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PapillonDory 07-19-2007 08:05 PM

Sail -vs- Motor Cruising?
I am new to the site and have been a motor boater all my life. I am in the process of learning to sail and planning my retairment in a couple (2) years. I want to be able to follow the seasons and cruise/liveaboard for a good number of years. I have assumed it will be more economical to do this in a sail boat as compared to a trawler, or other motor cruiser. In your (the group) openion, is this a true?

"If you don't read the newspaper
you are uninformed, if you do read
the newspaper you are misinformed."

Mark Twain

SanderO 07-19-2007 08:12 PM

The cost of Fuel? I cruise all spring , summer and fall on a 36' sailboat and use less than 100 gallons of diesel.

sv shiva

wildcard 07-19-2007 08:29 PM

With the cost of fuel anymore, how could that not be even more true than ever?

MysticSkipper 07-19-2007 09:19 PM

I want to sail into the sunset and hopefully I will, but I have seen some pretty compelling arguments made for motors and motor sailers. Older trawlers can be had for far less $$ than sailboats. That savngs is enough to buy a lot of fuel and some of them use a lot less than I thought. Trawlers often have better passenger accomodations. Again, I am choosing sailing; but it isn't the slam dunk I thought. Here is a very long discussion about it:

RickLaPaz 07-19-2007 09:44 PM

Here's one of the best stories I can come up with on short notice. A while back our very nice yet Sea Ray owning dock neighbors told us they wanted to meet us in Catalina on a Friday afternoon. So I kind laid things out for them, told 'em we'd be leaving at 1000 for the 5 hour sail over there and if they left at 1400, it would probably be a tie. So we fire up the big Perky that we have, motored for 15 minutes out of MDR and sailed a reach the rest of the way at 7 knots plus. Absolutely perfect day. We got a mooring just before 1500 and fired up the stereo, **** tails and hor's doeovres. Our freinds didn't show up 'til almost 1800, after pumping 300 bucks in gas into there tank, then dealing with not only a clog filter, but eventually an electric fuel pump, somehow delivered by Boat U.S.. Big money...

Anyways, after spending a few days together, we fire up our motor for maybe ten minutes, drop the can and have another sail back just like the one out. They didn't get back in 'til 9 p.m. that night, 'cuz they had to top off their tanks once again in Avalon(another 2 hundred something) plus they had to change filters twice on the way back.........

The moral, and point here, is that we spent less than $4.50 on fuel and didn't have to listen nor smell exhaust for too long, and enjoyed 10 wonderful hours in complete silence, while our friends went through over 4 bills on fuel alone, not to mention the pump and filters. And the time spent upside down in the engine room upside down and rolling like a tin can for a few hours.

That right there should answer all of your questions. Good luck,


sailingdog 07-19-2007 10:24 PM

It depends... if you are a lousy sailor... might not be the case.

Valiente 07-20-2007 12:37 AM

I'm doing all I can to turn my motor sailer into a sailer motor by avoiding all instances of having to charge my batteries via the alternator.

I *like* having the engine, and it certainly drives the boat well, but I don't like the noise (I've been told for a 50 hp diesel it's actually quiet), I don't like the smoke (almost clear, but it's unmistakably diesel) and I don't like the cost, even if I only use 40 gallons a season.

It's a sailboat, dammit. If I wanted to motor, I'd drive or fly.

jrd22 07-20-2007 12:51 AM

PDory, welcome to the "other side".

I don't have a trawler, but I have a 28' commercial crabber (think big-11000lb-runabout) with a 200 hp diesel and sterndrive that we use to commute back and forth from an island and a 34' pilothouse sailboat, so I have some basis for comparison in order to answer your question.

The things that I feel are about the same cost are: electronics (you can spend as much as you want with either), haulouts for bottom paint, zincs, etc.(about once a year- I haul out more often because of sterndrive services), general maintenance (buffing, waxing, galley repairs, head, etc), moorage(if the same length),insurance(?).

Sailboats are gear intensive and so a lot of sailors (mostly racers) have to have all the latest and greatest gear available which all costs a fortune. Even if you are not a gearhead, we all manage to find a few things each year that we can't sail without. There is a lot more equipment on a sailboat to wear out, from lines to winches, standing and running rigging, and let's not forget sails. This all adds up over the years. Of course, a lot depends on the size, age and type of sailboat you have. I would be hard pressed to put a dollar figure per year on this for my 34' pilothouse, and my costs wouldn't be representative because it has been a total restoration.

