We watch a lot of Sailing channels on YouTube, watch boat reviews and boats for sale as well as reading lots of articles.
So as we look at so many different boats the questions comes to mind: Do we feel Boat Envy? Or if we were choosing again would we choose differently?
For the most part the answer is no. We don’t see many boats that would give us the freedom to change so much to support Sustainable Sailing. But let’s look at some specifics.
Modern production yachts are a world apart from more traditional yachts such as our Rival 38 with acres of space, hull windows and light colours. The tradition of boats of a similar age also have a very different feel to the Rival with their dominating dark teak and mahogany. We see the potential for a real good hybrid of a modern light colour scheme yet matching the practical, tough, no nonsense, almost workboat feel, of the exterior of the Rival 38 (industrial rubber bulwark cap, grey deck and coachroof etc).
When people feel that the inside of their boat is pristine and beautiful we see them feeling restricted in making improvements and obliged to keep things the same. Or they feel they have to invest long hours restoring timber to it’s former glory. For us it was immediately obvious that much of the timber had too much water damage and wear for us to imagine trying to restore a beautiful teak interior (which is not a style we particularly like anyway).
If you feel the interior isn’t at the end of it’s life (for example our headlining was hanging down in many places and clearly past any sensible end of life) then big changes to major systems (moving tanks, changing the engine, switching from gas to electric cooking etc) are all much harder to achieve as you don’t have such easy access.
That freedom has allowed us to see significant things that have advanced a great deal in the past 45 years, we can learn from them, adapt them and, we believe, end up with a really big step forward from what we started.
We think that the improvements will be really obvious in the reworking of our heads compartments. The composting toilets are a huge improvement (and fitting black water tanks and all the plumbing would have been a technical nightmare as well as very expensive), in the forward head we will end up with a much better shower plus changing space for the forward cabin even though we don’t have the space for separate shower.
While our stern is so much narrower than modern boats (which we think we are going to be very grateful for every time it gets rough) we have been able to learn from the newer designs and our new aft cabin layout will provide a better bed (not quite as silly large at the head end as it is now) and a nice seat. Structurally we think it will support the mizzen mast better (since removing the mizzen mast the cabin roof has definitely gone up a bit and the bulkhead needs improvement). By cutting back the cupboard and the engine room we gain more space for changing and the rather tight passage from the main cabin will be a bit more spacious but also visually more open. We also gain a bit more space for our knees on the loo and wider doors for carrying the loo outside for emptying. The passage will always be a crouch and
Already we feel our new galley worktop is a big improvement and by the time we have finished with the flexible gimbled shelf, the microwave, fridge and folding extension to the worktop (making it a true U shape when in port) it will be functionally as good as most modern yachts. It inevitably it is smaller than a more modern boat, but as yet we wouldn’t find many with all electric cooking.
We love having a ketch rig (especially without a triatic stay connecting the masts) and a centre cockpit. They are rare in new boats. We definitely didn’t want in-mast furling or the need to rely on electric winches or furling systems. Compared to modern boats our cockpit is very small, but there is enough space for two of us to lie down. We don’t have a bathing platform and getting in and out of the dinghy or the water is going to be much harder. We are quite happy that the combination of our narrow stern shape and ketch rig mean that we are not tempted to try to use davits to carry a dinghy (instead we will lift it up onto the foredeck).
So some of the things that we see as essential are. A full length skeg for the rudder, an encapsulated keel, a hull shape without a flatish bottom so it won’t slam in waves, good sea berths, space to have an additional couple for extended periods either in coastal cruising or passage making. A design that was intended for live aboard world cruising rather than can be adapted for it.
Beyond that we love having a fully separated aft cabin with access from the main cabin, the tightness of that passage doesn’t really concern us at all.. We love having two heads compartments and one with space for a pretty reasonable shower (much better than our last caravan had and we used that a lot without any problems).
We do love the ketch rig, certainly our first choice for safety, comfort and ease of handling (even more so as we gradually convert to a full cutter rig on the foredeck).
Possibly the only downside to the Rival 38 Centre Cockpit for us is the position of the steering wheel which I feel leaves your sense a little less connected to the sailing experience, but that is really only an issue for day sailing or racing.
We still feel that refitting a solid older boat, that hasn’t been updated much, gives the best options for sustainable sailing. By giving an older GRP boat new life we avoid it becoming plastic waste for many more years (and hopefully by the we will have improved the ways we deal with waste at the end of it’s useful life). There is no reason why Vida shouldn’t last another 50 years and out live us by several decades.
The only better option would be an Aluminium boat, but I don’t know of any with zero fossil fuels yet. That gives you an easily recycled hull, plus better safety if going to very high latitudes where you might expect to encounter ice.
We haven’t seen a single boat that approaches the capabilities and features of our Rival 38 for anything approaching the total budget we will have ended up spending on the purchase and refit of Vida. Not a single boat. We could have spent less but would have had far more boatbuilding to do and probably fewer of the features we hoped for.
There are many beautiful boats out there but you have to go so much larger and so much more expensive to see really significant benefits in terms of the accommodation space. A separate shower would be nice, but having two heads is more important to us. A bathing platform would be nice but not at the expense of a hull shape that won’t get slapped by every wave, won’t track well and doesn’t have full rudder protection. Standing headroom walking to the aft cabin would be nice but not if the whole boat costs 3 to 5 times more. A bigger guest cabin might be nice but they might want to stay too long 😉 All those features though come at considerable costs in purchase price, in maintenance costs and in mooring costs.
So at the end of the day we are still convinced that we are so fortunate to have absolutely the right boat for us, one that allows us to be as sustainable as possible and to be our future retirement home that we can go almost anywhere in.
If you were to give us £10Million to choose any boat then just maybe we would spend £1.5Million on a custom electric Garcia Exploration 52, keep another £0.5 Million to live on for the rest of our lives and give the rest away. But really would we be happier? I can’t see why and I can see lots of areas with less satisfaction about what we can achieve ourselves. Would our environmental impact be lower? – no way. So probably a good thing we are not going to be in that position.
Having my own boat is still an aspiration for me so I have boat envy for every boat ha.
I watch and read a lot about sailing and boat refits and hope to one day to have the opportunity to own my own. When that day comes I’ll go for something that needs some work rather than sparkly new. I think you’re right that having a project means you’re more inclined to dive in and make changes that suit your own needs.
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We are enjoying reading “Sailing a Serious Ocean” by John Kretschmer. Has good stuff about choosing a boat and whether a project boat is likely to be a good idea.
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Nice, thanks for the recommendation.
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Heavy Weather Sailing by Adlard Coles is widely acknowledged to be essential reading for anyone venturing offshore.
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Yup we have that and I remember reading my dad’s copy decades ago.