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Mahina Expeditions, Offshore Cruising Training

Selecting a Cruising Boat

Selecting a cruising boat is one of the most important decisions in preparing for an offshore voyage and often is a pivotal point in the changing of dreams from "Let's take off and go cruising some time, into the reality of "Let's get outfitted and go". Obviously there isn't any single design perfect for everyone; the boat you choose should be safe, comfortable, well built, and ideally capable of fast passages and prove to be a good investment. The process of selecting and purchasing a boat for long distance cruising usually takes a minimum of six to 12 months.

First

you'll need to research boat types which suit your budget and cruising plans. Be patient, ask questions and learn everything you can and keep an open mind. If your plans are for coastal cruising you'll be able to consider a wider range of boats than those suited for long distance ocean passages. Secondly you'll need to locate, examine, survey, test sail, complete the purchase transaction and possibly ship or deliver your new boat to a place convenient for outfitting. If you make a poor choice you may be plagued with structural problems, leaks, slow uncomfortable passages, endless repairs and a low resale price.

I mention resale price now, because the money used for purchasing a cruising boat often represents a substantial part of many people's life savings. Although sailboats are rarely a "good" investment in strictly monetary terms, you'll want to recoup as much of your original purchase price as possible when it comes time to sell.

Size and Cost

Two of the most important points to remember when selecting a boat are size and cost. The size of boat you select will affect your cruising costs, not only in initial purchase and outfitting, but also in cruising expenses once you're under way. Few people realize that outfitting a stock boat for long distance cruising can easily take 30% to 50% more than the initial purchase price. On a 35í new or used boat, this can mean an additional $15,000 to $30,000 just for essential equipment including additional sails, ground tackle, liferaft, safety gear and tender. This amount excludes optional equipment such as refrigeration, electronics, outboard motors, scuba gear and autopilots. Here is a common scenario: you overspend on the initial purchase of the boat, spend more money on equipment that isn't essential and then run short of funds once you've completed your initial provisioning and have actually started cruising. A better approach, if you're working within a fixed budget, is to spend less on the initial purchase by either purchasing a wellbuilt used boat or a smaller new boat. Purchase the priority equipment first, provision the boat (or set aside $2,000 for it), set aside an average of $700 to $1,800 (for a couple) per month for the period of time you want to cruise. Then see if there is enough money left for the expensive, nonessential but "sure would be nice to have" equipment. From my observations and experience, the majority of boats cruising for a year or longer are sailed by couples, and a boat in the 35í to 45í size range works out best, particularly if they are new to sailing. The cost, time and energy required to maintain a 50í to 60í boat versus a 35í boat once you're "out there" cruising is significantly higher. When I started cruising the South Pacific in 1974 on a Vega 27, there were many cruisers on shoestring budgets, open-ended cruises on boats under 35í. Today we are seeing people cruising faster on larger boats, covering a lot of countries in a shorter time with a planned cruising time frame. It is no longer a forever lifestyle choice but one that people experience for a few years. In general, the median size of cruising boats has been going up steadily. This may correspond with an increase budget of many cruisers due to the strong stock market and economic climate and the development and improvement of sailhandling systems including furling mainsails and electric winches.

Crew

People cruising on larger boats may have to depend on finding pickup crew in different ports in order to safely manage their boat on ocean passages and keep their insurance valid. Crew difficulties are one of the most persistent and common problems on cruising boats. It's easy to find friends and family members excited about sailing with you when you first leave your home port. As you get further away from home airfares become more expensive, it becomes expensive and time consuming co-ordinating the logistics of crew arrival and departure. You might also find that you may not be comfortable trusting your boat and life to people whom you don't know well. You must be prepared to singlehand your boat. Seasickness or illness may incapacitate you or your partner, leaving one person to handle everything. Safety dictates a boat with manageable-sized sails, a totally dependable windvane selfsteering system and a powerful electric autopilot. Fatigue is the number one cause of shorthanded or singlehanded boats being lost on the rocks or reefs while making landfall; so it becomes essential that you are able to handle your boat without help, and that you realize your abilities and limitations. If you are considering a boat over 40í and aren't as strong as you used to be, consider adding electric winches, furling headsail(s) and possibly a furling mainsail.

 

Purchasing Options

New Production Boat

Because of a real shortage of quality ocean-cruising boats in the 3-10 year old range, and the high cost and amount of time involved in upgrading a solid 10+ year old boat, purchasing a new production boat is more attractive now than it has been for many years. Example: if you purchase a 15 year old boat for $80,000 and spend $50,000 replacing engine, sails, wiring, tanks, rigging, electronics and epoxy bottom job using 1-2 years of potential cruising time in the process, you end up with a 17 year old boat, probably worth around $90,000. A better choice might be a new boat that costs more initially but returns closer to 100% of your investment. You will be out cruising 1-3 years earlier with fewer mechanical breakdowns. For a confirmation of this, read Tom Neale's articles in Cruising World of the unending breakdowns and repairs of his old Gulfstars and Dan Spurr's articles in Practical Sailor of all the years and money he has spent upgrading his old Tartan 44, Viva. Some people use the justification that since they have rebuilt every system on their boat, they now can fix them in some distant port. I personally would rather spend that time cruising than with my head down in the bilge fixing something that I overhauled a year earlier! If you buy the right boat, keep it in top condition while you're cruising, you'll find a line-up of folks wanting to purchase it when you've completed your cruise.

Custom Built

Having a boat custom or semicustom built generally takes considerably more time and money than planned. Resale value on a custom boat may not be as strong as on a wellknown quality production boat as people aren't as familiar with it.

Used Boat

Compromise is important in selecting the right used boat. Chances are you may not find any boat in your price range that exactly meets all of your criteria so be prepared to be flexible and keep an open mind as you learn more about what makes a safe and comfortable offshore boat. You may go into your boat search thinking that you absolutely must have a heavy displacement double-ender with a long bowsprit and a centerline queen berth, for example. After educating yourself, you may decide that these are not necessarily criteria that add to comfort or safety at sea. Cruising equipment adds very little to the selling price of used boats, you may find a boat that has already been outfitted and cruised, saving you tens of thousands of dollars. The easiest way to find a quality used boat is to locate a professional and knowledgeable broker who has offshore sailing experience and who will work with you to find a suitable boat. Some less knowledgeable or scrupulous brokers will try and sell you whatever boat is easiest. A broker can use the BUC computer listing network and various publications to locate appropriate boats on a regional and national basis. Spend time clearly communicating your purchase time frame, budget, and personal priorities with the broker. Be honest and don't waste their time. If you need to first sell your house or won't be able to make a purchase for some time, let them know up front.

Home Built

Home building makes the least sense unless you are an experienced boat builder and are not concerned about time and expenses. Homebuilt boats generally end up costing more than a wellbuilt used boat, are usually much more difficult to sell when you've completed your cruise often have a lower resale value than a comparable production boat.

