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  #1  
Old 12-18-2008
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Too big to handle?

I noticed something in the thread about what factors you consider in buying a boat. Many people made statements to the effect that they want a boat a certain size because they feel they can't handle one bigger (either single handing or whatever).

I have to say, I think there is a misconception there. Larger boats most definitely are more expensive. And the sails are larger, which indeed does mean the forces are greater, so I concede that is a consideration to some degree. But it's a consideration that is greatly ameliorated by better sail handling gear (roller furling, larger and electric winches).

After that, however, I believe people are overly fixated on the notion that handling a larger boat is more difficult. I for one do not believe a 45' boat is any more difficult to handle or sail than is a comparable 35' boat. Once you get used to the boat, you get quite comfortable sailing her no matter what her size. People say things like docking the larger boat is more difficult, but in my experience that's just not true. You need a larger dock space for sure, but marinas squeeze smaller boats into smaller spaces, so the room you have to "spare" generally is not appreciably different.

I used to be concernd about handling a larger boat, but having gone from a 22 to a 34 to a 36 to a 45 and now to a 49, my personal experience is that the 49 is no more difficult to handle than was the 34 (and I say that with no hubris at all; I do not consider myself more gifted a sailor than the average bear). And in some ways, the 49 is easier. The 22 was a bit different because that was like being in a dinghy, but I'll tell you, there are some aspects of handling the 49 that are easier than the 22.

And something else, our 49 fin keeler is MUCH easier to handle around the docks than was our 36' full keeler. No comparison frankly.

Again, cost, maintence, etc., I agree wholeheartedly. But that's not the point of many of the posts. People seem concerned about actually handling underway a 45 footer v. a 40 footer or what have you. I just don't see it that way.

So, to all of you who think handling a larger boat is more difficult, how come?
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Old 12-18-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by danielgoldberg View Post
I noticed something in the thread about what factors you consider in buying a boat. Many people made statements to the effect that they want a boat a certain size because they feel they can't handle one bigger (either single handing or whatever).

I have to say, I think there is a misconception there. Larger boats most definitely are more expensive. And the sails are larger, which indeed does mean the forces are greater, so I concede that is a consideration to some degree. But it's a consideration that is greatly ameliorated by better sail handling gear (roller furling, larger and electric winches).

After that, however, I believe people are overly fixated on the notion that handling a larger boat is more difficult. I for one do not believe a 45' boat is any more difficult to handle or sail than is a comparable 35' boat. Once you get used to the boat, you get quite comfortable sailing her no matter what her size. People say things like docking the larger boat is more difficult, but in my experience that's just not true. You need a larger dock space for sure, but marinas squeeze smaller boats into smaller spaces, so the room you have to "spare" generally is not appreciably different.

I used to be concernd about handling a larger boat, but having gone from a 22 to a 34 to a 36 to a 45 and now to a 49, my personal experience is that the 49 is no more difficult to handle than was the 34 (and I say that with no hubris at all; I do not consider myself more gifted a sailor than the average bear). And in some ways, the 49 is easier. The 22 was a bit different because that was like being in a dinghy, but I'll tell you, there are some aspects of handling the 49 that are easier than the 22.

And something else, our 49 fin keeler is MUCH easier to handle around the docks than was our 36' full keeler. No comparison frankly.

Again, cost, maintence, etc., I agree wholeheartedly. But that's not the point of many of the posts. People seem concerned about actually handling underway a 45 footer v. a 40 footer or what have you. I just don't see it that way.

So, to all of you who think handling a larger boat is more difficult, how come?
Good question.

I was going from my dad's 24 to a 30 - 37... I limited it to that length because of the intimidation factor. When I stood on a Tartan 37 I thought. Woah... This is the absolute *limit* in being able to take this puppy out on my own. Sure.. it's a question of set-up (see my post in that thread), but I believe there's more to it...

I would ask...."why didn't you go straight to the 49 from the 22 if it were so easy..." (monetary reasons aside) ... would you have done it? I think it's a growing thing. Still today.. I was out this past weekend in 15-20. The forces on the lines still amaze me. The fact that I need a winch that is *so* geared down just to trim the jib is like...*HOLY COW*.... I like my 6:1 main sheet... "6:1"!!!!! I'm still growing into my 34 from the 24.... I think my boat is as big as you think your 49 is! Trust me.... in 5 years... I'll be lookin' at the Sabre 42's goin' Hmmmm I think I can take that puppy out...
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  #3  
Old 12-18-2008
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Just to add...

I remember docking my 34 in the beginning. I practiced like an SOB....Now!?? I still do circles to practice but... well.. I'll toss her in the slip in any old wind... I've got all the plans worked out!

