What is your definition of "blue water"? It means different things to different people. To me it means a boat capable of crossing an ocean. All of it. Continent to continent. Not just the 50 miles from the U.S. east coast to the Bahamas.
Just my opinion, but if you have never sailed before, you are asking this question way too soon.
Ah, I get to be first... well, second. Donna aced me out. But I still get to say "It depends." How blue the water? Coastal? Trans-ocean? High latitude? Antarctica?
You are going to get lots of different opinions.
1. Opinion: Heavy boats are more seaworthy. This suggests steel boats are more seaworthy than fiberglass boats. Heavy thick fiberglass hulls are more seaworthy than thinner lighter fiberglass hulls. Of course heavy boats don't go very fast in light air. This means it is much harder to avoid bad weather. What is the right answer? No one really knows.
2. Opinion: A "cruising" sailboat or a expensive (e.g.Oyster, Swan) sailboat is more seaworthy. Sure. But everything work hardens. Would you rather own a boat that has been stressed for 30 years but was once an expensive high end boat or one that has only been stressed for 4 or 5 years? Your decision.
3. You said you are going to retire on the boat. How much do you expect to actually sail? Most people that cruise a lot might be at sea for 1/3 of the year. That is a lot of sea miles, it means you are sailing every third day. The large majority are at sea a lot less time. This suggests that comfort in port is an important attribute to consider. If you expect to do short hops rather than long passages you might consider a catamaran. They are much more comfortable in port.
4. How much "stuff" do you have? Some boats, like mine, have very little storage space. Some have a lot. Another consideration.
Over the years the definition of "blue water capable" has changed dramatically. In my youth, when we rode dinosaurs to school, many people circumnavigated on 27 foot wood sailboats. Were they "blue water capable?" I doubt anyone would rate them as such today. But if the proof is in the pudding they sure were "capable."
I am sure that you will get lots of other opinions but this is starting food for thought.
" blue water" needs to better described by you....what do you consider blue water to be?
For me that means being out in the oceans, too far to run to shore in a day or two, when bad weather sets in. Your boat is too slow to go around the weather, and it will be you and mother nature and your boat to ride it out. Your idea of blue water may be quite different, does not make it wrong.
The columbia was a good boat for it's day, and I am sure that some have crossed the oceans and have visited the islands, but not what I would consider a blue water boat.
It is heavier than many of today's boats, and thus has a gentler motion in heavy weather, but that makes it slow when compared to those same boats when sailed in good weather.
Didn't say where you are located, but an affordable Columbia in good shape would be a great boat to learn the bay on, or a close coastal boat to see what you and she can handle.
What are you hoping to do in this new, to you, boat?
I would not head offshore in one, (or any boat for that matter) until you have done some progressively longer cruises and worked out any bugs she may have, gotten a crew or a philosophy of single handing under control, and some time beside the tiller. Romantic ideas are nice, but do nothing to appease mother nature when it gets snotty out there.
All the best.
and remember one of my "corollaries" - there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes
Donna's right. If you're never sailed before, the question of the retirement boat is coming too soon.
First find out if you like sailing. Start with an ASA-certified sailing school and take the first two Cruising courses. Join a sailing club and volunteer to crew. Get out on the water and make sure that this is a way you can live.
Then think realistically about the kind of sailing you want to do. Everybody talks about a circumnavigation, but it's a lot of work, very uncomfortable, and costs the moon. You might be perfectly satisfied spending your retirement kicking around the Caribbean and Gulf and making much shorter passages.
Welcome, welcome, welcome. The world needs more sailors.
there are a gaggle of columbia 34 mII here in mexico. they are documented and registered outside of mexico. they got here somehow.. why not..lol.. the owners swear BY them, not AT them.
besides, it isnt the BOAT that is the blue water capable part of the cruising...it is the human doing the cruising that is the blue water capable part of cruising.
by the way..many boats that were designed to sail trade winds were also not mentioned.
any list is merely the expressed OPINION of someone who someone else worships.
Wow!!! Thank you all so much. I am so humbled by all the responses. I set a goal of retirement in 3-5 years and defiantly plan on sailing and taking classes well before then. I have been living in a 26' Rv working on the road for the past 5 years so I am used to traveling light. Blue water to me means making my way from Texas (home) to the keys and Caribbean and maybe over to Belize. I'm not sold on the Columbia 34 as of yet but as my retirement plan, I would like to get a boat soon as to get used to the way it sails and to rig it out a little at a time so I'm ready when the day comes.
All true, the boats listed are obviously part of a work in progress. There is a page where you can vote for the next boat that you would like to see a write-up on. I voted for the Caba Rico's. If you are new to this life of cruising boats the website is a good place to start learning about bluewater boats no matter how you might define the term in your own mind.