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  #1  
Old 10-07-2007
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Three Types of Cruising Boats

As usual, I've been doing some pondering. As for "escape velocity" cruising boats, i.e. those that could cross oceans for cruising, there seems to be three general types. By velocity, I mean the effort needed to break away from one's shore-based lifestyle (smaller velocity means less time and money to break free).

1) Minimal Velocity, Minimal Cost: these are boats that can take a dedicated single-hander or couple for multi-year cruises at a minimal cost and size. Examples would be an Albin Vega 27; Contessa 26 and 32; Baba 30; Nicholson 32 and 35, Southern Cross 28 and 31; NorSea 27 (and other Lyle Hess designs); Westsail 27 and 32; and even Cal 25s, 27s, 29s, if used carefully.

Examples of these adventurous trips abound: "Maiden Voyage," "Dove," "Project Bluesphere," "Sailing the Dream," Pat Henry's book, Donna Lange, and others. A common denominator, however, is that these are focused cruises that normally don't last for years, or if they do they have longer breaks at anchorages, on-shore experiences, etc. Some move on to not do much more long-range cruising, or move to bigger boats, etc. Still, they make the trips, alone or in small groups. Costs are relatively manageable, but all become rather accomplished sailors if they are successful.

2) Medium Velocity, Medium Cost:
these are boats that can take a dedicated sailor or small family on a safe voyage with relative comfort or safety. Examples would be a Tartan 37, HR 34-38, Malo 36, Rival 36-38, Camper Nicholson 38-39, Pacific Seacraft 37, Spencer 42, Shannon 38, Baba 35s, and others in the 40 foot or less range offshore rated.

When I read these accounts, the experiences are more relaxed than the smaller craft voyages, but there isn't typically a sense that long-term voyaging on a 37-38 foot boat is necessarily comfortable or relaxing.
"The Oceans are Waiting" is a good example of this type of circumnavigation. These boats are capable of the voyage, but it's still a 1-4 year voyage instead of a 5-10 year lifestyle (unless one ends up living aboard instead of cruising, and converting the boat into more of a residence).

3) High Velocity, High Cost: these are cruising boats that support a long-term cruising lifestyle, for a couple or a family. Examples could be HR 42 and larger, Valiant 40s and larger, Pacific Seacraft 40s and larger, Malo 40s and larger, Fast Passage 39s, Baba 40s, Whitby 42s, Pearson 424, Brewer 44s, Mason 43 and 44, Morris 44s, Deerfoots, etc.

These are the boats that seem to become part of a long-term cruising lifestyle. As I read the SSCA bulletins, for example, it seemed that a high percentage of the long-term and actively cruising couples and families were in boats of this size and complexity. Ditto for John Neal on Mahina, and Steve Dashew, even Bob Bitchin on Lost Soul. The costs of the boats, and ongoing maintenance, are much higher, but so seems to be the long-term live and cruise aboard options.

There are exceptions to all of these, of course, including guys living for a decade on open, home-built catamarans in the Pacific, and Fatty Goodlander doing multiple circles on his 38 foot Wildcard, the lifelong cruising of Lin and Larry Pardey, and Herb Payson's cruising, to name a few. (A common denominator is that most of these cruisers didn't and don't have children to care for, except for Payson at the start of his cruising.)

The reason I'm running through this list is to think about the type of cruising future we want to have. If we had work we could do from the boat as we traveled (teaching, boat work, etc.), then the boat would need to be a platform for that work. If we want to "boat school" two kids for 4-6 years, then the boat needs to be a platform for that. If we were just a couple, it would be easier to say the HR 342 is all we need, for example. But even then we'd want to think about if we were doing a closed-ended 3-4 year trip, or something more long-term with income generation along the way.

Any ideas on this? I'm not necessarily excited about affording or handling or maintaining a 42 footer (or larger), but setting one's sights on a 34-38 footer may be short-sighted in the long run. I also agree that having a boat that's so big the spouse can't handle her alone is a bad idea, thus making me think a longer, lower sail plan with more, smaller sails isn't a bad idea.

On the other hand, if one can't make the long-term cruising plan work out, there's something to be said for the focused 3-4 year option on a smaller boat with a return to career afterwards.

Lots to think about.

