The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Buying a Boat—A Different Way To Think About Price

Given that we have serious interest in Morgan’s Cloud from potential buyers, Phyllis and I have been thinking and talking a lot about which boat we will choose to buy after she sells.

So I’m thinking it’s time to share this process with you, our members, for two reasons:

  • Our process will be of use to those of you who are also considering a new-to-you boat and will make a good addition to our Buying a Cruising Boat Online Book.
  • It would be easy for us to get set in our thinking and thereby miss a boat that is a good fit for our needs. So putting it out there will, we hope, bring a fresh view in the comments that will also be of use to all of us.

So let’s start off with defining the mission for our new boat and then use that to come up with our (maximum of ten items) vital capabilities list using the process I defined some years ago in this chapter, and then relate that to our budget. (If you have not read that chapter, please do so now, otherwise what follows will not make sense.)


As I have explained before, after nearly 30 years and well over 100,000 miles, Phyllis and I are done with live-aboard full-time cruising. And, further, it’s unlikely that we will make any long-distance offshore passages in the future, although a shorter passage, like Bermuda and back, might be on the cards for me and a buddy…should I have a sudden rush of blood to the head. Phyllis is done with multi-night passages. (Don’t panic, this is good news, not bad, for this site, see Further Reading.)

Given that, the mission for the new boat is:

  • Daysailing from our Base Camp here on Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, in mostly flat water (in the Bay) and generally good breeze, at least when the land heats up in the afternoons.
  • Several four- to seven-day coastal cruises each season, requiring a relatively seaworthy boat, since once we leave the bay we are offshore in the North Atlantic (in the lee of Europe), albeit with shelter close to hand.
  • Once a year or so, a longer cruise of up to a month’s duration and about 1000 miles distance, but all within easy reach of replenishment.

Vital Capabilities

To perform that mission we want a boat that has all of the following:

  1. Great (not just good) sailing performance upwind and down. Our next boating phase is all about sailing. For you technical types, think sail-area-to-displacement ratio (SD/D) greater than 20, length-to-displacement ratio under 180, and/or PHRF handicap less than 70—none of those numbers are carved in stone, but they do give us a useful filter.
  2. A deck layout, rig, and cockpit optimized primarily for sailing.
  3. Reasonably well built and seaworthy from a reputable builder.
  4. No more than 22,000 pounds displacement, and lighter, even much lighter (read smaller) is fine, too. We loved our bigger boat for living aboard and long passages, but now we want a boat that’s easier to get underway, layup and commission. (By the way, boat size is much better defined by displacement than overall length.)
  5. Easy to sail, and easy to sail fast, including setting and striking light air sails. This does not mean a lot of gadgetry. For example, we have no interest in roller reefing mainsails (in-mast or in-boom) or even electric winches—we manage fine without them on a 24-ton boat, so we sure don’t need them on a 7 to 12 tonner. Rather, we are looking for a boat with an efficient deck layout and most likely a small foretriangle. Fractional rig might be cool, too.
  6. Simple gear and equipment well installed. We don’t want a bunch of complex gear to maintain and fuss with. No interest in complex stuff like bow thrusters, etc.
  7. A livable, but not live-aboard interior. For example, most of our food will be pre-cooked and frozen at home, so we don’t need a full-on galley or huge storage.
  8. Good deck-accessible storage. We don’t want to be stowing the cushions and the light air sails on top of a berth.
  9. Good looks: Life is too short to own an ugly boat.
  10. Ready to go without a refit—no project boats.


Originally, when we talked of buying a new boat, we set a budget of US$200,000, but given the above criteria, particularly #10, it’s quickly becoming apparent that we were being optimistic.

So after some thought, Phyllis and I are coming at this differently: Rather than setting an upper-end number, and potentially missing a near-perfect (there is no perfect) boat for us, we have set the maximum negative difference between the buy and sell price over say 8 years at US$150,000. Let’s call that spread the delta.

I think this is, for those of us later on in life who have been fortunate enough to accumulate some savings, or cash from selling another boat, a better and even arguably more financially safe way to look at this.

Three possible example scenarios illustrate what I mean:

  1. We buy a 30-year-old boat in need of a lot of work, but not a total wreck, for US$80,000. Spend at least another US$100,000 on a refit—we are not willing to do this DIY—and sell her at the end of 8 years for US$80,000. delta=($100,000)
  2. We buy a 20 to 30-year-old boat that has been regularly refitted and upgraded for US$180,000, and sell her at the end of 8 years for US$100,000. delta=(US$80,000)
  3. We buy a 5- to 10-year-old quality boat in good shape for $US300,000, and sell her at the end of 8 years for US$150,000. delta=($150,000)

Note that the sell number and delta are in present dollars. For example, in scenario two we might sell for say $125,000 eight years from now but, accounting for inflation, our real delta might still be (US$80,000) measured in today’s value of money.

