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smackdaddy 08-22-2009 12:45 PM

The Salt's Corner Table
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This thread is intended to give our distinguished Sailnet salts a place to dispense generalized tips, viewpoints, and advice to newbies.

In other words, it's a place for sailing newbs to come and hear it straight from the source.

One of the problems with a forum is that these salts have great advice that they've probably given a hundred times buried in threads all over the place. And that advice is always extremely valuable, just hard to find. And that ain't right.

So, the assignment for our salts is this: Think about the things us newbies always seem to want to know, and put the answer in here...once and for all. Whether it's electrical, boat design/type, sailing techniques, "how do I start", heavy weather techniques, rigging, refits, diesel engines, etc. - if you've answered it a million times...quote your best answer from another thread and drop it in here. This way, us newbs can link back to the discussion in that other thread and make things a lot easier to find.

Then we all can direct newbs to this thread where they can get the condensed version of some of the best sailing knowledge around. With that they'll be able to ask much better questions back in the respective threads.

Now, for the newbs, this is not the place to ask your questions. Do that in specific threads after you've read about it here. This is just a place to come and listen to the sailors that have been where you are - have put many a mile under their keels since then - and are willing to share it all over a drink or two. So shut yer piehole, buy 'em a drink, and keep your ears open.

FOR THE REST OF US, our assignment is to dig around and try to find some of their good stuff and bring it back here to save the salts some effort and help the "library" grow. If you find one of their answers that nails a typical question...bring it to the table. Our salts just might be too humble...or do it themselves.

So...let's do this!

(PS - Since I'm a newb too, I'll be the bouncer...the guy in the tux at the right of the pic.)


Labatt - I think you would be a great one to kick us off since you've just returned from a killer cruise with your family. What are a few things you wished you'd known as you were gearing up to go?

Valiente 08-22-2009 01:06 PM

I would find it educational to hear from a few guys like Boasun (professional mariner), Omatako (delivery skipper) and the "out there now or recently returned" cruisers answers to the following queries:

1) What do you think are the critical skills and techniques necessary to bringing you, the crew and the boat back to shore alive?

2) What cherished tenets have undergone a revision through your career as a sailor? What's changed in your mind and why?

3) What do you believe are the most important advances in gear, electronics or techniques in your life as a sailor? What are the least important, or most "oversold"?

Thanks in advance.

Boasun 08-22-2009 01:50 PM

First thing to remember: Do not go to sea when you are hung over... Unless you love hugging the commode. :D :D :D :D :D :D

Boasun 08-22-2009 02:04 PM

You will find that all of our sea tales do have a basis of fact in them. Listen carefully and you will find a lesson in them.
You will find that practically all old sea dogs love a nice quiet boring watch. We have had more excitment in our lives then any twelve or more landlubbers.
So we plan out all of the possible things that can go wrong and DRILL for them.
Reef practice in good weather time and again.
Fire: Train your crew in all of the various types of fire you will have on board.
Flooding: Learn to plug, wedge, and patch just about anything that is leaking. Yes! Drill for it.
Man/Crew overboard: Drill for it. Remember you are one less crew if someone goes over.
First Aid: Plan that you will be using it and learn how to cover all contigencies. Cut finger, Jellyfish stings to stroke, heart and diabities.
Broken rigging: Drill for it. How many times have you heard of people needing to be rescued because they couldn't deal with it. This includes blown out sails, parted shrouds, stays, sheets & haulyards. AND DIDN'T HAVE THE TOOLS ON BOARD. :eek:

imagine2frolic 08-22-2009 03:17 PM


Originally Posted by Boasun (Post 515886)
First thing to remember: Do not go to sea when you are hung over... Unless you love hugging the commode. :D :D :D :D :D :D

More than one boat has run into distress. Attending a going away party the night before, and leaving not in the best of health. Was the cause of one boat in particular while I was in P.V. Mexico. Luckily they got off a mayday, and was rescued, but EVERYTHING was lost.:( .....i2f

smackdaddy 08-22-2009 05:43 PM

From "Bluewater Defined"...
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Jeff clarifies the issues surrounding the widely held notion that a "heavier" boat makes a better bluewater boat...


Originally Posted by Jeff_H (Post 300693)
I think that it is a huge mistake to say that "the most important feature of a ship sailing in the ocean is weight." In and of itself, weight does nothing good for a boat; In and of itself weight does not add strength, it does not add seaworthiness, it does not add carrying capacity, it does not add seaworthiness, it just adds higher stresses and makes a boat harder to handle.

While it is important to have adequate displacement to be able to carry the gear, consumables, and spares to make passages,and to have adequate structural strength and adequate ballasting to stand up to its rig, any weight beyond that is detrimental to the boats prime mission which from my perspective is to sail efficiently.

Traditionally the rule of thumb has been cited as roughly 2 1/2 to 5 long tons of displacement per person. These days that number has crept up as we have become increasing dependent on more sophisticated equipment to operate our boats. Ideally, from a motion comfort, seaworthiness and motion comfort standpoint, that weight should be spread over as long a waterline length as is practical and still achieve adequate structural and ballasting capacities.

