The quest for the perfect boat, month 14
Like many boaters, I’m always on the lookout for the right next boat. Since joining Panbo I’ve written somewhat frequently about my recently completed trip around America’s Great Loop. That trip provided my family and me with an amazing adventure as well as the opportunity to think about what makes the right boat for us.
We currently own a 2003 Carver Voyager 570 named Have Another Day. We bought Have Another Day with no plans for extensive travel and extended time living onboard. It was a logical next boat for us in our Lake Michigan boating career. Then, the opportunity came to step away from our traditional lives of work and school to travel. We debated selling Have Another Day and buying something more blue-water capable, but after considering the route the Great Loop takes we decided the boat we had was fine (if a little big). Have Another Day completed the Loop very well: she was extremely comfortable for all four of us and our frequent guests, she was reliable, and with the addition of the Seakeeper and the ability to run at 9kts, she was pretty darn fuel efficient for a nearly 60′ 60,000 pound boat.
As those who have read my blog may already know, my propeller budget was stretched on our trip. Our boat draws right around 5′ with the propellers extending a full 20 inches below the next lowest part of the boat. There’s no keel on the boat and the next deepest portion of the boat is very far aft. All this adds up to little margin for error in shallow waters. Any incident is likely to end with a haulout or a diver and a prop-shop. So, the first requirement for our next boat is a keel that extends lower than the props. It doesn’t have to have skegs below the props, though I certainly wouldn’t turn that configuration down.
We have aspirations of cruising much further south into the islands than the Abacos chain of the Bahamas we visited last year. My eventual aspirations include making our way all the way down the Caribbean, to South America and through the Panama Canal. On the west coast I’d love to explore Costa Rica, the Baja Peninsula, the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Our next boat will be selected with an eye towards that cruising.
Because we travel as a family of four and like to be able to accommodate guests we have some minimum accommodation needs. Here’s a list of some of the requirements we’ve come up with:
- 3 stateroom minimum, ideally with two rooms with queens or larger and a third room with twins, extra points awarded for side by side twins in lieu of bunks
- 2 heads minimum — it’s me and three women, need I say more?
- A keel extending below the depth of the props
- Full walk around side-decks
- Portuguese bridge highly preferred
- Pilothouse with ample console space, chart table, ample seating and good visibility
- Good efficiency around 9 kts — I’d also prefer something that’s not pushing large displacement turbocharged diesels that are lightly loaded at low cruise. I have that now and would prefer not to manage carboning issues and worries
- Modern four stroke diesels — We’ve only ever owned (relatively) clean-burning 4 stroke electronically controlled diesels, I think we’d like to stay with that
- Large fuel capacity — I’d love to have more than 1250 gallons onboard, especially when cruising the islands
- Two generators strongly preferred, and ideally in an asymmetric configuration with a small one for light loads and battery charging and a larger for heavy air conditioning loads
- Stabilized — fins or gyro
- Ideally a draft around 5′ or less
- If I can keep air draft under 20′ (really about 19′ 6″) I can still clear under the fixed bridge west of Chicago and travel south down the western rivers
- I’d really like a twin gypsy windlass with two anchor rollers so I can keep anchors suitable for different bottom material ready to go
- Good natural ventilation — our Carver was basically designed for the AC to be up and running all the time, there’s a real shortage of opening windows on the boat as none of the salon windows open
- Full size fridge… we’re a family of four
- Dedicated oven preferred — currently we have a sharp microwave / convection combo that works surprisingly well, but it’s not as nice as a full oven would be
- Ample storage — I think I’ve said this before, but we’re a family of four; we seem to have a lot of stuff
- Classic design – we tend to prefer more classic designs, Fleming, Grand Banks, Grand Alaskan, etc
We’ve looked at a LOT of boats. We got very close to a deal on a mid-2000s DeFever 56′ that we really liked but turned out to have an engine package poorly matched for the hull resulting in pretty poor fuel economy. We’ve looked very hard at Grand Alaskans (also an Art DeFever design) and gotten close to a deal on a 65′ flushdeck. We ultimately decided that boat is a little larger than we really want to take on (more issues of overall size than LOA) but still think that the 64 raised pilothouse Grand Alaskans are a good fit for us.
Our long list of boats we’ve considered includes Fleming 55s (a little too small), Fleming 58 (perfect size, can I borrow a few million?), Fleming 65s (great boat, big price tag), Offshores (most don’t have a Portuguese bridge and come at a very high price point), Selenes (still in consideration, on the slower end but doable), Nordhavns (amazing boats, might be overkill for our needs, draft a concern), Grand Banks Aleutians (amazing boats, might be out of our price range), Outer Reef (another price point challenge) and probably many others I’m forgetting.
We’ve looked at some boats pretty far afield of the mainstream like Florida Bay Coasters, Real Ships and Great Harbour but haven’t yet found something that checks all the boxes for us in that direction either.
