The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Colin & Louise are Buying a New Sailboat

Boats have been an ever-present feature in my life. Having grown up beside the sea and spent my formative years either in it, on it or under it, to find myself without a boat feels unbelievably strange, like waking up to find a limb missing. 

Last year we (very reluctantly) parted with our beloved Ovni 435 Pèlerin after 12 years of happy ownership.

Louise and I sailed her from Scotland to west Africa, Brazil to Newfoundland, and had so many wonderful adventures, many of which we have shared with AAC readers over the years.

When we left her at the end of the summer of 2018 in Nova Scotia, it was with every expectation that we would be back in 2019 to continue our odyssey and keep on exploring.

It was not to be. Illness meant that we canceled 2019 so that I could properly recuperate. And though early 2020 suggested that I might be fit enough by summer, just as we were on the point of booking our flights, in came Covid and it was soon obvious that wasn’t going to happen.

So then we were on one side of an ocean, with a boat on the other side that we were paying to store and maintain but couldn’t use. At which stage common sense kicked in and we began to discuss our options. Then potential buyers appeared and made us a fair offer and suddenly we were boatless.

It’s commonly said that the best days of boat ownership are the day you buy the boat and the day that you sell her. I always laughed cheerfully along with others who shared that sentiment, but in the immediate aftermath it certainly didn’t feel that way. More an overwhelming sense of loss. But we both prefer to look forward, rather than wonder what might have been, so we picked ourselves up and moved on.

The good news is that she has gone to fine people who will love Pèlerin, look after her and have amazing adventures aboard her, just as we did. And now we’re sufficiently over it to start looking for a replacement.

New Horse for a New Course

What boat could ever replace her?

Well, not the same type of boat. But that’s OK, because we’re not going to be using whatever boat we buy for the same purposes. Pèlerin was conceived and equipped as a long distance liveaboard boat capable of going anywhere.

That’s no longer the type of sailing we have in mind, so the new boat will be considerably different. We have moved to the west coast of Scotland, our favourite cruising ground that we know and love so well, and that’s where we envisage doing most of our cruising, spending weeks aboard at most, so a liveaboard boat won’t be required.

What will we be looking for?

Something along the lines of our notional $100,000 yacht with the following capabilities:

  • Comfortable and safe.
  • Capable of dealing with some wild weather, but not too much.
  • Powerful sailing performance is a must.
  • Good upwind ability will be an asset, despite the inevitable discomfort factor that always comes with that attribute.
  • Simple and easy to maintain, so very little external woodwork.
  • A simple, comfortable interior with reasonable fuel and water capacities, adequate for a week’s independence from harbour.
  • A clean and simple rig.
  • A powerful windlass.
  • A reliable diesel engine.
  • Basic, and I mean basic, electronics.

In short, we want a boat that is fun to sail and own and we are prepared to put up with a lack of some creature comforts. Almost inevitably she will be of GRP construction, if for no other reason than there are so many more boats to choose from.

What I Know Well

In fact, she will be much like most of the boats I owned and sailed before Pèlerin. Better the devil you know, in my view. I owned several 70’s and 80’s cruiser/racers and whilst they all had their quirks, they had all of the above sailing attributes and were built in the days before the Product Cheapening Department at the big yards took control and started making them ‘lighter’ (read ‘flimsier’) and incorporating racing innovations from the worst days of the IOR like flat-bottom sections that slammed so mercilessly upwind that your fillings fell out. 

Some of those designs (although not all) were handsome and capable boats indeed, so that’s where we’ll start.

We accept that pretty much anything we can afford will be of ‘a certain age’ so we must also accept that there will be a fair bit of work involved. Obviously, we don’t want to buy something that is beyond us, but that’s down to me and a thorough inspection.

I have a good working knowledge of the boats that were built in ‘my era’ and there aren’t many jobs I haven’t done on a variety of them over the years. So, hopefully, I’ll be able to identify the worst problems and either negotiate a price that will allow us to put them right with professional help if necessary, or simply walk away and keep looking until we find the right boat.

Fin Keel or Centreboard?

Whilst we really enjoyed the shoal draft capability of the Ovni, my belief is that unless you have real shoal draft (1m maximum) and can dry the boat out upright and horizontal, then the additional cost and complexity outweigh the advantages.

Given that our new home waters are mostly deep, I’m more than relaxed about a draft of around 2m, which ought to give the boat good stability and power. 

Encapsulated or Bolt-on Keel?

Having owned or operated boats with both configurations, I would rather have an encapsulated lead keel over an encapsulated iron keel, or a bolt-on lead keel over iron.

