Would We Buy The Same Boat Again?

Recently on the Women Who Sail Facebook page, there was a discussion of boats and whether we’d buy the same boat again.  We love our 1985 Passport 37, Winterlude.  But when we think about whether we’d buy the same boat again, we have seriously mixed emotions.   After cruising a few years, we discovered that the boat is capable of going around the world, but the CREW may not be!

When we bought the boat, we wanted to go through the Panama Canal and on to the South Pacific and New Zealand.  We bought a “round the world, bluewater boat”.  Thick heavy fiberglass, a cut-away full keel, plenty of storage, a separate trysail track, we had a spreadsheet with all the things we needed in a bluewater cruising boat.

Winterlude anchored in the Holendes Cayes, San Blas Islands, Panama

Winterlude anchored in the Holendes Cayes, San Blas Islands, Panama

There were lots of things we added that the boat didn’t have – shade in the form of a bimini and other canvas, a Monitor windvane, a watermaker, increased battery capacity, solar & wind, the list goes on & on.   And because the boat is small, access to systems is always a contortionist challenge, but I’ve seen much larger boats where access was equally challenging.

We’ve owned Winterlude since 2001 and cruised more than 15,000 miles, which admittedly isn’t a lot, but it’s a lot for us … from Annapolis, MD to Cartagena, Colombia and back to SW Florida for now via the Western Caribbean.


Our biggest discovery came as a shock to us … we don’t particularly care for long passages.  Our longest passage was a week and over the course of that week, we saw just about every weather but the predicted forecast.  We’ve done that length of passage several times and it was never easy.

We spent two years leaving our boat in Shelter Bay Marina … right next to the Panama Canal.  Boats stage regularly from there to go through the canal, and we’d always watch and chat with the excited cruisers as they prepared for the passage.  But somehow we just never wanted to actually go.  So we didn’t.  Without thinking about it, when we got an invitation to attend a cruisers friend’s birthday party in Roatan (we were in Panama), we loosed the dock lines and off we went.  A few weeks later, we were in Roatan – we had a minor delay when Hurricane Ida formed right behind us and we had to hole up in Providencia for longer than anticipated first hoping the hurricane didn’t decide to make a right hook and decimate our home, then waiting for weather to sail north around Honduras and then west to Roatan.

So, back to would we buy the boat again.  We love the sturdy homey feel of our boat.  It has a bit too much draft for cruising in the areas we are now – especially the Bahamas.   It also is a bit too heavy for it’s 30 horsepower putt putt diesel making maneuvering tricky any time there’s any wind or seas, especially near docks and other boats.

The boat is comfortable, takes care of us, is attractive, everything we want in a sailboat … except …WLUnderSail

It simply cannot motorsail to windward – the best we can do is just under 5 knots if there’s any wind or seas …  10 knots on the nose forces us to reconsider.    I’ll never forget the time we were buddy boating with two other boats.  We’d been hiding behind the inner reef in Belize waiting for a chance to jump out and sail to Lighthouse Reef Atoll, a mere 25 miles, but those 25 miles were to windward with the trade winds blowing.  The two other boats left with an easterly breeze of about 15 knots.  We were left behind because the 25 mile sail out there would have had us trying to negotiate a reef pass after dark, never a good idea.  🙁   We simply couldn’t motorsail fast enough to keep up.

It’s amazing that an extra knot or knot and a half can make that much difference in the ability to get somewhere, but it’s consistently been the difference between us choosing to go and choosing to stay.

The Rio Chagres by the Panama Canal

The Rio Chagres by the Panama Canal

So if we were to think about another boat – which is unlikely – lots of things on our original list would remain, but we would consider giving up the full keel, a slightly shallower draft and having a more powerful diesel to allow us access to more cruising.WLSails

We’re lucky to have such a snug wonderful home afloat – dry, safe, comfortable – we just need to figure out where we’re cruising next since our original plan has been altered!  But hey, cruisers are nothing if not flexible!

What about you?  What would you recommend for those considering buying their first cruising boat?  Please leave a comment and share!


  1. Compromises. All boats are compromises. Ours is a Wauquiez Centurion 42 1991 vintage. We love her. Aft cabin sucks. There. I said it. We hate the aft cabin. Small berth.
    Great sailing boat and sturdy as hell. She has a three cabin layout which is what we wanted. Just never thought that we would dislike the aft cabin as much as we do. My wife is not allowed on any boat that might have a better aft cabin as I refuse to give up the sailing performance.
    Our boat would suck in the Caribbean though. 8 foot draft.

  2. I have often wondered about this aspect. I see a lot of people who buy blue water cruisers that require significant sacrifices on comfort, IMO, and then only use the boat for coastal cruising. A boat like a Passport is an unbelievable sailing vessel but things like walk around beds with an innerspring mattress and walkthrough transoms really add to comfort.

    And when you add things like the ability to motor sail affectively, I wonder if your style of cruising would be more comfortably accomplished on something like a Catalina 380 or a Benny. The wide flat transoms of those boats really add to the ability to motor sail. They generally come with slightly oversized engines. They certainly don’t point or sail as well as a passport but, again IMO, they do it good enough for the type of cruising you talk about. Also, they cost about the same for a much newer model. On Yacht World, 1985 Passport 37s go for around $90K while a late 90s Catalina 380 is in that same ballpark.

    I count us lucky that we decided that we didn’t want to do blue water cruising before we purchased Smitty, 2001 Catalina 310. My Bride is not a big fan of weeks or months on the boat without going to land. Plus we travel with a dog that I don’t think will ever learn to go on the boat. We have become very attached to our boat and moving on from her because she wasn’t right for our type of cruising would kind of suck.

    But if we were going to try and sail across oceans I would really have to think about what boat I would want for that trip.

    Fair winds,


  3. Here’s an idea for ya, look up the boat’s PHRF rating. I know it’s the Performance Handicap Racing Formula that local race clubs use, but it will give you the speed at which it sails. The rating goes from around 135 for a Pearson Flyer 30′, to 178/180 for a J24 or my boat, a Hunter 37 weighting 22k, to 350 for a Morgan Out Island 41. Lower rated boats can move against a current and wind more easily. The second thing is I would look at your prop. After doing exhaustive research, I have to agree with the practical sailors analysis that the flex-o-fold might be the best. But, here’s something to think about. A lot of boats our size use a two bladed prop, which will out perform a three bladed prop (unless you go way bigger and more pitch). The other thing that several cruisers do which is a no-no, is strap those large boards and several jerry cans to the life lines. That windage really makes a difference.
    But, yea, I would buy my boat again, this time I would strip it down and start over instead of trying to rebuild stuff as I had the time and money. But, I love not having to shower with the head when we use the inside shower. I think it’s just right for me/us because it’s made for the Bahamas, not the ABC islands or the open ocean, even thought many have sailed her out there. Its definitely a compromise. Someone much smarter than I, told me when i started to look for a cruising boat, to first write down all the possible combinations of options that are possible in a boat, then learn the pros and cons of each, then mark off the amenities that you don’t want or need, then combine that with the options will need for where you’re going to go sailing. If you are going sailing everywhere, then I would say save your money for a couple of charter boats. But, after that exercise, I started shopping for a boat that met those criteria, and my budget, and after 3 years, I ended up with my 1984 Hunter 37 Cutter. I’d definitely like to hear what other’s have to say about this topic.
    s/v Renasci

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