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Close Quarters 07-01-2012 10:37 PM

Coastal Cruising Boat Selection Help
We have been building our sailing kitty and over the past year, honed in on what we need as opposed to what we want. What we need the most is to make a decision and start sailing! I would appreciate any comments, advice or suggestions!

The 5 Year Plan - Weekend sailing around the Gulf Coast Barrier Islands with my wife, our two boys (currently 11 & 13) and the occasional friends. 75% of the time it will just be the 4 of us.

The 5+ Year Plan - Extended trips from the Gulf Coast through the Keys, the Bahamas, the Exumas and the BVI's and back with my wife for 4-6 months at a time during the winter. Extended trips up the Tenn Tom Waterway during the summer.

Boats currently being considered:
  1. 1996 Hunter 29.5
  2. 1987 Island Packet 27
  3. 1983 Pearson 303

The Hunter appears to be a bit more conducive to accommodate larger groups of family & friends. But I am unsure if the Hunter is really the boat we want when it comes time to sail to the BVI's. I worry about the lack of back stays and the open sugar scoop. Of course the kids love the open sugar scoop and large cockpit. Also, this boat is at the higher end of our budget and would limit our ability to buy any additional toys such as a dink & kayaks.

The Island Packet 27 seems more appropriate for the 5+ Year Plan but not exactly the boat that would comfortably accommodate 6+ people for an extended weekend. I really like the 3'8" draft and the 38'6" bridge clearance. The current price tag however is a bit much for our budget and would completely wipe out the sailing kitty.

The Pearson seems to be a good fit and the price tag is within our reach. Quite roomy below and what appears to be adequate space in the cockpit. While every 1983 Pearson 303 that I have seen thus far has the mainsheet traveler in the cockpit, this one is on the cabin roof. I am unsure if this is standard or a modification made by a previous owner. While I certainly prefer it on the roof, I worry about the integrity of such modifications made by someone less than qualified.

While safety is obviously my major concern, comfort is a close 2nd. I could never be comfortable unless I know my family and friends are safe.

Being a 1st time buyer, there are many things that have me confused. Aside from the obvious boat selection decision process, I am intrigued mostly with the actual offer process. I am having the toughest time committing to make an offer on a boat when the best I can do is climb aboard.

It goes against my nature and my logic to make an offer, put up a deposit & pay for a survey without even the possibility of a test ride. What happens if we go through the process and, during the sea trial, structural problems are discovered and/or we decide we don't like the boat? This just seems illogical! I understand sellers cant afford test rides for every tire kicker and I am sure there is a certain amount of liability/risk but it would seem there should be a happy medium. Is it unheard of to ask for a pre-offer test ride? Perhaps I am naive but I would sure feel better.

At this point, my wife and I agree on one thing - we want the buying process to be over. I am certain we are going to make an offer within the next two weeks and would greatly appreciate any help, guidance and suggestions with the above or alternate boats.

Thanks in advance!

Excited but exhausted,


tempest 07-02-2012 07:22 AM

Re: Coastal Cruising Boat Selection Help
Hello Bob, welcome to sailnet!

These questions are very difficult to answer, especially with 3 very distinct vessels of varying age, where critical details of condition are unknown to us.

For example, the Pearson will be 30 years old vs. the Hunter @ 16 years old. However, does the Pearson have new/newer sails, Rigging, updated electronics, new engine, vs. 16 year old sails, electronics and high engine hours on the Hunter?

My Sabre is 27 years old, but the Sails, Dodger, Bimini, Interior Cushions, Rigging, electronics, lights, ground tackle, etc etc..are all 6 years old or younger.

It sounds like both the Hunter and the IP will consume your budget, so the question would be: are they ready to go sailing without futher investment? Advice you often hear here is to reserve 20% of your budget for upgrades and " stuff" on an older boat.
Was there any evidence of leaks on these vessels? Bulkheads sound? Chainplate attachments?

The other thing that I'll suggest is that while 5 year plans are nice to have, understand that plans more often than not have a way of changing through external circumstances and events. So, buying the boat that you and your family will use and enjoy for the 5 years directly in front of you makes the most sense to me. 5 years from now you may have an entirely different 5 year plan. In 5 years, you may have a son in college and another close behind.

With regards to Safety, I think any of those vessels, if sound, should make the trips you mentioned.
Keeping in mind, that safety is often as much, if not more, about the skill of the captain and the decisions made regarding, timing, crew, weather, schedules, etc etc as the vessel itself.

If done properly, the cabin top sheeting on the pearson shouldn't be an issue. You can always get someone to look at the installation for you. In sailing characteristics and construction there's a huge difference between a Hunter and an Island packet. Condition unknown, all things equal, I think the pearson would provide the solidness of the IP with more speed. I'm not advocating for one vessel over the other. I think only you can evaluate the condition of each vessel as it fits your current needs and budget.