Jim H
London, UK

Last edited by Jim H; 10-07-2007 at 07:31 AM.
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Old 10-07-2007
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To me, the starting point in any boat decision, particularly for cruising, starts with a realistic assessment of what you'll actually do. This is influenced by cost, health, and time. For example, what can I afford, to go when I want to go, where I intend to go, that I will be physically able to handle? Once you have a handle on that, you can set your sights on a boat that will accomplish that.
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Old 10-07-2007
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Whenever I see certain photos that get my heart racing, they most likely end up being somewhere in Europe. I would love to cruise there, but it isn't going to happen. I've never had aspirations of singlehanding across oceans. I personally think that it is nuts to do it. Why put yourself thought that, just to say I did it ? I did a lot of things when I was 19 or 20 years old, just to say I did it. But I'm not 20 anymore.

So I will live on my boat and "settle" for the Caribbean, the keys, and maybe Mexico. South America may even be in my future, who knows. There are so many places to go and see that are a day or two's sail away.
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Old 10-07-2007
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The classifications posed are interesting. When I think along these lines, I label the catagories "Adventure / Comfort / Luxury" or "Cabin / Cottage / Mansion". The category that's best for any individual will be determined by age, attitude and resources.

Last edited by CapnHand; 10-07-2007 at 10:02 AM.
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Old 10-07-2007
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JimH...while I might disagree about some of the boats you list in each category...I think that your conclusions are spot on, particularly when it comes to couples or family cruising.
For a single hander, I think it is possible for someone who is fairly ascetic to both JOURNEY and CRUISE for a long time in a small, well-found boat. Once you get a couple or more on board though things get tight and it is a rarity to see a cruising couple out for more than a year or two on a small boat.

The mid-sized cruising boat allows a couple to set out and enjoy the life and reach their intended dream destinations but still requires some lifestyle sacrifices and thus the lifestyle tends to weigh increasingly heavily on some with the passage of time. I hope this doesn't come across as sexist...but I've seen a number of couples on midsized boats swallow the hook because the wife found it too hard to live aboard even though she had agreed to go cruising and bought into her husband's dream...only to find things weren't so dreamy.
The larger (over 40') cruising boats are typically what you see for long term cruisers...(say over 3 years or so) as they offer the opportunity for the boat to be a real home...with storage and systems that remove many of the hardships. As noted...these come with the price of increasing complexity and both initial and ongoing costs and one had better be prepared for these or the cruise will be a short one!
As Cap'n hand says...each individual will find their right choice...but I think it is worthwhile for each potential cruiser/couple to consider your categories and their own preferences and financial circumstances before jumping in and buying a boat that will eventually leave them unhappy.
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Don't have children and don't sail with a partner who isn't as hooked as you are. That lets you go for a smaller boat!
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Old 10-08-2007
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I could have gone for 45/46 feet, but stopped at 40 due to the physical limits of the co-captain, who, while strong and younger than me, is still a small woman.

But the full keel aspect allows for fairly vast stowage, while the pilothouse and large aft deck give the sense of separtion that (I hope) will allow us (me, my wife and my son) a degree of personal space that would be hard to find in a more contemporary design with just one big saloon leading into a V-berth, with an aft cabin beneath a "party" cockpit. So design and psychology had a role when shopping for seaworthiness and the usual technical concerns.

I found 40 feet was a minimum for a couple with a kid who will be 13 or 14 by the time we finish in five years. We need a certain amount of autonomy, and that means it isn't a party boat, but rather a snug and safe place that I hope will be, if not expansive, cozy and liveable. Having a forepeak "workshop" that is capable of true isolation will help: if my kid wants to go play video games or pound nails there, he'll have that solitude.
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Old 10-08-2007
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I approach it a little differently.

Where do I want to go?
How much money can I afford?

Is there ANY boat in that range which will be likely to get me there?

If so, am I willing to exist at those levels of comfort or do I need to change the parameters of either answer 1 or 2?

I find that is the most direct way to take the tiger by the tail...starting with the comfort ideals or at any other point alsways strikes me as odd and ineffective.


Sasha
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Great analysis JimH, pretty spot on. Boat size, function, purpose are all interrelated.

I'm having the hardest time balancing dreams vs reality check. Striking that balance seems very difficult. I can envision myself doing certain things, even wanting to do certain things, but what is real and how does one know it before making a mistake in judgement? I'm reading Sailing the Dream right now, McGrady is a great author. I love how he strikes his balances and articulates them. Another thngs that fascinates me is the catalyst. That 'thing' that puts you over the line from dreamer of dreams to maker of reality.

Last edited by pbpme; 10-08-2007 at 08:21 AM.
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