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Vans 01-25-2007 01:58 AM

Noob wonderings and questions about sailing, life at sail and sailboats

I am sure they questions have all been asked before at some point, pardon me for asking them yet again. Then again thats what places like this are for, yes? I have been reading over the site the last few days and still have some questions.

About me:

I have been on, around and operating boats all my life. Fishing boats, race boats, ski boats, etc. I have been out on the sea untold numbers of times. Back and forth across the Columbia river bar and Tillamook Bay bar more times than i can count. Been on seas incredibly rough and potentially dangerous and seas so calm one would think they were on a lake. My father has been an avid fisherman all his life and imparted that to me.

I have a distinct lack of experience with sailboats though. Of course my fascination with them is greatest. I have been out on a sailboat on two occasions. One was just a motoring, the other a great day sailing on a Greek vacation. On that occasion the Captain was one of those who liked his passengers to learn the skills and do the majority of boat operations away from the dock. In other words he spent a lot of time napping. It was enough to spend the day listening to the sounds of the sails flapping and rigging moving about. It was a great experience even though is was only a day on the water with light winds. I need more of it, it only served to increase my long obsession with sailboats.

So, here i sit, very late 30s looking at middle age approaching and wanting something different and a sailing life seems perfect. Obviously it isnt always beautiful beach and sunny days. So, i spend my idle time wondering, dreaming and going to boat shows thinking about possibilities.

I also am fortunate in that i am in a position to be recieving an inheritance of a substantial amount. An amount that will allow me to purchase a very nice boat to live this kind of life and still have more than enough to fund continued adventures for years. If not extravagant, certainly comfortable.

My plan thus far, buy a smallish(20-25) boat to get some personal experience on after i take a few classes. After a few years have passed, i will be ready to move up and the financial aspect of things will be taken care of.

So as for my questions to all of you with the experience. Lets start with sailing itself.

The idea blue water long distance sailing really appeals to me, but the idea of getting caught in a really bad storm hundreds of miles from land terrifies me to no end. How do you all deal with this possiblity? Dont you worry your boat will come apart or go down?

I imagine that lure of such a passage overcomes the fears eventually as one wants to see more than lakes, river or coastal sailing.


The impression i get from reading here is that boats such as Hunters and Beneteaus are not held in high regard. That surprises me as they seem to be great selling boats. Is it that they are only ideally suited for sticking close to your base of operations? Kinda hard to imagine after spending 300k on the low end for a boat.

What is it that makes some of you regard them this way? Is it that a lot fo their owners use them for display purposes and putting around a bay?

Conversely, Valiants are held in high regard. What do they do that is so much different? What about Oyster or Hylas? Do they have what it takes?

All of the previously mentioned boats are some that when i first started researching this possible endeavor were all contenders as a craft i would purchase.

I am married but my wife doesnt share my passion for this and is uncomfortable on the water. So, i want a boat that i can comfortably single hand, even if i manage to coax her into joining my crew. I invision preferring something in the mid 40 foot range. Is this unrealistic? Just how much boat is too much for one person and is there a preferred size range for making blue water passages?

I am certain that proper knowledge, skill, preparedness and supplies make all the difference. That much seems obvious.

Any general knowledge that you have accumulated from the years sailing would be great. Personal perspectives and cautions greatly desired.

Thanks for any info.

sailingdog 01-25-2007 07:34 AM

Some sailors never leave sight of land... others can't wait to leave the shores behind. While storms at sea may be dangerous, good planning and common sense can minimize your risk of encountering a truely serious storm. Weather routing is part of the skills you will need to learn if you're going to become a bluewater sailor.

If you don't have confidence in your skills and your boat, you have no business being out of sight of land.

Beneteaus and Hunters are really boatshow boats for the most part... many of them are geared towards people who want to have a boat, but aren't seriously planning on making bluewater passages on them. They are geared towards large living spaces, great accomodations, and creature comforts, more than they are towards making long passages. The quality of their boats has suffered due to past incidents, but some say that their quality has improved significantly in recent years.

If your goal is truly to go sailing, you don't need to have an Oyster, Hylas, Hallberg Rassy, or a Moody to do so. While Valiants, Oysters, and Hylas are very well regarded, they're also generally larger, much more expensive, and more difficult to handle short-handed.

There are many affordable boats that will allow you to go bluewater sailing like, the Alberg 30, the Southern Cross 31, the Allied Seawind 32, and others, at a far more reasonable cost than the brands you've mentioned.

A good book to read is John Vigor's 20 Small sailboats to Take you Anywhere.

One other thing to remember is that the costs associated with a boat, after purchase, are proportional to the size of the boat. The bigger the boat, the more the maintenance, gear repair/replacement, mooring, dock, storage and haulout fees will be.

One excellent book to get read is Changing Course. Get this book and read it... read it thouroughly and then give it to your wife. It may help her decide to go with you...which is far preferable to not doing so IMHO.

JagsBch 01-25-2007 08:46 AM

Hey Dog can you tell me more about weather routing?

sailingdog 01-25-2007 08:50 AM


If you want to know more about weather routing, you should probably start a separate thread about it rather than hijacking this one.

Jotun 01-25-2007 09:08 AM

You say you'd like to start small to learn the skills. A very good idea. Consider something like a Catalina 22 or 25. As a used boat, they are plentiful and inexpensive. Spend a year or two with it and then move up. You won't blow a wad of cash and you'll enjoy the experience.

sailortjk1 01-25-2007 09:14 AM

After that step up to a costal cruiser, sail for a while than make your decision as to wether or not you want to go across the ocean.

