Boat Shopping Trip #2

Mark has a business trip planned in the Houston, TX area, so we thought this would be a perfect opportunity for me to tag along on the trip and look at some boats! Not a lot of big, ocean going boats in Minnesota, so any chance we have to get near big water and big boats is the perfect opportunity to do some more shopping.

After limiting our yachtworld search to the Houston/Kemah, TX area, we have identified several boats that we have not had the opportunity to see up close and in person that fit our purchase criteria. On this list for viewing this trip includes the following:

40′ Passport
46′ Formosa
36′ Pacific Seacraft
42′ Westerly
37′ Tayana

We were particularly interested in the Passport and have considered the Passport 40 to be one of the boats at the top of our shopping list, but we hadn’t seen one yet. A call to the broker was placed and we scheduled a date and time to walk the docks and view the boats on our list. Up to this point, we haven’t really been all that “schooled” in terms of how these arrangements work, how to work with a broker or things of that nature. Only have heard and read other people’s stories and experiences on the web. That gives you some sense of what to expect, however you never really know….until you know.

We had a great couple of days in Kemah. It was awesome to see some of the boats that we had only seen in pictures. General impressions – you really can’t judge the real space or feel for a boat from looking at pictures. You can only tell if it’s too big, too small, not enough storage, doesn’t feel comfortable, to dark, etc by spending time aboard.

We were disappointed to learn, once we got there, that the Passport had been sold between the time we placed the call to the broker and when we arrived in Texas. Here we learned a few more valuable lessons of how this boat buying process works.

Lesson # 1 – At least for us, we learned that it only makes sense to deal with the listing agent. Dealing with a different broker who doesn’t know the answers to your questions and has to get back to you after checking with the listing broker just doesn’t make sense. It was a bit like playing the telephone game and we never felt like we got a direct response.

Lesson # 2 – If you are serious about a boat, put some money down or put in an offer to demonstrate your interest. We were disappointed that the Passport was sold prior to us arriving in Texas and after seeing the boat lying in it’s slip, we wished we would have made the commitment and extended an offer to avoid having it sold prior to our arrival in Texas. It was a great boat.

The spring of 2009 finds us on our annual spring break trip to Siesta Key, FL. After surfing for a considerable period of time, the time has come that we thought it might be a good idea to actually look at a few of these boats live and up close. Where to start….

We opened the only sailing magazine that we brought with us to Florida and turned to the back to locate a yacht broker that might be nearby. We called one such broker who was in the Tampa area, just a 1 hour drive away from Siesta Key. We called and scheduled a day and time while we were in Florida to come over and see some boats they had for sale. We spent about 3 – 4 hours looking at 3 boats, all Island Packets. We looked at 2 Island Packet 380. One was “The Belle of Virginia” and the other was “Likeke” We also looked at an Island Packet 420 “New Harmony”. The owner was aboard the 420 and we found out he was from Minnesota, how awesome!

This trip has given us alot to think about, hmmmm….we kind of like those Island Packets.

Since we were in Florida and liked what we saw with the Island Packets, we took another day and did a factory tour of the Island Packet factory in Largo, FL. It was very educational to see them building boats with all the various stages of completion.

We have to realistically narrow down our potential boat list…after all, we can’t buy them all! If you were to ask 8 sailors what constitutes a great cruising boat, you will, of course, get 8 different answers. At the end of the day, the answer to the question, “What makes a great cruising boat?” is “The one that meets YOUR needs.” So, after much discussion of features and functions, here is the list that we have come up with –

Price Range
100 – 200K, up to $250K

Live aboard, off-shore capable

35 – 45 (ideal 38 – 42)

Comfortable with any age boat, condition and construction are
more important than specific age or era

Good to Excellent, not a project boat, ok if it requires some
deferred maintenance

Modified full keel, cut-away full keel or modified fin keel with a
skeg-hung rudder or protected rudder
Not interested in boats with a fin keel and a spade rudder


Prefer aft cockpit, but would not rule out a center cockpit if it
were the right boat
Must have combings of adequate height for comfortable seating
and benches of adequate length for lying down in cockpit
Stern rail seats would be great