Then it comes down to hull shape.


And a further clarification...


Originally Posted by Jeff_H (Post 301143)
I think these discussions often go around in circles because of the way that we come to define them. Perhaps this will clarify my point. It takes a certain amount of displacement to support the boat and crew. If we have two boats of equal dry load (meaning empty tanks, and lockers etc) displacement, generally the boat with the longer waterline will carry a larger percentage of its weight in full load capacity. Obviously there is a limit to how long an equal weight boat becomes before the boat ceases to be structurally suitable, but withing a reasonable range the longer boat of equal length will offer a gentler motion, a more easily driven hull and so a smaller sail plan making it easier to handle, and will perform better as well.

And By the same token the cost to build and the cost to maintain is larger proportionate to displacement rather than length.

So while we may rightly say that if we compare two boats of equal length, similar hull forms, rigs, and weight distributions and ballast ratios, the heavier one would be more comfortable (up to a point), when we talk about going distance cruising, I think we need to define the displacement that we need to carry of stuff, and then look for the longest boat that can safely do that (which means a lower L/D).


Good stuff.

Boasun 08-23-2009 12:42 AM


Originally Posted by Boasun (Post 515888)
You will find that all of our sea tales do have a basis of fact in them. Listen carefully and you will find a lesson in them.
You will find that practically all old sea dogs love a nice quiet boring watch. We have had more excitment in our lives then any twelve or more landlubbers.
So we plan out all of the possible things that can go wrong and DRILL for them.
Reef practice in good weather time and again.
Fire: Train your crew in all of the various types of fire you will have on board.
Flooding: Learn to plug, wedge, and patch just about anything that is leaking. Yes! Drill for it.
Man/Crew overboard: Drill for it. Remember you are one less crew if someone goes over.
First Aid: Plan that you will be using it and learn how to cover all contigencies. Cut finger, Jellyfish stings to stroke, heart and diabities.
Broken rigging: Drill for it. How many times have you heard of people needing to be rescued because they couldn't deal with it. This includes blown out sails, parted shrouds, stays, sheets & haulyards. AND DIDN'T HAVE THE TOOLS ON BOARD. :eek:

All of the above? Make a game of it. Keep it fun and you will keep the interest of your crew while they are learning. Think of it as insurance, if it is you that has fallen overboard or had a major burn or heart attack... They will have to get you back to port. You do want them to get your carcass back to port in reasonably safety:rolleyes:

smackdaddy 08-24-2009 09:54 AM

A great lesson on sail control in heavy weather...
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Originally Posted by RobGallagher (Post 16243)

This is a little off the subject of heavy weather, but I have a question about boom vangs. My boat, a ''72 C&C 30 mk1 purchased last fall, does not have a boom vang. I have just started to consider one but I''m confused as to its use. For some reason I thought that using a vang to flatten the sail would power it up. In lighter winds and rolling seas (or stinkpot wakes) my boom "bounces" and this seems to reduce speed. More so with the wind behind me. Am I incorrect? I use my traveler and mainsheet to try to correct this (let the traveler out and bring the sheet in to reduce the angle of the mainsheet and put more tension on the boom).

When sailing on a beat I bring the traveler to the windward side of the boat. Is this correct?

I''m still learning and experimenting.



Originally Posted by Jeff_H (Post 16248)
Hi Rob,

I apologize in advance if I am being to basic in this description for your knowledge level. The idea of ''powering up'' or ''powering down'' is a little bit counter-intuitive at first. Even many esperienced sailors do not have a clear picture of this concept. To explain; The amount of force that a sail generates is related to the shape of the sail and its angle of attack to the wind. Angle or attack, or incident angle, is the angle of the sail to the wind. A sail that is fuller (rounder) in shape generates more lift (the term lift is used because a sail is seen as a wing on edge and because, except down wind, the drive that a sail produces pulls the boat from the low pressure side of the sail rather than pushing the sail as one might otherwise assume). The flatter the sail the less lift is generated.

A sail generates lift perpendicular to the surface of the sail with the most lift generated at the luff of the sail and next to no lift generated at the trailing edge. As a result the accumulated forces of a sail can be thought of as having three active components; Drive- which is the component of the force that acts in the forward direction of the boat, Drag which is a component that acts to reduce drive, and Heeling Forces which operate across the boat.

In an ideal sense the goal in sailing is to maximize drive while keeping the other two components under control. For any given boat, in any given conditions, there is an ideal amount of curvature (camber) in the sail and an ideal angle of attack. In light air the goal is to produce the maximum lift that you can regardless of heel angle, etc. But in heavier conditions it is possible to produce too much lift. First of all, except for planning boats, most displacement boats can only use so much drive, i.e. enough drive to push the boat at hullspeed. Second of all with the increased lift comes increased heeling and aerodynamic drag, which may actually slow a boat down and make it less safe and comfortable to sail.

So, the one critical goal in heavier air is to flatten the shape of the sail in order to reduce lift. The other goal in heavier conditions is try to make sure that the sail has the proper incident angle. When you have the sail pulled in too far the sail produces too much heeling for the amount of drive making control and comfort less than ideal.