Of course, all of the above examples contain a bunch of estimates…OK, wild guesses…but I still think there are benefits to looking at a boat buy in this way, even if the actual numbers for boats we end up considering are very different. And of course, each of us will have different ownership period expectations. Eight years seems a reasonable guess for us, given that I will be 70 this year.

Let’s analyze a little deeper:

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

  1. The Right Way to Buy a Boat…And The Wrong Way
  2. Is It a Need or a Want?
  3. Buying a Boat—A Different Way To Think About Price
  4. Buying a Cruising Boat—Five Tips for The Half-Assed Option
  5. Are Refits Worth It?
  6. Buying a Boat—Never Say Never
  7. Selecting The Right Hull Form
  8. Five Ways That Bad Boats Happen
  9. How Weight Affects Boat Performance and Motion Comfort
  10. Easily Driven Boats Are Better
  11. 12 Tips To Avoid Ruining Our Easily Driven Sailboat
  12. Learn From The Designers
  13. You May Need a Bigger Boat Than You Think
  14. Sail Area: Overlap, Multihulls, And Racing Rules
  15. 8 Tips For a Great Cruising Boat Interior Arrangement
  16. Of Cockpits, Wheelhouses And Engine Rooms
  17. Offshore Sailboat Keel Types
  18. Cockpits—Part 1, Safe and Seamanlike
  19. Cockpits—Part 2, Visibility and Ergonomics
  20. Offshore Sailboat Winches, Selection and Positioning
  21. Choosing a Cruising Boat—Shelter
  22. Choosing A Cruising Boat—Shade and Ventilation
  23. Pitfalls to Avoid When Buying a New Voyaging Boat
  24. Cyclical Loading: Why Offshore Sailing Is So Hard On A Boat
  25. Cycle Loading—8 Tips for Boat and Gear Purchases
  26. Characteristics of Boat Building Materials
  27. Impact Resistance—How Hull Materials Respond to Impacts
  28. Impact Resistance—Two Collision Scenarios
  29. Hull Materials, Which Is Best?
  30. The Five Things We Need to Check When Buying a Boat
  31. Six Warnings About Buying Fibreglass Boats
  32. Buying a Fibreglass Boat—Hiring a Surveyor and Managing the Survey
  33. What We Need to Know About Moisture Meters and Wet Fibreglass Laminate
  34. US$30,000 Starter Cruiser—Part 2, The Boat We Bought
  35. Q&A, What’s the Maximum Sailboat Size For a Couple?
  36. At What Age should You Stop Sailing And Buy a Motorboat?
  37. A Motorsailer For Offshore Voyaging?
  38. The Two Biggest Lies Yacht Brokers Tell
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Michael Lambert

Yes, the delta is a great way to justify purchases. I do it all the time, most recently for an efoil.

As far as boat, I was thinking your criteria sounds like a J boat.

Marc Dacey

I was thinking perhaps a Great Lakes-only Saga 43, which were made in a variety of configurations similar to the more cruising-orientated J Boats. Freshwater and five month haulouts seem kinder to older boats, but the question of proper decommissioning and winterization is always an issue. I like the “delta” concept, because it determine worth in a sliding scale of how you can judge what you and Phyllis will use and for how long. It’s shocking to most sailors who aren’t live-aboards to calculate what each sail costs per NM sailed!

Alastair Currie

You have articulated rather well what I do. As you suggest in your article, there does have to be a certain financial comfort level to take a hit on the spend. Too often I am made aware of associates who have bought a boat, must have it on managed charter to fund it, then must sell it for too high a figure later, and end up being disappointed at the loss. There is also an age point in life where making up lost cash due to a mistake can be very difficult to correct.

Alan Bradley


While we are not looking for a new boat — our boat is our home and will continue to be for at least another decade — our “mission” will soon be changing. In that regard, your framework for choosing a boat can be applied to deciding which upgrades/replacements make sense for the ways we will be using the boat in the future and for the number of years we plan to keep her.

Brad Manter

Whew John, thank you. You just made my present dilemma (present as in, just today), in deciding how far I go with any more upgrades, much simpler now. Do I stop spending now and move to another boat, or do I complete my current plan? I think I am right where Alan is. But I’ve been hung up in comparing the dollars I have into this boat, vs. used boats on the market. I’m about to exceed the market, but your approach let’s me take this boat to the level I want with less anxiety. I just have to decide on my delta #. My horizon is 10-12 years, so that helps. Thanks so much.

