Sailing 29ft Gaff Cutter offshore - SailNet Community

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Old 01-13-2012
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Sailing 29ft Gaff Cutter offshore

Hi Everyone,
I am considering the purchase of a traditional 29 foot gaff cutter from the 20s however recently updated, hull covered with fibreglass, good yanmar engine etc...so my question is can I sail her beyond the typical coastal run or are they more suited to coastal rather than offshore passages?

I'm not new to sailing but very new to classic gaff cutters but she is such a beauty that I will probably buy her anyway and sail coastal if not suited for offshore but wanted to hear opinions...


Thanks in advance
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Old 01-13-2012
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There is not enough info here to suggest whether it is suitable or not. You can't just go on the basis of LOA and age. The design matters a lot as does how it is equipped (furlers on headsails, how easy is to reef the main, etc)
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Old 01-13-2012
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Hi fair points, so she's long keeled, laid in timber and hull coated in fibreglass, sails are easy to reef, no furlers yet but will be changing that and fit her for short hand...design is quite similar to that of an Austral
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Old 01-13-2012
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There is no single right answer without more specifics. Traditional small working water craft with rigged as gaff rigged multiple headsail sloops and gaff cutters have worked offshore for centuries, some more succesfully than others, my point being that there is nothing inherently unseaworthy or dangerous about a gaff rig. But there are also similar length gaff rigged race boats and coastal cruisers which are less suited for offshore work due to the hull design, deck layout, and the specific design of the rig itself.

Then there is the simple "how lucky do you feel?" risk management issue. Boats of that era rarely had the safety features the court of general opinion would seem to deem as essential such as self bailing cockpits, lifelines, standing backstays, and quick release mainsheet cleats.

And there is also the issue of the boats structure. While none of this may apply to the boat in question, in most cases the reason that a wooden boat is fiberglassed is that the boat needs to be refastened and recaulked. In boats of the age of this, it typically also means that the boat has been refastened so many times that she needs to be reframed. There are a lot of ways of fiberglassing a wood hull but most are not great long term solution. Depending on the conditions the stresses of sailing offshore can be no dofferent than inshore sailing, but they can also mean a lot higher and more frequent stresses. While these may not sink the boat, the repetative nature and higher force load, can shorten the lifespan of the boat as questionable fastenings work more, or the bond between the planking and the skin is flexed and stressed.

Jeff
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Old 01-13-2012
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Hi Jeff, that all makes sense..I guess I'll take 'er out and see what happens...the channel will be plenty enough for now anyway, but I was thinking of it being capable to do the jester challeng for example (a single hand run from UK to Azores) or similar...in terms of safety I will fit out as much as I can or is possible anyway..a good friend of mine said that structurally she'll be fine its more to my ability to handle her...his view is that gaff cutters are easier handled than modern sloops (or this one anyway)....and when he had a look see was suprprised how good the wood was stating that she was redone and well conserved before glass was in with evidence of oil soaked into wood or something along these lines (no history for her unfortunately hence coming in at quite a reasonable price)...anyhow I'm going to put down a deposit down anyway as I think I fell in love with er
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Old 01-13-2012
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I love these boats but I don't know how comfortable I'd be managing a gaff-headed sail singlehanded.

Does she come with a gaff topsail? Very elegant, but also a lot of extra work to hoist and control for one person.
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