When starting an adventure like this, the hardest decision (other than actually committing to do it of course) is what boat to choose. I have spent countless hours over these last few years scouring all corners of the internet, looking at manufacturer’s websites, reading boat reviews, lurking on forums and trying to learn as much as possible in order to make sure we choose a boat that will take us safely around the world. The biggest thing I’ve learned? When choosing a boat, you generally get to pick from 2 of the following 3 categories:
Since I certainly don’t intend for this trip to be our final adventure in life, safety is the absolute highest priority and it’s not even close. The other two categories will be judged on a per boat basis to make sure we find the right boat for us. With all that being said, here are some of my priorities in our boat to make sure we come back safely and enjoy our trip:
Must Be A Cat
I would say about half of my time on the internet has been spent encountering debates between the advantages and disadvantages of monohulls and catamarans. The Admiral and I are firmly in the catamaran camp. Cat’s don’t heel, which means even in rough weather, we’ll have a “smooth” ride. Two engines mean we’ll have redundancy in case one breaks down. If the worst were to happen, and the boat started to flood, cats are made of materials that float, so the boat would sink lower in the water but would stay on the surface. A mono would quickly find itself on the bottom of the sea. We also like the living space available including saloons with 360 degree views and owners models with a whole hull devoted to an owner’s suite.
That’s not to say all is rosy with catamarans. They cost more, and two engines does mean more maintenance, but those are trade-offs we’re willing to make. I certainly recognize that everyone has their own priorities when it comes to their boat. Catamarans aren’t the traditional choice, but we’re convinced that they will be the best type of boat for us.
The number 1 priority when sailing on a boat? Stay on the boat. We will be doing long passages with overnight watches so having a helm that is protected is vital. Boats like the Lagoon 440 have found great success with a flybridge style helm, and Catana’s use dual helms on the transom, but I personally wouldn’t feel safe in either of those spots if the weather was picking up and the seas were rough. Rather, I like the raised helm style of the Leopard and Fountaine Pajot boats. These helms can even be enclosed, along with the cockpit to protect from bad weather and keep us in the boat.
All Lines Lead to the Helm
Lines led aft to the helm mean two things: 1) The boat is easy to sail with all controls in one place and 2) you don’t risk exposure by going forward to manage lines in bad weather. If the main halyard is at the base of the mast and a squall comes out of nowhere, I would be quite exposed going forward in order to put a reef in the main or take the sail down. I’d rather be back at the protected helm staying nice and dry.
Interior Navigation Station
Sailing at night can be amazing with the endless stars on the horizon. Having an additional nav station in the saloon with an additional GPS and AIS makes it that much easier to keep an eye out for other boats. Recently this requirement has been changing somewhat as companies like Raymarine have come out with robust apps for the iPad and other tablets that will actually let you control the GPS remotely. Either way, we’ll need to have an interior nav station or the ability to control our GPS from our saloon.
Part of the whole reason for this trip is to actually sail. And while I fully anticipate that we’ll be spending the vast majority of our time at anchor enjoying all this beautiful planet of ours has to offer, I don’t want to take forever to get where we’re going. A rocketship like the beautiful Gunboats are out of our price range, but I also don’t want a boat so slow that I will feel the need to jump in and kick to keep her moving. Something in the middle will work just fine.
Two reasons for this. First, charter boats are usually beat up pretty good by sailors who have no qualms about driving it like it isn’t theirs. Which of course, it isn’t. That means a former charter boat would likely require more repairs, as well as equipment, to get her ready to sail around the world. Secondly, we are interested in owner’s versions of the boats we like, where one whole hull is devoted to the owner’s suite. Charter boats typically have a 4 cabin layout. Not what we’re looking for.
Buying a boat from a respected boat builder means we will likely end up with a well built boat, with good builder/community support for any repairs or upgrades, and a name that will help sell the boat when we return.
So there you have it. The criteria most important to me for our future boat. I’ve been working on narrowing down the specific models that meet these requirements and will talk about those in the future.