The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

The Right Way to Buy a Boat…And The Wrong Way

You are going to think I have completely gone off topic, or maybe off my head, but bear with me and all will become clear.

I used to own a computer systems integration company. We specialized in providing accounting systems to small businesses. This was in the early days of small computers, and business owners faced with unfamiliar technology were understandably intimated by the process of selecting a company to help them automate, so many turned to consultants to help them make a decision. One of those consultants was a man named…well, let’s call him Marco**.

It Seemed So Logical

Marco’s first action when hired by a new client was to spend many hours interviewing every staff member in the organization that had anything do with accounting and asking them what they wanted the new automated accounting system to do and then meticulously writing down their answers.

The Request for Proposal

He would then write a request for proposal (RFP), which was in essence a list of the features gathered in the first step. These documents usually ran to many pages and were often as much as an inch thick. Marco, being a helpful kind of guy, even added little boxes next to each feature.

After receiving the RFP, we vendors would spend hours striving to figure out ways to bend and massage our systems so that we could tick as many of Marco’s little boxes as possible, without stretching the truth…too much. Marco would then add up all the ticks on each RFP and the one that had the most ticks got the contract.

The Result

So, how did this work out for the customers that hired Marco? What was Marco’s success rate? Well, in that strange English game of cricket we would have said, “Marco was bowled for a duck”.  (Translation for you Americans: Marco’s batting average was a big fat zero.) Every single one of those projects ended in disaster.

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More Articles From Online Book: How To Buy a Cruising Boat:

  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. Selecting The Right Hull Form
  8. Five Ways That Bad Boats Happen
  9. How Weight Affects Boat Performance and Motion Comfort
  10. Easily Driven Boats Are Better
  11. 12 Tips To Avoid Ruining Our Easily Driven Sailboat
  12. Learn From The Designers
  13. You May Need a Bigger Boat Than You Think
  14. Sail Area: Overlap, Multihulls, And Racing Rules
  15. 8 Tips For a Great Cruising Boat Interior Arrangement
  16. Of Cockpits, Wheelhouses And Engine Rooms
  17. Offshore Sailboat Keel Types
  18. Cockpits—Part 1, Safe and Seamanlike
  19. Cockpits—Part 2, Visibility and Ergonomics
  20. Offshore Sailboat Winches, Selection and Positioning
  21. Choosing a Cruising Boat—Shelter
  22. Choosing A Cruising Boat—Shade and Ventilation
  23. Pitfalls to Avoid When Buying a New Voyaging Boat
  24. Cyclical Loading: Why Offshore Sailing Is So Hard On A Boat
  25. Cycle Loading—8 Tips for Boat and Gear Purchases
  26. Characteristics of Boat Building Materials
  27. Impact Resistance—How Hull Materials Respond to Impacts
  28. Impact Resistance—Two Collision Scenarios
  29. Hull Materials, Which Is Best?
  30. The Five Things We Need to Check When Buying a Boat
  31. Six Warnings About Buying Fibreglass Boats
  32. Buying a Fibreglass Boat—Hiring a Surveyor and Managing the Survey
  33. What We Need to Know About Moisture Meters and Wet Fibreglass Laminate
  34. US$30,000 Starter Cruiser—Part 2, The Boat We Bought
  35. Q&A, What’s the Maximum Sailboat Size For a Couple?
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1. Seaworthy, able to survive a multi-day storm far offshore
2. A big pilot house or deck saloon. You can’t put a price on having sun in the main living area. On top of that 360 visibility from within I feel is a nice plus.
3. Sustainable – plenty of power generation and ability to be off the grid for a long time. Large tanks, Watermaker, Solar etc.
4. Lifting keel
5. Aluminium
6. A boat we can love and admire
7. Space for guests (sharing adventures with others is important)
8. Retain a reasonable value if we do sell


Out of that we sacrificed two massive tickets items no. 4 and 5 so that we could get 2, 7, 6 & 8. Will we regret it? Maybe. Time will tell.

Boat got: SeaStream 43
Boat close second: Koopmans 45

Eric Klem

You make a very good point John. In engineering, we have a system not that dissimilar to what you recommend consisting of user requirements and system specifications. The user requirement states what the product must do and the system specification starts to get into how it will be done. For example, a user requirement might be that the boat be capable of motoring and limited sailing in water as shallow as 4′. In the system specification, you would choose between whether it was a lifting keel, centerboard, etc. Because shopping for a boat is not the same as designing one, a system specification should not be done. As you point out, if we go past the point of a user requirement/list of vital capabilities, we quickly eliminate many boats that would actually be suitable.


