Hello ladies and gentleman:
My name is Guy Schwartz. My wife and I are new to sailing and we live in the San Francisco bay area. We are in the process of getting our education about different manufactures, designs and layouts of various brands.
Our objective is cruising, fun on the bay with family and friends and using the boat as a weekend retreat. We really like the layout of the Catalina 387.
I understand that like everything else in life there are tradeoffs and compromises. Here are questions:
1. Fin keel vs. wing keel? Does the fin have more stability or allow the boat to point higher? Is the fin keel faster than the wing keel? If so by how much?
2. 3 blade prop or 2 blade prop? I have read that variable pitch props can be finicky. What about folding props? What is the performance hit comparing fixed vs. folding. Will folding effect motoring performance?
3. In mast vs. in boom furling vs. standard sail. What is the performance hit for in mast furling? In boom seems better I think because the weight is lower in addition the sail has a more traditional shape because in boom can accommodate battens. Is there a performance hit comparing in boom vs. traditional sail?
These issues have probably been discussed before, however technology and opinions change.
Thank you in advance for your insight and information.
Welcome to sailing, a sport where there is no one right answer. From what I know of San Francisco you are sailing in one of a three venues packed into one. The upper Bay is a prevalently light air venue, the lower Bay has high winds and currents, and then you are out in the Pacific. Shoal Draft is not as much of a problem as it might be in Florida for example.
Your questions are interesting in a odd sort of way. You clearly seem to be interested in how fast this boat will be with these various options. This is one of those ''is the cup half full or half empty?'' sort of a st of questions. You are starting out with a boat that does not offer all that high performance but live in an area where performance can be rewarded with an easier time against the currents and faster offshore passages. You might reasonably argue that you are picking out a medium performance boat, so why worry about the impact on performance of these various options, or you could argue that you are starting out with a limited performance boat and so anything you can do to enhanse performance is doubly important. It is not for me, or anyone else for that matter, to tell you whether it is right to opt for the ''half full or half empty'' option.
When I mention relative speeds, I will be quoting from PHRF handicap racing ratings which are supposed to equal out difference in speed between different boats so that they can race in the same race. PHRF assigns a rating to a boat in second per mile so it is pretty easy to determine the speed difference. Ratings are assigned regionally so rating practice varies with the Regional authority which is why I am quoting ranges rather than a specific number.
Anyway a fin keel will generally offer more stability and better pointing ability than a wing keel and be much easier to extract from the bottom should you run aground. A fin keel generally has less drag and so is faster. PHRF says a Wing keel is 6 to 9 seconds a mile slower. A fin keel usually has better dampening and a lower vertical center of gravity and so should generally offer a more comfortable motion in the short chop of the lower Bay.
Three blade props make more sense on heavier displacement boats than the 381. They should not be necessary for a lower drag boat like the 381 and would have a more adverse effect on sailing ability on a boat like the 381 than on a heavier cruiser. Assuming that Catalina left a large enough tip clearance for the proper diameter two blade propeller, a two blade should be more than adequate. According to PHRF a three blade vs two blade is a 3 ro 9 second hit.
Folding (vs feathering) props are comparatively inexpensive to buy and maintain. They offer better sailing performance than a fixed prop. PHRF says a folding prop offers a savings of 3 to 9 seconds a mile over a fixed prop. Folding propellers are a bit less efficient when motoring. (I personally would probably do a two blade folding prop.)
Feathering propellers have a similar drag to a folding prop but require a little more maintenance. They generally open and feather more reliably than a folding prop.They generally are more efficient when motoring. They are more expensive and probably are not necessary for a boat like the Cat 387.
In mast furling takes a significant performance hit. Within the past few years there was a study of how large a performance zapper in-mast furling really is. The study concluded that combined loss of performance for in-mast furling cost roughly 20-30 secs per mile depending on the installation and sail features. That is like the difference in speed between this boat and a 30 or so footer. In other words that is a really big hit.
