The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Some Thoughts On Smaller Older Cruising Boats

In my last article on cruising boat design I waxed eloquent—well, I thought I was eloquent—on the benefits of bigger boats. So to balance that, here are some thoughts on smaller boats and what to look for to make them livable, inspired by my recent single-handed cruise on a borrowed more than 50-year-old Hinckley 41 named Sable. A boat that is actually smaller than a Westsail 32—practical boat size is measured in pounds, not feet.

Longer is Easier to Live In

For a given displacement, long thin boats are easier to live in than short fat ones. Take a gander at the two plans linked to above to see what I mean.

Starting from forward, Sable has:

  • A respectable forepeak and anchor locker
  • A double V-berth
  • Nice chest of drawers
  • Two hanging lockers
  • Decent-sized head
  • Small but workable salon
  • Galley
  • Chart table with fridge underneath
  • Nice big cockpit
  • Two large cockpit lockers
  • Liferaft locker
  • Propane gas locker
  • Good-sized lazarette

Now look at the Westsail 32, which actually outweighs Sable. The wins for the Westsail are a more spacious salon and a better galley, but at the cost of many things in the above list, most notably a poky cockpit and much less deck accessible storage.

This supports what I have long thought: If we want a livable and functional cruising boat, the minimum length on deck is about 38′. Go shorter than that and we run out of boat, no matter how wide she is, before we can get the live aboard essentials in.

Of course, if we make a 38-foot boat beamier we will get more in, but Sable has everything we really need.

And yes, I know that others have lived and voyaged successfully of boats well under 38′. Good on ’em, but it won’t be me, and probably not most of you either.

Quarter Berths Suck Space

Now have another look at Sable‘s accommodation plan, and the photo at the top of the article, and imagine trying to stick a quarter berth in there, as you so often see in smaller cruising boats.


  • Either the galley or fridge/navigation table gets trashed.
  • A cockpit locker is lost.
  • The accommodation accordions in as it goes forward, and I’m betting one of those lovely (yes, there are two) hanging lockers goes.
And for what? A quarter berth that’s almost invariably full of deck-crap that should be in a cockpit locker, anyway.

Pilot Berths Rock

If quarter berths are an abomination, pilot berths are a delight. There is nowhere better to sleep at sea: out of the way, but close to the centre of pitch. And during the day crew can stow their gear on them, where it’s easy to access, but well retained by the lee boards.

Deep Has Advantages

Sable, being deep and full-keeled with relatively slack bilges, manages to get all her respectable tankage under the floor boards, thereby freeing up great storage space under the settees. The point being that a wider shallower boat may look bigger, that is until it comes time to find a home for a bunch of food and gear.

The other advantage of deeper bilges is that if we get a few gallons of water in the boat (inevitable sooner or later) we don’t have to live with it washing into lockers and even berths when heeled, as we do with a shallow boat.

Heel Angles

The flip side of being deep and narrow with slack bilges like Sable is that, since she gets most of her stability from her ballast not her hull form, she sails at high heel angles.

And I will admit that given that I now own a boat that is easily driven at low heel angles, and having owned one that sailed more like Sable, I would not go back.

But, then again, all boats are tradeoffs.

Overhangs Are Not Just Decorative

Sable surprised me by being faster than her waterline length of 29 feet would lead me to believe. For example, I found that she motors easily at 6.8 knots at just 1700 RPM.

That would be a speed to length ratio (based on her waterline length) of about 1.25, but my guess is, looking at how little wake and fuss she leaves in the water, that she is actually operating at an effective speed to length ratio closer to 1, which in turn implies an effective waterline length of somewhere around 35 feet.

Of course, none of that is at all scientific but, on the other hand, I have noticed the same phenomenon with our own Morgan’s Cloud, a boat with a 42-foot waterline and 55.5-foot overall length. For example, in our most economical motoring mode, we do 6.5 knots at just 1400 RPM, and at a normal cruise of 7.8 knots, we are still only at 1900 RPM. In this case I have access to the propeller power curve, and so I know that those RPMs translate to just 14 and 40 hp respectively. Again, these numbers imply an effective waterline substantially longer than 42 feet.

I think what’s happening here is that when underway the aft overhangs on both Sable and Morgan’s Cloud immerse very sweetly into the stern wave thereby pushing the wave further aft without immersing the transom. I have also noticed on our boat that efficiency goes all to hell as soon as the transom immerses more than an inch or two.

