Buying a “Blue Water” Boat
By Brittany Stephen
If you have dreams to cast off and sail around the world or cruise extensively in a particular area, you probably already know you need a “blue water boat”. There are a multitude of sites and blogs devoted to this exact subject. Our dream was to sail around the world in a safe, stout and seaworthy vessel. Here is what we did to turn our dream into a reality.
Arguably, the most important – or rather – the most crucial element of this dream (besides the dream itself, of course) is a boat, and a sailboat to be specific. Seems pretty simple, right? Find a boat you like – buy it, provision it…and shove off! Yeah. Not so much. Looking for a boat is overwhelming, daunting and, at times, discouraging. But it is wonderful learning process.
You see, no two sailboats are alike – and there are thousands of different boats for thousands of different purposes. There are racers, cruisers, racer-cruisers, sloops, ketches, cutters and more. They are made of all different types of fiberglass, wood, steel, aluminum, and even ferro-cement. They have full keels, canting keels, fixed keels, fin and bulb keels and this is only the beginning! Quickly, I realized I needed to put together a list of “ideal criteria” for our boat to help narrow down the search.
Because we plan to cross oceans we knew we wanted a “blue water boat”. The definition of such varies depending on who you are talking to and where you are looking – but the simplest definition is “a boat that is specifically designed to go far offshore”. Just Google a “blue water boat” and you will find a litany of arguments, discussions, and posts on what everyone thinks this entails – but based on my research – I found it to be the following:
1) Seaworthy boat (meaning stronger built and/or purpose built blue water cruiser)
2) Full keel preferably with skeg hung rudder
3) 5′ (or less) draft
4) Fiberglass construction
5) 36-40 feet
6) Lots of tankage/stowage (for fuel and water)
7) Windlass (manual or electric)
8) Center cockpit – for safety and space – with LOTS of drains/drainage
9) Heavy displacement
10) Cutter rig
Keep in mind – there are a thousand other elements that go into a “blue water boat” but these were our (initial) “top 10”. And these helped narrow our search. And if you come up with your “top 10” it will narrow yours as well. The attributes above sacrifice speed which may or may not be important to you. The boat described above will not point and won’t beat to windward very fast but it will be very safe at sea. We chose to sacrifice speed for peace of mind when we do (inevitably) hit that weather that makes us wonder what the hell we think we are doing out there on the big ocean.
I spent countless hours on Yachtworld searching for Cruising sailboats between 35-40 feet, between 30K-60K and in the Great Lakes region. I would look at a boat, read the “full specs” and then do two things: 1) forward the boat to our boat broker and 2) research the boat a bit (Sailnet Forum is a great place for info by the way, as is Mahia Expedition’s List of Blue Water Boats). I learned a lot about boats doing this – I also learned that there is ALWAYS going to be more to learn. Fun!
Typically, our broker would email back immediately with his opinion, something like “this boat represents everything that is wrong with Chinese built boats” or “piece of junk”. This short and to-the-point information was all I needed to cross boats off the list. After week after week of this, I started learning more and more about “blue water boats” and the different makes of boats that seemed to pop up every time you searched for them. One such builder, Hallberg-Rassy was on every list and so, naturally, I hit Yachtworld and looked for them (and some others who also made frequent appearances). This is step two in finding your boat: find a few models/designers you like and search for them specifically.
It was discouraging at first, because all the most reputable builders and designers are also the most expensive – and pretty much all the HR’s I saw were well into the 6 figures – even for a 36 foot boat!! So I kept looking at other boats more in our price range until one day, while sitting in the confines of my office cube, the stars aligned…
I found a 1975 Hallberg-Rassy Rasmus 35 listed on Yachtworld in our price range. I jumped on it and immediately sent it to Scott and Allen. Allen replied simply “Hallberg-Rassy’s are world class boats if there’s enough space in it for you” and that was enough for me! We were given a green light! I’m pretty sure I found everything on the Internet there is to find about that particular boat – and I knew we had a gem on our hands!
Now, the first rule of thumb when buying a boat is to NEVER, EVER fall in love with a boat. This is because “falling in love” can lead you to make stupid, rash decisions with your heart rather than your head (and we all know that, don’t we?). So I don’t think we fell in love per-say, but we were REALLY attracted to her! Her lines were beautiful, she was impeccably maintained, and just a beautiful boat overall. We knew. While she might not be the one – she certainly could be.
We ended up buying her after a yacht survey, and we depart September 2010 for our around the world journey.
For more information or to follow our travels, stop by http://www.windtraveler.blogspot.com! We’d love to hear from you!
Brittany and her husband are sailing around the world in their Hallberg-Rassy Rasmus. They blog about their adventures at http://www.windtraveler.blogspot.com.