JimsCAL 07-02-2012 08:19 AM

Re: Coastal Cruising Boat Selection Help
Any of those boats would work for coastal cruising in Gulf. For the extended cruising to the islands for months at a time, I would want something larger. Without knowing the condition of the 3 boats mentioned, the Pearson would be my choice. Not a fan of Hunters and the IP is too slow.

As to a test sail, I don't believe they show as much as you might think. Too dependent on weather and wind at the time. Any boat for sale through a broker will not give you test sail before getting an offer. When I sold my previous boat privately a couple of years ago, I did take out prospective buyers for a short sail a couple of times. One of them ended up buying the boat.

jsaronson 07-03-2012 12:52 AM

Coastal Cruising Boat Selection Help
There are a bunch of 303s on Yachtworld. Cabin top traveler on those? My p28 had one so that is what I would expect. Sea trial won't tell you much. It's hard not to be giddy when you are thinking "this could be mine".
Condition is everything on older boats. There are lots to choose from. Don't buy just to get it over with.
Good luck!

BarryL 07-03-2012 03:29 PM

Re: Coastal Cruising Boat Selection Help

Good post.

Some comments, which are all IMHO:

Just about any 30' coastal cruiser would be a good choice for your first 5 year plan. How did you decide on the three boats you listed? It sounds like you just went to a local boat dealer and looked at what they had. While that's not necessarily a bad plan, there are other ways.

Personally, I would look for the nicest, cleanest, best equipped 30' boat in my price range and within a 'reasonable' distance, say 50 nm from me. This would include Catalina, O'day, Hunter, Beneteau, Pearson, Tartan, Sabre, Newport, Bristol, C&C, CS, and probably a few others. Take your time, look at lots of boats and start thinking about features you want to have. For example, do you need refrigeration, or is an ice box OK? What about cooking: do you need propane, or is alcohol ok? what about an oven? What about the marine head, basic OK or do you need a shower and hot water? What about the draft of the boat, how deep can you use? Self tailing winches or regular, wheel or tiller, deck stepped or keep stepped mast, etc etc etc

Regarding the boat buying process, if you are using a broker the process is standardized and easy to follow:
-You find a boat you like and spend a lot of time crawling all over it.
-If you still like it, you decide how much $ you are willing to pay for it - assuming the boat is in the condition it appears to be.
-if you really like it you then make an offer to the broker. The broker will cry about how that's not enough, the owner will be mad, etc. You tell him to present the offer anyway. Then you negotiate and hopefully agree on a price.
-You pay the broker 10% of the price and he should produce a contact that you and the owner sign.
-If the broker uses a standard contract, it should include a statement that basically means you can cancel the contract at any time for any reason and you get your deposit back. This protects you in case the boat has damage you were unaware of, or it doesn't sail like you expected, or you decide to buy a new car instead.
-At this point, you arrange for a survey and sea trial. The owner / broker agree to make the boat available for the survey, you pay for the cost of the survey and for the cost of things like the haul out.
-You can still walk away at any time if you change your mind
-After you receive the survey, you may be able to renegotiate if the survey reveals issues you were unaware of. Or, you can buy the boat as is, or you can walk away (less the $ you spent for the survey).

Good luck,

chuck53 07-03-2012 03:53 PM

Re: Coastal Cruising Boat Selection Help
Barry hit the nail on the head. Good advice.

So what is your budget? To buy? Upgrades? Cost of use?

WDS123 07-03-2012 05:14 PM

Re: Coastal Cruising Boat Selection Help
Not one of the boats on your short list are good sailing vessels, but given the short list - Island Packet would be my choice. IP has completely superior quality of build over the other 2 boats.

BTW - You really aren't going to be coastal cruising as per your 5 year plan. You will mainly be daysailing with a handful of overnighters each year. You'll still have a blast and a lot of fun - so go for it.

Close Quarters 07-03-2012 10:03 PM

Re: Coastal Cruising Boat Selection Help
Thanks for all the comments and suggestions!

After a year of searching, we want this to be over so we can start sailing! Over the past year, we have looked at Colombia's, Tartan's, Freedom's, Privilege's, Endeavour's, Irwin's, Gulfstar's, Beneteau's, Morgan's, Newport's, Pearson's, Hunter's, Catalina's, Island Packets, Cheoy Lee, Formosa, IP's, C&C, CS, CT and OMG can it get anymore complicated!!!!

We have gone from 46' to 41' to 37' to 31' to 29' to 27'. Each step of the way, we have considered safety, storage space, living space, deck space, cockpit space, freeboard height, mast height, sail area, furling or non furling main sail, keel depth, keel type, rudder type, AC, Refrigeration, Ice Box, Generator, engine size, engine type, fuel type (ok, never considered anything other than diesel) and OMG can it get anymore complicated!!!!