Sam Kimpton

Hello John, under “Vital Capabilities. #1 SD/D” do you mean greater than 20?
I have been reading “Yacht design according to Perry” thanks to your recommendation. I’m new to all this and this site has been beyond helpful in helping me learn. If you do mean 2 would you be so kind to explain. As the ratios are still quite new to me. Thanks for the great content.

Robert Hellier

Totally agree with the argument that purchasing a new boat is the least logical thing to do if you’re interested in value-for-money. We’ve never bought a new car for the reasons you state. Instead we do our homework and buy quality “pre-loved”.

But there’s the rub, because – as you well know – distinguishing between a gem and a lemon is much easier to do with a used car purchase than for a used sailboat.

Last July we faced this challenge when we decided to move up from a 30′ LOA fibreglass inshore sailer to a 36′ LOA swing-keel, steel, off-shore capable sailboat. Said sailboat was 30 years old and was listed for $CAD85,000. In terms of your three options this puts us on the cusp between #1 and #2.

The 2 previous owners had thoroughly scratched their live-aboard cruising itches with 20 years of ocean sailing and 4 Atlantic crossings. Due to advancing age the 2nd owner no longer felt comfortable to sail her single-handed, so the boat had spent it’s last 3 years on the hard. It was obvious, however, that the owner was still taking care of the vessel.

Rarely in our 6-month search had a boat ticked off so many of the boxes of our “ideal sailboat”. We were excited and it took a lot of self-control to keep our antenna tuned to discover faults, especially with regards to corrosion of the hull and deck. The owner – bless his soul – graciously allowed as much time on the boat as we liked. He even let us overnight on her and encouraged us to empty lockers, etc. to get a really good look at the interior of the hull, sea-cocks and other fittings – as long as we put everything back as they were. We took advantage of this rare display of generosity and faith by a current owner in a prospective one.

After a 2-day pre-purchase inspection we listed a number of deficiencies and used this to negotiate a price of just under $70G, pending sea trial. The sea trial offered no nasty surprises so we closed the deal, added a chart plotter and spent 2 weeks sailing her back to our home port. She’s now on the hard and subject to our restorative care. We send pics of the restoration regularly to the previous owner and he’s delighted to watch the progress, knowing that she’s passed to good hands.

One decision that we made prior to purchase was to do a thorough refit below the waterline and this is something we’d recommend to any buyer of a vessel that has many sea miles under its keel. We believe it saves money in the long run. More importantly, it may well save the vessel and crew from an ugly demise. I’d say that this is our case as – having removed the keel, rudder, most of the sea-cocks and stripped the hull to bare metal – we’ve found some coating system failures that were impossible to discover in a non-destructive, non-invasive survey. Within a year or two of active sailing, I’m certain the underlying areas of steel would’ve collapsed. Having made the decision to do an immediate post-purchase immersed surfaces refit, however, these discoveries are easily dealt with, mostly by our own labour and at little extra cost.

I also just purchased an ultrasonic material thickness gauge and have been using it to accurately determine thicknesses in some of these questionable areas. It’s a great decision-making aid in terms of what kind/level of remedial work to perform for each area of plating corrosion. What a great device to have aboard for a metal boat!

We hope to have said refit completed by Spring. Assured of the boat’s integrity below the waterline, everything else can be tackled safely and at a schedule that allows for periods of sailing and living aboard.

Once restoration is sufficiently completed, our goal is to do some extended cruising of the Great Lakes and North American East Coast, prior to more ambitious destinations. Mahone Bay is beautiful. Maybe we’ll bump into each other some day (not literally).

Regards and stay safe.

Marc Dacey

This closely mirrors our own process. We paid for a professional sounding of the hull despite our ownership of an ultrasonic device as we are in Nova Scotia to have a complete redo of the below-the-waterline hull prior to extended cruising. The “reveal” was very positive in terms of hull plate thicknesses being at or better than original spec and we feel very encouraged. A crack in an existing pipe nipple similarly led to the decision to replace a number of drains and exhaust nipples and to replicate the standpipe and move to Tru-Design cocks. Again, pro-activity has increased confidence and, in regards to John’s purchase process, I think finding a mindful previous owner (and maintenance logs) is half the battle of finding a vessel that won’t give you too many nasty surprises

Good luck with getting back out there.

Jon Skogdalen

I absolutely support the delta-idea when purchasing. Do you consider an Ovni 395 as being an option?

Jim Schulz

Thanks for launching this subject John, it’s just the type of help my wife and I can use over the next year.  We live on the Idaho / Wyoming border and have 3 – 5 years left where work will keep us here but plan to take longer and more frequent sabbaticals as we train our replacements to take over the business.  We’d like to shop for and purchase a boat over the next year with the goal of being on the water by spring 2022.