Obviously, very careful inspection will be required to identify any potential issues with the whole structure in way of the keel, whether due to mast compression, grounding damage, rotted floors or corroded keel bolts.

Spade or Skeg-Hung Rudder?

Quite a number of attractive boats built in the era we’re considering came with full or partial skeg-hung rudders, both configurations having a fair reputation for dependability.

As we’re not going to be keeping any boat in a marina, we have little need to turn on a dime, so the slightly diminished manoeuvrability of a skeg-hung rudder will be of no concern. However, we have to accept that many of the boats we can afford will come with a spade rudder, so we won’t write off an otherwise attractive boat as long as the rudder is in reasonable shape. Not that this is easy to ascertain, as I know to my cost. If in doubt, though, that would probably be a deal breaker, as replacing a spade rudder from scratch would probably break the budget.

Teak Deck?

Hopefully not – especially any teak deck affixed with screws into balsa core. Even the idea of replacing the deck and repairing the inevitable damage makes me want to go and lie down in a dark room. In fact, I’d like as little wood as possible, due to concerns over leaks and maintenance.

Engine Thoughts

Any boat of this age will likely have had an engine upgrade or (at least one) rebuild. Anything relatively recently renewed ought to have plenty of life left in it, and spares should be readily available, albeit often at a price.

Anything old would need careful examination, to say the least, if it were to have any value at all. I have a good deal of affection for the good old Perkins 4.108 and might consider one in reasonable shape, or even an old BMC (usually marinized by the likes of Thorneycroft or Ford Sabre, as they are simple, solid and understressed). Most parts are still available and often at less mark-up than more ‘modern’ motors and they’re easy to work on yourself.

Old Volvos, Bukhs, Watermotas, etc., I’ll leave to someone braver…

Anything Else?

Good winches are a real asset, especially as we get older. A couple of oversized self-tailers in the cockpit capable of handling the genoa sheets are a must, and old winches from now defunct manufacturers are not. The budget has to allow for their replacement. 

Tillers Are Good

Depending on the length of our new boat, tiller steering will be fine or even desirable:

  • Simple
  • Less maintenance
  • Better ‘feel’
  • When raised, more cockpit space
  • Easy to hook up a tiller autopilot or windvane to
  • Often better for short-handed sailing, too, due to closer proximity to sheet winches


Nobody who wants to go cruising needs a full suit of racing sails, but here’s what we need:

  • A good quality 120% genoa makes for a sensible compromise that will still function quite well when partially furled and will also have reasonable visibility forward.
  • A fully-battened main would be nice, but is by no means essential. Furling mains are not my thing, nor are ancient and worn-out headsail furling gears—both will give trouble eventually and usually when you least need it. 

To Sum Up

We’ll be looking for something simple and in reasonable, serviceable condition. Anything with more than a minor share of my real no-nos is out, on cost grounds and the simple grief of sorting it all out.

The one fly in the ointment is that there are not as many of these good boats out there as might be imagined. A forty-year old cruiser-racer will likely have been thrashed around the cans for years, with each successive owner being less well-off than the last, until the poor old boat gets no more than the most basic maintenance, and much of the gear will be on its last legs. 

There are lucky boats that have had loving, financially secure owners who have maintained, renewed and updated assiduously, and they are well worth paying a fair price for.

Most boats, though, will need some remedial work, which should be reflected in the price. But while some old nail with a clapped-out engine might look cheap, as soon as you start to budget to make up for all those years of neglect, it soon becomes obvious that the bill will be just too big and that’s before you factor in the depressing nature of much of the work. Taking on a big ‘project’ is as much about you as the boat.

One thing I know for sure: while I might be able to do much of the sort of work outlined here, I’m of an age where I really don’t want to. And Lou and I don’t have the kind of funds that would let us bring in the professionals to sort things out for us. We’ve got to find and buy a good boat, or not at all. 

I will write about the process going forward. Come along and help us find and re-fit our new boat…

Further Reading

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Mike Thrower

Always very difficult when ‘life events’ happen along and plans disappear out of the window but just to wish you both the best of luck with your new tack ……and fingers crossed it works out happily…

Michele Del monaco

I suggest you to have a look at the Alpa 11.50, has all the feature you mentioned and for 30-35k € you can get one with a new engine. The only problem is that probably you have to bring from the Med to Scotland. But that could be part of a funny project…

Richard Ritchie

I shall be interested to see which of the criteria you end up flexing…. For all but the encapsulated keel and rudder you could be describing a Westerley Tempest…

Ernest E Vogelsinger

Colin, first of all my heartfelt condolences for your loss of Pelerine.
But life goes on, and I’m more than eager to accompany you on your new quest, even in some selfish ways 😉

Mark Ellis

Good luck with the new purchase. Always good fun buying a new boat. Have you considered looking in the Netherlands? has many boats that fit (most of) your requirements, and Dutch boats are usually extremely well maintained. Often they have only ever been in fresh water. I have found the brokers to be more responsive than those in the UK. And with such a small country with so many boats it’s easy to view your short list in a few days.

