In 2008 we spent three months living aboard our previous boar, Ocean Mist, cruising the English Channel. We really enjoyed our trip and decided that we’d like to do more long cruising trips further afield, but with a different boat.
This page describes something of the process that lead up to us making an offer on Speedwell of Rhu, but before that there’s the question of why we decided to change boats at all:
Why We Sold Ocean Mist
Ocean Mist is a Moody s38, a capable and solidly built offshore cruising boat. We bought her with the intention of running trips which we did, along with bareboat charter and school work, through a sailing school. For commercial use the number of cabins is important, the more you have the more passengers you can carry, so we specifically chose Ocean Mist because she had twin aft cabins. The total of 3 double cabins meant that we could run a trip with two fare paying couples and each couple would have a private cabin.
Commercial use didn’t work out as well as we had hoped (see our experience of charter management) and our plans changed so that we wanted a boat for our own private use only. So why not just keep Ocean Mist? After all plenty of people go long distance cruising in Moody’s.
As an offshore cruising boat the Moody s38 is fast and safe, but it didn’t fully meet our new requirements:
With just two of us on the boat we didn’t need three sleeping cabins. From time to time we have guests but we really only need one guest cabin and we’d rather have a better owner’s cabin.
The twin aft cabin layout also uses up most of the space in the stern of the boat, so the cockpit lockers aren’t that large (although the Moody s38 has bigger cockpit lockers than a lot of modern production cruisers).
Locker space was good, but would have been better if the space under the saloon seats wasn’t taken up by the water tanks. Storing the provisions for an ocean crossing would have been a squeeze.
Replacement Boat Specification
We came up with a rough specification for our replacement boat, as you’ll see this isn’t quite what we ended up with, but this was our starting point:
Ocean Going: A design with a proven ocean going capability.
Accommodation: A comfortable owners cabin, a comfortable saloon and one guest cabin.
Heads: A single heads. A second heads takes up space that could be used for something else. We’ve only got the one bathroom in our house so why do we need two on our boat?
Size: No bigger and ideally smaller than Ocean Mist. A smaller boat has lower running costs and we’re not intending to carry lots of passengers.
Shallow draught: Shallower draught that Ocean Mist’s 2m would allow us to get into more out of the way anchorages, the ability to dry out would be nice.
With a smaller boat in mind we had some options for a brand new boat.
I (Andy) have always liked the no nonsense look of Ovni’s, and their lifting keel is an attraction. My concern about the Ovni range is their limited angle of vanishing stability. I know that lots of people make ocean passages in these boats with no problems, but I’d always have the low AVS at the back of my mind so personally that ruled out an Ovni for me.
An alternative lift keel cruiser range is the Southerlies. These have very good stability figures, even with the keel up, and they’re well built. Unfortunately our budget would only stretch to the bottom end of the range and although we wanted a smaller boat the small Southerlies didn’t have the sort of storage and tank capacity that we’d want for ocean crossings.
We did seriously consider a new Rustler 36. This is a design with an excellent reputation as an ocean going cruiser for a couple. It’s a fixed keel, but shallower draught than Ocean Mist, and 2 feet shorter. We could afford a new one so we could have it built to our specification. We got in touch with Rustler and started to discuss options, with the intention of dropping in during our 2008 channel cruise when we got to Falmouth.
In Dartmouth we got chatting to a couple with a Rustler 36 who were on the same pontoon as us, they invited us aboard. The boat was lovely, with top quality joinery and a solid feel, but I’m 6ft 4in tall and couldn’t stand up in the saloon. Also the berth in the forepeak, which would be the owner’s cabin, would have been too short and too narrow at the foot end. Sadly we decided that a Rustler 36 wasn’t for us.
Second Hand Boats
Having ruled out a new boat we turned to the brokerage listings and came up with a number of boats to go and look at.
Vancouver 38 Pilot
On paper this looked good. The hull and rig are both well through of and the pilot house looked to give plenty of accommodation. Helen found one on the south coast that the broker described as “a bit green after being left on a mooring”, but we were sure we’d be able to see through the cosmetics.
In the flesh (well the GRP) the Vancouver was a disappointment. The accommodation is split up over lots of levels. There’s an awkward set of steps from the saloon down to the aft cabin and another steep set of steps to the galley and forward cabins. In the saloon the seating on the starboard side was so high that even my legs dangled when I sat on it. The third cabin, under the saloon felt cramped and dark. The companion way steps are squeezed in to an odd space so that I banged my head on the hatch going back on deck.
The broker summed the boat up well, saying that if you unravelled it all you’d have a 50 footer.
We rejected this one largely because we through it would be impractical to live on.
Hans Christian 40
This was a very solidly built boat with a substantial rig, a small well protected cockpit and well finished accommodation. These boats are designed to be long distance cruising boats and I’m sure they’re very capable.
