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Re: Offshore bluewater cruising - what sailboat would be best?
I am very new here and joined the forum just to comment on this thread. It is very interesting to read the opinions and discussion on the suitability of a particular cruiser for open ocean sailing. It is also interesting to read how some people may go to _____ and see hardly any boats below 12m in length so they say they would not sail in any of these smaller boats even rafted together.
Open ocean passages are 75% the skipper and only 25% the boat. These days we have more people with money to buy large boats than we have experienced sailors. And they think the bigger boat makes them a bigger sailor.
To select a suitable vessel for long passages on the open ocean where you may be many days from land, please make sure it can safely carry provisions for your crew. I say safely because if you overload your boat or have to stow too many provisions (such as extra fuel in cans) on deck it will adversely affect how your boat will handle in heavy seas. Evaluating a boat for 10 or more days at sea involves firstly making a list of everything you have to carry onboard. If the boat cannot carry all your provisions, with most of the weight below or close to the waterline (especially fresh water and diesel fuel, which are the heaviest of your provisions), then it will not work. You can get away with loading a boat top heavy for coastal sailing or areas like the eastern Caribbean where you can run for shelter within a few hours to wait out some weather. In the open ocean you can't.
Fatigue is the number one problem with extended ocean voyages. Especially in weather. Always remember that and be prepared for it. If you are single-handing your boat be prepared to spend 40-50 hours at the helm sometimes because the autopilot will not safely handle the boat during a long blow - especially if you are sailing downwind with following seas.
Make sure your boat is seaworthy. If your boat is dismasted because of failed rigging, or a sail shreds because it was neglected, or a seacock suddenly springs a leak, or you lose power, or you lose the rudder, or many other critical things - your passage will become more of an adventure than you had planned on. If you are sailing solo rig your boat with jacklines before you leave port and never go out on deck, even in pleasant sailing weather, without your harness clipped to them. If you make one slip and fall overboard you will enjoy total solitude while you watch your boat sail over the horizon. It will not come back and pick you up, and you will be wondering how well your PLB works after about the first 5 or 6 hours.
If you are a sailing couple there will come a time when your partner is not able to crew simultaneous with being caught in a gale. Select a boat that either of you can handle competently. The larger the vessel, the harder the boat is to handle. Do not rely on roller furled main'sl thinking it will make the boat easier to single hand, so you can sail a bigger boat. These are all the rage now. But if you are not able to drop the halyard and puddle the main on the deck in an emergency in the middle of the night, it does not belong out there. I have seen too many times when we have retired to our stateroom on peaceful seas with a 10-12 kt breeze only to be woken up at 0200 with a boat that is grossly over-canvassed in 30-40 kt wind that was not predicted. If you have to climb the mast to pull a jam out of your main'sl, or cut the clew and watch your main be destroyed, it will make your passage much more of an adventure than you probably wanted.
Make sure you have the parts onboard to replace or repair any part of the standing rigging on your boat and carry spare sails. I have seen many yachts over the years that shredded a sail in a storm, did not have a spare, and did not carry enough fuel to make port. I have seen several that were motoring because of failed rigging and no way to repair or replace it. I have seen about a dozen over the years that have been dismasted at sea.
Any of the nice boats in the list in the poll for this thread are capable of making an ocean crossing, competently crewed. Some, like the Cal 20, will have to have skipper only because the boat is not capable of carrying provisions for 10 or more days at sea for two persons.
It is actually much less work and more pleasant making ocean passages than sailing coastal areas. But the difference is that if you are single-handing your boat the hours and fatigue will eventually wear you down. While single-handed ocean crossings can and have been done, it is much more enjoyable if you have a partner. And having a partner means being able to carry provisions for two, which means a bigger boat. If you are unsure, stock your boat, take your partner and try taking a 10-12 day cruise along a coastal area without coming into port and see how it works out. But above all, always remember that it is not the boat that makes the sailor.