Cruising World

Escape Time?

How 6 Crews Found the Right Boat

- By Behan Gifford

Boat life isn’t one-sizefits-all. Cruising can be played out in myriad sailboat styles: shiny new or classic, Bristol or project, big budget or micro. But finding the right boat to cruise in challenges many buyers, regardless of budget.

Selecting the boat that fits begins with recognizin­g that all sailboats are a collection of compromise­s, and the goal is to find the compromise­s you can live with. This starts with the crew’s sailing intentions: how many people, for how long and where to? Then add two important filters: First, what resources do you have to buy and prepare the boat for sailing away? Second, what are your personal preference­s? The must-have, must-not-have and would-really-like-to-have lists vary from one crew to the next.

There are other practical considerat­ions to consider: How important is a quick resale or depreciati­on? Is the geography to search defined by the plan? Is a better-equipped boat worth a premium in order to save refit weeks on a time-bounded cruise? Here are insights from a variety of paths toward finding the right boat, through the lenses of a half-dozen sabbatical cruisers with varying priorities.

When planning their sabbatical from the San Francisco Bay area, the Milums envisioned a waterborne family version of the round-the-world backpackin­g journey Jeff and Jen took on their honeymoon year. Jeff leaned on prior experience: His parents cruised an aluminum cutter for 15 years, and he’d logged meaningful time aboard. The rest of the family, including kids Zoe, 8, and Jackson, 11, was new to sailing.

“For a sabbatical cruise, our goals in selecting a

The right boat for your family’s cruising dreams could have one hull or two, or perhaps it’s a charter boat. boat centered on finding a catamaran that could fit our family, was capable of bluewater sailing, that was in the right region, that fit our budget, and that minimized the risk of losing money in the buy/sell transactio­n,” Jeff says. Other factors included comfort for the inexperien­ced family members and space for gear (Jeff is a passionate waterman, from surfing to waterskiin­g to diving). They planned on selling investment­s for the boat purchase, so resale value was an important upfront considerat­ion.

These characteri­stics led them to the value propositio­n of buying a catamaran out of charter. It also made them focus less on specific features: It didn’t matter as much if the galley was up or down, how many heads there were, or the color of the settee covers. “We bought a Catana 42 in the Caribbean. We picked a model that felt like less of a commodity, planned to ‘de-charterize’ it, move from a region where boats typically cost less—st. Martin—to a region where they cost more— New England—and benefit from the free replacemen­t of both engines due to an emissions recall.”

A charter boat wasn’t their first choice, but Abeona had the right mix of features, at the right price and location.

Former charter boats get panned for their hard use, but that’s an unfair oversimpli­fication. It does mean entering the transactio­n with an eye to where hard use translates into expenses, what investment might be needed to refit, and how that impacts the net cost. Jeff put in many hours at the outset of their sabbatical on upgrades to the solar panels, battery bank, plumbing and electrical systems on board. But what that may have cost in early shakedown time came around in the big picture. The Milums cruised for several months longer than their original one-year plan. And what’s more, smart planning plus market dynamics enabled them to sell their sabbatical

boat for more than their original purchase price.

“We can’t imagine another adventure that would have met our goals as well as cruising did,” Jeff writes from back home in Marin County, California. But he acknowledg­es that in the end, they may have cruised even beyond the 16 months they were out—had Abeona included a few more creature comforts. Still, while much of their experience was defined by COVID-19, the family reflects positively. Not only did they realize goals laid out in a visioning exercise together, they also found unanticipa­ted joys. “We all really fell in love with the unique and all-encompassi­ng aspects of the lifestyle, from the neverendin­g exploratio­n to the togetherne­ss you share as a family, and the unique cultural exposure to the complete connection with nature.”

Pandemic restrictio­ns have made remote purchase the only option for many hopeful cruisers. One of those was the Webber family, South African transplant­s to Australia. Their goal: to cruise the Caribbean for a couple of years, and maybe sail back to Australia. But Greg and Shani (and kids Indy, 15, and Griffin, 10) were unable to travel to look at boats in advance because Australia was not allowing citizens to depart. When a travel-exemption process commenced for those committed to living outside the country, they jumped at the opportunit­y to set plans in motion. It came with a catch: They wouldn’t be able to bounce out and back. It had to be the start of their journey as a family.

“Budget was the biggest constraint for us,” Shani says.

Without room for weeks of traveling to find the right boat, they needed to purchase it before flying halfway around the world. “We agreed that we would not sell our home or take a loan, which meant we needed to save funds for the boat purchase and living expenses.” Because they might cross the Pacific Ocean, an offshore-appropriat­e boat was important to them.

The Webbers had about two months from the time they were granted an exemption before their flights, so they fasttracke­d the boat search in late 2020. “The market was picked clean by the boat-buying rush caused by COVID. We were seriously considerin­g two boats in the Caribbean, but neither was the bluewater boat we envisioned.” With kids fourand-a-half years apart, three cabins were essential—and a tough feature to find in a boat they could afford. Total budget was $110,000, including any refit needs or equipment gaps. “When a boat that was not on the market came available to us in the Chesapeake through networking, we were able to fulfill all our wants and wishes while remaining within our budget. We consider ourselves lucky.”

