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Longtime lurker and reader looking for advice and suggestions for a livaboard/cruising boat.Have enjoyed reading the board for a few yrs and I am currently in the market for small cruising boat and thought I would look for advice from the board. Will be closing on my house in a couple of weeks and finally able to do some sailing.

Still a novice sailor, owned a newport 28 a few yrs ago and a bit rusty but eager to get back into things.
Looking for something under 20-30k or so for purchase. If I can keep it under that price range I have money to put into refiting and adding new sails, wind vane, solar etc. Once it starts going over about 30 The refitting will be squeezed a bit. This certainly puts me into the budget boat catagory, just hoping its not too big of a project boat (Ive owned before so understand that a boat is always a project of sorts)
I just don't want to spend a yr refitting.

Would like to find something for the carribean, mx belize etc, will be doing a lot of single handing so doesn't have to be huge, also on a tight budget so can't be huge :). Ideally something in the 30-35ft range, I will be living aboard at least part time so more room would be nice if I can afford it, however anything over 35 or so I think might be a bit much for someone with my limited skill set, so something a bit smaller might be nice.

At that budget I don't get to be picky about what brand exactly, it will come down to best condition at that price. So just looking for suggestion from the knowledgable crowd here as well as possible tips on boats that someone might know is for sale. Also would love some advice on some of the models I ve been internet shopping at. Hopefully I ll be looking at a few local boats around my home base but ideally It will be a boat on the east coast/se.

Have seen a few of the following boats in my price range which suprise me so don't know if they are total projects or not.
C&C 35/36. These are about my favorite
Even a few CS36, I hear these are great,(so wait these would be my favorite)
Some later model Ericson 35 mk3 or even the 32 or 34 (ok I really like these as well)
Even some sabre 34 and a Bristol 35.5
All of these I would normally think would be out of my price range but was suprised to find a few.

Other choices Tartan 34, Bristol 34, Pearson 365/ Pearson 35,Cal 34, and a couple of cal 35s which I really like but I believe would require trucking from a lake.

Smaller possibilities are Yankee 30s, Morgan 323, smaller C&C. A part of me is attracted to
a small easily handled boat in this size range, but I think living aboard with the tiny galley would bug me.

So any suggestions or glaring problems with that list?
 

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For the cruising you describe, the size range, and your budget, you are looking at older boats (70s to early 80s) and finding a good one is going to be a challenge. Many of the larger boats you mention are going to above the top end of your budget or have major issues. I think you will need to be flexible about make and model and look for ones in good condition with no major issues.
 

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While all boats over about ten years old will have 'issues, mostly due to OEM gear getting into the later half their designed life, any and all electronics will really be in their last useful years.... and, yes, most instruments can work reliability for 20 years, but just do not take it for granted that they will.
At 30 years, any maintained boat will have had the standing rig replaced once already, also the running rigging. Diesels can be worn out or like new, totally depending on maintenance and hours of use. Look for a believable record of annual oil changes for engine and trans.
Sails are the other "main engine" and likely to need replacing on most used boats. A sail builder can give you a 'ball park' general quote for a new main and jib for most production boats.
Note Jim's excellent advice for avoiding major issues is good but unlikely to guide you to the real big expenses, like Re-Bedding ALL of the deck fittings if this vital work has been neglected (out of sight and out of mind.......)
Good record keeping from the prior owner(s) and a Survey will inform your decision.

Happy shopping! We bought a boat with some known issues (i.e. a fixer upper) in the 90's and still have it. We bought a very high quality boat, both for design and construction. As boats, age, the underlying build quality gains more and more importance...

Wonderful Lifestyle, but do go into this with eyes wide open.
:)
 

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While all boats over about ten years old will have 'issues, mostly due to OEM gear getting into the later half their designed life, any and all electronics will really be in their last useful years.... and, yes, most instruments can work reliability for 20 years, but just do not take it for granted that they will.
At 30 years, any maintained boat will have had the standing rig replaced once already, also the running rigging. Diesels can be worn out or like new, totally depending on maintenance and hours of use. Look for a believable record of annual oil changes for engine and trans.
Sails are the other "main engine" and likely to need replacing on most used boats. A sail builder can give you a 'ball park' general quote for a new main and jib for most production boats.
Note Jim's excellent advice for avoiding major issues is good but unlikely to guide you to the real big expenses, like Re-Bedding ALL of the deck fittings if this vital work has been neglected (out of sight and out of mind.......)
Good record keeping from the prior owner(s) and a Survey will inform your decision.