Andrew Craig-Bennett

I had not read this before I bought the boat I have now, but oddly enough she ticks the boxes. Just luck, perhaps. I had admired the design and I wanted a strong. simple, boat in good mechanical and structural condition. Since she is rather like “Morgan’s Cloud” in size, shape, and and rig, I now pay great attention to what John and Phyllis say!


The big issue with computer applications integration & development is that customer companies need systems appropriate for the correct/improved way of doing their business, while customers’ employees describe, at best the current/perfectible way they are currently working, or, at worst, the way they would like to work for watever reason. So, application systems often end up as grossly inapropriate from the start, or, as an excellent way to freese in concrete a way a working that will be grossly inappropriate within 2 years, without any reasonable way to evolve at that date.
I sincerely believe that a decent part of current economics havocs can be attributed to computer application consultants of the last 15 years or so.
In theory, some technics like formal value analysis and/or easily maintenable applications and code could be very helpfull in dealing with that kind of problems. Points are that customers just don’t like that kind of messages, and computer salesmen just hate what their customers don’t like….
Speaking about sailing boats, I think that you get rid of the customers’ boss vs. employee problems you have to deal with in applications integration & development (the only guy you discuss with is the “boss” and is not suspect of distorting reality/perceived needs for whatever reasons…), but you are adressing a very complex market, where marketing and status-symbol considerations are very presents, and where average customers’ professionalism is supposed to be lower than professional applications’ buyers professionalism (I said “supposed”….). So, it is not a big surprise to notice “some” differences between best possible target and real target as it is.


The 58′ Alden “Trashman” was certainly an offshore capable boat, until the large saloon windows blew out when falling off a wave. True, they could have and should have put the shutters on prior to departure, but as they were not expecting bad weather… well, the rest is history.


1) Aluminum.. Good abrasion resistance
2) Centerboard.. I.e. Shallow draft.
3) Good access to mechanicals.. Too old to hang upside down with spinners in mouth to change an impeller.
4) Good sailing performance.. Can’t imagine why 😉
5) plenty of fuel & water storage… The limiting factors of Range and endurance.
6) Simple and easy to handle sail plan = cutter
7) Under 50 ft LOA

We really wanted an aluminum centerboarder. (Allures or Alubat) Could not find a decent one at the time we were looking.

We ended up with a Valiant 50.. 3/5 ain’t bad, I guess.

Second choices were :
Amel Super Maramu -we thought it too big and complicated (we were wrong!)
Hallberg Rassy 46 – teak decks killed that one, but otherwise an excellent boat

We do miss the shallow draft, it’s value is not to be under estimated.

We also miss not worrying about getting cosmetic dings in pristine gel coat. Stress levels in ensuring the gel coat remains pristine sometimes reach 11/10.


All good boats, but isn’t this primarily a list of features rather than the more general list of vital capabilities you are recommending?


Mine is a question which based on Niels comment . I am looking at garcia yachts 57 built in 2006/7 in France it is out of the water for 7 years now it sailed very little since new, any advice what to look for after 7 years in the yard. any comment or suggestion very much appreciated.



Hi- John,
Thank-you very much for the advice . As long time experienced on aluminum boats what other thing to look for. The yard tell me the boat is like new only the paint on the hull is came off which they send me pictures. Any rigging like forward back stay will be affected in this case ? Any advice will be very much appreciated.

best regards


We bought our first sail boat two years ago and had just learned to sail. It is a 35 foot cruiser and overall I think it is serving us well. But I agree with your post. If I were to buy a boat today I would be looking for something a bit different. In our case our mail sail and jib are easy to work from the cockpit. However, we are limited to only two winches on the cabin top. It didn’t appear an issue to us at the time, having no experience. But today I would want some winches easily reachable from the helm. I also want a cockpit that is easy to move around in. Our current cockpit has a table in the middle that one is always trying to jump around.


Suppose I am looking for ovni, Or any other model considered suitable, can I assume that the boat meets the requirements of 1 -6?
And all that’s left now is to examine the boat, Make sure it is in good shape and its internal arrangement Suitable for a couple?


Hi John,
So about that #9—–. I just looked at a boat that ticks off all your boxes. Think Hallberg Rassy quality, no silly teak decks or cap rails, better interior arrangement, new Spade anchor and Ideal windlass, 30 hrs on the engine— and a price 25% of a similar HR. And I can’t do it because I’d have to pretend that it was somebody else’s boat every time I approached her in the anchorage.


We are the other end of the scale…we bought a sundeer 60 sight unseen…very good broker … we didn’t see the boat until she arrived on a ship in Australia and we are still happy…we did have two circumnavigations under our belt and very definite ideas of what we wanted …. quality counts….. buy engineering excellence and the rest flows.


