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Old 07-31-1999
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Sue & Larry is on a distinguished road
Replacing Our Boat

A Used Boat to Stay the Course of the Cruising Life

Having made the decision to continue with our cruising life for the foreseeable future, we had to decide about Safari. Finally, after many long discussions into the night, we made up our minds to put Safari up for sale and begin the search for a less expensive boat. Who would have ever thought that shopping for a used boat would be so all-consuming and such hard work.

For three and a half months, we searched, compared, and scrutinized boat specs for hours every day. We surfed the Internet—until we could no longer hang one, never mind 10—and were familiar with every used boat on the market from Alaska to Antigua. We traveled hundreds of miles in every direction to check out boats that caught our interest, and flipped and re-flipped tirelessly through the stack of snapshots of the boats we'd inspected. The importance of a teak toerail even became a sticking point between us. Having tried to buy three other boats along the way, one that had to be rejected after survey, we finally found Safari's replacement. And she just happens to have been the very first boat we looked at some three and a half months ago. Talk about sailing backward against a strong current.

So what was the criteria for the new boat? Although we have not run out of money (remember, life out here is cheap—see budget article), we have determined that we don't need to have so much money tied up in a boat in order to enjoy doing exactly what we've been doing. We also know that the more money we can keep in the bank working for us, the better off we'll be in the long run. So we were looking for a boat that was less expensive and one that had reached its base line in depreciation, and perhaps might even increase in value if properly maintained. Believe it or not, used boats are going up in value these days.

We enjoyed the virtues of space, seakindly motion and speed of our 46-foot Beneteau, and were determined not to go any smaller and not much slower. There are many different theories but you'll never make us believe that speed does not enhance the enjoyment of cruising in making passages more comfortable, and much safer in being able to get out of harm's way should bad weather be approaching. So many times we saw how we were able to handle bad conditions and keep on trucking, when our friends in smaller or slower boats either had to turn back or to endure many more uncomfortable hours. For this reason we set our size criteria at 44 to 50 feet. I'm really not sure when a 43-foot boat became too small for us, but apparently it has. It's funny how your perspective of what a big boat is changes over time.

Our next criteria surprised the two of us as a major change from several years back when we were first choosing a cruising boat. We both determined that we liked center-cockpit boats. One of the main reasons is to make fishing easier. Most center-cockpit boats have a large space on the aft deck that makes moving around with a rod in hand (and our cats under foot) a lot easier. It also makes for great living space with lots of room to move about freely while at anchor. The trick was to find a center-cockpit design that didn't annihilate the traditional lines we both found ourselves gravitating toward. There are a lot of center-cockpit boats that look considerably more like wedding cakes than sailboats.

While searching, we found that every few days we had a new favorite. Of course any boat is a compromise but we discovered we could justify most once-perceived negative aspects with newborn logic. If it were a steel boat we'd claim, "It's the only safe way to go." A deeper draft than we ideally wanted, "It's a proper sailing yacht, not designed to just stay at dock." If it were ugly, "It's functional." If it were beautiful but small, "Who needs storage space when you look that good." If its reputation was questionable, "Who really knows for sure?"

Believe me it's easy to justify any design once you've made up your mind that is the boat for you. That's why there are so many die-hard lovers of completely different types of sailboats out there. We're all looking for different things in a boat, and what's most important to Larry and me may be completely different for you. Somewhere along the line you have to make up your own mind because if you keep listening to other opinions, you'll be shopping forever amidst a confused sea of opposing advice.

For us to find a boat in the size—and price-range we had set for ourselves, it meant we were looking at boats of usually 20-year-old vintage. I think this is probably why we didn't recognize the boat we bought as "the one" when we first saw it. It was just too big of a change from our modern new Safari. It took the full three and a half months to take in the many different boats and to really give ourselves a chance to see what was out there and what fit our particular needs. Value for the dollar also played a huge factor, and you can't determine that until you've done some research.

Is it going to be hard going from a brand-new boat to a 21-year-old boat? In many ways, yes. A lot of advancement in use of space and ease of access to systems, etc., has been made in new boats, and there's no question we're going to miss a lot that we enjoyed on Safari. But it's not all a loss for us. We both love the look of the older, more-traditional lines which simply aren't on most of the newer designs unless you can afford a Hinckley, Morris, or Alden.

Now, let me introduce you to Serengeti, the result of our arduous search. She's a 1978 Peterson 46, built by Formosa, and designed by that same Doug Peterson whose fast hull helped allow New Zealand to walk away with the America's Cup in the last match. When we returned to see Serengeti for the second time, 14 weeks after our first impression, it was with completely new eyes that we viewed her. We both knew at once that she was going to be ours.

It's with open eyes that we begin the long task of cleaning up Serengeti and refitting a lot of her old systems, but it is a task we are ready for. But even more, we look forward to the many new adventures and memories she'll majestically and safely guide us through. And by the way, Larry tells me the teak toerail that I fought so hard for is all mine to take care of.

Our Boat Selection Criteria
  • Center-cockpit design with low freeboard
  • 44 to 50 feet overall
  • Solid fiberglass hull (not cored)
  • Traditional lines
  • Maximum draft of 6' 6"
  • Performance hull
  • Mast clearance under 65 feet (to allow passage under ICW bridges)
  • Cutter rig (best rig for offshore sailing)
  • High lifelines (30-inch if possible)
  • Lots of handholds below
  • As much water and fuel tankage capacity as possible

Boat Shopping Tips

  • Before you get started, set a maximum price that you are willing to pay and try to avoid looking at anything priced higher. It will be harder to stay in your price range once you've looked at more expensive boats. There's always a nicer boat out there- no matter how much you spend.

  • Look at a broad variety of designs to ensure that what you think you want is really what you want. You may be surprised.

  • Once you've seen enough different types, styles, designs and layouts, eliminate those that don't suit your needs. Then begin another, more-focused search.

  • Take detailed photos (a full roll of shots) of each boat you look at that interests you. It's amazing how quickly you forget details after stepping off a particular boat.

  • Seek other opinions on the boat you're looking at, but don't let them be your only influence. For every expert's thoughts on one type of boat, there is another expert with very different views on the same boat. Re-examine your own needs and requirements, then make the decision for yourself.

  • If you are buying an older or poorly maintained boat, be aware that it is likely to have many problems and system failures. If you're not mechanically inclined, don't take on these "projects," instead opt for a newer model.

  • Whenever possible try to find and deal with the listing broker of a particular boat. Not only will he/she know the boat better, he'll also have more incentive to get a prospective buyer and the seller together on a price, and may even be ready to cut his commission a little to help the deal develop.

  • Once you've found your perfect boat, research its value before making an offer. Look for comparable vessels for sale in boat publications, local trader magazines and on the Internet. Check the BUC book, a used-boat value guide, but don't rely on it as your sole source. The information reported in BUC's is very inconsistent, and we found it didn't reflect what many boats were selling for today.

  • When you're ready to make an offer, remember to include contingencies such as, sea trial, satisfactory professional survey and any financing you may need.

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