The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Wow, Buying an Offshore Sailboat is Really Hard


For only the second time in nearly 30 years, Phyllis and I are actively looking at buying a boat.

Yes, you guessed it, we are starting to at least think about selling Morgan’s Cloud. There, I said it. The reasons are complex and best saved for another article on the issues facing an aging voyager. I will write that in due time, once I have it sorted out in my own head, but the short version is that now that we are only sailing three or four months a year, and no longer living aboard, she is too much boat for our needs and so she should be passed on to someone who will really use one of the best long distance offshore live aboard sailboats ever built.

The interesting thing is that after years of thinking about our next boat, including flirting with the idea of a motorboat, we have decided that what we need, or at least want, is a sailboat that sails really well, of around 40 feet and about 20,000 pounds displacement (half load), at a price of around $US200,000 to $250,000, ready to cross an ocean—we are not looking for a project boat, been there, done that.

The boat that I’m guessing a lot of you readers want, too. (If you need to spend less, read on.) And guess what? Even though $US200,000 is a hell of a lot of money, that’s a really hard specification to fill.

Many of you are now saying, “duh, John”. You are right. Although I have repeatedly lamented about how hard it is to find decent offshore boats—yes, I still want to be able to cross an ocean—I had not realized just how bad the problem is. That is, until I started combing through the listings on sites like Yachtworld.

Sure, there are thousands of boats for sale, but I would not touch most of them with a 10-foot sterilized barge pole.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that over the next year or so we will be sharing:

  • The things that disqualify most boats and why. I know, sounds negative, but actually knowing what we are not going to buy is a great step to getting a good boat.
  • The type of boats that interest Phyllis and me, and why.
  • How to do a self-survey in just a few hours that can save us untold grief and money.

Of course, US$200,000 is still way too high a price for many, particularly in today’s world of uncertain career paths, so as part of this, we are also going to take another look at the whole “buy an old boat and refit her” strategy to see if there is any way to get a safe, and reasonably pleasant to live aboard, offshore sailboat ready to go for less than US$100,000 (owner labour not included). Doable? I don’t know, but let’s find out. One thing I’m pretty sure of, said boat will be smaller than the one I sketched out above.

And, best of all, this won’t be just my take on all of this. Colin is going to be part of it, too. And, as many of you know, Colin knows more about more boats, particularly in the above-targeted ranges, than any person I have ever met.

And, of course, we will have the benefit of the huge combined wisdom of our members in the form of discussion in the comments. Undoubtedly the highest quality reservoir of offshore boat knowledge and experience in the world.

Should be both fun and interesting, and the cooperative aspect will be much like the Adventure 40 project; one of the most fun and, I think, most valuable things we have done around here, even though it did not result in an actual boat.

By the way, if the Adventure 40 existed, Phyllis and I would buy one in a heartbeat and so save ourselves all this grief—it’s still by far the best option.

But that’s pie in the sky, so let’s get on with dealing with the boat buying world the way it really is. Stay tuned.


So what boats do you think Phyllis and I should be looking at to meet our criteria?  Remember, no project boats.

And do you have any suggestions for a boat that could meet the $100,000 (owner labour not included) price tag, when ready to go? Project boats are OK for this category, but not ones that need rebuilding. Refitting is one thing, but let’s not condemn anyone to 10 years at hard labour and/or an old age in poverty, both real risks of refitting the wrong boat.

Please leave a comment.

Further Reading

In the meantime, don’t forget that we have already done a lot of work on just this subject:

Boat Design/Selection Child Topics:

More Articles From Boat Design/Selection:

  1. Q&A—Sailboat Performance, When The Numbers Fail
  2. Talking About Buying Fibreglass Boats With Andy Schell
  3. US Sailboat Show Report—Boats
  4. Some Thoughts On Smaller Older Cruising Boats
  5. Wow, Buying an Offshore Sailboat is Really Hard
  6. Hull Design Torture Test
  7. Of Dishwashers and Yacht Designers
  8. Which Is The Best Boat For Offshore Cruising?
  9. Meeting Up With Steve and Linda Dashew
  10. Cruising On Less Than $15,000/Year, Including The Boat—What It Takes
  11. How Not To Buy a Cruising Boat
  12. Where Do We Go From Here?
  13. The Boat Design Spiral
  14. Spade Rudders—Ready for Sea?
  15. Trade Offs in Yacht Design
  16. We Live in Rapidly Changing Times
  17. Long Thin Boats Are Cool
  18. Beauty and The Beast
  19. Q&A: What About Ferro-Cement Boats?
  20. Thinking About a Steel Boat?
  21. Your Boat Should Forgive You
  22. New Versus Old
  23. Rudder Options, Staying In Control
  24. “Vagabond”—An Extraordinary Polar Yacht
  25. Learning The Hard Way
  26. The Real Story On The MacGregor 65
  27. An Engineless Junk Rigged Dory—Another Way To Get Out There
  28. S/V “Polaris”, Built For The Arctic
  29. Boats We Like: The Saga 43
  30. Designers of “Morgan’s Cloud” Have A New Website
  31. Q&A: Interior Layout And Boat Selection
  32. A Rugged Boat For The High Latitudes
  33. Q&A: Homebuilding A Boat
  34. Q&A: Sailboat Stability Contradiction
  35. Are Spade Rudders Suitable For Ocean Crossings?
  36. There’s No Excuse For Pounding
  37. Q&A: Tips On Buying A Used Boat For The High Latitudes
  38. Used Boat For Trans-Atlantic On A Budget
  39. QA&: Is A Macgregor 26M Suitable For A Trans-Atlantic?
  40. Q&A: Used Colin Archer Design Sailboat
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Charles Oliver

This sounds like fun! Looking forward to following the process. Good luck!

