Okay, so there’s nothing like putting a target on oneself and I’m about to do it with this post.
You see, if you’re dreaming about buying a sailboat to go cruising or if you already have a boat and plan to go at some point, you’ll find many, many opinions on this subject.
If you Google “best cruising sailboats” you’ll get thousands of sites, suggestions and opinions and I’m about to add mine to the din. But… you might not like what I have to say.
After almost four years of living aboard, cruising the east coast and most of Florida, my wife Melody and I constantly talk about our idea of the perfect cruising sailboat.
This being my third sailboat, I am addicted to sailboats. I constantly scour the web looking at what I call boat porn. Some guys hunch, late-night in the glow of the monitor, eyes fixed on some hot, (or not so hot) greasy couple moaning and cavorting like a couple of farm animals. Not me… I’m hunched in the glow looking at chain plate photos, trying to decipher whether or not there is an inner forestay.
Melody laughs, but in full disclosure, she’s been caught several times in that same glow… no not the human porn glow… the sailing vessel kind. After much conversation, I decided to add my .02 to the kitty and get down to the nuts and bolts, pardon the pun, of the perfect cruising sailboat.
I said at the beginning that you might not like what I have to say but in my opinion, the perfect cruising sailboat is… dum-dum-DUM… drum roll please!
The one you have right now.
Yep… groundbreaking, right? Taking into consideration you don’t own a sunfish of course.
Also… since this is the web and people are sticklers for absolute clarifications… if you are a family of five with two huge labs and you own an O’day 22, I acquiesce that might not be the “perfect cruising sailboat” but lets not talk of extremes and lets fall back into the comfy chaise lounge of common sense for a minute.
Chances are pretty good that the boat you currently own at this moment is just fine for doing some serious travel. And… if it’s paid for, it’s even better.
Now, Some folks have the financial ability to purchase the Hallberg-Rassy 41, the Passport 40, or the Pacific Seacraft worthy of trans-ocean passages without question. Budget is not an issue. But some who are just beginning this endeavor don’t leave the dock because they’ve read too many stories about rounding Cape Horn and they think they need 400 watts of solar power, water-makers, wind generators, and 27 pounds of pasta before they can head to the Bahamas.
Stop reading and go.
Seriously… if you’re on a Catalina 30 and you wanna get to the Bahamas then make sure she’s seaworthy, study the charts, gather the information you need, and go.
I know… that’s dangerous to say because some people consider plastic thru-hulls held in place by a gob of 5200 and some duct tape seaworthy… but again I’m asking you to get to know our old friend, Common Sense.
Too many people (myself included for a while) think that they can’t go anywhere until they find that perfect boat and that thinking keeps them from going anywhere at all. Then circumstances due to health, family or finances change and they never leave. Ever.
I’ve met many people tied to the dock at some marina who say, “Oh, we’re going to cross oceans when we get the boat ready.” And I ask, “How long have you been here?” The reply… “About eight years.” What!? When I see the boat they’re on, it’s got wind-vane steering, solar panels, wind genny, seven anchors on the bow, hard-bottom dinghy and most likely… that requisite 27 lbs. of pasta on board.
To some, the idea of cruising is more alluring than actually going, and that’s cool. But If you have a boat that might not cross the Atlantic or round the horn by God, that doesn’t mean you can’t do the Atlantic ICW or cruise your local waters.
Just check out this guy who sailed to Hawaii aboard his Ericson 32-3. Go to the 7 minute mark and watch for a few. I guarantee a smile will cross your lips.
Melody and I have done the eastern seaboard about 6 times now both off-shore and up and down the ICW more times than we care to admit. Each time we do that trip, we meet people in every kind of boat you can imagine.
In Rock Hall, Maryland I met a guy who turned his CAL 25 into an old time pirate ship complete with home-made schooner rig, port lights complete with canons, and a small Honda outboard pushing her along at about 4 knots.
Another time in Oriental, North Carolina I met a guy on a kayak doing the Great Loop. No shit. He had it tricked out with tents and all kinds of things that made his trip comfortable for his needs.
My last trip into St. George, Bermuda I saw what looked to me to be a Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20. The gentleman aboard must have been close to 80 years old. Of course, we cruisers spend a lot of time in the sun so he could have been 29, but I doubt it. I made my way over to him and asked his story and he said he built it himself and has been sailing it for the last 30 years. Been all over the world.