The saloon on the boat we saw was finished in red buttoned leather and brass fittings, giving it the air of a gentleman’s club. What would have been the owner’s cabin was forward of the saloon, with a double bunk set off to one side. We were a little unsure about the length of the bunk, and with access from just one side it would have been inconvenient when we were both in there.
I was ready to forgive the boat it’s little problems but Helen didn’t like it. You don’t just chose a boat on practicalities, you’ve also got to like it and want to go off sailing on it. We couldn’t fall in love with the Hans Christian so for us it was a no.
Another boat with an excellent reputation as a go anywhere cruiser. The 40 was very well built but fell down for us on accommodation. Headroom was too low for me throughout the boat and the owner’s cabin, which was under the cockpit, was quite small. We had a look at a Bowman 42, which was an update to the 40, in the hope that it would have a little more space but it still had the same issues.
Our next stop was Malo, we say a relatively new Malo 42 and an older Malo 39. The 39 suffered from low headroom so we quickly dismissed it. The 42 was more spacious with good headroom throughout and clearly built to a high standard. Unfortunately what would be the owner’s cabin was not much bigger than our old cabin on Ocean Mist.
Aft cockpit boats in the size range that we were looking at are all going to have to compromise on the size of the aft cabins. So we came to the conclusion that we were going to have to look at centre cockpit designs.
Looking for solid second hand boats the Westerly range was going to turn up. We’d had a look at an Oceanranger (38ft) when we were looking for our first boat but found it too cramped. This time around we saw its larger sibling, a 41ft Oceanlord. The particular boat we saw had been heavily used and was looking tired. We found that despite the extra size the boat sill felt cramped, particularly in the walk through to the aft cabin.
Another name that was bound to turn up. All of the Halberg Rassy’s that we could find for sail were newer German Frers designs. We saw a 45ft boat with an impressive triple spreader mast, it was heavily used so needed some tidying up and was probably too big for us. Despite its size access to the aft cabin was awkward, with a moulding at forehead height just inside the door that I know I’d have repeatedly hit my head on.
A newer 38ft boat was very nice, but felt cramped below decks. I think it’s difficult to make the centre cockpit layout work well on smaller boats.
It would have been good to see some Ollie Enderlein designs, but we couldn’t find any for sale at the time that we were looking.
We first looked at an Oyster 435 when we were looking for our first boat. At the time it didn’t fit what we thought our requirements were, and the only one that was in our budget then needed a lot of money spending on her, so we hadn’t considered an Oyster second time around. We’d booked to see various boats at Berthon’s and the broker suggested we should also have a look at an Oyster 435 he had, we went aboard largely to keep him happy, but after looking around we found ourselves standing on the pontoon seriously thinking about her.
Oyster have their own brokerage at Ipswich and they had several 435s on their books so we decided to have a look at a few more. We quickly dismissed the coachroof version due to a lack of headroom in the saloon, but deck saloon models did seem to fit the bill.
We saw a cutter with a scheel keel in Brighton. The shallow draft was attractive and the boat was in good condition, though probably over-priced. This boat had the navigation station in the deck saloon with curved seating opposite. Access to the aft cabin was through the galley with the aft heads being off the aft cabin. This gave no easy access to a heads when under way, and possibly limited sea berths, but the boat was in good condition and we could live with those minor issues. We decided that she could be worth making an offer on and so we arranged a second viewing.
In the mean time we went for another look at the first 435 that we’d seen at Berthon’s. This was a ketch with the standard keel. She was priced more realistically and looked to be in good condition. She had what we thought was a better layout in the saloon, with strait seating on both sides being available as sea berths and direct access to the aft heads from the nav station area. We talked things through on the drive home and put an offer in, which after some negotiation was accepted.
Final Boat Specification
We started out on our boat buying process with a clear idea of the specification, and ended up buying a boat that didn’t match our initial spec! Going around looking at boats helped us to clarify our thoughts and brought up things that we hadn’t originally through of.
Ocean Going: This was an important requirement that didn’t change. Oyster 435’s have completed plenty of ocean passages.
Accommodation: As we looked at different boats we realised that this was one of our most important requirements. We discounted some very good boats because the accommodation didn’t work for us. With her deck saloon Speedwell of Rhu has a comfortable and airy saloon. The aft cabin has plenty of space and a centre line double bunk.
Heads: We ended up with a boat with two heads, really because that’s what builders tend to fit once boats get to 40ft and above. The space taken by the forward heads would be better as storage for our use, but we’re not going to go to the extend of ripping it out so we’ll compromise on that.
Size: Despite wanting a smaller boat we ended up with a bigger one. This comes down to our requirements for accommodation, it’s just not possible to fit the accommodation that we wanted into a smaller hull.
Shallow draught: Speedwell of Rhu has almost exactly the same draught as Ocean Mist had. Most cruising boats of this size have a draught of around 2m so we didn’t have many options for less. The Bowmans and one of the Oysters that we saw had sheel keels so they did have less draught but they didn’t match our other requirements so we had to compromise on this.