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Old 07-14-2007
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Single Handed Cruiser Choices, Realities & Compromises

Hi Every one
I guess I need to start with my situation, needs, & wants.
I'm new to sailing. It's been an interest on and off since I was in my teens. I'm now in full-on midlife crisis. Work is a horrible travisty of all that's holy on a daily basis. I can't emphasize this enough. I don't want to reach the end of my life in a house full of junk & no life experience. I never went to college. (At least for a full degree or even close to it, Just what interested me. I could never discover a course of study I could stomach that would be worth while economically.) None the less my job has decent pay for someone without a college background. My soul is left dying.
Bad Timing- I know, But I'm almost ready to sell my house for less than I could If I just could wait a few years. This will only allow for a very well priced older boat. Maybe 20,000 or so.
I know, I know. Sweat equity OK, but it has to float.
I'm Taking classes to learn to sail. I just wouldn't feel comfortable without a foundation to grow on. But here is what I need-

Rig- About the simplest rigging for a single hander. I'm single, I need to be able to sail it independantly. I don't want sailing to be a struggle. Being able to reef in a hurry is important for safety's sake. I'd rather not die of procrastination. Remember, I'm still an inexperienced neophite. I've read a bit, But hands on is still a work in progress. The Cat Ketch seems to get good marks. So does a fractional Bermuda Rig. The Junk sounds good. Especially with reguard to maintenace costs. Something that will always likely be the real struggle. Speed is nice & the CK & FB sail to windward better. Speed is not the most important factor, Safety, Ease of singlehanding, & Cost of maintenace are. Also, Older Junks are few & far between.

Use- While I'd love to sail around the world & Not in race fashion. It would be a great personal acheivement. In practice I veiw cruising as going from place to place, not a distance goal. I would start by Island hoping the caribbean. Also, I just can't seem to shake the need to Island hop the south pacific. While I definately want to see the caribbean. There's really are limited number of islands. The islands of the south pacific are nearly innumerable. This means blue water from the caribbean to the south pacific. Also, I don't want to be forever parted from the US. I'll need to make that jouney from time to time. This means multiple blue water travels. Also, It's important to note- The Islands of the south pacific have extensive reefs with very shallow waters surrounding them. 10 more feet away from shore & your in blue water. These are under water mountian peaks with the tops capped by islands. This makes the versitility of the boat very impotant. Swing keels seem doudtful as they come with their own problems. Damage potential, Cost of maintenance, & also Far & few between among the used beauties out there. This on top of the need for a boat that also meets the rigging requirements.

Size- We all like room to move about. I'm single but not forever. The boat will be my home. I need it to be comfortable as a liveaboard. Small size is a bonus for both initial cost & maintenence cost, But I do need to live. Don't forget that my Blue water travels will only be to get to the next stop or area, not my life mission. I would like to make passages as safely as possible. But if I can't go from island to Island & mysterious shore to shore, Why Cruise?!

Hailing all those that would chime in. With all the above in mind, What would be my best reletively common choices out there that would meet these needs? And also, What would be the pros & cons of each choice?

If I've left anything unclear, Just ask.
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Old 07-14-2007
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A good choice would be an Alberg 30. Carl Alberg didn't know how to design an ugly boat. One in decent shape would fall within your budget and probably leave you a bit leftover for modifications/refitting/upgrades.

They're pretty solid, definitely bluewater capable, and large enough for you to liveaboard.

Other good choices would be the Southern Cross 28/31, although you have to be careful since this was designed with an Airex cored hull, and water intrusion into the hull laminate is a potential problem.

The Westsail 32 is another possibility, but probably out of your price range. The Cape Dory line of boats are another good option, as are the Pearson Tritons and Ariels, but the Ariels are a bit tight on space.

You really should check out John Vigor's 20 Small Sailboats To Take you Anywhere... as many of these boats I've listed are there.

All of the boat's I've listed are basic sloop-rigged boats... single mast, head sail, main sail... fairly simple to rig, fairly simple to sail.

I hope this helps.
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Any of these fractional rigs? Many people give them good marks for singlehanded sailing. Plus safety for a number of reasons.
Thank You
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For the life of me I can’t think of any advantages to a fractional rig. It’s more complicated because of diamonds or running backstays, forces you to have a smaller spinnaker with more chance of fouling the chute in the rigging. More chafe problems for a large Genoa. Introduces a large twisting moment in the rig when you reef the main. Makes the distribution of sail area very unequal and the center of effort may jump forward if you reduce sail enough and don’t have a trysail available. The rig was designed as a way to cheat the then current racing rule and had no intrinsic value outside of racing.