Which brings us to twist. If you sight up a sail you will notice that if you drew a straight horizontal line from the mast to the leech of the sail these lines would not all be parallel. Some would be seen to have at a larger angle to the centerline of the boat than others. This is called twist. When you have a lot of twist in heavy air, part of the sail is over trimmed and part of the sail is often under trimmed and the result is that the part of the sail that is over trimmed is causing the boat to heel excessively.

So talking about the how this applies to actual sail trim underway. In light air you generally can tolerate more power and more twist for a variety of reasons. To power up a sail, the halyard, outhaul, backstay adjuster, and boom vang are eased. The traveler is brought high above the centerline of the boat so that the mainsheet is pulling more horizontally rather than downward. Pulling downward tends to reduce twist and flatten the sail.

As the winds increase, the force on the sail stretches the fabric and in the absence of a boom vang pulls the boom upward, both add curvature to the sail and so provide more lift, increasing drive, drag and heeling. At some point you have too much lift and so you need to flatten the sail out. On a beat you lower the traveler to leeward and tighten the mainsheet. This reduces twist, and fullness in the sail. You also tension the halyards, outhaul, backstay adjuster, and boom vang to further reduce fullness. By the times that the boat is getting overpowered you want to have a very flat sail pointed at a very flat angle to the wind. The traveler should be all the way to leeward and the mainsheet tensioned. The jib car should be slightly aft of its normal position.

When reaching, without a vang the sail wants to get a lot of twist and to power up in the gusts. This is backward of what you really want to happen. A boom vang, by keeping the boom from rising, reduces twist and so keeps the various portions of the sail at similar angles of attach to each other. This allows you to adjust the sail so that you have just the right angle of attach up and down the sail rather than have one part over trimmed and one part too eased. As a result you have less weather helm and also heel less.

For beginners it seems as if heel equals speed. Generally, heeling does not equate to greater speed. When a boat heels it generally produces greater drag, leeway and is less comfortable to move about on. Beginners usually look at an over-trimmed sail as producing more drive because it produces more heel. In a general sense an over trimmed sail does not produce more drive (or even more lift), just a greater heeling moment due to the greater sideforce of the wind impacting the sail at a deeper angle.

It is only when all of that fails to achieve a comfortable heel and rudder angle that reducing sail area becomes necessary. To keep the terms clear, depowering is reducing the power of the sail area that you have up, and reefing is reducing the area of the sail that you have up. The terms are not interchangeable.

I hope this answers your question.


And the follow up...


Originally Posted by RobGallagher (Post 16265)
In the begining I did think that more heel = more speed. Till I learned a couple of hard lessons this spring getting hammered as wind speed increased and I was not prepared. Now I reef earlier :) Am I correct to think that a boom vang will allow me a little more windspeed before having to reef?

Another question; When I am on a beat, sailing as close to the wind as I can, I bring the traveler all the way in to the windward side and tighten the mainsheet as much as I can. It seems that I lose speed but can sail closer to the wind. Also the jib luffs a little at this point no matter how much I try to bring it in. Am I gaining anything? Would it be better just to tack?



Originally Posted by Jeff_H (Post 16269)
Hi Rob,

Depending on the point of sail, you are correct that a boom vang will allow you to reef at a slightly higher wind speed, but even before you have to reef, it can help reduce weather helm and heeling. This is especially true when power reeching in a range of wind angle between cracked off a beat to just below a beam reach. In that range of wind angles the boat has a tendancy to heel a lot and get unbalanced. The boom should be eased to the point that the mainsheet is no longer pulling downward at a nearly vertical angle. Without a vang you would need to have the boom in far enough that you aren''t luffing but in doing so you would have a lot of twist and the lower part of the sail would be overtrimmed. Using a vang you can remove this twist and so the sail would have a proper angle of attach up and down the sail. Without the overtrimmed lower portion of the sail the boat will be more comfortable, faster, and have less helm which at some point in the wind speed range means reefing later.

On your second question you are asking about one aspect of shifting gears. You can sail a boat so that it wants to point higher but sails slower (pinching) or you can sail lower and go faster (footing off). There are reasons to use both in specific applications but as a general rule, the fastest way up wind is neither footing nor pinching, but at a point in between. On your boat the Jib is the prime mover upwind and so if your jib is luffing even a little you are clearly pinching. You are better off easing the boom to the centerline of the boat and allowing both sails to really do their thing. In the mainsail you should have ''yarns'' at each batten tip (actually slightly above or below the batten works best) and these teletales should all be flying aft when the mainsail is trimmed correctly. In moderate to light conditions its not too bad to have the upper most batten yarn occasionally stalled and sucked into the leeward leech of the sail.

Your genoa trim is limited by the shroud attachment points and so is the limiting factor in how high you can efficiently point upwind. So to answer your question, If you are only overtrimming the mainsail for a couple boat lengths to perhaps get around an obstruction pinching probably makes sense, but if you are sailing some longer distance, trimming for a balance speed and pointing, makes better sense even if it means taking an extra tack or two.
Good luck out there.

smackdaddy 08-24-2009 10:37 AM

How do you prepare for heavy weather?
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From the great Billyruffn...