 

Survey

Have the boat carefully and thoroughly surveyed by a marine surveyor experienced in offshore boats. It is best if you research and choose the surveyor, rather than hiring a surveyor recommended by the seller or yacht broker. Ask to see examples of previous surveys. You want to hire a surveyor who has no vested interest in the transaction, other than making sure that the boat you're considering is safe and a good investment for you. If you consider purchasing a boat in a different part of the country and have a surveyor you trust, consider flying the surveyor with you. Marine insurance companies and banks are often able to recommend surveyors whose opinions they trust. On larger, more expensive boats, many buyers will also pay for individual surveys of engines, electrical systems, sails and occasionally rigging. Most marine surveyors do not thoroughly cover these items in a typical survey.

 

Market Trends

Used boat prices vary geographically and tend to be lowest in areas of the country experiencing economic downturn and weak real estate markets. If people can't sell their property, they are less likely to be able to afford to purchase and outfit a boat for extended cruising. Since January 1996 prices have firmed up substantially nationally, and we are hearing few tales of "stealing" good used cruising boats for 20% to 30% below asking or BUC Used Boat Guide prices. Brokers on both coasts are mentioning a real shortage of good ten-year-old or less cruising boats in the $60,000 to $180,000 price range. In 1999 and later the shortage will become more acute. Pacific Northwest prices have remained slightly higher through the last recession, due to demand and the strong economic climate. Here are some points to remember when considering boats from different regions: Florida boats tend to be less expensive than boats in other regions, but the higher humidity and salt really take their toll. When I was boat shopping in Florida, I found that many of the boats I looked at had been sitting for some time, often unattended. In several cases the owners had run out of time, money or interest and had parked the boat with a broker and returned to Europe or the Northeast. New England and the Great Lakes are excellent regions to shop for a cruising boat. A ten-year-old boat that has been dry stored in a low humidity, low salt environment for seven months each year will often be in much better condition than a five-year-old Florida boat. Southern California has a very limited inventory of offshore capable cruising boats. The light air and generally moderate sea conditions and temperature mean that less-expensive and more lightly constructed coastal cruisers dominate the market. Pacific Northwest prices are higher and inventory of good offshore-capable boats is scarce because of many years of a booming economy. Canadian prices are good and inventory particularly in the Great Lakes area is worth looking at. When trying to decide whether or not it is logical to purchase a boat out of your area, make sure to factor in all shipping and commissioning costs. Here are approximate costs for shipping a 35' and 42', sailboat with a beam of no more than 12' and a trailer height of under 14'. Boats with beam in an excess of 12' will require a pilot car at $1.00 per mile in some states. Add approximately $200 for trucking insurance rider, and $1000 to $2000 for decommissioning and recommissioning, depending how much of the work you do yourself. Florida to New York or Los Angeles to Seattle: $2815 $3069 Annapolis to Seattle or Seattle to Florida: $6800 $7600 Wisconsin to Seattle: $4000 $4600 The present currency exchange rates have made purchasing a boat overseas much less of a bargain than it was in 1984/85. Prices of identical cruising boats tend to be consistently higher in Europe at this time. New Zealand has some quality cruising boats for sale at attractive prices, but as these are small run production boats, few people in North America are familiar with these boats. If you're interested in cruising specific areas such as Scandinavia, the Med or the French canals and aren't interested in the long passages, purchasing a boat on location may be a good choice. If you're considering purchasing a boat overseas and plan to sail it back to the U.S., try and select a wellknown builder who has dealers in the States. You'll find it much easier to sell a wellknown boat for a reasonable price. The cost of shipping a 35' boat from Europe or New Zealand to the U.S. is $12,000 to $15,000. Any U.S. Embassy will be able to provide you with temporary documentation papers if you're purchasing and planning to cruise a boat in another country.

Boat Selection Checklist

Design

If at all possible, contact the designer before purchasing. Relatively few boats were actually designed for ocean passage making. You will need to learn if the boatbuilder followed the designer's construction criteria. Some Taiwanese built yachts advertised as being designed by Robert Perry or Doug Peterson may actually be pirated designs where the designer has not been paid a royalty and the builder may have tried to save money by reducing structural integrity. None of the Taiwan yards employing this practice are still in business today.

Builder

If the yard is still in business it can be quite helpful for purchasing some parts and assemblies, but is by no means essential. If they are still in business, call and ask them about the boat you're considering. Have the hull number and date of manufacture ready. You may find that boats built by a yard that is still in business sell for higher prices than boats where the builder has gone out of business. As an example, friends of mine had a Southern Cross 35 built for them by Ryder Yachts about 15 years ago. After a successful Pacific circumnavigation and the arrival of two lovely daughters, they decided to move up to a Morris 46. They related that the Morris 36 which they were considering when they ordered the Southern Cross then cost $20,000 more but is now worth approximately $160,000 compared to a value of $75,000 for the Southern Cross today. Morris is still in business building excellent boats; Southern Cross went under not long after my friends boat was completed. If you're considering purchasing a new boat, check the financial condition of the company. Some builders are just barely staying in business and may use your deposit money to complete another person's boat. This only works as long as the deposits are coming in!

Sailing Performance

You'll sure appreciate a design that offers good sailing performance and ease of handling the more miles you sail. Few potential cruisers think of passage-making speed as important criteria in choosing an ocean cruising boat. After 160,000 miles and 25 years of ocean cruising, it is now high on my personal list of priorities. The shorter your passages, the less exposure you have to heavy weather conditions. A boat with good sailing performance requires less motoring and fuel, is faster, more responsive and fun to sail in the light air conditions so common worldwide. Windward sailing performance is nearly as important as passage-making speed. A design that has graceful overhangs and a shorter waterline will often tend to hobbyhorse or pitch when sailing to windward into a chop. Upwind passages back home may be impossible or extremely difficult. On the other extreme, a very modern, light displacement boat with a flat entry may tend to pound when sailing to windward. The ability to sail off a lee shore in an emergency is dependent on windward performance.

Negative design aspects to be avoided:

Long bowsprits which may prove difficult or dangerous when changing headsails or maneuvering in close quarters. Low freeboard may indicate a design that will ship a lot of spray and water on ocean passages. Excessive freeboard may cause poor windward performance and a tendency to "sail" back and forth at anchor. A small amount of weather helm as the wind increases is desirable, but an excessive amount which cannot be decreased by sail trim or rig tuning may mean that a boat will be difficult to steer by hand, windvane or autopilot. If the design is excessively tender, you'll have to get used to living, cooking, navigating and sleeping at 25 to 30 degrees angle of heel every time you are sailing to windward, something you may find fatiguing. A comfortable motion at sea is very important. A vessel with a short waterline and long, graceful overhangs often tends to hobbyhorse when to sailing to windward and may lack directional stability when sailing downwind in a large following sea.

A Comfortable Home

This is just as important as each of the above points, because a boat may have the best sailing characteristics in the world, but if your partner views it as a deep, dark, damp, unattractive place to live, you'll either be singlehanding or giving up your cruising dreams. Remember most cruisers are at sea less than a quarter of the time, so comfort at anchor is also very important.

Storage Capacity

Space for the for additional sails, tankage, food, lines, spare parts, medical and safety supplies that are required for extensive cruising is important. On some boats valuable storage space under the settees and berths is filled with tankage that could have been designed under the cabin sole.

