Production Boats and the Limits
We've seen the age-old debate regarding what's REALLY a blue-water boat. And that's cool and everything - but it seems to me that there is a tangible middle ground between coastal cruising and true blue water sailing. Furthermore, in my blissful ignorance, I'd say that quite a few sailors inhabit this aether plain.
Sure you can buy a Hinckley or a Brewer or a Tayana or Cheoy Lee and take them wherever the hell you wanna. But where exactly can you take a Catalina, a Hunter, an Irwin, a Beneteau, a Jenneau, even.....yes....even.....a MacGregor (dum-dum-duuuuum).
Do you make sure you never leave sight of land in these boats? Do you keep land 50 miles away? 100 miles? Do you run from a 40 knot squall? Do you live in morbid fear of encountering a freak 50 knot storm - where you're cool with it in an S&S design from 1927? Can you "outrun" such storms in these "new fangled keel" boats - where in a full-keel Formasa you just heave to and ride it out with a Dark-n-Stormy and a tiparillo in your hand?
Giu had a good write up comparing Beneteaus/Catalinas/Hunters from a "sailability" standpoint. And CD has had some great input regarding the capabilities of various production boats. And we've seen the exhaustive list of blue water boats with great input from Cam and Jeff_H.
Furthermore, Val and others have pointed out the critical elements in any heavy weather situation is actually the skipper and crew. And this makes a heap of sense too.
So, the question I'd like to pose to the sailing world is this: From the standpoint of dealing with the outer limits of "coastal" cruising - what are the best production boats and why?
You can take any boat hundreds of miles from land, given the right weather conditions. Most storms move fast enough that unless you have sufficient warning, out running them isn't a real possibility.
Most boats, even production ones, are tougher than the deck monkeys crewing on them. Older, heavier, more seakindly designs are going to be easier on the deck monkeys than some of the newer, beamier designs.
As for what is the best production boat... it depends... What are you planning on using the boat for, and where?
Take a good look at what the sailing purists call an offshore capable boat, then look at any modern catamaran or tri. I think you make an excellent point, many production costal sailors are much more capable than the sailors sailing them, regardless as to how far off shore they are. That said, many of those so called production costal cruisers have no business being away from the dock, let alone off shore,imho,
That is a post to open up a smack of worms...
I'd venture to say it not so much the boat in a majority of the cases, it is the experience of the crew that handles going through it.
I know you read up on SA and the Volvo Races etc - serious fricking money on supposedly fast - ocean rated vessels. Look at the carnage they experience. One could argue that well - they are race boats but the crew onboard are 10X more experienced than the casual off-shore sailor. The combo is killer and they purposely go the margin...
It has been annotated time and time again - its not actually the boat in most cases it is the preparedness of the crew, and knowing when to back down. Your C-27 actually can make it across the gulf with no issue - as long as you pay attention to the weather windows etc. When snuff blows up behind you - its the crew / skipper - knowing what the behavior of your boat is and how she should be handled.
No such thing as a boat rated for the X versions of what mother nature throws out. When you have a scenario they waves and wind conditions promote scenarios where the wave height factor alone is 4 times your waterline length..it becomes a man over mother nature as that is all you can do..
I know you are kinda asking as you are looking to upgrade. There is no real formula to it - the only two constants are:
1: How well do you know the boat (not just handling either, where is everything, how much can she pump out if breaking waves etc.)
2: Your perseverance. A good majority of lost boats in distressful scenarios is the giving up aspect.
Sure some boats don't add up but you'll know because they are not worth sailing in 20 kt wind conditions before you set the first triple reef... all the rest - well.... you'll come to your conclusions
Yeah Jody - the whole "can of worms" thing? Kind of my schtick. But I do think it's a good discussion. Great perspective by the way...oh, and you nailed me on the motivation BTW!
Wes - you got the point...it's really riffing off the "purist" ideal. We've talked a ton about that. But, seriously, who's a purist? I'll wager most sailors are not. They're in the middle trying to figure out where that edge is. And I'm sure there's a wealth of experience on this forum of those that have been there in a production boat.
Dog, I get your point...but rate boats, dude. That's the game.
My boat, Freedom 28 is certainly “production”, however is not as mass production, as others, mentioned here.
They have proven offshore record, and I, with my limited experience, feel quite confident that boat can take more than I can so far. However, my boat designed with long travel in mind. On another side yearly Freedom 32, which have all attributes of modern boat – fin keel, spade rudder, fun to sail, big interior, did quite a few long, cross ocean trips.
There was Catalina 27 which went around a globe, staying south of Africa. I run across an article somewhere on internet where owner described all modifications he did to the boat. List was extensive, however all things were typical – adding handholds, reinforcing here and there, etc…
Perhaps it's worth mentioning that the vast majority of wreckages and carnage happen on the coast - not even along the coast but virtually on it. The boat may have played a part, but I doubt that "blue water" was the deciding factor. Crew, maybe? Maintenance, maybe? Alcohol?
