Friday, August 19, 2011

NKOTB - The Right Boat!

NKOTB (New Kids On The Boat) ... A Weekly Series Sharing Our Thoughts and Questions as Beginner Sailors and Future Cruisers.  NKOTB or Experienced Cruiser ... Tell Us Your Thoughts!

If Ken and I had won the lottery or lived in a perfect world, we'd say the "right" cruising boat for us would be large and luxurious with every modern gadget and convenience on board.  However, our efforts at winning the lottery haven't worked out and we most definitely don't live in a perfect world!

When we first caught the bug to go cruising, Ken and I knew it would be on a sailboat.  After all, sailboats are so much cheaper to travel on and it really was the only option for us.  We had imagined ourselves cruising around in a nice catamaran.  However, it didn't take long to realize that those catamarans cost as much as our house!  That's when we really started thinking about what the "right" cruising boat would be for us. 

When searching for the "right" cruising sailboat, it had to be:
  • Cheap -   We already had enough monthly bills and couldn't afford to finance a sailboat, so we quickly decided to sell a piece of land that we owned.  I don't think we spent five minutes making this decision.  We knew we wanted to cruise, and we wanted a sailboat to start the journey as soon as possible.  The land sold really fast and it provided us with $15,000 to spend on our sailboat. 
  • In Good Shape - Although we needed a cheap boat, that didn't mean a crappy boat!  We didn't want a major project boat that would consume all of our time .. and money.  We already have way too much to maintain and to sell, so we wanted a sailboat that was in good shape.  We were willing to provide a new paint job and some minor repairs, but we required a boat with good rigging, good sails, a good diesel engine, and a lot of loving from their current owners!
  • Less Than 38 Feet - Since Ken and I had never sailed, we agreed that 38 feet was plenty for us NKOTB!  Any sailboat larger than 38 feet would not only be overwhelming to learn to sail and manuever, but would also be more expensive to own.  The larger the boat, the more maintenance costs and the higher the marina fees!
  • Roomy and Comfortable - We'll be living on our sailboat full-time, so we wanted a boat that we could envision ourselves hanging out in during the evenings and rainy days.  An open layout with a  roomy cockpit and living quarters were a necessity.   An aft cabin was also a requirement for storage and more importantly, for our daughter to come visit!
The above were really our only requirements for the "right" cruising sailboat.  Since we'll be coastal cruisers, we didn't require a boat for bluewater sailing.  We also didn't require our sailboat to have refrigeration, a/c, and all the latest electronics and cruising gear.  After all, we needed an inexpensive sailboat and the above requirements were more important.  We knew we couldn't have everything at once!  Also, electronics seem to be getting better and cheaper all the time, so we don't mind purchasing our own before leaving.

We began looking for the "right" cruising sailboat in June, 2009.  We looked at a ton of sailboats online, viewed quite a few in person, and even drove several hours away to Kemah, Texas to look at an Irwin 37.  Five months later we found the "right" cruising sailboat, right here in New Orleans.  In November, and on my birthday, we purchased a 1987 Catalina 30! 

What made the Catalina 30 the "right" cruising sailboat for us?  Well ... it was cheap, in good shape, less than 38 feet and very roomy and comfortable!  As soon as we walked inside the sailboat we knew we were done looking.  Every boat that we had looked at left us feeling empty ... until now.  We had seen many larger boats (including the Irwin 37), and they weren't near as roomy as the Catalina 30.  Also, most of the sailboats that we looked at in our price range needed a lot of work ... not this one!  This boat needed some cosmetic repairs on the hull and deck, but that was about it.

We purchased the boat for $500 less than our budget, then saved every spare cent over the winter months.  In April, we put our sailboat in the boatyard (for 2.5 months) and gave her a new paint job on the hull and bottom, which also included repairing a bunch of blisters.  While the boat was "on the hard", we also took the opportunity to replace the thru-hulls, tighten the strut, replace the cutlass bearing, and replace the 2-blade prop with a 3-blade prop.  (Even though the 2-blade prop drags less, we didn't care for the lack of control the 2-blade prop gave us).  We did all of the work ourselves (with the help of friends), which saved us a lot of money.  We didn't have a survey (another few hundred saved), so it was good to know the bottom was freshly painted and everything was in order.  The new paint on the hull really brightened her up too! 

Nirvana at home after her new paint job!
For less than $18,000 we purchased our sailboat and did all of the above work.  We're really pleased with our purchase!  As our budget allows, we'll make adjustments and add cruising gear to Nirvana to get her ready for cruising.