Weight Carrying Capacity

A purpose-designed cruising boat will be able to carry the additional weight of three anchors, a windlass and several hundred pounds of chain, as well as additional water (8 lbs. per gallon) and fuel (6 lbs. per gallon), a liferaft, dinghy and outboard. You'll be adding several thousand pounds of equipment, so if the boat you're considering is already on her waterline before you start loading cruising gear you may end up several inches below the designed waterline. On some designs this may be a dangerous problem. Boats that handle the weight the best are not real narrow at the waterline beam and have transom sterns without excessive overhangs.

Hull Strength

Hull thickness doesnít necessarily translate into strength. A thick hull with a high of a resin to glass ratio may actually be more brittle than a thinner hull where the resin has been carefully squeezed out. Read Surveying Fiberglass Sailboats by Henry C. Mustin, International Marine, 1994 for a clear and concise view of hull and deck design, structure, and condition. Some builders have a history of serious osmotic blister problems. In some cases blistering may be serious enough to require removal and replacement of part of the hull laminate, which can be quite expensive. A knowledgeable surveyor will be an excellent resource and may recommend looking for a different boat if the blisters are deep and extensive. If the hull is balsacored and the core material becomes saturated because of improperly installed thruhulls, or if the boat has "gone on the beach" you may want to look at a different boat because of the cost of repairs and potential for future problems. Foam-coring provides excellent insulation above the waterline but there can be problems with water absorption if coring is used below the waterline.

Deck Construction

The deck surface must provide adequate nonskid without being overly abrasive on bare knees. If you plan on living aboard or cruising in nontropical areas, insulated decks will reduce condensation and moisture. If teak decking was laid over plywood there can be serious problems once the boat is over approximately 8 - 12 years old. If the plywood core material is not marine grade or if insufficient bedding compound used, you may end up with the core material becoming saturated and many small deck leaks where the screws are. Teak docks look great at the boat show, but on older boats improperly laid decks will present additional leak potential and maintenance. Many of the less-expensive Taiwan builders of the 70's and 80's used random bits of plywood as deck coring material, with filler between the wood scraps. When water penetrates this core material, repairs are often expensive and very time consuming. Check with any marine surveyor to verify this. I would recommend having a surveyor look very carefully at any boat older than eight years with balsacored decks. Unless the core has been eliminated in favor of a solid laminate where stanchion bases, genoa tracks, cleats and other deck fittings are placed, water will penetrate the balsa sooner or later, and repairs may be extensive and expensive. If the boat has foamcored decks, the marine surveyor will check all horizontal surfaces carefully for voids or delaminating by tapping with a small hammer.

Hull to Deck Joint

There are several methods of attaching the hull and deck of fiberglass boats. When there are bolts and nuts or screws protruding through on the inside of the hull to the deck joint, a mechanical clamp joint is relying on the bond of a sealant adhesive (3M 5200 is often used) to stop leaks. After 10 to 12 years and several thousand miles of ocean sailing the sealant/adhesive loses some of its elasticity. Due to the working of the boat and the different climatic conditions the toerail and hull expand, contract and flex at different rates eventually weakening the bond, allowing water to follow the bolt or screw threads down, and drip on the inside of your lockers.

The two options for solving the problem are: Remove the teak cap rail or aluminum extruded toerail and clean and rebed each bolt. Radius the inside of the joint with epoxy and microballoons and then lay several layers of fiberglass tape over the inside of the joint, totally sealing it and strengthening the area at the same time.

Bulkhead Attachment

Bulkheads must be securely attached to the hull. On a fiberglass boat they need to be substantially glassed to the hull on both sides and to the deck with multiple layers of tape. Some builders skimp on this, gluing bulkheads in instead, but once their boats have made several ocean passages, bulkheads and interior wooden cabinetry may come unbonded from the hull, allowing the hull to flex more than it should. The repair is messy, involving grinding and fiberglassing in some difficult to reach areas Internal stiffening systems (grid floor systems, and/or full-length and transverse glass over foam (not wooden) stringers) contribute greatly to the stiffness and rigidity of a boat. If the interior woodwork is just glued or lightly attached to a hull liner pan or to the hull, you may find it breaking loose after a few thousand miles of ocean sailing. Access to hull and deck areas is often restricted when fiberglass liners and pans are used in construction, making equipment installation and leakstopping difficult. From a manufacturing standpoint, hull liners are less expensive, but you won't find them on top-end ocean cruising designs.

Chainplate Load Transmission

The loading from chain plates must be evenly transmitted to bulkheads and structural members below deck to avoid lifting or distorting the deck. Separate chainplates for forward, upper and aft shrouds provides more stability for the mast and reduces the chance of deck loading distortion. External chainplates (fastened to the outside of the hull) look salty but may eventually leak and need to be re-bedded. They also can restrict the jib sheeting angle.

Mast Support System

Deck stepped masts work well, but only if proper structural members transmit the load to the keel. Otherwise deflection and possibly delamination under the mast occur. With keel stepped masts, inspect for corrosion at the base of the mast. Check the mast for trueness even with an aluminum mast.

Underbody Design: Keels and Rudders

Most cruising boats run aground at one time or another, and sometimes at speed. Some keel designs are better suited to withstanding a hard grounding without damage. In my experience the best type of keel for serious cruising is not a short, deep, high-aspect fin. There are two keel options that work well for cruising boats that may occasionally run aground. A longer keel with external lead ballast attached to a substantial stub that is an integral part of the hull absorbs groundings well. When external ballast is used, keel bolts attaching the keel to the hull must be accessible, and keel loading must be spread out through the floor system. Another option is internal lead ballast that is lowered into the keel cavity and then heavily fiberglassed over. Internal lead ballast eliminates some potential problems with keel attachment, but check closely during survey for any voids or water penetration in the keel area between the ballast and fiberglass. Read Surveying Fiberglass Sailboats for more details. Cast iron or mixtures of iron and cement are less desirable ballast materials, resulting in a boat that heels more quickly and has less room for tankage in the keel. Centerboards and lifting keels are an option if youíre plans include more coastal cruising than ocean voyaging, but the increased complexity and lowered stability are drawbacks. High aspect deep and short fin keels (in a fore and aft measurement) are best suited for racing boats. Running hard aground can result in damage to the area where the trailing edge of the keel meets the hull and can cause leaks around the keel bolts. Wing keels have a shape similar to a Bruce anchor and can be very difficult to refloat. A rudder must be able to take the impact of hitting logs and grounding without jamming or being damaged. Unprotected spade rudders are more likely to be a problem. Ideally you should be able to remove the rudder with the boat in the water for repairs in remote areas. In the past, cruisers assumed a full-keel design with attached rudder was the only design for ocean voyaging. I have cruised 75,000 on four different modern full-keel boats, plus another 70,000 miles on a boat with a longish keel and separate full-skeg and rudder. My present boat has a partial skeg, providing some protection from logs and debris and a third rudder bearing and more strength than a spade rudder. Having the skeg extend only partway down the rudder means that the rudder is semi-balanced. This greatly reduces the amount of effort required to steer the boat. It is almost like power steering and means that not only hand steering, but also steering under autopilot or windvane is much easier and that there is much less loading on the steering system. For me the trade off of less protection is worth the ease of steering and added maneuverability. Plan on removing and thoroughly checking the rudder on any used boat before venturing offshore. To check for excessive rudder play, when hauled out grasp the bottom of the trailing edge of the rudder and try and move it fore and aft and also athwartship.