All of this says to me that, when we are thinking about boats with overhangs and how fast they might be, as long as they are well designed, we can add in the stern overhang to arrive at effective waterline length.

By the way, I have used motoring to make things simple, but this seems to translate well to sailing, as our boat accelerates quickly to 8 knots as soon as the apparent wind gets to about 14 knots, without us having to drive her hard under a press of sail, and also without producing much fuss in the water. And she does not even feel overdriven at 9 knots, which would seem to indicate an effective waterline closer to 48 feet than 42.

Anyway, this point gets bandied about a lot on the forums, so I thought it useful to bring some real experience-based perspective to it.

Reserve Buoyancy

Before we leave the subject of overhangs. People often assume that boats with them pitch more and, to some extent, that’s true due to the increased pitching moment. However, it’s not that simple. If the overhangs are well designed they also provide reserve buoyancy so that, as they immerse on each pitch, they soften and reduce the motion.

I did not get a chance to really test this on Sable, but I do know that on Morgan’s Cloud, and her McCurdy and Rhodes sisterships, the overhangs play a big role in their easy motion, which has long made it possible for their crews to deliver nasty surprises to the crews of supposedly faster boats in ocean races, particularly when the going gets tough—the former can keep the hammer down long after the latter have cried uncle and shortened sail.

Bottom line, don’t write off an older boat with overhangs, she may surprise you.

Sea Worthy

David, Sable‘s very experienced (lots of blue water miles) owner, tells me that he did quite a bit of offshore work, including a single-handed passage from Bermuda to Nova Scotia, in his previous Hinkley 41—yes, he has owned two, with another larger boat in the middle—and that he always felt safe in her when it got nasty. And, further, that she heaves-to easily and comfortably.

An Interesting Option

Add all of this together and we can see that there is a lot more to like than first glance might discern in older designs like Sable. 

For example, while Sable is no speedster, she was easily able to carry me 70 miles in comfort in one long day of motor-sailing into 10-16 knots (true) of breeze, most of it on the nose and accompanied by the nasty chop the Bay of Fundy is notorious for—the tide was running against the wind for most of the trip.

Sure, that’s not the glamourous test of romping along over blue waters under sail alone, or surviving an Atlantic gale, but, at least in our part of the world, it’s also a type of day that will be frequently experienced while cruising.

Would Phyllis and I go extended cruising in Sable? No. But, on the other hand, a Hinckley 41, or a high quality older boat like it, could be a good option for those with a budget around US$100,000, particularly given that at this point, as long as they took care of the boat, the depreciation hit over a one or two-year cruise might not be that bad.

And there are boats of the same size and type (many of them younger) around for less than that.

That said, not only were these early Hinckleys built well, the owners of high-quality storied boats like Sable tend to lavish money and care on them.

For example, although David is not thinking about selling Sable, she is pretty much ready to go extended cruising with good quality gear all around, including a carbon mast with mainsail furling (installed by the previous owner) and a new engine (installed by David). And a lot of these boats have spent at least half their lives stored inside away from the elements.

Bottom line, a high quality, “name brand” boat that appears expensive could, in fact, be a more economical option (more fun, too) than a cheap boat that requires a multi-year refit, particularly since many refits turn into horribly expensive—in both time and money—rebuilds.


Have you cruised on a smaller older boat? How did it work out for you?

Coming Soon

As I write, Colin is busy working on more article(s) about acquiring a real offshore cruising boat for around US$100,000, and I have a piece coming tentatively titled Buying An Offshore Boat, The Half-Assed Option.

Further Reading

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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Richard Elder

Hi John
My personal list of the elements to look for in searching for a great value in a used boat parallel those which you describe, but I don’t find that there is a high correlation between economical and small.

My List:
1-look for a boat that somebody has loved. Every hour and dollar that they have spent is one that you won’t have to!
2- Quality of construction is paramount. Thirty years ago there were still boat builders who valued quality. You won’t find it in a new boat unless you are prepared to pay 4-6x the 100k that you set as a reference point.
3- The real value propositions usually are age driven. The owner has reached the age where he has to give up a boat that he has loved, or has passed away and left the boat in the hands of his heirs who don’t want to carry on with the upkeep and responsibility.

Prices for boats that fall into this class are all over the map:

44′ sister ship to one I built 35 years ago. Powerful sailor, bulletproof construction, looks like a new boat. The “little boat” for an owner who had a 75 footer kept in the Caribbean. Hardly used during the last 20 years, but has every possible upgrade including a new Spade actually properly sized for the boat!

