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.
Payload or Performance?
When we talk about the middle vs. the edges of the design box, those perimeters could represent any number of elements: luxury living spaces, all-oceans seaworthiness, straight-up speed. For now, let’s look at just one facet: the sliding scale that runs from payload to performance.
|C&C 99. Photo by Billy Black.|
By payload, we mean the displacement required to make a boat a home. That means both interior space and the buoyancy in the hull form to carry the latest marine conveniences: genset, refrigeration, air-conditioning, entertainment suites, furniture-grade materials, and joinery. Hunter Marine exemplified the middle of this design box with boats like the Hunter 356, 38, 41 DS, and 49. Designed by Glenn Henderson, whose firsthand cruising experience included a year in the Caribbean aboard a 26-foot Pearson and whose deep performance-design credentials were honed in SORC boats, the Hunters of the last decade offered an exemplary blend of liveaboard comfort with boats you really want to take sailing, not just anchoring.
Now move farther toward the performance edge, and what do you get? Winners of the Best Performance Cruiser class—C&C 99 (2002), J/133 (2004), Sabre 386 (2005), X-46 (2006), X-34 (2009), as well as the Dufour 40 Performance Plus (Best Midsize Cruiser, 2009)—excelled at what they do precisely because they traded away some displacement for the light, stiff structure that invited their crews to pile on the sail area for a joyful ride.
Along another side of that edge are the so-called daysailers, a trend of lovely uncluttered machines whose performance is invested in the pure aesthetics of simple fluid dynamics. Optimized not for winning races nor for overnight or transoceanic passages but for simple shorthanded outings, highlights along this edge of the design box include the Morris M36, M42, and M52; the Sabre Spirit; the Friendship 40; the CW Hood 32; and the Hinckley DS42—all models from designers and builders who’ve also created standout craft from the middle of the design box.