Pitfalls to Avoid When Buying a New Voyaging Boat

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P1010821I think we have pretty much established to everyone's satisfaction that refitting old boats, while possible, is difficult and time consuming to do, sometimes financially disastrous, and fraught with the risk of finding serious things wrong that were missed in the survey.

But the biggest problem with refits is that doing one well requires a lot of knowledge that is best gained by owning a voyaging boat—Catch 22. Even Poor Stupid Bob (alias John) has since done a not too painful refit using what he learned the hard way the first time.

But how do you get your first boat and get out there? What about buying a brand new boat? That should be great if you have the money, right?

Let me tell you a story about my friends Paul and Pam (not their real names).

  1. The Right Way to Buy a Boat…And The Wrong Way
  2. Is It a Need or a Want?
  3. Buying a Boat—A Different Way To Think About Price
  4. Buying a Cruising Boat—Five Tips for The Half-Assed Option
  5. Are Refits Worth It?
  6. Buying a Boat—Never Say Never
  7. Five Ways That Bad Boats Happen
  8. The Two Biggest Lies Yacht Brokers Tell
  9. Learn From The Designers
  10. You May Need a Bigger Boat Than You Think
  11. Sail Area: Overlap, Multihulls, And Racing Rules
  12. 8 Tips For a Great Cruising Boat Interior Arrangement
  13. Of Cockpits, Wheelhouses And Engine Rooms
  14. Cockpits—Part 1, Safe and Seamanlike
  15. Cockpits—Part 2, Visibility and Ergonomics
  16. Offshore Sailboat Winches, Selection and Positioning
  17. Choosing a Cruising Boat—Shelter
  18. Choosing A Cruising Boat—Shade and Ventilation
  19. Pitfalls to Avoid When Buying a New Voyaging Boat
  20. Cyclical Loading: Why Offshore Sailing Is So Hard On A Boat
  21. Cycle Loading—8 Tips for Boat and Gear Purchases
  22. Characteristics of Boat Building Materials
  23. Impact Resistance—How Hull Materials Respond to Impacts
  24. Impact Resistance—Two Collision Scenarios
  25. Hull Materials, Which Is Best?
  26. The Five Things We Need to Check When Buying a Boat
  27. Six Warnings About Buying Fibreglass Boats
  28. Buying a Fibreglass Boat—Hiring a Surveyor and Managing the Survey
  29. What We Need to Know About Moisture Meters and Wet Fibreglass Laminate
  30. Offshore Sailboat Keel Types
  31. US$30,000 Starter Cruiser—Part 1, How We Shopped For Our First Cruising Sailboat
  32. US$30,000 Starter Cruiser—Part 2, The Boat We Bought
  33. US$30,000 Starter Cruiser—How It’s Working Out
  34. Q&A, What’s the Maximum Sailboat Size For a Couple?
  35. At What Age should You Stop Sailing And Buy a Motorboat?
  36. A Motorsailer For Offshore Voyaging?
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While I would not expect you to name the couple, I wish you had named the builder and gear manufacturers. I’m considering a generator, and I want to know which brand to avoid!

Jerry Levy

Who was the manufacturer and what was the model? Different boatbuilders, after all, have different reputations and boatbuilding practices.


Perhaps you could name the names of the “very few” builders that do not have these problems? It is always good to reward the virtuous even if you do not want to name those more questionable.


Thought that Lewmar V2 windlass looked familiar! Last spring at about this time I arrived in Panama to join a nearly new custom 63′ Bob Perry designed ULDB cruiser for a sail up through the Caribbean. Of course there were a few things that needed to be fixed on the boat—–. Foremost among them, the windlass that had stopped working in the San Blas a couple of months ago and hadn’t fixed itself while sitting in the marina waiting for the owners to return from the states.

Check out the size of the sealing flange where it contacts the deck, then consider the force applied when pulling the anchor that is hooked behind a coral head—. (even though the windlass is only 1/2 the size needed for a 63′ boat.) Now try to remove the rusted bolts (remember the salt water that entered through that undersized sealing flange?)

Oh well, we’ll fix it in the Caymans. The crew can haul the anchor by hand—that is what we have crew for, right! Fortunately one other crew was smaller in girth than I and manged to get in position to remove the bolts. Now the only thing holding it together was rust. All it took to separate the windlass was a spinaker pole as spreader, very strong masthead halyard, and an electric winch.

I wonder how long it will be until the replacement V2 Lewmar strips its drive gears?

I think my next windlass will be a Lighthouse.

