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.
Last edited by Jim H; 10-07-2007 at 06:31 AM.