Damian Heaney

Hi john,
This one is, ok not exactly a fit but a lot of quality for $200,000 that some one will enjoy.

Ernest E Vogelsinger

Hi Damian,
while she is definetely a beautiful boat I would not recommend it to an aging sailor (sorry John – but at least we’re both in the same age range) who is looking for a smaller boat that might be easier to handle for a shorthanded crew.
Two mast gaff? Beautiful to look at, but sail handling, reefing, etc needs at least two at the mast, and a lot of work.
No secured cockpit, and two deck holes (I would never call them “companionways”) to get downstairs? Think of how “easy” this will be when going gets rough.
Beautiful boat, something for a crew of at least four preferably young people. And overpriced, IMHO.

Ernest E Vogelsinger

After looking at the extensively photo-documented technical details I completely retract my consideration of her being overpriced. Still I wouldn’t recommend her for the other reasons I stated above – but I have to admit that she has a lot of well-thought of details on her technical side that make her a very serious boat.

Damian Heaney

Hi Ernest, John,
As i said maybe not a exact fit, but the fact is for an ocean going vessel at a asking price of $200,000 its a yes on at least those to points in my opinion, and yes too
heavy and, and, and, but i guess $200 was my point the rest is personal on what one will or wont accept. When her new owner comes along he or she is going to get a lot of value out of her compared to a lot of other vessels on the market in the same price range.

Richard Hudson

Hi Ernest,

I look at that Redpath-design schooner and see a boat setup to be singlehanded.

Though I don’t own a gaffer now, I have sailed several thousand miles on gaff-rigged schooners, both singlehanded and doublehanded (meaning the person on watch handles all the sails by themselves). The double topping lifts on this boat help keep the gaff under control when raising/lowering/reefing. On this size of boat, there should be no problem with alternately hauling on the peak and throat halyards to raise the gaff sails (more details at ), so sailhandling on this boat could definitely be a one-person job.

The booms are short (for a gaffer), so I think this boat is probably setup for jiffy-reefing, and no reef points (which I don’t see on the sail plan drawing) need to be tied. The main boom gallows look like they’ll help keep the main boom under control while reefing.

Though I think it’s only of value when short-tacking up a narrow channel (ie, not offshore), all sails look to be self-tacking on this boat.

As to going below when at sea, I look at the companionway into the forward cabin as something that one holds onto the mainmast while climbing up and down. Entering the aft cabin, one holds onto the grab rail around the compass. Entering the forepeak, one holds onto the foremast.

The lifelines look fairly high to me (their height is not listed), implying the designer, builder and/or owner was thinking about going to sea.

There isn’t a picture of the hull out of the water that shows the bow, but judging from the stern, there is probably a fair amount of rocker in the hull, and it’s definitely not flat-bottomed, so likely to be pretty sea-kindly.

I completely agree with your comment that the technical (electrical & mechanical) systems on this boat look quite impressive. And that it’s also not a small boat (36,000 lbs).

Best regards,

Denis Foster

Hello John and Phyllis,

This will be a very instructive project.

We have had three boats : An Amel 53 ft Meltem, then for limited budget and coastal cruising a Beneteau 43 and finally our present boat a Hallberg Rassy 46.

All GRP but the construction process and system integration are very different. Our sailing experience is very limited compared to yours and many AAC members.

To summarize :

GRP by Amel and HR iare extremly sturdy and both are adapted to the stress loads of offshore cruising. Beneteau is lighter in all aspects , in offshore cruising it will age quickly. it s a cost killer during construction and a money spender to upgrade to blue water cruuising.

Amel was very well built but didn’t sail very well. The ketch rig was logical before all modern systems that allow a midlle age couple to sail. Modern technology now favours mast head cutter rig with in line spreaders as the ideal rig for a 40-60 foot offshore cruiser.

When we chose our HR 46 we were very influenced by John and Amanda Neal’s extended offshore experience. The only alternative would be a Discovery 55.

In that choice we went against our prevention about in mast furling. For cruising which is most of the time down wind that is a very good option now that our fears have vanished.

Central cockpit with a comfortable rear cabin is great for extended cruising. A real stand in engine room is a definitive plus.

This is our humble contribution to this on going discussion. I know I will learn more than I can share, and I am grateful to you and AAC members to instruct me.


Denis Foster

Dirk Jacobsz

i am also looking for a 40′ boat. Would love a Boreal, but don’t have that cash. But even the HR’s and Amels are not cheap..

