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Old 08-16-2001
JeffH
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Purchasing through Charter Programs

I think that it is a misconception that lighter boats can''t carry enough gear and supplies be good distance cruisers. Some of that perception comes from earlier lighter weight designs that truely were limited in their ability to carry enough gear to go cruising. But some of it comes from looking at L/D as a be all-end all while ignoring the absolute displacements involved.

It is very common for people to search for boat solely on length and the need for specific accommodations. I really think that the displacement of a particular boat says a lot more about its ''real'' size.

In other words, traditionally, the classic texts used to suggest that a distance cruiser needed 5,000 to 10,000 lbs of displacement per person. With an L/D typically in the mid to high 300''s this meant that an ideal single-hander was somewhere around 29 feet and an ideal cruiser for a couple would be somewhere around 32 to 35 feet or so. If you look at the boats that were used for distance cruising in the 1930''s on up to the 1950''s this was pretty much the case.

Better hardware has permitted that ideal weight to creep up a little and the current trends in loading boats up with all kinds of heavy extras has pushed that range up to closer to 10,000 to 14,000 lbs of displacement per person.

I personally prefer to cruise more simply and so prefer to use displacements in the more traditional range of 5,000 to 8,000 lbs of displacement per person. That says that I was looking for a boat in the 10000 to 20000 lb displacement range for two people cruising and

But today, with better structural engineering, higher tech materials and careful decisions in the choice of fitout, boats with an L/D as low as the 150 to 160 or so range can make good distance cruisers. If I go back to the classic 10000 to 16000 lb displacement range for a couple, and decide to try to stay at the lower end of that range but go to a lighter L/D, I end up with a 37 to 39 foot boat.

I had decided that 36 to 39 feet was about the right length. Smaller than 36 feet it is hard to get the kind of accommodations and capacities that I wanted in lightweight boat. Over 38 feet or so, single-handing became considerably more difficult.

I have concluded that staying at a traditional weight range but lighter L/D results in a longer boat which is a good thing. One thing that has consistently come out of the studies of the Fastnet tragedy and the Sidney-Hobart disaster, is that there are a lot of factors that determine whether a boat is a good sea boat or not, but nothing succeeds in heavy weather like length.

So I focused my search on boast that were light in weight, considering a partially loaded weight under 12,000 pounds dry was my ideal. Properly engineered and constructed, a dry displacement of 10,000 to 12,000 pounds can easily provide all that is needed for a couple to go cruising for long periods of time.

You often hear the old saws about heavy displacement being necessary in a cruising boat. You often hear comments such as, "light boats don''t have the capacity to carry enough gear and supplies to really go cruising." Or "they loose their speed advantage when loaded to go cruising". These kind of statements ignore that boats in this size range are often raced with 1,500 to 2,000 lbs. of crew weight and in distance racing, an equal weight in racing gear and provisions for this crew.

One of the reasons that I chose the Farr 38 (11.6)was that they had an excellent record as distance cruisers. When I began researching the Farr 38, I came across multiple references to their use for long distance voyaging with large and small crews alike.

While I don''t believe that light weight boats are ideal for everyone, for the kind of coastal cruising with an occasional longer passage that most of us do, a lighter weight boat will serve us far better. Their easily driven hulls offer better sailing performance in a wide range of conditions and their longe sailing length can result in a more comfortable motion for a given displacement.

Respectfully
Jeff
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