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rkain 05-14-2011 12:55 PM

First time boat buyer seeking advice
Hi Forums,

My wife and I have been day-sailing for some time now on smaller boats (15'-19') in the Chesapeake and we're considering taking the plunge and getting a boat of our own.

Our budget is modest, 10-15k, luckily we live near Annapolis so there are lots of options to be found in our area.

Our primary use will be day / weekend sailing around the Chesapeake, so we definitely need a boat that sails well in light wind. In the medium-long term we'd like to cruise around the Caribbean, so it would be ideal if we could find something sturdy enough for the voyage, or that could be made sturdy enough with some work on our part over a year or two.

This will also be a learning boat for me in terms of doing maintenance and repairs, so it would be great if it was laid out in such a way as to provide easy access to the electrical systems, motor, bilge etc.

We're not overly concerned with cabin size as it will just be the two of us, maybe another couple for some day sailing. Although we are both tall, so boat with a bit of headroom would be a bonus.

I'm gearing up to starting kicking the hulls of ~30ft cruisers in late 70's early 80's vintage, and I was hoping to get some advice regarding the type of boat that would be a good fit for us.

Given what meager knowledge I have been able to collect on the internet, I've been focusing my search on Sabres, Tartans, and C&C's in the 28-30ft range, which seem to be available in our price range.

So a few questions:

1. Do these boats have the characteristics I've laid out above, or am i totally missing the mark?

2. Are there any other boat's you'd recommend given our needs and goals?

3. I'll definitely get a surveyor before I buy anything, but are there any common maintenance issues I should be looking for in boats with these vintages while I'm doing my own shopping around?

BarryL 05-14-2011 05:38 PM

Boat buying

You are on the right track. You have identified your needs and budget, are willing to learn, and to do your own maintenance.

A few random comments:
  • With boats that are 30 years old, maintenance by the current / previous owners is more important than the original manufacturer of the boat. By that I mean you will find 30 year old Sabre's that are junk, and you might find a 30 year old Irwin that is mint (no offense to Irwin owners, but most people would agree that Sabre is higher quality than Irwin).
  • When you look at various boats, add value for things that are important to you and discount things that are not. For example, an updated galley might be important to you if plan on spending weekends aboard and plan on cooking aboard. If the current owners added a huge, expensive solar power system, but you only will spend a few weekends aboard, that expense would not influence you.
  • There are lots of boats in the 28-32' size that would meet your needs. A typical Cruiser / Racer from Catalina, Hunter, Beneteau, O'day, Newport, Pearson, Cal, etc. would meet your needs. You need to look at various boats until you see a few features you like and then you can narrow your focus. For example, my boat stays on a mooring and I row a dingy to get to her. A swim platform is very important to me and few boats in 80's came with them. That helped me narrow my search.
  • You should try to find a good broker and work with him. Look at lots of boats and have the broker explain the merits of one vs another.
  • Lots of boats from the 70's came with gas engines. By the mid 80's most boats came with diesel. Is this important? I don't know. Boats with diesel engines sell for more than boats with gas engines.
  • If you value headroom, boats under 30' won't have much. Older 30's won't either. By the mid 80's you will find more.
I guess that's enough for now.


Sabreman 05-14-2011 07:43 PM

rkain -

Congratulations on making the decision to spend nearly all of your free time and money on the worst financial investment of your life! :) ... but probably the most rewarding. :D

You are one of the very few in these forums who is actually taking the gradual and IMO best approach to boating. You started small and are moving up.

Having bee exactly where you are, I agree with everything that barry says and will add that

1. Nearly every boat in your age and price range will need work of some sort. That's ok, I've owned 2 early 80's boats and they are a great value. I'd recommend buying something is reasonable condition and resolve to do all the maintenance yourself. You will save money and learn your boat. Be willing to make mistakes and askk lots of questions (SailNet is a great resource)

2. I am very partial to Sabre, but Tartan is great. Cal made a great boat at that time. Catalina is also a great choice, but the Cat 30 may need too much air for your purposes.