Dick Stevenson

Hi Phyllis and John,
Firstly, what does 20,000 pounds half load approximately translate into with full tanks and cruising kit and supplies for off shore? Aside from the tanks, my casual guess is that the kit I would have for an offshore boat/passage would add 2-4,000 pounds over the kit I would choose for coastal cruising and, perhaps, jumping out to the Bahamas say.
At first blush, that weight seems to narrow the field considerably. I have seen J boats in roughly that size out and about, certainly making offshore passages, and they are that light, I think. Many of the others that come to mind are, I suspect, more hefty.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Marc Dacey

Fast, light but worthy of offshore use? The Saga 43s seem to be in that realm and some of the earlier ones are coming to market as the owners swallow the anchor. But those who know about them are keeping the prices comparatively higher, too.

I will add that our pilothouse with a 48 by 27 inch gas-strut-lifted hatch leading to a spacious engine bay has been the feature visitors express the greatest envy over. We literally inverted the “living space” for “access” equation and have not regretted having a vessel on which it’s hard to fall over in a blow without a handhold presenting itself.

Rob Gill

Great topic John, a question though – will you be sharing in detail the revised scope that this new vessel needs to be capable of?
The voyages you both have made with Morgan’s Cloud would put you in the sub-1% of cruising sailors and the boat in the sub-1% of suitable craft. Reducing the scope, and thus the specifications, brings into play a much wider array of boats, including production designs that many of us more modest sailors (in cruising goals) own, or dream of owning.
Looking forward to following your search.
Br. Rob

Terence Thatcher

Look forward to the discussion. Critical it seems to me is what Rob says. There are probably many boats that are suitable for round the world voyaging, as long as one stays out of the high southern latitudes. Even some older boats in the lower price range you suggest, assuming you then add on costs for cruising equipment.

Paul Clayton

Lightly used Pacific Seacraft.

P D Squire

WOW! Sharing your journey towards a smaller performance cruiser will be a fascinating, instructive journey. I’m excited!

Pogo 30? Wide interior, but I suspect the central table/keel-cover will keep anyone from falling in a wild seaway. Extremely well constructed (the money is spent on structure instead of cupboards, and boat-show dazzle.) Sailing systems well set up for short handing based on Pogo’s Mini Transat DNA.

On the other hand you and Phyllis might be too tall for it, and you might get cold if the intended 3-4 months include any winter months. Mind you it is possible to look forward cozilly from inside.

It’s a short, wide, shallow boat – a style you’ve credibly decried in the past, but IIRC you’ve softened a little towards this style in recent times. And a brand new one (with carbon rig) is within the budget.

P D Squire

Fair enough. The P 30 takes both short and wide to an extreme. And I was jumping the gun anyway. We need to see the requirements, which will be fascinating and instructive, before proposing solutions.

In my defense: jumping to conclusions is fun;-)

Alain Bedard

Dear Phyllis and John,
Exciting News! I am looking forward to this developing story as I will also be in the market for a similar boat for use in the Pacific Northwest once I retire to Victoria in a year.
Best regards,

Ernest E Vogelsinger

John, this might even be the one online book that turns out most valuable to me within the next 2-3 years, and will certainly influence the selection of my “retirement boat”. While the targets are a bit different (I am planning to live aboard for extended periods) we have a lot of issues in common, mainly the issue of age.
Looking forward to keeping up with your and Phyllis process on that!
Best regards, Ernest

Andre Langevin

Hi John

I was in the same situation 12 years ago searching for < 200k ocean ready sailboat. I never found the right boat and since I was younger and still working, I decided to build one from scratch-never regretted it.

It all depend if you want a real traditional ocean guzzling sailboat or the more modern lightweight design. If you go the traditional route there are some (mot many) Chatam 43 and 47 from Gilbert Caroff the now deceased French architect. This one is close to you:

I have a Chatam 43 this sailboat is in the 38000 lbs range and I can navigate alone on it. They are CE Category 1 approved on plan which mean ocean capable. The Alubat is another good choice.

Ease of later resale might be an important variable in your equation. If so a modern boat could be a better bet even though there won’t be any comfort at sea.

Good luck !

Andre Langevin

Hello John
What is your miles-per-day target and your targeted weight ?

Remember the waterline formulae… there is no weight in it 🙂 But there is a ratio for displacement vs planning hull. It is possible to find a 40 footer that can still do 200 miles per day, but it rather the crew that shine here rather than the hull.

Maybe you should precise what “ocean capable” definition you use. Doing the Newport-Bermuda race is not in my mind for a real ocean ready sailboat. I would call it extended offshore. There are plenty of boat that could qualify for the Newport-Bermuda race but would not be fit for circumnavigation.

For example fitting a decent ground tackle system on a production ULDB could be quite a challenge.

If your french is up to date, you could have some very interesting reading from Pierre Lang who has been navigating for the last 18 years on his wooden epoxy boat. 8 tons for 12.5 meter.

What are your navigation destinations for the next 5 to 8 years ?


Michael DeLorenzo

I liked Perry’s Nordic 40 when I went through the same exercise a few years ago. Just couldn’t find one in decent condition at the time.

Robert Newman

I suspect the J120 might be a bit light for your purpose. What about the J42?
A boat that intrigues me – it seems to offer more than any other current boat in its size range and in the production-cruiser-for-offshore-work category is the Saare 38. Price might be a problem – it was first built in 2014.

Drew Frye

At this rate, you’ll talk yourself down to a dayboat!

There are times when I miss my cruising cat; my F-24 simply does not have the legs for cruising. But on the days when I’m just out for a spin, I really like the lightweight and ease of tacking. My little sports car. Small can be fun for an older guy, so long as your balance is good.