Originally Posted by billyruffn (Post 392776)
Sab 30,

You've asked three questions. I'll take them in reverse order.

Re "book learing" -- I read for 15 years or more before I bought Billy Ruff'n. You can learn a lot from "standing on the shoulders of giants". Reading will only take you so far, but it can help you prepare for passagemaking and heavy wx sailing. For example -- keeping a list of things experienced sailors do to prepare and the lessons they learned from mistakes will help you develop a "Hvy Wx To Do List" for your own boat. Procedural things, like hanking on the storm trys'l well in advance of a storm's arrival, and marina/mooring projects like designing and fabricating the means of securing your batteries, lockers and floor boards in case of a roll-over. Reading helps prevent being in a situation where "you don't know what you don't know". It can't tell you how to handle every situation, but it can help you envision what might happen on passage in a storm. From there you can start the process of preparing for it.

Re gaining "passage making experience" -- I started by crewing on OPBs (other people's boats). Once you have your own boat you do overnights and then longer passages of 2-3 days. If you learn to safely do a three day passage there's no reason to think you can't do a much longer one. A ten or even twenty day passage is in many ways just a series of overnights except you need to carry more provisions, ration your crew's energy, fix things when they break vs when you get to port, and generally have your head more out into the future -- thinking about / planning over a time horizon that you know will get you to safe harbor. The longest passage I did on OPBs was 7 days. The Hilo to BC trip you mentioned is probably twice that, but crewing on something like that will definitely help you prepare for your first offshore trip as skipper.

Re preparing for heavy weather -- there are two types of preparation that need to be considered: preparing the "physcial" stuff -- the boat, gear etc, and "psychological" preparation of skipper and crew.

As I mentioned above you can learn a lot about preparing the boat from reading, and undertaking projects on the boat that get the boat ready for heavy weather long before it's experienced. Things like those mentioned above, keeping your rig and gear in top condition are good places to start. Things like rigging your storm sails and sailing with them in moderate conditions, learning to heave-to, practicing deploying your storm drogue / para-anchor, etc. -- all these things help you prepare the boat and yourself before any 'trial by fire'. While much of this type of pre-work and practice can be done in moderate conditions, I think it really helps to have actually sailed your boat in strong winds (gale force) because that's the only way you learn how the boat and gear behaves when it's under real stress. I don't advocate going out in a gale to learn how to sail in one. But if you haven't gotten the experience in other ways, forcing yourself out on a day when it's really snotty may be the only way to get the experience you seek.

I think psychological preparation for heavy weather offshore is equally important. I find that the one of the hardest parts of sailing offshore in bad conditions is knowing that it's going to last for a while and that it may get worse before it gets better. It's knowing that it's bad and you really can't control things -- you can't make it better and that you can't make it go away -- that's what can really wear you (and your crew) down. Fear is your worst enemy and at times seems to be your constant companion. How do you prepare for that?

Training helps a lot. Confidence in the boat and crew are also important, but there's probably no real substitute for doing it. The first and only time I've experienced 60-70 kts at sea was on a really big ship. The worst storm I've experienced in my boat was a 3-day, 40-50 kt gale in mid Atlantic. Neither was any fun.

First priority is always to avoid bad weather. I've avoided many more gales than I've sailed through. The rules are simple:
1.) be in he right place at the right time (i.e. stay out of the hurricane box in hurricane season);
2.) pick a favorable weather window for departing on passage. Don't be in a hurry to leave;
3.) when you're at sea and there's bad weather ahead of you, change course to avoid the worse of it, slow down or stop (heave-to) to let it pass.

If you're at sea and bad weather is going to overtake you (i.e. you can't avoid it) -- make sure you do everything you can long before it arrives. I tend to over-prepare --I'll put in one more reef than is likely to be needed 6-12 hours before I expect the wind to get strong and I'll leave it in 12 or more hours longer than is needed. If it's forecast to blow 35-40 knots from abaft the beam I'll take the main down completely and run on a reefed jib or stays'l alone. The boat slows down the motion is less violent -- the crew can get better rest... stress on boat and people is less. Storms at sea will usually go away faster if you are going slower.

To conclude a long winded post -- Reading helps, sailing offshore with experienced people helps a lot more, but in the end -- you just have to do it. If you sail a lot you'll end up sailing in bad conditions. Hopefully, you have a few 30-40 knot experiences before you have a 50 kt experience. Don't let the fear of the 50 knot experience keep you at the dock. When (if) you find the 50 kt gale, remember two things (things I told my wife when we found ours): 1. boats float if you keep the water out and that's easier when you batten down and slow down; 2. storms go away eventually -- never lose hope that 'this too, shall pass'!

PS - This is from the Seamanship/Heavy Weather Sailing thread - which is one of the best threads of all time on SN as far as I'm concerned. Lot's of salts laying down the big stuff for us newbs.

smackdaddy 08-24-2009 05:52 PM

What makes a "blue water" boat?
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Great summation...