Here’s the mission:

Live aboard from a home base in the PNW while on sabbatical, day sailing and doing several 4 – 7-day inshore cruises in the generally light air of the region.  Hope to include some recreational racing as well, to sharpen sailing skills more than for competition’s sake.

Two or more cruises of 10 – 20 days per year around the Salish Sea region and offshore north toward Alaska.  Requires a generally seaworthy boat to deal with potential weather and the range and power to navigate strong tidal currents.

Within 5 years sail offshore to the Bay Area and Mexico.  This will require a truly seaworthy boat as there is no promise of shelter between Cape Flattery and Point Conception if the weather turns nasty.

Vital Capabilities:

1 – Seaworthy and able to survive a multi-day storm offshore
2 – Reasonably good performance, SA/D of 16 or higher, D/L under 300
3 – Good performance and range under power, at least 40-gal diesel tankage, minimum 2.5 hp / 1000 lbs. displacement 
4 – Hull and rig strong enough to take punishment and forgive our mistakes because we’re newbies.
5 – Interior layout comfortable enough for a couple to live aboard (we’ve spent a lot of time camping and have a relatively small house, so this doesn’t necessarily mean big).  Safe enough to sail offshore.  At least one berth comfortable for two large adults to sleep in at anchor.  At least one appropriate sea berth.  
6 – Deck layout safe and functional for two reasonably fit 50 – 65-year-olds to handle as a couple or single handed.  Slab reefing, simple systems.
7 – Comfortable motion – Brewer 29 or higher, LWL / LOA not too much overhang
8 – Previous owner knows boat, has good records, has taken good care of boat and work done on the boat has been done well
9 – Good looking boat
10 – Ready to sail right away, but open to haul out and refit work over the next three years if it can be done in stages.  Don’t want a boat that will be on the hard for three years.

So far, we’ve reached out to owners of a 1978 Nordic Esprit 37 and a 1989 Fairweather Mariner 39.  Looking to get in touch with owners of a 1981 Tartan 42.

Your idea of budgeting for the delta between what we pay for the boat and what we sell her for 10 years from now is really intriguing.  I’d originally been thinking in terms of how much to pay and how much to hold in reserve and had been thinking $50,000 to pay and $50,000 in reserve but realized we would probably need to bump that higher to get what we were looking for.  If I instead look at it from the perspective of a $100,000 delta over 10 years that gives us more options up front that aren’t “out of our budget” but still gives us a workable figure to plan costs with.

I think it’s still important to know the limits of cash you have available vs cash you can spend on refits if needed because obviously it wouldn’t be good to spend too much cash up front and not have the necessary cash to deal with refits.

Thanks again for posting this and I look forward to following the thread and gathering people’s input on our plan so far.

Michael Beemer

Jim, (and John)
This is option#1 currently in progress, and I don’t think 100k is enough if hiring out the work. I think you and members of this discussion might be interested in the current project at Skagit Valley College. We are refitting an offshore sailboat at a marine tech school for education and I second everything John puts on this site. We fix boats because it’s fun and they are used for training new technicians, but don’t recommend it! I know at the end of this project we’ll be lucky just to get back the hard cost for materials! If you want to watch someone dump 100k into an old boat, (but with proper documentation) check it out.
SVC Skallywags on YouTube
I hope this post doesn’t violate the site rules, I don’t post much. I train students, the information I put out is just to freely share, and none of it is monetized!
Located at the Salish Sea, Anacortes WA

Jim Schulz

Enjoying your blog and refit videos Michael, thanks for sharing!


Jim, A good list of priorities to use for your boat selection.

Your statement “there is no promise of shelter between Cape Flattery and Point Conception if the weather turns nasty” could benefit from a little coastal exploration. There are many places that a sailboat can follow the fishing fleets into port to shelter from approaching weather.

An exciting dream, always good to have more sail boaters plying the Salish Sea.

John Zeratsky

What about a J/42? I believe it fits most (if not all) of your criteria and is, in my opinion, a really nice looking boat.

(BTW the delta approach is brilliant. That — plus ongoing expenses during the ownership period — is how I think everyone should think about not just boats, but primary residential real estate as well. I.e. what’s the real cost during your ownership of this asset?)