P D Squire

I’m loving my RS Quest?

Petri Flander

Now that Drew broke the ice…

– Need for speed, Ready to cross an ocean, on marinas and on hook, goes reasonably well uphill and downhill, shallow draft is a plus, if no chart table no deal…

Dragonfly 1200 Tri … with some luck

Absolute thrill / ‘Because I can’ 🙂

Stephen James

As a long time lurking member I find I’m motivated to comment due to being in the same “boat” . Beginning to think of selling Threshold, Paine/Kanter 55, after 20 years leaves the big question of “what then?” I will follow with interest where your search leads you.
After being owned by a world class, every ocean capable boat I find it hard to imagine 40’ offshore. Age has a lot to do with this I know. Spoiled? Yes. But, I still feel more capable and safer in the boat I know. Additional crew is the temporary solution. That, I know, is only temporary.
Your constraints are extremely tight. Boat = Compromise. I wish you luck and will follow closely with interest.

Paul Clayton

My understanding is that very few Sarabande 41s were built, but that they are essentially a slightly stretched version of the Sancerre 38. From what I have read, and this may just be marketing hype, this boat was designed and built to handle North Sea conditions. I would be very interested to learn more about the boat, perhaps some of the international sailors at this site might have an opinion.

I know of one Sarabande for sale in Edenton, NC that might be of interest to anyone looking for a well-found boat from the Paul Aubin yard in France. Of course, it would take a survey to prove it, but I have been aboard the boat and she looks to be in fine shape.

Or email me directly and I can send you more information. My email address is on my website:

Reed Erskine

My wife and I are guilty of cruising an overloaded J42 since 2005, for the last 8 years in the Med, after double handing from St. Martin to Bermuda, the Azores and Lisbon. The J42 is a “small 42” with the advantage of being able to fit into tight places and, being shoal draft, tiptoe into skinny water when the need arises. Carrying spares, bicycles, 2 thirty gallon fuel tanks, 2 fifty gallon water tanks, and the comforts of home on a boat with capacious storage space in the cockpit locker and aft lazarette, year after year, it’s easy to accumulate the many necessities for all circumstances, but she’s nothing if not versatile. 5000 pounds of baggage and gear didn’t keep us from running the 1000 miles from Ponta Delgada to Lisbon in 5 days. Designed as an homage to the classics, she’s become a classic in her own time, as a weekend family racer, or comfortable long distance cruiser. Hard to find for sale as owners seem to keep sailing them into their seventies (our case) and eighties (hopefully).

Mark Wilson

Hi John
There are two Bowman 40’s currently advertised on Yachtworld.
Excellent designer – Chuck Paine.
Excellent builder – probably the best of British.
Right displacement – 19000 lbs.
Long legged, purpose built ocean cruiser.
Skeg hung rudder and encapsulated keel.
Perkins engine may drink oil but has no known sell by date.
I went to see the one in Wareham in January. Its teak deck will have to come off sometime in the next few years. Rigging needs renewing. Electronics are old but that doesn’t mean they don’t work. She hasn’t done as many miles as she ought and doesn’t feel tired. Funnily enough I met Mr Paine aboard her at The Southampton Boat Show in 1987 a year before I swallowed the anchor for the next three decades and at the time she seemed me me to be the perfect fibre glass cruising boat. Too expensive for me then and sadly, at £90,000 now plus the necessary work, still too dear.
PS I like the look of the J boats mentioned here. How strong are they when things start to go wrong ?

Glenn Wilcox

Hi John – I’m very interested in following this story. Curious what you will end up with. We went the 100k route. Found a 30 year old 39′ (10 ton) french built aluminum centerboard sloop in St. Martin that had been well cared for but needed a re-powering and some refitting. The boat had just finished its second Atlantic loop – so was a well found blue water boat. Purchased for 80k and 20k later in upgrades, doing all the work ourselves, we have a boat that can take us anywhere in the world, short or single handed.

Kristoffer Naes

Hi John,
Thank you for raising a very interesting debate. I find his very relevant also for those of us that mainly do coastal/extended coastal cruising, myself mainly Scandinavian waters implying crossing only “small oceans” .
Have you consider Scandinavian builds like Hallberg Rassy 37 and 372 and the older 39, Malø 37 and Najad 38? Those will be at your price tag.

Ernest E Vogelsinger

Hi John,
I looked but found only a single mention of your teak deck job, is there or do you plan a story about this obviously unpleasant exercise?

Gary Cummings

Come on John, flirt some more with a motorboat, or at least incorporate some powerboats into your articles. I really enjoy reading about what I could have done, but since I am several decades past the learning curve for Adventure Sailing. I jumped straight into the powerboat. My wife and I will be full time cruisers on the great loop this fall on our American Tug 34. Can’t cross oceans, but those boats are outside my means.

Kit Laughlin

Gary wrote: “Come on John, flirt some more with a motorboat, or at least incorporate some powerboats into your articles.”

I would very much be interested in this too; I have a 40′ ex-cray wooden boat, with an extended wheelhouse (so “sedan”). It has a Sharpie-inspired design (sharp bow, flat aft sections) so handles very ‘snappily’ in confused seas. I have read all the articles here on FPBs and similar, but these are way out of my price range. Your $200,000 figure is doable, but I want a motor boat that is ocean capable. John, I know you are a die-hard sailor, so I know what you’ll be looking for, but digressions into power boats will be most welcome (at least to Gary and me!).

