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OsmundL 05-08-2009 09:50 PM

The Great Taboo: Motoring?
Id like to hear more about the great taboo: Motoring. We sailors tend to pretend it doesnt happen we certainly dont like to put a figure on it. Still it plays a part, and much of what is said about choosing a boat, equipping it and using it, really depends on how we use it.

For example, those profound calculations about electricity onboard they fade in importance if you motor 50% of the time. Boat speed under sail? Yes, but what about speed under motor? Engine noise it matters little if you mostly sail, it is a serious comfort issue if you motor frequently.

Looking back over, say, the past two years, can you put a percentage on the hours spent under motor? A bare figure needs some flesh on the bone: it is more useful if you can say how you mostly sail. Is it day sailing or cruising over days and weeks? Or racing?

Ill kick off: Earlier when mostly day sailing, our use of the engine was minimal and I mean truly minimal, a few minutes to cast off and then to drop anchor, the rest was sailing. Now, when cruising is the rule, motoring has a big place. In and out of harbor, but also on a schedule to the next port; when arranging rendezvous; in close quarters channels, heavy currents, narrow straits into a headwind; sometimes in foul weather when you dont want to be on deck. Finally, when motoring today could put you in the right place for wind tomorrow, or when not motoring would allow the foul weather to catch up. Then there is motor sailing, keeping the main up to steady the boat or just for show while getting most of the speed from the iron horse.

Going over the log, I think my motoring time the last 12 months fell close to the 50% mark.


P.S. Im sure this has been a theme before, but it bears updating.

Faster 05-08-2009 10:28 PM

I'ts true we motor more than I'd prefer.. but as you said there are factors that pretty much necessitate being at a certain place at a certain time, esp in our area with its many tidal passes and narrows. Also in the winter and shoulder seasons daylight is a limiting factor.

We generally daysail/weekend except for summer season when we may spend up to 50-60 days straight cruising. If we have a planned meeting or a need to be at a provisioning spot, we'll motor if conditions require.

We generally do not motor upwind just because its upwind. We much prefer to beat than to motor into wind and chop. Its simply more comfortable. We also virtually never 'motorsail'...

sck5 05-09-2009 08:28 AM

isnt the place you have to get to upwind 90% of the time?

JimsCAL 05-09-2009 04:24 PM

Anyone that cruises has to motor some percentage of the time if you have any kind of a schedule. Racers don't motor (except to get to the start and from the finish). Unless I get stuck with the wind dying when daysailing, I barely use the engine. Last season I was on the boat about 70 days and went through about 1 tank (12 gallons) of diesel, most of it on the annual 2+ week cruise.

CaptainForce 05-09-2009 06:25 PM

We are seasonal latitude cruisers spending summers in Maine and winters in the Bahamas or Keys and we make as many as twenty ports that we enjoy northbound or southbound. We love to sail, but if we're not making five knots, then we are motoring or motor-sailing and we're not alone, There are hundreds of "snowbirds" or "hurricane birds", like us, doing this year 'round. I don't have a percentage, but we put 500 hrs. on our engine each year. 'take care and joy, Aythya crew

Valiente 05-09-2009 06:29 PM

I overhauled my Atomic 4 in my racer-cruiser in 2005 and have put 81 hours in four seasons, including two cruises down Lake Ontario that included canal motoring... No wonder I made my gas tank I cycle a tank in two seasons instead of three!

By contrast, our motorsailer went through 200 hours in two seasons, but that was a function of my insisting that the diesel, once on, stayed on, if only at 1,400 RPM or so, because I feel that the pattern of diesel usage in sailboats is generally too brief. If we were sailing for eight hours, however, and had reasonable wind, I would motorsail for 90 minutes, shut down, sail for five hours, and then motorsail the last 90 minutes, keeping me, the diesel and the batteries quite happy. When we are passagemaking in this boat, I suspect the motor usage will be three to six hours per week, primarily going from an anchorage to a good "pumpout point" outside that particular country's discharge limit.

In other words, if there's a reason to run the engine, I certainly don't mind doing so, but I tend to avoid using the boat to go point to point under power in the first place, because I would rather just sail at two knots for a few hours than use it as a means of straight transportation that's hooked to a schedule.

labatt 05-09-2009 07:43 PM

As we've cruised down the east coast of the US and then the Bahamas we've found that we've had to motor far more often than we wanted to. On the way down the east coast, I'd say we motored or motorsailed over 50% of the time. Because of the number of fronts that came through this winter we went when a window was available - sail or motor. To us it wasn't taboo - just something we did to get from point a to point b at times. We absolutely craved sailing, but we'd leave places regardless.

drobarge 05-09-2009 08:35 PM

I find that if I'm making less than 3 knots my key finger gets itchy. It's not that I don't like being underway longer than necessary, but I usually have only so much time to go where I want to go. Also I sail on lake Superior and in the early spring and fall lingering in open water is not advisable. at these times of the year winds can reach 40 to 50 real fast, even when the weatherman doesn't give you a heads up. This rapidly builds very steep seas with a short length, not my prefered texture. Soooooo..... anyway if common sense tells me to fire up the mill I do it.

bloodhunter 05-12-2009 01:08 PM

We use about 20-30 gallons of diesel fuel a year mostly getting in and out of our marina and in and out of harbors. Being in the Chesapeake, we tend to sail early or late in the summer when the heat dies down and there's a little more wind. However, when we want to get to an anchoarge and the wind has died we turn on the engine. Sure beats oars

ScuzzMonkey 05-12-2009 07:24 PM

Certainly doesn't seem taboo here in the PNW. I think 50% is a conservative estimate for engine time for most sailors around here. I got curious about this last year and went through my log book, and we were closer to 70/30 (sailing/motoring) but I would say that's the exception. At that, we actually motored more than I was comfortable with, but time constraints will do that to you.

Even so, I think we are considered a bit odd by others in the area. We were heading north through a narrow pass in light winds last summer, making about a knot, but enjoying the scenery, and were passed by several other sailboats under power heading for the same moorage. When we got there, I ran into one of the gents who had passed us up at the store. He asked if that was us who had been sailing up the channel and whether there was something wrong with our engine. When I replied that, no, we just liked sailing and weren't in a hurry he chuckled, shook his head, and said, "Boy, you were really working for it, weren't you?" Didn't seem like work to me, but that's how a lot of people see it. It's about convenience, and a lot of time, the iron genny is more convenient.

On the other hand, some people get so used to it that they tend to fall back to it even when sailing might get them there faster. On the same trip, we were crawling north through another channel near a slightly larger and newer sailboat. The wind picked up and things got a little bumpy; the other boat dropped sail and started the engine up, while we reefed down a little bit and got wet. We beat them to the anchorage by almost a half hour. You also see people nearly helpless when the engine goes, despite having a perfectly serviceable rig. I think people should be free to use their boats however they like, but that speaks to me of over-reliance on motoring and not enough development of sailing skills (or recognition of the benefits that can come with them).

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