Our experience looking at sailboats is pretty thin given that we live in North Dakota, hence the goal to just look at a bunch right away. But here is all of the looking we have done so far:
We were in Duluth just after Christmas 2017 and stopped by a couple marinas just to look around. It was VERY cold so we would step out of the car to walk between the rows of boats on stands and then quickly return to warm up. It was interesting to see some of the parts that had just been previously read about--keels, through hulls, rudders, weather vanes, and many more.
When we were at sailing school in Florida we were on their Dufour Gib'Sea 43 for 6 nights. So we became pretty familiar with that model. I was a little disappointed that we didn't do much looking under all the floor panels and just in general checking out the different systems. On the last day two of the school's other boats were at the same dock so we went to take a quick look at those. First a Gib'Sea 51 which was much larger inside than our 43-footer, and then the Island Spirit 37 catamaran. The salon and cockpit on the catamaran were enormous.
For Easter this year we were up in Minot and one of Aaron's relatives said that they knew someone who was selling a sailboat on Lake Sakakawea. They showed us a picture and we decided we would stop by the marina on the way back home to Medora. There was still quite a bit of snow to trudge through but we found the sailboat there. It looked pretty classy and I figured that the full keel meant it would be a solid boat but couldn't see much from the ground. A few days later we got ahold of the owner and found out it was a Tashiba 36 that he brought up to ND after it had been damaged in a hurricane near New Orleans. He described it as "the best boat between Lake Superior and the west coast." Some reading online indicated that maybe he wasn't completely in fantasy land as it was designed by a legendary boat designer and built by a very well-regarded yard in Taiwan. He said we should come check it out once it was in the water, and we did early in the summer. His son was there too and we poked around into all the dark corners--very fascinating for Aaron. We also took it out for a short sale that day. Ultimately it was too expensive and not a great design for us.
In August Aaron was in Duluth with his father and brother on a motorcycle adventure. They stopped by one of the marinas and talked to the salesperson who jumped at the chance to take them out on the docks to see 8 or so boats. This was helpful for Aaron to see many different floor plans and conditions of boats, but also very helpful for his father to see what this crazy boat idea was all about. The salesperson had lived on a sailboat in Key West for two years and talked about his experiences there too. It was too bad that Anna couldn't be there but hopefully we can replicate that great experience at a few of the marinas that we visit.