SailNet Community

SailNet Community (
-   General Discussion (sailing related) (
-   -   Motoring to sailing ratio vs performance....... (

Jeff_H 08-27-2006 10:09 PM

Motoring to sailing ratio vs performance.......
I am putting this thread out looking for discussion on something that I personally find interesting. I don't mean this to start a food fight, or to suggest that one way of cruising has more validity than another. There is a tendency to turn these discussions into an 'us vs. them' kind of discourse. That is not my goal. Neither do I mean to suggest that there is any kind of moral imperative to any of this.

What I hope to explore is how various members of this forum view the value of voyaging under predominantly under sail, and the relationship between performance and being able to do so.

What triggered this, in a somewhat of a round about way, was a couple events and discussions this weekend. Here on the Chesapeake, depending on where and when you were under way, this weekend was the kind of bodacious sailing weekend that could only make one glad to have taken up sailing rather than watching golf on TV (not that I mean to insult any of you who might otherwise prefer golf on TV). Both days resulted in some wonderful opportunities for breezy sailing. (If I were to believe my wind instruments I saw gusts in the mid-20 knot range both days and after mid-afternoon on Saturday had solid winds in the high teens for most of my time under way. Great sailing for the Chesapeake in August; the kind of breezes that assure short passage times in almost any kind of boat.)

In any event, coming out of Annapolis Harbor, running along under spinnaker before the wind filled in completely, an acquaintance came motoring by. Some of you who have been around for a while may remember Bruce. Bruce came to this forum, looking for advice for a 35-40 foot boat for the Chesapeake. He eventually emailed me and we looked at a wreck of an Alberg 35 together. The boat in question was ill suited to his goals, and so I rode shut gun with him in his search for something more suitable. (Bruce, I don't know if you are still lurking here but feel free to jump in any time if you see anything amiss in my description.) He ended up buying a very nice early 1970s era Pearson 39 K/cber. Which is somewhat beside the point.

When the deal fell through on the Alberg 35, Bruce asked me to submit a list of boats that might meet his needs. On that list were a number of boats that were at the higher performance end of the spectrum. Bruce responded with additional information about his goals, including a statement that I see often in peoples cruising boat searches Im not in a rush when I sail and so speed is not really important. It almost became a joke between us, so that, any time I would point out the relative speed of one model vs. another he would wide crack about it.

That phrase, Im not in a rush when I sail and so speed is not really important. comes up a lot in posts by people who are looking for cruisers of all kinds. So much so that it is almost a standard inclusion. As someone who advocates performance as a virtue in a coastal cruiser (if not in an offshore boat as well) the phrase has always struck me as a statement of preference and little more, but one that seems to be surprisingly ubiquitous.

Continued due to the word count limit.......

Jeff_H 08-27-2006 10:09 PM

Anyway as things turned out, I caught and passed Bruce and family under spinnaker just as they were still motoring and just about to turn the corner at Eastern Bay Green light 1. It was a beat up Eastern Bay. They motored the rhumb line and I had a couple tacks and so we rounded Tilghman Point a few hundred yards apart. It was a wild reach up the Miles and into the Wye River for me, showing speeds in the gusts into the high 9-knot range. A while later I saw Bruce and company come in and we had a nice chat on the VHF. We talked about how well the boat was working out for the family amongst other things.

As the chat continued, I asked Bruce why he was motoring on such a beautiful sailing weekend. He replied, that they got a late start and wanted to get on the anchor before it got too late. Which lead to an interesting chat on the phrase Im not in a rush when I sail and so speed is not really important. But here he was, motoring on a good sailing day to get to where he wanted in a reasonable time. I would not have picked up on it except that the last few times that I had been out, I had run into acquaintances who were motoring on good sailing days because they needed to be somewhere.

I dont mean this to be critical in any way; weve all probably done this when we perceived the winds to be too light and our speed to slow to get us some place we need to be when we need to be there. But I began to think about that threshold speed at which we crank the engine, and the relationship of performance to that threshold. In other words, if two people each have a threshold of say 3 knots before the crank the engine but one boat needs 5 knots of wind to do 3 knots reaching and the other needs 10 knots, the boat owner whose boat needs 10 knots of wind would spend more time motoring.

