Jeff, this is a fascinating thread. You've really touched on a fundamental of the sailing experience. There are quite a few dynamics involved. Forgive me for spilling from the gut here instead of focusing on a particular quote or two of yours, particulary since you started with so much for us to quote anyway
. So rather then address you specifically, I will spew a bit along the lines of: "To sail or not to sail, that is the question".
We're on our third boat, all of them coastal cruisers (Pearson27, Ericson32, 34). We chose them on factors which most certainly included our practical sailing waters on the Chesapeake. Even if we'd had much more money to spend we would have ended up in the same performance/comfort range. To sail or not to sail ? Well that depends on the reason why we are away from the dock today and how much sailing we've done lately.
Sometimes we just need to go sailing becasue we need a fix. We go out for a few hours and sail whatever direction feels good with the wind and then work our way back. That means if there isn't enough wind for the amount of chop, we'll be uncomfortable, drop sail, and head for shore or maybe a day hook. Incidentally that is now less likely at least in our area since the power boat wakes are in smaller numbers as the fuel prices increase. If we had a boat with less performance that was harder to get going, we'd be giving up sooner too or not even go out to begin with regardless of the steadier footing. We wouldn't just be motoring around out there. I knew someone with an Island Packet who used to joke about not bothering with sailing until it was blowing hard. Of course on the Chesapeake there's plenty of light air, hence our choice for a lighter air boat.
Other times we've got a destination, whether on the way to or from. In those cases we're always disappointed if we don't get at least a few hours of good sailing fix along the way each day. Heck, one July weekend a few years ago we motored all the way to destination and back, racking up 11.5 hours on motor. We actually found a smooth spot on a river with a touch of a breeze and sailed for a whopping 20 minutes. That was so disappointing. We did find a good new gunkhole so it was not all in vain, but if the wind forecast hadn't been so overstated we wouldn't have planned to go that far in the first place.
When there is a destination, the decision to sail or not to sail at a particular moment is full of uncertainty and a very judgemental one when the winds are up. With low winds it's a no brainer. Once we've gotten a few hours of sailing in each day, our threshold for dropping sail is lowered. Then as we near the other end, we're more prone to sailing the rest of the way in. If we threw in the parameter of having less performance, the sailing time would suffer. After ten years exploring the Chesapeake, the pressure to venture further to new unexplored places increases, so I expect that eventually our motoring time will increase too. I do know at one extreme that if it's blowin' like stink, we'll be sailing unless we've got a tight channel or too much channel traffic and the wind is on the nose.
Your story indicated that your friend could have sailed in the plentiful winds this past weekend and had about the same transit time result. If I had been your friend in the other boat, I would have gotten the sails out for such a voyage at least when they became strong. While we did not have children, we've had experience with children of all ages on our boat sometimes for several hours at a time (BTW- NEVER let a two year old near a winch handle, much less get hold of one
). I can see how for people sailing with children on a regular basis it would sometimes be a downward pressure on the sailing decision, depending on the current family dynamics. One of our slipmates is a devoted sailor who can be heard in the slip laying the ground rules for his teenagers and their friends about even the presence of cell phones or a walkman before they head out. Those kids have been busted for text messaging too much. He has made them leave electronics ashore. It sounds like a challenge and he's not about to give in. He says what's the point of going sailing if you're going to be looking at and poking at your cell phone keyboard for hours ?
Some adult guests are a challenge for whom I must tailor the experience also. If they don't like the boat heeled much, then I just won't consider taking them far or long when better winds are a possibility. If people aren't up for the whole experience then the planned voyage is going to be curtailed. Perhaps that could be considered controlling, but it is after all a SAILboat.