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  #1  
Old 02-08-2011
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How big a boat is too big?

I am new to sailing and wanting to purchase a boat within the next year. Not sure about anything, other than I want to go coastal cruising, and possibly take a long ( a week or so) vacation possibly several hundred miles away. I've got three small kids, and divorced, so I may be solo on the long trip. Just wanted to know what you all thought, How BIG is too big for a boat. With prices on boats nowadays, I've got my pick of sizes. Thinking somewhere between 22' and 45' . Of course, that's pretty much all of the usual cruising sized boats out there. Obviously bigger is better, and I'm not afraid to do my own maintenance, (ie woodwork, paint, mechanical, electrical, etc.), but really, if a 45' boat was everyone's dream, then that's all that would be available. So how big is too big? And why?
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Old 02-08-2011
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Instead of asking how big is too big, you should ask your self, what is the smallest boat I can get away with...Remember, the bigger the boat, the harder to single hand, maintain and all the parts, rigging, sails,motor.... will be way more costy to replace. You will also pay more in the marinas.

What is the point of buying a 45 footer for x$$ if you can have a 32-35 for the same price but in better shape and with all the toys already install on it ?
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Old 02-08-2011
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Have you thought about chartering? Sailing isn't for everyone and a boat (despite the favorable market) is a fairly large investment. You may be annoyed with yourself if you invest and then find it's too much work or too time-consuming.

If you do want to buy right away, I would suggest not going above 32 feet with your first boat. Single-handing a larger boat than that can be a real bear unless you have substantial experience. Ideally, you probably would want to learn on the smaller range of boat that you mention but that will make the longer trips that you are talking about either extremely long or altogether unmanageable. I wish you the best of luck and I hope you enjoy it.
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Old 02-08-2011
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A 22' is totally different from 45' boat. It is not the same league. Depending on your need to be happy, as in my case, 38 to 45 is a good size. I find a bigger boat is easier to sail if prep correctly, but it costs more to maintain and moor (read exponential increase).

Take your time, there are plenty of boats waiting for owners. After all these years, I haven't make up my mind. I find the time-share boat is best for my situation since I cant stay on the boat every weekend anyway. I don't care much about bragging right.
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Old 02-08-2011
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The maximum size should be based on your physical strengths.

In sailing, bigger is not always better and in most cases the usual progression is from small to larger for the following reasons:
Sailing is acquired skill. The smaller the boat the faster the 'motion', the faster the reaction, smaller loads on winches, lines, sails etc. etc. etc. A larger boat will have much slower reaction times, greater loads on winches, sails, etc. ....
Your 'learning curve' will be exponentially faster on a smaller boat as on a big boat with very long drawn out reaction times (inertia), sluggish but more powerful forces involved, etc. etc. and without the 'experience' learned on the smaller boat will many times 'cloud the fact' that you are in deep doo-doo and without knowing it.
The usual 'progression' is to start with a lightweight dinghy type with a centerboard, then move up to a deep keeled boat on moderate length (24-30 ft.) and then when 'satisfied' and so skilled then move up to the big boat. As an example, if you misjudge your approach to a dock with a dink, it will merely bounce off - and no damage done to crew and boat; with a little heavier boat you may break or 'chip' the hull and someone on the boat may fallover and get hurt ... on a big heavyweight boat the possible result may be destruction of the dock, severe hull etc. damage and crushed passenger etc.

Suggest you start small and rapidly build your skills by 'plateaus' and when each is reached then move to the next step. All too often folks will start with the 'ultimate' big-boat, get the hell scared out of them ... and for the rest of their entire 'sailing experience' have a 'dockside entertainment center' permanently terror-tied in a slip, etc.
Suggest you consider to start with a small but sound 'beater' with decent resale value .... rapidly gain the skills and 'progress up' through all the 'beaters' until you arrive at your final goal.
Cheaper and Faster .... and SAFER.
Airplanes: ... you dont begin your flying in a multiengine 747 jet.
Automobiles ... hardly anyone you know has ever 'started' their experience in a Ferrari or Corvette or 18-wheeler.

BIG boats get boring real fast for children and the smaller the boat the faster the small child will learn too. If your children get bored on a boat ... you wont have that boat very long.