In helping people search for boats, I find that there are people who look at owning a slow boat as a kind of mark of pride. They can tell you the advantages of going slow. They have a basis that they can explain. Its not just a trade off for achieving some other goals. And, there seemingly is a whole spectrum of people between those who value slow and those who value speed.

Again, whether any of this is a good or bad really depends on what you value in life, and for some the ratio of sailing to motoring is just not a concern. But for others like myself, who really value the ability to voyage under sail, without using the engine, a boat that was not good at either end of the wind range would be a real deal killer. (No, I dont think that my preference is somehow better than the other option. It is simply a preference, and I pay the price for that preference with boats that are a little more Spartan than similar length boats. When I was a kid there seemed to be a lot more of a focus on the sailors art, and getting there by the wind than there seems to be today, but we seem to lead more complex lives in all other areas as well. But all that too is beside the point.)

Which I guess comes to the point, I guess what I am asking is for your ideas about the importance of voyaging under sail (by which I mean sailing almost exclusively from point to point, which perhaps includes working your way in and out of an anchorage or dock under sail) vs some kind of composite, where you have a fixed speed at which the iron genny gets fired up, vs some rule that you have regarding delivers and schedules.

And then any thoughts that you may have on why you think performance is or isnt relevant to that.

There is no correct answer here; there is no moral imperative. This is about personal preferences. And I am simply trying understand more about this from a wider viewpoint than I have encountered.


sailingdog 08-27-2006 10:32 PM

I sail a boat that can make five or six knots in winds under ten knots. One of the reasons I chose this boat is that I can sail more of the time, rather than having to motor. Unfortunately, because of where my boat is berthed, I do have to motor to get past the local bridge, which is a swing bridge, and they don't let sailboats go through under sail, only under power.

Performance is important to me, and my boat can actually make better time under sail, than it can under power, in winds over eight or nine knots as a general rule, unless my destination in dead upwind. In the case of a dead upwind destination, I'd need 12-15 knots of wind or so to make enough boat speed to equal my SOG from motoring upwind.

I'd prefer to sail rather than motor...but motoring is sometimes necessary, whether for manueverability, or because you need to go directly upwind.

Motoring or powerboating is really something that is for people that care more about getting to the destination, rather than caring about the journey.

catamount 08-27-2006 11:17 PM

Hi Jeff,

While certainly not "statistically valid" (only a few data points), and there's a lot of variability in conditions, etc..., here are some interesting data:

5-week voyage from New Hampshire to Newfoundland and back aboard a Cape Dory 36 Cutter -- nearly 300 hours of engine time, which AVERAGES to almost 8 hours per day! We generally relied on a 4-knot rule *

A week's passage from Maryland to Rhode Island aboard a Irwin 37 Mk V -- there was only about 5 hours where we turned the engine off!

7-day voyage from Maryland to Maine aboard a Peterson 34 Sloop -- only 9.5 hours of engine time total, and that mainly due to transiting of canals*

From another source, a reported 19 day Maine cruise aboard a Pearson Triton, 269.4 miles cruised, approx 57 hours underway, 27 hours under power*.

With the Peterson 34, we generally sail in and out of anchorages, through crowded mooring fields, on and off the dock, etc... The performance advantage over something like the Cape Dory 36 in these situations has as much to do with manuervability as it does with being able to sail in light and/or fickle winds.

Day sailing in and out of Boothbay Harbor this summer, our windward ability was noticably better than that of many of the other boats out there. Except in the lightest of winds, we might be likely to get to a windward destination quicker under sail than under power (propbably especially in heavy weather).

When we're sailing (versus motoring), the propellor is folded up and I don't have to worry about it snagging on lobster pot lines (they can still get caught on the rudder, though).