Now having said all that several of my boats have been rigged that way including the 22 footer I sailed to England during my first solo trans-Atlantic. She was so well balanced that I didn’t need to take a self-steering gear but instead did the entire trip by balancing the sailplan and letting the boat sail herself. In this particular case the hull and rig were designed to interact perfectly and she was a beautiful boat to both see and sail.

What have you heard about the rig that appeals to you? I think the Dog got it right when the pointed you towards the Alberg 30. A very nice boat and capable of going anywhere you want. Some of the other boats he mentioned are double enders and I don’t care for the style. Most of then drag a good part of the ocean with them, are slow and somewhat unsafe *** in extreme conditions. I know this flies in the face of popular thought but most double enders are not designed like the original sailing lifeboats and lack their good qualities but do copy their shortcomings.
All the best,
Robert Gainer

***
Edited to add this note, Unsafe is too strong a word but I can’t think of a better one.

***

Last edited by Tartan34C; 07-14-2007 at 10:17 AM.
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TC...the Southern cross 31 and westsail 32 would be better in heavy weather than just about any other boats out there.....what leads you to the conclusion that they are unsafe in exterme conditions? Surely they are much better off that any fin keel boat! It is true there were poorly made double enders in the 70's all trying to be like the westsails. They were poorly designed and too heavy. On the other hand, one of the most popular performance cruisers out there...the Valiant
(40 & 42) is a double ender. The best part of a double ender if how easy it is to change the packing in the stuffing box They also look so much better than a flat transom...or most swim platforms for that matter. On the SC31 the huge rudder hanging from the back of the boat is what does it for me.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by southerncross31
TC...the Southern cross 31 and westsail 32 would be better in heavy weather than just about any other boats out there.....what leads you to the conclusion that they are unsafe in exterme conditions? Surely they are much better off that any fin keel boat! It is true there were poorly made double enders in the 70's all trying to be like the westsails. They were poorly designed and too heavy. On the other hand, one of the most popular performance cruisers out there...the Valiant
(40 & 42) is a double ender. The best part of a double ender if how easy it is to change the packing in the stuffing box They also look so much better than a flat transom...or most swim platforms for that matter. On the SC31 the huge rudder hanging from the back of the boat is what does it for me.
I like the Southern Cross and would take her anywhere under any conditions. Not only is she a great looking boat but also she is very well designed and built. As a group however the double enders have several fallings and this is just an opinion of mine and doesnít mean they are bad boats just not to my liking.

Narrow aft deck.
Awkward to mount windvave steering system. More dangerous to work aft during bad weather while setting a drag device (take your pick of device) or adjusting windvane.

Buttocks arenít flat aft and the quarter wave comes up.
More drag and slower boat. With the right wave shape more likely to poop then a boat with more buoyancy and smaller quarter wave. On the other hand they might have slightly less tendency to brooch then a transom stern.

Less beam in the after third of the boat.
Less width for running backs while using storm sails. Tendency to hobbyhorse. Less storage volume and more sensitive to distribution of weight.

Bob Perry has several very nice boats without transoms. But I think they would all be called canoe sterns not double enders. Not my first choice but very capable boats and I donít put them into the same category as the Westsail or any other overweight and deficient copies of the Colin Archer designed Redningsselskapet class of rescue boat. And sorry but I donít like the Westsail at all. Just overweight slow boats that survive by using sheer brute force and weight. They are small inside and have no redeeming features at all. There are much better boats for the job that are also strong and will survive but by grace and intelligence instead of just brute force.

The outboard rudder you like is an interesting feature. It is easer to fix or replace at sea and has advantages when it comes to a windvae system. On the other hand is it more likely to get damaged then a rudder protected by the counter and hung behind a skeg?

Sorry if I have said anything that distresses you but boats are a funny thing and what is one personís favorite is just another boat to someone else. My likes and dislikes donít indicate that someone elseís boat is good or bad, just maybe different then mine.
All the best,
Robert Gainer
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No problem, i just wanted to stand up for my little boat . The rudder is hung off of the back of the keel by 2 sets of pintles and gudgeons. It is a very robust design with the base stepped up from the bottom of the keel to prevent grounding damage. The thing i like is that there isn't a hole through the boat for the rudder tube!
My taste in boats tends to be very traditional, so most of the new boats i see just don't do it for me (except the new, dare i say, Bene First 50). I like the look of Pacific Seacraft, Shannon, IP, Valiant though. My favorite....the one i hope to own someday is the SC39...what a beautiful boat.
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I keep seeing reference to the Alberg 30 as a great single-handed offshore boat. Having spent gobs of time on these boats, I just don't get it. These boats have enormous weather helm, and don't track worth a darn. Upwind they are very poor in a chop or in big seas pitching themselves to a near stop and they are very prone to broaching in quartering and following seas. For their displacement they have limited carrying capacity due to their short waterlines. These are beefy boats to sail requiring large sail inventories and frequent sail changes to deal with the kinds of changing consditions one is likely to encounter on the kinds of trips being described above. Their short waterline and pinched transom make carrying a dinghy very difficult. But beyond all that, these boats just were not all that well built and they are now 40 or so years old. The ones that I have been on in recent years have been real wrecks, with the exception of a couple that had been taken apart, in the case of one, the rudder and rotted bulkheads replaced, internal stiffeners added in the bow and run, and both were generally upgraded and restored for racing purposes.

