We used to believe there was such a thing as a "perfect yacht." At best,
we've learned, it only exists in the context of ones cruising plans and
personal desires. Why do we have this page on our site? Simply because
we use it as a growing list of desirable characteristics that WE
want in a future cruising yacht. A short explanation of each feature is
provided, which is designed to provide you with insight as to why we have
an item listed.
Every boat is a compromise. Our philosophy starting out was "go
small, go now" as Lin and Larry Pardey so often preach. We went small on
boat and big on systems - but we went. Had we waited to be able to
afford a larger boat, we would likely still be at work (or not!) with
the downturn in economy that appeared within a year of our leaving.
So... our advice to wanna-be cruisers reading this page looking for
ideas on how to prepare the "ideal" boat is the following:
- If you have a boat suitable for offshore cruising, go now. Many
cruisers we meet didn't wait for the "perfect" boat but went with what
they had. If you don't yet have a boat, read on...
- Set a total boat purchase and outfitting budget
- Identify gear you want to have on board and assess gear prices. If
you will have someone else install your gear, assess labor rates for
gear installation. Unless you are frugal and good at budgets, multiply
this number by a factor of 1.2 to 1.5 to account for all the little
things used in installing gear (e.g. metal working, electrical
components, books, etc.). This is your outfitting budget.
- Subtract the outfitting budget from the total budget. Also
subtract sales tax (if applicable), title and documentation fees, and
any other fees you will be likely to incur (e.g. charges for
shipping/delivering a boat from another location). This is the boat
- Go shopping and buy your boat. Boats that have gear you want which
is in good condition should be of more value to you.
- Outfit the boat and go cruising
- Learn for yourself what the "ideal" boat is and build dreams to go
again - with the "ideal" boat.
If you're new to offshore cruising boats, one resource
we would highly recommend is the Offshore Cruising Encyclopedia by Steve
and Linda Dashew. Whether you subscribe to their storm management
principles or yacht design characteristics is irrelevant; this resource
provides an objective look at the many equipment options available and
is invaluable if you don't already have years of experience messing
around cruising boats.
Our Dream Boat
Here are some random thoughts we have on what
we'd like in an "ideal" cruising boat:
Size: We've found that the two primary
limitations at our present 31' of space are entertaining space (one
guest couple for dinner) and room for visitors (one very good
friend for short stays). Going to 40' often addresses these two issues
reasonably well but gear and provisions are still often stuffed into
small spaces. It seems that those cruisers with 50'+ of space are
reasonably happy and over 60' we hear very few complaints that couldn't
be addressed by a different choice in compromises (e.g. trade performance for
storage). As our first "big" boat, 31' was quite appropriate to learn
in, especially in big seas and high winds. In hindsight, we would have
gone with a boat in the 36-40' range. We'll look at options in the 45-60' range for
our next boat and probably wind up in the mid-50' range.
Rig/Sails: We're quite happy with our cutter
rig and would choose it again. We miss the furling on the inner forestay
that we removed in Seattle and would consider adding that back in if we
were to continue to cruise the mid-latitudes during the recognized
season. Our spinnaker has seen MUCH less use than anticipated and we
likely should have left it out of our inventory. However, friends report
that their Code Zero sail on a removable furling drum is more versatile
and sees more use.
Hull: We'd likely move from heavy
displacement to a more moderate design trying to balance performance
with load carrying ability. We like the modified full keel of the
Crealock boats as they protect both the rudder and prop. We'd move away
from the canoe stern as it consumes too much interior space without
enough added benefit. A swim/boarding platform would be nice but we're
quite taken with our wind vane self-steering and don't know how we'd
combine the two.
Hull Material: For mid-latitude sailing,
fiberglass is wholly acceptable. If our cruising plans evolve to high
latitudes, we may likely develop an affinity for aluminum or steel. Many
European boats are metal while most North American boats are GRP.
Interior Layout: The interior design
that we're growing to like includes a centerline aft berth, amidships
pilot berth, open cabin for entertaining, den as a segregated
work/writing area (convertible to cabin), and a guest cabin to
accommodate another couple on board for extended visits. The navigation
station should be away from the open cockpit to minimize opportunities
for water intrusion and ideally should be situated away from the pilot
berth to enable use of the radio while the off-watch person is sleeping.
Deck Layout: We'll likely move to a
center cockpit boat with either a hard dodger or small pilot house. The
center cockpit allows an aft cabin with a centerline queen berth and
provides a great entertaining area outside. The pilothouse on
Raven was quite
nice for watchkeeping when we helped our friends sail their boat from
Tonga to New Zealand. Wide and clear side decks would be nice and Cath
wants "granny bars" on either side of the mast to enable easier working
at the mast while underway.