51ft Custom Italian FG sloop. Similar hull to a Swan 48. Solid glass with insulated interior. Custom Anagre interior that makes a Hinkley look like a Beneteau by comparison. Companionway design is even worse than a Swan. Owner passed away two years ago, and his widow has moved ashore.

55′ Dashew style ULDB ketch. Epoxy/carbon with thick core for positive flotation. 75 HP Yanmar- should power at 12+ knots. Kind of like a sail version of Argonata. Could be a fantastic boat or could be worthless. But you’d better not be 6′ tall!

48′ aluminum pilothouse built as a combination performance sailor/expedition yacht. Kids refused to continue sailing and parents moved ashore and sold it instead of selling the kids into white slavery.

Cape George 36-38
Most of the virtues of a Hinkley 41 with a lot longer waterline and a bit more room. Motion like a small ship.

Custom 45′ expedition style boat. Heavy fiberglass construction. Looks like a boat you could take to Greenland or Tahiti. No further details until I have a chance to look at her for myself!

Richard Elder

Hi John,
By the way, there are no project boats on the list of examples I presented. In the case of the 44 at the top of the list it lacks only a Jordan drogue to be ready to leave on a non-stop circumnavigation. Last fall it did a 800 mile shakedown offshore voyage, and that is the total extent of use on the rig and new suit of sails.

Others like the 51 footer for 40k would provide the opportunity to spend a substantial basket of Looneys on wants, but could safely sail away after a couple weeks work. The list ranges from boats I know quite well to others that look great on paper but might prove to be walk-aways. The point is that you find great deals where you find them. The correlation between used boat price and size is weak at best— at least until you start to buy sails or rigging for the larger boat!

P D Squire

Another benefit of overhangs: They are lovely. And boats with them invariably have equally lovely sheerlines, deck houses and lines overall. Contrasted with a plumb ended, beamy, tall, boxy, reaching, floating condo; which brashly shouts on arrival “We’re here to use the beauty of this place” the sleek, pretty yacht modestly replies “we’re here to enhance it.”

Richard Elder

As John points out, there are overhangs and there are overhangs. My take is that most do little to extend the effective waterline as they are too high or leave the waterline plane too abruptly. Excellent discussion of the topic in the Max Ebb column here.

ps: We are in total agreement. Slab sided B*** Ugly modern cruising sailboats should be banned from any anchorage where they destroy the natural beauty of the place!

Lars Erik Karlsen

In 1999 I bought a Sweden Yachts 38 from 1984, and have sailed her quite a lot in 20 years.
I was looking for the smallest boat for my needs, of best quality boat that I could afford.
She is built with balsa sandwich in deck and hull. Underwater is single skin. she has a stout masthead rig, and a keelstepped mast. On deck she is covered with teak wherever possible. The interior is in best scandinavien mahogany quality.
Now she has a Yanmar 38 hp with saildrive.
In my eyes she is a beautiful boat and has a massive row away factor. She also sails wonderful, making easily 160 nm in 24 hours in 15 knots of wind.

How has this turned out in 20 years?

Well, she has cost me a lot of money over the years. But we have sailed her to Spitsbergen, around Cape North, Norway, along the Norwegian coast, west coast of Sweden and Denmark. Shetland and Orkneys. For the time beeing I am in Greece, sailed her down from Lofoten, Norway.
I was not interested in rebuilding a cheap boat, because I wanted to go sailing

That said, I have been working on her every year, and replaced almost everything on her.
So by now she is in good condition. Offcourse a boat is an never ending project, she will need care in the future for sure.

Negative things about her? I am not fully satisfied with the interior design, to many beds and cabins. But I have learned to live with that. Starboard aft cabin is only used for storing crusing gear and sails.

Has it been worth it? Absolutely. I have loved all the crusing we have done with her, and I have learned to know my boat very well after all the work I have done.
The AAC site has also been very helpful in selecting gear and many other aspects of cruising Thanks a lot!

Richard Elder

Hi Lars Erik
Always felt the Sweden 38 was a lovely boat, and very well built by modern standards. And yes, she is afflicted by cramitus, especially in the galley.

Yours is probably ready to be de-teaked. Not a job for the faint of heart, but do make use of the efficient power chisels now available. And when you are finally done, she will look far better than she did when covered in teak!