I also want to touch on the fractional rig discussion. Fractional rigs were the typical rig employed in small working watercraft and for cruising boats in the days before there were racing rules. For example go back and look at any of Alden or Rhodes' pre WWII cruising sloops or ketches, or small cruising boats like the Folkboat.

It was only with the advent of the CCA rule (and later IOR rule), which did not include the full overlap of headsails and spinnakers that masthead rigs became popular as CCA rule beaters. The masthead rig only existed because it could beat the popular racing rules of the 1950's through 1980's.

Its only when the rating rules went back to including all sail area in the rating calculation, that fractional rigs came back into popularity in race boats. They came back for the same reasons that they make sense on cruising boats namely a smaller more efficient sail plan, and greater ease of tacking and jibing, combined with the ability shift gears more quickly without doing sail changes.

Robert Gainer's experience with a superbly balanced fractional rig is more the norm than the exception.

Modern fractional rigs do not have jumper struts or running backstays. The exception to that is that offshore, some fractional rigged boats employ runners in very heavy going in the same way that cutters are forced to use runners for their staysails in heavy going. In the case of the Fractional rig the geometry of these runners are such that they do not need to be slacked and made up on each tack.

Today, many of the best of the current generation of cruising boat designers have returned to the fractional rig for its ease of handling. simplicity, lower cost, reduced stress on the hull and deck, and its ability to deal with changing conditions more easily. I am not sure how helpful this will be but below is an exerpt from a draft of an article that I wrote for another venue that talks about rigs.

"Cutter and Sloop rig

These are the most common rigs being produced today. In current usage these terms are applied quite loosely as compared to their more traditional definitions. Traditionally the sloop rig was a rig with a single mast located forward of 50% of the length of the sailplan. In this traditional definition a sloop could have multiple jibs. Cutters had a rig with a single mast located 50% of the length of the sailplan or further aft, multiple headsails and in older definitions, a reefing bowsprit (a bowsprit that could be withdrawn in heavy going). Somewhere in the 1950's or 1960's there was a shift in these definitions such that a sloop only flew one headsail and a cutter had multiple headsails and mast position became irrelevant. For the sake of this discussion I assume we are discussing the modern definition of a sloop and a cutter.

Historically, when sail handling hardware was primitive and sails were far more stretchy than they are today, the smaller headsails and mainsail of a traditional cutter were easier to handle and with less sail stretch, allowed earlier cutters to be more weatherly (sail closer to the wind) than the sloops of the day. With the invention of lower stretch sailcloth and geared winches, cutters quickly lost their earlier advantage.

Today sloops are generally closer winded and easier to handle. Their smaller jibs and larger mainsail sailplan are easier to power up and down. Without a jibstay to drag the Genoa across, sloops are generally easier to tack. With less hardware sloops are less expensive to build.

Sloops come in a couple varieties, masthead and fractional. In a masthead rig the forestay and jib originates at the masthead. In a fractional rig, the forestay originated some fraction of the mast height down from the masthead. Historically, sloops were traditionally fractionally rigged. Fractional rigs tend to give the most drive per square foot of sail area. Their smaller jibs are easier to tack and they reef down to a snug masthead rig. Today they are often proportioned so that they do not need overlapping headsails, making them even easier to sail. One of the major advantages of a fractional rigs is the ability when combined with a flexible mast, is the ability to use the backstay to control mast bend. Increasing backstay tension does a lot of things on a fractional rig: it tensions the forestay flattening the jib, and induces mast bend, which flattens the mainsail and opens the leech of the sail. This allows quick depowering as the wind increases and allows a fractional rig to sail in a wider wind speed range than masthead rig without reefing, although arguably requiring a bit more sail trimming skills.

While fractional rigs used to require running backstays, better materials and design approaches have pretty much eliminated the need for running backstays. That said, fractional rigs intended for offshore use, will often have running backstays that are only rigged in heavy weather once the mainsail has been reefed. The geometry of these running backstays typically allows the boat to be tacked without tacking the running backstays.