3. For this vintage, pay attention to the area surrounding anything that goes through the deck. Core or rot issues abound in this vintage if the caulking was not regularly maintained. If the sails are original or more than 15 yars old, replace them. They may look fine, but they're not. The performance improvement with new sails will be dramatic. The cost won't be that bad and your arms will appreciate the diminished weather helm.

PM me if you have any questions regarding Sabre.

rkain 05-15-2011 10:14 AM

Hello Again,

Thank you for getting back to me so quickly.

Barry, Saberman thank you for your insights.

I agree with that the state of any individual boat is going to be a better measure of quality than the original manufacture.

You're right that there are *lots* of boats in this age range and size, which is actually a bit overwhelming. We've been trying hard to lay out our priorities and for now we're pretty much tied to land and weekend sailing for the next few years - so we're more concerned with sailing characteristics (particularly in light wind) over "live aboard" amenities.

I hadn't even thought about using a broker! I think that would be really helpful given our lack of experience - thanks for the tips.

Faster 05-15-2011 10:36 AM

Another comfy, roomy boat with fairly good performance is a Ranger 29, should be easily within your budget. Nice layout, decent cockpit and reasonable headroom, and another perhaps even roomier would be a Cal 29.

mitiempo 05-15-2011 12:33 PM

I work on boats of all kinds on a daily basis. The boat with good access to all systems doesn't exist. The worst are those with full interior liners with the wiring run behind it and not accessible. A stick built boat, one with the interior individually bonded to the hull without a liner or only a partial liner will have easier access.

JimsCAL 05-15-2011 02:32 PM

My one comment would be that a boat of that size and price range is going to be marginal for cruising the Caribbean. Even after you spend a bunch of money to upgrade it, its still going to be too small for other than short hops in a good weather window. Plan on a gaining some experience cruising the Bay and then moving up to something more suitable for the longer range voyaging.

rkain 05-15-2011 06:33 PM

Thanks for the additional tips,

JimsCAL, this is something I was worrying about a bit myself. I certainly don't plan on jumping into the Caribbean right away, but it is something that we'd really like to do.

There seems to be a divergence of opinion as to how much boat is enough for open water sailing. With most people agreeing that the ability of the sailor is the key factor. That being said, we're basically novices...

I have to say, the idea of buying a boat and then putting work in to it just to swap it out in 2 years for something bigger seems like it might not be ideal. I think we would be more inclined to hold off buying anything until we can afford the right boat. It would be cheaper in the long run and then we'd have more time learning the boat.

Food for thought in any case.

Thanks for your feedback! This sure is a helpful forum.

JimsCAL 05-15-2011 07:06 PM

rkain, there are small boats that are suitable for ocean voyages, but they are not going to be good light air boats for summers on the Bay. Don't underestimate what you will learn by owning a smaller inexpensive boat and then moving up. You will have a much clearer idea of what you want.

Sabreman 05-15-2011 08:11 PM

rkain -

You indicate that you'll be in the Bay for a while and longer term, maybe going South. I would recommend buying the boat that suits you now. As novices, this boat will allow you to form strong opinions for what you want in a longer range cruising boat. And you will form them. I've been on Sailnet for a while and see a great many people thrash about searching for years for just the right, ultimate, every option included, perfect condition boat (which does not exist). In the mean time, they're not sailing.

I highly recommend finding a broker and let them work for you. In this economy they will work. Guaranteed. I used Dan Nardo at Annapolis Yacht Sales and was incredibly pleased with his professionalism and dedication to getting us into our current boat. I have no relationship with Dan or AYS except as a satisfied customer.

A word of advice - We have friends who cruised from Maine to the Caribbean for 2.5 years on an old 70's Hunter 37. I'm not recommending the brand, but putting forth the opinion that you don't need a "blue water" boat (whatever that is) to do Caribbean cruising.

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