Originally Posted by Jeff_H (Post 87597)
This is the kind of a question that would require a book to answer properly, but I will take a stab at it. I apologize in advance for the length of my reply. Most of this response was written as a series of articles meant for another venue and so I am not sure that this flows all that well either, and for that I also apologize.

I think that the terms 'offshore' and 'coastal' get bandied about quite freely without any real thought about what the differences are. Even the term ‘race boat’ is a bit vague since all kinds of boats are raced in all kinds of differing types of competition. Race boats can therefore vary quite widely depending on the type of racing that they are intended for. I am assuming that you are not asking about small one design race boats as much as boats that at least to one extent or another can be raced or cruised in a pinch.

For the most part, race boats are optimized to perform better than the racing rating rule under which it is intended to race. This has a lot of implications. Under some rules (IMS and IRC for example) race boats are optimized to be fast and easy to handle across a wide range of conditions, producing great all around boats, but in the worst cases (International, Universal, CCA and IOR rules for example), the shape of the hulls, and design of the rig are greatly distorted to beat the shortcomings and loopholes in the rule, producing boats that become obsolete as race boats, and to a great extent as cruising boats as well, once the rule becomes history.

While the EU does have a system that certifies boats into one of 4 categories, this rating system was intended to remove trade barriers between the various EU countries. It represents the lowest common denominator between all of the regulations that pre-existed the formation of the EU. A boat that is certified as meeting the CE Small Craft Directive, in the offshore category, has met this minimum standard but it does not certify that the vessel is actually suitable for offshore use. For example the EU standards do not look at motion comfort, or the suitability of the interior layout for offshore use. Stripped out racers with minimal tankage and fragile rigs can and do obtain offshore certification. The U.S. does have the ORC, ABS, and ABYC standards which are somewhat helpful, but again does not certify that the vessel is actually suitable for offshore use

In a broad terms, a well made coastal cruiser should be more expensive than a dedicated offshore distance cruising boat, because it needs to be more complex and actually needs more sophisticated engineering and construction than most people will accept in a dedicated offshore boat. When new, the high tech materials used, and the first class hardware generally employed, make racers comparatively expensive as well. They are also expensive to maintain in full race condition since maintaining a smooth, fair bottom, good sails, running rigging. and sophisticated electronics does not come cheaply. But as they grow older and less competitive, they often become real bargains.

In a general sense, all boats are a compromise and with experience you learn which compromises make sense for your own needs and budget. Most times the difference between an optimized race boat, coastal cruiser and a dedicated offshore cruising boat is found in the collection of subtle choices that make a boat biased toward one use or the other. A well designed and constructed coastal cruiser will often make a reasonable offshore cruising boat and club level racer, while traditional dedicated offshore cruising boats usually make very poor racers or coastal cruisers.

Which brings up another key point. I would think that most knowledgeable sailors use the term ‘offshore cruiser’, they generally think of traditional, long waterline, full keeled or long fin keeled, heavy displacement, cutters or ketches. But in recent years there has been a whole series of ‘modern offshore cruisers’, which have been designed to take advantage of the research into stability, motion comfort, performance, and heavy weather sail handling that emerged as the result of the Fastnet and subsequent disasters. These boats tend to be longer for their displacement, often have fin or bulb keels, and carry a variety of contemporary rigs such as fractionally rigged sloop rigs. Depending on the specifics of the boat in question, a race boat may also make a reasonable coastal cruiser or offshore cruiser but will rarely be ideal as either and will generally take some adaptation to reach a reasonable standard for these applications.

Looking further, when I think of the distinctions between a raceboat, vs. coastal cruiser vs. a dedicated offshore boat, there are specific attributes that I would look for:

A typical well-used coastal cruiser might only sail five hundred to a thousand miles a year. Most do less. A well-used offshore cruiser may do as much as 20,000 to 30,000 miles in a single year (10,000 15,000 being more typical). Whether traditional or modern, offshore cruising boats need to be designed to stand up to the long haul. A single year of offshore cruising can literally be the equivalent the abuse encountered in 20 or 30 years of coastal cruising.

Traditional offshore cruisers come in a range of flavors. Whether fiberglass, steel, alloy or timber, traditional offshore cruisers tend to have robust hulls that are simply constructed. Hull panels tend to be very heavy, accessible and maintainable. Internal framing tends to be widely spaced or almost non-existent. Engineering tends to be simple and reliable. Materials tend to be low tech, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The down side is that a weight goes into these structures using up valuable displacement that could be used for additional carrying capacity or ballast. Some of his weight is carried high in the hull and deck structure reducing stability and increasing roll and pitch.

Modern offshore cruisers tend to use higher tech materials and structural design. Some robustness and redundancy may be given up, but often the better of these newer designs have greater strength despite their lighter weight. These newer designs often take advantage of sophisticated framing systems and purposefully selected alloys or laminates. They often benefit from careful engineering intended to improve impact resistance and longevity.