Tim Akey

We could never afford a new boat and are outfitting some 30 year old classic plastic to live on. I have spent a life time in aviation; pilot / mechanic / manager. In my humble opinion the sailboat world is seriously broken; shoddy designs, amateur installations, non-existent quality control, and product support that is nothing of the kind. Surveys are an expensive joke and “technicians” appear to be those who flunked High School shop class. There have been exceptions but at this point, anytime I have to deal with anyone in the sailing “industry” I assume I am being lied to, deliberately mislead, and overcharged (by a factor of at least 4). A used car salesperson would be embarrassed by what passes as ethics in the sailboat world and, though I read them all, I don’t belive much of anything that is printed in the industry magazines. (When is the last time you saw anything negative written on any boat in one of them?)

Off shore sailing is not for the faint of heart – and that starts the first time one even thinks about buying a boat.

Wm. Douglas Muir

I have noticed in other industries, automotive and photography for example, that usually the only time trade publications list product deficiencies is when the manufacturer offers a new improved version.

Dave Benjamin

The first rule in my book is to put zero faith in what’s published in the mass market sailing rags. To put it bluntly, the editorial staff is paid to write nice things about products that are being advertised. In the case of one publication, they blatantly sell video endorsements. I’ve hung on to an email from them where they offer to come by your boat show booth, interview you, publish a video, and endorse the product for $500. Doesn’t seem to matter if the product is crap or not. Pay your $500 and get your endorsement.

As a sailmaker, I am constantly working with customers who have been exposed to all sorts of hype. Part of my job is to expose the hype for what it is, then recommend a solution that we know will work in the long run. A telling moment for me was talking with some people who had a mainsail that I felt was too lightly built for their upcoming 3000 miles passage. It was built by a loft well known for racing sails. When the sail was being built, the workers told the customer they were enjoying the process of building a cruising sail for them since they rarely ever built one. Predictably the sail failed mid-ocean. Luckily the boat was a ketch and had some other options.

For the recreational sailor, finding the truth about products and services is a monumental task. There is a lot of blather on the internet in various forums, but much of it is written by people who haven’t gone more than a mile from the dock if that. The people actually out cruising don’t always have time or resources to write detailed reviews of what”s working or not.

If I was having a custom yacht built, I think I would want a builder that had experience in commercial boats. While we were cruising in Mexico, we met a couple with an aluminum trawler built by a yard in Canada that did both pleasure and commercial build and we were very impressed with the construction and execution. Equipment used on commercial vessels seems to be a lot more robust and reliable. A manufacturer can easily fool the sailing public with glossy magazine ads and endorsements, but on the commercial side, people running boats as a business venture won’t buy crap they know will fail the way pleasure boat gear does all too often.


A number of years ago a glossy table top book entitled ” The World’s Best Sailboats” or something similar appeared on everybody’s Nautical reading and dreaming list. According to my friend who was selling Sweden Yachts at the time there was a simple standard for inclusion. The author simply sold placements to the highest bidder! Should have been a stockbroker instead of a mere boat shyster!

Dave Benjamin


Ahhh yes, the Ferenc Mate book. Actually most of the boats in those books were good quality. I still have a copy kicking around somewhere. I think it was unethical for him not to disclose the fact he was paid by the boatbuilders.


En France c est la même logique, les revues spécialisées en voiles sont co- financées par les budgets publicitaires des grands constructeurs de bateaux et a ce titre elles dépendent économiquement de ces financements aussi leurs articles techniques sont rarement défavorables et sont souvent superficiels il est donc difficile pour les plaisanciers acheteurs d’ avoir une analyse objective Cordialement D Faivet ( ulysseempuria)

Jacques Landry

I am in Martinique and see a lots of Frenchmen (and British as well in fact) sailing across with their brand new boats (big, expensive, over equipped) and most have problems during theirs first crossing. Some not too bad, many have more serious failures. Some life threatening! There are more very recent boats at the shipyard than any others. As mentioned above, the blaming game goes on and on. Lot’s of almost new boats for sale down there.

I still think that retrofitting an older boat (a good one to start with) might be a better choice, but only if you can do most of it yourself, and enjoy doing it.

Anyhow, can’t afford a new one, so I’d rather convince myself that this is the way to go 😉


Good article: Could not agree more.

The issue is also about the business model adopted by many of the larger boat builders that tends to cater to trends rather than functionality. Recently looked at a new 45′ sloop and was appalled at the lightness/fragility of the fixtures and fittings. It felt like a caravan. In the past this same builder produced solid and innovative boats that were practical and made to last because the earlier boats are still going strong.

Is it down to labour costs? materials? corporate thin line margin mark-ups and and associated cost cutting? I’m not sure the reason, but whatever it is, I would not be confident in that particular vessel’s capability offshore yet the base price was mind-numbingly high.

