Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: New Mexico, USA (Heron, Elephant Butte lakes); Arizona (Lake Pleasant)
Thanked 18 Times in 18 Posts
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Talk to lots of people and keep looking at boats
You do have some good relevant experience. What kinds of boats have you sailed?
Sailing on lots of boats and talking to lots of boat owners is a good starting point. There are lots of boats -- cheap in the current economy -- and so you shouldn't be in a hurry. That is, unless maybe you have some particular reason for getting your USCG ticket soon, like a job opportunity that you need all the sea service time and ticket for as soon as you can get it.
Owning a boat is a whole different game from crewing, of course. For those who'd rather spend all their time sailing, maintenance can be the "dark side" of sailing. But other people love to fiddle and perfect and mess with boats all the time. Which are you?
Before anyone can go too far with advice, it would really help if you can narrow down the "mission", "job description", or "role" of your boat. Is it day sailing, voyaging, local racing, ocean racing, cruising across the ocean, entertaining clients in a marina, discovering new horizons, going really fast, feeling really secure, being able to take anything, being able to outrun anything? Will you want a boat that's really simple to sail by yourself without much attention? Or do you want a boat with lots of controls and tweeks and delicate adjustments to balance and harmonize? Is it important that the boat be tougher than the crew and able to take care of you? How important is a comfortable motion to you? What is the weather like where you would be sailing? Will your sailing be seasonal or in all weather? Hot or cold climates?
How many creature comforts do you need? Which are critical? How much are you into gizmos? How much time and money are you willing to spend to keep all the gadgets working? What is your tolerance for sailing with some things not working and how do you rate yourself at cobbling together emergency repairs?
Will you be by yourself much of the time or will your crew always be there? How skilled will they be? Can you train some of them to do everyone's jobs or will you be the only one who can do some of the critical jobs like docking the boat or getting the trim just right? Will you be teaching others to sail -- and have to assume your crew know nothing and need to be able to handle the boat by yourself?
There is no one perfect boat, but some boats are good at more than one thing and some are brilliant compromises.
As an example, you mentioned that you like boats with a certain classical look, those with long overhangs. Presumably that means that you don't like boats that look like fat pigs, even though they have tons of space and usually lots of comforts on board. And remember that to get the same amount of space, a classic looking boat will have to be lots longer than the "marina queens" and the marina or mooring operator is going to charge you for those long overhangs.
You mentioned that your boat will have to be trailered and you mentioned boats up to 40'. Most people don't consider boats beyond around 27' to be what they call trailerable. Sure, some people with good towing vehicles and trailers will transport large boats themselves, but it takes some skill and guts. Unless you have something like a GMC 5500/6500 or some other humongously powerful vehicle you'll be limited to something far smaller than 40'.
A lot of 30-footers run around 10,000 lbs., and trailers and gear can add several thousand more lbs. This sort of load can push the ability of even a superduty diesel dually. So what's the capacity of your towing vehicle? How much can you spend on a towing vehicle and maintenance? Do you want to have to deal with wide-load towing regulations? How comfortable would you be with danging a 40-foot mast in the sky above your boat -- or with paying someone big buck$$$ to rig your boat?
If you go with an all-woman crew, you might want to look at ergonomics more closely than some young guys do, depending upon your crew's fitness and stature. Booms that are hung way up high, big anchors without windlasses, really tall cabins with hard-to-reach handholds, etc., might not be popular with your crew. There are solutions to all such issues; they just want to be thought through.
Sailing is many different things, and a sailor's interests can change dramatically over time. Someone once amended the saying,
"There is no one perfect boat" to "... except for the next one."