Skegprotected rudder, detached from the keel is well suited for long distance cruising. The skeg protects the rudder to some degree, and may increase directional stability. Examples of this type of design: Valiants, Crealock 34, 37, 40, 44. There are many suitable, well-built boats of this design type and they are a popular choice for long distance ocean cruising.

Partial-skeg rudders can be semi-balanced which is like having power steering. This type of rudder generally has three bearings, making it sturdier than a free-standing rudder which often has only two bearings. Examples include Morris 44, 46 and the Frers-designed Hallberg-Rassys.

Modern cutaway full keel, with attached rudder and moderate displacement is another good choice for cruising in isolated areas where groundings or scrapes are common and the nearest shipyard may be thousands of miles away. The cutaway forefoot is a faster, more maneuverable design that will have fewer tendencies to trip or broach when running under storm conditions than a traditional Tahiti ketch type of full keel boat. Having the rudder mounted slightly above and protected by the full length of the keel and the propeller enclosed in an aperture offer the best protection against damage from collision with submerged or floating objects. Careening or hauling out in primitive boatyards is easy with this type of design. Examples include: Island Packet, Mason, Cape Dory, Freya 39, Nicholson 31, Endurance 35.

Fin keel/spade rudder is the fastest and most maneuverable design for racing and is the easiest and least expensive underbody to build. Some designs featuring a deep, high aspect keel may exhibit a lack of steering directional stability when ocean swells are present. There are several very successful cruising designs that have a longer, substantially supported keel (not a thin, highaspect keel) and strong rudderstocks. Some examples are the Sundeer and Deerfoots, Niagara 31, 35, 42, Cal 40, and Sabre Yachts. If your cruise plans involve high latitude sailing or gunkholing in remote areas, you will need to be more cautious with this type of design.

Heavy displacement fullkeeled doubleenders based on Tahiti ketch or Norwegian lifeboat lines used to be a nearly automatic choice for long distance voyaging. However, yacht design has made some great advances in the past 40 years, and you may choose to take advantage of these improvements which make for faster, more comfortable passages, and smaller, more easily handled sail plans without resorting to bowsprits and boomkins.

Having said that, there are plenty of folks happily cruising on their Westsail 32s and Hans Christians content that they have the best design for their cruising lifestyle. There is not one design or style of cruising that suits everyone.

Engine

Being able to maintain at least six knots under power will get you in most passes and channels at the time of least current. A rule of thumb is two horsepower per thousand pounds of displacement for a sufficiently powered cruising sailboat. Purists may say that this is excessive, but in my experience it has been an advantage to have sufficient power to deal with currents and the ability to motorsail to windward for short distances into steep chop when necessary. Here are some points to consider:

How good is everyday access?

Can the engine be removed if necessary for rebuilding without having to destroy the cockpit or companionway?

Is there an engine hour meter and logbook showing maintenance history?

What is the fuel consumption and range under power? 600800 miles minimum under power for long distance cruising where fuel may not be available for months at a time is only a minimum, from my experience. Ideally the boat you are considering will have a common make of engine that will be easy to find parts and service for in lessdeveloped cruising areas.

Examples of engines which may be difficult to obtain parts for are BMW, Isuzu, Mercedes, Pices, Pathfinder, Bukh and to a lesser extent, Yanmar. Best manufactures for worldwide parts availability are Volvo, Perkins, Caterpillar, and Cummins. When I bought my Hallberg Rassy 31, I thought the 25hp diesel engine was excessive for a displacement of only 9,500 lbs, but the top speed of 7.2 knots, cruising speed of 6.5 knots and maximum range under power at 5 knots of 1,200 to 1,500 miles proved useful. My 42' ketch displaced 25,000 pounds and was powered with a 62 hp engine which proved very adequate in areas like Patagonia, Antarctica and Alaska where conditions dictated powering for weeks at a time, encountering strong currents and tidal rips and fierce catabatic winds daily. My present 48', 38,000 lb boat has a 95 hp. motor which provides an 8.3 knot top speed, and a 1,500 mile range at more economical 6 knots. I have supplemented standard fuel tankage with jerry jugs stowed in cockpit lockers with each of these boats.

Steering System and Position

Some sailors prefer tillers on boats under 35' as there is less to go wrong and installing most windvane steering systems is less complicated than with wheel steering. If the boat youíre considering has wheel steering, hopefully the system was built by a reputable company like Edson or Whitlock where you're assured of quality components and that youíll always be able to spare parts if needed. Many Taiwanesebuilt steering systems suffer from poor initial design, inferior bronze castings and rudders that aren't able to hold up to the stresses of ocean sailing. This isn't a problem on the more expensive boats like Norseman, Taswell, Mason and Little Harbor. The location of the steering position is also important. If the wheel is mounted at the far aft end of the cockpit, it may be very hard to design a dodger that will provide protection to the helmsperson without resorting to a long, potentially unseaworthy design.

Rigs

The majority of long distance cruisers are choosing sloop or cutter rigs. Dependable furling and headsails and mainsails have meant that cruising couples are able to easily handle cutter or sloop rigged boats in the 40' to 50í range. Many cruisers are adding a removable inner forestay on a sloop on which they can set a storm staysail once they have furled or dropped their working headsail. I don't have any hard and fast rules that apply to my choice of rig. I used to think that I would not like a ketch rig, but after seven years and 70,000 miles on my previous boat which was ketchrigged, I appreciated theflexibility of the rig and the ability to drop half the total sail area (the mainsail) in less than a minute without having to resort to a furling mainsail.

Transoms

The ideal stern for a cruising boat includes a builtin swim step on a slightlyreversed transom stern. An overly large, sugarscoop stern may prove a liability in a heavy following sea. Double enders may look salty, but the loss of valuable, hardtoreplace lazarette storage area and buoyancy must be taken into consideration. More double enders have a higher tendency to "squat" in the stern when loaded with cruising gear than do transomedstern designs.

Hull Construction Material

Fiberglass is the least maintenance-intensive material for cruising boats, but construction quality varies greatly from one builder to the next. The majority of fiberglass boats were never designed or built for extended ocean sailing and may eventually start falling apart if pressed into this type of service. The other extreme are designs that are so heavily built and overweight and do not have the sailing performance which makes for fast and comfortable passages. Pearson Vanguards, Tritons and Alberg 35's are examples of very well built, reasonably priced earliest production fiberglass boats. After 35 years these boats are still going strong.