Matt Marsh

Well, John, if it’s performance you want, I see a 2004 Dubois 90 in Sydney right now for $92k USD.
I say this not because I think a 21-ton maxi is the right yacht for you at this stage of life, but because it really emphasizes the importance of both total cost of ownership (TCO) and purchase vs. resale price delta.
That Dubois has undergone 98.8% depreciation in 16 years. As a capital asset it ended up being just marginally better than buying Nortel stock at $120, and whomever buys it is getting one hell of a lot of boat per dollar. It probably can’t depreciate much further as long as it remains afloat.
But it, like a lot of boats with tempting price tags, is going to kill its buyer with TCO as soon as the routine maintenance bills start showing up. A very common problem when one starts moving from pure cruisers to cruiser/racers or all-out performance boats is that total repair and upkeep costs add up to a startlingly high figure. It’s not that any one repair is a killer, but rather that job after job keep soaking up funds in $1000+ increments, and since things are more heavily stressed and more lightly built, these tasks come up more often.
TCO is incredibly hard to estimate, accurately, up front. But, ultimately, it is the metric that matters most for overall affordability, and so I think it’s worth trying to estimate both its expected value and its variance with some meaningful degree of accuracy.


You and Phyllis have an interesting conundrum.

Since you two are responsible for some of the steps on the path I chose to cruising boat ownership, it is only fair to share some of the factors that lead me here.

Where you sail. I sail in the Pacific NW. Fog and variable winds are a given. Anchorages abound here and yield to great coastal adventures. There are enough to last a lifetime. Ranging from the Puget Sound to the waters of Alaska with the beauty of British Columbia sandwiched between one can get lost. These waters and weather patterns identified one of the keys to enjoyment, being able to sit inside the boat and see the outside. Limited initial finances and this priority led me to find a 1974 CAL35 Cruiser. It looks like a pilot house with large windows surrounding the salon, but is actually a traditional sloop with decent Lapworth designed sailing abilities. Not to the standards you identify, but decent for my needs.

That important feature, visibility from inside the boat for coastal sailing, has been captured in the Sirius 35DS. If I was looking towards a cruiser with well thought out design I would include the Sirius boat in your list of boats to review.

Here is a walk through by the owner.

P D Squire

The deck-saloon layout opitimised (and I believe originated) by Sirius has a lot of appeal in harbour. However, I doubt the hullform would put them in a performance bracket. The deepest part of the hull is well aft – the opposite of a performance boat’s “flat run aft.”

Nothing will beat a deck-saloon yacht for visibility from inside but some performance boats are making significant progress in that respect. Forward facing windows are starting to appear in some designs’ cabin tops (eg; Pogo 36, Pogo 44, some X-boats) that give wider views when standing inside; and hull windows give views when seated. Not as good as a deck-saloon, but all within a much lower profile that gives performance benefits.

As always, its a matter of choosing the compromises.

It would be interesting to see if a Sirius 35 would fit the proposed delta. They don’t seem to come up second hand very often, which is encouraging for those who want what Sirius’ owner Torsten describes as a sailing holiday cottage.

Matt Marsh

A Sirius 35 with the deep fin keel and the tall rig would be right in the same performance class as our C&C 35-2, or possibly a little quicker. There was a time, not so long ago, what that was called a “cruiser-racer” for good reason. To get much more speed out of a monohull this size, you end up having to make the stern sections much wider & flatter than is ideal for seaworthiness in rough stuff, so you end up with something that’s fun in force 2-4 but gets bumpy at force 5 and pretty miserable above that..

With one of the shallower keels, the Sirius would be about as close as you can get to a “perfect” all-round cruising boat for our part of the Great Lakes. A sheltered, heated cabin with a view extends the usable season by perhaps 20-30% here, versus a boat where you’re usually out in the open.

30-35′ is a sweet spot for marina slips and it gets very hard to find dock space for boats >40′ in a lot of places. This, I think, is a major factor in why the Sirius team, like some others, try to cram so much accommodation into a relatively short LOA. John, I assume that’s not a concern for you, since you own a nice pier & mooring, but it’s a major factor for us. Beneteau is always bringing pretty 40 to 48 footers to the Toronto Boat Show and conveniently neglecting to mention that there are years-long waiting lists for 45′ slips in that area.

As mentioned above, though, the depreciation delta on a 35′ boat that starts somewhere north of $350k is going to be brutal no matter how well-built she is.

Eric Klem

Hi John,

Looking at your scenarios 2 and 3, I hope you are planning a significant upgrade budget for those boats and just haven’t stated it here. Even if you find that rare boat that has truly been refit, it seems highly unlikely you will end up with one refit to your personal preferences. For example, you may want to change up the sail inventory or put a feathering prop on or change to your favorite anchor, if these were requirements to buy the boat, I doubt you could ever find the boat you wanted. None of this implies that the previous owner didn’t do a great refit, you just may prefer to set the boat up differently. Also, none of these relatively bolt-on things should scare anyone away. When we were boat shopping, we had a spreadsheet of all the boats that we had looked at and each one had listed needed repairs and desired upgrades with my estimates of cost next to them and the only number we considered was the total (we also did time estimates).

