Choosing a boat…


Having decided that we had ambitions to go blue water cruising the next decision was what boat was appropriate and most importantly, what budget could we afford!

Of course if money was no object you could pick a real beauty – but – as usual the key word is “compromise”. Since we are far from the “rolling in money” category, part of the challenge for us would be to “cut your coat according to your cloth” (..as my old Mum would say:-)

I have carried out a lot of research along the way, and you can see the results by clicking on the links below…

…. and I have read the advice of those who have done all this before and been kind enough to record their thoughts on their own blogs.

It was particularly hard to try to weigh up the advice/prejudices of the old salts – “..you must have a Najad or a Halberg …”  against the demands of budget; comfortable living; and storage space. I was also worried about buying a boat that was already 20+ years old since the money saved on purchase would easily get swallowed up in repairs and replacements. Plus the time spent doing major refurbishment work would eat into the 18 months or so that I had set aside to prepare for the voyage.

Being an iconoclast myself, I particularly liked those who went against the common wisdom and bought boats that were modern and comfortable – suitable for the 90% of the time you spend at anchor or in a marina 🙂

..for example here are the practical, and wise words of  Rob & Rhia

Often the old salts would laugh derisively at any suggestion that a mere Beneteau, Jeanneau, or Bavaria could even survive a circumnavigation..

Well if you are looking at the modern high volume production boats, don’t be put off by the sailing club bar experts. Make your own decision. Plenty of these boats – hundreds of them – do the ARC every year and plenty of them are currently circumnavigating quite happily…plus since everything breaks…all the old salts tell me so….you could argue that you should start with the youngest boat you can, add all the best equipment you can afford, and then keep the saving you made on the purchase price to replace equipment as you follow the dream….

To be honest as I looked at Najads and HR’s I realised that although they are undoubtedly built like warships, some of  the old ideas about internal design – especially storage and accommodation – were somehow passe.

There are of course classic design features that I agree with:

  • Chart table – separate (not part of the saloon); forward facing; and safe to sit at on either tack
  • Galley – U / L or long but with no chance of flying across the saloon
  • Saloon – at least one 6ft long settee (preferably with lee cloths) to be used as a passage berth

But, why have all the storage under the beds or worse under the floor. How are you meant to get stuff from under bed when it is piled high with sails – or vice versa – how can you get the sails out when it is under a bed which is piled high with supplies.

The other matter is that in order to have a happy crew (my wife) why shouldnt we have some “home comforts” after all we were not preparing for a two-week camping holiday in France! With that in mind, I felt it would be nice to have a separate shower area instead of having the entire heads soaked whenever you had a shower; I thought it would be nice to have space for a proper fridge – even a freezer – to make life a little more civilised and a little less like a VW camper van; I thought it would be nice to have a real sprung mattress and a 6ft bed so we could get a good nights sleep – why not?..

Gradually the “ideal” boat size went from 40 to 42 and crept up to 44 – needless to say at this point there were none of the Najads / HR / Malo in my budget 🙂

That is when I realised that if I couldn’t have a Najad – and if I wasnt convinced that Najad was the best and most comfortable boat anyway – why don’t I look at one of the British boats that also had great reputations but were pitching up against the Najads and HR’s in the late 90’s. The two main marques that come to mind are the Moody and the Westerly – two fine boats and built with a lot more flair when it came to the internal storage and accommodation. Suddenly the whole choice opened up. They were a lot of boats in the right price range and many of them had been cared for by real enthusiasts and sailors.

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