One can almost reduce the list to a single item and be guaranteed of getting a proper cruising boat…..

1) Any boat designed by someone who has circumnavigated and cruised extensively in a boat of their own design.

Now for some controversy…A lot of big name designers are dilettantes , designing boats are a matter of drawing a pretty sheer and a nice interior. With no regard to practical access for maintenance done by the owner.

Dashew and Amel (Henri) boats tick all the boxes. I don’t know of any others which do it as well.
Comments? (As I duck for cover)

P D Squire

So James Wharram then

Steven Schapera

I must add designer Dudley Dix to your list. He’s an accomplished sailor, and certainly my Shearwater 45 ticks every one of your boxes, and then a few more.


RDE, tell us about the boat, not everyone can be beautiful!


Here is mine:
1) Must be good looking. No equipment hanging off the ends, solar panels tacked on, jerry cans on deck etc.
2) Sails well in all conditions. (Especially light winds)
3) Cost less than a good used car or no more than 10% of my budget.

One Example:
Webb Chiles is circumnavigating for the 6th time in a Moore 24. I believe he considers it the best boat he has owned.
I need a little more room so ~27 feet is better for me.


Nor’Sea 27? Really cool that it can cruise at 60+ (on its trailer).


That is a good joke Andy. If you are serious I will ask the moderator to step in like he did with “RobertB”. I made a promise sometime ago to not be rude on the internet.


I don’t have any particular opinion one way or another about the Nor’Sea, never been on one, I just think it’s funny that every time you see a review of one they like to bring up how fast it can go on a trailer.


Good joke Andy.
Item #3 on my list is worth discussing… My budget was 80k, plus 20-ish for issues (sold my airplane). Eventually it came down to about 8 boats, I bought the smallest. Paid 13k and traveled 600 miles to get it. 2+ years later and no buyer’s remorse. Invested the remaining funds and now the budget is much larger. Not sure I need anything bigger solo.
John has written about buying used and the pitfalls, fixer uppers are never a good deal. Follow his advise. If you are not ready to go right now, explore other options and start sailing.


John – The opening of this post is a picture of a new Island Packet 370 and your first thought when you saw this boat was that it is over featured. Would you mind discussing a little about what you saw on this particular boat that made you think this?


my boat is a 34 footer designed for a 1995 transatlantic race solo. It is a one-off design, sloop fractional water ballast, fast but not extreme for those times standards, very well built and equipped wiht top quality items (Frederiksen blocks, Meissner winches, Hallberg Rassy quality interiors, etc.) The owner/solo racer did not finished, just able to race 1/3 of the course. Then after some years of short races with no special success I bought it in 2003 and civilised it a bit for cruising/club racing single-handed.
I am planning to go for cruising in the Med for a couple of years with my wife and sporadically with family/friends. I have been looking for upgrading to a larger boat, something in the 37/40 foot range (given that I have already an slip of 12 m). After some years of pro/cons analyisis, market search (mainly in Spain and the rest of Western Europe), finance anaylisis, etc., this is my final distillation and probably my decision:

In short, my boat has for me a fundamental requirement (easy to correlate with a spec or feature !): it is owned by me already. This spec is not shared with any other boat in the world!
So I can concentrate in preparing it, training the short crew and planning the voyage!
Best regards and good sailing !


I’m interested in what the readership thinks about AMEL boats. They seem, at first glance, to be a turn key method of getting under way in a short amount of time with a boat you can have confidence in. In my case I don’t have the time to build a custom boat. When the gun sounds at the starting line of retirement I’m going to want to get going. All boats are compromises and AMEL is no exception (can’t travel the intercostal because of mast height, too much draft for much of the Bahamas) but their concept seems to be sound for circumnavigation ,at least in the warm parts of the world where I want to go.
If I go in that direction I’ll try to find a 53 or 54 2005 or newer.
Any thoughts on AMEL or alternatives would be appreciated.

Niels Faerch

They’re an “enthusiast” boat. I love them to bits. And wish I had one. Maintenance access is a dream. I wish I had electric furlers on every sail now. I “did” my back in a week ago and now sail handing of any description is sheer agony. One needs to recognize that past a certain age, injuries take a lot longer to heal.
Buy an Amel, forget the rest. And live with some of its quirks (for example that disgusting faux teak deck.. Eeew!.. but over time, you can remove it and replace it with genuine cork.)
The bunks in both cabins are nice and low – easy for getting in and out. As result of my back, I am unable to climb up into the V-berth of my boat, so now I sleep in the salon.
But look past the cosmetics, and for my money, its the best cruising system afloat bar none. A lot of thought and real life experience by Henri Amel has gone into its design – and it really shows. But its no race horse. If you’re looking for a windward speed demon, a J/Boat will be better choice.
As far as draft in the Bahamas? Unless you’re a gunkholing fanatic, 7 feet is not impossible. Our boat is also almost 7ft, and yes we are restricted in places to drop anchor on the banks but we’ve not felt cheated. However, if shallow draft is that important to you, get an Alubat Ovni.