Richard Elder

Hi John
I’m not surprised that an old ex-sailmaker should be intrigued by a sport cruiser like the J 120. Great fun for an afternoon sail or gunk holing during a New England summer. Or even a one way sail to Bermuda. That said, I’ve done two long ocean deliveries on flat bottomed ULDB style racer/cruisers, and living inside a pounding drum for a week or 10 days is not my idea of pleasure. I’d choose Dick’s Valiant 42 any day and arrive safer and more rested in about the same time.

The first step in any boat decision is a well thought out mission statement. Looking forward to your future article—.

One of the columns in my personal mission statement contains the automatic rejection items. And among them is “no balsa core below the water line.” Hundreds of wet core J boats attest to that choice. I was recently offered a nicely equipped J 40 for $25k. No sign of interior water damage, but wet core everywhere. Or the 50K J 130 that needs an entire new bottom. In principle resin infused balsa as used on the J 120/130 should be impervious to moisture, but if it were my boat I’d require epoxy resin construction instead of polyester, no gell coat to allow visual inspection of layup flaws during the build, and a bit more quality control than is usually present in production boat building.

re production boat building, see my comment about why keels smile:

Richard Elder

Hi John
I suspected you might be feeling sporty in your old age (LOL) when I mentioned a J130 in my letter the other day! To quote Bill Lee, “Fast is Fun.”

To clarify my comments about balsa core underwater, if l were building a new lightweight racer cruiser with a flat bottom I’d build it with a balsa core rather than foam because of the superior stiffness of balsa, but I wouldn’t touch a hand layup balsa cored hull with a rubber $2 bill. I’d only use epoxy resin and infusion with it’s superior laminate/core adhesion and water impermeability. The outer skin of a lightweight laminate is quite thin, and barrier coat or no eventually some water migration should be expected if it is polyester. Store the boat outside in your winter conditions and the freeze/thaw cycle introduces yet another delamination threat.

And then there is hydraulic delamination where even a small penetration of the outer skin allows water to “hydofracture” the composite under the force magnification of pounding over waves.

Fernando Borges

Dear John,
Truly interesting idea – that of sharing with us this boat search. Although you are not considering a motorboat, would it be too troublesome to include such category as well in this exercise ? I believe your thoughts and ideas would surely help lots of readers here, many I believe looking for an ideal offshore cruising powerboat, below 45 feet.
Best luck in your search.
Kind regards, Fernando.

Philippe Candelier

Great subject. This one will be interesting to follow. There is a lot to cover and this will bring a lot of discussion and will keep the readers engaged.

Philip Wilkie

As the proud owner of a steel Adams 40 that I bought 18 months back and fitfully progressing a modernisation ‘project’ I can strongly identify with the challenge here. The trick is to stumble over that boat that someone else has refitted and needs to sell. Sadly due to some very unlucky communication I just missed out on the ideal boat I really wanted, but instead I finished up with a second best choice that needed more work than I hoped. The problem with most old steel boats is that the original owner builder ran out of money and the systems are usually a bit junk. Still I will finish up with the exact boat I want, not someone else’s dream.

Eric Bretscher is an interesting character with some strong ideas. This alloy sloop is fast, light and very modern:

Unfortunately it’s probably way too expensive; but I’d love one.

Philip Wilkie

You would be more aware of this than me, but the one thing not mentioned by anyone yet is that ‘light’ fibreglass boats run the risk of being rather flexible. Coming from the stability of a metal boat I can only imagine you’d be very disappointed if you finished up with a bendy hull.

It’s certainly one attribute I would not want to compromise on.

Bruno Lefevre

Hi John,
sure the Cigale 14 would fit many of yr requirements …
here is one of those :

Erik Leander

Speak to Dennis at Artnautica. I think he is drawing on his 40-footer. That will of course be a power trawler. Could be very interesting…

Brent Cameron

I’m in pretty much the same boat, no pun intended, and have decided on an Amel 53 Super Maramu 2000. You can buy a top notch one at the high end of your price range or go with the smaller but nearly identical Santorin (48’) and keep nearly 100K for your wallet (really good ones go for about 160K). While I haven’t sailed a Santorin, I have about 5000 offshore miles on a couple of different Super Maramu’s and can report that they sail really well especially in frisky conditions when in other boats you might want to think about slowing down for comfort or potential safety (i.e. sailing underpowered so as to not have to worry about bringing in some main/Genoa/mizzen during a night squall). It isn’t hard to make 200 miles a day in them and we left the same time as a similar sized Swan with almost three times the crew but made it from Bermuda to Antigua within minutes of each other – we were all showered and well rested and they looked liked they’d run marathons. The boat was designed to be handled by a couple of retirees and sailed solo by the wife as long as she could lift a bag of groceries. It’s definitely true. The electric winches and furling of all of the main driving sails make it a snap to sail even solo. On power, it’ll do 7.5 knots for 2500nm. It has 1100L of fresh water and a water maker to make more if needed. It fits your power hungry criteria but most have a 7.5-11KW Onan Genset and a solar arch that puts out another 6-800W so we ran the genset to make water or expresso. The absolute best feature of the boat is the protected helm station in the centre of the boat – I’d never buy another boat without it) but the completely separate (and water tight) standup in engine room comes a close second. ZERO smells in the boat. The looks are a bit off putting to some as it looks more traditional than the latest blunt destroyer nose with fat arse end designs lately but I find them quite fetching. The Santorin looks the same but is a wee bit shorter (takes one leg off the U-shaped galley and a bit off the engine room) and a bit narrower (takes out the pilot berth). Either would be a global cruiser as hundreds of them have done it – many several times. Of course it’s made from Fiberglas but they are completely dry boats as Amel mastered the deck hull joint as a one piece affair. If you’ve ever been up front taming a runaway Genoa in a blow and big seas, you’ll love the solid stainless steel life RAILS. Of course if you want it to beat a J120 around the cans, these are not your boat.