Lars Erik Karlsen

Hi Richard
4 years ago I got the opportunity to have my boat in a hall for the winter.
The teakdeck needed to be delt with. To take it away was one way to do it, but that would a really big job, since it is teak everywhere on the deck and coachroof. On the other hand i have no leaks, and there was about 10 mm teak overall. So I took away some of the deckhardware, and routed all seams, making them 5 mm instead of 4. Primed all seams and filled them with silicon deckcaulking. sanded the deck and
replaced several hundreds teakplugs. Quite a job I can tell you, but the teakdeck looks very nice today, even in the hot mediteeranen sunshine.
Maybe it has something to do with the quality of the teak. Hopefully it will last som more years before I need to take it all away.

Ben Logsdon

Thanks for your opinion on overhangs. I always found it hard to believe that boats were built with long overhangs for centuries and somehow we “discovered” that no overhangs are somehow superior to the traditional designs. Like most everything, it’s a compromise…but you’re willing to talk both sides vs the sailing advertising books (I mean magazines) that only sing praise for any boat that comes across their desk.

Looking forward the the article on half-ass since full-ass is not in my budget!

Timothy Chauvel

Hi John, thanks for this article. My wife and I own Proteus, an aluminum hulled Kettenburg K43 built in 1964. A beautiful sailing boat with a similar design to the Hinckley. Previous owners made offshore passages from California to Tahiti and Hawaii. The boat has gone through an extensive refit over a 15 year period. Proteus is 43 feet long, but 32 feet at the waterline. McDonald Douglas built the hull which is encapsulated in epoxy. They just don’t build boats like this anymore. I would upload pictures, but not sure how to do that on this forum. I may be open to placing Proteus on the market if the right purchaser came along. The boat is set up for extended cruising.

Timothy Chauvel

Hi John, Yes, if my information is correct, McDonald Douglas had a subsidiary company called Yacht Dynamics which built aluminum boat hulls.

Proteus has a rolled formed hull of 5087 marine grade fully welded electro plated aluminum, with epoxy overlay under the waterline. Interestingly, there are no keel bolts, as the lead ballast is intergrated into the hull. The hull has been inspected by surveyors, and no metal corrosion or damage was found.

Proteus looks like a Hinkley, and although 43 feet on deck, she is approximately 32 feet at the waterline. She has a 6.5 draft and an independent spade rudder. She sails well in all weather conditions, and must be one of the earliest examples of an aluminum yacht built in America. The boat is 55 years old this year.


Timothy Chauvel

Thanks John, interesting. I had been looking for a metal hulled boat for quite a while when I came across Proteus in 2004. I came across a number of used steel and one later model aluminum sailboat with advanced electrolysis issues. I purchased Proteus because she was a price I could afford at the time, but after fifteen years of extensive refit, I have unfortunately spent more time at the dock than out sailing the waters of southern California. In hindsight, maybe I should have waited until I could afford a boat that required less refit. I now have a classic aluminum hulled sailboat in very good condition throughout, but it took a lot of time and effort to get to this point, and my dream of sailing further afield got put on hold. I have a British trade certification in marine engineering/boat repair, so I did most of the work which kept the cost down, but definitely purchasing and refitting an older boat is not for the faint of heart if it becomes a protracted process.

Dave DeWolfe

Hi John,
Agreed. I have sailed an older Hallberg-Rassy (70s) for almost 40,000 miles. I keep it well maintained and it has never let me down. Is somewhat tender due to narrow beam and ballast stability but that is just a sail management problem. Comfort is very good. Good quality older boats, properly maintained and with good seamanship, can take you most anywhere.


Thanks for thought provoking article, with eye candy! What a pretty boat!

Frolic, a boat I’ve owned and operated in the NE Pacific since 1996, is an Islander 36, built in 1974. Designed by Alan Gurney in the late ‘60s, the I36, a modest boat by any standard, is a decent sailing sloop, easily balanced.

