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post #21 of Old 12-22-2004
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Second Thoughts on the Ideal Cruising Boat

Hi Stede,

What you put on this board is quite interesting and judging by the responses it has raised quite a bit of comment too. what is the ideal cruising yacht? After reading all that and considering my years of sailing in a variety of boats mainly coastal but with the odd passage thrown in, I am not sure that I would necessarily agree with the observations quoted.

For what it is worth I want to throw in some food for thought too. Understand that my sailing is primarily in Australia so that has quite a bearing on what I have to say.

The one thing that I have noticed over the years is how the size of boats has increased dramatically. It is like our homes and our cars - everything seems to be getting bigger and so are our expectations. Call it what you like - I see it as the "peter principle" - and charateristic of the rest of our lifestyle that is based on want rather than need. Most of which is artificially created in any event.

I noticed from the posts that not too many people are enamoured of the "Pardy Principle" of minimalist sailing but the truth is if you are a real cruiser and not just a wannabe or a part timer it is apparent that minimalist sailing is really what it is all about. The more stuff you surround yourself with for whatever reason the more complicated life becomes and the corollary of that is that you become more dependant on others too. The very thing you don''t want.

Having the biggest boat with all the best gear can in fact be a hindrance. That''s why most of us drive modest cars and not Ferraris even if we can afford them.

Some of the posts on this site have rightfully acknowledged that bigger and more complicated boats are harder to manouver, restricted to deeper water and certainly more expensive not only to purchase but also to maintain. We all know those things.

There is therefore good reason for a real cruising sailor to have a modest and simple boat. And yes if you are ever at an anchorage you can be sure that the fellow in the little boat is having just as much fun as the fellow in the fifty footer - possibly even more - because the truth is he doesn''t have half the worries that the skipper of the larger boat has.

There is a lot of stuff being peddled on the Net which unfortunately is influencing people to buy bigger and more complicated boats and equipment. Not the least the fact that if you want to have a female partner on board you have plenty of room and all the necessary "mod cons". I can think of a number of analogies but I won''t go there. Hi girls!

I guess I am of the old school and more interested in sailing for its own sake. A good comparison is the difference between those who camp (in tents) as opposed to those who take everything including the kitchen sink in a camper or caravan. It''s a personal thing. Maybe Australians are just content to keep it simpler too.

There are plenty of sites on the Net which extol the virtues of smaller boats so I can avoid going over all that here. Also how important it is to buy the boat that best suits the sailing that you intend to do. The bottom line is that most sailing is coastal and that boats sit in port for significantly more time than they are sailed. On that analysis you really don''t need a fifty footer. Yes the boat should be comfortable but you can get that in a properly designed 25 footer when you realise that in a cruising yacht the most serious sailing is only with a couple of people. A cruising yacht is not a floating dormitory or an entertainers showpiece. It is another case of where size does not always count.

Think about this - if you want to design a yacht that only has a couple of berths and a decent galley then with the added room in the cockpit there is no way that the boat has to be any where near what was proposed by the people you quoted.

Then comes the real issue - seaworthiness. We have all heard the stories of people who have sailed enormous distances in smaller vessels and the reason they succeeded in most cases is that they made sure that their boats were just that - seaworthy. Clearly we cannot account for the idiot factor - those people will always be there - but we can if we are smart make sure that whatever the size of our boat it is as safe as we can make it for the sailing that we intend.

Interestingly enough I am aware of only one manufacturer, namely Etap, which manufactures an "unsinkable" boat. While there is an agent for them in this country they are not sold in big numbers and I note that is the same in the USA. On their own admission Etap concede that it costs about a third more to build their boats that way and sadly it has not really been much of a selling point if the lack of interest from other manufacturers is anything to go by. Maybe the auto makers have known the answer for years - safety does not sell. Although interestingly enough when I spoke to one eminent yacht designer in the USA recently he did concede that there is much more interest in things like bouyancy today than ever before.

The truth is though that in cruising yachts safety should sell and to get back to small craft it is far easier to make a small boat unsinkable than a larger one unless you adopt the Etap manufacturing technique or have sealing bulkheads.

Again there is not much on the Net about that and what is there is misleading. It is not just simply a matter of determining a boat''s displacement and then adding the equivalent amount of bouyancy (assuming you have enough room) as some people (who should know better) have suggested. It all has to do with the density of the material that the boat is built of and the weight of the stuff (like the motor and other gear) in and on the boat. It is simpe enough to calculate too.

Those people (primitive or otherwise) who have sailed epic voyages in wooden boats have proved the principle that if you have a boat that will float even when flooded regardless of its weight you are far safer than in a modern steel or fibreglass boat that will sink in the same circumstances.

Fibreglass, aluminium and steel are all heavier than water as we know. While fibreglass may be less than twice the specific gravity of water, aluminium is about three times and steel is about seven times. Without some consideration to bouancy all those boats will sink like stones. Not a nice thought when you are a long way from port.

So apart from manufacturers like Etap there is still even a place for wooden boats despite what some "modern" cruising sailors would have us believe. And when you take into account all the advantages of a small boats even a small wooden boat is not such a bad option. So much for all the "tupperware" boats that we see these days.

Another thing that most people seem to get wrong is their ability to stem the flow of water in the event of a flooding. Few pumps manual or otherwise can do that even with a relatively small hole at least not over an extended period of time. It is often a case of knowing whether to pump or jump and even if you decide to pump just when to jump. It is far better to know that your craft won''t sink and that you will have time to find and fix the problem. Having or adding the necessary bouancy to your boat will give you just that. It is easier to do that on a smaller boat too.

The truth is you are safer staying in the boat not only because of the obvious possibility of being shark bait but also because all your water, food and equipment is there so there is a real chance that you will endure the ordeal and also be seen and get home after fixing the problem.

So my thought is that more modest and simpler boats are still the go for long term cruisers. Since serious cruisers only make up a small proportion of sailors the rest are likely to continue to buy boats and gear more for reasons associated with their ego than the reality of cruising. That''s all good for boat builders and chandlers and if that is what the majority of sailors want then that is fine. To suggest that we need all those things as opposed to just wanting them is another thing. That is so whether you base that on surveys or otherwise. And that is my point.

My advice is if you really want to keep the dream alive "go small, go now" as is often said and give some thought to seaworthiness which covers a lot more territory than the issues that I have raised.

I personally believe (if you are so minded) you''ll have more fun whether you cruise occasionally or long term - coastal or otherwise in a smaller boat. You will also learn a lot on the way. That''s what cruising is really all about.

Me - I am back to a small wooden boat. It does everything I want and gives me more flexibility than a larger boat. With the added advantage of the bouyancy that I have installed I know that I can weather most of what the briney can throw at me. Being wood the boat is easily fixed too. It requires more maintenance than a glass boat but the end result is better. Consider how hard it is to match a patch on a moulded glass boat.

All things that make for better and certainly cheaper cruising. Notice I said cruising and not posing or racing.

Like I said it is a personal thing but I certainly would not be putting too much credence in the small survey that you quoted.


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