P D Squire

Really good point. I realise you’re moving away from the concept, but it is encouraging to be reminded that size sufficient to meaningfully reduce capsize-risk doesn’t necessarily, mean too big for non-athletes to short hand.

Eric Klem

Hi John,

I am a bit behind and just read your first article in this series which I agree with in principle but have a bit of trouble with in practice and I think you did a good job of describing the issue here in this post. While project boats don’t make sense, it is actually quite hard to find the combination of a good design, good original build quality, good current condition and reasonable price. I suspect that a lot of it is because very few boats are actually well maintained which is kind of sad and then very few of those boats are maintained to sail offshore. The ones that are often are yard kept and full of stuff many of us don’t want but that drive price up like crazy. There is also the personal preference aspect, I suspect that there are a few things I would immediately change if I acquired Morgans Cloud and the same goes for if you acquired a boat that I had fitted out.

The thing that was freeing in our latest search was accepting that the boat did not have to be truly offshore capable. We are both full time employed with a kid, house, etc and realistically don’t plan to change that for many years so buying and maintaining an offshore capable boat raised the bar far too high, we will deal with it when we get back to it. Given our budget, we had been looking at boats like the Nordic 44, Passport 40 but when we changed this requirement (quite the mental leap for me but not for my wife), we ended up with a CS36T which has been excellent and if we had to do it all over again, I would do the same thing provided we don’t win the lottery in between. I would feel completely comfortable sailing this boat anywhere from the Bahamas to Newfoundland but I would not take the offshore route to the Caribbean in the fall as an example. For 2-4 times the money, we could have similar capability but go a bit faster in something like a Saga 35 or some of the J’s but again, I would not take it offshore. It is tricky because like houses, there is enormous costs associated with buying and selling the least of which are the actual fees but it is also quite expensive to maintain a more capable boat than necessary.

Almost all of my offshore experience is on larger vessels, most larger than Morgans Cloud so I am not the most experienced with small boats offshore but I definitely feel that there is a minimum size that my risk tolerance would allow for offshore and it is right around the size you have laid out. I will be very curious to see if you can meet both the offshore capability requirement and the cost requirement, take out either one and I would have a lot of suggestions but I don’t have much given those 2 combined. My first thought would be to keep your current boat with a few small upgrades, do the offshore stuff you still have in mind soon and then swap boats down to a coastal cruiser or daysailer. Trying to use sweat equity instead of money runs the danger of getting an offshore capable boat right around the time that the person is no longer offshore capable but of course, you already know that.


Eric Klem

Hi John,

For $250k, I think that the right person with some luck could pull it off but also I think that most people could not pull it off. The question is how long would it take and how much sweat equity would be required. I saw the goal number of $100k up in the post and that is the number that I have no idea how to meet without getting a screaming deal on the boat, already owning your own shop, not minding lots of used gear and having oodles of time. For reference, when we were last looking, we felt that we could do it for $200k (we already have the shop among other advantages) and a bunch of sweat equity but also that we could do coastal cruising on a 35-38′ boat for $70k and still a whole lot of work but significantly less. We have proven out that second figure by actually beating it but have not tried the first. Minimalist coastal cruisers can obviously get by on a whole lot less, especially if you like doing it on a 30’er. Of course, you have to keep up with stuff so the yearly cost is not nothing either.

One of the interesting questions to me regarding time is how quickly is it reasonable to go offshore in a boat that has just had major work? It seems to me that an awful lot of people allow themselves to schedule so that the boat is in the water less than a month and sailed less than a handful of times and then they set off offshore and get in trouble due to equipment issues. Just because something is new doesn’t mean it was spec’ed right or installed right and it takes usage to figure this out and correct it. For someone not working and who has actually completed the to do list, I would think that you could go from first sail to real offshore passages by building up over a few months and fixing and improving the boat as they figure it out. The other option for people living in colder climates where boats are hauled annually is to coastal cruise a boat in the summers and do the refit in the winters but this takes a lot of discipline.

It will be interesting to hear what your rationale is for thinking about this project once you write that.

Good luck.


Ernest E Vogelsinger

Hi Eric,

you wrote “there are a few things I would immediately change if I acquired” – that is exactly one thing I am hoping to avoid when time comes to ponder about my own boat. My thinking is that the boat has worked until now, so just keep it like that and go sailing (not immediately offshore, for sure). After a year or so I would slowly recognize things that would be sensible to modify, and there might be other issues that might have put me off at the beginning but I might quite well have learned to live with. A german proverb means “slowly with the young horses” (dunno if there’s an equivalent in english?).

