We decided on a Gulfstar 54 Sailcruiser. Before our trip, I posted a summary of the design here, and you can read a more thorough review here. We actually looked at two Sailcruisers, and while both were very nice, the one we picked, Sea Gem, was simply the best boat we saw in virtually every dimension. Right away, Both Krissy and I knew that it was the boat for us (Krissy even dreamed about Sea Gem shortly after we saw it). And if our decision were not easy enough, each of the other boats we looked at had disqualifying attributes. In brief, the Northwind was too small, the Hans Christian needed too much work, and the Taswell had too tall a mast.
If you remember from my original post about the Sailcruiser, my most significant concern is that they are prone to structural problems that must be constantly monitored and repaired. Well, not Sea Gem. We talked to our surveyor about the issue (Sea Gem was the 12,080th boat he has surveyed), and what happened is that the builder, Gulfstar, would often build the hulls in stages. They would first create the hull in the mold with 1/8" of fiberglass, then remove it from the mold and store it outside until they were ready to finish it, at which point they would add another 2" or so of fiberglass (which is a lot--these are strong boats). The problem is that the new fiberglass would not properly adhere to the original 1/8", and, over time, the outer 1/8" (the new fiberglass was added to the inside of the hull) starts to separate and large "blisters" form that must be fixed. That is a problem we'd rather not deal with. Well, when Sea Gem's owners had her built in 1986, they visited the boatyard every single week to ensure that there were no delays. As a result, the hull was built all at once, and there are therefore no adhesion issues and Sea Gem has never had a blister. In addition, the owners also had Sea Gem rebuilt in areas where other design and construction defects were found. The result is that Sea Gem is a substantially stronger and lower-maintenance boat than any other Sailmaster. Indeed, Sea Gem's owners sailed her around the world from 1999 to 2002. You can read about their many adventures at: http://www.seagem.com/.
Krissy will be writing soon with more details about Sea Gem, and we'll add some good photos as soon as we move aboard. In the meantime, I'll highlight a few of the things that we like best about Sea Gem.
- Constantly maintained to a better-than-new standard. Most used boats require substantial work to get them up to date and in good working order. Sea Gem has been maintained since new according to an exacting schedule. Although we need to pick up where her owners left off, there is no time-consuming (and very expensive) catching up to do. There are a couple projects (e.g. polishing storm windows, replacing windlass switch covers) I'd like to do, but they are of the type that can all be completed in an afternoon.
- Big and comfortable enough for all our anticipated needs. With endless storage space, three comfortable staterooms, and two full bathrooms with full-size showers, there is enough room for us, Moishe, (future) kids, and visiting friends and family. We'll never grow out of Sea Gem.
- Small enough to maneuver and sail everywhere we'd like to go. Most 54' boats would be way too big for us. On a typical 54-footer, the masts are too tall for the bridges around Miami. The sails are too big to be handled by two normal humans. The keels are too deep for the Bahamas. And they are too unwieldy for non-professionals like us to maneuver in docking situations. But not Sea Gem. Like all Sailcruisers, Sea Gem has a shallow, Bahamas-friendly draft; short masts that can clear any fixed bridge in the area; a sail plan divided up amongst multiple, smaller sails, each of which can be easily controlled; and twin engines that make docking much easier.
- Already optimized for liveability. Because Sea Gem's owners have lived aboard her for extended periods of time, they have already made all of the liveability improvements that we'd have otherwise had to figure out and do on our own. For example, substantial storage has been added. The standard refrigerator has been replaced with a bigger, upright one. And, the fixed dining table in the salon that comes with all Sailcruisers has been replaced with a much nicer table that converts into a coffee table (therefore converting the salon into a proper living room). That is something that we would have done on our own, at great expense, and we wouldn't have come up with a design as elegant as the one executed by the current owners.
- Already optimized for seaworthiness. The Sailcruiser was designed primarily as a coastal cruiser. Our aspirations, however, are to someday go much further than the coast. With any other Sailcruiser, that would mean either getting a different boat or spending lots of money modifying the boat for offshore use. Well, the current owners have already made those modifications. The rig has been strengthened. The cockpit drains have been increased in size. The bow was been reinforced. The decks have been strengthened. The mast support has been strengthened. The large salon windows are protected by storm windows. Every cabinet, locker, and door can be locked in both the open and the closed position (imagine free-swinging doors while being tossed around by the waves). And much, much more.