Choosing a Boat

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:

  • Safety
  • Price
  • Speed

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.

Protected Helm/Cockpit

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.

Sailing Ability

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.

Non-Charter Boat

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.

Respected Builder

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.

  1. Steve Reply

    Hi, could you advise me, we are thinkin of buying a cat I was wondering if yours is 110 or 220 volt and why you chose what you did.
    Thank you
    Steve

    • He Said Reply

      Hi Steve,

      We went with 110v. It made sense for us since we’re Americans (ie all electronics are 110v) and in all likelihood we will bring our boat back to the US and sell her, so any future owner will likely want 110v as well. Hope that helps!

      Cheers,

      David

  2. Amanda Reply

    Great post, thanks. We have just bought a 40 ft catamaran and are preparing for a blue-water trip in the near future. I’m keen to know more about the extra things you added/installed and what you recommend (like AIS, water-maker, power generation, anything else). Thanks! Amanda

  3. Amanda Reply

    Great post! We have just bought a used 40 ft catamaran – Aussie brand Seawind 1200, which we are really pleased with – but my question is: what additional modifications did you do, and what “gadgets” do you consider essential (AIS, water maker, solar panels, generator, etc)? Thanks, Amanda

    • He Said Reply

      Hi Amanda, congrats on your “new” Seawind! We have done quite a bit of work to Starry Horizons and you can check out a lot of those posts in our “Tips” category (http://outchasingstars.com/category/tips/).

      As for what I’d consider essential, here’s what I’d say:

      AIS
      Radar
      Water Maker
      Solar Panels
      Autopilot
      A really good anchor
      Safety Harness with Personal AIS (we have Spinlock Deck Vests)

      Those are really the basics. While we’re happy we have a generator and thus Air Con, I’m not sure I’d consider it essential equipment, especially if you have a lot of solar to help keep the batteries topped up. But like everything else with boats, there are lots of different opinions. Best of luck as you sort everything out!

      Cheers,

      David

  4. Jason Reply

    Hey, I love the website and heading about your projects and adventures. How did you decide on a new boat versus a used one?

    • He Said Reply

      Hey Jason,

      We thought long and hard about new vs used. In the end it came down to we liked the Helia the best and at the time we placed our order, there were no used boats available. Buying a new boat is not like a new car, there are still a lot of teething issues to work out. If we had to do it again, we might lean ever so slightly to finding a used model, if we could find one that was relatively set up for our needs and we could finish customizing her to our desires.

      Cheers!

      David

      • jason Reply

        The helia is a beautiful boat.

  5. Owen Roberts Reply

    Hi David, I would be very interested in your buying experience. We are also looking at the Helia but not sure I want to go through a broker here and add unnecessary $$ to the buying equation. How did you do it?

    • He Said Reply

      Hi Owen, unfortunately the FP model is that you have to buy through a dealer. It is impossible to work with them directly. I would definitely recommend shopping around to the various dealers and see who can offer you the best deal. It’s also a really good idea to try and talk to other customers of that dealer to get some idea of what its like working with them. Hope that helps!

  6. Matt Reply

    “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.”

    I’m confused. Did you maybe mean to say to control the “autopilot” (not the GPS) from a distance?

    • He Said Reply

      Hi Matt, thanks for the comment.

      I actually did mean to say controlling/viewing the GPS for two reasons. One: I don’t want to have to have to go outside to the helm all the time to look at the GPS. Two: I want to be able to modify/add a route to the GPS (and have the autopilot follow it) from inside the salon. There are several ways to do this, such as an iPad with the appropriate app or a laptop integrated into the electronics, but being able to do these things from inside are important features to us.

      Hope that helps!

      David

  7. Jon Arck Reply

    Hi, David

    Great information — thanks for posting it! My wife and I are planning to order a new Lipari at this coming Annapolis show, and have been trying to find a hard top bimini for the Lipari helm. We’ll contact Dedicated Marine to see if they have an alternative to the standard Lipari bimini and when I’m in FLL the end of September, I plan to visit them in person.

    Cheers,
    Jon

    • He Said Reply

      Hi Jon,

      Congratulations on choosing a boat! That is definitely one of the hardest parts of the whole process. Amy and I both liked the Lipari but decided that the Helia was a bit better suited for our cruising plans. If you haven’t been to the Annapolis boat show before, be sure to think about additional vendors you want to visit while you are there. It can be tough to balance everything, but having all the vendors in one place can make life much easier than trying to track them all down later.

      I’m not sure that Dedicated Marine has done a bimini for a Lipari but Chris was very helpful as I was evaluating our options. If you would like to chat about our experience purchasing an FP boat (patience is required), I’d be happy to share.

      Fair winds,

      David

  8. peter hopper Reply

    Hi

    Liked your article! many thanks for posting it. My wife and I hope to follow in your steps. Helia 44 is our thought also.

    Regarding enclosed helm/cockpit. Im looking around for a hard dodger solution for a helia 44. The bimini seems a bit weak for a “full on” weather solution? Do you share this thought and did you find anything? Or, are you interested in getting a custom dodger made perhaps?

    cheers
    Peter and Dawn
    ps. We intend to go to Annapolis this fall! : )

    • He Said Reply

      Hi Peter,

      Thanks for the comment! A hard dodger is definitely something we want on our boat. There is one company I’ve found by the name of Dedicated Marine that has come out with a hard dodger for the Helia. I haven’t seen it in person and I have a few issues with the size of it, but I do think it looks better than the one that’s pictured on Cruisers Forum.

      Our current plan is to have a custom one built when we bring the boat to Florida. We’re working with Pat Reischmann who has lots of contacts and can help us design one exactly how we want. We’re even looking at having a glass window with a windshield wiper to help give us better vision in bad conditions. I’m sure we’ll do some additional posts on this as things progress.

      By the way, have fun in Annapolis. Amy and I really enjoyed the show and it was great to see a lot of boats in one place!

      David

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