Last year, after meeting the Home Schooled Crew of the 'Diamond' on their return trip from a 6 month sabbatical through the Bahamas and the Exumas, Amy finally gave me her blessing to move forward with the 'process'. In retrospect, perhaps letting her climb aboard the Diamond, a 1996 Beneteau 461, wasnt the best idea as this quite possibly set the bar a bit high! (if you are reading, thanks a lot, Craig! ;) ) A beautiful boat, plenty of room, nice sugarscoop but a price that was a bit out of our budget....

A trip to the bank, a dose of reality and we were back on track!

Anyway, I think the 30' is a bit small for the 5+ year plan and possibly a bit small for the 5 year plan. There is, however, an alternate 5+ year plan that includes buying the affordable 30' Pearson now, learning the how to's, the don't do's, what is a necessity, luxury or an impossibility and, in 5 years, give the Pearson to the boys and find our next 'best' boat for the 5+ year plan.

It may prove the 30' is fine for Amy & I. Personally, I would like to move back to the 36' to 40' range. I am encouraged by comments about the trade off between handling and more space. We are going to look at all 3 of these boats again this weekend (the agent has been both patient and accommodating!) and possibly a couple other larger boats as well. There happens to be a 1983 38' Endeavor and a 1983 38' Morgan 384 we may be able to crawl through - both a bit out of our current price range but possibly negotiable???

As we realized the Beneteau 461 was too expensive and the Morgan 41' O/I could prove to be tough to single hand, we came across the Hunter with its large rounded cockpit, corner seating and convenient sugarscoop. Below it was equally inviting and spacious providing room for all of us and our friends.

It wasn't until we started researching the Hunter that we realized there weren't any back stays, the Arch was prone to leaking and the sugar scoop could actually be a real problem with following seas. Upon further research we discovered the fin or bulb keel, although really neat, didnt offer any protection for the prop or rudder as the full keel and skeg rudder would.

I did come across a couple of threads that basically threw the BS card at the negative comments and indicated these posters were not necessarily off target but rather highly critical of production boats in general. Not wanting to rationalize but if these boats are indeed so dangerous & high maintenance, why are there so many of them? I wish someone would simply say it really isn't a safe boat and then I could eliminate it from the list!

Right now, the priority list is as follows:
  1. Safety
  2. Ease of Handling
  3. Price
  4. Cockpit Size
  5. Berth Quantity & Size
  6. Storage Capacity
  7. Air Conditioning

Thanks again for all of the comments and advice to date! Please keep them coming!

chall03 07-04-2012 12:24 AM

Re: Coastal Cruising Boat Selection Help
Speaking as someone who has been there and done that to a certain degree in terms of boat buying and the whole wonderful process, being your first boat buy something like the Pearson to do what you want to do NOW, Enjoy 5 years or so of good sailing and learning, and I can almost guarantee that by the end of it you will have a much better and much more set idea of exactly what you want in a boat for more extended cruising.

I tend to think, without knowing you or your family, that 30ft might prove a bit tight for months onboard at a time.

Close Quarters 07-04-2012 09:38 AM

Re: Coastal Cruising Boat Selection Help
We actually started this process over a year ago and thought the 40'-45' range would be preferable. During the past year, we have gone from making sure we were prepared for every possible situation and group combination to buying something that will accommodate our needs 90% of the time. The mantra went from 'buy the biggest boat we can afford' to 'buy the boat that best serves what we intend to do the most often.'

Again, safety is my main concern with comfort a close 2nd. Whatever we get, I must have the confidence my wife will be able to single hand. You never know what is going to happen and I cant put my family in an uncompromising position.

Currently, the budget is capped at $30K. Of course, the less we spend now, the more we have for toys and accessories.

I suspect that 75% of the time over the next 5 years, it will be Amy, the boys and myself for a 2-3 day trip out to the Gulf Coast Barrier Islands. Occasionally we may have an additional kid or perhaps another adult couple but again, it would be for just a weekend.

In 5-7 years, the boys go off to college and Amy & I will be empty nesters. At this point, it will just be the two of us on extended trips.

We actually homeschool our children and we have considered the remote possibility of taking a 6-12 month sabbatical with the kids and work our way around the keys, down the exumas, through the upper & lower Antilles down to Grenada possibly Trinidad. The current economic environment may keep this just that - a remote possibility. If it does become a possibility, the 30' would be too cramped. Does it make sense to consider an older, larger Irwin or Morgan?

Theoretically, we have plenty of time to make the right decision. The kids, on the other hand, are a captive audience for a few more years! It wont be long until I hear, sure Dad, I would love to spend time with you if only I could find the time! I would love to convince myself we will sail together as a family for the rest of our lives but that really would be naive!

Thanks for the quick responses!


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