Picking Our Ride

For a sailing adventure, your boat is not only your home, it’s your livelihood. The boat selection is very personal in nature; however, there are few general themes that appear in all sailing forums when discussing purchasing a vessel:  find the right balance between sailing capability, comfort, and budget.  For us, it needs to handle cruising the Caribbean with the potential to cross the Atlantic, a crew of two full timers plus a constant rotation of friends, as much storage as possible for toys (kite boards, kayaks, paragliding, scuba, water trampolines, jet skis, etc – ok, well maybe not the last two), and a budget of $100 to $150k.  Also, since we are planning on sailing for only a year (not a long time in the cruising world), we wanted to keep resale value and time to resale a boat in mind.

We input all the above attributes into the intrawebs and the magical tubes that connect the world told us to focus our search on an early to mid 2000’s, three cabin, production monohull cruiser between 39 to 45 feet.

Production sailboats refer to mass-produced designs by large-scale boat manufacturers. There are four main monohull boat manufacturers for offshore cruisers in our size range: Beneteau, Jeanneau, Catalina, and Hunter. While all types of production cruisers have been sailed around the world in all types of weather and seas, Beneteau and Jenneau the known for the best quality and structural integrity in the production class, followed by Catalina, then Hunter.

When we finally got serious on the boat search, we were pretty late in the game for our planned departure date. We had 2 ½ months to find, close, and outfit a boat. This limited our search to turnkey, or close to turnkey vessels. In other words, Boats ready to sail shortly after closing. To add in some additional challenge, our search was focused on the opposite side of the US since our sail plan was the Caribbean with potentially Europe after.

We centered the search on two sailing hubs, Annapolis, Maryland and Fort Lauderdale, FL, and boats within driving distance as you don't make a purchase this large sight unseen. This took our list of over 50 boats down to a much more manageable sixteen. To help us compare each boat, we created a massive spreadsheet that listed the price, engine hours, and various equipment that each included.

A small snippet of the huge spreadsheet we used to help compare and contrast boats

Due to the impending bad weather that was about to set in the Northeast, aka Winter, we headed to Annapolis first.  Northern boats attracted us as they are generally better maintained due to the colder climate and yearly winter haul outs. After almost 1,000 miles, 7 boats, 1 night of karaoking in NYC, there were a few interesting vessels but nothing that truly grabbed our attention. The weekend really helped us better understand the layouts, vessels, and equipment that attracted us, so it was not all for lost.

The following weekend, we took off to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for another boat packed weekend filled with long hours behind the wheel traversing the Florida landscape. We visited only four boats this weekend, all Beneteaus: 461, 423, 411, and 393 (For the non sailing readers, the first two digits are the length of the boat. A Beneteau 461 is 46ft, Beneteau 423 is 42ft, etc.)

The 461 was to much boat for us, which we kind of new going in but wanted to see it anyways. The 411 was a charter boat. It was very well taken care of versus other charter boats we had seen, but the higher engine hours put it as a maybe on our list. 

The 423 was a newer boat (2005) with very low engine hours and extremely well cared for. We actually thought this was going to be the winner until we saw Viatori, the Beneteau 393. 

Our concern with 39ft boats was always the space.  Three cabin layouts of 39ft sailboats leave little galley storage space, small lazarettes (storage area in the cockpit of the boat), and tight aft quarters. The current occupants of Viatori were a Canadian family of 5. After seeing their set up and discussing the space and storage trade offs we decided 39ft would be sufficient.

Now just finalizing the documentation and trying to close on her this week! Check out our http://www.nolandinsight.com/the-boat/ page for more details on the boat that will soon be our home.