The statistic that makes me smile is from this year's Vendée Globe; folks sailing single-handed around the world at infernal speeds. Some 32 skippers started, 11 finished. Along the route one found them capsized, hauled into remote islands for safety or repair, rudderless, keel-less, demasted, and with torn sails. What joy it must be!
Vendée Globe Ranking
I mention it only because it is often said that racing - as in "motor racing" - advances technology for ordinary cars. I don't see many trends in these ocean races advancing the game for the rest of us. In areas perhaps, such as electronics, but as a general direction?
This is a little sad because meanwhile, the original field of blue water cruising has been left behind. There has been so little development that you can fully understand the "old school" swearing by the old shoes - it isn't as if newer boats have made a great advance on blue water.
In fact, it is the "coastal" cruiser that has taken the greater strides: roomier, much more reliable both structurally and in equipment; easier to handle, more nimble to maneuver. It is not surprising that some want to bring those advantages with them and travel further afield - and to be honest, it works most of the time, doesn't it?
^ ^ ^
Good points. The fact is that very few people do blue water sailing...it's the equivalent of crossing the Sahara on motorbike. Most (and I mean 95-99% of all recreational sailors) do coastal, and a lot of them do daysails or gunkholing. It's no wonder I bought a custom steel boat: when there's no market for ANY "bluewater capable boat", the arguments about full keels, skegs and Solent rigs becomes largely academic.
There is no upside in creating oceanic boats for daysailers, because they will inevitably be heavier (because of necessary tankage), narrower (because of outboard stowage areas and the need to have handholds within arms' reach), and will have fewer or more conservative amenities (due to repair issues, energy draws, etc.). You can make any production cruiser into a both with these attributes, but at the risk of loading it down and still having the wrong hull.
It's no wonder people are still buying 1970s plastic cruisers, Island Packets and other "old shoes", because there are very few "new shoes" that can meet that "falling off a 25 foot wave without snapping a bulkhead or killing the crew" requirement. Nor are there cruisers who expect a regular diet of that sort of weather.
Look through the pages of National Geographic and Ocean Navigator and see what the high-latitude, truly "independent of the shore" boats look like. They have different shapes, skegs, workshops, padeyes, unfashionably high lifelines or pipes, welded or through-bolted lash-down points, massive arches holding mounted reels of stern anchor rode, and down in the boat, massive tanks cross-connected with manual pumps.
None of which your average Beneteau owner wants, needs or frankly, would understand or recognize, because they are never more than a hundred miles from a marina or a SAR service.
Which is fine.
So, unless you can buy one of the semi-custom production boats that are inherently this way, like a Shannon, some Moodys, the Swans, etc., I would say that there is NO current production boat that meets bluewater capable requirements. Not among the advertisers in the sailing magazine, anyway!
That should rile a few folks...
Having said that, the closest bets probably come from small yards in South Africa and New Zealand and even in France and Germany (although not as much as even 15 years ago), where "local conditions" are frequently so rough that the boats there have to be built to resist them in a fashion not necessary in North America.
Likewise, I think hull shape has been impacted as well. I know you were talking about so-called "blue water," and not coastal, and arguably the changes in hull shape have impacted production boats more directly. But that said, far far more sailors sail coastal than blue water, and modern production boats are starting to look a lot like the Vendee Globe boats, or at least a lot more like them than they are more traditional and older designs.
I suspect building materials and methods have been impacted too, but I don't really have specific knowledge on that.
And Smacky, if you're planning on sailing the coasts, I think any of the recent vintage production boats will do ya. Having had both, I think a big difference between the two "types" (mass produced and more limited production/semi-custom) are how they are outfitted coming from the factory. Mass produced boats are not as well equipped coming from the dealer, and I don't mean just in terms of goodies. Handholds, extra tankage, serious equipment, better materials on ancillary items, and stuff like that. But as you've noted, plenty of mass produced boats have gone far afield. But even aside from trans-oceanics, many many of these boats have cruised the Bahamas and gone to Bermuda and back. Tons of them actually. If that's your expected use or something comparable, they're fine (properly equipped and maintained of course).
Still, what I had in mind was primarily boat shape, and perhaps sail systems. The Open 60 shape is efficient and has influenced coastal sailing - but not many choose it for comfort on blue water. I am sure some ocean sailors would also like to see more of the good ol' ketch sails, with small manageable sails and quite efficient - but not for racing. And if you're looking at the real hot rods, the record-beating trimarans, they rely so much on size that if you and I bought one each, we'd pretty much congest New York Harbour. We'd spend most of our time there, because storage is so scarce that we'd be running ashore every day to buy coffee and sugar :)
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