I do know there is a market for a robust functionally aesthetically pleasing boat that will get the job done, so look forward to the next progression on the Adventure 40.



ulysseempuria a viv
Je souscris a votre analyse de fabrication des constructeurs grand public de voiliers, ils adaptent leurs produits aux tendances du marche de la plaisance qui sont evolution du confort au detriment de la navigation pour les grandes traversees, le materiel est different et comme vous l ecrivez a juste titre LA FONCTIONALITE ; Les grands navigateurs sont a meme d evaluer la robustesse d un navire, sa fiabilite tout temps, les constructeurs raisonnent en marge financiere soucieux de PRESENTER un bateau comme une belle carrosserie ? qui brille de toutes ses ” lumieres” dans les SALONS NAUTIQUES d autres part certains n ont aucune preoccupation pour la garantie car un reseau fiable de SAV coute de l argent comme nous le preconisons dans notre BLOG par experience faire une enquete avant d acheter devient maintenant de plus en plus necessaire Cordialement D FAIVET

Bill Bishop

An excellent post, but unfortunately a common story. Poor design, overly complex systems, to much pleather and glitz, all coupled with immersion in salt water is always a financial accident looking for a place to occur. Couple this with no real configuration control ( the builder doesn’t have a clue after the fact of what and where things where actually installed on the boat ) lack of documentation, and no provision for maintainability, and you have the modern production boat. Oh wait, if you buy now, we will throw in guaranteed equipment inaccessibility for no extra charge. There is plenty of blame to throw around, but if you’re actually going to cruise, and not just using the boat for an occasional day sail, keep it as simple as possible. If it isn’t on the boat, it can’t break, or corrode into oblivion. Don’t bend over backwards to be on the bleeding edge of technology. It’s expensive to be an early adopter. Ignore the glossy reviews, and talk to other owners about the boat before you buy, and read the online user forums. Do crawl around in the boat, and see if simple tasks such as changing filters, or replacing a bilge pump are even possible. Take a flashlight an look in the recesses for Brailler’s (equipment you can see, or you can touch, but you can’t do both at the same time). Caveat emptor. And John, I agree with your position about outing builders, but the close up photo’s do point out the things to look for.


i believe this post and commentary is a good example of welcome cutting to the chase…my experience includes being the second owner and skipper of a then-10-year-old jeanneau sun odyssey 34 that was a veteran passage maker from europe and through the caribbean up to n.c. where i bought her and extensively coastal cruised her for seven years before selling her and relocating to tampa bay where i purchased a brand new bayliner discovery power cruiser…in both instances the hitches i encountered were with the power plants and not with the boats…both boats good performers and structurally sound…the yanmar auxiliary in the jeanneau had simply seen its best days when i took it over; however, it still took care of me although i had to take a hit because of it when i sold the boat…the mercruiser i/o power plant in the bayliner has been a challenge since about day one with the mfr honoring the warranty terms and covering most of the repair expenses over the last four years, but the failures have been unsettling to put it mildly…thank goodness for boat u.s. although i have disliked being under tow returning to port…i now have an engine that is about 75% rebuilt…meanwhile the boat itself has performed nearly flawlessly having passaged back and forth to key west on three different occasions some in rough conditions and up and down fl’s west coast to the tune of 4,000 total hrs and nearly 600 hrs runnning time not to mention the associated experiences none of which i will trade for anything especially the key west runs although key west is not particularly hospitable to boaters…waterfront areas quite touchy about what you can and cannot do with attitudes to match including fellow mariners(exception is boat u.s. as they promptly and successfully scuba-dove on my hopelessly fouled anchor…all expense covered by my annual subscription when i would have gladly paid an extra fee) (be careful where you anchor there…anchorage holding is shakey and heavily fouled); however, with its unmistakable tropical ambiance and history key west is still a top destination for cruising although you still need a superior performing vessel to do it as the conditions are harsher than your typical gunkholing but obviously not as harsh as blue water voyaging where my experience is less but enough to know you and your vessel better be prepared when you go…in conclusion i endorse john’s admonitions to keep it simple with the gear, let the buyer beware, and rely on your own judgement, experience, and feelings about your prospective new-boat ventures including the mfr’s reputation and the dealer’s each of which should be thoroughly vetted including details of how they will respond to problems after purchase because they will happen…richard in tampa bay (m/v cavu’s skipper, formerly s/v sidra’s skipper)

