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HappyPappy 08-04-2010 12:20 PM

What makes a boat "Blue Water" worthy
In a nutshell:
What makes a boat "blue water" worthy? I'm looking for a specific set of criteria that can be used to evaluate almost any boat to determine if it is "blue water" worthy.

The long version & back-story:
I'm narrowing down my search for a sailboat that will act as my liveaboard home (myself, my beautiful wife, and two 11 year old twin boys) as well as to be the conduit to a future of blue water cruising/island hopping/circumnavigation (maybe?). I've looked at many many sailboats, researched each of them online as to their pros and cons, capabilities and limitations. The SailNet forum has provided a lot of insight! Personally, it has been quite a while since I've been sailing, so while I'm familiar with the techniques and such, I'm approaching this like I'm starting from scratch, and re-learning as I go. I will refrain from stating the make & model of the boat I am hoping to purchase since I do not want to limit this thread to a specific boat. Each blue-water cruiser has a different purpose for their boat, but as near as I can tell, the boat itself has to be able to withstand the rigors

In my research, I have come across many statements regarding a boat's "blue water" worthiness. However, I have not yet found a listing of the criteria that makes a boat "blue water" worthy. One of the criteria I have used in looking for a new boat is whether or not I have found evidence that the same make & model has circumnavigated. Of course there very well may have been changes made to the boats that have circumnavigated, in order to make them "blue water" worthy. I have scoured this forum, and others like SailNet to try and find a criteria list, and I've come up empty. If there's already a thread with this info, please forgive my oversight.

Some may indicate it is skill, in which case, I'd like to know which skills make the difference. As one poster in another thread sail (sorry, I don't remember who said it) "there's a lot of [insert almost any boat name here] in other countries and sea's, and they didn't fly there!"

I just realized I'm getting "windy" in my explanation... the end I'm posting this question to the masses. What makes a boat "blue water" worthy?

Thank you in advance for your insights. It will go a long way towards myself and many other newbies narrow down our selection.

blt2ski 08-04-2010 12:38 PM

You coudl start with the stuck list at the top of this forum. That is the mahina boat list. Be it a good list or bad is another story. WHat is blue water for me, would be different if I was doing this with spouse and twin sons and 2 daughters too.

Blue water can mean a Jeanneau Sun Fast 3200, Beneteau Figaro, or a mini transat. I should point out, these three are designed for SH or DH ocean racing.

A local just went from here in the Pacific NW to Oz and back in a Jeanneau 49iP. A brand that does not seem to get onto many BW list. 2 couples I know of have taken there Hunters from here to mexico and back. One 4 times, granted the last one or two by truck, but initially when younger, there 78 38' cutter when down and back on its hull. again, another brand that most would not put in a BW category.

You will find there will be trade offs which ea kind of boat you look at, then you can decide if the tradeoffs are worth it or not. Me personally, the list of boat in the Mahina list not one would I choose, while a good list, not sure I like the lack of speed for many on the list. ANY boat properly built, outfitted etc, should be able to go offshore if in the size you are looking at, ie 37-45'. If not, then it was not designed to do so.


RichH 08-04-2010 12:46 PM

As simple as I can make it: a boat that is built strong enough and has enough 'reserve' inbuilt strength to withstand the potential rigors of storms, etc. in the open ocean without falling apart, coming apart and then sinking .... and no matter the level of skill of the 'sailor'.

HappyPappy 08-04-2010 01:06 PM

@blt2ski - Thanks for your response. I'm curious though, rather than what boats are blue water worthy, what are the criteria that makes a boat blue water worthy?

It sounds like you have a lot of knowledge and experience, and I'd like to learn from you (and others) about what makes a boat blue water worthy.

Keep it coming!!

sailingdog 08-04-2010 01:37 PM

A "blue water" boat is often built heavier than a coastal cruiser of the same LOA—often with a narrower cabin/salon, more handholds, stronger ports and hatches, more stowage, more fuel/water tankage, additional rigging, and such. It will often have a smaller cockpit than a coastal cruiser the same LOA. It will often have larger cockpit drains, a real bridgedeck, and other small features that make it less likely to downflood in the case of being pooped.

denverd0n 08-04-2010 02:13 PM


Originally Posted by HappyPappy
What makes a boat "blue water" worthy? I'm looking for a specific set of criteria that can be used to evaluate almost any boat to determine if it is "blue water" worthy.

You've gotten some good answers already, but the bottom line is that boaters of all sorts have been debating this question for a very long time. Probably since the first cave man fashioned a paddle, sat on top of a log, and set out across the water. There is no simple answer, and there is no universally-agreed-upon set of criteria. Everyone has their own opinion. And anyone who gives you their opinion, and tells you that it is the one and only true and valid opinion, is simply full of BS.

What's more, don't forget that the Atlantic has been crossed many times in boats less than 20' long, including open boats and rowboats. Or that Captain Bligh sailed more than 3,500 miles across the South Pacific in an open, 23' boat overloaded with 18 men. That was clearly a "blue water" voyage, but hardly comfortable cruising. So the answer really depends--to a HUGE extent--on what you consider important, what you are willing to put up with, and what you are willing to trade off. And only you can answer those questions.

Zanshin 08-04-2010 02:25 PM

I believe that, in addition to what has been posted here, what really makes a vessel bluewater capable is the crew and skipper. Usually the boats are built to withstand more than the crew can; and an only partially "bluewater capable" boat according to Mahina list and other criteria with a competant crew will hold up better than the finest bluewater boat with a less than adequate crew.
In days past a boat needed to be built like a tank in order to withstand whatever the seas could throw at it and odds were good that it would at some time come in contact with such extremely heavy weather. With today's access to weather and passage information, the odds of encountering such bad conditions for extended periods of time have gone down, and thus boats can be built differently.
You have 2 competing goals - as a liveaboard vessel you want lots of light and space and freedom of movement aboard. These are "bad" features in the classical defniition of a bluewater boat. The list of diametrically opposed features twixt a liveaboard and bluewater boat goes on; as is often said "Every boat design is a compromise".

sawingknots 08-04-2010 02:30 PM

the single, most significant factor would be the skipper!

remetau 08-04-2010 02:40 PM


Originally Posted by HappyPappy (Post 628564)
What makes a boat "Blue Water" worthy?

The yard in Taiwan that built my boat :D

puddinlegs 08-04-2010 02:44 PM

Looking for absolutes in a world rife with 'relatives' is a journey that's not likely to yield satisfaction. Some reading up front will help. Beth Leonard's book is a nice outline of considerations as well as a comparison of their first cruising boat and their 'ideal' boat: The Voyager's Handbook: The Essential Guide to Blue Water Cruising…

And on the design front, Bob Perry's book: Yacht Design According to Perry eBook: Robert H. Perry: Kindle Store

You're 'blue water boat' also has to include which blue water you're planning to be in and the number of hours and miles you have in other boats. The 'other boats' part is invaluable in helping you determine what best matches your priorities, not to mention even having an idea what is and isn't important. Without this experience, you're left to rely on the preferences and limitation of others. One example, if I were heading down to Mexico, had a limited budget and wanted a 40' boat that would get me there quickly, I'd look for an Olson 40. If heading to northern or far southern climes, I'd look for something with a hard dodger (or have one added), went to weather well, and had appropriate tankage. Many boats fit that description. Where 'you' come in is how you like to sail. I like a boat that performs well. It doesn't have to be ultralight, but it can't be a tub. Others are completely fine sailing a tub that wouldn't even be on a personal shortlist, but both boats will do the job.

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