We originally acquired her for southern California coastal sailing with our young children. And she served that purpose very well for a decade. After the kids were grown and gone my wife and I double-handed Frolic in the BajaHaHa, a rally from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, then cruised the Sea of Cortez. A few years after that, for reasons I can’t really explain, I decided to sail Frolic to Hawaii as an entrant in the biennial singlehanded transpac, a race from Tiburon in San Francisco bay to Hanalei Bay, Kauai. We did it twice. She certainly required work to be a reasonable-enough ocean going boat, and basically that work focused on the items listed by John in the article: keel bolts replaced (threaded into iron keel), redid the mast step, resealed the toe rail/deck/hull joint (an awful job), pulled inspected and replaced the main chain plates onto reinforced bulkheads, new standing rigging and mast fittings, retabbed all bulkheads to the hull, and reinforced the floors. The list was long, and included relatively simple changes, like enlarging the cockpit drains, replacing the lower companion way board with a bridge deck, installing a Solent inner forestay and trysail track, beefing up the gooseneck fittings and mast attachment, rigging the boat for two two-pole spinnaker jibes, and generally setting her up for easier solo sailing. Regarding the latter, the most dramatic change was replacing the wheel/binnacle with a tiller – this makes solo sail handling (especially the spinnaker) much more practical because, with the tiller steered between the knees, both hands are free. But, oh boy, what a lot of little projects were spawned by that change! Of course there were electronics systems upgrades, with the addition of below deck autopilot being probably the most important. The electrical system is basic, and we have no refrigeration.

How is it on such a small, basic boat? She’s comfortable with one or two aboard (little privacy), but I have found more aboard, for more than a long weekend, to be uncomfortable. My wife and I have lived aboard happily for several weeks at a stretch, and I’ve been comfortable alone for longer periods. In race mode, with all the extra sails and gear, there’s really only room for one, especially when going upwind for extended periods. My longest continuous ocean passage on her is three weeks, and I enjoyed it and could’ve comfortably continued. Some recurring wishes, also echoes of the above article: more storage space, a dedicated work bench area, and a deeper bilge! I also admit to sometimes craving ice cubes and ice cream.

Has it been worth it? In the end, I have a 45 year old, middle-rate production fiberglass boat that, like all boats, needs tending, but additionally, due to her age and hard use, vigilant scrutiny of structural bits. And she has little market value. But on the plus side, I generally enjoyed the projects, and certainly enjoyed sailing two round trips between California and Hawaii, three legs solo, one doublehanded. And she’s ready to do it again – after I repair the mast head, thoroughly check the standing rigging, replace a cracked fuel tank, etc. A critical part of our readiness is the simplicity of the boat, my intimate, evolutionarily developed knowledge of her systems, and experience repairing them. The latter is a major reason I’ve always shrunk from moving to a different boat – I’m hesitant to leave something I’m familiar with and start over! And as I get older, while less energetic vertical accelerations would be appreciated, handling larger sails, and climbing a taller mast do not appeal.

Marvin Hamm

I’m curious what exactly it is about these little $100K boats that makes them undesirable to you? To what extent is it that you can afford a $250K boat and don’t want to live with less, or that there is something inherently unsafe/dangerous about them?
I guess I’m interested in identifying the perspective/bias that is presumed. I got hooked into the whole boating scene via WoodenBoat Magazine. Bought the first 150 back issues and thew whole thing. Started building small boats. Got three behind my belt before I realized that either I was going to spend my summers building boats or sailing them. Swallowed my WB induced pride and bought a ‘frozen snot’ boat. It wasn’t till much later that I realized just how WB had inculcated my thinking that it had to be ‘pretty and wood’ or it didn’t count.
I’ve got a 10,000lb $5K boat. One of those projects that need work and time. And it is a very long way off from ever being blue water. Right now I’m enjoying it on inland freshwater, but I dream. I’m not going to jump up and down about how blue water can be done for a 10th of the price. Proper updated safe gear is just plain going to cost $’s. But, what are the presumptions that 40′ and $250K as the baseline presume?
I realize that’s more than a little open ended. I’ve never lived in a house with A/C, lots of people think it is a must-have. What concessions would you be making to go down to a sub $100K boat?
(Not picking a fight. I like reading an learning here. Just renewed for another three years a day or two ago.)

Marvin Hamm

I look forward to reading that article…. Thanks.

Richard Dowe II

John, what figures will tell you if a boat will have a low heel angle? Thanks

Mark Wilson

Dear John

I have been following this series of articles with great interest. Not only because I, like most cruising sailors, am fascinated by other people’s boats and the choices they have made. But also because circumstances have conspired to allow me to start actively searching for a boat of the same size as you are considering. I had been saving this story for Colin’s upcoming article but it seems to fit the current comments.