David Nutt

To head out depending on someone else to have done everything perfectly so you have nothing to worry about, nothing to fix, nothing to challenge the very reason for venturing offshore takes the meaning of it all away. Even after a lengthy refit on Danza, in my own boat yard, by my own crew, supervised and worked on by myself as well, there were still issues that arose when we headed off around the world. It does not even matter whose fault it was when one of the three blades disappeared off the fancy and expensive propeller somewhere between Panama and the Galapagos. It was simply send a new prop, create a prop puller that would work underwater in a three foot swell, and get the replacement prop on. Or sail to the Marquesas just like in the old days.
We have to be self sufficient when we head out and if we do not have the personal skills then there is little doubt there is someone else out there in the cruising community who can help you out. Unless, of course, you are headed to the arctic or Labrador which is on our schedule this summer – then you are probably truly on your own. This is not to justify poor workmanship but stuff happens out there despite the road littered with good intentions wherever that road may lead and we have to have the ability to make do or make do without.


a) what tipped you off about the lost prop blade ?
b) how did you come by the repacement prop ?
c) do you think the defective prop was inherently defective or do you think it hit something ?
d) did the blade separate at the hub or in the middle or where ?
e) do you now carry a spare prop ?
f) i’m guessing the broken prop was self feathering no ?
g) if you were at the galapagos with the replacement prop why did you have those swells ? surely there was a lee shore line to switch out the props ?
h) why didn’t you just go on by sail to the marquesas ?
i) when you sent for the replacement prop did you request the replacement plus a backup ?

just asking

richard in tampa bay (m/v cavu’s skipper, formerly s/v sidra’s skipper)

Nick Kats

Hi John
First you took a really tough look at buying 2nd hand boats for cruising.
Now you take this really tough look at buying new boats for cruising.
Who else does this?
What a great site this is.

Dick Stevenson

Dear All,
I very much agree with all the above comments on the recreational sail industry and those that promote it. A lost skill among many is the capacity to feel shame. One aspect of John’s story, however, has gotten no comment.
Even if the boat had worked out better, I suspect that there was a good chance their dreams would not have been fulfilled. It is my take that our area of recreation is one that really benefits from paying one’s dues. Experience really matters. Taking short cuts is likely to backfire. Some “people with money to spend” can jump in and weather the sometimes difficult compressed learning curve, but many are unable to do so. It is not well disseminated how many skills are necessary to keep a vessel and her crew safe.
Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy


You suggest there are a few yards/builders that don’y fall intot he category. Can’t we start a list of those ones, and begin to make the others work towards improving their standards to match the best?

As one commenter above said, this unbiased analysis will never come from within the industry, from magazines, or associations themselves, so why not us the consumers take control?

Fantastic site, and can’t wait to hear more about the new design of cruising yacht…

John Franklin

Having read all above I am more pleased than ever before that I had the money and foresight to commission a custom-design boat from a designer who was also a very experienced ocean cruiser, and then the time, knowledge and experience to manage the build project myself. I had full control of the project at all times, especially financial control and couldn’t be held to ransom by builders. I chose and specified all equipment items myself and supervised their installation with especial attention to accsss and maintenance requirements. I kept all systems as simple as possible and the result has been very satisfactory. The project was completed on-time and on-budget and, above all, was a very satisfying experience. After 10 years of cruising nothing has occurred which would cause me to do a future project any other way.

Svein Lamark

Hi John, it is a sad story you are telling. I do not feel happy when reading you on this matters. But I do have to admitt that your conclucions are correct. I am an optimist on developing new technology. In your opinion on this spesific matter of developing and building good crusing boats, it is getting worse. Yes, you are right. I have rebuildt some old boats to modern standards. It was not easy, but in the end very satisfactory. That is the positive side of it, you can not buy them, you have to do it your self. Rebuilding a yacht that way can make you feel like a pioneer. It takes a lot of practical experience to do this. It helps a lot to have sailed races in small boats, to have sailed cruising in the Arctic and to have worked on small fishing boats. But most important is to have discussed this matter freely with others in the same situation. I like your attitude and I find your site important. The builders will have to follow if they want to stay in business.


These problems are not only inherant in the marine industry. And are not only unscrupulous manufacturers trying to extract as much out of a product. A lot of these problems are the effect of the customer and there push for percieved value. I know from my industry that the majority of customers want pretty things and will play off the contractors to get the “best price” effectively forgoing quality. We made the decision to not to try and compete on price alone, to stay with quality and the customer that understands this, but they are fewer and fewer especially when times are tight, and have seen our projects halve over the last year which has further consequences such as lay offs etc. I can understand but do not agree, that if to maintain a share of the market that manufacturers start to look at ways to satisfy customers with what they “want” delivering to a price and not to an enduring asset. We all are responsible for the end result as quality cost more intially, but few can see through the glitz and the intial outlay.

