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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:

  1. 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...
  2. Set a total boat purchase and outfitting budget
  3. 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.
  4. 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 purchase budget.
  5. Go shopping and buy your boat. Boats that have gear you want which is in good condition should be of more value to you.
  6. Outfit the boat and go cruising
  7. 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 about.

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.

 

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