Whether traditional or modern, offshore cruisers need to be able the cyclical loadings that insidiously wear out a boat over long passages. Larger margins of safety are required. In offshore cruising boats more than the other types, a little weight added, an often breed a whole lot more weight. A little added weight has a way of ricocheting through the whole design cycle. A little weight added means that perhaps the sail area needs to be increased. The increased sail area means a little more ballast. The added ballast perhaps means larger keel bolts and more robust transverse frames. This additional weight and sail area means higher stress on the rigging and so perhaps heavier rigging and attachment points get added, and that means perhaps a decrease in stability or perhaps a bit more ballast. The added weight means more drag and so fuel consumption increases and perhaps so does the size of the fuel tanks. And with all that added weight the designer is then faced with an under-canvassed design or else adding a sail area and risking going though another round of weight addition. Which is why, when all is said and done, traditional offshore cruising boats tend to be so much heavier than race boats, coastal cruisers or even more modern offshore designs.

Coastal cruisers generally benefit from better performance than offshore boats and do not have as stringent a requirement for a robust structure as and offshore boat. As a result coastal cruisers greatly benefit from lighter construction using modern materials and methods. Redundancy and self-sufficiency is less of a requirement. Fully lined interiors and other conveniences are often the norm on cruisers. Even quality coastal cruisers use molded force grids or pans that are glued in rather than laid up in place. Framing is often wider spaced and less robust. Hull panels are often cored and thinner than on an offshore boat. Rarely do they receive the careful workmanship that is required for a quality race boat, or the high safety factors ideally applied to a dedicated offshore cruiser. Then again they don’t need either as their use and abuse is generally much less harsh then encountered in the life cycles of either racing or offshore cruising boats.

Race boats generally benefit from the most sophisticated engineering of the three. Weight is the enemy of speed and motion comfort and so great attention is paid to reducing weight where weight can be reduced. But since breaking a boat is a very slow way around a racecourse, with some notable exceptions for specific racing classes, and racing periods, race boats are surprisingly tough. They are designed for very heavy loadings compared to coastal cruisers since racing crews will often carry on in no matter what nature throws at them, carrying far more sail than one might normally consider prudent. Their larger sail area to weight ratios, proportionately higher ballast ratios, their use of low stretch line and sails, the willingness to carry a lot of sail into higher wind ranges, and placement of the crew weight (often as much as 15% or more of the displacement of the boat) out on the rail as moveable ballst results in enormous strains compared to similar displacement offshore or coastal cruisers.

By the same token, race boats are designed with smaller safety margins so the engineering better be right. The problem with smaller safety margins is that over time race boats wear out quicker than other types of boats. Designers and owners somewhat see that as acceptable since rules also change over time making race boats more likely to become obsolete. Historically there is nothing man made (except perhaps a 15 year old computer) that is quite as obsolete as an obsolete rule beating race boat, and so historically designers are more willing to view them as disposable. At least with some of the newer rules, the boats being produced are good all around boats and quite a bit more robust and so may find a long useful life cycle.

Race boats generally use higher grade and higher tech materials. They are often the first to benefit from advances in structural design. They often have fewer openings in the hull and deck, which results in much greater stiffness and potentially less fatigue issues. Structural workmanship is often as good as it gets in the world of building yachts even if the interior finishes often seem a little crude. Race boats often gave very sophisticated internal framing systems, which take up room within the interior but make them far sturdier than their light weight would seem to imply.

All of that said, this has not always been the case, CCA era race boats often suffered from the mediocre engineering and poor laminating practices of the day, and IOR era and early IMS era boats often had fragile rigs.

On a coastal cruiser there should be good wide berths, with enough sea berths for at least half of the crew for that night run back to make work the next day. An offshore cruiser is often handled by a smaller crew and so fewer berths and fewer sea berths are necessary. The berths on an offshore boat should be narrower and have leeboards or lee cloths. On both I am looking for a well-equipped galley but the galley needs to be larger on a coastal cruiser so that there is adequate space to prepare meals for the typically larger crew or a raft-up. Refrigeration is less important on a coastal cruiser, where ice is typically readily available at the next port of call, although the case can be made for no refrigeration or icebox if you are going offshore. Race boats tend to have Spartan accommodations. Offshore oriented race boats will often have enough seaberths to sleep half the crew on either side of the boat so that the off watch crew can be tacked along with the boat. Water tanks are often reasonably sized to take care of a race boat’s large crews, but fuel tankage is often a bad joke. Storage is generally huge to carry a race boat’s large sail inventory, but it does not work well for carrying groceries, spares and supplies.

A comfortable cockpit for lounging is very important on a coastal cruiser. It should be larger than an offshore boat to accommodate a larger number of people which is OK since pooping is less likely to occur doing coastal work. Dedicated offshore boats generally have smaller cockpits with very large drains. The cockpits are deeper and have taller coamings to protect the crew. This makes them less comfortable for lounging and less easy to move in and out of. Ideally offshore boats have bridge decks that are higher than the lowest point of the coaming and companionway slides that can be locked in place to avoid down flooding. All of which makes moving about a bit less convenient. Race boat cockpits tend to need the wide open spaces to house the vast crowds that inhabit them on the race course. If you think of a race boat cockpit at a mark rounding, you have a helmsman, mainsail trimmer, guy trimmer, sheet trimmer, pit person, and perhaps a grinder or two. That’s a whole lot of people and each need their own space to that voodoo that they do so well. Coamings and seats just get in the way. Modern racer-cruisers often have removable seats that double as cockpit lockers and which are removed for racing (along with a few hundred pounds of the ‘unnecessary gear’ used to deliver the boat to the race course).