Three weeks ago I found a 40 foot boat (actually 39 but 40 is in it’s design name) which fulfilled nearly all my criteria for an ocean cruising yacht. I was so looking forward to writing in to boast about how I had found the perfect boat for a third of your budget. Built in 2004 by a reputable professional boat builder for his own use, equipped one size up from the recommended spec all the systems had had been immaculately installed and everything worked, even the 2004 electronics. Solid dodger, solar panels, wind generator, Hydrovane, radar, best quality blocks and winches, tinned wiring, massively thick fridge insulation; you name it, it had it. And it didn’t have a Volvo engine or sail drive.

There were a few little niggles at the back of my mind: glued on teak deck, aft facing chart table, an extra aft cabin rather than the normal, for this design, large head and shower. Rather a lot of Sikaflex smeared around on the decks of an otherwise well maintained vessel. A handsome boat rather than a pretty one. And I didn’t love the name. But all boats involve compromise, right ?

A week ago I had her surveyed. She passed with flying colours in all respects but one. Multiple leaks through the deck fittings especially by the chainplates and resultant areas of softness. Stanchions and pulpit not properly secured to adequate backing plates. I certainly don’t have the time left in my sailing life to waste on the necessary surgery to put the deck right and who knows how long the work would take or what would be revealed or what the bill might come to ? If I enjoyed working on boats maybe I would embrace the challenge but I would rather go sailing now. I’m not far off your great age and realise my sailing time is running out.

So, a £1000 pound lesson (including the haul out costs). Could I have saved myself the money ? Of course. Maybe. I don’t know. When I viewed the boat the owners were living on board and showed me around. It was full of their stuff. I didn’t feel I could really dig around or start sticking a spike into the bulkheads. But a really powerful torch shone into the key areas might have shown up some of the issues that an eight hour survey revealed. One of the key areas I asked the surveyor to look at was the deck. Instinctively I knew something might be wrong. I could have, should have trusted my instincts. Wishful thinking is the enemy of common sense.

Next time may be different. But I will probably just make a different set of mistakes. And at this price point compromises have to made. I will not compromise on the essential points though: strength, speed, safety, comfort and beauty.

Richard Elder

Spot on,Mark
If we weren’t susceptible to being blinded by Love we wouldn’t be attracted to sailboats!

Rob Gill

Good stuff Mark,
A 1000 pound lesson is good value, if you consider the confidence and experience you will have gained – well done indeed. Having a surveyor confirm your instincts though is “priceless”. Quick question on the Volvo – why is not having one a positive for you? Do you have another precautionary tale?
We have a Volvo D2 55, hence my interest. It has clocked 2000 trouble free hours (touching my wooden desk as I type) and was proudly built by Perkins, according to the brass label attached to the engine block, hidden behind the air filter at the rear. According to my Volvo manual, it has a 500 hour engine service interval and when I tested the used engine oil after our Pacific Circuit cruise in 2017, with 430 hrs on the engine since the last service, the laboratory commented how the oil was in perfect condition. No sign of engine wear metals in the sample and I could easily have got another 200 hours running without concern.
The Volvo drives our 47 foot yacht at 8.5 knots with a conventional shaft drive (MaxProp) and cruises at 6.5 knots using around 2->2.5 litres diesel per hour. Wouldn’t want to change this engine for anything, so we are taking great care of it. Br. Rob

Mark Wilson

Sorry to slander your Volvo Rob. My experience with Volvo goes back to the seventies and eighties and probably is no longer relevant. I had three boats in a row with Volvo’s in them and had delivered others. By the time I got to the third one my experiences had been so horrific I didn’t even give it a chance to go wrong. It was out of the boat before you could blink. It always amazed me that a company that built such reliable and boring cars produced such appalling marine engines. – Oh dear, now I have upset all the Volvo car owners !

Interesting that you have a Volvo D2 55. Glad you are having a happy time with it. Whenever I see that name on a boat’s particulars I always think to myself “that’s alright, its not a Volvo really, it’s a green Perkins”. It shows up quite often on the type of boat I’m looking at at the moment and it wouldn’t put me off now. And presumably you double your chances of finding an off the shelf part in out of the way places.

As to other contemporary Volvo’s I’m not sure whether the traumas of my youth could be overcome. Is previous trauma a useful instinct to follow or a prejudice to overcome ?

I wish you fair winds and many more trouble free engine hours when the wind fails to be fair.

