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post #21 of 25 Old 12-22-2004
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Second Thoughts on the Ideal Cruising Boat

Hi Stede,

What you put on this board is quite interesting and judging by the responses it has raised quite a bit of comment too. what is the ideal cruising yacht? After reading all that and considering my years of sailing in a variety of boats mainly coastal but with the odd passage thrown in, I am not sure that I would necessarily agree with the observations quoted.

For what it is worth I want to throw in some food for thought too. Understand that my sailing is primarily in Australia so that has quite a bearing on what I have to say.

The one thing that I have noticed over the years is how the size of boats has increased dramatically. It is like our homes and our cars - everything seems to be getting bigger and so are our expectations. Call it what you like - I see it as the "peter principle" - and charateristic of the rest of our lifestyle that is based on want rather than need. Most of which is artificially created in any event.

I noticed from the posts that not too many people are enamoured of the "Pardy Principle" of minimalist sailing but the truth is if you are a real cruiser and not just a wannabe or a part timer it is apparent that minimalist sailing is really what it is all about. The more stuff you surround yourself with for whatever reason the more complicated life becomes and the corollary of that is that you become more dependant on others too. The very thing you don''t want.

Having the biggest boat with all the best gear can in fact be a hindrance. That''s why most of us drive modest cars and not Ferraris even if we can afford them.

Some of the posts on this site have rightfully acknowledged that bigger and more complicated boats are harder to manouver, restricted to deeper water and certainly more expensive not only to purchase but also to maintain. We all know those things.

There is therefore good reason for a real cruising sailor to have a modest and simple boat. And yes if you are ever at an anchorage you can be sure that the fellow in the little boat is having just as much fun as the fellow in the fifty footer - possibly even more - because the truth is he doesn''t have half the worries that the skipper of the larger boat has.

There is a lot of stuff being peddled on the Net which unfortunately is influencing people to buy bigger and more complicated boats and equipment. Not the least the fact that if you want to have a female partner on board you have plenty of room and all the necessary "mod cons". I can think of a number of analogies but I won''t go there. Hi girls!

I guess I am of the old school and more interested in sailing for its own sake. A good comparison is the difference between those who camp (in tents) as opposed to those who take everything including the kitchen sink in a camper or caravan. It''s a personal thing. Maybe Australians are just content to keep it simpler too.

There are plenty of sites on the Net which extol the virtues of smaller boats so I can avoid going over all that here. Also how important it is to buy the boat that best suits the sailing that you intend to do. The bottom line is that most sailing is coastal and that boats sit in port for significantly more time than they are sailed. On that analysis you really don''t need a fifty footer. Yes the boat should be comfortable but you can get that in a properly designed 25 footer when you realise that in a cruising yacht the most serious sailing is only with a couple of people. A cruising yacht is not a floating dormitory or an entertainers showpiece. It is another case of where size does not always count.

Think about this - if you want to design a yacht that only has a couple of berths and a decent galley then with the added room in the cockpit there is no way that the boat has to be any where near what was proposed by the people you quoted.

Then comes the real issue - seaworthiness. We have all heard the stories of people who have sailed enormous distances in smaller vessels and the reason they succeeded in most cases is that they made sure that their boats were just that - seaworthy. Clearly we cannot account for the idiot factor - those people will always be there - but we can if we are smart make sure that whatever the size of our boat it is as safe as we can make it for the sailing that we intend.

Interestingly enough I am aware of only one manufacturer, namely Etap, which manufactures an "unsinkable" boat. While there is an agent for them in this country they are not sold in big numbers and I note that is the same in the USA. On their own admission Etap concede that it costs about a third more to build their boats that way and sadly it has not really been much of a selling point if the lack of interest from other manufacturers is anything to go by. Maybe the auto makers have known the answer for years - safety does not sell. Although interestingly enough when I spoke to one eminent yacht designer in the USA recently he did concede that there is much more interest in things like bouyancy today than ever before.

The truth is though that in cruising yachts safety should sell and to get back to small craft it is far easier to make a small boat unsinkable than a larger one unless you adopt the Etap manufacturing technique or have sealing bulkheads.

Again there is not much on the Net about that and what is there is misleading. It is not just simply a matter of determining a boat''s displacement and then adding the equivalent amount of bouyancy (assuming you have enough room) as some people (who should know better) have suggested. It all has to do with the density of the material that the boat is built of and the weight of the stuff (like the motor and other gear) in and on the boat. It is simpe enough to calculate too.

Those people (primitive or otherwise) who have sailed epic voyages in wooden boats have proved the principle that if you have a boat that will float even when flooded regardless of its weight you are far safer than in a modern steel or fibreglass boat that will sink in the same circumstances.