The boats you mention have there nich in the market. We have discussed this time and time again. Would I sail my boat in Blue Water? No. But for our purpose, she fits the bill.

Gary M 01-25-2007 09:37 AM

Vans in my opinion you should be looking at least a 27 foot boat. They are really not much harder to learn on or single hand than a 22 footer and have many advantages.

You will have some accommodations for over nighting or even a week or two. The boat will be more stable, less prone to heeling, at least suddenly so your wife will be happier.

You will likely have an inboard which is much nicer and can keep your batteries charged.

I would not be too concerned at this point about what is a capable offshore boat. Since I started on this board about a year ago it just amazes me how many new sailors ask about this. "where can I take lessons and what boat should I buy to sail around the world next year." A bit a of an exaggeration but not much.

Have fun, you have lots of boating experience so it should come easy. If you can, find someone to race with, great learning opportunity.


PBzeer 01-25-2007 09:39 AM

Though not a necessity, and certainly many start out big, by buying a smaller boat to familarize yourself with sailing, you'll not only have an easier learning curve, but learn something about what you want in a larger boat.

Cruisingdad 01-25-2007 10:37 AM


Nice little write-up. I wonder if we all don't start out that way?? Same thoughts, perceptions, etc.

If you have followed this forum at all, you will know that boat selection is a VERY biased and debated subject... almost as much as ground tackle and electrical techniques.

I typically help work the boat show for Catalina, but I am in NO way connected to them. I do it for fun and to help point people on... and because I enjoy talking to people like you. Some people I point to a Catalina, others I will point to other boats. I am not an expert, but have been there a bit. That being said, let me respond:

There is NOTHING wrong with a Catalina, Beneteau, or Hunter. They do have their place. They have that thing that they were made for and good at, and they have that thing that they were not made for and are not good at. If you primarily are going to limit your offshore work to 3 days (maybe a little more, depending on the boat)... but will primarily be going from island to island... in my opinion, THEY ARE THE BEST BOAT. Better than a Valiant or several of the others mentioned. They are big and fat and roomy. The term floating condo is not far from the truth. But this is NOT a bad thing. This is how 99.99999999999999999% of people ACTUALLY USE their boat. I have been on MANY Valiants and other blue water boats. They are small and tight by design. 5 days at sea with pounding waves will really play havoc on coastal cruiser (Catalina, Hunter, Beneteau, IP), but not (hopefully) a good bluewater boat. But when you drop that anchor... well, the Catalina is SURE going to be a LOT more comforable than that tiny little Valiant 50. Rememer one of the few truths of cruising, if that is in fact what you will be doing: 99% of your time is anchored, 1% is going. Now, where is that 'going'... that is what you have to answer.

Everyone dreams of sailing the great barrier reef, blue skys offshore, the sun setting over the Red Sea... but the reality is that most people never do it (even the ones that own the boats that can). There are too many reasons for this to intelligently discuss here, but in my opinion (knowing many of these people), it is because:

1) They found the islands and the things on this hemisphere more beautiful than expected and more than a person could see in a lifetime. Why leave it?

2) Offshore can be really ugly... and the enamour of it wears off after the first 24-48 hours. It is not 2 or 3 or 4 days to Australia or Hawaii... try a couple of weeks or longer at sea. Once you are about 100-200 miles off the west coast, you are out of sight of VHF and any timely rescues (if any at all) and any communications (without SSB/HAM or Sat Phone). You are on your own with no place to duck and you WILL weather whatever nature throws at you... including TD, TS, and Hurricanes (God Forbid, but it does happen). This might not sound so bad sitting in your chair and reading this... but when you are faced with mountainous seas and no one to help... well, that changes your perception.

3) Their boats are uncomfortable. You are just going to have to go aboard a V50 to understand what I am talking about. My Catalina 400 is bigger than a V50 in comfort and space down below. PS, I am a fan of Valiant's... do not take this the wrong way. I know the people there and have nothing but respect for them, their boats, and their service. If I was going to do a circum or really long offshore, it would be at the top of my list. And they really are not that expensive (compared to some others).

Let me ask you a question: Does Lexus make a better product than Ford? I bet you just answered yes. Now, let me qualify that question: If you own a farm and need to pull a trailer, does Lexus make a better product that Ford? Well, maybe, but no way in Hell you would take a Lexus over a F350. Get the point?

I know you have read some threads about people putting down the production boats (especially Hunter) and some of that IS deserved, and some of that is NOT. Valiant's are made better than Hunters, but it would NOT be my choice if I was going to be island hopping. If I had to choose between Hunter and Valiant, even if they were the same price, I would take a Hunter every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

You are new at sailing and have probably not done much offshore work. Go buy a production boat (coastal cruiser) of your choice and hit everything you can in this hemisphere. They will be comfortable and you will learn a lot. Your wife will like the space and how much she can spread out like she was at home. If you ever become so bored that there is nothing left on this hemisphere that interests you, go trade your boat in on a Hylas or Valiant and push off from there. Or better yet, go pay Dockwise to ship your boat to Australia, save a few hundred grand, and avoid getting the crap beat out of you with three weeks at sea.

Just my opinions.

- CD

Vasco 01-25-2007 11:44 AM

Well stated, Cruisingdad. I only cruise the Bahamas. I have met literally hundreds of boats over the years whose owners bought them because they started out dreaming of cruising the world. The majority of them never got further than the Bahamas. A couple we knew well over the last three years bought a Pacific Seacraft 37 new. They cruised three seasons in the Bahamas and then had to sell the boat, running low on chips. The boat wasn't the right choice, too expensive for them and too small (interior volume), also davits didn't work so they had to tow or haul the dink aboard all the time. It's the old "horses for courses".

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