Your requirements sound like a fun boat but a potentially tricky one to find. For each of our boats, after running through a bunch of different boats and comparing them, we decided to prioritize ease of maintenance and deprioritize sailing speed a bit (we started with a goal similar to yours). A large part of this was due to deciding to work within a smaller budget. If we wanted to have a PHRF rating below 70 or even below 100, we were going to be looking at spending at least double what we spent and having a boat that had higher ongoing maintenance costs in both time and money. I do wish our boat was bit less beamy and a bit higher performance in some other respects too but overall we are quite happy and find that 6 knots is easily achievable over a wide range of windspeeds and directions and it is not uncommon to see over 7 for a while. Having grown up on a well designed boat that was 48′ LOA and 10′ beam, I can’t quite bring myself to love the hull form of most cruising boats, they feel fat and lumber through waves.

You and several others have already pointed out J boats and they are certainly the first thing that comes to mind to me as well given your requirements.. The Saga 43 and 35 both come close but are a bit slower than desired and the 35 looks misproportioned to me with its cabin height. Having watched 2 different 35’s at anchor a lot, I can say that the hunting at anchor is more than I could bear and would need solving. Boats like the Beneteau First 40 arguably meet all of the requirements except 3 (and maybe 9 but that is super subjective), at least in my book that would disqualify them. Maybe some of the competitors like X-yachts have something good to offer, I haven’t followed that segment enough to know. You could always convert an old class 40 but personally, I don’t think I would like it, they may be fast but they give up a bit too much comfort. There have been several nice custom one-offs that remind me of really nice J boats but they don’t end up on the market that often.

One question, is location a requirement? Are you willing to look at great lakes boats, west coast boats, US boats? As you know, there are trade-offs with all of those places. We originally limited our search for our current boat to the US northeast but eventually bought a boat from the great lakes after not being able to find what we wanted here with arguably easier to meet requirements.


Eric Klem

Hi John,

Glad to hear you are thinking about an upgrade budget. It also sounds like you are playing with a travel and potentially boat shipping budget. The travel one can be really tricky as you don’t want to burn tons of time and cash going to see boats that turn out to not be contenders but you also have to be willing to do some of it, it is unreasonable to think you will buy the first one. The only reason I was willing to fly out to Michigan and rent a car and hotel was that the boat was being sold by the owner who spent an awful lot of time on the phone with me, the few brokers I dealt with wouldn’t invest the time and I had trouble justifying going on a daylong car trip for the boats they were representing. Since what we care about is net cash, we looked at a project all up budget but you have to watch how many assumptions go into it. When looked at this way, you see that the purchase price is far from the only thing that matters, especially on cheaper boats.

Unfortunately, I suspect your comment about Saga quality issues is correct. I know 2 people who visited them at the end and both can provide horror stories of desperation at the factory. Too bad there wasn’t a boat between the 35 and 43 (ignoring the Castro 409).

Did you ever get a tour of Cielita (I think I remember you writing that you knew Ned)? A bit bigger than you are after I think but it was an interesting example of what it takes to make a J boat really offshore ready, my memory is that there were definitely some real mods done.


Gary Luce


Are there any options between 1 and 2 Seems like a very big spread between them and other variables/options could exist. Cambrias seem like they might fit into the specs you have listed for the boat your looking forward to.

Gary Luce

After looking at the exact specs…..perhaps cambrias wouldn’t work for you!

David Shepherdson

I am purchasing a boat at the moment (I have an offer accepted on a J120 in the PNW) and have been using the delta concept over 5 and 10 year ownership periods. I concur that it is a helpful way to evaluate different options as you have described. Something that you didn’t mention but which can also be helpful I think is the opportunity cost of the initial purchase (i.e. lost ROI on the purchase price over the ownership period). I plan to race as well as cruise so factoring in the value of existing sails vs cost to purchase new sails is something I have been thinking allot about. Thanks for all the advice and ideas.

Alan Sexton

Hi John
How about one of the Sabres, 406 or 426

Matt Molkoski

Hi John,

I’m newer to the world of sailboats, but what about a CS36? They seem to be fairly popular in our neck of the woods… Admittedly on Lake Ontario.

Only concern is the PHRF is ~150, so I’m not sure if that’d head to the performance range you want. But the traditional can be had with no quarter berth, leaving you some nice cockpit lockers, and the looks of the CS Yachts are gorgeous.

