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eddieb 03-23-2004 09:03 PM

Singlehand question on buying new boat
You guys helped me at the beginning of my search for a new boat, and now Iím at the tail end of my search and would appreciate your insightful input one more time.

Long story short Ė selling a power boat and looking to buy a new sailboat in the 36í - 40í range. Itís just me and my wife. Will use it in Southern Cal for day sails, as well as 2-7 day trips to Catalina, the Channel Islands, San Diego and eventually Northern Baja Mexico. So no major offshore cruising Ė just basic coastal cruising. I joined a sailing club, took lessons and have since chartered boats.

Narrowed my choices down to the Jeanneau 37 SO, and the Beneteaus 373 & 393. The 393 is significantly bigger than the other two boats. It has around a 17,100 displacement vs. around 14,000 for the other two. My question is about singlehanding. Although most of my sailing will be with some kind of crew (my wife, friends, etc.), the ability for me to sail the boat singlehanded is important. Singlehanding will be limited to, at the most, a 50nm sail down the coast. But the vast majority (95%) of the singlehanding will be just day sails.

Problem is everything I seem to run across about singlehanding talks about multi-day passages, resulting fatigue, etc. which really shouldnít be an issue for me. I just need a boat I can realistically single hand for about a four hour day sail. Iím able to singlehand a Catalina 27 that doesnít have an autopilot without any problem. But I realize these boats Iím looking at, particularly the 393, are much bigger.

So does the 393 fit the bill for me based on my specific singlehand requirements? My fear is I donít want a boat too big that may be too much of a chore to take out for the day by myself and thus may not get used as much as Iíd like to use it. The two 37í footers Iím not concerned with in this area Ė just the 393. My wife likes the room and creature comforts the 393 provides, as do I, and it would be great on anchor and at the slip, but I donít want the tradeoff to be less sailing or less enjoyable sailing because of it.

So whatís your advice for me? And any input in general on the three boats Iíve narrowed down to would be appreciated as well. Thanks!

Jeff_H 03-24-2004 02:32 AM

Singlehand question on buying new boat
It is hard to answer that question for you without knowing a lot more about how physically fit you are. I don''t know if this will help, but I can tell you what I went through in my search for a cruiser that could be single-handed. I tried a lot of boats ''on for size'' meaning that I went out on a whole range of boats and looked at what I could handle easily and what was more than I wanted to deal with. The largest boat that I sailed on was a J-160 (53 feet) I can''t afford anything this large or new but I felt that I could single-hand the J-160 with the help of its electric winches but that single-handing something that size was not something that I would want to do in the confines that I was sailing in. Without getting into any detail, my own conclusion for myself was that 10,000 to 13,000 lb boats were much easier to single-hand than boats that were slightly heavier and longer. I ended up buying a fractionally rigged 38 footer with a design weight of 10,500 lbs and have found that to be a great platform to single-hand, slipping out for quick daysails almost as easily as on my previous 28 footer. My boat is set up to be an easy single-hander if you are in reasonably good condition.

When you talk about jumping to a masthead rigged boat of the weight of the 393 that is a pretty big jump in the efforts involved in sailing the boat. The sails are necessarily larger, and the jibs are huge. Each tack just plain takes a lot more energy. Because you can''t depower as easily, you are stuck making more sail changes or dealing with having a less than optimized sail size and/or shape for the conditions, either of those choices make single-handing more difficult a masthead rig more difficult.

I would definitely avoid in-mast furling and go with a two line slab reefing system because when you are single-handing you need to be able to reef reliably and quickly and in mast furling can and does jamb. Getting one unjambed is a multiperson project, and by definition you don''t have multiple people when you are single-handing.

On the other hand, I am in pretty fair shape but I am 53 year old, 5''9" and 165 lbs. A younger, larger person might shrug all of this off and be completely comfortable sailing a much larger boat. I had a 60 something year old friend who routinely single-handed his 42 foot, 24,000 lb boat, albeit he motored rather than sailed a lot more than I would ever prefer to.

Good luck,

WHOOSH 03-24-2004 04:21 AM

Singlehand question on buying new boat
Ed, my take was a little different than Jeff''s, altho'' on reflection its more a comment about apples than oranges. I think there are a lot of variables that are going to make a bigger difference to you than displacement IF you are only considering 3 masthead sloops ranging in displacement between 7 & 8.5 tons. (To my way of thinking, Jeff''s boat is considerably smaller than what you''re looking at, more easily handled as a result and, of course, we would all expect him to have it rigged with sweet functionality).

