The Westerly Ocean 49

Happy Hippie romping along in the Caribbean ca. 2007.

We found Happy Hippie, a 1995 Westerly Ocean 49, in Guernsey, Channel Islands.  Her owner bought the boat new and leisurely sailed her around the world over a ten year voyage, and then sailed her across the Atlantic again to enjoy another six years in the Caribbean before finally sailing her back to England.  She sat on the hard for a couple of years while the owner fixed her up after her long passages.  Happy Hippie was put on the market when he decided to focus his efforts on sailing his smaller boat around Great Britain.  We greatly admire his accomplishments, his seamanship, and his gentle yet confident attitude.  He has kindly provided a huge wealth of knowledge to us as we refit a number of systems on the boat, and for that we are sincerely thankful!

We were thrilled that Happy Hippie ticked all of the boxes on our wish-lists!  So far, the Westerly 49 has been a great boat for us.  She is fast and fun to sail, easy to manage the sails (all sails furl from the cockpit), feels secure in rough weather, and has plenty of room below for our family of five.  We crossed the Atlantic Ocean from Cape Verde to Barbados, a passage of over 2100 miles, in 14 days.  The first three days saw winds of about 35 knots and we were frequently surfing at 10-12 knots.  The remainder of the passage saw winds between 15-20 knots, and we enjoyed a leisurely passage under polled out headsails.  The boat and systems all performed flawlessly, and we arrived in the Caribbean rested and excited about the adventures and new islands ahead.


(n) 1. the seagull family; 2. a comfortable, floating home for a family of five
Happy Hippie had a grand adventure with her first owner.  However, the name didn’t fit our family – a different generation.  We wanted to continue her adventures, but create our own memories, so we renamed her Laridae.  Laridae is the Latin name that encompasses the family of seagulls.  We felt that this was a good fit for our family of Siegels!Laridae

Westerly Layout

Layout of Westerly Ocean 49.

Westerly 49 Brochure Cover

Original brochure of Westerly Ocean 49.

Irish Sea Latte

Video: Enjoying a latte and the comfort of the enclosed cockpit in a Force 8 gale in the Irish Sea during passage from Falmouth to Belfast in July 2015.

Our Journey to Finding Laridae (aka “Boat Hunt”)

Finding the “perfect” boat for the family can be a fun way to pass cold, dark winters in Halifax, Boston and Aberdeen, but it can also be an exercise in frustration. It is easy to let scope-creep set in and widen the YachtWorld search to allow just a few more feet of length, a few more dollars in the budget, or buying a boat located at some exotic location like Palma or Turkey.

We had some experience in voyaging from our Pacific trip, so we had an idea of what would make another good offshore boat.  However, we did that trip before kids, so we were new to the concept of sailing with kids.  Over time, we focused our wish-list to include as many of these items as possible:

  • Under 15 m
  • Separate beds for all three kids (likely bunk bed layout)
  • Centre cockpit (not mandatory, but maybe provides a more secure feeling with kids?)
  • Have a good balance between quality, strength and good sailing performance
  • Not wood construction (we don’t have that experience or patience!)
  • Fit within our modest budget

We considered setting a requirement for shallow draft (about 5 feet), but this limited the available pool too much. Our experience sailing in the Pacific, Atlantic Canada, and the UK told us that deep draft was acceptable.  The common phrase in those areas is that “the bow hits land before the keel does!” After asking around, we felt that a deeper draft would not be too limiting in the Caribbean.  Therefore, we didn’t set a firm requirement on shoal draft.  This would be a much different decision if we were aiming to keep the boat in the SE area of America, where shallow draft is much more important.

We tried to keep the list short and focused.  Based on these requirements, the budget usually limited the applicable pool of boats to be 15-30 years old.  Old boats don’t scare us – our Tartan 37 was 20 years old when we bought her, and she was a great boat!  The only problem with old boats is that they tend to have many old systems, old rigging, old engines and old teak decks (very common in the UK and Europe).  And while you may get a good, strong, old boat for a deal, you may be spending a lot of money to replace the aging components.  This lead us to a secondary list that we used to evaluate the promise of any used boat that met most of the priorities in the primary wish-list:

  • Newish rigging (inherent value of ~$10k)
  • Newish sails (inherent value of ~$10k)
  • Recently replaced engine (inherent value of ~$20k)
  • Recently replaced teak decks (inherent value of ~$20k)
  • Not outdated electronics and autopilot (inherent value of ~$10k)

With our analytical mindset, we started gathering data points long before we were ready to buy a boat.  We started keeping track of the price and condition and layout of various used boats that met some of the items on our wish-list.  This list developed into the ten page document that was aptly named Boat Hunt.  Whenever we would learn about a boat that might meet our requirements, we’d enter it on the Boat Hunt list.  By keeping track of the many types of boats that might fit our needs and viewing a large number of boats, we gathered more and more data points.  These many data points, gathered over years, allowed us to have confidence that Happy Hippie was the right boat for us, at the right time, in the right place, and for the right price.