-Deck hardware:
While gear for offshore boats need to be simple and very robust, coastal cruisers need to be able to quickly adapt to changing conditions. For the coastal cruiser greater purchase, lower friction hardware, easy to reach cockpit-lead control lines, all make for quicker and easier adjustments to the changes in wind speed and angle that occur with greater frequency. There is a big difference in the gear needed when, ‘we’ll tack tomorrow or the next day’ vs. auto-tacking or short tacking up a creek.

Offshore boats need to be heavier. They carry more stuff, period. The traditional rule of thumb was that an offshore boat needs to weigh somewhere between 2 1/2 and 5 long tons per person. A coastal cruiser can get by with less weight per crew person but generally is cruised by a larger crew. The problem that I have is that most offshore sailors and many coastal cruisers seem to start out looking for a certain length boat and then screen out the boats that are lighter than the displacement that they think that they need. This results in offshore boats and some coastal cruisers that are generally comparatively heavy for their length. There is a big price paid in motion comfort, difficulty of handling, performance and seaworthiness when too much weight is crammed into a short sailing length.

I suggest that a better way to go is to start with the displacement that makes sense for your needs and then look for a longer boat with that displacement. That will generally result in a boat that is more seaworthy, easier on the crew to sail, have a more comfortable motion, have a greater carrying capacity, have more room on board, and be faster as well. Since purchase, and maintenance costs are generally proportional to the displacement of the boat the longer boat of the same displacement will often have similar maintenance costs. Since sail area is displacement and drag dependent, the longer boat of an equal displacement will often have an easier to handle sail plan as well.

-Keel and Rudder types:
I would say unequivocally that for coastal cruising a fin keel is the right way to go here. The greater speed, lesser leeway, higher stability and ability to stand to an efficient sail plan, greater maneuverability and superior windward performance of a fin keel with spade rudder (either skeg or post hung) are invaluable for coastal work. Besides fin keels/bulb keels are much easier to un-stick in a grounding. In shallower venues, a dagger board with a bulb or a keel/centerboard is also a good way to go.

There is a less obvious choice when it comes to the keel and rudder type for offshore cruising. Many people prefer long or full keels for offshore work but to a great extent this is an anachronistic thinking that emerges from recollections of early fin-keelers. Properly engineered and designed, a fin keels with a skeg hung rudder can be a much better choice for offshore work. There is the rub. Few fin keelers in the size and price range that most people purchase for offshore cruising are engineered and designed for abuses of dedicated offshore cruising. That said, popular offshore cruisers like the Pacific Seacraft, and Valiants have adapted skeg-hung spade rudders while the Island Packets have chosen to use a rudder post hung spade rudder.

Of course race boats thrive on stability and low drag. For them, under most racing rules, there is only one choice, fin keels and spade rudders. Under some of the older rules, (International, Universal and CCA) race boats often had fin keels with attached rudders. This was the worst of all worlds. The boats do not track as well as a spade rudder but have all of the negatives of a keel hung rudder (greater exposure to damage being close to the depth of the keel, higher loading, less maneuverable). Newer race boats have minimal foil area and large bulb keels. This combo was chosen for greater stability and therefore sail carrying capacity as well as minimal drag. As a side benefit this keel type has been demonstrated to offer increased seaworthiness and motion comfort that results from a significantly lower center of gravity relative to the vertical center of buoyancy, better dampening, and the ability to stall at high side loadings which reduces the likelihood of being rolled in a large breaking wave. In US Naval Academy studies of groundings, bulb keels were also shown to be the easiest to extract from a grounding, which is a very good thing considering that more modern race boats generally have significantly deeper drafts.

-Ground tackle:
Good ground tackle and rode-handling gear is important for both cruising types but all-chain rodes and massive hurricane proof anchors are not generally required for coastal cruising. Race boats often lack proper anchor handling gear or in the most extreme cases, they may even lack fixed cleats to tie up with. Frankly from the racers point of view these are simply things that get in the way of that perfect hoist, douse , tack, or jibe.

At least on the US East Coast, (where I sail and so am most familiar with) light air performance and the ability to change gears is important for a coastal cruiser. It means more sailing time vs. motoring time and the ability to adjust to the 'if you don't like the weather, wait a minute' which is typical of East Coast or Great Lakes sailing. If you are going to gunkhole under sail, maneuverability is important. Windward and off wind performance is also important.

With all of that in mind, I would suggest that a fractional sloop rig with a generous standing sail plan, non- or minimally overlapping jibs, and an easy to use backstay adjuster is ideal. This combination is easy to tack and trim or change gears on. I would want two-line slab reefing for quick, reliable on the fly, reefing. I would want an easy to deploy spinnaker as well.

For offshore use, traditional cruising boats tend to have a very high drag relative to their stability and so low aspect ratio rigs are important. Depending on the size of the boat, cutter and ketch rigs are the time-tested solution. They work reasonably well as long as simplicity and performance are not important.

