A letter from a Broker,
That’s a good question. It’s similar to “What mattress should I buy?”. It would be nice if the answer was as simple as the question. The fact is, there are many answers. Firm, double, king? Daysailer, Cruiser, Racer? So many options and even more personal preferences.
Don’t worry about finding an answer that fits everyone the same. Just like your mattress, you have to go check them out and test a few. Before you do that there are questions to ask before you dive into buying a sailboat.
How long would you like to stay on it at a time?
If you only want to go out for short sails, you won’t need as much space as someone who plans on spending nights on the boat. The longer you spend on it; the more amenities you’ll want in order to be comfortable. If you overnight, you might want a refrigerator, bathroom (head), stove/burner and most importantly a bed!
What kinds of sailing activities do you want to do in the boat?
Do you want to pleasure sail? Do you want to race? A little of everything?
The person that strictly pleasure sails wants the easy and forgivable handling and the most comfortable ride. They may even trailer their boat to and from different destinations or might anchor in a spot for a few hours. These are day sailors. Day sailor boats are generally smaller, and can be trailered. They can have a fixed keel, or adjustable keel. They can have ballast, even using water as ballast. They will generally have a small cabin that can have just enough room for a cooler up to a small salon with a portable bathroom.
Maybe you want to race across the water and feel the adrenaline of a race. You’ll be looking for a bare bone, fine-tuned, knot chasing racer. Racers are always looking for the edge, trying to gain that extra fraction of a knot on the water. Typically, these boats offer more accommodations for your sail inventory than you. You can find anywhere from a portable to enclosed head, settees for sleeping and a cooler.
The majority of sailors want a little of everything, especially in the Great Lakes area. They want speed, safety, comfort, good looks and features. These are the cruisers. They may overnight, either occasionally or often. They may race around the buoys or long distance, and they want to be competitive, but don’t mind that they are not the fastest boat out there. They have families and friends that they like to take out, individually or as couples. They may entertain onboard. Their boats generally have a galley, a separate enclosed head, one or more berths enclosed in cabins, and other niceties to make the owner and guests more comfortable.
So what do you buy?
For a day sailor, a boat that trailers. Something like a Marlow Hunter 22 or
a Catalina 250 may work. They are easy for one or two to set up, launch, and retrieve. A day sailor with a dock could go with something like a Cal 25, a Catalina 27, or something in that genre.
A racer is going to want speed above all, like a J/70, J/88. Two very popular one design classes and growing every season.
The cruiser might want something like a Pearson 30, Catalina 30 or
Marlow – Hunter 31.
Now, this list is mostly my opinion, and it’s by no means all inclusive. I’ve seen folks with Hobie Cats and Sunfish up to J/120s having fun out there. If you were to stop and ask them about their boat, they would give you a myriad of reasons why they bought what they bought.
So my answer is that there is no answer. Get out on the water, go window shopping and fall in love!