Boat Shopping Round One:

Mostly a bust, but I think it will work to our benefit in the long run.

Ed and I have just returned from Florida where we looked at a few boats that we were interested in. We made an offer on one we loved, but the owner countered way too high with word that he would not budge any lower no matter what. Given what comparable boats have sold for in the past couple of years, it is highly unlikely any buyer will purchase the boat at that price. We will just sit and wait until the owner realizes he doesn’t want to pay the bills to keep the boat anymore, and then perhaps discuss a realistic number. Or, it may be that something better comes along in the next few months.

Ed and I spent a few months looking at many boat listings, and discussing what we think we wanted on a boat. Budget was of course a part of that conversation as well. We came up with a set of parameters that we figure will meet our needs:

  • Boat type: catamaran sailboat, approximately 45-50 feet long.
    • Why? Ed and I will be living aboard the boat as our home with the intent of slowly circumnavigating the Earth over a period of a few years. A motor boat would kill us on fuel cost, besides, sailing is way more fun. We will also have Ian on board with us part of the year, and the adult kids will likely join us for visits from time to time. We need a minimum of three cabins without the space feeling cramped. We also want a comfortable sail. A catamaran of a moderate size over a mono-hull best fits our needs for size, layout, and comfort.
  • Budget: $500,000 “all in.” This means purchase price of the boat plus any work that will have to be done initially for seaworthiness and mission essentials (i.e. appropriate navigation/radio equipment).
    • Why? Because that is what we can afford.
  • Location: boat must be located in the U.S., or maybe in the Caribbean if delivery can be arranged to the U.S. for low cost.
    • Why? This parameter is largely being driven by the Covid-19 pandemic. Most borders are closed to U.S. citizens which greatly limits our ability to get to a boat anywhere else. We would have also considered the Mediterranean if we could travel there.
  • Performance: we want a mid-range performer. No racing, or super light boats, and no “floating condos.”
    • Why? While we would certainly love a fast boat, speed comes at the expense of space. The motion on faster catamarans would also be a big problem for me as I get motion sick fairly easy. A higher performance catamaran might also be a bit much for us to handle under sail, initially, given our experience level. We don’t want a heavy boat either. Heavier boats have more space, which is nice, but require more wind to actually sail. We want to be able to travel without using the engines as much as possible, and heavier boats will not allow that. Outremer (too light) and Lagoon (too heavy)…sorry, you guys are out.
  • No project boats: project meaning tons of major items that need fixing or replacing, or complete refits for example. We know that we will have some work and repair to do no matter what we buy, we just don’t want to fix everything up front.
    • Why? Ed and I are pretty handy people, but major work is above our skill level. Any major work would have to be hired out which then quickly adds up in cost. Major projects also take time. We want to sail, not refurbish a boat.
  • No aft or exposed helms:
    • Why? We just don’t want to be exposed to nasty weather or bake in the sun while blue water sailing. This is purely a safety and health concern to leave out models that have aft/outboard helms.
  • No forward cockpits:
    • Why? Forward cockpits are the latest catamaran trend. They do have some benefits, but a few aspects prevent us from considering these. First, having a full size door in the front erodes performance…not very aerodynamic. Second, having a full size door in front is just another access point for water to get in…pass. Finally, they just don’t really look like a boat. As noted previously, we don’t want a floating condo.
  • No low bridge decks:
    • Why? Wave slap…which is loud and annoying. For folks who will stick to calmer seas or coastal cruising, it’s probably not a big issue. For us, this would be enough of an annoyance that would make us unhappy with the boat. Sorry Voyage….your bridge decks are too low.
  • Lastly, a very strong preference for the galley up: catamarans come in two varieties when it comes to the galley. It’s either in the main saloon area (up) or in one of the hulls (down).
    • Why? In my family, kitchens and cooking are our social center. A galley that is up is synonymous with an open floor plan in a house. A galley down is more like older style homes with closed off kitchens.

Here were the contenders:

  1. EQ2 – A Knysna (pronounced NYEZ-nah) 480:

This boat had a lot of features we were excited about. It’s an owner’s version four cabin, three head, 48 foot catamaran, and a good performer without being too light. The galley is up, although it’s small without much storage. The hulls have plenty of storage so I would have been running a half up, half down configuration, which would be kind of annoying. The current owner also circumnavigated the world with a crew over a period of 15 months (that’s pretty quick) and the boat showed that amount of wear and tear, which is to say…a lot. The biggest snag, however, is someone else made an offer just before we got to Florida. We elected to see the boat anyway just in case the contract falls through.

2. Plan B – Catana 471:

We were pretty sure this was not going to be a boat we liked, but Catanas have a reputation for their build quality and performance, and the boat was in the neighborhood. We figured it would be worth a look. We were told the boat needed a lot of work, which was an understatement–this boat is a total gut job…a project boat. Pass. Her owners got a new boat a few years ago and just decided to let this one rot. Even if the boat was in good condition, we still would have passed because of the smaller hulls. At 5′ 10″ the roof was barely over my head, and I had to duck to get through doorways. The cabins and berths are also smaller than we are willing to live with.

3. Blue Dawn – Antares 44i

This was another boat we knew we would not be getting, but was on the way to the next boat, so we stopped to take a look. This boat has excellent build quality, and the finishes were beautiful. The helm station and running rigging was also thought out very nicely. However, this boat had too many deal breakers. First, this boat has a low bridge; second, it is out of our budget; and third, the galley is down.

4. Global Eyes – Leopard 46

The Leopard 46 is the boat model we are likely to acquire. It seems to have the best balance of livability and performance, and does not have any deal breakers. The layout is also pretty awesome. This one is a 2010 that looked pretty well-maintained. We noticed a few major issues though. The davits (the part that holds the dinghy) were separating from the hull. It appeared that the weight limit on that part had been exceeded. The bottom was also in desperate need of major sanding, some repair, and repainting. The rudders were also delaminating. This would have been some pretty expensive repair work. That can all be factored into the price, but we ultimately decided to pass because we knew we’d likely run into some legal problems with actually transacting the purchase (it’s a long story).

5. MelloDia – Leopard 46

I was super excited about this boat because it’s a three-cabin owner’s version rather than a previous charter boat. It has been well-maintained, but did need a few upgrades such as nav equipment, hatch latches, fixtures, and some other small hardware. One downside is that this boat is an ’08 which has a less desirable helm design than ’09 and later models. However, we knew we could do a retro-fit on the helm that would have worked for us to make it function more like the later models.

We ultimately made a good offer on this boat considering her age and condition. However, the owner countered too high, only coming $5,000 lower than the list price which is way over-value for the boat. We were also informed that he would not come any lower no matter what was found on the survey. As much as it stung, we declined, and returned home with our tails between our legs.

While we did not find our boat on this trip, we did learn we definitely want a Leopard 46. It’s helpful that we have physically seen a couple of them, so when others come on the market, we can feel good about making an offer remotely once we figure out the condition of the boat. We would prefer to have an ’09 or later owner’s version, but they aren’t very common. We know we’d be happy with a charter version as well. We are keeping our fingers crossed that something suitable will come along soon!

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