Fibreglass, aluminium and steel are all heavier than water as we know. While fibreglass may be less than twice the specific gravity of water, aluminium is about three times and steel is about seven times. Without some consideration to bouancy all those boats will sink like stones. Not a nice thought when you are a long way from port.

So apart from manufacturers like Etap there is still even a place for wooden boats despite what some "modern" cruising sailors would have us believe. And when you take into account all the advantages of a small boats even a small wooden boat is not such a bad option. So much for all the "tupperware" boats that we see these days.

Another thing that most people seem to get wrong is their ability to stem the flow of water in the event of a flooding. Few pumps manual or otherwise can do that even with a relatively small hole at least not over an extended period of time. It is often a case of knowing whether to pump or jump and even if you decide to pump just when to jump. It is far better to know that your craft won''t sink and that you will have time to find and fix the problem. Having or adding the necessary bouancy to your boat will give you just that. It is easier to do that on a smaller boat too.

The truth is you are safer staying in the boat not only because of the obvious possibility of being shark bait but also because all your water, food and equipment is there so there is a real chance that you will endure the ordeal and also be seen and get home after fixing the problem.

So my thought is that more modest and simpler boats are still the go for long term cruisers. Since serious cruisers only make up a small proportion of sailors the rest are likely to continue to buy boats and gear more for reasons associated with their ego than the reality of cruising. That''s all good for boat builders and chandlers and if that is what the majority of sailors want then that is fine. To suggest that we need all those things as opposed to just wanting them is another thing. That is so whether you base that on surveys or otherwise. And that is my point.

My advice is if you really want to keep the dream alive "go small, go now" as is often said and give some thought to seaworthiness which covers a lot more territory than the issues that I have raised.

I personally believe (if you are so minded) you''ll have more fun whether you cruise occasionally or long term - coastal or otherwise in a smaller boat. You will also learn a lot on the way. That''s what cruising is really all about.

Me - I am back to a small wooden boat. It does everything I want and gives me more flexibility than a larger boat. With the added advantage of the bouyancy that I have installed I know that I can weather most of what the briney can throw at me. Being wood the boat is easily fixed too. It requires more maintenance than a glass boat but the end result is better. Consider how hard it is to match a patch on a moulded glass boat.

All things that make for better and certainly cheaper cruising. Notice I said cruising and not posing or racing.

Like I said it is a personal thing but I certainly would not be putting too much credence in the small survey that you quoted.


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post #22 of 25 Old 10-31-2009
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Johnno, you raise an interesting point in favor of wooden boats that I had not seen before. But aren't wood boats more fragile and thus more likely to break up in rough seas?

I would think a broken up boat would not be safe even if individual planks floated.

No offense intended to you and your views, it just seems curious.

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post #23 of 25 Old 10-31-2009
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Originally Posted by DavidHDennis View Post
Johnno, you raise an interesting point in favor of wooden boats that I had not seen before. But aren't wood boats more fragile and thus more likely to break up in rough seas?

I would think a broken up boat would not be safe even if individual planks floated.

No offense intended to you and your views, it just seems curious.

In a word, No.
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post #24 of 25 Old 10-31-2009
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Well, Johhno hasn't posted in 3 1/2 years. Maybe his boat sank?

Never listen to someone describe why your project will not work unless they can show you the broken pieces of their own version. - Robert Gainer
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post #25 of 25 Old 11-01-2009
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To respond to David Dennis, on a pound for pound basis, nothing (except the high tech composites like kevlar and Carbon) are stronger then wood. If you were building a purpose built, one off, small cruiser, colded molded wood construction with a protective barrier of epoxy/kevlar laminate would be a tough, low maintenance and inexpensive way to go.

On the other hand, with regards to Johno's point of three years ago, while wood itself is buoyant, by the time that you add a ballast keel (even without the weight of an engine) to a wooden sailboat, a wooden boat would not float without additional buoynacy chambers. A good design might include some buoyancy chambers, and they would buy you some time to self rescue.

But even with fiberglass construction, there are few production boats that are optimized for offshore use, and many of those rely on out dated construction modes that result in unecessarily heavy hull weights, compromising the ability to carry ballast, which in turn compromises stability, which in turn compromises the ability to carry sail, which in turn compromises the overall sailing ability of the boat other than for offshore distance cruising.

This topic of an appropropriate Fiberglass structure and construction details for offshore work came up in an earlier discussion with Stede and here is the response that I had written on that topic....

