind this is not out of keeping with your short or long range goals.
When you talk about learning to sail, having taught people how to sail for over 35 years, I am a big fan of learning to sail on boats that sufficiently responsive that the boat provided the beginner sailor with reasonable imput that says your doing well, or you are all messed up. When you talk about the three choices that you are considering none of these boats really provide the kind of feel that can help you understand whether you are over trimmed on your sails or sailing to high or too low a course. I also suggest that you try to avoid buying a boat with wheel steering both from the standpoint of being harder to learn on (less feel) and also for single-handing (tillers allow you to move around the cockpit when you are single-handing and allow less expensive self-steering gear.)
I also suggest that you try to buy a boat with an inboard engine. Inboards tend to be much more reliable, especially when you need them in rough weather. They are slightly harder to maintain but that is typically more than offset by their typically more robust parts and by their typicaly higher electrical charging rates.
While the forgiving nature of the type of boats that you are looking at make it easy to go out and come back in moderate conditions, they will not help to teach you how sail well at the extremes of high or low windspeeds. If you are talking about cruising a small boat (under 30 feet) to Mexico, then proper sail trim and boat handling skills will be important.
The other thing about the boats in question is that they are boats that are at their best reaching. They are neither good downwind boats or good upwind boats. Even though the Mexican coastal run is largely down wind, what goes downwind must go up to get home. Here you have chosen three boats that are really not very good upwind boats.
Now then, of the three the Cape Dory is by far the better built and the most suitable of the three for learning to sail and slog upwind to get back home. The real problem with the Cape Dory is the limited space below and limited carrying capacity for living in a relatively remote area like Sea of Cortez.
I am a strong proponent of people learning to sail on boats that are less than 26 or so feet in length. Given your situation I think that you might want to stretch that to maybe 30 feet max. A 28 -30 foot boat is a lot of boat for a neophyte to single-hand. There really is a quantum leap from a 25 or so footer to boats this size. On the other hand if you are going offshore, and voyaging to an area where you will need to be self sufficient, the extra sailing length will be very handy to have. To a great extent that is why I asked about your physical conditioning in my previous post. If you are not very athletic I would suggest that you lean toward the smaller boats on this list. If you are in good shape and handy, you would be far better off with a boat that approaches 30 feet.
I also want to point out that boats can often be purchases for 20 to 30% less than thier asking price. To some extent it is not always easy to know when that can be done. A part of figuring out which boat is likely to be sold well below asking price is knowing the market place and as much as you can about the seller. Do not be afraid to make a low offer on a boat that does not present well or which you believe to be overpriced for your needs. You just might find an owner who will take your offer. The worst they can do is turn you down!
I might suggest a longer list of boats that you should be able to find available along the California coast that might be equal or more suitable to your needs.
Cal 29, Cal 2-29, Cal 30: In a general sense Cal built reasonably good quality boats. They were not exceptionally good but they represented a reasonable balance between good accommodations and build quality, reasonable speed, and economical pricing. Any of these three are good boats for yoru purpose.
Cal 25: While far from ideal these are neat little pocket cruisers that with some modifications can work reasonably well for your needs.
C&C 29: These are good all around boats. A bit more modern than most on this list and certainly suitable for your needs. They tend to be a little above your price range but don''t be afraid to low-ball one of these.
Columbia 28: Not what I would call ideal but certainly boats that can do what you want and do so with reasonable comfort.
Dehler 28: These are really neat boats and would be very close to the top of my list. They are fractionally rigged making them much easier to handle short handed. Halyards and sail handling gear are routed back to the cockpit making for ease of single-handing. The only problem with these great little boats is that they are pretty scarce in the US.
Ericson 30:Ericson 29: Two birds of a feather. Both are pretty good boats for what you want to do.
Pearson 28: If you can find a inboard engine/ tiller version, this would be a very good boat for your purposes.
Pearson Renegade 27:Again, if you can find a inboard engine/ tiller steered Renegade, this would be a very good boat for your purposes.
Pearson Triton:These are a real classic. While not my favorite choice for a lot of reasons, thier fractional rig should make them easier to handle short handed and with some work can be made into a pretty fair distance cruiser. The problem with these older boats is that they can be quite worn out and putting one into shape can cost as much as buying one. This last point is true of many of the boats on this list.
Tartan 30: This would be my first choice on this list. These are good all around boats. They are normally a little more expensive than your price range but you can find them within your range.
Anyway, Good luck to you and feel free to email as your search continues.