Ultimate Cruising Boat Evaluation Checklist 2021 | Become A Cruiser

Ultimate Cruising Boat Evaluation Checklist 2021

The Ultimate Cruising Boat Evaluation Checklist
  • Save

Important Considerations When Deciding On a Cruising Boat

Don’t make cruiser boat buying mistake number one! Getting told what style of boat or boat model(s) you need to buy and then work backward to see which boats that are currently for sale meet your needs. Start your cruising boat evaluation with your eyes wide open. Find out what you need then choose the boat.

Don’t allow yourself to be bullied by peer pressure into being told bluntly that you need to purchase a Pacific Seacraft, Helberg Rassy, Amel, etc. Not that they’re not great boats. They may just not be the boat for you. There are quite literally hundreds of boat models suitable for cruising on. Make sure you buy the boat that will work for you and your future cruising style.

Cruising Boat Evaluation Checklist

Here are some important things to look for in a cruising boat. This cruising boat evaluation checklist is not designed to be a survey checklist. More a further out planning tool to help you decide what is important to you in a cruising boat.

Score each Item in our boat evaluation checklist and then decide which factors are most important to you. This will help you narrow down a boat style. Next, research which boat manufacturers and models check most of your boxes. You may still have to compromise a little to find the perfect boat to go cruising on.

When it comes time to buy a cruising boat, run through the cruising boat buying checklist to make sure that the boat meets your needs. It should hopefully also draw your eye towards any defects worth discussing before submitting an offer to buy the boat.

If you find this cruising boat evaluation checklist useful, please share it with your fellow future cruisers. If I’ve missed anything else to consider please add them to the comments section.

General Style and Type of Boat

Classic or Modern StyleHave you been told by other sailors that modern production boats should be excluded from your shortlist as they are not ‘Blue Water Boats’ Then please take a look at our article on What is a ‘Blue Water Boat’?
Well Known Production Boat or Custom
Bear in mind that a custom boat may mean custom problems. Large run production boats have active owners groups that prove invaluable when sourcing parts and troubleshooting problems.
Construction Material– GRP – Glass Reinforced Plastic (fiberglass).
– Wood.
– Steel.
– Aluminum.
– Ferrocement – best avoided.
Age– How many years is too old for you?
– Remember for boats older than 20 years. Especially for wooden and steel boats, insurance companies will start looking for more frequent out of the water surveys. This will add to your cruising budget as you can expect to pay anywhere between $600 and $1500 for a survey on a 45ft boat plus the costs of a haul. On a newer GRP boat expect to be asked for an out of the water survey every 5+ years after the 10th year. An older wooden or steel boat may require a survey every second year.
Monohull, Catamaran, or other multihull
(3-5 hulls)
If you complete this Boat Evaluation Checklist and find that there are too many conflicting decisions or if you cannot find a model that fits your wish list. You may need to revisit your monohull vs catamaran decision.
Draft – Deep or ShallowLook beyond the traditional advice of simply checking which anchorages the boat will be able to navigate to. When the weather picks up a shallow draft allows you to move into more protected areas of anchorages.
Cruising Speed– 200+ miles a day (8.33kts average cruising speed).
– 175 – 199 miles a day (7.3 -8.33kts).
– 150 – 175 miles a day (6.25-7.3kts).
– 120 – 149 miles a day (5 – 6.25kts).
– 100 – 119 Miles a day (4.2 -5kts).

The ability to achieve approximately 150nm miles + in a day is an important consideration for any boat that will be used on ocean crossings. Not only does the increased speed result in faster passage times. Increased speed is an important safety tool to be able to navigate away from severe weather.
Boat Weight– Heavy traditional boat.
– Modern medium weight boat.
– Modern lightweight boat.
– Ultralightweight, all carbon fiber boat.
Transom Style– Open or Closed?
– How important is the ease of access? Look at boarding step size and location. Also, think about sloping transoms and the likelihood of injury when climbing on and off the dinghy in rough anchorages.
– Will you be mounting a wind vane or Hydro Vane? Can the transom accommodate them?
– Will, you still be able to use the transom to access the boat once wind vanes, etc. are fitted.
– Canoe Stern boats. This is a very heated subject and can be very subjective. Do careful research to see if this style of boat works for you. Do the disadvantages outweigh the advantages? One thing is certain Canoe Stern boats will have a smaller cockpit area.
Flat Uncluttered Decks? Or wide decks?Think about how you will move around the decks of your future boat. What is important to you as far as deck layout.
Deck Covering and Coatings– Can you live with teak deck upkeep?
– Think how hot imitation teak gets. Remember his heat is conducted through the decks and warms the cabins below.
– Is a painted deck acceptable?
Exposed Helm SeatsConsider that there may be times you have to sit in the elements (rain, wind, and/ or sun) for hours.
Will You Be Installing Solar– How much real estate is available? Does it match your power generation plans?
– Don’t be talked into Flexible solar on top of the bimini by someone who specializes in high latitude sailing, without carefully looking at the overall costs and life span. What lasts in the Pacific North West does not last in the Mexican sun.
Dinghy Davits– Do you need davits?
– How does the lifting system work? Is it manageable?
– Can the dinghy style, size, and weight be accommodated on the davits?
Rig HeightIs this a factor? Is cruising the ICW so important that you need to make this the largest boat buying factor? Or could you skip it and sail outside of the ICW?
The Ultimate Cruising Boat Evaluation Checklist
  • Save