I believe it’s likely the collective wisdom and experience of this group of boaters is likely to be far exceed my own. So, please, tell me what you think I should be looking at. Am I on the right track? Am I missing something? Ruling out a class of boats I should be considering? I’d love to hear from all of you.
I’m curious about why you want a Portuguese bridge? Is that about protecting the helm windows in heavy seas?
But, sorry, no suggestions here. I haven’t shopped in this boat size, though I must say I enjoy seeing a Fleming 55 entering Camden Harbor or out in the wild. Stately.
The main reason for the Portuguese bridge is crew safety. Especially if crew happens to be my children; I really like the idea of them being able to get from one side of the boat to the other while staying entirely within the nicely protected walkway of the sidewalks and Portuguese bridge. This is less urgent if the bow is entirely flat as it frequently is on the larger cruising motor-yachts but still not as well protected in my mind as the Portuguese bridge.
I’d go for an FPB64. Perfect for your needs. Comfortable. Safe. Easy to maintain and way more
Amazing boats, and there is one for sale, at least according to the Internet:
Incidentally, that’s the first time I’ve seen the acronym stated as Functional Power Boat. I believe that long-time sailor Steve Dashew had something much saltier in mind, though the only confirmation I could ever get from him was a little grin.
But what FPB’s really shine at is truly long distance passage making with a short crew. I think Ben S has some relatively long passages in mind, but not so extreme. Also a serious investment: http://www.yachtworld.com/boats/Power/Motor+Yacht/Circa+Marine
Ben, take a look at the old Hatteras Long Range Cruisers. A 58 fits all your criteria, I think, except modern diesels (instead you get a pair of bullet-proof Detroit 4-71s). We have an active Club that helps the members keep these great boats in fine form. Check out our web site!
We’ve looked at LRCs in photos quite a few times. Thus far our thinking has been that we’d prefer something a little newer with newer systems, interiors, etc. I know some of the LRCs have been beautifully updated so if one came along with updates we liked I’d be very open to it.
Wow, I’m surprised that you eliminated the Great Harbour 47’s. As they meet all your requirements albeit without requiring stablizers as are self form stabilized. at a bargain price. Their tankages is huge as is the interior.. Skeg protected props, shallow 3′ draft, unsinkable hull, huge usable galley with household style and sized appliances. You should look at them. There are several used listed by MIrage. Good Luck.
I haven’t eliminated entirely the Great Harbour. I took a look at the two that are on the market now and and didn’t feel like either of them was the right fit. I will admit that coming from way too much power for what we need making the move to two 56hp diesels is a little hard to get my mind around. That’s exacerbated by having watched a GH 37 in a big blow in St Augustine end up sideways across the docks without enough power to maneuver off.
Really loving this thread which I found when trying to find comparable boats to a Fleming and Marlow at possibly a slightly lower price. Hope it keeps going!
I’m still on the hunt, but I’ve largely paused my search with the market craziness this year. I can also report that I haven’t found too many brands that haven’t been discussed in these comments. I think the Grand Alaskan still checks the most boxes for me but I haven’t found the right circumstance just yet to make a purchase.
You noted attributes for cruising, but not living (other than sleeping and in the galley). What about sitting? Some vessels forget that the captain might want some company. Other vessels think you are going to enjoy a sofa seat for an entire year of Looping.
I too am in the hunt for the perfect boat. Have a 60ft SeaRay now and find it hard to beat. It is fast when I want her to be (31kts) and yet I have cruised at 8-10kts for fuel efficiency throughout Mexico and the Sea of Cortez). My wife and I keep going back and forth on replacing Valkyrie for Coastal cruising where larger is even of interest and with something completely different for doing the Loop in the not too distant future.
Anita is concerned about comfort (hence the seating discussion) while I look at the mechanics and seaworthiness.
Interior comfort is definitely a concern. I was worried that if I listed every criteria nobody would read my 100 page treatise. So, instead I tried to summarize down to some of the biggest issues.
Our Carver currently has an immensely comfortable Flexsteel settee that compares very favorably to most everything we’ve seen on the boats we’ve looked at.
Please, keep the suggestions coming.. I’ve already spent some quality time on Yacht World this morning checking out everyone’s suggestions.
Have you looked at Tanglewood?
Definitely a previous owner you’d want to follow, even if he and the other Ben haven’t seen eye to eye.
I should have mentioned in my requirements / desires list that an air draft below 20′ is highly preferable so that I can clear the fixed bridge just west of Chicago. I’ll edit the list.
I also fear that a 2014 Nordhavn 60′ is going to be out of my price range.
The Flemming and Grand Banks up above are the first boats that came to mind. My personal choice in this category is the Nordhaven 62 I love them for some reason.
For more the motor yacht side the Pacific Mariner 65 is a great boat. but does not quite hit some things on your list.
I also think there may have been some Krogen’s with 3 staterooms but I’m not sure which ones.