Ian Richardson

Have you considered a Mystery 35?
With the exception of the encapsulated keel the Mystery seems to tick most of your boxes. Mark Cameron has one for brokerage sale in Ardfern and I believe there’s another for sale in Dartmouth.
The Mystery is a Stephen Jones design so will be fast and seaworthy. Gorgeous classic looks above the waterline but modern lines below.
Good luck with your search!

Ian Richardson

There’s an Excalibur 36 for sale at Dunstaffnage Marina, (which I was admiring during breaks in anti-fouling duties last Wednesday)! It’s a solidly built Van De Stadt design and seems to tick most of the items on your wish list. It looks in very good condition, has an encapsulated keel and is supposed to be rather quick (reputedly an ex-class winner in the Fastnet).

Richard Simons

Hi Colin, best of luck with your search, we are looking forward to hearing about it. I really appreciated your help specifying my ovni, and enjoy the “things I would never have thought of” off to Maine this summer.

David Zaharik

Hi Colin, good to hear you are out looking. I am with you in the sentiment of buying and selling… selling a beloved sailboat is not a happy day unless things are arranged for the next in advance (or planned) as it was in my case.

Best wishes for your search. I met the new owners of Pèlerin in Sidney a month or so ago…

Funny the twists and turns … surgery slowed me down last season once we got Beyond the Blue home, now a new hip is slowing me down again as is the ever present zombie apocalypse … covid.

I sometimes think of life after Beyond the Blue… that is tough to comprehend at the moment but I know there will always be a boat… hopefully we can get out into the blue again soon…

Best wishes to you and Lou.

Marc Dacey

Colin, I think part of the sting of selling a beloved boat is knowing that you are temperamentally in sync with the new owners. As for your list of desirable attributes, they sound very well-thought-out to me. Good luck at finding that sweet spot where sailing ability meets “non-flimsiness”. And I concur about the use of the tiller: even on our 15 tonne steel cutter, I sometimes bypass the hydraulic steering in favour of the tiller, just to get that “feel”, although it’s a bit of a workout!

Max Shaw

A few months ago I was asked if I was available to some sail training on a OVNI here in Vancouver Island. The job never materialized but it was intriguing as there are sadly not a lot OVNI’s out here (we buddy boated with a OVNI in the South Pacific and have a lot of respect for the boats). Sure enough I was walking the docks here in Sidney BC awhile ago and stopped to admire an OVNI and realised it was the Pelerin that I had read so much about.

Rob Gill

Hi Colin, that must have been gut wrenching for both of you. We have our boat insured for $150k (on a defined $ sum policy) more than she would fetch on the open market, so if anything disastrous happened, we could go out and buy the best one we could find, and fit her out to match.

But I do believe it’s a universal law that as one door closes, another opens, if I can just see it. So, hey, if I were a French principal in the new A40 business, I would propose to contract you at your standard hourly rate to help us refine the hull, deck, moulds and supervise the build of the first A40. Then to arrange and conduct sea trials and take an extended shakedown cruise with articles and photographs. Then I would offer her to you fully commissioned (with all the gear which you helped specify), so that after investing your labour back in, you get the first A40 for a price tag of $100k.

So you get a new boat which you know from the keel up, and a likely flow of work. And I would get a very committed surveyor and consultant during the build phase, a respected independent expert in the European market and publicity that money just can’t buy.

And what a story that would make!
Br. Rob

Carl Jackson

I’ll miss your posts about Pèlerin, she was a lovely do it all boat, but glad she found new owners to take care of her. I’m of course interested to see what you purchase but I’m also curious to see how Brexit plays into your boat buying decision. I know this site is predominantly targeting the US market but there are quite a few European and UK members and the recent, protracted, exit by the UK left a lot of boat owners and boat buyers potentially facing VAT bills on their vessels depending on where they are located and what they plan to do with them. I read almost monthly in the sailing magazines that it is a mess and I’m curious to see if this is a factor for you. Of course, you are lucky, there are a lot of great boats in the UK, but I’m guessing it might be expensive to go outside UK waters to find a suitable boat due to VAT restrictions. Anyway, if you figure it out and it plays into your decision, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on how to navigate it in a future post and good luck with your search!!