Neil Jeffreys

Hi John,

What are your thoughts on the Blue Jackett 40? They seem to hit many of the attributes your looking for. The ones I’ve seen on the market seem to be in great shape although they are on the upper end of budget. However, I think you would still hit your needed delta on resale.

Marc Dacey

Ah, the only boat at a boat show my wife’s stepped aboard and said “can we have this one?” It’s got a great deal of clever ideas in what I can only imagine is a fast hull.

Ernest E Vogelsinger

Would be interested if John might be happy with a stern such as this? Looks a bit too fat and too wave-inviting for my personal taste.

Neil Jeffreys

Yes, although it’s not excessively beamy overall at 12.3 it does look to carry quite a bit of that aft. It’s just a shame they did not keep to the IP or Tartan stern traditions…

Eric Klem

Hi Matt and John,

As someone who has owned a CS36T for many years now, I thought I would jump in and give my thoughts. This boat is capable of meeting all of John’s criteria except #1 in my opinion (I actually would say it and almost all fiberglass boats of its era fail #9 but this is very subjective and not all boats can look like Stormy Weather). From a performance standpoint, the boat is simply too heavy to ever meet John’s expectations despite having a tall rig for a cruising boat. I read what John wants as equivalent to a lot of 1990’s race boats or the fast daysailers, those numbers are at the very end of the cruising boat range unless you entertain boats like a Pogo. Of course race boats tend to be pretty worn out and they are not well set up for shorthanded sailing. The boats that spring to my mind are the crossover boats such as boats made for cruising or distance racing like the J120, Tripp 38, etc but I shouldn’t put words John’s mouth. The 36T actually does pretty well for a cruising boat (PHRF close to 120 when set up the way I imagine for John and Phyllis) and it has a very wide wind range where it can hold the speed at 6+ knots. And just as importantly as speed, the 36T is a nice boat to drive.

The performance question did get me thinking, John have you exported one of the PHRF databases like PHRF NE to excel, then filtered it by rating and length? If you looked at a band of ratings from say 50-80, it might give you some names of boats to research more that you are not familiar with. When we were looking, I had a yachtworld search that was very general and then I manually weeded out boats but I found several somewhat interesting designs I was unaware of.

The reason that we ended up with a CS36T was that we thought hard about what mattered to us in a boat and decided that time was the most important element so a boat with good original build quality, designed for easy maintenance and well taken care of fit the bill. The joke on these boats is that they are Morris build quality with none of the Morris features. While that might be stretching it a bit, I would put the build quality slightly above the comparable Tartan, Sabre, etc. That being said, I can list at least 5 items that were not done well originally and I would look for when looking at one of these but I am unaware of any boat where something wasn’t done poorly on. We are quite happy with the decision for us and I can’t think of a boat I would rather own right now when considering all factors but someday our criteria will likely change.

If John’s criteria morph enough to include a boat like the 36T, then I will happily add more.



The Cal 40 has always impressed me, and it appears to check all the Vital Capabilities boxes, except for PHRF. But PHRF of about 120 is not too bad. I crewed on one a few times in San Francisco offshore races, and it was a blast, especially down wind.

Richard Tomlinson

Would be interesting to read your thoughts on Dehler 41DS as they fit your criteria of an oldish but well built boat with good sailing performance. There were quite a few for sale on the West coast of USA when I was thinking of buying one.

Stein Varjord

Hi Richard and John,
I’ve sailed the Dehler 41 DS just once, some years ago when it was new. Hardly enough background to judge it well, but it’s a nice boat. Definitely more cruiser than racer, but it’s faster than the deck house style might indicate. The hull looks and feels harmonic. We had mostly medium wind and not much waves, but I think it might do well in some waves too. My guess is that John would like the boat, but might want more performance.

I’ve raced an earlier boat from the same brand, the DB1, which was the hottest production IOR 3/4 Ton class boat in the early eighties, until the X 3/4 Ton. Dehler an X-Yachts were close competitors and have much in common, which from me is a compliment to both.

Michael Albert

Of course usual owners bias here, but a S&S Tartan 40 that’s well maintained could fit the bill. CB version probably not your first choice but I find the design pretty robust and easy to maintain and the Cb makes a big difference upwind with extra draft. I find it fast in light airs and fairly stiff. Smaller transom tha newer Tartans. And of course I think they’re pretty.
Here’s a repowered and seemingly updated version. Too bad they didn’t put in a Beta like I did…

Michael Albert

Hi John- Agree on performance criteria- I had forgotten you are looking for truly great performance in a 40 foot cruiser with PHRF goal in 50-70 range. Of course, since displacement is really your yardstick maybe a light and fast 50 footer is the right way to go. Here’s one (tongue firmly in cheek)

Yan Brand

Bonjour John,

Thank you very much for sharing your experience. This is invaluable for us young sailors (young in number of sailing years, not in total years unfortunately).