Hi, I’m Nic! Our Family of four have been out cruising since 2016. We have sailed about 15,000nm, almost halfway around the world. We sold everything, took the leap of faith, and bought a 10-year-old Lagoon 380 ex-charter catamaran. We’ve fixed every system on the boat, often more than once. Cruising has been such a wonderful, positive experience for our family that I want to share my tips to help you Become a Cruiser.

Join In or Start the Discussion.

I love reading your comments and will be sure answer any questions or comments you leave.

To keep the spammers out. You may comment with only your name and email (your email will not be shown, shared, or added to my mailing list).

2 thoughts on “Ultimate Cruising Boat Evaluation Checklist 2021”

  1. Thanks for the articles. I read them all today lol. I’ll happily use the affiliate links when it’s time to get some goodies like lights and a soda stream.

    For the boat checklist article, how important are accessories like current electronics, AIS, Radar, Epirb, water makers etc? Also, what are the min set of sails and condition that we should be looking for? Are there any hints about sail condition tests or rules of thumb. I’m just guessing those might be high ticket items when they need to be replaced. (Planning to cruise: US East Coast, Bahamas, and further)

    Thanks again. Great writing too!

    One more general question. My son is currently 19 and my daughter is 17. Are there kids that age out there? Seems like most are younger but I’m excited to see the world with them.

    1. Hi Rob,

      Thanks for the positive feedback.

      From what you mentioned you are looking to cruise the East Coast of the US and then into the Bahamas and on.

      Electronics – For that route there is no real need to rush out to buy a new suit of electronics, until you know what you need/ want to spend money on. If the boat you’re buying has anything +/- 10 years old you should be fine. Provided that you have a working autopilot you will be golden. If you want to temporarily expand what you have. You can put your tablet in an waterproof holder and even a mount and run the Navionics app for navigation. You will see pretty much what a good chart plotter of the same size will show you. The only snag is it won’t be integrated with the rest of the system.

      The good news is that when and if you choose to upgrade the electronics chart plotters really have come down in price and are not much more than a tablet in price these days. Try do the instal yourself as electronic installers can easily turn installing a $1200 plotter into a $5-10K job given enough Freetown or showing how new to your boat you will be.

      AIS – In my opinion invaluable for the price. For around $500 you can get a unit that will integrate into any modern system and give you the peace of mind you need.

      Radar – We survived two years and about 8,000nm without one. We have friends who have gone all the way to Australia without one. Nice to have but not essential and learning how to read it is a new skill.

      EPIRB – I’d go with important. It brings lots of peace of mind knowing a rescuer is going to happen if things go bad. Coastal maybe you could get away without it if you had some other good way of calling for help above a cell phone. Say and in reach or something like that. But honestly at the rice of the in reach you may swell buy the real deal.We have a Jersey (Channel Islands) flagged boat and don’t require one by law. I had heard and am not certain if an EPIRB is a requirement for US flagged vessels.

      Watermakers – You can get water everywhere you are going. Don’t sweat it! Conserve water and you will be fine. We love our water maker and it’s a real luxury but we did go two years without one and we cruised the remote San Blas Islands near Panama relying exclusively on catching rainwater!

      You might have noticed that I’m a big proponent of trying things out before you go spend a fortune on things you don’t need or that may be right for you. Or that maybe on things where your money would be better off spent elsewhere. I’m often amazed at people who will spend $2-3000 on a high end solar system (which is basically useless on a sailboat) then changing out their rigging that is way past due for replacement.

      Sails – If they are looking tatty they probably need to be replaced. Their shape will be all messed up before they actually fall apart. I’d walk into a sail loft near where you want to buy the boat and ask. Chances are high they sold/ maintain the sails and know the deal.

      Our son is 18. Caribbean it is the top end of the scale but shouldn’t be a problem at all. Here in the Pacific older kids are very scarce. Right now ‘playing’ ,not sure if that’s still the right word he and another 18 year old boy, are messing about on deck. But is’s been months since he had a kid within a year or two of his age. But not a worry for the Caribbean.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Become a Cruiser Scroll to Top
Share via
Copy link