Having spent nearly every weekend for the past four years aboard the Seahorse, I had a very clear idea of what I did and did not want on a new boat. Here was my wish list, with my edits. :)
1. Higher ceilings: I hit my head in the Seahorse -- often. This oddly has no effect on me at 5 foot 3 and a half.
2. No sink under the cockpit overhang: The overhang in the Seahorse makes doing dishes a major pain. See 1. Yes, this combined with the non pressurized water (this means lots of pumping with your foot) leads to doing dishes outside with a hose as a preferred option.
3. A spacious cockpit with no traveler running through it and a taller boom: We're not racing. Having the traveler cutting the cockpit in half was a pain. I also couldn't stand up in the Seahorse cockpit because of the low boom. I also apply this same principle to tillers. Some people say you can't feel the boat with a wheel, but it's awkward when you're constantly poking people or asking them to move when you're trying to steer. You really want to pay attention to where people will sit in your cockpit. Chances are good that's where guests will be spending most their time. It makes a difference when you have to invite two less people on every trip.
4. Shallow draft: The Seahorse only drafted 4'11" and still plowed the mud getting in and out of our marina. It took me a long time to realize the importance of this. We have very low tides in the winter. A shallow keel will give us more months of use out of your boat.
5. A closet: There was not a good place to hang a suit or keep a dress shirt clean in the Seahorse. It made staying aboard on a work night next to impossible. Along with closet I'd like to add drawers. I'm always getting cold at night and it will be amazing to keep some extra socks and sweaters aboard. I'm thinking dry bags for these drawers, but we will see how damp my clothes feel next week.
6. A U-shaped couch on one side of the cabin with a stationary table: I like this design instead of couches down both sides with a fold-down table. I'm not sure it's more space efficient, but sitting around the U, I feel out of the way. Our fold-down table also blocks access to the head. Hard to host a dinner party if you can't use the head. The table blocking the middle of the room was very awkward, and impossible to entertain, but I honestly haven't seen a table on a sailboat that I really liked.
7. A shower: Once again, this was purely a luxury I wanted if I stayed aboard on work nights. The idea of hiking 200 yards to share two sinks and two showers with all the liveaboards in the marina while trying to beat Houston traffic was not my idea of fun first thing in the morning. Then there's the days when it's cold or raining or both -- forget that. Shower wasn't a deal breaker for me either, but I thought it would be nice after a swim when we're anchored out. Going all night with salt water on you isn't fun. I'm looking forward to hooking up a sort of shower in the cockpit for showering and cleaning things as well.
8. A refrigerator: Buying and hauling ice back and forth at least once every weekend was a pain. You also couldn't leave drinks on the boat during the week because the beer would get crazy skunky in Houston heat. That made for a lot of hauling of coolers and drinks back and forth to Spring. I love the idea of a fridge because it can be run on solar power pretty easily. This would be really necessary for storing food if we were going to go any kind of distance. Besides nothing like drinking warm drinks when you're sailing in the hot sun.
9. Air-conditioning: This is lower on the list because it's totally uneccessary while sailing but mandatory during the summer at the dock. We used a Cruis-Air CarryOn and then just a regular window unit on the Seahorse. Lugging the unit to the bow, then back inside, then back to the bow, then back inside every time we visited the boat or left the dock got really old. Unfortunately our boat is just about the only one at its length without marine ac, but thanks to reverse global warming that won't be a problem for a while this year.
10. Sun bathing space: One thing I really wanted was a bow that was big enough for girls to lay out on if they wanted to. Sitting in the cockpit is fine, but when you're in the sun you want to be in a position where you won't get any awkward tan lines. Wait, what? I thought deck space was for life rafts, jerry cans and solar panels.
11. Separate kitchen: Having the kitchen on a slightly different level, and not one big open room, really makes the boat feel bigger. When I'm serving my guests it's nice to feel the difference between a prep area and a serving area. You get that sort of "ta-da" moment. Like, "ta-da" you did the dishes?
12. Guest beds: Since our boat is at least 45 minutes from the city, it was important to me to have at least enough room for a couple guests. After staying late and possibly drinking, the last thing I want is for my friends to drive 45 minutes home. OR they could just buy the Seahorse and stay in their own beds ...
There were other things I wanted like self-tailing winches and an autopilot, but those could be added to any boat. My list of wants had to do with structural issues that required a bigger boat or a specific design implementation. Had I wanted to spend the money I MIGHT have been able to convert the ice box on the Seahorse into a refrigerator, but space under the galley was extremely tight, and I just couldn't justify the expense for the size of the boat.
Overall I think we got all the most important things. We could have continued to wait and save and then buy a boat with all of our dream amenities, but it would have been another year. As is, we get to enjoy our boat while we invest at our own pace into customizing her just how we want.