Put me on a 49....? Hmmm Can I try with your boat?
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Last edited by craigtoo; 12-18-2008 at 10:15 PM. Reason: forgot a word...
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Old 12-18-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by craigtoo View Post
I would ask...."why didn't you go straight to the 49 from the 22 if it were so easy..." (monetary reasons aside) ... would you have done it?
Knowing what I know today, yes. I'm not criticizing people who are concerned about handling a larger boat. Believe me, I understand the sentiment, and that's exactly the reason we went the way we did (well, that and cost). All I'm saying is that, with what I know now, it was a misguided concern.
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Old 12-18-2008
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I drove a launch for many years. One was a beat up old 16 footer that held 6 passengers. The other was a brand new 30 foot Hinckley that held 22 passengers. It was much easier to maneuver the smaller launch.

Here are a few reasons the smaller boat was easier to handle. The same applies to docking a sailboat.

1. I didn't have to worry about windage in the small launch. If there was any wind in the larger boat I had to consciously counter it with the engine and steering.

2. I could manhandle the small boat in to position with force, but the larger boat could only be moved with the engine.

3. The small boat could be stopped in a much shorter distance that the heavier boat.

4. I didn't have to worry about gear on either boat, but you can be sure that every piece of equipment was heavier on the larger boat. (Everything from lines to having twice the amount of batteries)

5. Moving forward and aft to deal with things in the bow and stern were an arms length away on a small boat, but it was not as easy on the larger boat.

Obviously it is more difficult to handle a larger boat than a smaller boat otherwise oil tankers would operate with only person aboard. With patience and practice I agree that you can improvise and figure out a way to over come the challenges of a larger boat, but that doesn't change the fact that it is more challenging to handle a larger boat.
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Old 12-18-2008
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I kinda agree with ya Dan, our 45 is as easy, if not more so, to sail as our 26 was and way more so than my 37 is, but I don't think I would change the steps we took to get here.

And as easy as the 45 is, I still perfer the 37, as difficult as it is the manuver in tight places. When the day comes for our last boat ( 52-55), it will have the characteristics of both boats and I know my wife & I will have no problems
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Old 12-19-2008
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I agree that with today's more common aids like powered winches, roller furling etc that most any well set-up boat would be managable by a couple with average skills, but many larger boats on the used market will not have those types of advantages.

In many cases they will have the cumbersome large headsail/skinny main rigs that are the legacy of IOR influenced 'cruising' designs from the 70s and 80s. In many cases, too, run-of-the-mill productions boats were underwinched to begin with - adding to the loads and handling issues.

So with the caution and understanding that you are primarily referring to newer, more modern fully equipped (read more expensive) boats, you have a point. In our case we moved from a 40 footer similar to what I've described (though well equipped with deck gear) to a fractional 35 footer, and 4 years on continue to find this boat "small" and definitely easier to shorthand than the last one.
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Old 12-19-2008
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One thing that Dan has neglected to mention. Yes, handling the sails with the winches is manageable... however, flaking the larger sails, carrying them down into the cabin, hauling them back out and bending them back on is all much more difficult with a larger boat. So is hauling out the anchor from where it is stowed down below and dragging it up to the bow and putting it on the bow roller. So is retrieving the anchor when the windlass goes TU in the middle of trying to leave an anchorage.

Yes, modern equipment has made a lot of owning a bigger boat simpler and more manageable, but there is still a lot about a bigger boat that is going to be less manageable—sometimes due to the sheer size of the gear involved, and sometimes due to the forces involved.

As Beth Leonard, author of the Voyager's Handbook, points out... she was glad that she started out on a smaller boat because a larger boat requires better seamanship. A mistake made on a smaller boat can often be corrected by brute force. However, that same mistake on a larger boat is often much more dangerous and difficult to remedy. The boom hitting you when you gybe a Sunfish hurts, and is embarrassing, but the boom hitting you when you gybe a 45' boat will throw you off the boat, and likely do some major damage to you in the process.
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Old 12-19-2008
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My wife and I debate the "too big to handle" boat discussion often as we are searching for a boat. We have different opinions on what that means. I don't believe there is much difference in handling a 35' boat or a 40' boat. She doesn't see it that way for whatever reason.

I know that I do not want a boat so large that it cannot be handled solo, or with only a husband & wife crew. I also would prefer to not have a boat that requires powered winches to handle the sails. If we can't hoist and trim them without powered winches then I am not interested. From what I have seen and experienced I believe that boats <40' for the most part would be OK. But then if you went to a non-sloop rig I might consider boats a bit larger.

I think the mistake thing plays a large factor. If we make a mistake docking our day sailer, we can fend off by hand, or worst case the damage is likely to be minor. Mistakes on larger boats can be more costly.

Like most things related to sailboat choice, I think a compromise must be found.
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Old 12-19-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by danielgoldberg View Post
Knowing what I know today, yes. I'm not criticizing people who are concerned about handling a larger boat. Believe me, I understand the sentiment, and that's exactly the reason we went the way we did (well, that and cost). All I'm saying is that, with what I know now, it was a misguided concern.
So...what you mean is... "Duh.. Craig... you just made my point for me!"
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