Thanks so much for your reply.
Yea, the back thing is more than a nuisance. It is limiting …and that’s not a good thing. Stuff like electric furlers and easier maintenance access become, not nice stuff to have, but critical to going forward. For me it comes with the “maturing” territory.
I think you’re right, pick your Bahamas trip carefully and you won’t miss much with 2 meters draft.. but heck I’ve spent some time there with a 5′ draft and seen what I want to see. French Polynesian may not be as draft restrictive
I’m curious as to why you thought the AMEL was too large and too complicated but changed your mind…or maybe that was another Niels.
Don’t care to be a windward speed demon. Would rather have a decent performing, sea kindly ship that will forgive its skippers incompetence. Sort of why I fly a Cessna Skylane “truck” instead of a beautiful (and fast) Beech Bonanza. The Skylane has kept me from killing myself.
Fair winds, following seas,

Niels Faerch

Ray, Yes it was me that originally thought the Amel was too complicated and too large. I have since recanted. Our sail management is “old school” and bullet proof but the problem when we are sailing in squally conditions and reef down, and at 0200 when the enhanced winds die off, I am reluctant to shake out the reefs in case I have to re-reef again in the next hour. So I blunder along under canvassed all night long. On the Amel, its a case of pressing the buttons to get an appropriate sail area at all times. Purists may well scorn. But if technology is available to allow to you to sail later into your declining years, there is no logical reason to eschew it.


That’s how I see it. I have been on those o dark 30 watches as well…same scenario. Get up and reef, shake it out, two hours later put it back in. Keeps you awake though. Henri had a better idea.


A DHC-2 Beaver, my first flying job kept me alive despite my best efforts to do otherwise.


Can’t say enough about forgiving aircraft.. or boats either for that matter.
Speaking of purists, I was taking my center cockpit ketch with a full enclosure down the intercoastal somewhere in N.C. one cold November day. It was 35 and blowing but sunny and the sunshine warmed the cockpit nicely. Passed a guy all decked out in foul weather gear (he needed them), hand steering a really nice boat with no dodger and hanked on sails. I don’t think either of us would have traded the other..but I’ll bet he thought about doing so more than I did.


Simplicity is a well accepted universal “good” and difficult to argue against. For the sake of discussion, I’d like to offer an alternative view. Feel free to delete this post if you feel it is not germane. I wont take offence.

The quest for simplicity is indeed, on the surface a laudable one. The question is, just how simple do you want things to be. The nautical Luddites like the Pardeys are indeed legends and deservedly so. They eschew anything remotely mechanical. Good for them. But its not for everyone.

Do we go back to buckets instead of flushing toilets? Do we dispense with radar, autopilots, GPS, Chartplotters and electronic charts? Do we only have a manual winch? No auxiliary engine? Just how simple, is simple enough?

I’m guessing not. The good old days were not always.

In this age of efficient global logistics services – (spare parts are 4 days away), and a cruiser who is more able finance a more luxurious lifestyle and who is better educated and able to understand his systems and diagnose the problems, then why not accept more complexity?

In my case, I too was a semi Luddite until about 6 months ago when I looked very closely at two cruising Amel SM53s and spoke at length with their owners and compared them with my boat. I now realize I had been drinking from the wrong Kool Aid cup.

I now see nothing wrong or evil with using proven technology. By way of example, the case of the SM53s, they built about 450+ of them and pretty much, they were delivered exactly as the factory specified them – there is almost zero customization. Thus with this model there is a huge owner database of knowledge. Any problem has been experienced before and a solution is readily available from someone.

I first looked at the Amel through the same prism as you did. What if the electric main or headsail furlers failed? They have a manual backup and it turns out that the failure rate has been remarkably low.
What if the main jammed in the mast and could not be reefed? Again almost unheard of these days. There are a gazillion charter boats which have in mast furling and again failure rates are not unacceptably high. Agreed, there is a always the off chance that it will fail at an inopportune time. But one can’t keep worrying about every single possible failure point on a boat.

My point is that simplicity can be overdone and is over valued the level of complication on any boat should only be up to the level of competence of the owner to diagnose and repair and if not then to have some built in redundancy, a fail safe fallback in the event of a failure. If these conditions are met, then by all means have a completely push button, solid state circuit controlled boat if it gives you happiness and the ability to enjoy sailing and cruising a little longer. There should not be a stigma attached to owners of boats with a few more mechanical baubles. We are not lesser humans because we happen to have airconditioning, watermaker and a microwave. Quite often its the human which fails well before the complicated technology does.


