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Everything you want to know before you go Cruising. Part 3 Choosing the right boat for you.

August 19, 2016


 We love our new home - Saltair 3. A 42' Fountaine Pajot Catamaran


You’re moving onto a boat so now the question is which one. There are dozens of different makes and models of boats so choosing the right one for you can have many deciding factors. When you buy a house on land people tend to have wish lists like a two car garage, certain number of bedrooms and bathrooms, a large backyard. Buying a boat is no different except that it is way different ! Sure you will still be thinking about how many sleeping spaces there are but there are no garages or backyards to consider instead you are looking at engines and sails. 


The first thing you need to determine is your budget, once you have done that you can see what your money will buy. Keeping in mind that you will need money after the boat is bought to keep up on maintenance and repairs, even new boats will need that.


 This is our Cat when she was for sale, formerly known as "Unbound" We looked at over 30 boats in the flesh and 100's more online before choosing her. 


Now that you have figured out how much you are going to spend, you have to decide if its going to be on a monohull or catamaran. Obviously we choose a cat but in the beginning we were thinking we would be on a mono. For us this choice was based on the idea that we wanted to have as many creature comforts of a land based home that we could afford. If we felt at home we knew we would be able to enjoy life aboard much longer. We have had monohulls in the past and for us it wasn’t about being a sailing purist, it was about what felt like a home. You actually spend more time at anchor living, than you do sailing, something to keep in mind.


 Saltair 3 at anchor in the Tobago Cays


Now that we had decided on a catamaran the research could begin. Get yourself as familiar as you can with as many makes and models of cats as possible. Go to boat shows and get a feel for different layouts regardless if you are buying new or used, it is still a good idea to see the kind of layout that you like best. Do you like 2 heads ( bathrooms ) or 4 do you like owners version or 4 cabins, do you like galley ( kitchen ) up or down ? These are all things to start your wish list.


Online listings are a wealth of information too. You can check out many different types of cats by looking at pictures of boats for sale, some even have video tours. Try to have a critical eye when you are looking at the photos to pick out the details. The more you look at the better you will become at noticing what it is you want.


Everyones wish list will vary so all I can tell you is what was on ours and why. When we were building our wish list all three of us had specifics we were hoping for. Brad wanted good engines with low hours, headroom inside, (he is 6’4” after all ) and lots of solar with lithium batteries. I wanted lots of storage, a decent galley and onboard laundry.Cole even had his list that included a cool room and big tramps on the front! Hey, we all had something.


Cole got his wish of a cool room. Cool enough to hang out with some of his buddies.


Of course you have to remember that boats are all about compromises so in the end you most likely won’t get everything on your wish list and that is where a little extra money above your purchase budget comes in. Some of the things you don’t get you can always add.




First and foremost for us was headroom and bed length, this was one thing we couldn’t compromise on. With Brad being so tall, it was super important that he be able to walk inside the salon and lay down fully in bed. This won’t be on everyones list and for us it out ruled many boats right away. You can’t live comfortably if you are always bent over or hitting your head. Speaking of beds there are different types, some have walk around space and others you have to climb up into, some are side ways and others lengthwise. We were hoping for walk around but in the end settled for sideways. When your bed is sideways somebody has to climb over the other so this may not work for everyone, but has been fine for us.


 One of our aft cabins after adding a few of our own touches to make it feel like home.


We all were looking for a large spacious cockpit and ample deck space with side walkways that were wide and easy to manoeuvre. We knew we would want to spend lots of time outside so this was important. 


 Big deck space and wide walkways were on our wish lists for comfort and safety.


The Galley was important to me because I enjoy cooking and to keep our budget inline we would eat most of our meals onboard. In the beginning I was thinking “galley down would be the way to go because it gives you more space and a kitchen that is closer to what is familiar back on land. In the end Saltair 3 has galley up and this ended up being a benefit. While underway the galley in open and easy to access. There are times where I feel a bit nauseous when the seas are rough so it would be virtually impossible to go below to get meals together. With the galley being up I am able to still put meals together without accelerating the seasick feeling so this “compromise” worked out in our favour.


 Saltair 3's Galley up after a few upgrades after the purchase. 


Power! This was a big one. We always said that we never wanted to feel starved for power, if we had lithium batteries this would give us enough juice to run all kinds of things and not have to worry about running low on power and potentially ruining traditional batteries. Some boats will have listings that include “new” batteries and while this sounds great; if the batteries weren’t maintained properly it doesn’t really matter how new they are. We knew it would be highly unlikely that we would find a boat with lithium batteries installed so this would have to be one of the upgrades we did to what ever boat we chose. We cannot recommend this upgrade enough. That said it is more for people that plan to have their boat for a few years who will see the financial benefit. There’s no doubt that they are more expensive but over time they become worth it with no need for a generator and the fuel and repairs that go along with that. No need for batteries to be replaced every 3-5 years. Lithium have a life span of 25! See our post on Lithium Batteries for more details.


 The boat didn't come with onboard laundry so we got this unit. The Panda washer. This is where all that power comes in handy. This runs off of 110v and no problem with our lithium batteries.


Another consideration we were after was a high bridge deck clearance and large sugar scoops at the back. The high bridge deck would make for a more comfortable sail by minimising the slamming under the bridge. Once you start looking at this on boats you will notice a significant difference in models. A catamaran definitely sails differently than a monohull, and is often described as sailing flat. This is true in most cases but there are times when the seas are bigger and more confused where the high bridge deck is appreciated. As for the large sugar scoops, this was on the list for ease of getting on and off the boat both from the dinghy and after swimming. It may seem like insignificant criteria but it comes back to having as many comforts for ease of living as we could afford.


 Here you can see the variations in bridge deck clearance between 3 boats. Altair 3 is in the middle.


Of course size is always on the list in one form or another and for us we didn’t want anything smaller than 40 feet. We were really able to pin point this after walking through a few different boats. You will know what size feels good for you. Of course the bigger you go the bigger the all around costs. The purchase cost is not the only place with a higher price tag. Marina fees, haul out fees, size of equipment is usually bigger therefore more money along with there being more components on a larger boat. For example if you have a larger Cat with 4 bathrooms instead of 2 that is twice as many pumps and twice as many toilets. You get the idea. For us 42’ felt perfect for the 3 of us leaving us with extra space for family and friends to come and visit. Maybe you won’t want visitors! lol.


As you can tell the wish list can become quite detailed and you will be hard pressed to meet every wish but having the list in the first place will help you figure out what is most important to you and in the end find the perfect boat for you. So go ahead and get out that pen and paper and start creating your very own wish list. We would love to see what you end up with so send us a note with a picture of your new floating home. Good luck and enjoy the process! 


Life is for Livin’  


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