Dunno if 36' is too small for your needs but the 90's era C&C 34+ (aka 34/36 aka 36XL) can easily be had for your budget with $$ left over for refit or upgrades. Wing keel version draws 5'. PHRF right around 100, nice aft cabin that my wife loves, overall great interior, easy to singlehand. I have a wing keel 34+ and absolutely love it.
The C&C 37/40+ from the same era was also made with a 6' wing keel if you want 40'.
Lots of folks on the lake use VC, but they have to redo the bottom every spring cause we have to pull the boats over winter.
The boat goes into the water on April 1st and is in the lake till about September when they lower the reservoir for winter. Then we trailer to the Puget Sound and it's there till about Thanksgiving when we bring it back and it sits on the trailer till April again.
You'e really going to befuddle BC as there is no such paint as VC - There is VC Offshore and VC 17M and they are quite different. What they do have in common is their salt water anti-fouling abilities suck.
VC Offshore is a vinyl paint and needs to be sprayed or sanded to get a smooth finish Sets up very hard and is difficult to remove.
VC 17M is intended for fresh water use, can be rolled on, is very thin, needs no sanding to end up smooth and comes off easily (rub with alcohol to remove IIRC) https://www.jamestow...uct.do?pid=2325
I found this "VC17 wipes off easily with alcohol" claim to be incredibly untrue.
My C&C came from the Great Lakes with VC17 on it that I had to remove when I brought it out to the east coast. I tried the alcohol thing but all I got was a lightly discolored rag. It would have taken forever to completely remove this way.
I ended up sanding it all off, which actually went pretty quickly.
Have Petit hydrocoat on it now, which I am happy with.
I don't think Salus is USCG approved. Not that this necessarily matters to the OP - but just wanted to note this.
There are some good foam PFD's available from Helly Hansen and Baltic. Baltic also makes a hybrid - some foam flotation with inflatable (manual or auto) in addition
Note that most foam PFD sold in the US are not really offshore appropriate and are typically type III or less
If you are in the water offshore you will greatly appreciate a float collar and enough flotation to keep your face out of the piss
I really like the look of that Salus. Christian raise a good point - I really should not have used the term "offshore", should have said "coastal". At this point I'm not really looking for a type I, really just a more robust Type III for normal coastal conditions.
Thanks to all. After discussing further with my wife and a few more knowledgeable hands, we're reorienting towards a mid-90s-to-early-aughts vintage Sabre or Tartan. (Surprisingly, stock of recent used plastic fantastic boats isn't all that thick on the ground here, and I'm not interested in buying one of the late-aughts vintage after the financial crisis.) I still may end up changing course depending on what we find in the used market, but this seems promising for now. I'll be back with questions, I'm sure, and hopefully a boat.
Chris, I'll cast my lot along with the chorus advising a wise purchase like you mentioned above. Your use case is very similar to mine: very limited availability of long blocks of time, but unpredictable sporadic days and nights scattered at random throughout the season. Owning is the answer, it's your boat, go there when you want.
Regarding maintenance: as others have mentioned, if you buy a well-built boat that was well maintained by previous owners, ongoing maintenance really isn't that big of a deal. I agree with the poster who mentioned it as a "zen" thing: I despise house maintenance of any sort, and with cars the only thing I do myself is oil changes (sometimes). But working on your own boat is different. Spiritually more akin to working a motorcycle.
Spring commissioning and fall winterization is the bulk of the work, very little to do during the season when the boat is in the water unless you bought a project boat that needs alot of rehab. If you've got $50k or more for the boat purchase, you don't have to buy a rehab project.
One thing I will say about Sabres and Tartans that you ought to think about though, is all that exterior teak both boats have in abundance. Brightwork is a love it or hate it thing, and I am in the HATE IT camp. My prior boat was a Sabre. I loved that boat but I hated dealing with the teak. Unless you're resigned to either completely ignoring it and letting it go grey, or paying the yard to religiously maintain varnish, there is no good answer to dealing with it, and maintaining it yourself requires you to waste good sailing weather.
This was actually a major consideration when shopping for the boat that came after the Sabre, and is big reason why my current boat is a C&C. The only exterior teak is the cabin-top handrails and the companionway drop boards and trim.