The failure rates of a “gazillion charter boats which have in mast furling” does not have much to do with offshore sailing . They are being sailed in coastal waters, close to home and repair services. I will freely admit that many Amels and Halberg Rassys have crossed great distances with in mast furling. And more often than not, they have been perfectly fine. But if the system fails, you cannot bring down the sail and this concerns me.

My one anecdotal experience with this did not end in tragedy. But it certainly was distressing for the skipper. I was in the unfinished, micro marina in Flores, Azores in June 2011. I heard a great bit of flogging noise and came up to find a newly arrived boat. Her main was disconnected from the outhaul and wrapped around the mast which controlled it well below, but above the lower spreaders it was flogging like mad. The solo skipper looked dazed and distressed. The furling mechanism failed some days before while trying to reef it during a squall and he then limped the rest of the way into port.

After a rest, the skipper went to the top of the mast and cut the sail off along the luff. Apparently there was no other way to free up the mandrel or disconnect the partly furled sail. In the end he was fatigued and in need of a new sail and furling gear repairs which he was able to procure 150nm away in Horta. But if he had been caught in more severe weather with all that uncontrolled windage up high, the consequences could have been much worse. It’s definitely possible that this was caused by operator error or by lack of maintenance. But I still prefer a system that allows me to drop the sail when there is a problem. And of course, the traditional slab reefed main is a much more efficient sail shape.

Your statement about not being able to get off the dock if we worry about every point of failure is certainly true. But for me, this is one area where I will carefully scrutinize the equipment if I’m headed offshore.


Thanks, I think I’ll look at a Boreal before I do anything. I’m about 6/9 months out on buying something but it’s about time to start.
Automation is a concern, obviously, won’t question that point. And I agree that an automation failure at a critical time (that’s when they’re programed to fail aren’t they?) can ruin your whole day. Still, lots of folks go long distances with electric auto pilots and a host of other stuff. It’s a case of the risk you’re willing to take on. Heck, just being out there in a small boat is more risk than the vast majority of the world would accept. Buy good proven stuff, new or nearly so, install it right , test it as best you can and take off. Have some thought in mind about how to cope with the inevitable failure and you might just make it.
Not a pretty thought but a lot of people ,every year, meet their maker in car accidents. Give me a sound boat, good weather info, and an open ocean and more than likely everything will work out.

Dick Stevenson

What is the draft of the vessels you are considering. I ask as we did a great deal of the Bahamas with a just under 2 meter draft.
Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy


Thanks for answering my post.
Really, I’m not too worried about the Bahamas. I’ve been there with a 5′ draft and seen most of what I want see, but it is a compromise, albeit not a killer one. Never saw much less the 10′ going across the Banks, mostly more.
The AMEL is the boat I’m asking readers about at this time. It’s draft in 2 meters or so.
Fair winds, following seas,


Indeed, all you say is true if complexity is beyond the owner to manage and maintain.
The dismasted Amel was a post Henri model (a 54?) and has little to do with complexity, rather poorly specified spar sections. The same has probably happened to numerous ultra simple wood masted boats.

The 4 day supply chain number was but a flippant example, but with exceptions, it pretty much holds true 95% of the time. As a cruiser if you spent all your time and energy bulletproofing yourself against every single real and imagined contingency, I don’t think you’d ever get going. There has to be an acceptable risk assessment made at sometime.

Good grief, I am starting to sound like an Amel salesman. I am, most assuredly, not. I fully recognize there are many other good or better boats out there. I only used the Amel as an example because it was the basis of this thread. A Hallberg Rassy 46 would probably have done as well.

I stand corrected, but I don’t believe its possible to get a brand new diesel engine which is not electronically controlled and a lot now have throttle by wire. Quelle horreur!. Cause for indigestion should one be cruising while lightning is striking all around you, made worse when you realize there are two opposing theories on electrical grounding and you wonder whether the one you have is the right one!

Sure there are lots of horror stories about complex systems. Usually, they are badly conceived and badly implemented. My opinion of the standards and quality of 99% of the marine industry is best left unmentioned for fear of litigation. Suffice to say, its unflattering.
Complexity may not be as much of the problem as gross ineptitude of the designer and installer.
In software design there is a always a quest for elegance of design, ease of maintenance and robustness and of course, it must work as promised. I very rarely see even a half hearted attempt at striving for these goals in boats.

OK, that’s it,rants over. I’m off to ChatnChill (Georgetown) for the BBQ lunch and half a dozen Kaliks to wash down my painkillers. Lovely sunny day here!

