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Discussion Starter #1
I'm looking at purchasing a new (2009/10) entry-level sailboat. For my general-use learning and coastal needs I was entertaining a Beneteau 30-something. (Vancouver area)

My question is for those of you with experience working your way from a 20 something foot boat, through the 30's and upward; why would I spend thousands more $$ going from a 31 to a 34, or 34 to 37, etc. ?

Specifically comparing a Bene 31 vs. 34 - what you get seems almost identical insofar as rigging and amenities are concerned; a little more room at the nav station?

I'm really waffling on this one; jumping up in length to get that additional cabin is understandable, but would I really notice that much sail performance improvement for the extra 3 feet? Are there any factors I should be considering other than pure dollars and cents?
 

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Are there any factors I should be considering other than pure dollars and cents?
In Vancouver, a qualified yes... Moorage at 30/31 feet will be easier to find than at 34/37 - though it could be tough to find good moorage these days at any size above 25 feet.

As far as the boats go - moving up from 20 feet to 31 will be impressive - esp if it's an older 20-something, the new boats have very large interiors (at a loss of storage, however) Whether or not 34 is worth the extra $Ks is hard to say.

Personally, I'd lean towards looking for a late model used boat that's been looked after - chances are it's already been upgraded from factory state, and will have literally thousands of dollars of ancillary gear on board that you'd have to buy up front with a new boat. Also, if you can find a good used boat that's to your liking there's a real possibility that you can get the larger boat for a similar price, and someone else will have worked out the bugs.

Good luck however it goes, some brokers are offering moorage with new boat sales, but moorage in town is pricey where ever you go....
 

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That is a very good question.

If you already owned a 31 foot boat, it would be easier to offer an answer. Which, in my opinion, would be that it really is not worth the extra expense to make such a modest upgrade in size (3'). If you had a 31 footer already, I'd push you to stretch a bit more for the larger boat (i.e., the 37 footer).

[There are exceptions, of course. For instance, if you had the 31 footer but the 34 footer was your dream boat in every respect, and it wasn't so much the extra size that you were after.]

But here you have no boat at all, so the slate is clean. If you were moderately experienced, I'd say definitely get the boat with the extra space that you could reasonably afford. The price delta might actually save you money in the long run if you ended up having to upgrade the smaller boat later. Transaction costs and depreciation can be steep.

The glitch is that you indicate that you will be "learning". In my opinion, a 31 footer is a much more reasonable platform on which to cut your teeth than a 37 footer. The other factor is that it is rare for a novice sailor to truly know what he/she wants in their ultimate boat. So you should really be thinking of this as your "first" boat. Which says to me you're going to be eating those transaction and depreciation costs down the road eventually.

Perusing those brochures is like joining a theoretical arms race. It's very tough not to be tempted by the next size up. But, all things considered, this time around it might be best to resist the 3'-foot-itis.

You'll hear other opinions for sure.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
You make a good point about availability of moorage in Vancouver area.

A friend suggested I troll the obituaries looking for the keywords "he loved the sea". . .
 

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This is one of those entirely subjective questions only you and your sailing partner can answer. spend some time on a 40 and then go look at a 35 - you'll feel claustrophobic the first time it rains.
 

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If you're buying new, sit on them both at a boat show before deciding. I had been looking at buying a Beneteau 323 for a while. The boat seemed perfect. On check-writing day, the dealer took us around to a 343 before showing us the 323 one last time. The man knew his trade, because the Admiral felt claustrophobic in the 323 and we bought the 343.

If we ever decide to move up, it will be for more than an extra couple of feet. I imagine we'd end up doing a 40-footer.
 

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Having started on a 32 foot boat and moved up to a 36 after 3 seasons, I'd say that the learning curve would not be a whole lot steeper, if you started with the 36-37 footer. However, as some pointed out previously, your first boat is going to teach you a LOT about what you want on your next boat. We searched for a year to find a boat in our price range that offered the things we felt were lacking on our 32 and we're very happy with our current boat, but I think we needed that experience with the smaller boat to learn what was important to us.

We also find our larger boat inspires more confidence in SCA conditions than the 32, which might be a consideration where you sail.
 

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If you're buying new, sit on them both at a boat show before deciding. I had been looking at buying a Beneteau 323 for a while. The boat seemed perfect. On check-writing day, the dealer took us around to a 343 before showing us the 323 one last time. The man knew his trade, because the Admiral felt claustrophobic in the 323 and we bought the 343.
Absolutely Evil.:eek: Beautiful but Evil.
 

