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jcrief 08-13-2003 11:07 AM

What size first boat?
I have been sailing for a short time (since this (2003) spring) on the west coast (Santa Barbara) and I''m thinking about buying my first boat. However, I''m not sure what size to look for!

I want a boat to get more experience, weekend excursions to the Channel Islands, and possibly for a liveaboard (although this is a "nice to have" not a "need to have").

Sailing in this area is primarily in the ocean so I want something fairly safe and sea kindly. I started out looking at boats under 30'' but was told that I should consider something larger (36'') as I would quickly grow out of the smaller boat.

Some of my preferred features that were making small boat shopping difficult were:
- 6 foot headroom (I''m 6''1"!)
- inboard diesel
- wheel steering
- galley w/pressurized water & propane stove
- head w/shower & holding tank
- ability to single hand

Any and all thoughts on this topic are appreciated!

GordMay 08-13-2003 02:48 PM

What size first boat?
It may have been N. Hereshoff who said that, "anyone who absolutely must stand upright on a boat, can go on deck". :)
Interior headroom > 6'', is tough - but your other specifications readily available on under 30 Footers.
Good luck,

Jeff_H 08-13-2003 05:26 PM

What size first boat?
I guess at the heart of answering your question is another question, that question is "Do you really want to learn to sail well or do you only want to develop enough sailing skills to go out and get back when there are moderate conditions?" There is no universally right, one size fits all answer here. Only you can answer that question for yourself. If the answer to that question is that you really want to learn to sail well, then I strongly suggest that you start out with a boat that is under 30 feet and more ideally down around 25 or so feet, tiller steered and comparatively light and responsive so that you can tell when you are dialed in or not. As someone how has taught literally hundreds of people to sail, I can assure you that it is next to imposible to learn to proper sail trim and boat handling in larger boats. (Look at the boats used by all of the major sailing schools, they pretty much are all using 24 to 27 foot, fin keel spade rudder sloops with tiller steering. There is a reason for that).

On the other hand if these skills are not important to you, you can buy almost any size boat. Again I suggest that as a new sailor you will learn gobs more with a lighter and more responsive boat of any size than you can from a heavier, higher displacement boat.


garyp 08-13-2003 05:46 PM

What size first boat?
I have to second Jeff on this, espec regarding tiller steering. The only reason for a larger boat is to take along more people. And often the only reason for more people is to help to handle the larger boat.

jbarros 08-13-2003 07:24 PM

What size first boat?
I am in the constant "search" for my next boat. I got a 19'' sloop because the price was right and she was well found, with intent to sell her within a month, and step up. Now I''m looking at steping up in about a year or 2. The longer I go with my little Josie (out of Channel Islands Harbor, btw ;) ) the happier I am with 19''. She holds 3 comfortably for day sails, and tolerably for overnighting. I can bring her into dock too fast, jump off, and stop her myself, and I dont weigh 120 lbs. I can single hand her with ease. She''s simple. There''s almost nothing to break. I can safely and easily go out to the islands (albeit not as fast ;) ) I lose only creature comforts that I am slowly coming to realize are more luxery items than necessities. Oh yhea, and my dock fees: 140 a month. With shower access, clean restrooms, water, power, and well maintained, clean decks. Most of my neighbors pay over twice what I do, and they cant sail as much. And if something does break, it''s cheaper to fix it. I love my first boat. Not that I have anything agianst big boats. I do intend to get one someday, but not today.

For what it''s worth.

-- James

Heruka 08-14-2003 05:48 AM

What size first boat?
yeah, tiller steering is important. also, make sure it''s one that is know for its "stiff" sailing. won''t heel too much, and isn''t tender and is forgiving. with the sloop rig and fin keel, it''ll teach you to go to weather better. look at the Catalinas, the 22''s are great first boats, and the 27''s are good too and probably better for what you''re looking for.

jcrief 08-14-2003 08:20 AM

What size first boat?
Thanks to all who responded to my query. You have helped me clarify the primary consideration for getting my own boat. That is to learn to sail better by sailing the same boat every time.

I currently have access to many types and sizes of boats through the Sailing Center that I belong to. However, practicing various points of sail and maneuvers on different boats produces varying results so I never know if I''m doing something (in)correctly or if it is a characteristic of the boat.

So, this and the obvious cost benefits has helped me narrow my search to something under 30''. We have a Catalina 28 at the Sailing Center which seems about right except for having a wheel.

I''m going to assume that the reason you all suggest a tiller is for better control and more immediate feedback of the rudder position. Please respond if there are more/different reasons for having a tiller over a wheel.

Thanks again (I''m really liking this SailNet!),

CharleyB 08-14-2003 10:09 AM

What size first boat?
We came to sailing in our mid-thirties and decided to make our first purchase a day-sailer. We were advised by more experienced sailors that this would be a better strategy for developing our sailing skills. I also thought that it would make sense to take some time to determine whether we would genuinely enjoy sailing and use the boat regularly before plunking down 30-50 g or more for a larger boat that we might not end up using enough to justify the cost.

We started with a Pearson Ensign, which is 22 and a half feet, has a great open cockpit and can be found for a few thousand dollars in good shape. We sailed it for about four or five years and gained a lot of confidence doing so. Last August we bought a C&C 36 and have been out nearly every weekend that weather has permitted.

The boatyards are filled with boats on the hard that were purchased by people infatuated with the ideal of sailing or the freedom that they associate with it, but who found that as a practical matter they simply don''t use it.

Maybe you have done enough sailing with your club that you know you will use it. If you''re not sure, I would recommend that you start with something a little smaller.

jbanta 08-15-2003 08:13 AM

What size first boat?
On the other hand My first (and olny) boat was a 29 Lancer. It was as big a boat as I could afford. Since that day I have been on her every weekend and she was able to offer me a place to live when my welcome ran out at home. I have never regreted buying a "bigger" boat/ MY advice is if you love sailing and I mean LOVE it but the biggest boat you can afford.

Jeff_H 08-15-2003 09:10 AM

What size first boat?

With all due respect, 29 feet about as large a boat as makes sense for a first boat fow someone who really wants to learn to sail and within reason smaller being better than larger. As boats get bigger there are still lessons that can be learned but it makes the process much more difficult and time consuming if not impossible for the average person.

That said,within reason your advise has some merit for a person who really are not concerned with learning to sail well.


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