Frank Mulholland

We’ll miss your great advice in posts on the Ovni (much of which we copied). We are in the same “boat”, with our 435 stranded in Nova Scotia since 2019. I did wonder how Pèlerin managed to get to West Coast Canada (on Marine Traffic).
Good luck with the search for the next boat.

Alastair Currie

The Rival 38 fits your list of wants, except tiller. Great value second hand boats, easy to work on, simple, great sea boats, good windward performance, encapsulate keel, skeg hung rudder. Wheel steering, you have to go to the smaller sizes for tiller steering. Available in Aft or centre cockpit. I am at Craobh, and if you want to see, sail my 41, contact me. There is a 38 for sail in Chichester (no association). Pretty sure Rivals have been everywhere. I sail my 41C single handed, so the 38 would be a easily handled short handed.
Were you at Kip Marina a few years ago, I remember an aluminum yacht out the water for a short period?

Dave Warnock

We have a Rival 38 centre cockpit ketch (possibly the only one left) and she is definitely not for sale 😉
I assumed that Colin and Louise were looking for more Cruiser/Racer performance than the Rivals (and I admit the centre cockpit ketch will be the least racy of them). Happy to compete as long as we stick to 1976 Ostar conditions 🙂
Will hope to make it from the Menai Straits through Western Scotland in 12 months when I have a 3 month sabbatical.

Marc Dacey

Well, that would suit us down to the ground. Has to be faster than a Whitby 42, however.

Dave Warnock

Wow, such similar layouts between both the Rival 38 & 41 and the Whitby 42. Going by SailBoatData looks like the Rivals are a bit quicker, less wetted surface too.

John Harries

Hi Colin,

Isn’t that a nice idea, not to be in a hurry.

Enough years of that getting to and from the north in a season.

We too are looking for great light air performance for the same reason.

Mark Wilson

May I respectfully suggest the Dufour 39 ?
Anything by Frers…

Dave Warnock

I’m not sure only 11 berths in a 39 foot design will be enough for most people.

Dave Warnock

Not quite 🙂
I’m thinking there are lots of options for improving light air performance on these older boats.
I know we can’t reduce wetted surface bit we can add a Code zero for upwind and Asymmetric Spinnakers for downwind, potentially on a retracting bowsprit.
Should have the potential to make a big difference.

Dave Warnock

Similar here. Not considering a symmetrical spinnaker. We will be able to have twin headsails as an option when appropriate.

Matt Marsh

We had a day on our delivery passage with Maverick V when we were running in about 7 knots true, under engine, and the boat beside us popped this comically oversized spinnaker and kept up under that alone. We were tempted to try ours, but on just the 3rd sail with a new boat, and only two crew… it seemed too risky.
The ability to make way in really light air under sail, short-handed, would be pretty sweet.

Dick Stevenson

Hi Matt,
Indeed, a light air day with a spinnaker, even an asym, can be a joy. (Especially, and maybe exclusively, if the sea state matches the wind speed.) Too many cruisers operate under a rule of turning on the engine when boat speed gets under 4, even 5, knots.  When inquiring, I find they often have no real light air capacity or that they have no or little experience with what they do have. Sometimes (my case) the boat came with an asym that was just way too big (often the racing types who are the sales reps for big lofts are to blame) and the sail scared the skipper and crew when used (with a big sail, 5kn TW going to 10kn is an impressive increase in force and in un-manageableness for a husband and wife.)  
We have a small asym (I call it my off-shore asym as it is also 1.5oz) which has wafted us along at 3-4 kn for long periods. With the 5-7 kn TW, it is almost like being at anchor and I find myself so content that I do chores and other activities that I would never do underway most other times.
I feel lucky for my 4-5 years of sailing in the Med as it taught me a great deal about keeping the boat moving under sail. There was a lot of light air and I was in no particular hurry so we honed our skills in ways that I had not imagined. And then there was the heavy air, of which there was also a lot, and I got an education on getting to where we wanted to go safely when there was way more air than wished.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

James Patek

Hey Colin I logged into AAC for the first time in a long time to find your article. I too have considered selling Let’s Go! for a similar reason but after enjoying two weeks in New Zealand’s managed quarantine in February, I then had one of the most enjoyable and lengthy cruises through the many islands and bays of New Zealand north of Auckland that I have ever had. So…I postponed the decision. But I certainly understand your and Louise’s motives. I will look forward reading your new adventures and wish you both well.

Stephen Lewiton

Colin good luck with your boat hunt we are stilling enjoying the island packet you helped us to buy.