Help save our marriage!!
El, sorry to have bowed out on this thread for a while. There’s a lot to comment on but you deserve some praise up front: you’re clearly using this discussion to broaden your own understanding of the issues, and you’re focusing on some important stuff (like suitability for short-handed sailing and maintenance costs). Keep at it; you’ll end up getting much closer to the boat you want and will enjoy it a lot more due to your perseverance.
As usual, Jeff’s remarks deserve a lot of consideration. Some of my comments will seem to challenge his, but this is primarily to broaden the discussion a bit more. And I’m sure you realize, to the extent you weigh one criterion too heavily, you’ll be distorting the total constellation of issues you’ll want to consider. As an example, Jeff’s been generally very positive on this BB in his comments about the Beneteau First Series, citing their build quality, design parameters (they’re good ‘sailers’) and value. I view them a lousy choice for cruising despite these attributes, as they simply are not designed with important cruising realities in mind. IOW they are heavily weighted around some criteria but not around nearly enough criteria. Right now, a 2001 42s7 is across the dock from us, recently returned from Denmark and a summer on the Baltic. The young couple had a really tough time cruising the boat, as almost any slip/berth they approached involved fitting between or riding alongside pilings or bulkheads and their boat has no rubrail, and has plastic ‘ports’ on a beamy, unprotected hull which was constantly in danger of being damaged. The foredeck on the boat is, mostly, one wide/long blister – no handholds, useless outward oriented lifelines of 22” height, and some of the surface which would be horizontal when the boat is heeled is smooth gelcoat. I think you would find its sailing qualities exciting when coming back but you’d find its ability to motor(sail) into stiff head seas somewhat limited, which is what you’ll be doing going down, and the first time one of you was heading up to that foredeck in bouncy conditions, you’d worry about it being a widow(er)maker.
The point I’m trying to make is to think about LOTS of criteria and avoid zooming in on a few. Speed is far more helpful on longer passages than on the shorter ones you’ll be making. E.g. we made several runs that were long by conventional ‘Caribbean’ standards including one from VZ up to Puerto Rico, lost the engine in a storm, but in the end averaged 6 knots. Our boat is a beamy, not fast, shallow drafted Pearson ketch; how many hours longer were we really out there than e.g. if we were in a Sabre? This 440 NM run is probably longer than any you’ll need to make. By contrast, how about using the galley offshore? Even if you live on sandwiches during your 2-3 day runs, someone will need to make them. How convenient to your seaberth and cockpit is the head…and how useable is the head in a seaway? How functional is the chart table, with the boat bouncing around and/or on its ear? These things are more important than speed for the kind of cruising you’ll be doing, IMO.
Jeff is right about the CR 38. We sailed in company with one from Grand Cayman to the Honduran Bay Is. and, while they left well before us, we arrived 2.5 days later well ahead of them…and at times we were only using our jib and mizzen. Also, I think you should expand on Jeff’s notion of ‘comfort’. It’s not just about boat motion in a seaway; I think it has even more to do with ergonomics as designed in by the builder. One of the things that IMO distinguishes a Hallberg Rassy (or Malo or Najad) is that they are built by Swedes, and Scandinavians have an appreciation for and ability with ergonomics that’s superb.
We saw a J40 in St. Lucia that typified to me the care one must exercise when drawing specific conclusions about suitability for cruising based on the standard from-the-factory design. This boat had a family of 4 aboard, it was tricked out with a bountiful set of toys, most of them hanging off a radar arch, and it had stout anchor gear, rollers, windlass et al. And then there was the RIB and big outboard, the hard dodger and big bimini (Oh my, the windage…), multiple extra sails, and on and on. It looked to me like a Porsche that had been outfitted as an RV, and I have to wonder how the boat actually was to cruise vs. how it probably day-sailed in its homeport before the crew got the Caribbean gleam in their eye. I think the Hanse (and obviously the J37) suffer from the same issue.
I think you’d benefit highly from some selected reading. Both Beth Leonard’s Voyager’s Handbook and Nigel Calder’s Cruising Handbook do an excellent job of outlining design characteristics and systems issues from a cruising perspective. Beth’s work is especially useful, as she ties boat choice directly to cruising budgets and helps lift the veil on ALL of the financial variables when one makes the decision to head out. I find women in particular seem to resonate well to Beth’s writing, tho’ men praise it highly, as well.
Good luck and keep us posted on your decisions.