Dave Benjamin

As a small business owner whose future is linked to the success of my business, I am biased towards dealing with other small business owners whenever possible. Large corporations are led by people who often look no further than the next quarter’s financial report. If they bankrupt the company, they usually just move on to another company.

Small business owners like me have a lot at stake and we can’t afford to have upset customers.


Affirmation tres juste,un patron d une petite entreprise a plus a perdre qu un cadre superieur d une grande entreprise, aussi comme dans le groupe Hanse des chefs de departement peuvent s offrir le ” luxe” de ne pas repondre aux clients, tout ce qu ils risquent c est de perdre leur salaire ? L affaire se complique quand l entreprise passe aux mains de fonds de pension ( banquiers financiers) on tombe dans le cynisme le client n a plus d importance c est essentielement ce qu il rapporte, j etais un petit ” patron ‘ je connais bien ce milieu Cordialement ulysseempuria

Matt Marsh

Do I take the bait?……
No, not today. I must resist the temptation to rant.
Suffice it to say that the problems John identified, and that everyone else seems to have encountered, do indeed seem to be common throughout the recreational boating industry.
There is no easy solution. Buyers have to be able to recognize the limits of their knowledge, and have to know when to get expert advice.


To no one in particular and everybody in general…what to do?

We’re relatively inexperienced sailors and would like to own a 35ish ft sailboat. But it would seem there is no good avenue to boat ownership.

I’m half tempted to order a set a plans from George Buehler and build my own.

It’s all quite discouraging.


Building your own sailboat can be one of life’s most satisfying experiences.

As a neophyte it will take you two years if you work at it full time, and ten years if you pick away at it on Sunday afternoons.

You will spend more money in the long run than if you buy a sound 1980’s boat and refit it. If it is of equal design and build quality you will spend more than the projected cost of the Adventure 40.

It’s resale value will be half that of a “name” boat.

In summary, the only reason to build your own boat is for the enjoyment of doing it.

Before you do anything, become a “relatively knowledgeable” sailor by doing several blue water deliveries as crew. OPO is a good place to start.


Thank you for your very generous offer. Received your email and will respond tomorrow.

Robert Reyes

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I have purchased my next, and last sail boat. A 1995 Pacific Seacraft 34. It was without a windlass. I previously pulled my 22 lb Bruce up by hand on my 30 footer, but I am 60 years old the jump to a 44lb anchor on all chain required something more. I spent months researching the appropriate unit and purchased a Lofrans Kobra even though it placed behind the Lewmar in Practical Sailor ‘s comparison test. Why, the Lofrans ?;
It was one of the standard options offered by Pacific Seacraft ( reputable builder that made The cut in “The World’s Best Sailboats” – did they really pay to be listed?) but more importantly It was recommended by the owner of a Pacific Seacraft 31, who circumnavigated with the Lofrans and had no issues.

The next problem was choosing the installer. I was lucky, the boat was at Billings Diesel at Stoneington, Maine and this yard was highly recommended.
The point is, I think I have made the right decisions, but only time will tell if the little knowledge I started with before the project will pay off when I sail her down to Oyster Bay this spring.

Time will tell.


Dave Benjamin


Don’t get overly discouraged.

There are some good choices out there for 35′-ish cruising boats. A Nicholson or Niagara 35 comes to mind and if you’re on a tight budget, there’s the old Alberg 35. If you’re more performance oriented an early 1980’s First 35 would be worht a look.

You’ll want to form a relationship with a top notch surveyor. Many of us use the same surveyor for many years. Sadly, our surveyor recently passed away and for the first time in about 20 years, we’ll use a different surveyor.

As for building a boat, I think there’s two types of people – those who go sailing and those who build boats. I’d venture to guess that less than 10% of the homebuilt boats make it out cruising with the person who started the project.

One thing I’m wondering about in relation to this thread is if Pam and Paul had a surveyor working for them during their boat commissioning process. Even on a new boat, a surveyor should be retained. I was recently involved with the sale of a 5 year old European production boat. The buyer’s surveyor discovered some repairs that were made in response to a hard grounding. The boat had undoubtedly suffered damage during a demonstration sail before they bought the boat as the boat was a “dealer demo boat.” The broker failed to disclose the damage history. A good surveyor would have found that issue and perhaps the broker could have had his license revoked for failing to disclose the damage history. Instead, they had to make a deduction to their selling price.


I’m new to owning a yacht – having chartered and sailed with friends for a long time and your ( this ) website is an excellent source of information.

I’d like to add my thoughts to some of the comments – in particular the Windlass.