Steel is an excellent material for boatbuilding, and frequently the choice of sailors who have done extensive offshore cruising. The impact resistance and total watertightness of the hull, deck and fittings is an advantage over other materials. With sandblasting and the new epoxy coatings, steel takes less time to maintain than it used to, although it still requires more time and cost to maintain than a fiberglass boat. Many of the steel boats on the North American market are ownerbuilt hardchine designs. Although strong and stiff, they are not particularly fast or attractive to many person's tastes. A poorly-built steel boat will have places on the inside of the hull that will trap water and rust through from the inside out. Access to every part of the interior of the hull makes checking for corrosion and painting much easier. Some attractive, modern steel cruising boats are the Waterline Yachts built in Sidney, BC, Brewerdesigned Goderich 35, 37 and 41 built in Ontario; and the Amazon 37 and 44 which were built in Vancouver, BC.

Aluminum boats are generally lighter and faster than steel boats, have less impact resistance and may be more difficult to have repaired in remote shipyards. Painted aluminum boats often tend to develop paint blisters after four to five years of serious cruising, requiring an expensive repainting job if you want a perfectly fair and shiny hull. There are dozens of unpainted French aluminum boats cruising the world, and although you may not find their concretecolored oxidized aluminum hulls attractive, they are strong and practical. Aluminum suffers from electrolysis more severely than steel; if you're cruising on an aluminum boat you'll need to be very careful when moored in electrically "hot" marinas. Quality aluminum builders include Kanter in Ontario and Topper Hermanson in Florida.

Wood boats often offer a lower purchase price, although the cost and time involved in keeping them in good shape is more than with other materials. If you have a limited budget, and don't mind the additional work, a wellbuilt wooden boat may be a good choice. It may be difficult to find longdistance offshore insurance for traditionally built wooden cruising boats. Perhaps because there are so many potential sources of problems on wooden boats in the tropics we see fewer of them long distance cruising each year. There is the special warmth and appeal of wood that some people find irresistible, whether or not it takes more care and maintenance.

Modern wood epoxy saturation (WEST System) technique produces boats that are lighter, stronger and often faster than traditionally built boats and have a better chance of being insurable for ocean cruising. The best areas to find modern coldmolded boats are in the Northwest, New England and New Zealand.

Ferrocement is the only material that has no advantages other than inexpensive construction materials. It is the most labor-intensive material to build with, is difficult to finance, insure or repair, and has the lowest impact resistance of any material. Having said this, I have met two cement cruising boats that have completed two and three circumnavigations respectively.

Multihulls advantages include very little heeling or rolling and tremendous interior volume and deck space, making them great for living aboard and chartering in tropical climates. Another distinct advantage is that multihulls don't sink if holed, unlike ballasted monohulls. Their disadvantages for offshore cruising are that they are more weightsensitive to overloading, they may be uncomfortable going upwind into a head sea and under extremely rare instances they can capsize.

Keypoints to Remember

Realistically assess your needs in terms of size of boat and amount of equipment. If you're outfitting and cruising on a budget, remember the KISS formula. More complicated systems mean more money and maintenance, repairs and spare parts to track down. Think moderate in terms of displacement and sail area since extremes, ultralight or heavy displacement will be either less comfortable or restrictive because of poorer performance. If possible, find and talk with people that own sisterships to the boats you're considering. Cruising world Magazine's "Another Opinion" Service (1.900.988.2275 or 5 John Clarke Rd., Newport, RI 02840) is an excellent resource. Practical Sailor also has a sameday fax service of comprehensive 37 page evaluations of more than 80 different boats for $3.50 per page and several excellent books, 203.661.4802. Sail on as many different designs as possible, noting pluses and minuses of each. This can be done by joining a sailing club or chartering. If you are quite convinced that you want a specific boat, a oneweek charter on a sistership will be a sound investment. Don't overspend on initial purchase price; save at least 40% to 50% of your total budget for outfitting, provisioning and cruising funds.

 

Suggested Reading

Practical Sailor's Practical Boat Buying, Volumes 1 & 2, available from Belvoir Publications, P.O. Box 2626, Greenwich, CT 068362626 for $39.95 each or $59.95 both

Practical Sailor December 1993 issue has an excellent list of cruising boat prices between $5,000 and $200,000 which is still surprisingly accurate.

Surveying Fiberglass Sailboats, Henry C. Mustin, International marine, 1994 Desirable and Undesirable Characteristics of Offshore Yachts, by John Rousmaniere

For a detailed five-page list of boats to consider for offshore cruising, send $2 to Mahina Expeditions, Box 1596, Friday Harbor, WA 98250.

John Neal's passion since 1976 has been sharing the knowledge of preparing for offshore cruising through 98 Weekend Offshore Cruising Symposiums to over 5,000 sailors. When not teaching ashore, John and his New Zealand wife, Amanda Swan-Neal conduct offshore sail and navigation training expeditions aboard Mahina Tiare III, their Hallberg-Rassy 46. Past expeditions have included Cape Horn, Antarctica and just about every island in the Pacific from Alaska to Australia. They are currently at sea somewhere between Auckland and Alaska; to view satellite log updates of their current expedition, click here.

If you'd like more information on selecting an offshore cruising boat, consider attending one of the following Weekend Offshore Cruising Symposiums. Yacht designer Robert Perry is co-presenter of the boat selection section, and additional presenters include Dan Spurr from Practical Sailor, sailmaker Carol Hasse, weather instructor Earl Seagars and West Marine Catalog Advisor author and Safety at Sea moderator, Chuck Hawley.

Seattle: November 13 & 14, 1999 and February 19 & 20, 2000

San Francisco: February 12 & 13, 2000

Annapolis, Maryland: February 26 & 27, 2000

 

Boats to Consider for Offshore Cruising

I am not in the business of recommending or representing any specific boat builders or brokers. Here are some boats to consider for offshore cruising, listed in alphabetical order. Included in this list are boats that I have been aboard, sailed, cruised or have come in contact with during 25 years of ocean voyaging.

USA AbleAble 32, 42, 48 Superb quality, expensive.

*USAAlajuela 3 Good value, well built

*USA PearsonAlberg 30, 35, 37Early f /g boats. Well proven, not expensive. Narrow, short waterlines, graceful overhangs

USAAlden 38, 44, 46, 54, 58 Classy, well built, beautiful & expensive.

*USAAllied 30, 31, 32, 33, 35, 36, 39, 42 Good value. Functional, practical.

FRAAmel 36, 53 Strong, well designed. Excellent passagemaker

*CANAmazon 29,37,44 Steel boats, attractive modern designs.

FRA Henri WaquiezAmphitrite 43 Strong & roomy. Good storage. Odd deck design, but great boat. Excellent company.

USA MorrisAnnie 28 Every boat built by Morris is a work of art!

*CANBayfield 29, 3032, 40Good value. A bit "plasticy" interiors, but ok.

USABluewater 60 Modern, top quality Chuck Paine design.

ENGBowman 36, 58 Strong boats. Excellent passagemakers.

*CANBrewer 42 Improved version of Whitby 42.

*USABristol 2745 Good boats. Later models were better quality.

USABristol Channel Cutter 28 Well built, not my personal choice. Good company.

