How we chose our boat

In England, I was a keen dinghy sailer who raced every Sunday with my local club and spent a few weeks every year chartering yachts or sailing as crew. Moving to Australia presented my wife and me with the opportunity to buy a small yacht of our own.

The downside was that I had to sell my beloved Wayfarer and Supernova dinghies. However, the prospect of owning a yacht more than compensated for that. In the UK, even a small yacht – and a marina pen in which to keep it – was beyond our modest means.

I think I actually said, ‘I’m only moving to Australia if we can buy a yacht.’ I was only half-joking.

After a busy year of settling into a new life in a new country (for me) or resuming life in a country she hadn’t lived in for 15 years (my wife), we were ready to start looking for a boat. Our home is only a couple of blocks from the sea and for me it was simply becoming too painful to look out there with no prospect of getting on the water.

We didn’t have much money to spend (or rather, it felt like we had $$$$$$ but then we looked at what yachts actually cost). We wanted something big enough to sleep on comfortably for a few nights, but small enough for me to sail single-handed without a whole lot of expensive kit.

26 feet or 8 metres seemed about the right size.

We were familiar with Bermudan sloops, so didn’t really consider anything else. We were looking for a masthead rig – didn’t see the need for some bendy fractional setup as we weren’t planning to race.

Maintenance had to be low, so GRP (glass-reinforced plastic, AKA fibreglass) was the go.

We considered trailerable yachts, but they were a lot more expensive for the same size, particularly taking into account that we would also need a more powerful car. Also we wanted a yacht in a marina pen so that we could just hop on board and go sailing for the day.

So all of those considerations narrowed it down a bit.

Then we discovered the Endeavour 26 (not the American Endeavour yacht; that’s a different boat). Exactly what we were looking for. I fell in love with the design as soon as I set eyes on it, and once I set foot on board, that was it. Relatively low freeboard, a pretty boat, a good sailer (designed as a junior offshore racer) and simple, strong construction. Big, relatively open cockpit but with well-designed cockpit coamings offering enough spray protection in a chop. Half a tonne of lead and concrete in a moderate fin keel makes them fairly stiff in a breeze.

Our Endeavour 26 ‘Echo’

A lot of Endeavours were home-finished, so there were some horrible fitouts (lots of plywood and mouldy marine carpet). We happened to find one which was factory finished with a full headlining, nearly new mainsail, roller furling genoa and a Yanmar 1GM diesel in good working order. A lot of boat for not much $$$.

The wisdom of this has become apparent to me in the 17 years we’ve had our boat. So here’s a little advice for anyone considering their first yacht:

Buy a small, sound, well-designed older boat – unless you’re planning to live aboard (and possibly even then). Spending less than your budget will allow you to make the improvements you’ll inevitably want to make after sailing a couple of years. Maxing out your credit on purchasing a shiny new big boat is a bad, bad idea.

Go with your senses when choosing a boat:

  • Easy on the eye (= good design)
  • Easy on the nose (= not rotting or leaking)
  • Easy underfoot (= a good sea boat)
  • Easy on the helm (= well-balanced rudder and rig)

Our little old boat is dwarfed in the yacht club by the big, impressive, newer yachts. I doubt they’re more fun to sail than ours, though.

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