“Catre” is a 1998 Hallberg Rassy 36 and the windlass is a Lofrans Airon with the gearbox and motor installed in a locker in the forecabin – it is completely seperate from the gypsy and drum /deckgear. When I removed it over this winter as part of overhauling / changing seals then I was surprised to see that it looked almost brand new ! A Change of oil in the gearbox was all that was required. And yes it has the mix of 3 metals that you describe

So – don’t always blame the manufacturer – it is often how it is installed that matters.


Dick Stevenson

John, I am sorry you felt the need to defend P&P as, like you in responding to an earlier request for details, I intended my response to be generic to a worrying pattern I perceive and not to the specific situation as described. I clearly did not make the generality of my comments apparent enough. My apologies, Dick

Dave Benjamin


I think on the older boats, people need to look at replacing chainplates as part of long term maintenance. On the Taiwanese built boats with their sometimes suspect metallurgy, the boat may not even need to be that old to require a close look. The good news is we’re seeing improved access to NDT (non-destructive testing) so there’s alternatives to replacing everything as a matter of course. Still, I can’t imagine leaving for an extended passage without some form of through chainplate inspection or replacement.

It’s not just older boats with rudder problems. We help prep a lot of boats for Pacific Cup (San Francisco to Hawaii) and it seems like every year there’s a boat or two losing a rudder or suffering rudder damage within the first day or two of the return trip back from the islands. Many modern boats don’t handle the loads of going upwind in the ocean too well, especially if the crew isn’t mindful on sail trim and keeping the load off the helm.


I can remember friends having very famous makes and very expensive cruising boats made 20 to 25 years ago and they still had problems. One famous designer once told me that what he designs and what the boat building company build can be different as builders have a right to change a certain percent of the designers boat. Example was designer had the head designed so owner could easily get to any plumbing by taking a panel off with four wing nut type locks. The builder thought that would be too expensive and just walled in plumbing to save him cost. And that was a high end boat.

Yes Boreal really puts the effort into getting our new boat right, they work very hard at it. But Colin and I put a lot of effort into getting ideas conveyed to Boreal and luckily Boreal listens and gives us an honest reply back. I honor Boreals advice on my ideas if they think it can be done differently and better their way.

Before we ordered the Boreal we looked at some of the high end Swedish boats. Everything looked great till I talked with cruisers that had ones built. The promise of being able to be involved never lived up to what owners were told. So if you are going to have a new boat built find other cruisers that did have one built and ask if their involvement was satisfactory.

One thing I am learning is that when having a new boat built I have been having a hard time getting used to the idea that everything is new and not yet built. So I need to think new and not this is how I would solve an idea or custom building problem like it is a 20 year old boat I am refitting.

New boats are hard work too. You must stay focused for the entire build or else you will have not what you expected when you first step on board and start sea trials. There are many days I spend 2 or 3 hours going over spread sheets, internet research and product research before talking with Colin and Boreal.

Dave Benjamin

We own a pretty old Amel (1979) that we have been quite happy with. It’s been throughly refit so none of the gear is old. With few exceptions, I’ve found it an extraordinarily easy boat to work on and quite low maintenance. So there are some boats out there that offer a relatively low frustration factor.

Dave Benjamin

Amel has indeed become more complex since the late 1980’s. Our old Maramu is very basic with simple systems. The challenge I see with the newer Amels is many yards and service personnel are not familiar with the nuances of the boat. There is a joking reference in the Amel community – “as Capt Henri and god intended”. When people who don’t take the time to learn, understand, and appreciate the boat, and start making changes, it is not always pretty. Joel Potter advises new owners not to drill any holes or make any changes the first year of ownership. It’s good advice. Much of the work we’ve done on our Amel is returning things to the way Amel originally intended after a well intentioned previous owner got creative. There is a wonderful community of Amel owners on the web and lots of support and advice available from experienced owners. Amel is still in business and supports their newer boats quite well.

One of my metrics for evaluating any cruising boat is what critical gear failures could stop us in a third world country that has little or no yachting infrastructure.


caliber (based in fl i believe…not far from tampa?) makes a sturdy and reliable boat without much jazzy stuff…your proposed model t sort of reminds me of caliber…i crewed on the lrc47 several times back and forth to the caribbean from ct, and was impressed…not perfect but close…richard in tampa bay (m/v cavu’s skipper, formerly s/v sidra’s skipper)

Bob Hinden

I own a 2002 Valiant 42. While not perfect, it is built very well and I haven’t had too many problems, and nothing structural. My general experience was that Valiant has stood behind me. Valiants were made to go to sea. I have done two trips from San Francisco to Hawaii, once from Hawaii to Seattle, and then back down the coast to San Francisco.

The problem is that they stopped making new ones because they couldn’t make money at it. I think it’s hard (maybe impossible) for a new boat manufacturer to make money building boats that are really ready to go to sea and be competitive with all of the usual brands we see at the boat shows.