If a boat is “cramped with stuff” I don’t want from the start I would try to bargain them out, or would simply walk away – why should I pay for stuff I don’t want? There are a lot of boats on the market, some even good ones.

I expect it might be some time until I find “my” boat, and I will have to make a compromise (as always): I myself could very well live on a pure no-nonsense boat for extended times, but I need to take into account that my wife and daughter might require a bit more “luxury”, enough water supply for showering/washing hair etc. Ok, they won’t be living on the boat for extended times as I am planning to do, but of course I’d like them to feel comfortable, besides safe.

And I can always go sailing on other peoples boats until I found mine, recently starting to receive more requests for skippering or delivery… and, after all, first its about sailing 😉

Eric Klem

Hi Ernest,

Generally, I agree with your philosophy to try the boat out for a while before messing with things but I do think that there are exceptions, mainly around safety. On the first boat we owned, I did a few projects before the first season that really never needed to be done and I only knew it once we had sailed for a season. You will never find a boat outfitted exactly as you would, I think the goal is to find one that is acceptable. As an example, our current boat was well maintained by the previous owner but they felt comfortable with thru hulls with 30 year old ball valves which I didn’t feel comfortable with so replaced them with seacocks. Another example was that they used a fairly small Bruce anchor as the primary and relied on setting a large Fortress secondary in addition whenever it got snotty, I replaced this with a single large new gen. When buying, I already knew both of these things and had budgeted for them and I still felt that the boat was one that I should buy. I suspect that I would have very few things to change on a boat like Morgans Cloud but if you are looking at the general population of boats and put a requirement like centerline jacklines on, I suspect that you will find it almost impossible to make the purchase so you need to plan on accepting that you have to change some stuff and figure out how to keep the cost and effort down.

The stuff that is harder for me to decide on is preference based stuff. An example might be if someone was looking at our boat and was a performance oriented person, they might feel that our Campbell Sailor prop was too much of a performance hit and decide to go to a feathering one knowing that it cost more and is more delicate. The real trick to me is that boats have so many different components and systems on them and you have to find the balance of what you can live with and what you really feel is necessary to upgrade.

Good luck in your search. There is definitely something to be said for sailing on OPBs. The thing that I always struggled with in this way was that I could not improve them and sometimes there were things that were really questionable safety wise to me.


Ernest E Vogelsinger

Hi Eric,

you’re completely right, I should have mentioned safety related items as an exception, this is a non-brainer. While I might accept 30 year old ball valves for a short time (given they still “look and feel trustworthy”, and given the boat is in the water, I might be tempted to keep them for a couple of weeks or months so when I haul the boat I might know of other issues I’d like to “adapt”. Chainplates are a similar issue, when they sound suspect I certainly would have them replaced before setting off.
Centerline jacklines are a must-have but I wouldn’t see them as “change” in the boat but rather an add-on that I might add at any time, even on the day I finalize the contract. Other items, like sufficient extinguishers, galley safety, etc, I wouldn’t see them as “change” but as “addon”.

When it comes to “OPB” (I didn’t know the expression yet but love it, honestly), there are a couple of them that got some improvements. Best example an old Melody that got a permanent installment for a preventer that can be set w/o leaving the cockpit – the owner still writes emails how he loves them => thanks John for the description of your preventer system, this one is a slight simplification of yours 😉 Another one now has a battery compartment where the batteries are securely held down and wouldn’t get loose when it gets rough. All small stuff and IMHO not a “change” to the boat itself, but made them all more fun to sail, or at least more safe.

Thats what I like with “sailing” – it is the whole package, including “repairing your boat at the most beautiful places”, as one wise soul put it 😉


Ernest E Vogelsinger

I’d like to add a quite credible source to my considerations of not to modify a boat thats unknown to me too early: Steve Dashew. In his encyclopedia he writes (p. 1038): “Regardless of your budget situation, or whether your
building a new boat or buying used, it is always best to spend some cruising time aboard before making changes or adding other than essential gear. I guarantee you that whatever you think is a worthwhile investment today, you’ll have different priorities after a couple of months of cruising”, and “In many cases the best program is to get a very basic, simple boat now. Use it until you are ready for some serious full-time cruising, and a few months before you are ready to depart get started on adding to your equipment list.”

I feel in good company with my thoughts 😉

David Huck

Hi John, how about an Ovni? Would be good use of your accumulated Alu wisdom. Interested to hear Colin’s views too 😉

Mike St. John

How about an S&S Swan 43 to 48. Hard to get a better sea boat and usually one of the prettier ladies in any harbor. Built like tanks and go upwind like few others! Olin was an American wizard!

S&S Swan owner… Ok slightly biased?

Marc Dacey

Andy and Mia would support the preference for Swans. Unfortunately, their resale price indicates the feeling is widespread.

