Find the right boat?

There are a multitude of comparisons of boat specifics on the Internet explaining the differences in hull construction, brands, shape, styles, engines and so on. But everyone tends to gloss over the area of personality and what your lifestyle is. I view boating whether it is sailboats or powerboats as a lifestyle choice, as almost no other pursuit has the potential to be taken to the levels that boating can. Boating can go from your weekend social fisherman in a small row boat on a lake to professional wakerboarder to solo round the world sailboat racer and anywhere in between. This page here will predominantly focus on sail boats with examples given from my personal preferences made to select my boat.

Where do you want to go?

This will affect the type of constraints about what you want to do with your boat. For example in a shallow bay you will have limitations on the draft (depth) your boat needs, or if you need to go under a bridge to get home this will limit the height of your mast.

What do you want to do?

Are fishing with yourself or friends? Are wakeboarding or sailing? Weekend trips or day sailing? Racing or cruising? The list goes on and it is possible to find some boats that will do more than one thing but remember this will always be a compromise so decide if its what you want.

Where can you store the boat?

This is a big one as depending on where you store the boat it will also depend on how much storage costs. Many people do not give enough thought to this and in popular boating areas may find there simply is nothing available. Another one is that the cost of storing the boat if not accounted for can exceed the operating/maintenance budget of what people can afford forcing them to go to a smaller boat. Common options to consider are small/trailerable to store in your back yard for free, dry storage at a yacht club, marina berths, mooring or at anchoring. All these have different costs, pros and cons. Depending on your boat and the area you are in some of them may not be available to you.

Now we get to types of boats

  1. Monohull (mono) is a single hull and is the most common hull configuration
  2. Catamaran (cat) is a twin hull and provides a lot of deck space
  3. Trimaran (tri) is a triple hull 
Generally speaking most people will get a monohull because of the availability of boats and also infrastructure to deal with them. There is a growing market in the multihulls especially with catamarans because of the following positive points:

  • Increased space
  • Shallow draft
  • No healing over 
  • Higher speed. 
  • Positive buoyancy (if holed most wooden and fibre glass foam sandwhich boats will not sink)
These are all very good points, especially for a long distance cruiser however when compared to a monohull the following positive points are made:

  • Cheaper cost per volume internal cabin space (eg. 35ft cat cost the same as a 40-45ft mono)
  • Bigger selection of used boats available
  • More facilities in marinas, mooring fields, boat yards, etc made to handle a monohull
  • Larger fleets of monohulls everywhere making for better racing
  • Self righting in a storm due heavy keel if knocked down boat will come back up

What size?

There are a number of things that affect size but the main point I make here is if you get a boat bigger than you can handle by yourself on a fair wind day (say less than 20knot winds) you will have to wait on the dock for crew or pay for professional crew. Remember sailing is not a mainstream sport so for most boat owners whom cannot afford professional crew being able to handle your boat by yourself under fair conditions will mean you can get more use out of your boat.

Hull construction

Hulls can be made from timber, fibre glass, carbon fibre, composite foam sandwhich (with fibre glass or carbon fibre), Aluminium or Steel. In summary the main differences are as follows.
  • Timbre
    • Good strength to weight, cheap to home build
    • Rots, higher maintenance time and costs
    • Can have fibre glass sheath or similar on the outside to prevent rot.
  • Fibre glass
    • Good strength to weight, more expensive to build but able to be mass produced so factory built ones are cheaper, does not rot
    • Heavier than carbon
  • Carbon fibre
    • Rarely built with just carbon fibre usually built as a composite carbon fibre and foam sandwhich blend
  • Carbon fibre foam sandwhich
    • Extrmely strong and light, there is nothing lighter
    • Very expensive
  • Aluminium
    • Lighter than steel, very tough, does not rust
    • Difficult to repair requires aluminum welder, electrolosis issues
  • Steel
    • Very tough (stronger than Aluminum), good strength to weight and cost when used on larger boats (eg. over 100ft long)
    • Difficult to repair but easier than Aluminium, heavy
So which one to get. Well most people will get a fibre glass boat due to the mass production by many different builders providing a large selection of boats at a reasonable price. Often you will find the serious cruiser for harsh locations like where there is snow and ice will go with a metal hull due to its resistance to damage from ice. Composite materials have a low abrasion and cut resistance to hard materials like ice.

Cost

When it comes to cost it is fairly straight forward to figure is you have the money to buy the boat however the more important point is to figure out how much it will cost you to maintain and store the boat. The trap many people fall into is not accounting for how much it costs to run the boat. As a general rule think about 5% to 15% of the new purchase price. However this number can be reduced by doing your own maintenance and selecting a cheaper storage options for example. Conversely if you pay for crew, maintenance work and stay in expensive marinas this cost can climb.

My choice?

Remember the choice of boat is purely personal and will be compromise based on what you personality is, where you are and what you want to do. So for me I went with used 42 foot monohull that was a mass produced fibre glass boat from the manufacturer "Beneteau" my main reasons for choosing this are listed below:
  • 40 to 45 foot long is the biggest boat I can comfortably sail by myself without electric winches
  • Monohull means there are good club racing options
  • Both monohull and close to 40 foot length means most marinas/places are accessible to me
  • I spent more on a newer (still used though), first (racing) series boat to get more speed/performance
  • Fibreglass is lower maintenance
  • Buying a used mass produced boats keeps the cost down
  • Beneteau is a reputable brand
  • Largest boat I could afford meeting the above requirements to give more room for offshore cruising

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