The V40-42 was undoubtedly the outstanding cruising sailboat of the 1970’s & 80’s, and benefited from years of refinement until the end of production coincided with the economic crash and then the passing of the owner who was the driving force of the company. Designs like people eventually wear out and people stop buying them because they don’t want to lay out 2012 dollars for a boat that looks the same as it did in 1977, even though the ocean hasn’t changed.

The later series MacGreggor 65 Pilothouse has an interior more like a cheap RV. Contrary to popular opinion it used a low tech solid glass construction that makes a Beneteau/Hunter look flimsy. It is a HUGE boat compared to a V40-42, but with the same beam which limits the size of rig and sails. Given bulletproof strength of hull, deck, rigging, and rudder which do you think is cheapest to build? For sure its the Mac! Which would be faster and have the easiest motion? Size matters!

People always say boats are priced by the foot, but the truth is they are priced by the number of pieces involved in putting them together! That’s why even for a preliminary bid on a large project I break at least one stateroom down to the smallest detail of every operation to establish a baseline for the labor and materials cost for the entire project. And I look at the CNC cut list on a metal boat to determine the lineal feet of weld, rather than just slapping a price per pound of metal onto it.

David Batten

Great site and very interesting thread. There is no doubt that the KISS principle should be applied to cruising yachts. I am just having a custom 55ft built in the UK for launching this summer. I will let you know how I get on. In 2012 it is very difficult to keep it as simple as one would wish and the electrics are the most difficult. The budget is less that an Oyster/Swan/HR but more than a Beneteau but we will get our own compromises and not somebody elses! If you are interested I will send the link to the designers website.

Dave Benjamin


I think many of us would be interested in learning more about your boat. Have you considered setting up a blog to share your experiences? Blogs are also great as they provide you with a “virtual scrapbook” of sorts. I enjoy reviewing blog entries I wrote when we were cruising.

I’m curious what the rig and sailplan looks like on your boat and if you’re using powered winches or manual. Are you planning to lead all controls aft to the cockpit or work from the mast?


Effectivement un BLOG permet de communiquer, echanger,comparer nos experiences reciproques, mais aussi se soutenir dans l action et nous conforter dans le fait de ne plus se sentir seul
Ce qui est fantastique c est qu il n y a plus de frontieres, le blog est un formidable outil avec les systemes de traduction meme approximatif de rapprochement des peuples et cultures D FAIVET ( ulysseempuria sur le net, facebook)


Nous avons la meme histoire que vous et vous invitons a consulter notre blog
Bon courage et bon vent

Alan Bradley

I’m coming late to this discussion, but you asked about good experiences with new boats and more recently about experiences with Caliber. I feel we have had a very good experience with our Caliber 40 LRC. We are not long-time sailors with years of offshore experience, however we took delivery of our new Caliber in March of 2008, took her from San Francisco to the San Juan Islands and back, moved aboard full time fourteen months ago, and have been cruising in the Sea of Cortez and along mainland Mexico since then. While she does not yet have years and years and thousands of miles of hard sailing under her keel, we have had to push her hard on a couple of passages and have been very satisfied with the results. A Caliber is not the slimmer, faster, but still basic offshore boat you envision with your Adventure 40. She is a cruising sailboat built along sleek, but more traditional, lines and is a very sturdy, very capable blue water cruiser that is also very comfortable for full time life on the water. The features that sold us on the Caliber are: An integrated, encapsulated keel (modified full) A skeg-hung rudder A water-tight forward bulkhead Integral and adequate tankage (below the cabin sole): 212 gal fuel, 160 gal water – essentially a double hull, as well An adequate chain locker with deck, not over the bed, access A solid fiberglass hull The Caliber is also more expensive than your Adventure 40, but still under $300K for the basic boat in 2008. We feel this was an exceptionally good value for an American made boat. Of course, we managed to add enough extras to bring our boat closer to $400K by the time we got done, but we’ve been happy with our choices so far, with just one exception. We had a serious problem with the hydraulic ram on our auto pilot. However, that was really a Raymarine issue and not a build or installation issue. We feel that the build quality on this boat was exceptional, and the factory-installed extras were very well done. Caliber has a very small operation in Clearwater, Florida. It basically looks rather like an overgrown, backyard boat building business, but that’s exactly what makes them good. They were only building 20 to 25 boats per year back in the good years, and most of the crew had been with them for over 15 years. Unfortunately, the years since 2008 have not been kind to a lot of boat builders, and Caliber is no exception. They are still there – the land and buildings are owned outright – but to my knowledge, they are not currently producing any boats. The problem has been too few orders. Basically, it requires having at least three boats in production at any one time to make the economics of having a full crew work out. I’m new to AAC and think you have a fantastic site with a tremendous amount… Read more »

Marc Dacey

When we went boat-shopping seven years ago, one of the baseline assumptions was that we might have to travel and perhaps even pay a surveyor for, say, a weekend in Panama, where cruising dreams seem to die or at least get divorced.

