Boat Shopping

Looking for "the one" in a sea of fiberglass can be a daunting task, but it's still fun!

Reliance 44

Green Brett

Most cruisers that I know love to "talk boat"—talk about your own boat, your friend's boat, that awesome boat in the harbor, something you saw on YachtWorld—you get the picture. I am no exception. I also love boat shopping (for myself or others). I'll use any excuse to spend some time poking around a boat, new or old. And since I won't be in the market for another boat for a while, I thought that I would relive the experience and share what brought us to choosing our boat.

My husband, Green, and I cruised to the Caribbean years ago (B.K.- before kids) on our 1965 32-foot Pearson Vanguard, Egret. She was a great boat, and we had a blast with her. But, after four years of living aboard Egret, I knew that I wanted something bigger when we had kids. I almost hate to say it, but when we started looking for the boat that we would live aboard and cruise on as a family, I wasn't looking at the sail plan, tankage, construction, or electronics (well, at least that's not where I started). No, I was looking at the interior layout, which seems trivial but is, in my opinion, paramount to successful and happy family life aboard.

Lyra is a Reliance 44 that was laid up in 1975 in Montreal, Canada, finished by the first owner, and then splashed in 1980. She has a ketch rig, pretty lines, a low cabin house, and a flush foredeck. These are the features that immediately stood out when I came across her listing on YachtWorld in the spring of 2008. But it was her layout that really had me. Since we already had one kiddo at the time that we were boat shopping, and were planning on adding another in the not-too-distant-future, the boat needed to have enough space for four people. I also wanted the kids to each have their own bunk and personal space. And in this area, Lyra is perfect. The girls (number two came along after we lived aboard for a little over a year) share the aft cabin, which has a quarter berth on each side. The quarter berths are bright and spacious and have loads of storage, which is rare. The aft cabin also contains the main head, and there is a door separating the cabin from the main saloon (great for early bedtimes!).

The main saloon features a (small) u-shaped galley with the double-sink on the "island," the nav station desk, port and starboard settees, a pilot berth (which we use as storage and a bookshelf), and a centerline table. The space can definitely feel small at times, especially when we let it get cluttered (remarkably easy with a toddler), and the galley would be more user-friendly if the only usable counter space wasn't also the lid to the fridge. But, overall, the space works well for us. Up forward there is another head, hanging locker, drawers, the V-berth (also with awesome storage), a sail locker, and a chain locker.

One thing that we love about Lyra is how safe she feels down below while under sail. There are so many handholds and places to wedge yourself in that it makes daily tasks like cooking and whatnot easy and comfortable. There are also high fiddles on the counters and table, which come in handy.

Now that we've had Lyra for about three years, I'm happy to say that we love her even more now. She sails well, and the ketch rig has been fun to experiment with. The cockpit is deep and comfy, the wide side decks are easy to maneuver on, and the spacious foredeck is great for lounging. We've also done loads of projects, which I'll detail in future posts, that have contributed to easier life aboard.

Tips for your boat search
In case you're in the market for a family cruising boat, here are my tips, mostly from experiences learned the hard way...
Use a yacht broker to help you with your search. if you find a good one, they will make your experience so much easier
Location matters. Unless you can afford to travel to look at the boat, try to stick to ones in your area, or just a day trip away. If you buy the boat, you'll have to still get it home, and if your experience is anything like ours, you'll be making multiple trips to the boat during the buying process.
Ask lots of questions, and try to get lots of recent pics before traveling. We once drove more than eight hours to see a boat we thought was_ the one_ only to see it and find out that it had been flooded (including the engine), mostly gutted, and the hull and ceiling were covered in avocado-green carpeting. This was before online listings and digital pictures, so things are definitely easier now, but you still need to make sure that you are looking at recent photos of the boat.
Look at as many boats as possible. If you're fortunate enough to live in an area with lots of boat yards, take a look though them and start to get more of a feel for what you are looking for. If you see something you like (even if it's not in your price range) call the broker or owner and ask if they can show it to you.
If you have kids, try to involve them in the boat search as much as possible.
Throughout your search, stay organized. We used to keep small files about each boat that we looked at which would include info on the boat, contact info, pics that we took, and our likes/dislikes.
•** Buy a copy of Don Casey's Inspecting the Aging Sailboat** and read it before you look at a boat. It's full of great info and will help you know what you are looking at when you are going over the boat's construction, systems, etc.

Any boat search tips to add? What do you like about your family's cruising boat? Tell the CW community in the comments area below.