During our trip down the ICW last November, I saw yet another guy in an open sailboat about 17 feet long. Looked like a Drascombe Lugger with a tiny outboard, the cockpit covered with a canvas tarp. He was making coffee on a small cook stove in about 35 degree weather. Talk about extreme!
Listen, I know I’m generalizing here but there is no such thing as the perfect cruising sailboat because each one of us will use our boat for different things.
There are many tales of the hardy who’ve crossed oceans in scant vessels with sextants and little else, and those stories are awesome. I dream of a trip like that at least once a week.
But if you own a boat that’s paid for, and you know it inside and out because you’ve sailed it for the last ten years, then maybe, just maybe, that’s the perfect boat for you right now.
Maybe in a year your plans change and it’s not so perfect anymore but make that decision then when you know more about your cruising plans. Are you crossing the Atlantic, rounding the horn, or going to Bermuda? Then, maybe you’ll need all that solar and wind power. Maybe you’ll need the watermaker and the sea anchor.
But maybe, just maybe… you’ll make it to Georgetown, Bahamas – or even Key West, and decide you’ve had enough. Do you really wanna spend 150K on that Crealock 37 to find that out?
The old adage, “go small and go now” is true. My advice? Simplify and go for it. Use what you have, and get your hands dirty making it work. No, it may not be the most comfortable, but we all suffer from an overdose of comfort these days. We’re comforting ourselves to death.
Next time you’re on your boat, look around and think about storing a few jugs of water, a simple cooker, porta-potty (the truly adventurous call it a bucket) and some food. Go easy on the food, okay? When doing the ICW one is not but a few miles from the nearest grocery or gas station.
You’ll meet scads of people willing to help you live your adventure, and if you run low on anything, a ride is not far. Smart phones and internet everywhere make connection and communication a breeze.
Love the one you’re with. Dance with the one who brung ya. Get it? Life is short, people. Stop wishing. Get the F’ out there.
Oh, and don’t forget the pasta.
greg boudreaux says
AWESOME POST Chris, thanks for sharing.
Thanks Greg! Appreciate you following along and for taking the time to comment.
We appreciate it.
s/v The Red Thread says
Well said. Admittedly, the boat that I call home is really comfortable. The mortgage we have on her, however, is not. My favorite line from your post: “No, it may not be the most comfortable, but we all suffer from an overdose of comfort these days. We’re comforting ourselves to death.” Amen. ~Jessie
Thanks Jessie. I know a lot of people, my wife included who got really inspired and then followed that inspiration with some serious motivation and got some serious debt paid off fast. Side jobs to make some extra money. Please know, I’m not preaching at you! I love to see people get fired up and go after a dream. You guys can do it! Check out her awesome blog at http://www.savingtosail.com. She’s got a ton of great suggestions, links and super sound advice. Get that damn boat paid off and come sailing! I’ll buy the beers!
Awesome post! Dammit I would love to fly to Miami right now and buy an ol something with a sail get my pasta and head for the Bahamas for a month or two.
What’s up Matt!! I believe you guys were the first ones to do that and the ones who inspired US! You get your butt to Miami. I got the ol’ boat with good sails and I’ll buy the pasta! Much love my friend. I hope all is well and I love keeping up with all the good music you guys are making out the in Skybound Blue. Rock On!
Rick Meijer says
You NAILED it, shook me up, woke me up, and I’ll change my plans right now.. !
Good morning Rick! I love it! I love that you connected with the post the way I intended. We all need a good shake sometimes. Keep us in the loop. Thanks for taking the time to comment too. Love hearing from everyone. Have a great day.
I’d love to do just that… get out there and DO it and not DREAM about it. While I have the desire to go, I have a wife who says otherwise. Still, I get my boat refitted and ready and keep the dream alive for now.
Very good post.
Daniel~Thanks for chiming in! Having a partner/mate who does not share the dream is indeed one of the biggest impediments. We’ve met people, mostly men (not being sexist here… just saying) that say their wife or girlfriend just isn’t on board (sorry) with the whole plan. That kinda sucks I agree. BUT… you can still do weekend trips on your own? Maybe pick a really cool bed and breakfast in the area, one close to a marina that provides a long day sail and then you sail there and the wifey-poo drives there? Meet up… spend the night in a lovely little spot and then you get to sail back the next day? Win… win? Keep the faith man! Maybe she needs to email Melody who wasn’t on board with the idea of living on a boat and now I can’t get her off the boat! Serious about that. Good luck.