Mike St. John

Lots of nice ones out there well within the budget you are looking at. Ones from the 70s when they were arguably at their best are around. The 44s are nice boats the best being the 48s. You can find these below 150 usd.
We have a 40 from1971 and are approaching 40k offshore miles with her. She instills nothing but confidence…

Marc Dacey

A sharp eye will recognize that the “anchorages of broken dreams” in places like Panama will often feature fully refitted good old boats going for a song because the marriage did not survive the first gale of note. This is also why shopping Sidney, BC and Blaine, WA can turn up some lightly used beauties looking for new ownership due to insufficient spousal buy-in on the cruising proposition, which is best endorsed quite a bit before Yachtworld is consulted in my view.

Paul Padyk

Speaking of logic, what about part ownership? Your 3 – 4 month use per year leaves plenty of room for another owner, and time for shared maintenance. $200k goes a lot further if the other half is bringing at least as much to the partnership. Of course, details would have to be worked out, and emotion would have to be held in check but such discipline could allow you the ideal ocean-crossing boat to blissfully sail for the rest of your days.

Philip Wilkie

These guys are located at Manly Brisbane where we are and I’ve had the chance to look at them closely:

They have two distinct programs, one is a 1/10th share ideal for coastal sailing within 3-4 days reach, the other a 1/5th share that works for people looking to travel further afield. Over and above your syndicate share there is a monthly fee (around A$800 which is similar to the cost of marina mooring one boat) which is used for maintenance and company profit.

The obvious limitation is that it rules out circumnavigations, but it looks very successful and I have to say that if we has encountered it sooner it would have been a smarter choice for us. The simple truth is that yacht ownership as we conventionally think of it has simply become too expensive for most people. The remaining fleet of owners is both growing older and swallowing the anchor at the same time.

The rise of the people monetising their travels via YouTube also reflects this reality; it’s the only way they can afford it. But this path is only accessible to a tiny minority of the most popular channels.

The Adventure 40 project, as inspired and worthy as it was, also speaks to the fact that no-one believed they could build it at an affordable price and make a living at it.

As much as we become attached to ‘our’ boats, they are just a means to an end … getting out there. It seems to me that the ‘sharing economy’ is rapidly becoming the most effective path to achieving that for many of us.

Stephan Will

Dear John, again a highly interesting thread here at AAC – and especially amazing for us: Phyllis & you start a new search for a boat to come – exactly the day our 15-year search finally came to a good ending!

After checking, visiting so many yachts, modifying our priority-lists, continue searching and monitoring offers all around the globe again, spending hundreds of great hours of reading here … finetuning again …

We finally found our yacht – a 2003 aluminum swing-keel cutter ( in excellent shape, really ready to go and still lying in the small harbour of the „Jachtwerf“ who built her so many years ago and maintained her ever since.

Smaller indeed then ever expected by us just 11.8m over all. Optimized for 2 – perfect for 4. The checked & proved excellent build-quality, seaworthiness, true Cutter rig, the maintenance-friendly design and layout and the total absence of any ‚gimmicks’ were most important for us. Affordable in the best sense – and our start into a new phase of our lifes – it seems to us the not we found our boat – but vice versa … 😉

Maybe the actually available used 38 could be worth a look at from your side?

However: Time for us to say THANKS for all the valuable information here at AAC that already helped us so much!

Many greetings, STEPHAN!

Svein-Erik Lamark

Hi John, certainly a very interesting post to many of us. I have searched the nett an found a boat looking good for you: Sirius DS 40 of Germany. The many videos of the boat was tempting all the way until I found the prize, very high. But on the other hand, what do you think of such a consept?

Charles Starke MD

Hi John
I’ve been thinking about your requirements and they are very hard to meet successfully. My experience in boats is with a Rhodes 19, Ensign 22, Alberg 30, Hinckley 38, a Trintella 45 (dropped by yard and total loss in 2013) and my current boat, a Trintella 47 built 2002. I would have kept the 45 until I could no longer sail. The Trintella 47 is definitely better constructed than the Hinckley. It is an excellent boat and I am very happy with it.

A late model Trintella 42 would meet a lot of your requirements:

A friend had a Trintella 42 that he had built in Holland. He sailed it near a hurricane (by mistake), and traveled the oceans. He loved it, and only sold it after he could no longer could physically sail.

My experience is that it takes 5 to 7 years to learn and polish a boat to personal taste. If you downsized to a 40 footer, you might be 75 before you knew it well and were comfortable with all the systems and sailing it. If there were a problem not found on survey, you might get stuck for life.

I am happy with and know my Trintella 47 because of my 16 years experience with my Trintella 45. I am happy with it because I bought it with the eye to sail it until I get to be 100. It has electric winches, a self tacking jib, a bow thruster and a leisurefurl boom. A furling main and furling self tacking jib go a long way to make sail handling easier as one gets older. Handholds abound. The companionway, with stainless handrails, is not steep, and is easy to navigate. I am 72, and all this is important to me.

On top of the work of learning and getting a new boat ready for sea, is the tremendous cost of selling and buying with surveys, repairs, and broker fees on both ends.

So my recommendation would be to keep Morgan’s Cloud. Install self tacking jib, electric winches, a leisurefurl main and boom, and a bow thruster.

Make the boat that you already know easy to handle and one you could be happy with for another 30 years.

Good luck.

Best wishes,
Charles L Starke MD FACP
s/v Dawnpiper

P D Squire

I too was captivated by Torsten’s Sirius videos. I wonder about their performance. The rocker kicks up very abruptly immediately aft of that luxurious low mid-cabin. Some polars would be fascinating.