My lady and I are planning to do likewise (still a few years off as my daughter has to qualify before we can leave) and spent quite a long time looking for a suitable boat. In particular we looked at Nicholson 32, 35, 38, early Rassey's, Moodys, and others in addition to which my job gives me the chance to climb over a lot other boats as part of my working day.
Whilst looking at Nich's we came across a Warrior 35, centre cockpit, long keel cruising yacht designed by Angus Primrose and built by Trident Marine in Portchester, Hants and still in business. We both felt that this was the best combination of cabin and cockpit space and a design that looked very seaworthy, all well within our budget of £40K.
Having decided on the boat, we spent another 8 months looking for one and we finally bought in May this year. We sailed down to Douarnenez as a first passage to see just how comfortable a long keeler is and we were delighted. If we had not arranged to meet friends there we would have carried on down to Spain. We are planning a three week trip to La Coruna in August next year, perhaps as part of the Biscay Triangle Rally which goes Torquay, La Coruna, La Trinite, Torquay or just with another couple of boats going Hamble - La Coruna and back, this latter having the advantage of a 600 mile trip which we need as part of the requirement for Yachtmaster Ocean. To some extent this trip will be the acid test as to whether or not we like sailing long distances and a couple of Biscay crossings is a good thing to have under ones belt. So far the boat can do no wrong and we have only had our beliefs confirmed that this was the right boat for us.
We have got as far as deciding which places we both want to see and this has gone some way toward formulating an itinerary:- Lofoten Islands, Swedish and Finnish archipelago, Western Isles, Galway and Kerry, the Med., the Caribbean, Maine, Brasse D'Or lakes and Button Islands, West Canadian coast and Alaska and the Marianas.
By the time we set sail we will have fitted the following gear to the boat. Wind steering and power generation by Windhunter. Sea water cooled refrigerator and diesel fired warm air heating with outlets into sleeping quarters, heads and saloon. Over boom cover with rain catcher, bimini, full length cover. Twistle yard rig.
If you have access to the South Coast (UK) you should call Richard Seymour at Kings Yacht Agency, Shamrock Quay, Southampton who knows more about Nich's and cruising boats in general that most other people. He always has a good selection of boats on his books. If you would like to see our boat, just drop me line; she'll be in commission until January.
Best of luck