Looking at Boats – A List of Contenders

This is the first in a series of posts discussing my favorite boat designs. While my ocean miles are minimal, my opinions about boats are not. From my brief experiences on well-seasoned boats such as Helbent and Sojourner and my time aboard new boats at the Strictly Sail boat show in Chicago this past January, I have managed to compile a pretty lengthy list of needs, wants, and deal breakers for our future vessel. Rather than create a list of desired features, I thought it would be more interesting to create a post about potential boats that might fit the bill, with plenty of visuals and links to examples currently on the market. Whenever possible, I will also link to YouTube to show the boat in action.

Gathering Info or How I Have Come to Choose These Boats

When I boarded Helbent for the first time, I was startled by how remarkably small the cabin was. Jeff had told me many stories about his Chesapeake trip and upon seeing the boat for the first time, I could not believe that he lived on it…with crew… for 3 weeks! Below was tiny, with barely enough headroom for me (I’m 5”6), a two burner stove, v-berth, and a port-o-potty. When provisioned, it looked like my brother’s closet when he was a careless teenager. How could one travel under these cramped conditions? An evening sail on the bay for a few cocktails and some star gazing – fine. A day sail, just the two of us, across the bay to cool off on a hot LBI afternoon – fine. An overnight anywhere – no thanks.

My next boating experience was much more comfortable. I was pleasantly surprised when we boarded Sojourner, our 31’ Island Packet charter yacht. She had plenty of headroom, a separate v-berth cabin in the bow, a big galley with a double sink, and plenty of room in the saloon for both of us to lounge on separate settees. Oh, and there was also a head – no port-o-potty here. I liked Sojourner’s wide belly and bookshelves on each side. Initially she seemed like a big boat, though after we brought all of our provisions on board we both felt she lacked storage for her size.

My first experience with new sailboats was at the Strictly Sail boat show in Chicago. We boarded about a dozen boats from Beneteau, Jeanneau, and Catalina, in the shelter and warmth of Navy Pier. After a while it was hard to remember which boat was which – they all looked and felt the same – sterile and foofy. However, I did learn a few things from this experience. First, the aft cabin feels like the more natural, and desirable, place to sleep. I like that it is near the companionway and the galley, incase of attacks of severe hunger pangs or claustrophobia. I also like the idea of having two cabins on our boat for privacy when we have visitors and crew. For a boat to have an aft cabin we will most likely be looking at 36-42’ lengths, which is a bit larger than what we initially thought we would purchase. Boat length affects more than just space below; it also affects things like ease of sail (the ability or inability to singlehand) as well as docking fees, which are usually by the foot. Buying a larger boat means not only investing more initially, but also spending more on upkeep and cruising.

Secondly, many of the boats were equipped with large windows that allowed for a lot of light below. While I really like the idea of having many hatches and port windows, I know that these are not practical for a bluewater yacht. The larger and more numerous the windows, the greater the possibility for leaks. And while I like the idea of more light in my “house”, I like the idea of a dry house even better.

So…my ideal boat has good light, an aft and fore cabin, a galley with a refrigerator that I can easily access and plenty of storage space. It also needs to be seaworthy – a full keel seems safest, though not the only option, and it should be a boat we can repair ourselves – fiberglass seems most practical. I’m torn between the look of teak decks and the practicality of the heat they produce. And here I go, making a list….

Baba 40

I’m not going to lie, I am drawn to this boat because it has beautiful lines. As a visual artist, I want my living space to be not only functional, but also aesthetically pleasing. Boat designer Bob Perry is known for his “performance cruisers”, including the Baba, Valiant, Passport, and Tayana, yachts created for both safety and speed. Watch for his name to show up again in future dream boat posts!

As a 40-foot boat, this is a good size yacht for a live aboard couple. I know many couples choose to cruise in boats less than 30′ (see Lealea or Velocir), however, I want space to grow, collect, create, and entertain.  While there is never going to be a lot of privacy or personal space on a boat, so having a large saloon where we can both stretch out and relax is important. On days when it is too cold or windy to hang out in the cockpit, we will be thankful for the roomy interior of the Baba – especially if we have visitors staying aboard. With a large collapsible table, the saloon U-shaped port settee is perfect for chart meetings and dinner parties.

Another lovely feature of this boat is the butterfly hatches that allow for ample light and air circulation.

Butterfly Hatch

Butterfly Hatch

I also really like the galley design with the angled sink area and the easily accessible refrigerator door. This creates an efficient triangle workspace. Many galleys have the door awkwardly located so that the cook has to reach partially over the stove to retrieve the cold items. I imagine this to be especially dangerous on passage.

Baba Galley

Baba Galley

Baba Galley

Baba Galley

While the Baba is a pretty boat, with a lot of great features, there are a few major drawbacks to this boat including:

Small Cockpit:
The canoe style stern helps add to the beauty of the topsides, but creates a rather crammed cockpit. Not a lot of room here for entertaining during cocktail hour.

No Aft Cabin:
Again, due to the canoe style stern, there is not room for an aft cabin below.

Baba Diagram

Baba Diagram

As we would like to begin cruising during my sabbatical year, we don’t foresee the ability to sock away this much money in the next 4 years. Unless we find a buried treasure in our backyard or my work is purchased by the Getty, we will most likely be looking at boats about half this price. But it is always fun to dream!

Two nice Baba 40’s on Yachtworld.com – lots of good pictures here!

Lottsburg Baba

Longbeach Baba

Youtube boat tour of Baba 40
Youtube video of Baba 40 in action

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