Killarney, I checked out the website you suggested. Very handy to be able to compare boats quickly. I completely agree with you about the need to take the entire boat into consideration and I've been trying to do just that as I research boats. The criteria I've been using so far as pass/fail qualifier for entry onto my short list of choices are;
Length 32' to 40' with 36' being ideal, full or fin keel, cockpit not overly large, companionway raised to keep out water, small opening ports, no large windows, main sheet not obstructing cockpit, 6' 2" min. headroom, decent galley preferably L or U shaped, must have nav station, good reviews, and generally available under $40k - $50k.
I didn't mention a rig and although I'm thinking a cutter sounds like the best choice, I'm flexible on that. I'll be living aboard, initially coastal cruising the eastern U.S. and throughout the Carribean. A trip to Europe and the Scandinavian countries then it's off to the Pacific. I want to visit S. America and cruise the coastline up to the Aleutian chain, visit Asia and the south Pacific.
So yes, looking at the overall boat is important but I need to understand what I'm looking at so I can make an informed decision as to whether what I'm looking at will keep me safe and comfortable while doing all that.
@ Mitiempo - Until I checked out Killarney's suggested site I've been using cruisingresources.com to look up ratios and factors. Are there any other sites you can suggest? I'm not really clear on what information is needed to breed accuracy into these numbers and I take them all as a general assessment rather than difinitive information.
@ Joelsandra - Feel free to criticize away. I'm beginning to think that maybe I'm going at this the wrong way with the list idea. I agree with you about the books and some of the equipment people say you need. My intent with this thread was not to create yet another list of electronics or spares needed for offshore trips but rather to gain some knowledge as to what makes a boat the right choice for its intended use. We hear things like a comfortable motion, windward abilities, and stability. I want to know what makes a boat have those things because, frankly, I don't want to take the sellers word for it.
People write about a boat being slow but never say what they're comparing it to. When someone says a boat lacks windward abilities, does that mean it can't point higher than 45 degrees off the wind? How high does a cruising sailboat need to point? Sometimes I think that racing plays a big factor in what people think about cruising boats. I think that for some people performance is the sum of speed, maneuverability, and pointing high. My opinion is that performance is the ability of the boat to do what it was intended to do. By that standard, if I want the boat to carry a lot of weight, have plenty of storage, get me around the world safely, and be able to come through a gale smelling like a rose, then a Westsail 32 is a high performance boat! Now let's see what kind of reaction that particular statement will inspire!
You can't really blame the marine outlets since that's what they are in the business of doing, or even the people making the lists since those things are what they feel comfortable with. Even proponents of a certain type of rig are expressing their personal choice. What works for one may not work for another. Slocum changed his rig more times than some people change their underwear, so where does that leave us?