This has been my dream and focus of my imagination for a few years now and I've given it a lot of thought.
If things had gone according to plan I would by now be crossing over to the Canaries just now. Illness in the family has postponed things for a while so I'm still here plotting. A few thoughts and ideas for what there worth.
BOATS - Steel is the thing if you want to go to the high latitudes, maybe aluminium but I worry enough about corrosion to have an aluminium boat. I also want a bunk I can climb into without having to clamber over my pillows. A separate cabin is also a must as you will get on each others wick sooner or later and getting some space between yourselves is a good cure. (for me anyway) This means a centre cockpit boat in all probability. I want 36 to 40 foot for space, storage, berthing costs, ease of handling, maintainability and reasonable easy handling of anchors, sails etc. I had bought myself a First 38 which was cheap, comfortable, sailed well and looked good but have become convinced of the superiority of steel after a near miss with the bottom. I ran aground once before at six knots in my last boat and did £6500 worth of damage which needed a boatyard and specialist equipment to fix. I would have sunk if I'd had to sail any distance to get to shelter. Not ideal for sailing off the beaten track. I'm looking for a good steel boat just now. Want to buy a First 38?
IT MUST NOT LEAK!! - Deck leaks are a pain, after a few days everything is damp including the crews spirits. Things go mouldy, you get cold....
Get a good diesel stove like a Dickinson or Reflex that pumps out heat and uses no electrical power. Eberspachers and the like are OK for marina sailing but break down and cost to fix. As far as I know only the Volvo Ardic is made of stainless steel. Mild steel and electric's are no good on boats...
Simplify everything! - Plumbing, electric's, engine systems should be as simple as possible with as few joints and components as you can get away with. Manual back up for all systems should be installed. I don't tell visitors that I have a pressurised water system as they run off gallons, just like they do at home. I hardly use it anyway, it was in the boat when I bought her and I removed most of it last winter along with the second head. Two bogs and showers in a forty footer is a waste of space, the forward head is slowly being turned into a workshop and store for all the tools I'm acquiring. While I was about it I glassed over four openings in the hull that I didn't need. Simplify!
STEERING - Get a wind-vane, I have a HYDROVANE which is excellent. I like it as it has no lines to the tiller/wheel and can steer the boat in event of a rudder failure. I also gives me hours of fun fiddling with the trim of the boat. They make you sail the boat better as she must be balanced reasonably well before they will work. Electronic pilots are not reliable and you can't fix them yourself unless you have a good knowledge of electronics and lots of test equipment and spares. If you do then you will make a fortune repairing other yotties auto-helms..Have a look at Beth Leonard's story, to see how someone decided what kind of boat they wanted. I would also recommend 'Voyaging on a small income' by Annie Hill
Hope this has given you something to think about, I'm sure
that you have a good idea about what you want to live in and will
have fun finding her. Please let me know how your getting on. I
am trying to decide whether to build a boat that suits as it wont
be easy to find one already built. I can't afford the time or
money to go through all the refit work too many more times! I'll
keep busy over the winter finishing off all the jobs on the list
and probably sell her in the spring-if I can bear to be boat-less
through the summer that is.