I’ve said it before, there is no such thing as the perfect boat. However, there is such a thing as the perfect boat for you. If you’re still searching for your perfect vessel, these top tips might help you out.

Know What’s Important to You

If you’re planning on long-term cruising, then obviously you want a safe, sound vessel; anything other than that is negotiable. Everyone you talk to will have an opinion as to what makes a great boat, but at the end of the day you’re the ones who have to sail it, pay for it, and live on it. So, take onboard all the advice and then make up your own mind. Every cruiser we know loves their boat, just as every cruiser we know wishes something was different. You can check out what was important to us here.

Give Yourself Plenty of Time

Buying a boat is not like buying a house. Unless you’ve been cruising before, it’s unlikely that you will know exactly what you want right from the start. It’s going to take time to research your options, weigh up the pros and cons, prioritise your wants and needs, and then find something to fit your budget. Your perfect boat may not even be on the market yet.

It’s never too early to start looking, so even if you’re not ready to purchase yet, start doing some homework. The longer you spend looking at options, the clearer you’ll be when you’re ready to press go. We looked for about 18 months before taking the plunge.

Go Onboard Lots of Boats

The internet is a great tool for hunting out options, but nothing beats researching in the flesh. Before you jump in and buy something, get onboard as many different boats as you can – even boats you can’t afford. Attend boat shows, do some short-term charters, go out on friend’s boats, and start noticing what you like and what you don’t. I was adamant I wanted galley-up until going onboard a Seawind with galley-down and lots of head space. That one viewing completely opened up our search when we were looking online.

Give and Take

If you’re going cruising as a couple, you need to consider the wants and needs of both people. This vessel is going to be your home, so you both need to be happy living there.

As I’m not really a sailor, I left all the technical details up to Rob. I could hardly argue about rigging when I didn’t know anything about it. On the other hand, I had the final say about galley placement and a fair bit of input into the overall size. Until we looked at Hapai, every boat we viewed felt too small. As soon as I boarded Hapai, I said: “I could live on this”. I think Rob nearly fell overboard.

Be Prepared to Travel

This is all about basic mathematics and the law of probability. In a nutshell, the more boats you can put in your search field, the more chance you’ll have of finding the right one. Just remember, if you do find one outside of your own country, you’ll need to factor in how you’ll get her home. (Unless she’s in tip-top shape and you’re all ready to go. Then you can start your cruising from wherever she’s based.)

We looked at boats throughout New Zealand, as well as taking a couple of trips to Fiji and Australia. In the end we found Hapai in Whangarei, New Zealand. Duty was all paid and it was a short sail home. Perfect!

Get a Survey

This should really go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. Make sure you get a mechanical, electrical and rigging survey done, and make sure you appoint the surveyor. Depending on where the boat is based, you may want to fly in a reputable surveyor from your own country. It might sound like an unnecessary expense, but not all surveys are created equal. A comprehensive survey can save you lots of money and heartache in the long run.

Stick to Your Budget

There is a boat for every budget, but you do have to be patient and give yourself plenty of time to find the right vessel. Hapai had been on the market for two years before we made an offer of just over half the original asking price. It was a fair price, and the previous owners were ready to move on.

When it comes to budget, the number one rule is to only spend what you can afford. Once you’ve bought the boat, there will be plenty of things to spend your money on.

If you’re still in the searching stage, try not to be in a rush. While you might be desperate to get going, finding the right vessel will set you up for a far more enjoyable experience. Take a breath. Good things take time.