We may have found our newest version of an anchor argument. In the end, this is all a matter of personal preference and opinion, with just a little bit of data thrown in to make it irreconcilable.
Precisely! I am always amazed at the religious fervor with which people can vociferously debate these “How Long is a piece of string?” type issues. The reality is that like so many of these things, there is no one-size-fits-all, universally always correct answer here.
The safety of any length boat derives from the specific individual and the specific boat in question. The reality is that people buy boats based on what they fear the most. The unspoken decision process is based on a range of questions; Questions such as: (Caution: The following material may contain items which were stated with tongue firmly planted in cheek.)
-Do I fear being uncomfortable more than I fear not being able to manhandle the boat?
-Do I fear a large amount of complexity more than I fear having to give up performance and seakeeping?
-Do I fear spending a lot of money to buy and maintain a boat than I fear living in a cramped cabin?
-Do I fear being rolled in a 25 foot wave, than I fear being rolled in a 50 foot wave?
-Do I fear having to work for a few more years more than I fear not have a dedicated_______ (fill in the blank...chart table, galley table, pilothouse,gigantic steering wheel or twin wheels, etc.)
-Do I fear having a dinghy which is a third of the length of my boat and needs to be deflated and stored more than I fear not being able to anchor close to shore?
-Do I fear taking twice as long making a passage, than I fear paying for a bigger slip or not being able to trailer my boat?
-Do I fear having to ration my consumables on a long passage more than I fear losing fingers or worse adjusting extremely highly stressed control lines?
-Do I fear the sense of being isolated from the sailing that comes with highly mechanized sailing more than I fear the physical labor of sailing a smaller less mechanized boat?
And so on…
And the next thing you know these discussions get distorted with anecdotal and asymmetrical arguments. Take the original poster for example. He happens to own one of the few small purpose built cruisers that may actually be safer to sail than the majority of boats which are larger. But in the vast universe of similar sized boats, a boat this size which is also as capable of making safe distance voyages is a rarity. Which is okay, since few people have the mindset that it takes to make long distance offshore passages in a boat that is this small.
On the other extreme are the points raised by my esteemed colleague, Paulo. Paulo rightly points at very large designs which are well designed and engineered to allow a couple to safely handle them in a broad range of conditions. These are truly amazing boats that demonstrate what the ingenuity of man can accomplish. But again, few of us can afford to buy one these, and frankly few of us have the skills that it would take to sail one of these well, and safely, and to repair any possible critical element that might happen to fail mid-passage.
And even if (and I know that is a big 'if') we can agree that these particular larger boats can be safely handled by a couple if properly engineered and equipped, that does not apply to all larger boats. For as good as these examples may be, the majority of big boats out there are neither designed, or equipped or even easily adaptable to being safely sailed by a couple.
And at the end of the day, the reality is that boats at neither end of the extremes truly make sense for any of us. In an ideal world, we have each analyzed our specific needs in terms of how and where we sail, comfort requirements, purchase and operating budget, need for speed, tastes, skill sets, and physical abilities, and purchased the exact right boat that is the precise mix of virtues and liabilities to unequivocally correspond to our needs. And that boat is precisely the right sized boat for safety. (At least, until our needs and our corresponding analysis once changes one way or the other.)