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Keep in mind, a few feet adds exponentially for haul out, maintenance, insurance, sails, safety and most marinas - by the foot moorage.

Sure, bigger is better, but in the long haul, buy the smallest boat you are comfortable with, learn, upgrade, and turnover to another sailing enthuiast.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thank you for the wise words; both my gut and wallet are saying to stay smaller. I've sort of accepted there will be a trade-up depreciation hit in the future, only because the number of 4yr old or newer boats in the Pac NW seems limited. Maybe come October things will change ?

I would never had thought that the most complicated part of owning a boat would be moorage but that also seems to be the case in Vancouver.
 

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Three feet in LOA does not sound like much, but don't forget the beam that it adds as well. Maybe 6" of beam or perhaps a foot. Beam makes a big difference in overal volume as well. It may not sound like much, but 3 feet added with the additional beam doea make a difference.
 

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At 53 and the wife and i having spent most of are time on a J24 the CAL 29 we are looking at seems pretty massive as it has standing headroom and a head with a door :)
 

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At 53 and the wife and i having spent most of are time on a J24 the CAL 29 we are looking at seems pretty massive as it has standing headroom and a head with a door :)
Exactly! it's all relative... When we decided to downsize from 40 we started looking at 30 footers and couldn't find one we thought we could live with, having experienced the larger space.

That said, the OP is moving up so like you, even a 30ish footer will seem much larger. At the same time there's something to be said for skipping a step when it comes to the inevitable 2 footitis, if you know you're seriously into it, know you can afford/support it , and know that you'll have a place to keep it.
 

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You cant possibly answer this question in the abstract. Do what I did - Go charter boats of different sizes and sail them around for a few days. It costs money but not nearly as much as buying the wrong boat for your needs.
 

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Everyone has great points, but so far I haven't seen this argument for a bigger boat. If you are planning on soloing, sailing with your partner and maybe a couple of friends then I would get the smaller boat. If you are planning on adding children into the mix in the next couple of years, then the extra expenses and hassles associated with those extra few feet might be worth it.

Moorage, maintenence, everything is priced by the foot but the difference you will save in these costs would be eaten up if you have to upgrade to larger boat in the next couple of years.

I'm not certain if this is even a consideration for you, but its worth a mention.
 

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Either get a trailerable or secure a mooring slip before you buy the bigger boat.
And while shopping for a slip in the greater Vancouver area try and get a feel for where you would like to sail to avoid having to sail where you moor. Think about how far you may have to motor before you can put your sails up or how far you have to travel before reaching the Georgia Strait. English Bay will suffice for learning but it won't be long before the Gulf Islands bekon you. It is a long haul out there if you moor down the Fraser River and Sandheads can be very intimidating at the best of times, best avoid the river entirely. Mosquito Creek and other Marinas around Howe Sound will give you close proximity to the Strait and Islands or the Sunshine Coast. Marinas in False Creek open up English Bay to you but there is no longer a gas station at Burrard so you will be hooped for fuel. Going up towards Indian Arm only makes future trips more onerous, so, not only are you limited by availability, but also location can be limiting.
Where do you live and how far are you willing to drive to the boat and how much hassle are you willing to endure? This will have a big impact on how much enjoyment you will get from your new boat. Do you prefer to drive the car further for good sailing or would you rather drive a short distance and always motorsail out to where you can really spread your sails.
My first boat was and still is 26' and I slip at Point Roberts, just down the road from downtown Tswwassen. I have a Nexus Card for my constant border crossing and I live in Ladner so the drive is only 15 minutes. Customs is a hassle but a neccessary evil. In exchange I have one of the more favourable locations in the greater Vancouver mooring scene. Within 5 minutes of leaving the marina I am right out there in the Georgia Strait enjoying the big surf and within close proximity of the San Juan & Gulf Islands. Location is a big concern for a sailor new or seasoned, get the slip first and boat second, that will help you decide how big the boat will be because it has to be within a couple feet of the slip length. Good luck getting a slip over 30' , you'll need it. You may still get one at Point Roberts this fall when the seasonal transients vacate them.
A bigger boat can be more of a want than a need for a beginner, consider what the bulk of your sailing will be, day sailing will be the mainstay until you learn enough to leave the pond and that may take a while depending on the available time you have to invest. Even with my close proximity to the marina and the open Georgia strait I still mostly daysail and only do the extended week long trips in the summer (July).
Also consider your return on investment, you know full well as I do how much it rains here, just because this summer we got spoilled does not mean it will be like this next year. The last two summers before really sucked and surely you remember how long cold and dreary the last couple winters were! It is a lot of financial eggs in one basket for a bigger boat whereas the smaller boat is fewer eggs invested for the return on investment, never lose sight of our short sailing season. And yes we do get longer ones, I have had a six month one but they are rare. A 26-32' boat will do just fine for your first 5 years and maybe then some. How often will you single hand? A smaller boat is easier to single hand and dock with. Most of your time will be spent in the cockpit during your learning curve so big room below will not be a huge issue. Heck, you might even not enjoy the sport or afford it after a few years and want out, so keep that in mind. Leave the extra 3 feet off until you have a better idea of your needs.
 