The thing about in mast furling is that it takes its hit at both ends of the wind spectrum. The light air part is pretty obvious, less sail area and a large mast area sending on more disturbed air. The heavier air issue is more complex. Here the increased heeling that comes from the extra weight aloft and the larger mast section combined with poorer sail shape and the tendency for the leech to stretch and so flutter really comes into play. It would be the last thing that I would want in a venue like S.F. Bay.
In boom furling offers similar performance to a conventional mainsail setup when fully raised but when reefed the lack of sail shape control means that you do give a little performance away in heavier going.
On a boat like the 381 sailing in S.F. I would probably go two line slab reefing lead back to the cockpit with with two rows of reef points. This allows the fastest on the fly reefing, the best sail shape and the most reliability at the lowest price.
While the mainsail on the 381 is pretty small for a 38 footer, if you felt that you needed sail tidying gear then I would do something like a Dutchman or a stack pack.
I would break the bay up into three distinct areas. The south bay is huge and has mild winds and is unpopulated with boats. The north bay can be similar but is more interesting. The special part of SF Bay is inside the Golden Gate along the City front and over to Tiberon. In the summer the wind machine starts up and you will find 20 to 35 knots of wind every day. It,s a spectacular area for sailing and things to see. Expect to get wet and reef deeply.
I know people who never sail north of the Bay bridge because it''s too windy. They like the med style sailing and freek out at all that wind. Oh yea, it getts crowded in the main bay too.
Deep draft is prefered on the bay unless your harbor is one of the neglected undredged ones. Regardless of how high a boat can point it will slide sideways without a deep keel.
I would stay away from furling mains, I think they more work and slower to reef.
You are looking at a pretty large boat for your first sailboat. I understand why, but if a boat is too big it tends to not get used other than a floating condo. I know of a lot of large sailboats that never leave the dock because it''s too much work or too scary.
Jeff gave you great numbers on prop impact, but I generally think of it as 1/2 to 1 knot of boat speed improvement with a folding or feathering prop. The improvement is significant but so is the cost and maintenance. Don''t worry about the prop, you can change it later.
Good luck, have fun, look at lots of boats and pick one. You can always sell it and get something else.
In mast furling does cost in speed but seems like it might be easier for relative newcomers to the sport. No experience with in boom systems but I wonder about added stress on the gooseneck, they LOOK big & heavy. I agree with others regarding boat size, seems like a lot a boats never leave their slip and I think it''s cause the owners are nervous about getting in & out of the dock more than any other factor. I took some classes on 45'' boat with a lot of low speed operation, docking, picking up moorings etc. so anything smaller seems easy.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I find myself saying this a lot lately but here I go again. We all come to sailing with our own specific needs, our own specific goals and our own specific capabilities. The neat thing about sailing is that we all donít have to agree that there is only one right way to go sailing. There is no more truth in expecting that there is one universally right answer about many aspects of sailing than there is in trying to prove that vanilla ice cream is universally better than strawberry ice cream. One area of sailing for which there is no one universally right answer involves the amount of knowledge one needs to go sailing.
For some, all they need or want to know about sailing is just enough knowledge to safely leave the slip sail where they want and get back safely. There is nothing inherently wrong with that approach. But for others, like myself, there is much more to sailing than simply developing a rudimentary knowledge of sailing basics. If you fall into that camp, it is next to impossible to learn to sail really well on a boat as large as the one in question.
While I am in no way suggesting that this makes sense for everyone, for those who really want to learn to sail well, I strongly suggest that they start out owning a used 23 to 27 foot, responsive, light-weight, tiller steered, fin keel/spade rudder (ideally fractionally rigged) sloop (or if they are athletically inclined then a dinghy.) Boats like these provide the kind of feedback that is so necessary to teach a newcomer how to really sail well. By sailing well I mean understanding the nuances of boat handling and sail trim in a way that cannot be learned on a larger boat. Used small boats generally hold their values quite well so that after a few years or so of learning, you should be able to get most of your money out of the small boat and move on to a bigger boat actually knowing something about the desirable characteristics of a boat that appeal to you as an experienced sailor rather than some stranger on some Internet BB.
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