The bene is no better than a Catalina - the Catalina no better than the Bene. I think there are some models of both that are distasteful. I like the older Catalinas and Benes better than some of the new ones - but that is just my personal opinion. But for anyone that has not seen some pics of Dan's boat... you cannot tell me that is not a sweet ride (even without the BBQ's). Why wouldn't you take that boat anywhere within reason?? Same can be said of many/most production boats over 38 feet or so. I would feel comfortable taking my boat to most distant locations... but again I have been making and have made many modifications. From solar panels and arch to revamped electricl system, and many other changes, this ain't your typical out of the box C400!
That being said, you can take most production boats anywhere. I guess you could take one straight out of the box and circle the world, but it would take more seamanship and more luck than you might need for a Valiant of similar size. In order to reduce the need for luck and/or seamanship skills, you can start making changes to the boat like better portholes, handholds, lifelines, tankage, cabinets, tankage, cabinets for storage, positive latching floorboards, tankage, tabbed bulkheads or reinforced bulkheads, cabinets, etc (and not to forget to add tankage). By the time you have made all these changes, it might have been cheaper to just buy a traditional bluewater boat! Maybe not. But there are also many positives of production boats... cost not necessarily one of them.
However, if I was certain of making far destinations beyond a 5 day weather window, I really would start looking at boats outside of the typical production line. I personally draw the line at 5 days because beyond that, it is very difficult (if not alltogether impossible) to guess the weather. At 5 days, you also start really pushing into the tankage limit on most production boats without modification (again, my personal limit WITHOUT modification). But I stress that unless you are certain to make those jumps, I probably would not do it. I would buy the boat that is comfortable on the hook (as a live aboard) first and foremost. That is where 99% of your time is spent.
I believe that most production boats of a reasonable size will, with some amount of luck and good seamanship, go to distant ports. The questin typically is not whether the boat can get you there, it is whether the captain can. It is hard to appreciate this statement until you have weathered your first good blow beyond the reach of a VHF and you really are on your own.
CD - awesome post. This is good stuff. Here are some of the interesting take-aways:
1. Though I know you didn't mean it as such - I think a feeder of the production/blue debate is this statement/perception:
"I guess you could take one straight out of the box and circle the world, but it would take more seamanship and more luck
than you might need for a Valiant of similar size. In order to reduce the need for luck and/or seamanship skills
, you can start making changes to the boat..."
This is really an interesting paradox, one that possibly drives a lot of people to buy a blu - then perhaps be too relaxed about the weather and seamanship - i.e. - "the boat can handle it". It makes you wonder. Does perceived fragility increase skill/attention? Does perceived strength decrease them?
2. The 5 day window is a great rule of thumb as far as I'm concerned. I'd not thought about it in those terms. I was thinking more distance - which is wrong. It's about the weather...always.
3. The realistic limitations of tankage is another important consideration - and one I'm just beginning to understand since I mostly pee off the stern into the lake.
4. Finally, I've always agreed with your 99% on-the-hook maxim, although you might get some blowback on that one due to your notorious (and I'm sure errant) reputation as a dock-dweller.
So - the Benes and Catalinas seem well-suited to pushing the blue edge a bit with what we'll call "minor" modification. Yes?
Other productions that have hammered away successfully?