Eric Klem

Hi John,
Like you, a boat like Sable would not be my choice for extended cruising but I could see it working.  I was actually just discussing with someone whether I would have a bigger boat than our CS36T given our current coastal cruising usage if we assumed we could afford it.  My conclusion was no as long as the primary usage is coastal cruising but as soon as we talk about a lot of offshore, I would move up in a heartbeat to the right boat.  For us, this size is a good balance of enough space to live and enough storage for stuff (the biggest issue is that once there are more than 2 aboard, the other people need to live out of bags as the clothing lockers are full).  For people on the US east coast, it is easy to go from the Maritimes all the way through the Bahamas and beyond with short hops that can be worked around conditions to be reasonably pleasant.  About once a year I wish we had a bigger boat and this seems to often happen in the area where you were (why is the forecast always NE when I am in Grand Manaan Channel?) with huge tides and the associated current and nasty waves but the feeling quickly passes when I look at the cost and effort to own and realize that 95%+ of the days are just as enjoyable with the size we have.

To me the problem with overhangs is that they often were not done well.  Growing up and sailing on an S&S with a 34′ waterline and 48′ overall that was well designed, I thought there was nothing wrong with overhangs.  Then I sailed on a few boats where they had not been executed well and wow was it terrible.  I find it really interesting to walk around a boatyard and look at the bow shape thinking about just going forward through the water and also coming down off a wave, some bows are designed to throw a lot of water forwards.  Like many things, they can be executed well and they can be executed poorly, the trick for people looking for that cheaper boat is figuring out which are done well.

One thing that I notice about the interior in Sable is that there is a decent amount of white surface which I find really makes it nicer to me.  I know that there are those who love their teak caves but I find a boat feels much more open with some glossy white paint.

To your point about older, well maintained boats, I do find it amazing everytime I am in midcoast Maine to see the number of well maintained Hinckleys and Morris’ around, quite a contrast to most other places we go.  The joke about our boat is Morris build quality with none of the Morris features which is perfect for me.

Richard Elder

Hi Everyone:

Another interesting 100k boat.
Not small @ 48′
Built in aluminum by the Master— Garcia.
Conventional keel.
Watertight companionway.
Nice offshore interior. Room for gear and a family.
New engine, recent standing rig.
Proven circumnavigator.

Mark Wilson

And look: it’s got a Volvo engine. Or is it really a Perkins ?

Ernest E Vogelsinger

Found this here:
Base engine design is actually Shibura, assembled under licence by Perkins Shibura Engine Co, some local sourcing, however many components sourced from Shibura or from their suppliers. Good durable little motors which is why I can understand why nobody in the food chain wanting to keep a piston on the shelf with infintesimal parts turn on small margin engine. Perkins sell these little motors bare, at fan hub to flywheel price, complete with rotating electrics for between £400 to £700, so it is a Tesco style stack them high, sell them cheap game.

Mike Maylor

Hi John and Phyllis,

With regard to extended cruising on an older smaller boat I certainly have some experience of that , and from a quality-of-life point of view it was almost all positive.

The period in question was for 1 year, July 2001 to June 2002. The cruising extent was an a warm up lap of the Westerm Med, getting as far as Amalfi on the east coast of Italy, then from Gibraltar straight into the Atlantic to the Caribbean via Las Palmas in the Canaries. We spent 5 months pub crawling every rum shack we could find on the sheltered side of the Windwards and Leewards between Union Island in the SVGs and Anagada in the BVIs. Then back home to Wales via Bermuda, the Azores, and an obligatory stop for a Guiness in Ireland. Approx 13000 miles all told with many night sails.

The boat was a 35 foot Westerly Oceanquest, which is a very tubby, totally cruising orientated, boat. She has a moderately raked stem, a reverse stern and ours had bilge keels which was pretty handy in places like the BVI for getting in close to the beaches. She was a great size for mostly husband and wife sailing, we only had 3 on board for the deep sea passages across Biscay, and Gibraltar – St Lucia. Sails, ropes, anchors and chain were all conveniently small and light, the interior really well laid out for a couple with occasional extended guest stays.

However what made her work at such short length for living aboard was the centre cockpit giving huge internal living accomodation and storage space for the length of boat. The aft cabin arrangement granted real privacy for all on board.

We lived extremely comfortably on her and managed to carry a rather oversized 3.4 m Avon inflatable with a 10hp engine and a windsurfer amongst all the other goods, chattels and supplies.

There were compromises obviously. The shear weight of all the food water and fuel when we first loaded her up sank her by a good 6 inches at the water line which probably did not help her sailing performance(!). With a bigger boat the same amount of supplies would not have the same effect. In hindsight we probably should have realised that there are food shops in the rest of the world too!