So, the point of this article is to be realistic and patient when finding your "right" cruising sailboat!  Don't settle for a sailboat just because it's in your budget.  Also, don't set such high standards that you're never able to buy a boat or leave the dock!  Know what you can afford, how many hours of labor you're willing to put into it, and what your immediate needs are for cruising.  Don't worry about having everything on your boat before cruising ... we won't!  A lot of things will be added after we start cruising and figure out what we really need.

Get what you can afford now!  We believe it's better to have an adequate boat for cruising in the near future instead of an ideal boat that we won't be able to afford for another 10 years!  Do you agree?  What are your requirements for the "right" cruising boat?  Any Catalina owners or reviews?  We'd love to hear from you!

Note:  Here are the previous posts from this series.  Check them out and feel free to give us your advice!
Hasta luego ... until then.  Mid-Life Cruising!


Windtraveler said...

Great post Cheryl - Scott actually owned a Catalina 30 years ago, before we met. Great boats and very roomy for their size. Excited to hear how she evolves over time!

San San said...

Nirvana is such a pretty boat! We prefer to buy a "naked" boat, one that we can put together with the gear WE like! Since GR is an awesome systems engineer we never have to wonder about the quality of work! Looking forward to your next post!

Kyra and Rick said...

So glad you found the right boat for you! I'm with you guys on the three blade prop - we are replacing our folding 2 blade prop with a 3-blade prop, while great for sailing, the folding prop just has too much slip when motoring...

Sandee said...

Yep, you took all the important issues to boat buying and that's why you have succeeded in getting the right boat for you. Lots of folks don't do this and then are unhappy with their purchase. Aft cabins on cruisers I wouldn't have. Too difficult to load and unload. We just step on our boat and no climbing up stairs. Just another example of what you need to consider.

Have a terrific day and weekend ahead. :)

Drew Frye said...

Everyone makes there own choices, and I like yours. For 2 people, 30 feet is very workable. I have a 32 and I like the idea that it's not to big for me to man-handle a sail or anchor if things get tangled. Certainly much of the move to big boats is like the move to huge houses; social pressure.

A few thoughts:
* Electronics. VHF, depth, autohelm, and a simple GPS are needed. Everything else is for play. My boat came with a chart plotter, but I prefer to use paper. What ever you chose, don't feel you MUST go fancy, because you don't. I do about 2,000 miles per year of coastal cruising, though it's all within 200 miles of home.
* In the South ventilation and an open plan tops many cabins. My boat was built in Canada, and the aft cabin ventilation stinks.
* AC is a mixed blessing. Sometimes it's nice, but it glues you to the dock. Though we have a portable unit, my wife likes it, I took it off 2 weeks ago. I don't use it once the highs go below 90F. For us, that means it is only useful a few weeks each year.
* Working on the boat. As a result, you understand your boat. Future troubles will be less trouble. That makes you a sailor.
* Yes, you need auto helm. Once you start doing long days, you'll know. @-person cruising involves a lot of single-handed sailing, and the autohelm is a third crew that doesn't complain.
* Radar. Never wanted it. If I lived in Maine....

I doubt I'll ever cruise full-time. There are too many shore-side attractions I like and I won't apologize for that. But I'm increasing my time and mileage each year, and LIKING it. Best wishes!

Latitude 43 said...

You usually know when you have found the right boat, when you get your first look. This happened to me three times :0 Now we have a rather large boat, only because Deb freaks out sleeping in a tube, so I needed a decent size cabin if I want to cruise. It will be a lot of work, but I do my own repairs, so hopefully that will keep costs low. If we have to go back to work, we would still live aboard, so the room will be welcome. Apparently I'm clingy.

The Catalina 30 is a great boat. Most popular boat in Lake Ontario I think. You made a good choice. It will be interesting reading about your upgrades, but don't get too carried away with adding stuff. I know, I should talk.

I like the series. Good read.

Anonymous said...

I'd also note that boat length is a good rule of thumb but not a be all end all measurement. Our 32ft boot displaces more weight than most 40 footers. Its a lot wider and has a ton of storage.

Bowsprits and boomkins can also add to a boat length for the purposes of a marina's fees. Sundowner is considered a 32fter but we're actually 42 ft overall from the tip of our wind vane to the tip of our bowsprit!

Ken n Cheryl said...

Great info! Glad to hear that others feel the Catalina 30 is a good boat! We'll definitely have an auto-pilot and it is a good point that the length of the boat includes the davits, bowsprit, etc. Hopefully we won't be at marinas too often.

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