While purchasing a boat sight unseen would normally be considered unwise, pandemic reality pushed norms—and provided lessons to manage the risk in morenormal times. In this case, it helped that the sellers were

known to trusted friends. An independen­t sailor visited the boat to provide an unbiased assessment. A recommende­d surveyor completed the work with a hired party as the buyer’s stand-in. And then, they waited to sign on the dotted line until they arrived and finally clapped eyes on the vessel themselves.

Starting slowly from Deltaville, Virginia, on their

Moody 425, Atmospheri­c, the Webbers got to know their boat while heading south down the Intracoast­al Waterway. Now, more than six months later and several thousand miles under the keel, they’ve realized the bigger boats that intimidate­d them as novice sailors would have been manageable too. “If we were to plan to live aboard for more years—perhaps more than three—we’d now consider a smaller catamaran or a larger monohull, simply for slightly more personal space per crewmember.” But this boat suits them well, and makes a happy home and sunset viewing platform for wherever the journey will ultimately take them.

Fresh out of college, Aska and David Krantz spent two and a half years backpackin­g through Latin America, central Europe and southern Africa. The joy of travel and the benefits it brings stayed with them through subsequent years chasing careers, paying mortgages and growing their family. But the lure of travel remained. “We wanted our kids, Natalia (13) and Elena (10), to understand that they are global citizens with a shared sense of responsibi­lity,” the couple recalls. Based on David’s experience­s growing up sailing the Chesapeake, plans for a two- to three-year cruising sabbatical took shape.

Aska explains: “We originally imagined cruising in a monohull because that’s what we had known and loved. David hadn’t sailed a catamaran until he volunteere­d as crew on a couple of deliveries in preparatio­n for this sabbatical.” Those experience­s made an impression, as did talking to cruising families in cats. But catamarans were well beyond the budget they had set aside. So they changed the budget.

Shifting to buy a catamaran that met their needs required approximat­ely doubling the budget originally planned to buy and outfit a cruising boat. They determined that the big financial moves to enable this were worthwhile. Aska points out that the decision came down to three factors: the strong desire for good early experience­s they felt a cat would assure; the probabilit­y of readily reselling the boat at the end; and the good fortune of lower interest rates, which increased the amount they could borrow. “This is our dream boat,” the couple says of the Fountaine Pajot Lipari 41 they’ve named Colibri.

Six months into their sabbatical, they’re meeting all the goals set out as a family before they commenced. (David, a market researcher, led a family exercise on writing a “Why” statement for the journey; “because my parents are making me” was not a permitted response.) They’re trying new things, making friends, connecting with each other, letting go and living with less, and more. Not long after they arrived in the Bahamas this spring, David shared the following comment. A particular bonus? “Reduced screen time for the kids, and especially less social media for the young teen.”

Cruising dreams percolated during lazy days of summertime sailing on Lake Champlain, near Matt and Mary Tryhorne’s Vermont home. They anticipate­d buying a bigger boat than the family’s Catalina 36 to take their two daughters, Adeline, 11, and Laurel, 8, on a cruising sabbatical.

Meanwhile in Maine, Chris Riley and his wife, Aimee Reiter, cooked up similar plans to sail away with their two boys, Thatcher, 12, and Tristan, 9. They long assumed they’d go with their existing boat, a Pearson 365. The opposite occurred for both families, and for all the right reasons.

For Chris and Aimee, the cruising dream was something they’d laid out since the early days of their marriage. Over the years, they steadily fixed and flipped a series of boats—finding the Pearson 365 to be a good fit for their

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 ??  ?? Clockwise from bottom left: The Milum family made friends in Antigua at the start of their journey on Abonea. Jeff Milum appreciate­d the Catana 42’s deck space for landing his catch. Griffin Webber helps his dad chart a course through the Bahamas. The Webber’s Moody 425 was a perfect fit.
Clockwise from bottom left: The Milum family made friends in Antigua at the start of their journey on Abonea. Jeff Milum appreciate­d the Catana 42’s deck space for landing his catch. Griffin Webber helps his dad chart a course through the Bahamas. The Webber’s Moody 425 was a perfect fit.
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 ??  ?? Clockwise from above: Colibri, a Fountaine Pajot Lipari 41, is the Krantz family’s dream boat; in particular, the kids love the trampoline. David Krantz explains the chart plotter to Natalia and Elena. The family’s journey through the Bahamas included plenty of beach walks.
Clockwise from above: Colibri, a Fountaine Pajot Lipari 41, is the Krantz family’s dream boat; in particular, the kids love the trampoline. David Krantz explains the chart plotter to Natalia and Elena. The family’s journey through the Bahamas included plenty of beach walks.

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