A Model T Offshore Voyaging Boat


A boat with a large derriere and a cheap (relatively) price. This is NOT the Model T offshore boat. But it might be a start.

[9th. October 2013. This is the post that started it all. Much has changed since I wrote it, but the core concept remains the same, so I have left it in as part of the Adventure 40 Online Book.] Lately, I have been thinking and worrying about how hard it is these days for newcomers to get into our sport, pastime, lifestyle, passion, or whatever you want to call offshore voyaging.

It’s not so much that it is that difficult to learn to handle a boat offshore. Take a good sailing course, maybe a Yacht Masters, do a few crossings with an experienced mentor, mix in a good dose of common sense, and you’re good to go.

No, the real problem is the difficulty in acquiring a good, safe and comfortable offshore boat at a price that does not require the buyer to be seriously rich.

The Old Boat Option

Sure, there are lots of old boats out there for sale at reasonable prices, but when you start to look for a decent offshore boat, the list gets shorter, a lot shorter. And then, even if they do find a good older boat, how does a newbie go about refitting it, which most older boats will need?

If they take it to the professionals, today’s labour rates will soon escalate the price into the stratosphere. Worse still, only a very small percentage of boat yards are capable of fitting out a boat for offshore sailing without very close supervision from someone with…you guessed it, years of experience offshore—Catch 22.

Of course the boat owner could do the refit work themselves, but to plan and execute a good cost effective refit generally takes…years of offshore boat owning experience—Catch 22 again.

A New Boat

If they want a new boat, the wannabe boat owner had better have deep pockets, really deep. It seems like half a million US dollars is the starting point for a decent new offshore boat in the 40 to 45-foot range.

Smaller Boats

Sure, a smaller boat is an option, but even a new well built 35-foot offshore boat will set you back some serious coin, and anyway, these days most people want the comfort and speed of a boat in the 40-foot range.

Wrong Headed Offshore Boats

And that brings me to the boat in the picture above, a brand new 21,000 pound Beneteau Oceanis 45 that is, in my never humble opinion, about as far from an ideal offshore cruising boat as it is possible to get. (I won’t go into the details of why, since Colin already did a brilliant job of that, see the link below.)

But There Is Hope

But here’s the thing, Beneteau lists that 45-foot boat for €171,000 or $225,000, which is half the price of a decent offshore boat of around the same size.

Now suppose Beneteau, or someone like them, went to say, Bob Perry, and got him to draw a really sweet offshore boat along the lines of the Saga 43. A boat with a long water line for speed, and moderate beam and symmetrical ends for sea kindliness.

And suppose they built the boat really simply, but strong, with none of the silly foo-foo features (in my opinion) of the Oceanis. They could also make it smaller, say 40-feet, say about 18,000 pounds. (Boatbuilding costs are scaled by weight, not length.)

The boat I envision would have a simple functional interior made from Formica-covered marine ply cut out by computer driven milling machines. There would be no drawers—you know what it costs to build a drawer? Don’t ask—just shelves. There would be no varnish or fancy trim, on deck or below. (You can make an interior like this very pleasing to live in just by putting up some photographs and posters.)

Lose the second head, the in-mast roller furling, the too big engine (30 HP would be plenty) and the twin wheels. Make that solid mainsheet arch into a hard dodger.

Keep the equipment simple. Do you really need a $10,000 electronics package for a low latitude circumnavigation or a cruise of the Caribbean? No you don’t. Two hand held GPSs (one for backup) will do the job for less than US$400.

The boat would have no options, none, zero, zip. And you could have it any colour you want, as long as it’s white. The builder could use an advisory board of experienced voyagers to come up with a specification that would meet most needs. The stamp of approval from that board would also help sell boats and persuade buyers to go with the minimalist gear list.

Well, I could go on and on, in fact I already have, but you get the idea.

A Model T Boat

I wonder, could we have a really great, very simple, mass produced offshore cruising boat for just US$175,000, or even $150,000, sail away? I think maybe we could. Kind of the Model T of voyaging boats. A boat for the more fiscally constrained future the world is faced with.

And that would be really great. I think they would sell a bundle of them—a lot more than they are selling of these just-another-big-assed boats.

A Game Changer

Say a couple of hundred of these boats got built in five years. That would significantly increase the number of new participants in offshore voyaging.

Many people would buy them as starter boats and then up-grade once they had some experience and knew that they really liked voyaging. But that would be good too since suddenly we would have a base of wholesome, relatively new, second hand offshore boats at very reasonable prices.