Masthead rigs came into popularity in the 1950's primarily in response to racing rating rules that under-penalized jibs and spinnakers and so promoted bigger headsails. Masthead sloops tend to be simpler rigs to build and adjust. They tend to be more dependent on large headsails and so are harder to tack and also require a larger headsail inventory if performance is important. Mast bend is harder to control and so bigger masthead rigs will often have a babystay that can be tensioned to control pumping and to induce mast bend in the same way as the geometry of a modern fractional rig. Dragging a Genoa over the babystay makes tacking a bit more difficult and slower. While roller furling allows a wider wind range for a given Genoa, there is a real limit (typically cited 10% to 15%) to how much a Genoa can be roller furled and still maintain a safely flat shape.

Cutters, which had pretty much dropped out of popularity during a period from the end of WWII until the early 1970's, came back into popularity with a vengeance in the early 1970's as an offshore cruising rig. In theory, the presence of multiple jibs allows the forestaysail to be dropped or completely furled, and when combined with a reefed mainsail, and the full staysail, results in a very compact heavy weather rig (similar to the proportions of a fractional rigged sloop with a reef in the mainsail). As a result the cutter rig is often cited as the ideal offshore rig. While that is the theory, it rarely works out that the staysail is properly proportioned, (either too small for normal sailing needs and for the lower end of the high wind range (say 20-30 knots) or too large for higher windspeeds) and of a sail cloth that makes sense as a heavy weather sail or which is too heavy for day to day sailing in more moderate conditions. Also when these sails are proportioned small enough to be used as heavy weather sails, these rigs will often develop a lot of weather helm when being sailed in winds that are too slow to use a double reefed mainsail. Like fractional rigs, cutter rigs intended for offshore use, will often have running backstays that are only rigged in heavy weather once the mainsail has been reefed. Unlike the fractional rig, the geometry of these running backstays typically requires that the running backstays be tacked whenever the boat is tacked.

Cutters make a less successful rig for coastal sailing. Generally cutters tend to have snug rigs that depend on larger Genoas for light air performance. Tacking these large Genoas through the narrow slot between the jibstay and forestay is a much harder operation than tacking a sloop. As a result many of today's cutters have a removable jibstay that can be rigged in heavier winds. This somewhat reduces the advantage of a cutter rig (i.e. having a permanently rigged and ready to fly small, heavy weather jib).

Cutters these days generally do not point as close to the wind as similar sized sloops. Because of the need to keep the slots of both headsails open enough to permit good airflow, the headsails on a cutter cannot be sheeted as tightly as the jib on a sloop without choking off the airflow in the slot. Since cutters are generally associated with the less efficient underbodies that are typical of offshore boats this is less of a problem that it might sound. Cutters also give away some performance on deep broad reaches and when heading downwind because the Genoa acts in the bad air of the staysail. "

Respectfully,
Jeff
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cardiacpaul is a jewel in the rough cardiacpaul is a jewel in the rough cardiacpaul is a jewel in the rough
Please take this the right way, but I think you're focusing on the details and missing the "big picture".

Double-ender or not, Perry made some half-way decent designs, deal with it. Most of his "double-enders" are boats that I wouldn't hesitate to take out in a real big blow, go ahead and say that about most other designers. I've been on Albergs and they're stout... to say the least. Do they sail the "best"? Who really knows.

Fract vs full, in real world applications, doesn't amount to a tinkers dam of a difference. I know this is going to cause the "purists" to gasp in horror, but really, can you say with certainty that one has distinct and measurable differences? What, an extra half know under idea trim? oh, get over it. You're not going to out run the rain and wind. Find a boat that will let you live thru it.
If there were distinct and measurable differences, every builder known to man would be building only one type. It all has to do with APPLICATION. What might be the best for a Farr38 or a J/Boat might not be the best for oh, I dunno, a Hunter, CSY, or a Frogbobber 41. Remember, different purposes.

Read the OP's post, he wants the KISS principle, and cares more for ease of use rather than speed, God love him, a man after my own thoughts.

The Cat-Ketch might be a viable alternative (not because I have one either) They are very easy to sail, perform reasonably well, are well built (stay away from the knock offs)

The only down side for me is the weight of the sails, and that may be because I have the original HEAVY DOUBLE PLY wrap arounds, and I'm a bit "weaker" than most people. Big winches, long handles and or 'lectric is the way to go.

good luck and fair winds, eh?
I need a nap.
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Last edited by cardiacpaul; 07-14-2007 at 01:38 PM.
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Count on a month to reach any Pacific Island and two months to get back to the US from any other group so you won't be doing much commuting, even if you had the money.
Golden sands, palm trees and hula girls are a nice escapist fantasy from depression and a hated job. However with all due respect running away to sea is no answer. It sounds like you need a plan to make your life more satisfying. Maybe part-time study with the benefit of age, a new job and a little romance, plus some crewing for others might get you started on a new path.
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