If there’s one thing I know for sure, there’s no such thing as the perfect boat – but there is such a thing as the perfect boat for you. Hapai is the perfect boat for us.

Going into this journey we knew that finding our perfect boat was going to take some time, and with a limited budget, it was also going to take some compromise. The key was getting really clear about what we wanted the boat to do, and for us, that was much more than cruising. We wanted a boat that was big enough to carry volunteer teams and supplies, but small enough to sail on our own when we needed to. Our priority was finding a sound, well-built boat, and everything else came after that.

Catamaran vs Mono-hull

There was never any question that we were looking for a cat. It’s not that we don’t like mono-hulls, it’s just that a catamaran could meet our requirements so much better.

Firstly, a cat has more liveable space than a mono-hull of the same size, and if we were bringing a bunch of volunteers onboard we wanted to have space. Combine that with the indoor-outdoor flow that a catamaran offers, and it really was a no-brainer. Especially as we planned on spending a lot of time in the sunny South Pacific.

Rob also likes the additional safety that a catamaran brings. If we happen to run bow-first into something that punctures a hull, we’re not going to sink! And if one engine fails, we’ve got another one there to back it up. For me, the equation was even simpler. I got less seasick on a cat than a mono-hull. That was a good enough reason for me.

Size

Anyone who says size doesn’t matter, has obviously never been cruising. There are so many things to weigh up and getting the right length is a bit of a balancing act.

Originally, we were looking for nothing over 14m (46ft). Partly that was because of our budget, but mostly it was about the berthing issues that come with a larger boat. In New Zealand, it can be difficult (and expensive) to find a catamaran berth over the 14m mark. Given that we planned to live-aboard for a year at home, we needed to keep that in mind.

We had known about Hapai for over 12 months before we actually checked her out. Due to her size (and price) we had dismissed her as a possibility. We only took a look because we were in the area looking at another vessel, and we thought she would make a useful comparison.

As soon as I walked into the saloon, I fell in love with all the extra space and Rob’s argument about berthing went out the window. As the saying goes – happy wife, happy life. In reality, the extra waterline length is better when at anchor, and makes for a faster, more stable passage.

Galley Up vs Galley Down

When we first started looking I was adamant that I wanted galley-up. Because I got terribly sea-sick, I hated the idea of being down in a dark hull, in a small space, trying to rustle up dinner. I knew that galley-up would encroach on space in the saloon, but I was willing to live with that if it meant I could cook without feeling sick. Rob wasn’t fussed either way, but for me it was non-negotiable. That is, of course, until it wasn’t.

At the 2016 Auckland Boat Show, we stumbled across a Seawind Catamaran that had galley-down, but with open head space to the saloon. It was like having the best of both worlds! Galley-down meant more space in the saloon, and as a bonus, all the dishes and food-prep were out of sight. While you were technically ‘down below’, you still had lots of natural light, so it completely changed the way it felt. Suddenly, galley-up was negotiable, but only if galley-down had open head space to go with it. Hapai’s galley has all of that and more.

Configuration

Given that we would have family coming and going, and we planned on hosting volunteers, we wanted at least three (preferably four) cabins. It was important to us that space wasn’t taken up with unnecessary ensuites, so we wanted a vessel that had just one head in each hull. Sacrificing an ensuite or two would give us a laundry / wet room and a workshop, which we thought would be far more useful for live-aboard and long-term cruising.

Cruising Ready

Finding a vessel that was already set-up for cruising would have been awesome, but we knew that getting a cruise-ready boat within our budget would be difficult. For us, it made more sense to find a sound vessel that was almost, but not quite, there. That way extras could be added as cashflow allowed, and we could set it up exactly as we wanted. We knew that we had one year of working at home before we set sail, so we had a timeline and budget to work with.

Hapai had been a good cruising boat in her time. She had both solar and wind generation fitted, although she could do with a few more panels. Her electronics definitely needed an upgrade, but on the plus side, she had two Lombardini 60’s with just over 1000 hours on each. We could work with that.

Budget

Given our wish-list, we didn’t have a huge budget to work with, but we were determined not to over-commit. While there were a couple of boats that tempted us to stretch the budget, cruising without massive debt was really important to us. Hapai had been on the market for at least two years before we made an offer, so we were in a good place to negotiate.

Finding your perfect boat takes time, but when you find her, you’ll know she’s the one. You can check out our top tips for finding your perfect boat here. Happy hunting!