Happy shopping! We bought a boat with some known issues (i.e. a fixer upper) in the 90's and still have it. We bought a very high quality boat, both for design and construction. As boats, age, the underlying build quality gains more and more importance...

Wonderful Lifestyle, but do go into this with eyes wide open.
:)
This is a good analysis of older boats. I own one and have maintained it well... but the electronics though working perfectly are long in the tooth and the displays are nothing compared to the current offerings. This can be a big upgrade... if it includes... AIS, RADAR... MFD, VHF, dash dislays, transducers and the backbone... OUCH There there are things like AP, windlass, refer, heating... these can be repaired and are not super expensive to replace.
Sails are normal upgrades and you can make do with older sails but at some point they need to be replaced. Running rigging is not real spendy and can be done "line by line".
I don't know much about diesels. Mine has been well maintained and starts easily... but it's more than 3 decades old. I wouldn't re-power unless faced with a multi thousands dollar repair.
Age and Use are different animals. Old can be in good working order. New and used hard can be in poor working order Things like winches and blocks should last decades.
Doing upgrade is part of the "joy of boat owning"... and to be expected cost wise. Expect to spend when you own because things age, break and become outdated.
 

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Here as some concerns that I have when looking at older boats:
1) chainplates - original or replaced (even more important, are they accessible for inspection and/or replacement if necessary)
2) tanks (water, fuel, waste) - original or replaced (if original, are they accessible without tearing up the cabin soles or having to cut out fiberglass)
3) teak decks - old, poorly maintained can lead to water intrusion into the fiberglass decking through screws

My thought is that some of the best buys on older boats are those that have already gone through recent refits by someone else!

Jim
 

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I've often mentioned that I consider livability to be number one on the list for any boat one is considering moving onto. 98% of the liveaboard boats sit at anchor, on a mooring or at the dock much more than they sail, even long distance cruisers. So, you want your boat to be a comfortable home, with a good galley to cook meals in, with plenty of storage for your personal gear, provisions, spares and boat gear. A comfortable bed is a real necessity.
If your eventual goal is to get off the dock (no air conditioning) and head to the tropics, then ventilation is a huge consideration.
Personally, I don't think a lot of electronics are very necessary. Lots of folks get by with a tablet or two with GPS for navigation instead of a chart plotter, most on here sail w/o radar, many w/o MFDs, AIS or other expensive gear. A swung compass, a VHF, a depth finder, a good pair of binoculars and a hand bearing compass will get you by, once you have learned navigation principles. I also think cruising guides are far better than charts for local information.
As for a project boat, unless working on the boat is the point, owning a boat you can't sail for years isn't the best way to get into the more pleasurable parts of boat ownership. Working on a boat when you are living aboard is a real PITA, even if it's just something like doing interior varnish or engine repairs. We do a lot of exterior varnishing in the forepeak, so those cushions are stored in the salon taking up space and getting in the way of our daily lives.
Good luck and I hope we see you out here one day.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for all the replies, yes at this budget I am not picky on make or model. I figure upgrades will be started with the basics; ie keep water out, mast up, engine running. I figure on replacing the standing rigging and taking a hard look at chainplates, (single handing and my learning curve I want to know the rig is secure). Probably replacing sails,though that depends on age and condition. Haul and check through hulls, rudder and keel bolts. Other upgrades and refit will follow depending on condition and how the boat is equipped.

Have a list of boats that are of interest, just have not yet planned on how to get to them all in a reasonable manner, to add to the mix is a few are in the northwest and some of those states have a quarantine. The local market (PNW) doesn't have a large choice in my budget, although a very well equipped cal 34 did pop up, I may try and get a look at it soon. The other problem with a boat in the PNW is getting it down the coast, it would have to be moved soon, and since that coast is probably no place for someone of my limited experience would probably require hiring a captain for at least part of the voyage.

Anyone have any thoughts on a cal 34? Seems a nice size, but seem to remember Jeff H saying something about the build quality or hull deck joint. A few C&C 36s and 35s have caught my eye but understand they have cored hulls, so was wondering how hard it is to detect wet core on those boats? For smaller boats I have seen a few Pearson 323 and even 34s.

One other consideration is finding something already in my likely cruising are; mx, carib, rio dulce etc, but whats it like doing a refit in those areas?