The obvious big expense of the power boat is fuel, you don't move without it, so every hour you can multiply the GPH by the current cost of diesel. In my case it is 7GPH for power, 3/4 GPH for sail when I am motoring which is for sake of argument let's say 50% of the time. We can all do the math(power-ouch!). The big difference I think most people don't think about is that because of the cost of fuel, most powerboaters only run the boat when necessary and in a straight line toward the destination. In other words, they don't run it anymore than absolutely necessary. I am talking about liveaboards and full time cruisers, not the two week vacation. So I think the powerboater, especially someone that is retired on a fixed income will be inclined to not run the boat nearly as much as a sailboat which can be taken out at most times for practically nothing. So not only is the sailboat cheaper from a purely financial aspect, but also more rewarding in all respects because you tend to use it more often, which after all, is the whole point of spending the rest of your life(or as much as possible) on a boat.

In my case, I know I spend a lot more per year overall on the powerboat, primarily because of fuel, but also engine maintenance. The other cost that will end up biting me is the cost of engine replacement which I figure is somewhere between 8-10 dollars per hour (which is probably twice what a trawler would be). That is a cost the broker will never mention and most owners choose to ignore, but it's a fact that you will put a lot more hours on a powerboats engine than a sailboats, and the cost difference is huge between a 30-50HP engine and one of several hundred HP.

IMHO the answer to your question is yes, it will be considerably less expensive to liveaboard and cruise on a sailboat than a trawler. Sorry for the long winded answer, it was a good mental exercise for me to go through all of it for myself as well.

PapillonDory 07-20-2007 04:01 PM

Thank you all for the response to my question. I will continue to live and learn sailing, and proceed to start the quest for the perfect boat (with in my budget) like a 32 footer for under $ 30,000 . There should be a few out there to pick from , don't you think?

Suppose you were an idiot.
And suppose you were a member of Congress....
But then I repeat myself.

Mark Twain

Cruisingdad 07-20-2007 04:42 PM

The Dissenting opinion
Ohhh boy, how I love a good discussion and debate. Now comes somewhat of the dissenting opinion:

Cost for cost, it is PROBABLY less expensive on a sailboat. Probably. But I am a fan of trawlers... true, full displacement trawlers. THere are not many of those, incidentally. Four names come to mind: Nordhavn, Kadey-Krogen, Selene (by Marlow Marine), and the Cape Horn (which could classify as a small ship).

I love those boats.

Yes, they burn more diesel than the comparably sized sailboat... but not vastly more. They are full displacement hulls, like a sailboat, thus are VERY efficient - but still limited to hull speed.

The living accomodations between the two are vastly differnt. Sorry guys. You cannot compare a Nordhavn 46 to any 40-50 foot sailboat... I might even throw a Cat into that mix. Very large, very comfortable, and VERY safe. THe Nordhavn and Cape Horn especially are two boats that could be argued to be safer than most sailboats. The N46, for example, has a 1100 gallon fuel tank. Sounds like a lot, right? Well, at cruising speed, that puts its range somewhere around 5000-7000 nm. They are made to cross the Pacific and Atlantic, and have done so countless times.

How many nm you guys get off a tank of gas? We all like to argue how we sail and do not need fuel, but that is not really true. Whether for a watermaker, air conditioning, battery charging, or just to make forward progress in the duldrums, you will often need diesel.

I will also give you some of ole CD's experiences. As a weekender, we always enjoyed going out for a sail. THe boat close hauled, the wind flying through our hair, a little Marley on the radio.

As a liveabord... we HATED going to weather. Crap falling all below, slinging across, oops forgot about the lantern, or our typical, "CRAP! HONEY, WOULD YOU PLEASE SECURE THAT DOOR BEFORE I GO CRAZY!!!" We spent countless hours travelling down the ICW and you almost never sail there - which means mototring. We typically found a nice place to drop the hook and that is where we stayed for long periods of time - preferring to explore in the dink.

I will not say that is how EVERYONE cruises... but that was us. In some respects, being a liveaboard takes much of the fun out of sailing, for reasons stated above. It is the cruising that was fun and the poor little dink got a workout.

Thus, as a liveaboard versus a weekender or vacationer, the argument could be made that there is not that much of a difference. We had no problem going through the diesel... I will tell you that! Still, there is a big difference b/t filling up a 1100 gallon tank and a 40 gallon tank. We just fill up more often.

But those are just my experiences. I will also say that you will be much more comfortable in a trawler. you will spend 99% of your time anchored, 1% going. Plan accordingly.

One other note worth mentioning: With just a few exceptions, the cost of a trawler versus a sailboat is vastly different. The new Nords, for example, are well over a million. That would sure buy a nice sailboat. If I am not mistaken the oldest Nordhavn 46 has not sold for less the around 350-400k or so - and that is for a 1989 model that has been WELL used. You need a deep pocket for a REAL trawler.

- CD

PS I do not own a trawler, I own a sailboat. I just am not opposed to a trawler and think they make sense for the right person.

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