I agree (as you know) with all of this! My only “have to have” is a safe boat…oh, and an electric windlass because I’m to lazy to pull up 100’+ of chain. ha ha
Seriously though, this is a good reminder. It’s way to easy to get lulled into thinking you’re not ready then never go. Set the date, then work your ass off to get there. If you need to scale back your plans from the Carribean to Florida for a few years, that’s ok- you’re still out there having an adventure!
Hi Cheryl! First… thanks for always chiming in with your thoughts. You guys are definitely the example for people to follow with regards to that hard work and determination stuff. I can’t wait to see s/v Eclipse gliding along on the adventure you’ve set up. Second… I would love a windlass. If you ask Mel… she has a windlass, ME! And as you also know, we’ve had to adjust our Carribean plans every year for the last three. But… we’ve has some really cool trips along the coast and one of these days, we’ll get gone for a nice long spell. Thanks again. Much love to you and Tom.
Great post! I actually did own an ODay 22 with a family of five..no big dogs but still…and we spent lots of time on it. Maybe not actually cruising, but we did some overnighting on it!
Rob! That is awesome! Mel and I had a San Juan 24 that we sailed the crap out of in all kinds of weather. We loved that boat. Didn’t have a dog at that time either. We also knew a family of 5 at our club who sailed and overnighted on a West Wright Potter 19!!!! That’s some love there. Thanks for commenting and for following along.
Will Marks says
This is great advice. I think every sailor (and wannabe) suffers from the itch for the perfect boat or “just another 6 feet.” The kind of cruising that most people are realistically going to do, particularly on their first trip, just isn’t that demanding. We’re in the Eastern Caribbean now and you could get away with doing it on just about any boat the could keep the water out. Everything is just a day sail away.
Your reasoning is similar to what we took into account when we decided to buy a cruising boat in Tortola while we were still living in San Francisco. We figured if we bought the boat there, there’s no way we’d be willing to burn up valuable time in our one year cruise making the boat “just right” at the Nanny Cay dock. Get the boat in the water, fix the absolute essentials, and start cruising the VIs. Plan worked – we were cruising 11 days after we saw the boat for the first time. If we had bought the boat at home in San Francisco, we could have spent years preparing her. She’s still not perfect, but we’re sitting at anchor in Dominica regardless.
All the best,
Thanks Will! Good for you. We have some great friends hanging in Nanny Cay right now. Wish we were there ourselves. 11 days after you saw the boat?! Damn… you’re good. If you bought a boat in San Fran, you’d definitely have a harder time getting her where you are now. Enjoy. Would love to know how you like Dominica. Stay safe, take care and thanks for commenting.
We went through the same thing and came to the same conclusion!!!
Good for you Joanna. It certainly makes things a lot easier. Thanks for reading!
Tasha | Turf to Surf says
It’s true! We went on a Catalina 34 and got hooked (although we replaced our plastic thru-holes with metal ones before we went). We’ve had the good fortune to be on our dream boat now, but Ryan and I often talk about the good ol’ simple days on our little monohull, and we always say if we hadn’t sold our companies and we couldn’t afford the bigger boat, we would still go on that little Catalina. And now she’s off to a better home…she just sold to a blog reader and we hope she’ll have a second life out there on the seas with her excited new owners :-)
Yay! Congrats on ths sale!! I hope they love her and take her on as many adventures as you guys did. I also hope they know where all the zincs are. haha She was a great boat, but I can’t wait to see Cheeky Monkey someday!!
Pete K says
Awesome post. After 30 years of wishing my wife and I bought our first sailboat, a 24 foot C&C shark, from an old kind Norweigan man. We took book classes over winter and will hoist sail on Lake Erie for the first time in about six weeks (it’s still cold). Your post inspired me! The first big voyage may just be to Put-in-bay but who knows where the future leads. Thanks for your thoughts and numerous take of life on the sea
Hi Pete. Congrats on taking the step. C & C is a great boat. I hope you and your wife have many great days aboard. I appreciate you taking the time to read and I’m glad you got some inspiration. Keep us posted on the first sail and let us know how it all goes. All the best
In specific circles 27 pounds of pasta are considered the bare minimum for one week passage… It was very fun to read your post, we spent too much time make our boat ready, now, ready or not, we go!
Hey Fabio~ There was a time when I thought 27 pounds of pasta was necessary as well! Thanks for reading. I think many folks go a little overboard preparing their boats. it’s better than under preparing. Have fun on your journey. Where are you going? Thanks for posting. Fair winds.