Ergonomics is a science & tradecraft that seems well honored by some builders (or by some but not all designers for a given builder) but not by others, and ditto about setting the boat up well for singlehanding (there are lots of ways to rig a reefing line but they don''t all work equally well). Jeff''s point about trying out the boats in question is where I''d want to start...but with some reflection first about how the boats are currently rigged and, with a knowledgeable sailor if you would find it helpful (salesman, YC member, whomever), how much they could be improved. Just to offer one simple example, the winches may be appropriately sized for the 393 and, while there may be a few more feet of line to crank, the effort itself may be less...and if the ergonomics are better, it may be less objectionable overall.

Another issue is your sailing venue. We all know what SoCal sailors have to deal with: lots of light air but also a few ''hurricane gulches'' near shore and in the Channel mid-day. And you don''t sound like the kind of sailor that will enjoy a routinely underperforming boat in light airs because you''ve got a genoa sized for the 15-25 kts of rare but occasional wind. So again, looking at the reefing setup for the main, determining whether it can be further optimized, and then trying it out on a windy day (the next Santana?) would be useful info.

However, the problem I foresee is that genny and I honestly don''t know what eager SoCal sailors do these days to get acceptable performance out of their headsails, day in/day out, given the breadth of wind speeds they see...unless we start talking about fractional rigs and lighter boats. Isn''t it fair to say that 80% of the time, you''d want a 150% (ugh...) while 5% of the time you''d want a working jib - and the balance something inbetween? Again, I see this being an issue across the range of boats you''re considering so it doesn''t help you there...but it would seem an issue you''ll want to reflect on a bit.

I like how you''re thinking your way thru this, nailing down the types of use, your own sailing plans and goals, and examining your own comfort level. Spelling this out makes it a lot more feasible to offer useful advice (altho'' I''m not sure I did). Keep us posted as events unfold, OK?


Eades 04-03-2004 08:43 AM

Singlehand question on buying new boat
Hi Ed: What you describe is much of wha I do with my Beneteau Firsr 345. I frequently go out after work, sailing out for an hour or two,then back. I do some weekend sailing, plus aweek or so with one or more of my teen age grandsons.
The 345 has a masthead rig. I usually use the 157% jenny. Sometimes I sail with just the jenny.
Lake Ontario, where I sail, is generally a light wind environment; but some days it gets heavy.
I installed an autohelm. It is unparalled when you have tasks to do such as raising, lowering, or trimming sails; or undertaking tasks that take you away from the helm.
Good winches for sail handling are essential. Mine are all two speed, and for boats in the sizes you''re looking at two or three speed winches are neeeded.
I have been single handing for a number of years. The best advice I can give you is take things easy. I always enter and leave a slip dead slow. When single handing allow yourself extra time for every manouver, and think them through ahead of time as much as you can.
I will turn 73 this summer, am 5''7", 195#. I have a heart conition (atrial fibrilation), diabetes, and osteoporosis.
I only mention these matters is so that you know that it isn''t necessary to be an Olympic athlete, or even close to it for single handed coastal sailing.
One other thing: before buying put as much water under the keels of prospective boats as you can. One way is to put in an offer to purchase with a non-refundable deposit of say $500.00, dependant on a seven day sea trial in local waters. If you buy then the depopsit is applied on the purchase price. If you don''t buy you have had a reasonbly priced charter.
Sorry I can''ttell you anything about the specific boats that you are considering, except that my Beneteau is great.
Regards: Murray Eades

sailingfool 04-03-2004 02:25 PM

Singlehand question on buying new boat
54 Attachment(s)
A first comment for singlehanding is be sure the jib and mainsheets are easy to reach while at the helm position. A second is stay with smaller headsails unless you sail in the most consistent light air. I gnerally find the 125% manageable for light to moderate air, 100% when it breezes a bit. Cranking by onesself the 150 % with any air is too backbreaking and slow when single-handing.
A good underdeck autpilot is a great help, proably essential if you''re going to singlehand often.

good luck.

eddieb 04-06-2004 10:21 PM

Singlehand question on buying new boat
Thanks once again gang. Great helpful advice by all of you. I will use it.

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