We also did not equip her to what would today be considered modern blue water standards. So no watermaker, we just bought drinking water from supermarkets and filled the 60 gallon tank from docksides for cooking and washing. As this worked for a year it could be expected to work indefinitely, at a cost. We also did not have a working fridge, let alone a freezer. This was a more expensive mistake than we at first realised. My addiction to cold beer in hot climates meant we spent alot more at bars than we would have done if we could have chilled our own. Power generation was by a distictly not fault tolerant daily engine run off the single alternator. We got away with it.

In 2000 when we bought the boat she was 3 years old and we paid £76,000. After 3 years of owership and all those miles under the keel we sold her for £67,000.

Would I do it the same way again? Well as we have bought a 47′ aft cockpit Grand Soleil the answer is possibly, but not this time. That is because my tastes have changes and I wanted a boat that was more exciting to sail and would cross the Atlantic in significantly less time than the 23 days of my last trip.

However the more pertinent question is could I do it again? The answer is unquestionably yes, and I would be very happy with that situation, and I would address some of the weaknesses of my old boat by spending a few quid to make it even better the next time.

I would caveat this response by saying that this advice really applies to cruising between Europe and the Caribbean at generally docile times of year. It was not high latitude adventure sailing. The worst weather experience we had was an overnight F10 from NNE, lulls at 48kts and sustained gusts at 55 kts with a fetch of roughly 80 miles, crossing from Corsica to Monaco. We were too frightened, inexperienced and terrified to execute any storm tactics and motored beam on to a very steep sea. And nothing went wrong, the greatest risk was getting run down by the shipping. As a side note this was the only time in my life I have wished I was on a cruise ship. The Med can be a very very rough place.

I recognise that this solution would not be to everyone’s tastes, but I can categorically state that in the right cruising area it does work.

Loving the site and looking forward to living the dream,


Devon Rutz-Coveney

Hi John, Great Article…. goes with some of the comments made in previous articles about older boats. I really like the idea of giving an older boat, a well loved older boat, a new life.
Funny about the Hinkley 41…. my wife once worked for these guys in Maine…. we had the occasion to help a retired couple on their H41 in Vava’u. The engine was the same Westerbeke 40 that is in our Valiant 40 so when the guy told me his engine was persistently overheating, I had some ideas about why.
The H41 is a very beautiful boat. And they really do sail nice. But try getting the coolant heat exchanger off the engine to clean out the gunk clogging it up. I had to lower myself headfirst into the port cockpit locker, into this tiny unlit space to get my arms into a position where I could get to the Heat Exchanger. Someone had to hold on to my legs to help me get back out!!!
As my wife says, the H41 is a great boat if you are 3 feet tall with 6 foot arms!!
Anyway, cleaning up the Heat Exchanger solved the issue but I would not want to have to do any major jobs on that install.
Lovely boat to sail on and lovely to look at.
In my opinion, on any boat, keeping it going (ALL the systems that make living aboard as comfortable as possible) is the best way to have the 1st mate/Admiral not quit and leave. The sailing part is the easy part in my experience. Keeping the boat going (the ‘systems’) is more challenging and sometimes very expensive. Having a ‘simple’ boat helps but after awhile, I have been told by people who have done so, it begins to feel like ‘camping out’ and some people eventually get tired of this, sell the boat and move to land. I did not have any special training to do what I did 30 years ago when I left S.F. but maybe being younger made it easier to learn and adapt as the boat kept needing attention over the years.
I guess what I am trying to say, it is NOT just the boat one chooses but also their level of motivation to keep learning and adapt to the ever changing nature of the lifestyle.
All the best,

Devon Rutz-Coveney

Westerbeke 40…. Perkins 4-108!
Those Perkins people sure made an intrepid product… tractors, boats, gensets…
By the way, the H41 I mentioned above did sail from the USA East coast, through the Caribbean, through the canal, across the Pacific before we met the retired couple in Vava’u. They were having a blast!!

Devon Rutz-Coveney

Lastly…. Sunny just reminded me that the Hinkley in Tonga was a Bermuda 40, (B40)…… NOT an H41…. sorry…. it was the 90’s and my brain is not what it used to be. The lines look very similar.
The B40 designed by Bill Tripp and the H41 by Hank.

P D Squire

Mint 40-yr-old Hinckley: $100k.
New HR 372 or Rustler 37: $400k.
Very curious to see your exploration of options in between at $200-250k