My dad's Cape Dory 36 Cutter is a rather "comfortable" boat by Brewer's ratio (FWIW); my Peterson 34 Sloop, much less so by that ratio. Nonetheless, both my Dad and I agree that overall the motion is really not all that different, even on boats rather far apart on the design spectrum. I posted this in a discussion on another board, and Bob Perry responded:

My philosophy on "comfort" offshore due to the motion of the boat is that we are really dealing with degrees of discomfort. No small sailing yacht will be comfortable offshore. I don't think first class in a 747 is "comfortable". I think the post comparing the comfort of the Peterson 34 to that of the Cape Dory is right on. The difference in "comfort" is not that noticable as long as you avoid a radical design. Boats that have a slower motion are usualy more initially tender and most sailers would prefer initial stiffness to a slower motion. Initial stiffness while providing a quicker motion may make a boat more "comfortable" because that boat will sail on it's feet and not on it's ear. We may all have differring personal definitions of comfort.
Isn't that what most people are trading off versus sailing performance? Perceptions of comfort and seaworthiness?

My boat has a relatively high SA/D ratio. To some that might suggest big sails that are hard to handle (and thus perhaps less "seaworthy" offshore). But with a relatively light displacement, my sails are not necessarily any bigger than they would be on a heavy cruiser. I think it might be easier for me to reduce sail when the wind picks up than it would be for another boat with lower SA/D to try to add sail area in light conditions (kinda tough for them to make their mast taller!)

Anyway, I'm happy with my choice to go for a relatively more performance oriented boat. Don't know if this answers your question (What was your question?)



Jim H 08-27-2006 11:26 PM

Interesting questions-- in some ways, you might be pointing out certain "downsides" of cruising. For example, on a daysail we'll keep the sails up, or change the headsail, if there's light air. Basically, if we're not doing at least 2-3 knots, the Columbia River is going to carry us away. Nonetheless, we're out there to sail, and the motor stays off unless we're really adrift.

If we're doing an overnight, weekend or week-long cruise, we normally have to get somewhere, and sometimes getting there early will ensure a place at the dock, a mooring ball, or at least a swing circle for our anchor. This adds a stress element to the sailing, and sometimes we can sail all the way, and sometimes (in light air) we have to motor all the way.

Being able to sail to the dock or off the anchor or mooring ball is great, but not essential. Also, with kids, sometimes we have to curb our desire to sail with their desire to enjoy the destination-- we may want to sail until seven p.m., drop anchor and have sundowners, but realistically we should get there at 3-4 p.m. so they can hike, fish and do their stuff.

So, performance gets hammered either way (kids, time schedule, light air), but it's still important. I've heard of more than one case of "our boat was too hard to sail" when beginners start with heavy off-shore boats that aren't suited to needs at the start.

Jim H

Jeff_H 08-28-2006 07:07 AM

Two things that I forgot to mention, the first is that Bruce has two teenage daughters, one of which has gotten into a Junior sailing program and into racing, but even so, the decision to motor on Saturday may have been influenced by the 'teenage boredom factor' faced with a long down wind leg that initially appeared to be moderately light air.

I also forgot to mention that they got started back early on Sunday, as Bruce put it, they were trying to beat the prediced bad weather. Bruce motored by while I was eating breakfast and we exchanged pleasantries. I left about an hour or so later, and near the end of the sail saw Bruce and family motoring up ahead.

Catamount, you and I had almost this conversation when you were buying your boat, and I think we are bascially on the same page with our view on performance and amount of time voyaging under sail.

I did not realize that you are sailing out of Booth Bay Harbor. That is where Synergy was when I bought her and brought her back to Mill Creek so its funny that you took Catmount from Mill Creek to Booth Bay. Have to keep that boat count equal, don't we?


Pamlicotraveler 08-28-2006 07:39 AM


Originally Posted by Jeff_H
Two things that I forgot to mention, the first is that Bruce has two teenage daughters...the decision to motor on Saturday may have been influenced by the 'teenage boredom factor'

With two teenage sons, I know the pressure of "cranking the engine" when the wind dies down, even momentarily. I have no doubt Bruce was under that same pressure. The only reason my guys might not mention for me to start the motor right away is that they don't want to take the iPod earphones out until the song is over...