Rig/Sail Plan
Cutter rig, prefer without a ketch or yawl, but would not rule out
a ketch or yawl if placement of mizzen mast makes sense
Would not consider a ketch or yawl on the lower end of the
length specified
Indifferent about a furling main vs a standard main with lazy jack
or stackpack, either is fine
Roller furler on the head sail a must
Roller furler on the staysail and self tacking staysail would be
All lines lead aft to manage sail plan from the cockpit

Prefer a boat with traditional lines and nice overhangs, love wine
glass transoms, however may have to compromise on this to
achieve 2 cabins
Not interested in a boat with teak decks

Looking for a cruising boat, not a racing boat. It is important that
the boat have good sea motion and stable (i.e. no pounding)
with good both up wind and down wind performance
Although we realize that the type of underbody we are looking
for will mean this will not be an extremely fast boat, however it
should not be a tub either

Accessibility to the engine for maintenance and repairs is
important. Ratio of HP to displacement should be close to 2 HP
for every 1,000 lbs of displacement.
Don’t want a boat that is underpowered. Engine hours should
not be excessive, low engine hours would be great
Prefer an engine that has parts and maintenance/repairs
available in the state cruising area

Minimum 2 cabins with at least one berth queen size or larger
One head – prefer separate shower stall or at minimum the ability
to pull a curtain around to not get entire head wet
Good sea berth in salon
Galley small enough to brace yourself in a seaway but with
enough counter space to work without having to move to open
the frig
Generally, not too dark or broken up down below. Bright & airy
with adequate ventilation – one large hatch for each area and
Well laid out nav station is important, a place to sit down, table
large enough to handle charts, back or side area that can handle
the addition of electronics

Prefer minimum electronics on board and will plan to add these
closer to our cruising departure

Specific Boats we are interested in:

Mason 44
Gozzard 44 (“A” layout only)
Island Packet 350, 38, 380, 40, 420
Little Harbor
Cabo Rico
Kelly Peterson
Hans Christian

Boat Shopping

As a woman, it’s a bit unusual that I really don’t like to shop, however, if we are talking about boat shopping…now you have my interest. We have become boat shopaholics over the last couple of years. We have become regulars at, pouring over the boat ads, discussing what new boats popped up today over dinner, and “what did you think of that one?” has become a frequent phrase in our new found vocabulary among other words like jib, displacement, davits, chartplotters, dorades and windlass.

Our list of potential boats was at one point as long as there are nautical words. We learned about lots of different boat manufacturers, builders and designers. Each new boat that we learned about became our boat de jour, we tried it on for size…how would we look behind her helm, would it be comfortable to sleep aboard, how would she sail and did we think it would feel like home.

Naturally, we had to narrow down this list at some point to move this from speculative dreaming to directional reality. Ahhh…but remember, it is the journey, not the destination. Boat shopping is no different in that regard. We have fully enjoyed our journey of boat shopping and it would appear that we are now nearing our destination.

So who says you have to buy the boat, slip the dock lines and sail off into the sunset in order to declare you are cruising? Mark and I have decided we should not wait for the kids to leave for college or wait until we buy the “big” boat to start our cruising life.

For years, we have been reading magazines, books, taking classes, sailing as much as we can, all in the hopes that one day we will slip the lines off the dock. Undoubtly, we will still get to that day at some point in the forseeable future, however we have declared today as the start of our cruising lifestyle. You see, we have determined that cruising is a frame of mind.

Cruising to us means that we have placed what is important first and because we have done so, we are able to now live a simplier and unemcumbered lifestyle. Turns out, we have learned we can do just that even before we buy the “big” boat.

Now don’t get me wrong, we still spend countless hours browsing, discussing the finer points of a boats list of specifications and fight over who gets to read the latest issue of our sailing magazines first.

We are embarking today on our cruising lifestyle because we are taking a new approach to living the life we envision while we will actually be sailing the “big” boat but doing so on land, here, today and everyday.

Follow us as we prepare, dream, plan, send the kids off, buy the big boat and yes, finally slip the lines.