CANCabot 36 Ted Brewer design

*USACal 230,34, 36, 39, 40, 246,Bill Lapworth designs. Many 2-46's have circumnavigated.346,48 Comfortable, reasonably priced.

USACaliber 28, 33, 35, 38, 40. Fairly wellbuilt. Michael McCreary designs. The 47 is not an attractive boat.

*USACambria 40, 44Fast, wellbuilt & gorgeous. Yes, expensive.

*ENGCamper Nicholson 31, 32,35,38,39,40,43,47,56,58,70 Out of business except for shipbuilding. Watch for serious blister problems on all models.

*USACape Dory all models All models are well designed & built.

USACape George Cutters 31, 36, 38 Some owner completed. Strong & fast.

USACascade 36, 42196567 design still being built. Fairly narrow.

USACherubini 44, 48, 62 Semicustom boats. Beautiful, great sailing & expensive

*CAN & ENGContessa 26 & 32Tania Aebi & B.J. Cardwell both circum navigated in 26's.

HOLContest 31, 35, 36, 38, 40, 41, 42, 46, 48 More common in Europe. Rather plain-Jane, but appear to be well-built.

*USA PearsonCountess 44Early f /g John Alden design. Will need to be repowered & rewired.

CANCorbin 35, 39 Watch for hull blisters.

USA Pacific Seacraft Crealock 31, PH 32, 34, 37, 40, 44 Santa Ana, CA. One of the very best companies building cruising boats. Good value.

*USACSY 44Sturdy & reasonably priced.USA Pacific Seacraft Dana 24 An expensive (for the size) pocket cruiser capable of ocean passages.

*VariousDeerfoot Yachts Fast & innovative, aluminum & fiberglass hulls.

GERDehler 34, 38Modern, racercruisers.

USADickerson 36, 37, 40, 41, 50Nicely proportioned & wellbuilt boats. Earlier 36's are very reasonably priced.

*USAEasterly 38

*USAEastward Ho 31 EldredgeMcInnes design, limited production.

ENG, USA, CAN, RSA, SCT Endurance 35, 38, 40 Peter Ibold design, some owner completed. by various yards in ENG, USA & Canada.

*USAEsprit 37 Perry design. Comfortable, well proven.ARGF & C 44 Modem Frers designed cruising ketch.

USAFast Passage 3 Some built in Canada, some by Tollycraft. Excellent boat.

ENGFisher 30, 46 Motorsailers. Great for N.W.Alaska & N.E.

USA Pacfic SeacraftFlicka 20 Mini Ocean Cruiser, but slow, slow, slow. Very solidly built.

USA MorrisFrancis 26Beautiful design from an excellent yard.

CANFraser 41, 46, 50 Good modem cruisers.

USAFreya39 Good value. Many owner-completed, so quality varies. FAST, 200 mpd full-keel design!

FRA Henri WaquiezGladiateur 33Very sturdy, short on tankage.

CANGoderich 35, 37,41Attractive Brewer steel boats.

SWEHallberg Rassy, 9.4, 31, 312, 33, 35, 352, 38, 382, 41,42, 42F, 45, 46,49, 53 Well built, comfortable, & surprisingly fast. Very strong company, excellent service. Newer Frers designed boats have better sailing performance than earlier boats.

ENGHalmatic 30Similar to Nicholson 31.

USAHinkley 3064Well built, very expensive, hold their value well. Short on tankage & storage.

CANH.T. Gozzard 31, 36,44 Good design & construction.

FRA Henri WaquiezHood 38Strong, fast, & attractive. Short on tankage.

TAIHylas 44, 47, 49 Frers & S & S designs. Good sailing qualities, tankage & storage centerboard.

USA Island Packet 27,29, 32,35,350,37,38, 40,44,45 Roomy & comfortable. Improving every year.

USAJ40; J44, 130 Fast, light.

USA Miller Marine Jason 35 Built near Seattle, some owner completed. Several have cruised extensively.

HOLJongert 50, 55, 60, 67, 73Heavy, expensive, wellbuilt steel and aluminum yachts.

USAJustine 36Excellent Paine design, Morris built cruiser. Expensive

USAKaiulani 34, 38 Lovely steel Brewer & Yohe designs.

CANKanter 42, 45, 60, 65 Steel & aluminum boats, semi-custom. Highest Quality. Chuck Paine & Ted Brewer designs.

DENLM 27, 28, 290, 30, 315, 32, 380 Some have inside steering. Wellbuilt.

USA MorrisLeigh 30 Very well built, attractive.

USA MorrisLinda 28 Gorgeous design.

TAI & USALittle Harbor 42 90 Ted Hood designed, heavy displacement. Semicustom. Production returned to U.S. from Taiwan. Expensive and solid as a rock.

USA AlliedLuders 33 (DOVE), 36Older wellbuilt fiberglass boats.

SWEMaloQuality offshore boats.

USA Pacific SeacraftMariah 31At least one circumnavigation.

TAIMason 33, 43, 44, 53, 54, 63Some of the very best Taiwan built boats.

USAMercator 30 Inexpensive. At least one has circumnavigated

ENGMoody 24 44Good boats, reputable builder.

USA & ENGMorris 26, 28, 30, 32, 36, 44 Chuck Paine design. Superb quality, good company

SWENajad 330, 361, 370, 390, 420, 490, 520Quality, attractive boats.

FINNautiCat Motorsailers 35,40,43,53 S & S designed models are much better performers than earlier models.

CANNiagara 31, 35, 42Wellbuilt & roomy. Good company.

USANordic 34,40,44,45Bellingham, WA. Attractive well built boats

USANor'Sea 27 Offshore capable, but not a comfortable boat.

TAINorseman 400,447 Wellbuilt, fast, expensive and attractive.

*ENGOcean 60, 71Powerful boats, many have had blister problems

*USAOcean Cruising 42Only a few built by Hank Hinkley. Classy.

USA Pacific Seacraft Orion 27 Offshore capable.

ENG Oyster 42, 45, 485,49, 55, 61, 70, 80 Some have inside steering. Attractive,
expensive and first class! Strong resale value.

*USAPearson 35,365,424,520 Wellbuilt, not flashy. Reasonably priced.

FRA Henri Waquiez Pretorien 35 Strong, fast & attractive. Excellent company. Best value for a boat under $85,000.

*USA PearsonRhodes Bounty IIEarly fiberglass boats, classic design but verrrry old, so will need lots of upgrading.

TAIRoyal Passport 41, 44, 50Modem cruising design. Good storage/tankage.

ENGRival 3641Strong, good-looking and sailing boats.

USASabre 34, 38, 42, 362, 402, 425 Built in Maine, excellent quality.

ENGSadler 34Unsinkable, fast, beautiful. Superb boat.

CANSaturna 33Attractive, Bill Garden designed pilothouse cutter.

SWEScanmar 35Limited production but good design.

CANSceptre 41Modem pilothouse with good performance.

*USA AlliedSeawind II 32 Excellent boats. Good value. First f /g boat to circumnavigate the world.

USASeguin 44, 51S & S design. Excellent boats. SemiCustom.

