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[quote=maccauley123;258638]I am shopping for what my next cruising boat will be and have been reading forum debates about what makes a boat bluewater capable for a while. I want something that can take me around the Caribbean and then beyond if I choose.
I keep hearing things that seem to be contradictory. A bluewater boat is one that is built and designed a certain way but in general there is always something mentioned about how a boat that shouldn't make it but did. ... People have crossed the Atlantic in a rowboat for crying out loud.
Some random thoughts on "offshore" boats vs other species, and on things you might look for as you refine your search.
- Offshore boats are generally of more stout construction for obvious reasons. While weekend cruisers and charter designs do cross oceans they sometimes have problems of a type you don’t want to happen 1000 miles from nowhere. Example: a number of years ago a charter operator moved a group of new cruising boats under sail from France to the Caribbean. Almost all of them arrived with bulkheads separated from their hulls -- earning the builder the nickname "Bendy-toy" (I'll let you guess who it was). That may have been a construction or material flaw particular to a single production run, but it also might have had something to do with the design and engineering of the boat itself. (Yes, they got there, but would you want to try to fix one of these boats? You want try to do it in the Marquesas?)
- Designers of good offshore boats consider crew comfort on long passages and safety underway before “couple carrying capacity” and separate heads for everyone. Things like mast pulpits, hard dodgers, taller lifelines, smaller cockpits, larger cockpit drains, etc. tend to be found more on offshore boats. Inside, its things like galley design (for cooking underway vs at anchor), size and location of hand holds for moving about below when things get bouncy, pilot berths tucked into small spaces vs centerline queen sized berths make for a good offshore boat.
- Offshore boats will generally have more storage space for everything -- water, fuel, personal gear, spare parts, provisions, propane, etc. Weekend cruising boats are often designed to max out living (vs storage) space. When you see a boat leave port with 30 gallons of water and 30 gallons of fuel strapped to its life lines port and starboard it's probably safe to assume the boat may not have been designed with long distance sailing in mind.
- Offshore boats quite often have more redundancy in things like steering systems, autopilots, and other critical gear. They are often are designed with fewer complicated, complex, and fully integrated state of the art systems.
- Rigging, both standing and running, will be of larger diameters on offshore boats vs weekenders of comparable size. This is both for strength and durability of the rig. Sails may also be of heavier, more durable fabrics, heavier hardware, triple vs double stitching, etc.
I could go on, but the post is too long as is. Some of the differences in boat species are owner-specified (i.e. you can modify it), but others are part of their DNA -- built-in to the design and impossible to change. In short, offshore boats and weekenders or coastal cruisers are different breeds of the same animal. If you're only going to do the Caribbean almost all of the modern or recent vintage cruising boats will probably serve you well. If you're serious about going beyond the Caribbean, think hard about the differences in breeds. The boats (and crews) you'll run into in Panama preparing for the Pacific crossing are generally not the same breed as those you'll find running up and down the island chain.