Monday, March 25, 2013

Best small sailboat for Puget Sound

A reader recently visited this blog because it showed up in the search results for "best small sailboat for Puget Sound".  Sadly, the reader did not contact me :( 

Dear Reader, please imagine that you had contacted me, and that consequently we are sitting in Eolian's cockpit on a warm spring afternoon, sipping beers.  Here's what I would say:
I'm sorry but I cannot answer your question without a lot more information.

First, you ask for the best small sailboat...  what is your definition of "small"?
  • Do you have a particular size in mind?  How did you settle on this size?
  • Are you looking at a particular price ceiling?  What is it?  
  • Are you looking for a new boat?  A used boat?  Why?  Are you willing to do a little work on the boat?  (You had better say "yes" to this question - whether new or old, boats all require work...)
  • "Small boat" could imply trailerable.  If this is what you have in mind, do you have a rig capable of pulling the boat (Accords and Camrys need not apply)?  Do you have a place to store the boat when out of the water?  The disadvantage of a trailerable boat is that a fair amount of time (roughly an hour) needs to be spent rigging the mast and transferring everything from the towing rig to the boat before use.  But it does enlarge your cruising grounds considerably - The San Juans are close when you are traveling at 65 mph.
Next, what is it you see yourself doing with the boat?
  • Racing?
  • Day sailing?  Where?  
  • Cruising?  Do you want to overnight on the boat? 
Does the simplicity of sail power appeal to you? Or do you enjoy all the bells and whistles?

Will your boat have a motor?
  • Outboard or inboard?
  • Gas or diesel?
Finally, what do you mean by "Puget Sound"?  Are you talking about:
  • Day sailing on Lake Union?
  • Lake Washington?
  • The Sound itself, above the Tacoma Narrows?
  • The South Sound?
  • The San Juans? 
And the items are interrelated too.  The price of the boat is going to directly reflect its condition (are you willing to work on it?), the included gear and systems (simple or complex?) and intended use (day sailor, cruiser, racer).  Trailerable boats will not need moorage, thus saving that cost, but at a cost of time required to rig and derig at each use.  And you will have to pay for, license and maintain the trailer.

And now that you have answered, "Well, all of them!" to some of those questions, then I must say that you have some further contemplation before you are ready to make a purchase.  No boat is going to be good at racing, cruising and day sailing, for example.  You really do need to prioritize things.  A boat that tries to be all things does none of them well.
And now that we're done with that second (third?) beer, I'd tell you to go look at boats. Look at lots of boats. Look at boats that are in your parameters, and boats that are not.  The seller (whether broker or private) wants to show you their boats - take advantage of that. Sit aboard and imagine yourself under sail.  Feed the dream.

Come back again when you have done that - we'll have a lot more decisive conversation then.  And more beer.



Anonymous said...

I know it's an old post but since I found this blog by doing the exact same google search, I thought I'd pose my responses.

I am looking for the best small sailboat for the sound.
- I would like to be able to cruise the lakes, sound and occasional trips to the San Juans.
- Mostly day sailing with the occasional over-nighter (weekend) with the wife.
- Preference would be a trailerable boat.
- I have little experience so would most likely start with smaller lakes and move up as confidence increased.
- I would be a "fair weather" sailor. No interest in braving Juan de Fuca in any type of small craft warning.
- Open on budget but cheaper the better...figuring I'll want to trade up in a few years. I don't mind some repairs.

Thanks for your response.


Robert Salnick said...

Hi Jeff -
Since you include trailerable and occasional overnighter, I think you should look at something like a Catalina 22 or 25, or an O'Day 25... Something in the 22-25 foot class. I don't know what you have as a tow rig, but this could constrain you as to size.

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