On choosing the right boat

When looking into my next boat, I had to take a lot of decisions, homing in on them was not an easy task.

So what was I looking for?

To decide this I had to define what I wanted to do in the long run.
Since childhood I loved sailing and have had a number of interesting boats:

 

  • Optimist
  • Laser 2
  • Hobie 14
  • Homebuilt 10m² sailing canoe
  • 8m racing Catamaran
  • Laser

While I love sailing fast, I always wanted to do an extendet cruise and live on the water. None of my previous boats was offering some real creature comfort. Despite this, the 8m open bridgedeck cat was my home for 9 month and took me all the way from Italy to Sotchi in the black sea.

Dick Newick once nailed it nicely, when he said, you can have realistically only two of these three:

  1. Low cost
  2. High speed
  3. Comfort


As budget was my driving factor, it was initially appealing to sacrifice comfort and safety to sailing performance.
Still converted race boats never make good cruisers and the focus changes if your boat is your home for some period in life.
With the new boat I do ultimately want to hug a lot of foreign shores .
So it was obvious, that the new boat was destined to provide some basic creature comfort:

 

  • Toilet
  • Hot shower
  • Office space
  • Galley
  • Guest bunks
  • Comfortable salon table


Here some, honestly speaking, very subjective and not very detailed, views on my choice.

 

 

1) Budget

My focus was on low budget and some comfort while sailing not terribly bad at the same time.

Personally I hate to be in debt with someone. I feel physically uncomfortable in this. So, the path gone by so many to buy a production boat for way over 100000€ and perhaps run it for charter was out of the question.
Further I feel comfortable fixing many things on a boat myself. So I decided to look for a reasonably priced, structurally sound boat in need for some TLC.
The decision to buy a plywood epoxy boat was governed also by the thought that these are usually very reasonably priced. If the core is structurally sound, you have a lot of budget left for travelling and potentially occasionally fixing something until you reach the budget which a modern production multi costs.

A typical monohull is way cheaper for a given length, but when we consider that the boat might be our home for several years, that was out of the question for me.

My budget was initially set to 35 000€ for the boat.
This is a lot of money for most, but not if one compares it to a new production cat of the same size which can easily cost ten times a much
!


Multihulls are more expensive trhan monohulls on average, but they have to offer a lot more too, at least in my eyes.

 

2) Why a catamaran and not something else, like a trimaran or mono:

Heeling, comfort, safety

While a mono is usually looking more spectacular in big waves and strong winds we should also think about the daily comfort when living onboard. Does the constant heeling really add to onboard comfort and a crew which is reasonably rested when a sudden squall gets you in the middle of the night? I don’t think so.

Also consider the added comfort at anchor or at port. The boat may well be your home for several years.
While high end cats (Gunboat, Sig 45) can be sailed on one hull under racing conditions that is not a wise idea on a trip to meet interesting cultures and people and get to know many new places.


Load carrying ability & space

Multihulls considered seaworthy enough to cross oceans usually start at about 10m length overall. A small Trimaran can be very sporty to sail but they are not as good in carrying a basic cruising load as a catamaran of similar size.
Apart from that, their ama’s (=outriggers/floats) are usually to small to be used for living when considering a boat below 15m.
A catamaran of approximately 11m instead, can offer full standing height in both hulls and a slightly reduced height on the bridgedeck. If the galley and bathroom/WC are located below and a table and navstation is located on the bridgedeck, there is no real need to have full standing height on the bridgedeck.
So we can keep a reasonable low profile which reduces windage.
Meanwhile the deck salon offers shelter from sun and rain & spray and offers wonderful view allround.


Monohulls

As stated earlier, monos are a joy to sail, but tend to offer not the airy spacious feeling onboard as a similar sized multi.
Personally I like the thought that a multi can very difficult made to sink while a flooded mono tends to be magnetically be drawn to the bottom of the sea.
The risk to flip a multi can be greatly reduced when sailing conservatively and prudent. On a longer cruise we should ease away from the usual ratrace of mankind.
Enjoy the travelling and sailing instead. The aim is to find happiness not to beat records.


Beachable & shallow draft

The shallow draft allows us equally to sneak into little anchorages or bays unaccessible to typical monohulls.
Multis are usually designed to allow for easy beaching.  
There are many places on earth where that is a big plus. It allows you also to carry out repairs, scrape bottoms or the like for very little cost.

 


3) Simplicity & redundancy

Simple systems and rigging will allow you to fix things in the middle of nowhere without having to carry a lot of complicated tools or spares. 

A simple rig without spreaders can be replaced locally almost anywhere in the world. If need be, you move the fittings to a similar sized lamppost or wooden pole.
Keep it simple, stupid.
A transom hung rudder can be fixed more easy than a broken bearing on an inbuilt spade rudder. In the worst case you lift one rudder out of the water or jettison it. You still have on more to get you home.


4) Materials

Metal

Metal is a super material, but even aluminium is a fairly heavy material for multihull boats of less than 14-15m length. Multis are weight sensitive so it is better to avoid this on multis. 
Further it’s a material which forces you to carry relative heavy tools and materials to fix it with onboard means should the need arise.

Welding aluminium properly requires a high skill level.

 

Fiberglass

Fiberglass is a broad subject, but when choosing the right type it can produce superbly robust and long lasting structures.
My personal preference is for an epoxy resin based laminate. It does not suffer from the drawbacks of polyester (keyword osmosis).
Still usually it’s mostly found on expensive production boats. Cheaper production boats still cost way over 100 000€ and are usually built from polyester.
Polyester can be made to last, but its structural longevity is not near the amount of loadcycles an epoxy or vinylester laminate can endure.
Apart from this there is the risk of osmotic damage due to uncured polyester molecules and solvents in the laminate.
Fiberglass is still my material of choice as it requires fairly little maintenance and can be fairly easy repaired.


Plywood

Plywood is also an awesome material if it is of a high quality. You really want a boil proof varity.
If the ply is epoxy coated it can last very very long.
The bad side of plywood boats tends to be the stringers and square sectioned softwood strips connecting panels at coamings, gunwhales or the like.

I will Keep replacing some for a while. Still, this can be done usually with onboard Equipment.

For a repair Budget of a couple of hundred Euros one can fix a lot of wooden stringers without blowing the budget.

 

 

CURRENT LOCATION:
CORDEMAIS (FRANCE)

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