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Fret,

You've received some good advice. All the boats you originally listed would make good coastal cruisers, up to and including the Bahamas, but let me offer my $.02.

Forget the 1981 Hunter 30 (my boat), or any other 30 footer for that matter, if you're looking for comfortable accommodations for 4 persons. In a pinch, you can make do, but it will be a pita to convert the salon table into a bed every night. The quarter berth is only good for one person and generally becomes another storage area for gear bags, coolers, etc.

Having spent a good part of my cruising life in the NE, I know that you'll be spending a great deal of time below decks when the weather's cool. You need to be looking for a bigger boat, probably in the 34-36 ft. range, where you can make full use of the salon. Something with a v-berth and aft cabin would be a perfect choice. Keep an eye open for a Hunter 34.

That being said, I learned to sail on my in-laws 24 ft Westerly. It had great headroom and the two opposing salon seats worked quite well as berths. Four of us spent weekends on it all the time and never felt cramped. This twin-keel boat proved the point the bigger was not always better. I'm not sure if there are too many of these still around, but it was a great, stable boat to learn to sail on.

My final word of advice, if all things are equal, buy the biggest boat you can afford. I don't know too many sailors who downsize when they buy a new boat. So why not buy the right boat for your needs the first time around?

Good luck and good hunting! This is a great time to go boat shopping!!
 
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