The Portuguese bridge requirement will be the most limiting
I suspect that you’re correct about the Portuguese bridge being limiting. I’m a big fan of the N62s as well (and the N63s are pretty spectacular as well) though a lot of the N62s have kind of funky interiors. I’d never sell my wife on a boat with a rubber dot floor in the master stateroom.
I have explored PM 65s as well. They’re great boats though as you say don’t hit all the (many) things on my list.
Thus far I think everyone has been too kind by not calling me ridiculously picky. I want everything and I’d like it all for bottom dollar. But, I guess I’m willing to wait until I can find the right boat at the right price. I guess the big question is, how long will I wait?
The N62 in all honestly would not be the boat I would purchase either if I had the funds (even thou I have loved them since I saw a tiny blurb about it in boating magazine in the early 90’s). If cruising with my wife and 3 kids the Pacific mariner would likely be the choice. I used to have kind of a bad opinion of motor yachts as I get older they honestly appeal more then bluewater boats I would likely never use the capability of.
A smaller Marlow (57/58) would fit the bill perfectly but it sounds like they may not fit the budget. If you look at your list, a GA64 Pilothouse ticks all the boxes. Dont worry about the fitted engines, just dont push them too hard and keep up the maintenance. The good thing about the overpowered ones is that the running gear was normally beefed up to cope so you have no problems there. While they have a semi displacement hull shape they are built so heavy that the only thing that gets on the plane is your fuel flow. They are a classic “constant speed/variable fuel flow” boat.
Thanks Paul, you’ve confirmed a lot of my thinking. I like your wisdom about “constant speed / variable fuel flow” and will remember that.
Personally, I’m not a fan of Marlows. I’ve heard just enough anecdotal snippets to cause me some concern. You’re also likely right that my enthusiasm is probably moot because of issues of budget.
How about a Kadey Krogen 52 twin engine. That fits all the requirements, but not too many configure the 3rd cabin for sleeping, usually office. Great boat that seems to meet you requirements, however, budget may be a problem. The Krogen Express meets most criteria too, except they have the turbocharged engines.
Nice little (!) boat here next to us in Deltaville – I know it’s been on the market for at least a year. Sure looks attractive, and seems to have all the toys. Might be a bit bigger than what you were looking for, tho.
Ben, you might have more luck focusing on a hull that has the fundamentals you need, and then finding one under-budget and maybe a little tired that you can customize to your liking. Gensets, windlasses, refrigeration, ovens, etc., can be easily upgraded by a reputable yard. Even re-powering with modern diesels can make sense on the right boat. Plus, you get to see all the rest of the systems while the works being done, and end up with exactly the layout/material’s you want. Just add $$$ ! 🙂
Ben….I ran across your post while boat shopping myself. I fully understand your requirements as the list is a mirror image of what I’ve been looking for. Our budgets look to be pretty similar as well. Selene 57 (early to mid 2000’s) has risen to the top as a boat that checks all the boxes. We are a retiring cruising couple but are looking for 3 cabins to accommodate kids, grandkids, and guests. I’m guessing by now you’ve made a decision. If so, what did you end up with? How is it working out for you? Do you have any thoughts on the Selene. Seems to me to be a pretty solid boat, just curious if I might be over looking something. Thank you in advance, any insight you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
You would think we would have made a decision by now. But, unfortunately that’s not the case. We’re still looking and in fact in recent months we’ve honed back in on the Grand Alaskan 65 flush deck. We’ve made a few offers but haven’t been able to come to an agreement with any of the sellers so far.
We like the Selenes a lot. In fact my wife likes them more than me. I find them to be just a little slower than I’d like and there’s an intangible about them that’s never spoken to me. They’re beautiful boats, very well built and a better compromise of space versus sea-keeping ability (as compared to Nordhavn, for example).
Good luck and keep us updated on how it goes.
Thank you for your response Ben. I guess if we had $2-3 mil to throw at the dilemma we could come up with a near perfect solution. The GA 65FD has caught my eye as well though I’m pretty set on single screw for economy of maintenance, operation, running gear protection and ease of moving about the engine room. I share your hesitation about the Selene and for me it’s the relative lack of attention they seem to receive in the pilot house arena. Not sure why that is, perhaps it’s just the lack of an aggressive marketing strategy such as Flemming or Nord. One of the criteria we established early on was the ability to navigate the Great Loop. That being said, our long range plans are coastal, Caribbean, and eventually the west coast, perhaps as far as Alaska. You’ve completed the loop in your 57, do you feel we are justified in limiting our options just to satisfy that single objective? More and more I’m thinking it’s rather foolish to buy a boat based on her ability to clear a bridge in Chicago.
Ben…Also looking for a boat with much more range for our long trips from San Diego down to Mexico. Presently have a 58 ft. pilothouse with large Cats. I was wondering if you had looked at a 57 Nordhavn. Probably the only model that does not look top heavy and having talked to the owners of one, they travel easily at 9-10 kts. unlike most other NH that run at 7-8kts. Our big Cat engines can run slowly at 9 kts. but burn 18 gph at that speed where the N57 burns about 6 gph.