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When starting an adventure like this, the hardest decision 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 this trip will not be our final adventure in life, safety is the absolute highest priority. 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:
The internet is riddled with 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 do 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 protected helm 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 sport-top style helms of the Leopard and Fountaine Pajot boats. We can enclose these helms and the cockpit to protect us from bad weather and keep us in the boat.
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 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.
Having an additional nav station in the saloon 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.
Edit, 2019: As we’ve cruised more and more, we’ve found a lot of benefits to the interior navigation station. With our headsails out, we have a large blind spot when driving from the helm. Our line of sight on the horizons is much better from the interior navigation table. Also, steering from inside keeps us out of the sun and protects our skin. We wish our navigation table was more ergonomic – it doesn’t have a backrest – but it works. In 2018, we installed an autopilot control head at the navigation table so that we can adjust course without going outside. However, Amy still prefers to sit outside to combat seasickness.
Part of the whole reason for this trip is to actually sail. We’ll be spending the majority of our time at anchor, but I don’t want to take forever to get there. 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.
Edit, 2019: at an average speed of 6.75 knots on passage, we are faster than a majority of cruising boats. As expected, we spend roughly 85% of our nights stationary.
Two reasons for this. First, charters treat a boat like it isn’t theirs. Which of course, it isn’t. A former charter boat would likely require more repairs, as well as additional equipment, to get her ready to sail around the world. Secondly, we are only interested in owner’s versions, where the builder has designed one hull as an 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.