The Choosing-a-Boat Equation - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 1 Old 03-09-2001 Thread Starter
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The Choosing-a-Boat Equation

Our dream is to become liveaboards. We both want our new home to have a cozy pilot house, galley, and a large aft cabin with at least three stormsafe, large windows. The budget is around $100,000 for the vessel and  $20,000 for items such as SSB/HAM/VHF, radar and sonar equipment, etc. Within these parameters, which boat would you recommend? 

Mark Matthews responds:

Obviously, there are a lot of options to consider, and I’ll do the best I can, short of making a specific recommendation, to let you know some of the many factors you’ll want to figure into the equation. As you’ve cited, price is certainly one of them, but so too is performance, and manageability—especially if it’s just going to be the two of you.

Dark and stormy nights, whether underway or at anchor (and there will likely be some, even with the best weather information) are when you know if the boat and the attendant systems you’ve chosen are up to snuff. How often you anticipate having guests, where you plan to be sailing, your mechanical aptitude or willingness to learn, and the length of a typical passage are all likely to  figure into the final selection. Speed, draft, sailing ability to windward, sail plan, and ease of handling, along with whether the boat has an autopilot or windvane and up-to-date safety equipment are also on the list of things to consider. Not that natural lighting isn’t important—only that there may be other heavily-weighted variables to note before making the final decision, like the engine and rigging. Would you be better off with a $60,000 boat, and then upgrade the equipment, sails, and rigging, and put the rest into the cruising kitty? That’s a choice you’ll have to make.

The best thing you can do is talk to other cruisers about their boats, what they like, what they dislike, what they would improve, what they thought was important that turned out to be less of a priority than they had anticipated. Every coastal town is likely to have cruising boats anchored out, or berthed in marinas. Talk to as many of these people as possible—most will be more than happy to pass on what they know. Many past, present, and future cruisers are also active on SailNet's E-mail Discussion Lists. It’s a great idea—sign up for a particular model boat or other broader category and swap e-mails regarding the boat, projects, destinations, and equipment. You can check it out at While you’re at it, you can also check out Boat Check, which has boat owner reviews of several hundred models.

You should first figure out which size vessel is best for you. My own personal bias is that the optimal size boat is somewhere in the mid to upper 30-foot range, in terms of manageability and performance and balancing that against operating costs. Small boats and larger yachts alike have circumnavigated the globe. But what type of vessel gives you enough room for the lifestyle you're looking is once again a matter of personal preference. There are a number of articles on the SailNet site that deal with this question. Check out our Buying A Boat section of the site, click on one of the table of contents, and you’ll be on your way. You can also peruse potential candidates in Boat Search, our companion site for buying and selling boats. 

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