An email that arrived the same day as the one from the “What is a Cruiser’s Residence?” tip made me cut out this excerpt from the brand new 3rd edition of Capable Cruiser which has just arrived from the printer. It is from the chapter called “First Time Voyagers: What did they worry about that never happened?”
An Interesting and Affordable Cruising Boat for First-Time Voyagers
“I want to go cruising now, don’t have a lot of money. What secondhand boats should I be looking at?” This is definitely in the top-10 list of questions potential voyagers ask us. During our 2008 voyage-diagonally across the Pacific from Ventura, California, to New Zealand-we stopped in only two places were other yachtsmen gathered. But the array of cruising yachts we saw there made for an interesting study. Yes, there were a lot of recently built boats in the 40- to 50-foot range with price tags ranging upward from $300,000. We also saw five catamarans, mostly very new ones in the 45- to 55-foot range. But liberally scattered among the fleet of 40 boats that came through the marina in Apia during our three-week stay, and the 80-plus boats we saw in Neiafu, Tonga, where we spent another month, were affordable secondhand cruisers ranging from a very modest 20-footer through the 26- to 40-foot range.
What is affordable? Three young people were earning their way as they cruised in an Alberg 30 they had bought for $22,000. One soon-to-be-married couple had set sail in a 25-year-old Mariner 32 they had purchased “ready to cruise, windvane and watermaker included,” for $40,000. Among the sailors we interviewed were four with affordable secondhand boats: a Cal 40 bought six years earlier for $40,000, a Rhodes Bounty II purchased for $68,000, a Catalina 36 that cost the owners $75,000, and an S&S-designed Yankee 38 that seemed a true bargain at $35,000.
As mentioned above, every respondent told of spending 25 to 35 percent of the boat’s purchase price to make it ready for a voyage across the Pacific. The affordable-boat-fleet owners tended to be closer to 35 percent. Were they as happy with their boats as those who had spent far more money for newer boats? It may just have been our impression, but they seemed to be more content with their choice (i.e., not yet looking toward “the next boat”), more carefree, and less concerned about money. More of the sailors in this group went out to join the local fun races in Neiafu. All definitely had lower expenses, far lower insurance premiums. In fact, three of these couples had chosen not to sell their homes and put the majority of their resources into a boat. Thus, since their boats represented only a limited portion of their assets, they did not feel they had to carry insurance for crossing oceans.
So now we’ll stick our necks out and answer the question: Which boat would we look at if we were in the market for a secondhand ocean cruiser? We definitely did see one among that 2008 fleet that would serve our purpose if we were looking for a cruising boat right now. It was the Yankee 38. Why? It has the pedigree of a good team of designers known for making sure the boat and its rig are strong. It is designed to go to windward well, to heave-to using a deeply reefed mainsail alone. It is modest in all its proportions-i.e., no long overhangs, a good long keel section (sure, we would prefer a full-length keel with keel-hung rudder, but compromises must be made). It has a hefty ballast-to-displacement ratio. It also sports a big spread of canvas with sufficient mast height and J measurement to carry generous light wind sails. And, at 15,500 pounds, it is a nice size and displacement for a couple to handle easily. Finally, a lot of these boats were built,1 so not only did the builders get the bugs worked out, there should be a reasonable choice available on the secondhand market. The usual caveats apply. We wouldn’t limit our search to only Yankee 38s or Catalina 38s but would look for others that could meet the same criteria. In fact, the Tartan 38 and Hughes 38 come from the same designer and period and have almost the same dimensions, so we would include them in our search. But, more important, we’d demand that a very careful survey be done by a surveyor who does not know the previous owner or the broker who is handling the sale of any yacht we were interested in buying.2
2. For more on buying secondhand boats, see our book The Cost-Conscious Cruiser.