Not a blue water boat you say? This baby crossed the Atlantic. All 5 feet 4 inches of her.
For anyone who has ever tried to get decent information on sea-worthy boats will know, it’s not exactly an easy task. As I mentioned in my post about Strictly Sail this year, searching in our new price range of below $50,000 and in the size range of 30′-40′ boats, the results are a bit overwhelming…like 3,602 results overwhelming. For some people out there who have been around sailing for a while, winnowing down that many choices to something more manageable would be no problem at all. But for us, we were at a loss. How can we figure out which of these boats would serve our family well over a considerable amount of time?
What we really needed was a good list of boats that fall into the acceptable range for durability and safety on the open ocean, aka Blue Water Boats. “No problem!”, we say, “let’s just search for blue water boats and see what we get.” Yea…right. Search that phrase and I promise you that you will find a million different opinions on every boat on the market, and that’s because the idea of a blue water boat is so subjective. There are boats that have safely crossed oceans that other cruisers wouldn’t think of using farther than 5 miles from a coastline. After doing quite a bit of research, we’ve found that our top requirements are a stable boat preferably with a full keel (though other types are still an option), as much tankage as possible for fresh water and fuel, good storage, good construction, and preferably one having 2 private cabins so that Carter can have his own space (and so can we!)
But which boats fit that description? Well, that’s where the Mahina Expeditions crew comes in. This group has a lot of experience with helping people choose cruising boats, and even does a day long seminar that we will probably attend at next year’s Stictly Sail. One of their best resources (in my opinion) is a listing of every type of boat that they consider to be blue water quality, along with information about how to distinguish different qualities of boat systems. We’ve been able to use this list to help narrow down the choices quite a bit, and have a much smaller grouping now of boats that we think would be really good for our family. It is nice to have some extra reassurance that we aren’t going to have to settle for a lesser quality boat due to our reduced budget.
Now all we have to do is wait until we can make one our new home! Its not as easy as it sounds, trust me.
Whoever first started scheduling Strictly Sail Chicago in the middle of January was a genius. Winter has never been our favorite part of the year (hello, planning to move to the Tropics for more than just the piña coladas) but this year has been doubly hard with the knowledge that we could have moved to Florida instead of staying here to pad our purse a little more. This past Saturday we were able to leave winter behind for a few hours and spur the excitement we’ve been missing for the last couple months. Just one day of being able to talk openly with people about our dream of cruising does wonders for our attitudes.
Three Cruising Budgets, Snapshots from the Life of Jimmy Cornell, and Perspectives from a Cruising Couple seminars filled our schedule. These seminars weren’t really intended as fact finding for us, in fact we hardly learned any really new information at all. What they lacked in new information, they made up for in validation and motivation. It’s one thing to read a bunch of cruising blogs and forums and compile a $1000-$1500/month budget that we think is realistic; it reaches the next level to hear the founder of Blue Water Sailing confirm that for us in his Three Cruising Budgets seminar. (He actually described four budgets, but the highest was labeled “Silly and Unnecessary” aka why are you even in this seminar, just go hire a 5 man crew for your million dollar yacht.)
The boats were what we really wanted to see. We won’t be buying a new boat when we leave, of course, and we probably won’t even be looking at buying a used version of any of the brands available to tour due to quality and dependability recommendations; what we wanted was to feel the size of the living space. Last year, we hadn’t done a lot of research into boats when we came and toured all of the boats. We left that day saying, “yeah, the smaller ones are okay, but I think we should look at boats in the 40-45′ range.” And look I did…at the price tag. There are hardly any good boats on the used market in the 40-45′ range that are under $50,000, and especially not ones that are close to being ready for ocean voyaging.
This year we needed to go in with the question “what can we do” instead of “what do we want to do”. It’s amazing how much that question changes your perspective, because we quickly realized that 30-35′ boats would probably do just fine for us and one little boy. (Depending on the boat, of course.) We are now looking for boats in that range with one cabin/quarter berth layout or two cabin layout (which is much harder to find in older boats that size). To be honest, I was a bit shocked to see how much that downsize of 5-10 feet slashed the price tremendously. If you search yachtworld.com for boats 38-45′ in the US between $30k-$50k, you get 197 boats boats to choose from. And let me tell you, they aren’t exactly the cream of the crop most of the time. If you search 30-38′ instead, you get 757. That’s a significant difference in selection, making it much more likely for us to be able to find what we are looking for in our budget.
While we had intended to stay for 2 days of the show, winter fought back and forced us to return home early with a nasty ice storm that came through Chicago on Sunday. We didn’t want to brave the ice in my mom’s car that she let us borrow – Thanks Mom! – because my brakes went out just as we were getting to their house Friday night. (Whole story in itself.) It seems that we will have to wait until next year to get a good second day, since last year Dan spent most of the day on his back on the floor outside of the bathroom of Navy Pier or puking his guts out inside of said bathroom. Even just one day though was enough to refuel our systems until the end of the dreariness when we can start sailing and diving again.
|The interior of a Beneteau Oceanis 45 looks inviting and livable.
So its the middle of February in Illinois… about as far from the sailing life as you can imagine. To keep our spirits up we visited Strictly Sail Chicago at the end of January. There were quite a few useful seminars on cruising. Of particular interest was Jimmy Cornell’s seminar on World Cruising Routes. For those of you who don’t know, Jimmy is the author of World Cruising Routes which is the best selling cruising atlas of all time. This guy knows what he’s doing. His main point was to make sure that you are in the right place at the right time and not in the wrong place at the wrong time. Seems obvious, but he is extremely detailed in his seminar about which months have the best winds to travel any part of the world.
Strictly Sail Chicago also has quite a few boats on display (for indoors, at least) that we were able to look through. To be honest I was quite disappointed in the Island Packet Estero. At over $350,000 and only 36ft, you don’t get very much boat for the money. In fairness the boat does not feel like 36ft inside but it didn’t compare to the much cheaper an larger Beneteau Oceanis 45. Cruising World Magazine‘s newest edition actually has a wonderful review of this newly designed boat. I must say that I am impressed. The owner’s cabin features a queen sized bed with plenty of storage. Two heads, ample storage space, and you don’t feel like you are in a sardine can while in the cabin! For cruising features it has a larger than average 151 gallon water tank but a quite small 21 gallon holding tank. I am not sure if that’s an issue for crusing or not… just thinking out loud.
That’s it for now… hopefully the weather breaks soon and I can start accruing dives for my divemaster training and get some sailing experience!