Margaret and I looked at the Southern Cross 31 in St. Simons Island, Georgia, and have lots of thoughts about it. We are going to try to make a joint post about what those thoughts are. We’ll both open with a basic comments and then list four concerns we had with the boat. I also provide some additional commentary on the boat and the broker.
Jeff: Overall, I thought the boat was in great shape, though it was not without its issues, but no boat is. Before I met Margaret, when I was actively saving for a bluewater boat but had not yet started seriously looking for the boat, I thought the Southern Cross would be the perfect boat for me; it was small, stout and capable, and rather inexpensive. After looking at Attitude, the SC31 in Georgia, I came away thinking this just may have been the boat – not just the design, but the actual boat – I would have bought had Margaret not come into my life.
1. The head needed some work. The current owner was using an effective but improper method of flushing the head and had a jug attached to the bottom of the head sink to catch the water going down it. While we could continue to use the head in the fashion the previous owner was, it would definitely be high on our list of things to fix. However, the fix was probably not all that expensive, just time consuming and potentially really icky (welcome to the more unseemly side of life on a boat).
2. The winches were a bit old and tired. The winch for the main needed immediate servicing as it hardly turned. Beyond that, we would want to eventually replace all of the winches, starting with the two primaries (for the jib sheets), which were not self-tailing (self-tailing winches allows one person to easily use the winch by themselves, which is especially important on passage so that the on-watch crew is not always waking up the off-watch person to help trim the sails). The other winches could have been replaced over time, but in total we were still looking at a decent investment of money.
3. The electrical panels probably needed upgrading. I am sure the panels worked fine and could continue to serve their function long into the future. However, I looked at the (I think) three panels of various ages and states of repair and immediately wanted to replace them with a single, new electrical panel. This is another not too expensive repair that would probably involve a lot of labor because it would also lead to us replacing some of the wiring (which would not be a bad thing if it was needed).
4. The two manual bilge pumps looked tired. There was a Whale bilge pump at the aft of the cockpit that looked like it had seen better days and an even more sad looking manual bilge pump near the mast step. Replacing them would have been relatively easy and inexpensive, but needed to be done for piece of mind.
I did not really see any other issues that needed to be immediately addressed. Of course, I am sure the survey would have turned up other concerns. All in all, I was very happy with her condition and thought she even showed a little better than the Yachtworld listing. In most cases, the various hoses, clamps, fittings, and wiring looked to be relatively new and well maintained. The bilge was clean. And the boat was stocked with replacement parts, had a very thorough maintenance log, and had obviously been well-cared for by the previous owner. If you are in the market for a Southern Cross, Attitude should be at the top of your list.
I should also point out that I was wrong in my last post about the boat. It does not have a SSB, but it does have a newish liferaft that does not need to be serviced until 2016. It also had a wind generator, two solar panels, radar, a Rocna anchor, and various other equipment that I failed to mention when we were driving towards Savannah.
It was the first time I have been on a Southern Cross 31, and the visit confirmed my view that the boat has the potential to be a very capable offshore vessel. It was quite small, but was intimate and cozy with enough space to make it work. I know Margaret is going to comment on the size, so I will leave it at that and maybe save my thoughts about boat size for a separate post.
Finally, glancing over my last post, I am also feeling guilty about how I thought the broker was not going to be a big help. In actuality, Ron Barnett of Dunbar Yachts was incredibly kind and helpful. He provided tons of additional information, backing it up with documentation, and thoroughly answered our questions. He was also a hell of a nice guy. I would feel completely comfortable working with him on the purchase of a boat. And if I happened to be selling a boat somewhere in the area, I would make sure that Ron was the listing broker on the yacht. Dunbar Yachts is also conveniently located off I-95, so – as Ron indicated in passing – they tend to get a lot of traffic from boat shoppers heading north and south along the East Coast, making it a good place to list, in my humble opinion.
I have to admit that I was pretty excited to look at the SC31. The Yachtworld.com listing described a nicely accessorized boat, at a very reasonable price, that we could buy now. A boat at this price point would allow us to own a boat and keep our house – allowing me to learn to sail and get comfortable with the idea of cruising before my sabbatical year. This would not be the case for some of the other boats on our list. With that in mind, I really hoped this would be “the boat”. But sadly, it was not.
1. Size – From the dock this boat looked lovely – nice lines and well maintained for a 30+ year old boat. The cockpit was small, with no table and a homemade hard dodger. I’m not complaining about the small cockpit – I know this is important for seaworthiness, but it was so small I wondered how comfortable it would be to have dinner with another set of cruising friends aboard. But this was not my main concern. As I descended the companionway steps I was shocked by how small this boat felt compared to the Island Packet 31 that we chartered last year. I knew that Attitude’s beam (width) was 2′ smaller, but I was not prepared for the difference that those 2′ would make in the salon. While Jeff said he thought it felt cozy, I thought it felt cramped and claustrophobic in its narrow belly. As the broker mentioned, and I have read numerous times, a small boat is safer in that you have less distance to travel should you be thrown across the boat by a crashing wave. There is also less distance for projectile objects to traverse, hence less velocity books, computers, and other such equipment will have when careening toward your head!
While the idea of living aboard a small boat with my husband sounds intimate and adventurous, the reality is that we both need personal space occasionally. We also both enjoy entertaining and the small space of the SC31 would not be conducive to this idea. While the two settees would serve as adequate sea berths for us while on passage, we would not be able to host any visitors comfortably below, for a multi-day passage or for dinner. The space simply is too small.
2. Head – This is also a size issue. The head was so small that Jeff could not stand in this space and I am not even certain he could sit on the head without his knees hitting the bulkhead! There was no medicine cabinet and the drain under the floor led straight to the bilge – so no showering! This obviously could be fixed but I cannot imagine showering in a space this small – there would be nowhere to keep a dry towel!!!
3. Table – When it comes down to it, this is also a size issue. In a boat this narrow a fixed table means that one settee is useless unless the leaf of the table is up. If the leaf is not up there is not enough space for your knees to fit between the settee and the table. Essentially, with this table, you have a walkway of about 15 inches from the galley to halfway up the salon. I see this as uncomfortably cramped.
4. Storage – Ok, yes, you got me. This is about size too! To be fair, it was difficult to judge the full capacity of Attitude because many of her lockers and cubbies were full of spares. A good problem to have, but I could not picture where I would store my clothes, foulies (there was no hanging locker), photographic equipment, books, etc.. Jeff suggested we could store our clothes in the v-berth cabinets, but I don’t even think one sweater would fit in these small spaces. I also could not imagine where we would store enough food for a long passage – crossing an ocean requires a lot of canned goods – and therefore – a lot of space.
So, as I said before, this is not the boat that we will be buying. However, we both learned a lot from this experience, including the importance of beam size. The Island Packet 31 had a spacious salon with a table mounted to the bulkhead. This created much more sole and usable settee space. It also had far more storage behind and under the settee cushions, in two hanging lockers, and in the head and galley cabinets.
I am looking forward to getting on more boats and narrowing down the list of potential yachts we keep in a shared google doc. There are about a dozen yachts in Florida that we hope to check out. Stay tuned for additional posts about our adventures viewing these boats.
Below are additional images from our viewing – you may click on any photograph to get a larger size file: