What I look for in a Sailboat

And "features" I avoid like the plague

Having owned a few sailboats during my lifetime, sailed extensively in the Chesapeake Bay in my younger years, South East Asia 3 years, the Pacific Northwest for 23 years, and crewed on various boats around the world I take notice of things I like, things I don't like, things that work, and things that don't work. 

For those buying a sailboat for the first time, or those upgrading / downsizing...here are lessons I've learned in my 59 years.


1. NO TEAK DECKS. - Teak decks are beautiful when they are maintained. They look like shit when they are not. And the take a lot of maintenance. And...THEY LEAK. It is not a matter of if...it is a matter of when. Leaky teak decks are detected in 2 ways....first, is the Chinese water torture drip directly over your berth, and secondly when your deck feels more like a sponge due to the dry rot. Of course...the drip or the spongy deck is no where near the location of the actual leak. You've been warned.

2. Minimize external teak. Teak accoutrements look very nice on a boat. They also require regular maintenance. I've taken off all teak hand-rails and replaced with stainless steel. Any teak that cannot be removed and replaced with something else is painted with epoxy paint.

3. Non-skid deck. By non-skid I am not referring to those little diamond patterns molded into some sailboat decks, I talking about something that will take the skin off your knees if you crawl across it. I don't have any experience with the newer foam deck products. They seem nice and feel good on bare feet, but the cost, the labor to install, and possible replacement due to UV deterioration and general wear and tear seems it is better suited on a Jeanneau party boat for Caribbean charter than a coastal cruiser or offshore voyager. I personally use Kiwi Grip on my boat decks. Kiwi Grip is easy to apply, easy to repair, lasts a long time, and you can customize the coarseness of the non-skid surface depending on the area (light for cockpit...coarse for foredeck). 

4. Wide side decks. As the angle of heel increases the width of the side deck decreases. 

5.  Reasonably flat foredeck. If you have to go to the foredeck in a 25 knot blow or more...you will want not only wide side decks, but also a nice flat foredeck where you can spread your feet shoulder width apart for better stability. Also, a lot of coach roofs extend past the mast into the foredeck area to increase headroom below. But, on nice sunny days that flat foredeck is a nice spot to kick back and stretch out to relax with comfortable deck chairs. 

6. Chain plates as close to the hull as possible. I have never cared for fractional rigged sailboats. Again, I guess for day sailing or charters they are fine. But, I always felt uneasy if I have to go forward and either duck under the lower shrouds, or swing around between the shrouds and the lifeline. 

7. Tall Stanchions for lifelines. S/V Discovery has 30" tall stanchions. 6" inches doesn't seem like much...but trust me...no body is going to mistakenly fall off my boat.

8. Mast mounted whisker pole/spinnaker pole. Yes, I know...when you put your pole on the mast you get extra windage..blah, blah, blah. Get the damn thing off the deck. Mounting the pole on a track on your mast unclutters the foredeck, and makes it a hell of a lot easier to deploy when needed.