Sorry lots of questions, I still at the stage of trying to narrow my search, east coast and southeast have lots of boats, and I could do a road trip starting at one end or the other and hit a good bit of territory, west coast is closer but not as many boats. Am in process of getting preliminary info on several boats this week so will probably have a few questions on specifics then.

Thanks once again for the responses, I have read the board for yrs as I have had several periods of being ready to buy a boat, but a few life setbacks popped up (joined the cancer club for a short time) During all that time reading and trying to educate myself from all the knowledgeable people helped with my sanity, I always wondered if everyone here realized how helpful this place can be. Anyway thanks again and sorry in advance for all the questions that will follow.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks for all the replies, yes at this budget I am not picky on make or model. I figure upgrades will be started with the basics; ie keep water out, mast up, engine running. I figure on replacing the standing rigging and taking a hard look at chainplates, (single handing and my learning curve I want to know the rig is secure). Probably replacing sails,though that depends on age and condition. Haul and check through hulls, rudder and keel bolts. Other upgrades and refit will follow depending on condition and how the boat is equipped.

Have a list of boats that are of interest, just have not yet planned on how to get to them all in a reasonable manner, to add to the mix is a few are in the northwest and some of those states have a quarantine. The local market (PNW) doesn't have a large choice in my budget, although a very well equipped cal 34 did pop up, I may try and get a look at it soon. The other problem with a boat in the PNW is getting it down the coast, it would have to be moved soon, and since that coast is probably no place for someone of my limited experience would probably require hiring a captain for at least part of the voyage.

Anyone have any thoughts on a cal 34? Seems a nice size, but seem to remember Jeff H saying something about the build quality or hull deck joint. A few C&C 36s and 35s have caught my eye but understand they have cored hulls, so was wondering how hard it is to detect wet core on those boats? For smaller boats I have seen a few Pearson 323 and even 34s.

One other consideration is finding something already in my likely cruising are; mx, carib, rio dulce etc, but whats it like doing a refit in those areas?

Sorry lots of questions, I still at the stage of trying to narrow my search, east coast and southeast have lots of boats, and I could do a road trip starting at one end or the other and hit a good bit of territory, west coast is closer but not as many boats. Am in process of getting preliminary info on several boats this week so will probably have a few questions on specifics then.

Thanks once again for the responses, I have read the board for yrs as I have had several periods of being ready to buy a boat, but a few life setbacks popped up (joined the cancer club for a short time) During all that time reading and trying to educate myself from all the knowledgeable people helped with my sanity, I always wondered if everyone here realized how helpful this place can be. Anyway thanks again and sorry in advance for all the questions that will follow.
I mean in the northeast and have a quarantine.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I think I just missed out on a fully equipped Cal 34 in my price range, it looked in pretty nice shape with everything from wind vane to watermaker. I have another boat but its in NY so won't have a chance to travel for another 10-12 days, hopefully it will still be around. One thing I was wondering about, are there any something besides a full survey you could have someone do? Would be nice if I could pay someone to do sort of a mini survey before trekking to NY, especially with the quarantine.
 

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You can certainly hire a surveyor to give a boat a quick look and report if he thinks it's worth further consideration. He can tell a lot by spending an hour on a boat. You won't get a fancy report of course.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
You can certainly hire a surveyor to give a boat a quick look and report if he thinks it's worth further consideration. He can tell a lot by spending an hour on a boat. You won't get a fancy report of course.
Thanks, I figured something like that. I have a boat in mind but its in NY, and with all the trouble of getting there I need a way to narrow it down a bit. If I can find a dozen or so to look out in NY then the quarantine would not be so bad.
I did just miss out on a cal34 that was well equipped, although it would have been a long trip to mx.
 

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I think you are on the right path as far as boat choices go. I would suggest stretching your budget a little. Buying a boat that has had all "the work" done to it and is in great shape. You mentioned upgrading sails, windvane, solar, others mention chain plates, standing rigging and electronics.

You could easily buy a boat for $25k and spend that and more getting it ready for the next adventure. You'll have been $50k into the boat and spent 2 years upgrading it. That same boat is now worth $35k. Shop for the boat that someone has done all the leg work for you. There will still be plenty to fix and spend money on but just a lot less of it.
 

