Decisions, decisions-on choosing our blue water cruising boat and why it took so long!

fine art photography
Pelican moored in Cherry Cove

I have been dreaming of owning a boat since I was 14. I read the novel Dove and was inspired to pursue an alternative lifestyle ever since. I grew up sailing on my family’s Catalina 27 and spent many, many weekends in Dana Point Harbor paddling one of those blue and yellow rafts between trimaran amas and sailing our Sabot around the island. When I met my husband, I had no idea he too had a dream to own a sailboat and live on the ocean. It was destiny.

In 2000 we set sail on the boat he grew up on. It was the same boat his dad took cruising ten years earlier. It wasn’t our boat but we embraced her like she was and made her our own. We poured our heart into her and outfitted her with mostly new safety equipment. We didn’t have much money saved at the time so we did a lot of work on our own. We departed on May 2, 2000 from Coronado Yacht Club with only his dad waving goodbye. Our first destination was 2800 nm away-the island of Hiva Oa. The passage was rough but we managed well. Our boat, Pelican-a Downeast 38′ cutter, was built solid with hand laid fiberglass. She was heavy yet responded well to the wind vane-an Auto-Helm-but she was very slow and hobby-horsed across the Pacific. We spent most of our time sleeping down below or on watch in the cockpit. Pelican’s cockpit was very uncomfortable and wet and down below she was a very open design with minimal places to hold onto while walking through the cabin so lying down somewhere was the best option underway.

Jim in the cockpit of Pelican on passage from San Diego to Hiva Oa

Ever since Jim and I returned from our voyage we have been discussing our next boat and all the options we dreamed of having. We knew what we liked on Pelican but we also knew what we didn’t like. By the time we got to Hawaii-after 7000 nautical miles under our keel-we thought we would want to “go back out” on a catamaran. There were a few French catamarans cruising in the South Pacific when we were there and they seemed comfy and spacious. They were always tucked into the shallow end of the bays where they stayed nice and protected.

However, as we started researching boats we found that our budget limited us to very old catamarans. We also determined over time that we didn’t actually like the idea of them not righting themselves if flipped by a rogue wave and that they aren’t the best sailing boats. We both think they look and feel sterile and cold inside since most are just formed fiberglass and have very minimal touches of real wood. These are obviously very personal opinions. We are both traditionalists who cherish the look and feel of our surroundings. Our current home has a mid-century modern influence which we enjoy. Since we both admire aesthetics and we are avid sailors, this helped guide us to find our dream boat together.

Indra as she looked when we first saw her

We began looking into monohulls we had seen while we were out cruising French Polynesia: Corbin 39, Valiant 40, Salar 40, Sceptre 41. Most of the cruisers we met were couples and a 35-40′ boat is the perfect size for two. But it became painfully clear that we were “going to need a bigger boat” than we originally thought. The plan was to only have one child but after our first we decided it would be a more rewarding experience at sea if our son had a sibling to play with. So we got pregnant again and added a daughter. Which in turn made our decision to buy a boat even more complicated!!

So, we made up our minds to look at boats at least 43′ in length with the hopes of finding one with two staterooms and a pullman bunk so each child could have a space of their own. Many of the aft cockpit monohulls have split bunks in the aft cabin which makes for a great set up for two kids but we both knew we wanted a center cockpit so that option was out. The time you spend in your bunk is nominal compared to the time you spend on deck and in the cockpit. We knew that the design of the cockpit would play a huge part in our decision. Pelican had a great cockpit for entertaining a bunch of salty cruisers at anchor but on the passages it was very wet and exposed and we had nowhere to wedge ourselves in as the boat rocked from side to side. We were drawn immediately to the deep combing in the cockpit on the Kelly Petersons. The cockpit is large, with bridge decks and deep combing comfortable for 4-6 people and we have read, one of the driest, most comfortable cockpits on any blue water sailboat. We were shocked and dismayed at the number of “cruising boats” that had no bridge deck so the cockpit well would empty directly into the companionway if pooped by a wave!! Why would a designer do that? It just boggled our minds. You can see the bridge decks in front of the companionways in the cockpit of our Kelly Peterson below.

Kelly Peterson 46 cockpit
Indra’s cockpit

So, you can only imagine, considering design details to this degree, how difficult it was for us to make a final decision on our current boat-especially when you add in the construction quality imperatives that were essential to us. We spent almost three years and hundreds of hours of our time on 35 different sailboats and tens of thousands of dollars on travel and surveys looking for Indra. She is truly a diamond in the rough. Most of the boats we looked at between Seattle and San Diego were neglected, disgustingly filthy and literally rotting at the dock. Some of them had been modified by owners who were clearly not sailors and just turned their once seaworthy boats into a dockside condo. By the time many people decide to sell their boat, it has been sitting unused for years and many of the sailboats we looked at had already been on the market for over a year. It was discouraging to say the least.