TrueBlue 08-28-2006 08:39 AM


Originally Posted by Jeff_H
"What I hope to explore is how various members of this forum view the value of voyaging under predominantly under sail, and the relationship between performance and being able to do so."

Even though most here may feel that a motorsailer is a hybrid cross between a motorboat & sailboat, I'll bare my throat to the wolves just to broaden the comparisons.

With respect to the purpose of having a boat rigged for sailing, my focus is usually on keeping the motor off while underway. It is however, no surprise to most that traditional pilothouse Nauticat motorsailers are not designed to be performance sailboats, with standard models requiring winds in excess of 10 knots to reach a maximum of 5 knots SOG.

Like most sailors, I always find it interesting to compare the performance of my boat with others that may be following a similar course. I am surprised at times how well the boat does sail and how often it can outsail other boats with similar characteristics. This may be due to True Blue's tall rig option with modified fin keel and skeg hung rudder - a more efficient design over the standard full keel, shortened mast model - which sails like a dog. Although it may not be very impressive compared to some other sailboats, I have sailed this boat at near hull speed (7+ knots) in 15+ knots of wind. But the average speed is normally around 5 knots.

Sailing to me is very enjoyable when we are not destination-oriented and the goal is to simply shag around the Bay or journey long distances under favorable sailing conditions. As was previously mentioned though, with very light winds, or when the quickest travel time is important, such as when we must get to a mooring in Block Island or Cuttyhunk before others take them all, the 90 hp iron genny will get fired up.

Although I do enjoy the challenges and joys of pure sailing, this is when we are truly grateful for our boat choice. The ability for a 33 foot, 9 ton keelboat to motorsail at 9 knots, with little or no wind, has its advantages in times of need . . . or impatience.

Gene T 08-28-2006 10:22 AM

I have always felt that power boats go places and sailboats go sailing. You can go places with sailboats but you just need more time. Time is short now days, and motoring might make a difference of whether you get to use the boat or not.

Wife and I were in San Francisco at pier 39 on Sunday looking at a boat. Didn't like the boat but we had lunch at the end of the pier with a panoramic view of the bay. Winds over 20 in on a typical summer day and lots of boats. We were paying attention to the set of sails and how well the boats handled. Some were really pounding to weather and others running nicely past the city front. One boat was pounding to weather under just a reefed main. As he came closer I realized he was motoring. It bugged me a bit, but he was probably trying to make the gate before the tide went against him.

We enjoy sailing but don't race, so finding a boat that performs well but isn't set up as a racer is important to us. I start thinking about starting the engine at 3 knots, but it depends on whether I need to be somewhere or not.

Boating is all about enjoying yourself, and if that means using the engine to enhance that use then that's great. but if time is not an issue we are very comfortable just drifting about on the water, being out there is the whole point anyway.

Now if I can just find that next boat.

mikehoyt 08-28-2006 10:50 AM

Fun discussion.

When I have to get there I concentrate on getting there. If it is 30 miles and there is a lot of tacking I will motor mainly because I am feeling lazy... usually either the day before or the day after is a race in the opposite direction often in light winds in wrong direction - I get my sailing in then.

If I am short handed and the winds don't favour a nice sail or it is a short one or on the nose then I motor. If I have adequate crew more often we run the sails. If windy and behind and short handed just the main or if I have a good crew then the spinnaker. I absolutely hate wing on wing for long distances ....

Finally - if sailing is faster we sail.

Two weeks ago had a race starting from a club 34 miles from our marina. It was 8:30 at night when I left alone and not much wind. I motored. The next day was race day (40NM) and 20knots wind. We sailed of course and it was a blast flying the chute in 20+ knots! (there ws crew of three and no kids). The Sunday I left the dock at 4:30AM under motor and when the sleeping crew woke up 3 hrs later we had rounded a cape directly into the wind (was forecast to die in the morning) - we continued to motor all day. 66miles. long day.


All times are GMT -4. The time now is 08:47 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
vBulletin Security provided by vBSecurity v2.2.2 (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2017 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.
User Alert System provided by Advanced User Tagging v3.1.0 (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2017 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.
(c) LLC 2000-2012

For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome