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Old 10-29-2013
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Re: Sailing, safety, & size

“Safety” is an interesting concept. Given the right set of conditions, even a Mac power sailboat falls within the “safe” parameter. “Safety” becomes a sliding scale as the sea state and wind conditions increase. As Paulo said previously, holding all the other variables equal (build quality, principal ratios, etc.), a boat with a longer water line will be in that “safe” zone longer as conditions deteriorate. For example, I used to sail my 22 out of Santa Cruz and a weekend jaunt down to Monterey would sometimes feel like sailing in the Southern Ocean. The same conditions in my 34 is now a “fun romp”.

Yes, we ideally should pick an appropriate weather window to build in as much safety margin as we can, but we don’t always have that perfect crystal ball prediction. A wise general once told me “George, sometimes the battlefield chooses you”. When that happens all you have to rely on is your skills as a sailor and the safety margin built into your boat. By having to engage an engine to power-tack your way in a high sea state you are beginning to dig into that margin. Using our Oregon friend as an example. Safety for him is the ability to claw his way off a lee shore. What would afford more safety margin – a boat with a tighter tacking angle, or a boat with a bigger engine?

Ideally, we would all be like Paulo and be able to afford a million dollar boat equipped with all the latest gizmos and gadgets. But that’s not going to happen. For me, the “size matters” equation tappers off pretty dramatically at around forty feet. Beyond that, things just get too big and heavy to manage on my own. I want to be able to do a headsail change or spinnaker gybe with a pole that I can manage. Certainly, there are plenty of smaller boats that also have that safety margin built into them, but then the issue of crew comfort, tankage, and carrying capacity comes into play. These may be my criteria, but certainly not the only criteria.

Greg, in the great continuum of cruising boats, both your 27 and my 34 are in the same small boat category. As my Mexico sojourn is only a couple of years away, I am interested in learning more from you and Jill (I’m enjoying your website). I’ve got a lot of questions and would like to dialog further.
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George B
2000 Catalina 34 MkII
Alameda, Ca.
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