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I think you are on the right path as far as boat choices go. I would suggest stretching your budget a little. Buying a boat that has had all "the work" done to it and is in great shape. You mentioned upgrading sails, windvane, solar, others mention chain plates, standing rigging and electronics.

You could easily buy a boat for $25k and spend that and more getting it ready for the next adventure. You'll have been $50k into the boat and spent 2 years upgrading it. That same boat is now worth $35k. Shop for the boat that someone has done all the leg work for you. There will still be plenty to fix and spend money on but just a lot less of it.
Yeah, I'm sure it will cost more than you figure once you get into it. I figure it s cheaper to buy already equipped vs buying all new, the problem is finding something at this price range. I found a cal 34 with vane,watermaker,solar, wind, windlass, good ground tackle for 25, I just couldn't get to it quick enough. Found a morgan 38 with some cruising equipment, 2 problems the price is so low there must be some problem and its on the rio dulce, so can't get to it. It seems I picked a great time to be out looking.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
So whats everyone thought on a cal 34? Later model mk3, fully equip, windvane/liferaft/solar/watermaker/wind gen/ssb and more. And who wants to help me out getting it down the coast from the PNW? ha. It was sold, but other buyer was contingent on selling their boat so I still have a chance. I may start a new thread about a cal 34 specifically to see if Jeff H would chime in.
 

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Can see multiple fronts you need to deal with here. The boat’s exact make and model isn’t necessarily the highest concern in the overall decision making.

I’m trying to be as objective as possible, although my own experience and situation is probably different; still fully working (but flexible - finally my tech. company team is quite independent and I can do most of my work remotely with a good internet connection), I have a home and can’t consider selling it for a boat, at the most could one day maybe consider renting it out and use the rent proceeds to support a convenient hopefully active cruising. Finally, my experience goes back to my childhood and with an ownership of 8 boats since from 24 to 46’ plus active racing and ocean cruising. I’m also a licensed skipper and an engineer - that’s somehow ;) important when considering cruising, especially on a budget. And I always had a tights Initial budget with almost twice that amount for the first two years refit and other costs - it always proved to be the bare minimum!

Done all that in the Caribbean for the last two years and cruised back to the US in April.

Budget: if looking at an initial budget of $30K think at least $60K within the first two years of ownership, not including a major expense like repowering. Also, as a safety net, be ready to lose this money in total at any stage and go back ashore if things are not going well for any reason.
Think also of the ongoing liveaboard and cruising overall expenses; Starting around $2K/month - without any major issue to deal with.

Location: if you are looking at the Caribbean, you better look for a boat with a good cruising inventory and very well maintained anywhere between Florida and Grenada - the ending point of many cruisers with a huge inventory, especially at this COVID economical situation. Bringing a boat at other area will take time, be expensive or close to practically impossible.

I would highly recommend that you first travel over to your preferred locations, visit marinas, speak with sailors there and better understand the local situation you’ll be facing. I’ve seen too many broken dreams out there and you really want this to be fun and safe life experience.

The location should be a good refitting base; a good boatyard, trades, supplies etc. Sint Maarten is probably the best - but expensive, Martinique is very good and Grenada is excellent. If you start in Florida, Ft. Lauderdale should be your best area.

Cruising/live aboard ratio: First, both has almost nothing to do with the common daysailor/weekender experience. For such plan you need to have a very good seamanship experience to start with. The more active cruising the more seamanship needed. - and a CREW!
If liveaboard-docked is what you’re mostly looking for, the boat need to be well equipped for this as well, you need a good a/c, galley, well working head, plumbing, pumps etc. etc. Plus, a good sailing capability as most islands will limit your stay to max 3-6 months and within the hurricanes belt you need to move south between July and October.

So here comes the boat selection... if you travel to the Caribbean you’ll hardly see cruisers smaller than 40’. For a good reason. This brings you back to the budget question. Yes, you can cruise and live aboard a 32-36’ boat but it is likely be very uncomfortable. - at least to my and most experienced cruisers standards.

All the boats mentioned are fine and there are more. The boats actual condition and level of maintenance and upgrades are your number one concern, considering you’re happy with the design and layout. A cheap poorly maintained boat may end up as the most expensive or a total write off...

so imho this is more or less the order of your action items. With this COVID situation it may take longer to safely travel over to the destinations spend at least weeks in understanding the situation, talk to people etc. before even looking at a purchase.
So thorough preparations are the key as with everything about sailing.

Best of luck!
 
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