Gear Space: Practically every cruiser
who works on their engine dreams of an engine room they can play cards
in. We'd simply like to have good access to gear space without needing
to be a neurosurgeon to install or maintain it.
Provision/Storage Space: The necessity
for odd-shaped stowage spaces on a 31' boat is self-evident. However, we
envy those cruisers with big square spaces under settees and squared out
cabinets. In addition to not needing to cram stuff into lockers, we'd
like to have extra stowage space to carry art and gifts that we obtain
along the way.
Equipment: We like the gear we have
today (see equipment section) and
would make only minor additions/changes. Electronics would be better
integrated and thought-out from the start. We'd add a dedicated
generator and full dive gear including compressor. Life raft deployment
should be an integrated part of the design of a new boat
(dedicated interior locker with easy deployment). We'd switch to an
Aquapro or Caribe RIB
dinghy with a Yamaha 15hp motor, all stowed on dinghy davits while
island hopping and in permanent chocks on deck for passages. A washer
would be nice on a larger boat, as would a dryer for high latitudes
(unnecessary in the tropics).
Climate Control: We've used our diesel
heater more than we would have thought and would install one again while
outfitting. Air conditioning is something we would consider during
heating installation, especially if we were considering long stays in
equatorial locations such as Thailand.
Electrical: At close to 700 amps
on Felicity, we're already used to a relatively large battery capacity. We'd look at
1000-2000 amps depending on boat size and charging system design. Note
that usable capacity when cruising is typically 35% of total capacity
(batteries are typically run between the 50% and 85% charge marks). We
would also wire the boat for both 110/220, preferably without the weight
of a transformer.
Fuel Capacity: We'd like to have at
least a 1000 mile range under power. Fuel capacity seems to be lacking
in a lot of the "offshore" production boats. We would love to never
again see jerry jugs on deck.
Communications: While radio email is
cost-effective, the system is limited by propagation and land-based
amateur support. Today's alternative options are out of our budget but
hopefully this will change over the next several years. The best
alternative we see today is Iridium with worldwide coverage but at a
whopping $1.50/minute. The SSB radio is certainly useful for checking in
to radio nets and communicating with fellow cruisers. If an electronic
autopilot is the primary steering mechanism, SSB interference should be
minimized or eliminated.
Heads: As they say, two heads are better
than one. And while that makes two heads to clean/maintain, at least
you've got a spare if one starts acting up. With enough water capacity,
we'd consider switching the heads to fresh water flush to eliminate the
calcification in the hoses. We'd also like at least one stall shower.
Galley: Two layouts we like are a large
traditional U-shaped or a passageway to the aft cabin (e.g. in a center cockpit
boat). Stove should be either a three or four-burner as two is sometimes
not enough when cooking for guests. A microwave would be useful to
reduce cabin heat in the tropics. The refrigerator and freezer in a
larger boat should be separated and both top and front loading for the
refrigeration would be nice.
Finish Quality: Our current boat is
built by Ta Shing Yacht Builders in Taiwan. After visiting many, many
boat shows we have to say that we're quite taken with the build quality
of our boat. Other Ta Shing boats exude the same quality and we would
consider other production boats produced by the Ta Shing yard including
the Bill Dixon designed Taswell series.
Build New vs. Refit Used
While this may come down to a factor of money
and time, there are benefits to each option. Going out for the first
time, we're glad we went the refit route. It's been an excellent
learning experience and we wound up with a much less expensive and
better prepared boat than had we gone with a new boat. In hindsight, we should have
broadened our search outside of the US to look for boats that were
already outfitted to our standards as there are some great deals to be
had. Yacht World
provides an excellent search engine to use for far-flung boat searches.
There are many production boats that have
caught our eye and that we would research more when the time comes to
purchase another boat. The best cruising layout we've found, by far, is
on the Moody 54. Having only seen the plans online, we can't speak to
the build quality but features we like include the centerline aft berth,
amidships pilot berth, open cabin for entertaining, den as a segregated
work/writing area, and guest cabin to have another couple on board for extended
visits. Other designs we'd like to get to know better include Hallberg-Rassey, Taswell, Hylas, Hans Christian, Tayana and Passport. There are
also numerous European-built boats that we are only beginning to learn
The lure to building a semi-custom boat is to
have it done the way you want. Having now cruised and lived aboard for
several years, we feel we can adequately express our desires to mould an
existing boat design to fit our needs. However, we don't yet feel that
we have the experience to spec a totally custom design.