Have a Happy Winter Solstice!

Dick Stevenson

Dear Niels,
I absolutely concur with John’s assessment that getting parts mailed in by courier is an ordeal and that it is a myth that one can Fedex everywhere in just a few days. My experience ( and watching many others) is that no foreign country makes it easy and that many will put monetary and logistic barriers that are very hard to deal with. It is often more reasonable to fly to a needed part, put it in your luggage and fly back to the boat.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/ v Alchemy

Marc Dacey

This is precisely why I got (and self-installed) a Beta 60: the parts are wildly available and if they aren’t, I can bear to carry spares. It’s not out of a paranoid delusion of self-sufficiency so much as an acknowledgement that even in our hooked-up world, the cost in *time* (as well as the cost of standing still should you have a breakdown in an expensive place) can be worse than buying and having handy a drop-in replacement. I’m thinking of, for instance, buying a rebuilt “spring starter” fitted to my engine size and mounts that would cover both a defective starter scenario, *and* a starter battery circuit failure. Why? Because I’ve heard of people flying starters halfway around the world in their luggage rather than spend weeks on the hook in some paradise! If that’s “Plan A”, I feel all right with my choices!


Thanks to all for your advice and counsel. Coming from you folks it carries the weight of experience… a good thing indeed. Those that don’t learn history are bound to repeat it, some wise person once offered. That’s one reason I read Attainable Adventures.
Happy Holidays to all


I go off on a weekend voyage and my mailbox is full?
From John:
>I would love to see what list you come up with. Please leave a comment.
From Ray:
>I’m interested in what the readership thinks about AMEL boats.

I guess I need to say the obvious. How can we comment on any boat when we don’t have your list (the subject of this thread)? An Amel may be good for some but not for you, or the other way around.
My Comments for Ray:
1) I know little about Amels but for me item 9 on John’s list would be a deal breaker. Maybe you could own one but I couldn’t. I suspect I am in the minority but that is not unique.
2) The draft is unacceptable where I sail (SW Florida) and many other places, period . Maybe a Mars Metal bulb kit is in your future if you go in that direction.

My Comments for Fabián:
I like your solution. Hope to meet up with you out there .

Question for Niels:
I hosted a race/cruise event a month ago with winds predicted at 25 mph. We had force 6-7 when we turned N on the ICW. We had 3 furler failures that day, and one the following day out of 18 boats. No one reported an issue with a manufacturer. How do you determine what the failure rate for furlers is, or for any other critical part?

For Marc:
Would like to hear more about the Beta in another thread.


Marc Dacey

Bill, if you visit my website, you’ll see in exhaustive and likely overwritten detail the saga of the Beta 60 installation. The last substantive blog post was in early October, when I (finally) took the now-fully-powered vessel for a test run ( So far, so good: the Beta is a happy, purring thing, the Variprop gives oodles of thrust, the AquaDrive and hydraulic shifting seems fit for purpose and allow a rather heavy boat to “station keep” with ease, and I’m moving on to other aspects of putting the cruising pieces together. For me (to bring things back on topic), the best way to buy a boat was to in essence refit a boat, because having a know-nothing on a complex thing like a sailboat is a recipe for trouble. Installing/upgrading virtually every system means I have a familiarity with the vessel I consider essential to safe cruising. If I had bought new, I would hesitate to pull things apart to see how they worked.


My list is influenced by years (21, so far) of service as a U.S. Navy officer in surface ships. So, in my “vital list”, I show those colors:
1. Right-sized: Real berths for 6. Long enough a waterline to be reasonably fast for passagemaking and weather routing. Large enough topsides to deck-stow a reasonable dinghy.
2. Weather adaptable: A strong rig with a balanced sail plan easily manageable by two adults to support rapid reductions in sail to support the range of ocean weather systems (read: light air through survival storm).
3. Resistant to water intrusion: Bomb-proof hull-to-deck joint; Reasonable hatch size, quantity, and quality; Proper bridge deck; Watertight collision bulkhead forward; Rudder dam or bulkhead for rudder stock; Minimum thru-hulls or with a common sea chest for all raw water needs that can be shut off.
4. Configured to remove the water that gets in: Proper bilge; redundant pumps; manual backup pumps
5. Reliable workhorse power plant that is easily serviceable: Diesel propulsion; excellent engine room access; a make/model that is proliferated world-wide for parts support
5. Redundant systems: Large capacity with two independent diesel tanks with visual inspection ports and easy clean-out plates; cross-connectable fuel filtration for self-polishing; Two independent water tanks with visual inspection ports and easy clean-out plates
6. Stout underbody: Fixed keel of moderate draft; skeg-hung rudder
7. Human comforts: Good natural ventilation; Reliable heating system for high latitudes and cooling system for the tropics; a separate stall shower with proper sump; Reliable refrigeration system.
8. At least one reliable non-engine method of electrical power management/recharging.