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Specifically comparing a Bene 31 vs. 34 - what you get seems almost identical insofar as rigging and amenities are concerned; a little more room at the nav station?
There might be other things to consider for that decision, Pac. I don't know if it's true for the newer 31/34 designs, but there was a big difference sailing-wise between their predecessors, the 323 and 343. I've seen several different sources calling the 323 "tender", which might make it a little lively for someone new to both sailing AND boat ownership. Sailing a tender dinghy is one thing. Having your 31-footer (which will seem monstrously big to you at first) go quickly over on its ear in that first gust might be a shocker. The 31 might be built off the same hull shape. Talk to your dealer and see what they think.

Here's one OTHER thing for you to consider. I love Beneteaus and don't want to steer you away from them, but they do not have rub rails. If you're truly a newbie, you're going to be bumping into things all over the place. So either buy LOTS of fenders or maybe *gulp* look at another brand of boat? Or maybe invest in a book on gelcoat repair. :D

Finally, if I were you, I'd hire a captain for a day or two to teach you docking and maneuvering the boat. There's no shame in it and it really is helpful.

Actually, just buy what makes your heart thump and forget the rest. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #18
CaptKermie I was coincidentally just reading a post of yours to Serah from earlier this year about trying to decide on a moorage and driving the car vs. driving the boat.

I live in North Van and would rather be closer to my boat and deal with the motoring out Burrant inlet.. the only thing that give me pause is the tides and current. Distance and time is one thing, but have to factor in the issue of not necessarily being able to leave/come on a whim without planning the tide a little bit.

Maybe that is a motivator for the extra 3 feet? because it comes with the larger diesel and gets me more options coming and going in the inlet? Ok, maybe I'm stretching it a bit.

Honestly though, the whole reason for spending this sort of dough is for personal enjoyment and a new (expensive) hobby. I couldn't bear to drive over 2 bridges and 1 1/2 hours of traffic everytime I wanted to play with my new toy. I used to fly years ago when the airport was 10 minutes from my house, but since moving to North Vancouver, Boundary Bay is over an hour drive in ugly traffic and I stopped going, so I know the same would happen if I needed to make that trip for a sail.

Still, there are those currents in the inlet.. and TJ's in Pt. Bob used to be a common trip for us for a good burger, pull tabs, and cheap gas on the way home..
 

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Mosquito Creek and Lynwood, close to you, are your most likely candidates to actually have available space... but it does leave you to deal with the currents at first (and/or second) narrows. We were at Mosq for 3 years, and can't tell you how much better it is being in False Creek, strictly for the freedom of coming and going as you please. The trip out to English Bay can be fast or slow depending on the current situation, but some wind vs current conditions are downright dangerous, while the 1.5 miles can sometimes take 30-40 minutes if you get it wrong. So you'd have to trade the convenience of a short drive against that added time to get out, and the "schedule" it can force on you when you want to leave or return.

With respect to Capt K, if you're in the 30-37 foot market you're out of the trailerables...

Another option (waitlisted) are the West Van/Horseshoe Bay marinas - out of town altogether, no bridges for you, and possibly Snug Cove on Bowen as a temporary deal (ferry hassles)

I'd say the benefit of the 34 over the 31 in terms of transiting tidal gates would be minimal.
 

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PNWN:
If you moor on the north shore be sure it is west of Stanley Park to avoid the currents under Lions Gate. If you moor east of Lions Gate, be content wth Indian Arm. Personally I'd rather drive out to West Van, Mosquito, Sunset or Horseshoe Bay if I lived in North Van. I know a few sailors who moor up the inlet, Ioco area and Reed point, they have to plan with the tides to get out to English Bay. I trailered my first year and learned about the tides first hand, my wife hated them and forced me into a slip. We love Point Bob.
 
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