From single-handed bathtubs to gigantic yachts, people are found sailing anything out there. Old or new, trusting your vessel adds significantly to the pleassure so make sure it’s seaworthy.
It´s no fun sitting in the midst of a large ocean, without possibility of return, waves braking and the boat screaming. If the fundament is strong and the boat is well-rigged, you´ll feel a lot better.
Buying a new boat is no guarantee for safety. Last year a boat on the Atlantic lost it´s rudder post and sank. The boat came brand new straight from the manufacturer. Look for a strong hull; jump on the deck to find weak spots, check for osmosis. Get a surveyor to go over the boat with you, telling him about your plans. Fiberglass is light, cheap, but can burn if hit by lightning. Steel is strong but heavy and corroding. Aluminum is lighter but corrodes too. Wood is nice but will require a lot of work. Southern waters will wear more on any material than northern waters. Get the right protection for the hull.
Choose a boat that is livable. It will be your home for a long time, don’t forget the cosmetics, the interior, the floor plan. Make it nice.
Mildew and infestions will make miserable times even more miserable. Replace old fabrics and materials! Interior designers say if the light and floor is good everything will look great. Install soft spots or halogens instead of fluorescent, the give so much nicer light and are more power efficient too.
Check all seacocks. Be very careful in doing so, you are going to thank yourself when the oceans roar. Draw a plan of all locations so you know quickly where to look if water suddenly starts to rush in. That particular situation is incredibly heart pounding and you´ll want to know in a hurry where the holes are. Also, go over the stern gland and replace it if in any doubt, unless you want to experience the thrill of sinking.
Next step is to check for leaks below deck. If you don´t do it, the next heavy rain will do it for you. Water will pour in through all kinds of strange places, mostly at fittings on the deck, soaking everything and making your sleep wet and miserable. Change fittings or fill with water sealant.
Reinforce the rig. Not too tight, not too loose. Enlist people who sail in competitions or rigging professionals. Oceans are ripe with broken masts, leaving people randomly adrift in all kinds of waters.
Unless you are skilled mechanic and electrician have a pro go over the boat with you. Take notes of everything, buy books, surf the net, aim to be able to repair the boat entirely by yourself with time. Get a good tool box, one for the mechanics and another for electrical spares. You won’t believe how everything will fail on you, divided in about 2-3 failures a day, just enough to keep you busy - but just below your "this-is-it" end mark.
Bring manuals for everything, store all in one easy-to find place along with the books and tools and you'll be fine. Brand new boats have a lot of small failures too, there’s no escaping self-sufficiency.
Trust in the boat comes in trusting yourself. It doesn´t take Einstein, just neatly organized manuals, guide-books and tools.