We ended up getting a custom-designed and built steel cutter here in Toronto. We had seen a number of boats, including well-travelled metal ones, but while the to-do list was long on the custom steelie, the to-undo list was pretty short. By “to-undo”, I mean to rectify basic design problems of inadequate access, insufficient prep at the build stage, and fundamental misunderstandings of the materials that went into the boat. For a more typical fibreglass boat, this would include finding no solid glass pads instead of core material where through-bolts anchoring loaded deck gear pass, for instance, and washers instead of backing plates. Such a technique will fail, leading to leaks, rot in balsa cores, and delamination and structural failure.

I see bad, cheap decisions in beautiful, expensive and new boat show models. It’s why we popped for an older custom one with “good bones” and the access I prefer, which admittedly can come at a reduction in absolute living space, but then so does sufficient stowage, another thing de-emphasized on dock queens. When confronted with a bad choice on a custom boat, out comes the sabre saw. You feel free to heavily modify it, as opposed to cutting access panels in the cabinetry of something new and shiny, even if doing that would be the seamanlike thing to do.

I am lucky in some ways that I “caught the offshore bug” by reading about the Smeatons and Hiscocks and so on, who had simple and robust boats and tight, safe quarters. It’s made me quite suspicious of the near-universal trend to stuff a condo into a flat-bottomed lawn dart unsuitable for days in a heaving sea. Of course, I’m clearly in the minority here…these “Bendytoys” (and I’m not singling out any one firm, just the predominant type) are still selling.

Marc Dacey

Thanks for the question, John.

I had the boat professionally surveyed prior to purchase by a fellow more used to freighters and tugs. We went all over it ourselves with dental mirrors and so on, and still do. Three facts came to light: there was very, very little rust at any point because the initial coatings seemed to have been applied properly. What rust we found was directly related to things like “just below the hot water tank relief valve” or “just below the (traditional) stuffing box”. Remedies include clean-up to bare metal, galvanizing paint, and two-part top coat, or a specialty paint that chemically binds up the rust.

Secondly, the boat’s never seen salt. Imagine a car painted in two-part, industrial-grade epoxy that had only seen rain, far from sea. This alone makes a huge difference. We will need a more rigourous routine in the ocean, but unlike some, I don’t find that prospect of rust remediation onerous.

Thirdly, and unlike many steel boats, there is no mass of foam in the bilges or even on the hull below the waterline. Everything is ultimately accessible, and so if deep scratches are avoided, it’s pretty easy to maintain. There are also proper limber holes (to be bunged when underway, of course) to release water to the bilges, there to be pumped out.

I had seen some steel boats with foamed lower hulls, and they all had nice layers of orange dust from tiny rust spots forming from failed undercoatings. While I love insulating above the waterline, steel boat bilges must be kept dry (see “PSS shaft seal” and free from insulation that can hold moisture.

I do have a few nicks on deck that require some attention, and I need a going-over of the hull to do a through “seal” before we go…it’s the cost of using the boat as a vast workshop for a few years on the hard.

The greatest threat is galvanic, I think, but making the boat less of a “potential” problem is a complex subject unlikely to be of interest to plastic boat people (save for the poor new boat owners with brass through-hulls).

By the way, we use the same sort of paints (Endura and Ameron) used on commercial ships, oil rigs and nav buoys.

Marc Dacey

A good point indeed, and worth considering in light of propane stoves, as well, as it is a “wet” fuel compared to diesel. I have considered the role of proper ventilation and fans, yes, even beneath the floorboards, to address this, but it’s still good to hear the real world take on it.

I suspect my Patay manual pump will be pressed into service, along with a good strum box.

How do you get the condensate out of Morgan’s Cloud, John? You spend a lot of time in the cooler climates, I think.


Merci du conseil, effectivement j ai environ 2-3 litres par jour, d eau dans mes fonds, la coque est en polyesther, je n ai pu localiser la fuite ( j ai mis du colorant dans le réservoir) mais aucune trace de colorant dans les fonds donc le circuit intérieur est étanche, vous pouvez lire toutes mes procédures effectuées dans mon BLOG HANSE ( article fuites) En France c est l hiver les températures correspondent a vos observations, je pense toutefois a une liaison coque pont, Merci encore de vos précieux conseils et bon vent ce que nous disons en France Cordialement D FAIVET ( ulysseempuria)