No matter what you do you just about can't put enough conventional fiberglass in the hull of a boat to prevent it from being pierced in a collision with a floating container or other heavy, solid, small contact area object. For that matter, if you are going to end up with a reasonable weight boat, you typically don't end up with enough steel either. For a serious 'go anywhere cruiser', the key to building a safe go anywhere structure consists of a variety of factors. Small panel areas, by that I mean that the boat should have a series of longitudinal frames and athwartship frames. Forward of the main bulkhead these should be quite closely spaced. [I will use my boat as an example (which was after all built for offshore work despite her light weight) the biggest unsupported hull sections below the waterline forward of the main bulkhead are about 4" by about 16" in area.] There should a ‘crush block’ at the stem at the waterline. [On my boat the crush block extends 6" above the waterline and extends back 16" to the first transverse frame.]

The area forward of the main bulkhead should be compartmentalized with watertight bulkheads that extend vertically above the waterline that would result if the boat had at least two of the compartments flooded. [On my boat these bulkheads appear to extend over a foot above the flooded waterline.] Ideally the tops of the longitudinal frames and the athwartship frames are on the same plane so that you can screw plywood into the tops of the frames to slow or stop the flooding. Ideally one of these bulkheads are on the centerline of the boat because should the boat ride up on something the sharp ridge at the centerline of the vee’d sections at the forward end of an offshore boat would really have to stand up to a lot of abuse. That whole bulkhead system should be heavily glassed into place. [That pretty much describes the construction of my boat.)

In the area of the keel there should be massive and closely athwartship ‘floor frames’ (this applies on fin keel or full keel, encapsulated or bolted on). [On my boat the ‘floor frames’ are over 8” deep and 4” wide and taper out to 4” deep above the waterline terminating at the waterline longitudinal except on the areas near the two main bulkheads where they extend to the rail.] On a boat with an encapsulated keel, the membrane across the top of the ballast needs to be as heavy as it would be on a boat with a bolt-on keel.

There should be no liners blocking access to the skin of the boat (at least forward of the main bulkhead and on the leading edges of the keel) up to the height of the flooded waterline mentioned above. All decks and flats in this area should be quickly removable so that access to make repairs can occur. [Here my boat gets a ‘B’ I can get to everything under the berths and forepeak quite quickly but the deck of the forward cabin is not removable. That is something I plan to change if I ever take the old girl offshore.]

Seacocks should not rely on backing blocks. Instead the hull should be built up to a thickness that locally reinforces the area under the seacock and distributes this localized stiffness out into the hull.

Once you have done all of that, coring or non-coring becomes less important. But coring above the waterline tends to produce a better offshore hull. For example, to quote from the Shannon website,” The most important feature of Shannon's fiberglass work is the use of composite core construction techniques. Composite core construction uses a layer of structural foam sandwiched between two thicknesses of laminated fiberglass. A composite hull can be both lighter and stronger than a conventional hull made with only solid fiberglass laminates. Cored hulls can remove unwanted weight above the waterline and have tremendous impact strength to absorb a blow from a piling, another boat or in a grounding. Solid laminate hulls are heavier in the topsides and when hit, tend to fracture and fail along the filament lines of the laminate. Shannon hulls use 1/2" to 1" semi-rigid PVC closed-cell linear foam material. Linear foams do not shear internally under impact, as has been found in the less expensive cross-linked PVC foams. Extensive testing has proven that foam core materials have better memory than balsa wood cores, enabling them to spring back into shape after a concussion. Unlike balsa wood, foam cores not allow water migration and rot if water penetrates into the core material from a skin fracture.”

In a composite boat, I believe that a couple layers of Kevlar, ideally in a vinylester or epoxy resin, and located in the outer plies, is critical to approaching the kind of abrasion resistance exemplified by steel but at a tiny fraction of the weight.

Then there is the main bulkhead. I don't care how a boat is constructed, at the mast and shroud area there needs to be either a massive ring frame or bulkhead to address the kind of loads that come from the rigging and keel loads. Without some kind of athwardships rigidity the boat will flex in a way that will ultimately weaken it through fatigue.

Similarly, there is the rudder area. Again, I don't care what kind of rudder you have, the area around the rudder post should have sturdy knees or bulkheads extending transversely and fore and aft. In my opinion, the rudder tube should extend well above the waterline and should have support at or near the deck level. In my opinion the rudder tube (and perhaps the shaft log), should be in their own watertight compartments or at least a compartment that is tight against the hull but extends above a partially flooded waterline. (This may require two shaft seals for the prop shaft or a flooded engine compartment neither of which is too easy to achieve.)

There should be substantial knees or bulkheads at shrouds attachment points and these should be tied into substantial longitudinal framing.

Hull to deck joints are another area of concern. I am a big believer in a belt and suspenders approach. I personally like a large inward facing hull flange with frequently spaced, comparatively small diameter bolts that is backed up by a slightly resilient adhesive caulk. The bolting should pass through an uncored section of the deck. At that point, glassing the interior of the joint becomes extraneous and makes future repairs much harder to perform.

Respectfully submitted,

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Last edited by Jeff_H; 11-01-2009 at 08:19 AM.
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