Thanks for the great gouge! As I re-read, the first 1-5 really are the vital ones. (Just noticed I used a second #5, that is a hopeful condition, but not vital). Strong hull (#6) is available in lots of combinations.

hank onthewater

I am in the market to market to upgrade my yacht, and like you John, set some characteristics of my boat, but prior to that I determined what kind of things makes a good cruising boat:
1. self-sufficiency
2. reliability
3. ease of handling
4. ease of maintenance/repair
5. comfort
6. space
The above points are in order of priority for a sailing cruising boat. BTW, the order of priority could be reversed it the boat was used as a live-aboard only.

Then I translated some of the above in features, still being general: like
I Some weather protection for steering position
II Strongly constructed hull

The third stage was more specific, but still I used the term ‘likely’ a lot
a) ie size wise “likely 43-48 ft”, and I must say I have looked at boats from 40 to 50 ft.
b) And: “likely to be GRP or aluminium”, but I looked at a nice steel one as well
I am still looking……..


If you want a good laugh, watch this video. (I’m sure the sucker who bought this pig of a boat (Cruising World boat of the year) wasn’t laughing.)

Perfect example of why, unless you have years of experience building and repairing boats, you should always hire an independent owner’s rep like Colin and pay him well before buying any expensive new or used boat.


I wonder what the insurance company covering the costs will say about those defects. That boat seems to be quite defective right out of the boatyard.


That is truly frightening, just to be on it when moored. I cannot even think about it leaving the slip.


The other part of this story is that this boat was Cruising World magazine Boat of the Year nominee in 2012, and received rave reviews in their 2013 “boat test” article.

NEEL Trimaran Boat of the Year nominee— Cruising World 2002
” honestly, if you call yourself a sailor, this is a boat that should seriously pique your curiosity.”
“Bruneel was the grand fromage (“big cheese”) at Fountaine Pajot catamarans, where he oversaw the construction of hundreds and hundreds of boats, so he knows multihulls inside and out.” Cruising World review 2013

Call me cynical, but I don’t believe anything I read that is written by prostitutes posing as journalists.

“Trust but verify”

Prentiss Berry


Just reviewing your list again and applying it to the Sundeer 60. I wonder if this boat would pass #2, Comfortable motion at sea, because of the displacement/length ratio of 79.34 where the displacement is only 36,500 lbs.? I believe it would all the other criteria.

Sam Drazich

You can bet I had the desire. I would go to the Miami and Ft. Lauderdale boat shows with my son and marvel at the boats and expensive ways to buy them. I had my specs down. I read a lot about what an offshore boat needed. So 40 years later in Newport Beach Harbor, my cuz and I were putting along in his dinghy and there she was. Phone # on the side and ready to rock. The price was rock bottom. The boat was solid. Needed everything in the end, but four years later, I’m looking pretty good. 1981 Cal39 MkII. No complaints, but it ended up costing more than I thought. I’m a happy camper. Good thing I had a high paying job!


Hello, My first post here
Looking for a boat to sail around the world mostly with my wife but occasionally with our grownup children or a couple of friends.
Considering Discovery 55, Najad 44, and in Aluminium, the Boreal 47 or the Allures 459.
Any advice more than welcome, thanks

Dave MacD


My first post here also, although I have been reading and learning for over a year now. We are taking delivery of our Allures 45.9 at the end of April and are very confident that we have made the right choice for us. No boat is perfect for every situation or every person – as John makes clear above, you need to really define what you are planning to do. I do think that John’s list of 10 vitals in the article above probably hold true for most of us (which of those would anyone scratch off?).

You are looking for a boat to sail around the world, but that will mean many different things to the readers here. Are you going to be expedition sailing to the extreme North or South? Will this be a fast circumnavigation, or are you planning on spending lots of time at anchor or mooring up? Think about crew experience and what their requirements are going to be. All part of defining needs and wants.

Our plans, following an imminent retirement are an Around Britain, Baltic adventure, Mediterranean meander, Atlantic Islands, Transat, Caribbean cruise, and East coast North America. That is probably five+ years at the pace we are thinking. Far enough for to be planning ahead. We want to go slow, spend a lot of time at anchor enjoying each location and have comfortable, safe cruising in between. As it is also going to be our home, we want to have space for entertaining and enjoying life to the full (as we define it).