It is true that the Boréals Mk1 (44 or 47) are never lasting long in the for-sale listings, even when the asking price is significant compared to the as-new price.

With the Boréal Mk2 (47.2), Boréal made a giant leap toward designing a comfortable sail anywhere liveaboard boat, compared to the Mk1, with a separated shower and higher headroom in the boat.

But with a 2 years delay between the ordering and the launch of our dream (October 2019 to October 2021, COVID-19 permitting), I believe that the Mk2 will retain an excellent resale value like the Mk1, if the dream were to turn into a nightmare for any reason.

On a side note, I also looked to the possible replacement of the propane stove by an induction cooktop with an electric oven. I must admit that after numerous power budget calculations, detailed renewable power generation calculations, with as many sources as possible of renewable energies that could be fitted on the 47.2 roof and arch (920W solar + 700W eolian) and with a typical Montréal windy summer day, I got about 3.5kWh generated from the Solar, and less than 600Wh from the Wind for that day. This seems not sufficient to feed fridge, freezer and cooking in addition to the other electricity demanding equipments of the boat for a day if the menu is a bit elaborated. Therefore, I came down to the very same conclusions that you expressed in your article on the Induction cooking on boat, that we would need to use the generator more than I wanted to, but that we could use a side induction cooking stuff, or an electric slow cooker, whenever the LiPOFe4 batteries are sufficiently charged, in addition to the propane stove. 

There goes my dream of energy independence, as the choice appears to lie between living in comfort or energetic frugality in that matter on a monohull. We will know more on power management after few months of living on the boat and understand better then what I did well and what I did wrong. 

Too bad, I will only buy a new boat once!

Salutations de Montréal,


John Cobb

Boy, you’re right, the good boats are going fast. We’re in a position to buy a nice boat, got the resources, time to enjoy it, everything we need…except the boat!

SV Moonshine

That handicap of 70 for a cruiseable sailboat with storage is going to be a hard target to hit. An ETAP 39s would get you to 90 and be ‘unsinkable’.

Matt Mills

Hi John, I’m enjoying following your progress on replacing Morgan’s Cloud. I’m going to throw you a bit of a curve ball, how about a Finot Cigale? Certainly hits your numbers, and no forward projection on the bulb keel. Tricky but not impossible to find with your budget.

Matt Mills

Yes, I’m looking a the Cigale myself. Re X-yachts the older X-442 is worth looking at it doesn’t have the forward projection to the keel bulb. I’ve seen some well cared for late ones. Otherwise it keeps coming back to the J44!

Marc Dacey

I really liked the J/105 when I first saw it a few years back. I know the “walk-through head” seems to put a lot of people off, but I thought it very practical and put the bulkheads in a desirable spot. And in experienced hands, they really sail well. But they may be a little small for your needs.

Frank Hertel

Hi John, excellent article! As you are contemplating J boats. I would like to suggest RM out of France. They would live up to the performance aspect. Interesting construction methods (plywood) and keel options for drying out. I am not sure if they are on your short list. Just a suggestion. As always, thank you for a great site.

Eric Van Moorlehem

John, have you considered other high end Scandinavian yards? Luffe, Faurby come to mind that would hit the performance mark. A bit slower but ticking the beauty contest Morris 38 or a Cornish Mystery 35 would be high on my list.

Vesa Ikonen

Hi John,
shouldn’t this bit:
”#2 Already RefittedThat said, scenario three takes…”
”#2 Already RefittedThat said, scenario TWO takes…”?

Roger Neiley


As the owner of Saga 43 #27 since new (2000 model year) I can offer 11 Net Tons of first hand comments on the boat’s quality. Like many/most other boats there were some variations in the level of care during manufacturing and there have been a few niggling little issues that have been addressed by almost all owners. Nothing structural, nothing related to safety and nothing that detracts from the wonderful sailing qualities of this Bob Perry design.

We have a great owners’ website that provides a wealth of knowledge and direct contact with owners who have put a lot of miles and love into the boat. You’d be welcome to join and I’ll be happy to get into more specifics if you want to email me directly.

Most important…. enjoy the search. As the owner of Saga told me during our build, realizing a new boat is about as close to having a baby as a man can get!

S/V SoLunaMare
Lying Newport Beach, CA

Einar Otnes

Regarding thinking of the “best” delta, shouldn’t you also take into account the actual amount of money you put down? In other words, buying a boat for 300k vs 200k, would also give you 100k less to save and invest? Although the interest rates are currently zero, doesn’t mean they will be like that in the next 10 years.