More modern, lower drag offshore cruisers seem to be using fractional sloop rigs with a great deal more frequency for many of the same reasons as coastal cruisers. But modern offshore cruisers can be found with the full range of rigs; masthead sloops (with and without removable jib stays), cutters, ketches, even schooners you name it.

Racers are only concerned with efficiency, the most drive for the least sail area as measured by the rule. It is this last phrase that has lead to terrible distortions to rig proportions relative to what is easy to handle or actually efficient in an absolute sense. For example, the CCA under penalized genoas and mizzens, and so yawls and huge overlapping headsails appeared. The IOR fairly measured mizzen sail area and so yawls disappeared again, but the IOR over penalized mainsails and under penalized headsails and so masthead sloops with tiny high aspect ratio mainsails and huge genoas and spinnakers became the rage. The IMS measures the impact of sails more fairly and so fractional rigs with their ease of shifting gears has become the rage.

The bad news for coastal cruisers is that the racing rig fad dujour often shows up on next year’s coastal cruiser. The really bad news is that since coastal cruisers often stay in production for many years these bad fad ideas often stay in the coastal cruiser marketplace for a very long time. If you doubt that look at the IOR proportioned rig on most Catalinas.

I think that speed is especially important to coastal cruising. To me speed relates to range and range relates to more diverse opportunities. To explain, with speed comes a greater range that is comfortable to sail in a given day. In the sailing venues that I have typically sailed in, being able to sail farther in a day means a lot more places that can be reached under sail without flogging the crew or running the engine. When coastal cruising speed also relates to being able to duck in somewhere when things get dicey.

It can be argued that speed is less important to the offshore cruiser. What’s an extra knot when you have an ocean to cross. On the other hand, a little more speed can allow a crafty distance cruiser to pick the wind system that he is sailing in or keep moving in a doldrum. It can mean more sailing relative to motoring and so a lower requirement for fuel, stores and water capacity. It can mean somewhat less expense for a given passage. It can mean more time in an interesting port relative to time at sea, which is an advantage to those who prefer portside to offshore, but which is a disadvantage to those for whom cruising is all about the passage making.

Of course, race boats are all about speed, speed in all conditions. The best race boats are fast in all conditions and are quick to shift gears on the fly dealing with whatever Mother Nature throws at them. I often hear how cruising boats are faster than race boats in a breeze. I just have not seen that at all. Big wind or small, most modern race boats are radically faster than their non- racing sisters from the same era. The possible exception to this would be the CCA era boats with their short waterlines, and the pre-Fastnet IOR boats with their distorted hullforms and rigs.

Good ventilation is very critical to both cruising types. Operable ports, hatches, dorades are very important. While offshore, small openings are structurally a good idea, for coastal work this is far less of an issue. Ventilation is irrelevant to most dedicated race boats, but boats intended as racer cruisers need all the ventilation they can get, if nothing else to dry out after a spinnaker that has been shrimping gets dumped down below to be packed.

-Visibility and a comfortable helm station:
Coastal boats are more likely to be hand steered in the more frequently changing conditions, and higher traffic found in coastal cruising and are more likely to have greater traffic to deal with as well. A comfortable helm position and good visibility is critical. Offshore, protection of the crew becomes more important. Racers need to see their sails, the waves, and their competition. Visibility is important, but often gets compromised by the use of deck sweeping jibs and low booms that wipe out visibility from ‘the high side’.

Storage and Tankage:
There is a perception that coastal cruisers so not need storage. I disagree with that. Coastal cruisers need different kinds of storage than an offshore boat but not necessarily less storage. Good storage is needed to accommodate the larger crowds that are more likely to cruise on a short trip. Good water and holding tankage is important because people use water more liberally inshore assuming a nearby fill up, but with a larger crew this takes a toll quickly. Holding tanks are not needed offshore but they are being inspected with greater frequency in crowded harbors and there are few things worse than cruising with a full holding tank and no way to empty it. Offshore boats generally need larger fuel tanks.

Motion Comfort and Seakindliness

This is probably the most controversial of the topics. It is important to understand that when it comes to motion comfort, there is no universally right, one size fits all. Relative motion comfort derives from the amount of motion and rate of acceleration that is inherent in the design of a boat as it is actually loaded. How comfortable the motion feels results from the combination of those two factors; amount of motion and the rate of change in motion. It is very hard to design a boat that inherently has both a minimal range of motion, and which also has slow acceleration rates. It can be done, but historically it wasn’t.

Complicating this discussion further, is that fact that people are affected by motion differently. In a U.S. Navy study of motion sickness, it was found that of the people who are prone to motion discomfort, roughly one third were predominantly affected by the amount of movement, but were minimally affected by the rate of change. Another third were predominantly affected by the rate of change, but were minimally affected by the amount of movement. And the remaining third were affected by both the amount and the rate of change. The ideal solution then is to find out how you personally are affected by motion and then to seek a boat with a motion consistent with your own natural preference.

There are a lot of factors that affect a boat’s natural motion but the biggies are inertia, stability, buoyancy distribution, and dampening.

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