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Delezynski 10-25-2013 07:00 PM

Sailing, safety, & size
Hi all,

Over the last week, I have read a number of posts, here and other places, regarding not feeling safe in open water in smaller boats. Now days that seems to mean less then 35 ft!

How many out there equate size to safety? Does it have anything to do with it? If you think size does provide safety, why? What's the logic? :confused:

Do you feel safer in your home country, state? Or is it just in the head of the person making the judgment? After cruising Mexico for years, we feel safer there than in the US! (Excluding ALL boarder towns!)

I am currently reading a book, The Terrible Loyalty, by Sandy Moss. Jill and I met Dave Chamberlain (who the book is about) in the California Delta when we were cruising there a few months back. It's about the voyage of a 20 ft. boat from the West Coast to Hawaii. A very good read!

I am a geezer and remember when a 32 ft. boat was a BIG ocean going boat! And, Jill and I have cruised on boats from 132 Ft. to our current Nor'Sea 27. We prefer our 27 to all of them.

I have never understood how or why people equate size to safety. Witness the Titanic! ;)


Jeff_H 10-25-2013 07:28 PM

Re: Sailing, safety, & size
Having also begun sailing when a 35 footer was a big cruising boat, at most levels, I understand the thrust of your point. But for better or worse, the concensus coming out of most studies on the factors that lead to a more seaworthy boats conclude that the one factor that consistently improve seaworthiness (all other factors being roughly equal) is greater length.

But I also understand that a badly designed longer boat won't be safer than a well designed smaller boat. I also understand that a larger boat can kill people when a smaller boat might simply bruise them. And I also understand that a longer boat in the hands of an inexperienced crew is likely be far less safe for that same crew on a smaller boat.

These things are never so simple that a simple rule can universally apply.

But the really good news is that you prefer the boat you own to all of the boats you have sailed before. To me the most joyful thing in life is being pleased with what you have.


nolatom 10-25-2013 07:31 PM

Re: Sailing, safety, & size
That's a lot of questions. but for offshore work, days from shelter, I think it's more a question of weight than size.

An ultra-light 40-footer is less safe than a 25' wooden Vertue, in my view.

So personally I would want enough displacement that the boat's motion in a sea won't beat me to death. What is that number? 6000 lbs? 10,000?? The Albin Vega at 5000, has a good reputation offshore. I wouldn't want to go less than that. more like 7000 (Triton) or 9000 (Pearson 30 or similar). Sail area/displacement and ballast/displacement ratios would also matter to me.

Your NorSea 27, at 8000 with 3000 ballast, is much more rugged than the Vega, though likely not as fast.

Every boat is a compromise. You like yours. other like theirs. But yes, more size alone isn't necessarily safer, or (especially) easier to handle the larger sails and forces.

desert rat 10-25-2013 07:47 PM

Re: Sailing, safety, & size
I am not a sailor. I am a technician and a lurker. I read, I learn. Safe? I would feel safer in a Vega in the middle of a storm than in a hotel room in a big city. What boat would make me feel safe to face any situation? An Australian or Argentinian ice breaker with crew should accomplish that. I am also an adrealin junkie. If a big warm teddy bear safety blanket is what you need, more power to you.

capta 10-25-2013 07:48 PM

Re: Sailing, safety, & size
Design and quality of construction will dictate the safety of a small craft at sea, not size. There are a lot of boats under 35' I'd feel safe on, if not comfortable, at sea, and a huge number of poorly built larger boats that I wouldn't want to take to sea, at all. Just the other day, a Beneteau 50 lost her rudder off Martinique, offshore, not on a rock!
I've operated an 80' motorsailor that was absolute junk, built by Lancer. In fact a sister ship had a 12'X4' section of the hull that never completely set up.
I have sailed a Folkboat and a King's Cruiser, both excellent boats and only 27'.
If we are not talking about the operator here, then the size is of little consequence, if it is a well found vessel, designed for ocean sailing, IMO.

PCP 10-25-2013 08:38 PM

Re: Sailing, safety, & size

Originally Posted by nolatom (Post 1110626)
That's a lot of questions. but for offshore work, days from shelter, I think it's more a question of weight than size.

An ultra-light 40-footer is less safe than a 25' wooden Vertue, in my view.


Sorry but I do not agree.

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As Jeff as said it is complicated. It has to do with RM but also with dynamic stability. RM has to do with weight and GZ (the arm). Bigger boats have a bigger GZ so they have an advantage and they are also bigger proportionally to the wave size, that's another advantage in what regards dynamic stability.

An older and heavier small design can partially compensate the disadvantage to a bigger modern design because the weight contributes to the RM and this one to stability, but modern designs with much lower CG (that contributes to a bigger arm as well as the bigger beam) end up to have a better overall stability.

Note that between two boats with the same stability (the same area under the RM curve), one bigger and lighter, the other smaller and heavier the lighter one will recover much more quickly from a knock down assuming they have similar RM at 90. The force that is pulling the boat up is the same, but the force needed to put an heavy boat back in its feet is mutch more than the one needed to right a much lighter one;)

That is just an important factor, there are much more about it but generally we can say that a bigger boat is safer and certainly it is if it is the same type of boat. I am assuming well designed and built boats as are most of the boats built today.

Regarding the case you have pointed out I have no doubt that a Pogo 12.50 is much more seaworthy than the old Vertue by a big margin even if the displacement is not very different.



The Ol Man 10-25-2013 09:13 PM

Re: Sailing, safety, & size
To paraphase a famous ship designer: Any sucessful ship is a conglomeration of three factors, Design, Construction, Crew Ability. Any succesful ship's Design is the correct balancing of the ablillity to fullfill its intended use, with safety, and comfort. Which ship is right for you? I can't answer that; only you can say what is the balance you are most satisfied with. Is it the best one, here again, that is up to you.

Sublime 10-25-2013 09:38 PM

Re: Sailing, safety, & size
I'd trust my 18' Lugger over my 26' Hunter out in the open seas.

Minnewaska 10-26-2013 01:58 PM

Re: Sailing, safety, & size
I think the boat that causes the least fatigue for her specific crew is going to be the safest. Less fatigue = better decisions. That may be motion, ease of handling, comfort, strength, displacement, whatever. The crew is the primary focus for safety and no two are alike.

peterchech 10-26-2013 08:52 PM

Re: Sailing, safety, & size
At a certain point a boat is too small, gotta have a certain amount of rm and anything under say 22' loa prob just won't have it. When the boat broaches, it must have enough weight in the keel at 90 degrees to bring her back up while her crew is hanging off the lifelines.

After that, all the other factors will be more imp than just size.

But a smaller boat has to change sails sooner and is waaaaaay less comfortable than a bigger boat. However short handed, smaller sails and loads can be a good thing.

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