S1E1: Buying a Catamaran…on a budget!

Don and I had spent the better part of 2017 sailing the northern Sea of Cortez on our Corsair F31 UC trimaran. If you’re not familiar with these sailboats, they are a rocketship on the water! Seriously, it is a very cool trimaran with folding amas that allow it to fit on a trailer and is easily towed and launched from a boat ramp. At 31 ft, it is large enough to have a small galley, cabin and salon, and being the “ultimate cruiser” version, also has a full head with pull out handle style shower and is nicely laid out. And they go fasssssst! This is the boat that Janet learned to sail on. Our Corsair typically would sail faster than wind speed. So, if the wind was blowing at 5 knots, we would easily sail at 7 knots of boat speed on most points of sail. Which brings up pointing…she could point at about 21* off the wind. Give her a beam reach and you could easily fly at 12+ knots of speed. Once when were caught out in the middle of the Sea of Cortez with 25 knots of wind, we were pointing at about 15* just to keep our speed under 15 kn. Whew!

The downside to our beloved Corsair was that we wanted to bring friends along and she simply was not big enough. 3 adults for a week together was pretty tight camping! During our time on the Sea of Cortez it became abundantly clear to us that the style of sailing we were enjoying the most was the cruising style more than day trips, and we began to think we might need a bigger boat. By chance, we met our now-good-friends, Scott and Laurie on their Lagoon 400s2 (visit Sailing Off the Starboard Hull). We were anchored together off Santispac in Bahia Concepcion. Scott and Laurie took us out for a day sail on Muskoka, and well, there were some serious looks passing between Don and I during that day, followed by some serious conversations. And the decision was made…we were buying a catamaran!


In 2016 we had befriended John and Trish Billings on S/V Mariah in Newport Beach, CA, USA.  Mariah is a 40 ft ketch rigged Morgan.  They had invited us to crew for them on the upcoming Baja HaHa Cruisers Rally from San Diego, CA to Cabo San Lucas, BCS, Mexico, which we immediately accepted!  Now, Mariah is a tank of a bluewater cruiser, which was nice, as the first few days of the 2016 HaHa saw 30 kn winds and 16′ seas. And what we learned is that despite growing up on monohulls, Don was now seriously seasick on them!  So, that ruled out monohulls for us. Janet did NOT want to be single handing a boat if Don got sick in heavy weather.


This is where things got crazy. There are SO many to choose from! So many. And we had a budget that we thought was around $225,000. I’ll do a separate post to talk about financing nightmares, but that number came down significantly as we learned about boat financing!

Our first choice was a Seawind. We liked that it had outboard motors, which meant easy to work on, easily accessible, and easy to replace. We also liked the integration of the salon into the cockpit, the dual helms, and the galley down, which gives you a big galley with lots of storage.  There aren’t a ton of them available in the US and when you start looking for them under $200,00, the number goes down even further. We settled on one in Florida and booked our flights. The Seawind in FL obviously needed some sprucing up, but seemed sound so we proceeded to survey, which is where we discovered she had major issues in every system: hull repairs, both engines to replace, new standing rigging, new AC’s, new fridge/freezers, replacing electrical, and completely refinishing all of the wood. Short story, the owner wouldn’t budge on the price and were looking at $30-50,000 in out-of-pocket repair expenses, not counting the money to fly back and forth to Florida for the project. We declined and withdrew our offer.

Back to the drawing board, this time armed with more knowledge on the financing process. Seawinds were not “liked” by the US marine lenders because there are so few comps. Lenders, we were told, like Lagoons and Leopards. Which were out of our budget. So we dropped our budget and went looking for something we could afford with a personal loan.  Well, Janet did. Don was insistently looking at boats we’d have to finance. Eventually we settled on looking at an older PDQ in San Diego, telling ourselves it would be out ‘next’ boat, not our long term boat. Don had also found a 2000 Leopard 38 with the same broker, but it was out of budget. It was beautiful, and everything we could dream of, but Janet was adamant that we were not going to blow the budget.

So, off we went to San Diego.  We may have spent 5 minutes looking at the PDQ. We have nothing against PDQ’s, but she was old, tired, worn, and just didn’t feel right for us at all. We wanted to be logical about a boat purchase, but we just couldn’t feel the love there!  “Just for grins” the broker, Monty Cottrell (The Catamaran Company), offered to let us look at the Leopard, named Bonzai!

She was a beauty! Of course she was, she was out of our budget by about $50,000! Monty, being the great salesman that he is, left us to sit on her and talk things over because it was clearly love at first sight. So we sat, figured out where we could eek out some more boat money, how we could rearrange finances, what we could live without on land and what our maximum offer could be. It was low, but it was the best we could do. We headed back to Monty’s office and to our utter astonishment, the seller countered it only slightly and we had an accepted offer right then and there!

We arranged for the survey, rigging survey, haul out, and sea trial and returned to California a few weeks later.


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