How to Buy a Boat: Your Own Elegant Compromise
If you’re shopping for a boat, start by thoroughly disrupting your own assumptions about what constitutes the best one for you.
Is spaciousness in a cruising boat a good thing? Stability? How about shoal draft? Affordability? Performance? Seakindliness? Maintainability?
As much as we’d love to say yes, yes, and yes, each of these traits compromises another. The more honest answer to all these questions is: It depends. Seasoned yacht designers wrestle with the first axiom of yacht design—every choice is a compromise—in every element of each new boat they create. You want a roomy stall shower in your 38-footer? Sure, that can be done, but you’ll have to trade away the spacious nav station to get it.
The key to shopping for your own cruising boat is to clearly understand the links between these choices, then use them to find the most elegant compromise for the sailing and living that you and your boat will actually do together.
Every year since 1994, Cruising World has empanelled a team of Boat of the Year judges to identify the best sailboats from builders all around the world. You don’t have to prod that word “best” very hard before the paradoxes poke out from under every side of it. To contain them, the BOTY judges closely question every boat’s creator to uncover the nuanced intent behind the design brief; only against that criterion, unique to every case, can the boat be judged. So now, let’s turn the tables. Instead of asking boatbuilders and designers what they intended when they created their Dreamboat 42, we’ll put that question to you: What are you really looking for in your next boat? Challenging your own assumptions just may surprise you and lead you to the best boat you never thought you’d own. We’ll pose half a dozen questions, then illustrate possible answers with boats built in the last decade, particularly those that stood out in our Boat of the Year contests.