USAShannon 28, 37, 38, 43, 50, 51Excellent boats. Expensive& reliable.

*TAISkye 51Similar in appearance to Swans. Strong & fast.

*USASouthern Cross 28, 31, 35, 39 Good boats. Attractive designs. Fairly well built.

*CANSpencer 35, 42, 44, 54 Older, very solid boats, built in Vancouver, B.C.

USASundeer 56,64Excellent & expensive.

*USATartan 37Centerboard, well proven with at least one circumnavigation.

SWESweden YachtsExpensive & well built. Racercruiser designs, short on tankage and storage.

TAITaswell 43,49,56,58, 60, 72Quality, attractive, good sailing performance. Excellent tankage, storage and design.

TAITashiba 31, 36, 40Perry designs.

USATownsend 30Built in Pt. Townsend, WA. Traditional design. Attractive and strong boat.

HOLTrintellaRoomy and well built.

*USA PearsonTritonSuperb value. Earliest F/g production boat. Very sturdy.

USAValiant 32, 37, 39, 40, 42, 47, 50 Major blister problems on Valient 40 hull numbers 116250. No problems with any of the excellent Texas built boats.

CANVancouver 27Also built in Taiwan & England.

*USA PearsonVangard 32Excellent value.

*SWE AlbinVega 27At least six have circumnavigated.Inexpensive.

ENGVictoria 30, 34Chuck Paine designed.

SWEVindo 29, 34, 38, 39Attractive, well built.

*USAVineyard Vixen 30, 34Attractive design.

ENGWesterly 26, 36 Not flashy, but wellbuilt boats.

*USAWestsail 28, 32, 39, 42, 43 Well built boats. 39 are rare & attractive. Perry design.

CANWhitby 42 Sell for around $75100k. Good value.Inexpensive but sturdy & roomy.

USAWindshipExpensive custom boats.

*USAYankee 26, 30S & S designed. Inexpensive and capable.

 

ARG Argentina

CAN Canada

DEN Denmark

ENG England

FIN Finland

FRA France

GER Germany

HOL Holland

RSA South Africa

SCT Scotland

SWE Sweden

TAI Taiwan

* Out of Business

 

 

Cruising Boat
Check List

by John Neal




Design
Was the boat designed for ocean passage making? Did the boatbuilder follow the designer's construction criteria? If at all possible, contact the designer before purchasing. Some Taiwanese-built yachts advertised as being designed by Robert Perry or Doug Peterson may actually be pirated designs. The designer has not been paid a royalty and the builder may have tried to save money by reducing structural integrity.

Builder
Is the builder still in business? (When considering a used boat.) This is more helpful than essential. If the builder is still in business, call and ask them about the boat you're considering; have the serial number and date of manufacture ready.

Ease of sailing and performance
Does it have a long bowsprit which might prove difficult or dangerous when changing headsails or maneuvering in close quarters? Low freeboard may indicate a design which will ship a lot of spray and water on ocean passages. Excessive freeboard may cause poor windward performance and a tendency to 'sail back and forth at anchor. A small amount of weather helm as the wind increases is desirable, but an excessive amount which cannot be decreased by sail trim or rig tuning may mean that a boat will be difficult to steer by hand, windvane or autopilot. If the design is excessively tender, you'll have to get used to living, cooking, navigating and sleeping at 30 degrees angle of heel every time you are sailing to windward, something you may find fatiguing. Will it have a comfortable motion at sea, or will it tend to hobbyhorse to windward because of a short waterline and uneven weight distribution? Will the design roll excessively when sailing downwind? Few potential cruisers think of passagemaking speed as important criteria in the boat selection process; after 135,000 miles and 23 years of ocean cruising, it is now high on my personal list of priorities. The shorter your passages, the less exposure you have to heavy weather conditions. A boat with good sailing performance requires less motoring and fuel and is faster, more responsive and fun to sail in the light air conditions so common worldwide.

How Well Can the boat sail to windward?
Will upwind passages back home be impossible or extremely difficult? Will you be able to sail off a lee shore in an emergency?

How easily can the boat be made to self-steer?
Does the helm require constant attention and concentration when sailing downwind in fresh conditions? Is it easily balanced, and is the transom free of overhanging stern pulpits which can make mounting a windvane steering device difficult?

Will the boat make a comfortable home?
This factor is just as important as each of the above factors, because a boat may have the best sailing characteristics in the world, but if your partner thinks of it only as a deep, dark, damp dungeon, you'll either be singlehanding or giving up your liveaboard cruising dreams. Remember most cruisers are underway less than a quarter of the time, so comfort at anchor is also very important.

What is the stowage capacity of the boat?
Will there be room for additional sails, tanks, food, bosun locker supplies, lines, spare parts, medical and safety supplies, or has the space under the settees and berths already filled with tankage that could have been designed into the keel?

Does weight carrying capacity match your needs?
Can the boat carry the additional weight of three anchors, a windlass and several hundred pounds of chain, as well as additional water (8 lbs. per gallon) and fuel (6 lbs per gallon), a liferaft, dinghy and outboard? You'll be adding several thousand pounds of additional equipment, and if the boat you're considering is already on her waterline before you start loading cruising equipment you may end up several inches below the designed waterline. On some designs this may be a dangerous problem. Boats that handle the weight the best are not real narrow at the waterline beam and have transom sterns without excessive overhangs.

Hull strength
Do the builder's boats have a history of serious osmotic blister problems? Two very good builders (Camper Nicholson of England and Uniflite, original builder of Valiant Yachts) have a reputation for severe blister problems on certain models. Is the hull balsa-cored (often a problem as the balsa becomes saturated if thru-hulls weren't installed properly, or if the boat has 'gone on the beach) or foam cored (great for insulation above the waterline, some potential problems below the waterline)? Is the hull thick and brittle from too high of a resin to glass ratio? I highly recommend Surveying Fiberglass Sailboats by Henry C. Mustin, International Marine, 1994 for a clear and concise view of hull and deck design, structure and condition.

Deck construction
Are teak decks laid over plywood or aluminum? If teak was laid over plywood, was sufficient bedding compound used, or will you end up with thousands of small deck leaks where the screws are? Teak decks look great at the boat show, but on older boats they will present additional leak potential and maintenance. I would recommend having a surveyor look very carefully at any boat older than five years with balsa-cored decks. Unless the core has been eliminated in favor of a solid laminate where stanchion bases, genoa tracks, cleats and other deck fittings are placed, water will penetrate the balsa sooner or later, and repairs may be extensive and expensive. If the boat has foam-cored decks, the marine surveyor will check all horizontal surfaces carefully for delamination by tapping with a small hammer. Do the decks provide adequate non-skid without being knee-grinders? If you plan on living aboard or cruising in non-tropical areas, insulated decks will reduce condensation and moisture.