And that would make it possible, once again, for younger people to go cruising for a few years before getting “serious” about their lives: They could buy a good used boat for say $120,000, go cruising for a few years, and then sell it for not a lot less than they paid for it, since I believe a boat like this would hold its value well.

Hello Beneteau…anyone…someone…is anyone listening?

Further Reading

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Meet the Author


John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

93 comments… add one
  • Scott Kuhner Mar 22, 2013, 6:37 pm

    Nick, To mention a couple of other boats that fit you criteria:
    The Southern Cross 31 is very similar to the Seawind. Basically the same design (both by Thomas Gillmer), but a little smaller, cutter-rigged, and with a canoe stern. The Valiant 32 is another great ocean boat, but it will perform better upwind and in light airs. Pacific Seacraft Mariah 31 is also worthy of consideration. Baba 30 is a good cruising boat.

    • Ann Mar 24, 2013, 6:19 am

      Nick, we were in a similar situation to you a few years ago. We found our Baba 35 was a good intermediate-level boat offering full offshore capability (we crossed the North Atlantic in it), reasonable comfort and space to live aboard as well as being small enough to not be too intimidating, or, costly. After three years living aboard, we are now selling her and moving up to 41 ft. aluminum. We definitely won’t get back what we’ve put into her, but, it was money well-spent as we knew exactly what we wanted in the more expensive boat. You stand to lose a lot more if you start out with the big boat and it turns out not to be the lifestyle and/or the boat you thought you wanted. On the other side, going too small might turn you off completely.

  • RDE (Richard Elder) Mar 22, 2013, 6:37 pm

    Sorry, the link to the above post didn’t go live: Here it is. (http://horizonstaradventures.wordpress.com)

    • Colin Speedie Mar 22, 2013, 6:53 pm

      Hi Richard

      looks like really good idea to me – good luck with it.

      Best wishes


  • John Mar 23, 2013, 7:36 am

    Hi All,

    Thanks for all the great advice for Nick. Really good stuff that highlights the many different and quite complex factors that influenced Nick’s decision.

    My reasoning for advising him to buy the smaller boat was that I got the sense from the comment that he had not actually handled a sailboat that much, even though he has done some training. My thinking is that there is just no substitute for messing around in a small boat, when it comes to acquiring boat handling skills. But maybe I should have advised him to buy a small open daysailer, learn on that, and then transition to the 40 footer.

    Hum, I feel a post coming on and will stop there.

  • Scott Kuhner Mar 23, 2013, 10:25 am

    John & Nick,

    I strongly agree to start on a smaller cruiser. I remember when we moved up from the Seawind II to the Valiant 40, in the fall of 1982, I picked up the boat in Annapolis and as I sailed away from the dock, I felt that the Valiant was huge and the thought went through my mind, “Oh my God! What have I done?” However, withing a few hours I started to feel comfortable with her and the next spring I sailed her in the Newport to Bermuda Single-handed Race. There is no way I could have done that if it hadn’t been for my experience in sailing the smaller Seawind.

  • Roger Sep 4, 2014, 10:37 am

    I’m well aware that this thread has been dormant for over a year but thought I’d comment anyway.

    For anyone interested, Hanse seem to be looking to fill the gap in the market mentioned above with their VAr37.

    The design brief was to build a strong, fast and simple sailboat where simplicity and lack of the ‘fluffiness’ below deck seen in many modern production boats (such as the Beneteau mentioned above) means the purchase price is kept reasonable. Starting price in the US is $138k.

    The hull is the same as the highly successful Hanse 370/375 and bulkheads are glassed in for added strength; unlike many other modern boats of similar size.

    Upgrades are available in certain aspects of the boat and the buyer can select what they require based on what their use of the boat will be. Alternatively one can upgrade as you go along and as your use of the boat may differ or develop.

    • John Sep 4, 2014, 10:44 am

      Hi Roger,

      See this series https://www.morganscloud.com/category/boat-design-selection/adventure-40/

      I agree the VAr37, is a way cool boat, but very different from what we are doing with what has now become the Adventure 40.

      • Roger Sep 4, 2014, 11:06 am


        Didn’t at all mean the project itself is dormant; just perhaps the comments on this individual chapter!

        Glad to see everything is progressing nicely with the Adventure 40. This online book has made for some very interesting reading.

        Agreed that the VAR37 is a very different boat and not really a ‘voyager’ in the same way, but does share some similarities in terms of what is deemed to be important for an offshore boat.

        Best wishes from Bermuda


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