So, the maximum sized boat should be selected based on the maximum amount of fast and precise work you can do in an emergency - example: having to manhandle the largest water-soaked sail on a vigorously pitching deck in 'storm conditions' because the sail 'has to come off NOW' and get stuffed down below ... as you are being washed by waves coming across the deck as the bow is plunging under water ... and for the average, middle aged and in perfect health adult - that equates about a 400 sq. ft. sail and this equates to a boat thats 35-40+ ft. Of course you would reduce such risk by gaining the proper experience, etc. in 'smaller' boats because you would of past experience gained would have foreseen and thus prevented the emergency 'cluster festival'.

Last edited by RichH; 02-08-2011 at 02:34 PM.
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Old 02-08-2011
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Size is not really directly correlated to the difficulty of single handed ops. Configuration is much more of a factor. How close are all control lines and sheets to the helm station, for example. How many masts and what configuration. Typically easier to tack the headsail on a sloop than a cutter, for example. Does it have furling sails, with the furling lines coming back to the cockpit? Does it have a reliable autopilot? How about electric winches to take some of the fatigue out of a long solo sail. A small boat with traditional sails that requires foredeck duty and no autopilot would be much harder to sail solo than a larger boat with all the toys.

I have singlehanded my boat, sort of. I've raised the sails, trimmed and tacked the boat entirely by myself. It's a lot of work, but doable if the autopilot is working properly. I say 'sort of' because my wife has been aboard while I've done it for singlehanded practice. I would never intentionally leave the dock alone. Worse, I see almost no way to dock her single handed in anything but the calmest wind.
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Old 02-08-2011
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When I asked the wonderful gentleman that got Linda and I into sailing, he answered me with:

"The biggest boat that Linda can handle alone, when she is sick and you are out cold."

A bit harsh maybe, but I have never forgotten it and Linda has been able to handle all three of ours. (22 to a 28 to a 34)

Welcome to a fantastic way of life.

Rik
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  #8  
Old 02-08-2011
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Briny, you mentioned how young the 3 kids are. Do you have any idea what a handful that would be on any small boat, 22' or 45' or anywhere in between, with just yourself crewing the boat?

The kids WILL need constant supervision and you WILL need to anticipate who runs the boat and who watches the kidsd if you go overboard--because going overboard happens. Or who runs the boat while you try to recover an overboard kid. Or one that's fallen down the companionway.

I love boats and I thnk kids can gain a lot from being on them, but one adult plus three real young kids on one boat? Recipe for disaster.

You need to plan on having one, preferably two, competent crew out with you before you take three kids along for a ride. Anything less, and don't be surprised if the ex brings a custody suit for endangerment. A sailboat is, at the best of times, an open "machine" full of moving parts on a hostile environment. Uncontested adult supervision isn't an option, until the kids are a bit older.
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  #9  
Old 02-08-2011
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Wise advice you were given... and much what I advocate. Petersailer also has wise advice in that you should probably go with the smallest boat you can get away with comfortably.

As Rich_H points out, smaller boats are generally what most people learn on and work their way up to larger boats. Making a mistake on 30' boat might hurt, but making the same mistake on a 45' boat may well kill you. For instance, if you've ever sailed a dinghy and gotten hit by the boom in a gybe...you usually recover from that fairly quickly—but the forces on a 45' boat's boom in a gybe will break your neck or cave your skull in.

Beth Leonard points out that she was glad she learned on a smaller boat before getting the larger one. In the 2nd ed. of her book, The Voyager's Handbook, she points out how poor seamanship and mistakes can often be recovered from on a smaller boat, often using brute force. Try the same thing on a larger boat and you'll get your head handed to you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rikhall View Post
When I asked the wonderful gentleman that got Linda and I into sailing, he answered me with:

"The biggest boat that Linda can handle alone, when she is sick and you are out cold."

A bit harsh maybe, but I have never forgotten it and Linda has been able to handle all three of ours. (22 to a 28 to a 34)

Welcome to a fantastic way of life.

Rik
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  #10  
Old 02-08-2011
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"How big a boat is too big?"

The size of a boat that is too big is inversely proportional to the square root of your age.

Dick
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