Hull to deck joint
Are there screws or nuts protruding through on the inside? In my experience, this type of mechanical clamp joint which is relying on the bond of a sealant adhesive (3M 5200 is often used) often starts leaking in 6 to 8 years. The sealant/adhesive loses some of its elasticity, and as the toerail and hull are expanding, contracting and flexing at different rates, the bond eventually weakens, allowing water to follow the bolt or screw threads down, becoming drips on the inside. If the hull to deck joint has been dripping through on the inside you may choose to remove the teak cap rail or aluminum extruded toerail and clean and re-bed each bolt. The other option is to radius the inside of the joint with epoxy and microballoons and then lay several layers of fiberglass tape over the inside of the joint, totally sealing it and strengthening the area at the same time.

Bulkhead attachment
Are the bulkheads adequately attached to the hull? On a fiberglass boat they need to be substantially glassed to the hull on both sides and to the deck with multiple layers of tape. Some builders skimp on this, gluing bulkheads in instead, but once their boats have made several ocean passages, bulkheads and interior wooden cabinetry come unbonded from the hull, allowing the hull to flex more than it should. The repair is messy, involving grinding and fiberglassing in some difficult areas to reach. Are there internal stiffening systems (grid floor systems, and/or full length glass over foam - NOT BALSA! - stringers) or is the interior woodwork just glued or lightly attached to the hull, only to break loose after a few thousand miles of ocean sailing? Is there proper access to hull and deck areas, or do fiberglass liners and pans make equipment installation and leak-stopping very difficult?

Chain plate load transmission
Are the chain plates going to lift the deck or distort hull, or is the load evenly spread out by properly transmitting the load to bulkheads and structural members? Separate chainplates for forward, upper and aft shrouds provides more stability for the mast and reduces the chance of deck loading distortion. External chainplates (fastened to the outside of the hull) look salty but often leak when the boat is heeled over. They also restrict the jib sheeting angle.

Mast support system
Deck stepped masts work well, but only if proper structural members transmit the load to the keel. Otherwise deflection and possibly delamination under the mast occur. On keel stepped masts, inspect for corrosion at the base of the mast. Check the mast for trueness - even with an aluminum mast.

Keel
Most cruising boats run aground at one time or another, and sometimes at speed. Some keel designs are much better suited to withstand a hard grounding without damage than others. In my experience (having run aground in varying conditions and areas) the best type of keel for serious cruising is relatively long, where the keel is either part of the hull with the ballast added internally and then heavily fiberglassed over, or else attached to a substantial stub which is an integral part of the hull. Crealock 37 and Valiant 40/42 are examples. High aspect deep and short fin keels (in a fore and aft measurement) are best suited for racing boats.

Running hard aground can result in damage to the area where the trailing edge of the keel meets the hull and can cause leaks around the keel bolts. In many cruising areas there aren't Travelifts available to lift the hull off the keel for repairs. Wing keels have a shape similar to a Bruce anchor and can be very difficult to refloat if you've run into sand or mud. When external ballast is used, keel bolts attaching the keel to the hull must be accessible, and keel loading must be spread out through the floor system. Internal lead ballast eliminates some potential problems with keels, but check closely during survey for any voids or water penetration in the keel area between the ballast and fiberglass. Read Surveying Fiberglass Sailboats for more details.

Rudder
How well is the rudder protected from logs and flotsam? Can the rudder take impact and grounding without jamming or being damaged? How easily can it be removed with the boat in the water for repair? Unprotected spade rudders are much more likely to be a problem. I know of three Swans that lost their spade rudders between Panama and Tahiti in one year. Plan on removing and thoroughly checking the rudder on any used boat before venturing offshore. To check for excessive rudder play, when hauled out grasp the bottom of the trailing edge of the rudder and try and move it fore and aft and also athwartship.

Engine
Is the engine a common make that will be easy to find parts and service for in less-developed cruising areas? Examples of engines which may be difficult to obtain parts for are BMW, Isuzu, Pisces, Pathfinder, Bukh and to a lesser extent, Yanmar and Mercedes. Best manufactures for worldwide parts availability are Volvo, Perkins, Catapillar, Cummins and Detroit Diesel. Is it a purpose-built marine diesel, or is it an automotive or truck engine that has been 'marinized. How good is everyday access? Can the engine be removed without having to destroy the cockpit or companionway? Is there an engine hour meter and logbook showing maintenance history? What is the fuel consumption? Range under power? 600-800 miles minimum under power for long distance cruising where fuel may not be available for months at a time is only a minimum, from my experience. Being able to maintain at least six knots under power will get you in most passes and channels at the time of least current.

A rule of thumb is two horsepower per thousand pounds of displacement for a sufficiently powered cruising sailboat. Purists may say that this is excessive, but in my experience it has been an advantage to have sufficient power to deal with currents and the ability to motorsail to windward for short distances into steep chop when necessary. When I bought my Hallberg Rassy 31, I thought the 25hp diesel engine was excessive for a displacement of only 9,500 lbs, but the top speed of 7.2 knots, cruising speed of 6.5 knots and maximum range under power at 5 knots of 1,200 to 1,500 miles was useful. My 42' ketch displaced 25,000 pounds and was powered with a 62 h.p. engine which proved totally adequate in areas like Patagonia, Antarctica and Alaska where I have powered for days and weeks at a time, encountering strong currents and tidal rips daily. My present 48', 32,000 lbs boat has a 95 h.p. motor which provides an 8.5 knot top speed, and a 1,200 to 1,500 mile range at a more economical six knots.

Steering system and position
If the boat has wheel steering, is the system built by a reputable company like Edson or Whitlock? Are castings of the highest quality bronze or stainless, and will you be able to get spare parts quickly if necessary? Many Taiwanese-built steering systems suffer from poor initial design, inferior bronze castings and rudders that aren't able to hold up to the stresses of ocean sailing. This isn't a problem on the more expensive imports like Norseman, Taswell, Mason and Little Harbor. Is the steering position located where the helmsman can be easily sheltered without having to resort to a huge dodger? What is the visibility from the helm like? Many sailors prefer tillers on boats under 35'; there is less to go wrong and installing most windvane steering systems is less complicated than with wheel steering.

Rigs
I don't have any hard and fast rules which apply to the choice of rig. I used to think that I would never want to own a ketch, but after seven years and 70,000 miles on my previous boat which was ketch-rigged, I appreciated the flexibility of the rig and the ability to drop half the total sail area (the mainsail) in less than a minute, without having to resort to furling gear. The majority of long distance cruisers are choosing cutter rigs, which are most logical on boats over 32'. Sloops over 38' or 40' can get unwieldy for short handed crews. Many cruisers are adding a Solent stay, or removable inner forestay on which they can fly a storm staysail once they have furled or dropped their working headsail.

Transoms
Is there an ideal transom/stern for a cruising boat? My ideal stern would include a small, built-in swim step on a slightly-reversed transom stern. An overly large, sugar-scoop stern may prove a liability in a heavy following sea. Double enders may look attractive, but the loss of valuable, hard-to-replace lazarette storage area and buoyancy must be taken into consideration. Most double enders have a higher tendency to 'squat in the stern when loaded with cruising gear than do transom-stern designs.

Reference List of Boats/Hallberg-Rassy 46/HR Construction Details/Selecting a Cruising Boat



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