Most boats we saw were neglected and literally rotting at the dock and the owners still wanted top dollar

We found Indra extremely well cared for by her previous owners and we are so grateful to have found her. They kept all maintenance records, equipment manuals and receipts. Every spare part was listed and plotted on a directory. They say you buy not only the boat but the past owners as well. They were meticulous and had high standards for her. We inherited a boat already matched to our personalities.

I think the way we did our research was very challenging and there is probably a much better way to go about finding a boat but this worked for us in the end. Seeing the boats in person was key. I did a lot of research online as well using, and many professional blogs. We had high expectations going in since both of us grew up sailing and had a deep-rooted idea about what our ‘dream boat’ would be like. You can walk through some of the boats we took the time to look at in my gallery of cruising sailboats. Below is a list of the boats and what we liked and didn’t like about them for our family. Our focus was on build quality first (we researched all the yards that built the boats we looked at), design (we learned about each of the designers background and skills), sailboat data (displacement/LWL, hull speed, motion comfort, capsize ratio, etc) retained value and where they were located. The below boats were all that were available for us to consider on the west coast over the course of 2.5 years.

Baltic 43-beautiful boat but not a skeg hung rudder and has keel bolts-both a deal breaker for us
Bristol 38-beautiful boat but not big enough for us)
Franz Maas 42-beautiful old boat, lots of wood, galley was across from the dinette-not a good fit for us
Gulf Star MK II 43/Gulfstar 44/Gulfstar 50-average build quality but too much compromise for us-who knows what the fiberglass layup would be like-it’s different on each boat due to the yard they were built in, good coastal cruisers, excellent center cockpit layout, average finish below
Hans Christian 38-again beautiful but not big enough AND the only head was in the bow!!!?? A nightmare on a passage. I used to think I wanted a HC but realized once I cruised that was not a great boat for going offshore in with so many other amazing options
Hylas 44-pretty boat, good deck layout but the cockpit combing is very shallow-a deal breaker for us, not keen on the offset berths and dinette does not make into a bunk (deal breaker), great galley, no wood topsides-a big plus
Kelly Peterson 44good storage, great deck layout, love, love the aft stateroom, awesome cockpit but at the expense of a low walk through, below average woodwork quality below, issues with tanks cracking and rudder build quality
Kelly Peterson 46
-roomy, good storage, amazing galley, great deck layout, love the aft stateroom, not keen on the offset berths, awesome cockpit but at the expense of a low walk through, above average woodwork quality below, did not see a Formosa built Peterson but they had the same hull design stolen and reproduced
Lafitte 44-true blue water boat, great sea bunks, funky layout down below, too much teak topsides-most had full teak decks that needed to be removed
Mason 43
-very well built, very expensive but they hold their value well, terrible cockpit-probably the worst laid out boat we saw. Mason 44 is supposed to have improvements
Moody 47-nice deck layout, teak decks were deal breaker, felt unfinished down below, no v-berth-just an over under bunk with head forward, not keen on centerline queen aft bunks
Norseman 447
-we loved the quality of these boats but the teak decks were a deal breaker, out of our price range, not keen on offset aft bunk
Pearson 424-average build quality, only a single bunk in the aft stateroom, Pearson 422 would have been a better fit but cramped for us if we could find one
Pearson 530-average build quality, 3 staterooms, nice deck layout, too open of a layout in saloon, seachest kinda freaked us out
Slocum 43
-traditional double-ender (deal breaker for us, in the end, LOL), cramped and dark below, great build quality, beautiful boats
TaShing Taswell 43-excellent build quality, saloon layout did not suit us-nav station was across from the dinette and we wanted a settee
Tayana 42-S.L.O.W sailboat, HEAVY displacement, dark down below, double ender, cramped cockpit
Waquiez Amphitrite 45-too gangly for cruising-lots of freeboard and windage, more of a motorsailor/pilothouse design, great liveaboard
Whitby 42-boat we saw that was in the poorest condition, supposedly good coastal cruisers, well built but don’t sail well

Coming soon…settling in to INDRA and making her our own!


  1. Kristianne,

    Congratulations on taking your time to find your new “ocean home”. Indra is absolutely beautiful. God Bless your sailing adventures. God keep you safe and dry.


    • Thank you Carrie!! I really appreciate your support. I am pretty sure I am completely misunderstood by most moms at Concordia. 😀 I believe strongly in following your dreams. So happy your dream is starting to find it’s way too. Cheers!

  2. So excited for you! And thanks for the great post. “Visible thinking” always helps others figure out what’s right for them.
    May INDRA bring you many adventurous and happy miles and days of exploration as a family!

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