We looked at all of the boats you mentioned and chose the Allures as it best matched with our goals. The Allures is much more closely aligned in concept to the Najad 440ac than to the Boreal. The only thing they share is the hull construction and centreboard, and these are the two reasons we chose the Allures over the Najad. We are totally convinced that for us, alloy is the right material for safety and maintenance, and we liked the flexibility that the variable draft will give us (we have a lifting keel Jeanneau now, and enjoy a bit of gunkholing). The composite deck means a different type of maintenance from an all-aluminium choice, however, and we like the flexibility it offers for me to add any new bits in the future, without having to do any painting. The cockpit layout has the Mediterranean feel that we want for living, but also feels closed from a safety perspective while at sea.

The Allures, like many new bluewater cruisers (even the new Hallberg Rassy), has sweptback spreaders and twin rudders. There are again trade-offs with each that need to be examined. Sweptback spreaders allows for less weight aloft for the same strength, at the cost of loss of ability to run true downwind. Twin rudders are without a doubt a pain in a marina (although I have yet to have a bad prang with my current 12m boat with this setup) but have the advantage of being lower profile when mooring stern-to, and Rob Humphreys has done a lot of work indicating they have substantially more turning force than a skeg hung or spade rudder (apparently due to turbulent water coming from the keel).

Read everything here, talk to lots of people and sail as many different boats you can is the only advice I can give you – the rest is just my opinion!

Also – enjoy the process of deciding, it is great fun!

Bill Attwood

Hi John,
Marc’s link to the Whistocks’ boat was very interesting. Whistocks were a very well respected boatyard in Ipswich on the East Coast of the UK. Long gone, I am afraid. Besides the price being “too good to be true” I also noticed that the teak deck shows signs of plugs, which equal screws?
I’d be very interested if you could give some idea of the sort of problems that could be lurking, and whether your alarming estimates of the potential costs of repair reflect work geing 100% professionally done. Could these costs be significantly reduced by an investment of sweat equity? For the avoidance of doubt, I am not personally interested!
Yours aye

Bill Attwood

Hi John,
Thanks for the explanation. An aluminium deck covered in s/s screws is something to give nightmares. I wonder what the underside of the deck will look like. Sad that an otherwise beautiful boat suffers such a problem. One hopes that someone with the time and money will refurbish her.
Yours aye

Robert Ramsay

Hi John,
Thanks for the great articles and wealth of information. My question is about my disdain for V Berth’s and poky aft cabins. I’ve done some voyaging on various yachts and am now looking to buy “ the boat” . I have no problem with voyaging berths, lee cloths and the being practical on an ocean crossing but I’d like to at least have a Pullman style berth for some comfort while enjoying my cruising destination. The contortions needed for the modern yacht cabins leave me cold. Is it possible to modify a V berth and reconfigure a standard yacht to accomodate a more inviting rest area or should I just suck it up and get on with it ? Many thanks, Bob

Ernest E Vogelsinger

Hey John, welcome back. Vacation already over?

Robert Ramsay

Hi John,

Thanks very much for taking the time to reply , I’ll do my best to suck! I do have to get out there , life’s too short! Thanks again I’ll check out your links,

Cheers Bob

Richard Elder

Hi Robert;
Looks like you have as much fondness for the conventional V berth as I do—

In the smaller interiors I have designed I treat that space differently. On either side of the forward berth I build a cabinet with sturdy sliding doors and a shelf on top. The doors need to be stout because when you are heeled you will be sleeping against them. And you don’t want any protruding hardware. The distance between the two sides should be exactly the width of a queen berth (with some taper at the footwell), so you end up with a comfortable harbor berth for two with sides parallel to the water line. With a lee cloth rigged down the middle it can be a reasonable sea berth(s) depending upon how active the sea state is. The trade off is that you have to enter from the head of the berth, and your partner has to move to one side in order to join them.

Almost any conventional V berth can be easily re-configured this way.

1- Raise the berth cushion to height to maximize width at the foot area and storage capacity.
2- Add a small step at the head of the berth to aid access.
3- Add hand rails or overhead straps to aid entry.
4- Widen the entry area and build a keyhole style access bulkhead

I haven’t yet met an aft cabin in an aft helm boat under 50′ that I want to live in. Or a center cockpit under 44′ that isn’t the product of bean counter itus.

Robert Ramsay

Hi Richard,
I greatly appreciate you taking the time to get back to me and thanks for your detailed reply. I’ll take that mental picture with me on the next boat viewing and see how that will open my perspective. I agree completely with your view. I did the ARC sharing an aft cabin of a Jeanneau 54 with lee cloths, suitable for being at sea but that’s the extent of it. Maybe I need a bigger wallet! Anyhow I shall solider on in my quest. Many thanks again, regards Bob

Roger Walters

To All;
How do you guarantee that you have satisfied #1, when the opinions state that there are very few offshore boats out there?