Pros & Cons of cruising on a mid size to small boat - SailNet Community

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Old 03-30-2009
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Pros & Cons of cruising on a mid size to small boat



What do you all feel the pros and cons of cruising on a mid size to small boat are. Say something like 27-36 footers.

Last edited by ditch; 03-30-2009 at 01:53 AM.
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Old 03-30-2009
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What do you all feel the pros and cons of cruising on a mid size to small boat are. Say something like 27-36 footers.

To some extent I think that depends on age. In the sub 30' bracket there are some definite possibilities for sure but once you get up round 35 and up there are plenty of more than adequate choices.

Once you get to my age anything under 35' starts to feel a bit cramped and you start looking more to 40' and up.

LOA is not necessarily the be all and all end all. Some 35-40'ers have plenty of room.
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Boat or Crew lol

"To some extent I think that depends on age." Are you referring to the boat’s age or the crew’s age, maybe both-HA-HA!
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Old 03-30-2009
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"To some extent I think that depends on age." Are you referring to the boat’s age or the crew’s age, maybe both-HA-HA!

Cheeky bugger !!
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Old 03-30-2009
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Although I am still waiting for our cruising years, I can only speak from limited experience and our own desires. Our plan is to stick to the smallest boat WE find comfortable. We plan to be minimalists, but that term is relative as each cruiser has his/her idea of minimal. In general, we would like pressurized water, seperate shower stall, roomy cockpit, and an aft cabin if we can find it in a boat below '40. Our current boat, we find is great for extended weekends and even a couple of weeks which is all we can manage to get away from the jobs currently.

Having what you want is not always a good thing...Wanting what you have will save you a lot of stress and money in the long run......
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Old 03-30-2009
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Smaller boats are cheaper.
There are harbors and anchorages that will be more accessible in a small boat.
You won't need a full crew every time you want to go for a sail.

I am generalizing here, but a lot of times it is true.
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Smaller boats have lighter gear: sails, sheets, anchors.
Bigger boats have more comfort, easier motion, more capacity.
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Old 03-30-2009
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It all depends on your priorities. If your major priority is to get out there and cruise, then going with a smaller boat, that has simpler systems and fewer amenities is the way to go. If you need to have all the comforts of a shore-based life and want to have the big queen size berth, the 42" LCD tv, with DVD, hot and cold pressure water, 110 VAC available at all times, then you won't be happy.

The Pardeys have spent decades on boats smaller than 30', and put hundreds of thousands of miles under the keel of their two boats.

It also depends on how many people you are talking about. For one or two very close people, a <30' boat is possible. Once you get more than two people, you'll probably need more space at a minimum because of the increased stowage requirements.

Smaller boats have lower costs overall. They have the ability to anchor in more places, and require less draft generally. They're often less likely to be attacked by pirates. They're easier to handle in many ways. They're usually slower. They're not as comfortable. I wrote a bit about this in a previous thread I started:

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I've noticed that some people on this site seem to discount the idea that a smaller boat can be the ideal boat for a person. I guess it has a lot to do with what you got the boat for.

If you want a floating condo, with all the pleasures and conveniences of modern life, including the microwave oven, the big screen TV, and the washer and dryer, you can't do that on a smaller boat.

If you want to live aboard a boat and run a business from it, a larger boat may make sense. You need to have living space as well as office space. I know a man who runs a very successful company from an office on a 34' catamaran... where he lives and has his office.

However, if you want to sail to far away places, and live a life that is based around sailing, a smaller boat may make a lot more sense.

Look at what boats some very well respected sailboat designers chose. Many chose smaller boats for their personal sailing craft.

Capt. Nat Herreshoff designed for himself the 26' "Alerion III". When Capt. Nat was in his seventies and living in Florida, he sailed a 30' K/CB "Pleasure"

Joel White sailed a Bridges Point 24 named "Ellisha" after his grandaughter

Phil Rhodes sailed a wooden 25 footer named "Nixie"

Carl Alberg sailed a 26' Pearson Commander named after his wife "Alma"

Bob Perry sails a 26' Cirrus called "Perrywinkle"

Part of the problem with a lot of the mass media is that they are driven by advertising dollars...and the larger boats are where all the money is. Look at the pages of Blue Water Sailing, Cruising World, and those magazines, it would seem that you can't sail across an ocean in a boat smaller than 40' in length.

Part of the problem is that many people confuse cruising with chartering. Most long-term cruising sailors I know have tried to simplify their lives and have gotten out of the rat race, and the rat race's need to compete with the Joneses.

However, I believe you can go and do a lot of sailing, and even sail long distances in relatively small boats. In fact, this was in fact the norm until not too long ago.

Look at Tania Aebi, who sailed a Contessa 26, Donna Lange, who is in a Southern Cross 28, Pat Henry, who was in a Southern Cross 31, have all circumnavigated the globe... okay, Donna's not quite done yet, but she's in the home stretch... The Pardeys sailed aboard two different boats, Talesin was less than 30' LOD, and Serrafyn was less than 25' LOD. Webb Chiles circumnavigated four times, once in a Drascombe Lugger, but that's an extreme example IMHO.

John Vigor's book, 20 Small Sailboats to Take You Anywhere, lists boats all smaller than 35' LOA. Bigger isn't necessarily better... if your goal is to sail and cruise for as long as possible... then a smaller boat may make far more sense.

A smaller boat costs less to buy....leaving you more money for the cruising kitty.

A smaller boat costs less to maintain....making the money in the cruising kitty last longer.

A smaller boat often can go more places than a larger boat. Bigger boats don't gunkhole well.

The small boat is often easier to repair. The hardware needed on a smaller boat is often simpler and more reliable than that on a larger boat. A manual windlass is going to have fewer maintenance problems than an electric or hydraulic windlass; an electric winch is going to need more maintenance than a manual winch; the electrical system is often far simpler, and require less work to repair; stepping the mast often can be done without a crane, and so on.
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Last edited by sailingdog; 03-30-2009 at 09:15 AM.
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Old 03-30-2009
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I would echo again what Sailingdog said- how many people? Are you going out with your partner/spouse with whom you are used to sharing space with, or are you going out with a family? Kids? Taking along your best friend whom you are very fond of but you both need adult space?

We have found that 38' is the minimum we could deal with, but that's for two full time adults and one full time kid, with no room for additional guests. The 40+ range is really more workable for us.

In a few years, once the youngest is out on her own we will be looking at smaller boats but for now, we need the space to keep everyone sane.
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Old 03-30-2009
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Depends on your definition of cruising

Is cruising for you knocking around the Chesapeake? Sailing the Intra Coastal? Island hopping the Carribean? Sailing the Southern Ocean?

A "comfortable boat" would be very different for someone planning on spending a lot of time on the hook in remote places versus someone who wants to spend a lot of time in marinas hooked to shore power.

If you're cruising with a spouse the boat must meet both your definitions of comfort. My wife and I have very different thresholds of what is "acceptable".

Our Catalina 30 is a very comfortable boat for weekend cruising and the occasional week or ten day trip. It's not a boat I'd take to the Carribean for a year long cruise. Preserving marital bliss would require something at least 38-40 feet.

I guess what I'm saying in a round about way is you need to define your cruising needs before you can start to think about what boats will fit those needs.

Jim
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