When this thread first popped up, I stood there....arm cocked.... Boston cream pie in hand and ready to let fly... before I stopped to reflect for a moment, and decided that I would not get involved in this food-fight-going-somewhere-to-happen. It was probably a good decision in that the best way to survive a collision is to avoid it in the first place.
But at the end of last week, I received an email from a friend asking if I planned to attend the Annapolis Spring Boat Show. And in that email, he said he was suprised that I did not weigh in on this thread since in his words, "this was a thread which had both barrels aimed right at you".
Try as I might, I could not get that comment off my mind since I was; 1. Out for the weekend doing one form of what I personally would call cruising, and 2. Sailing in conditions that were most enjoyable if you were sailing what Brian would call a racer, but I would call a cruising boat with an acceptable level of performance.
And so here is my take on this whole thread....to me this entire thread is basically the sailing equivillent of trying to convince Goldilocks that the bed and the porridge weren't "just right".
To me, even the premise of these kinds of discussions go way off the track when people try to imply that there is remotely one universally correct truth about subjects that are entirely subjective, like this one....
As I have often said around here, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all, correct way to enjoy the water. We each come to the water with our own mix of experience, preferences, budgets, sailing venues, friends and family, physical fitness, free time, sense of adventure, access to different boats, and so on. Within that mix, there may be better and worse choices for what we do on the water, but short of taking purposefully negligent actions that put yourself and others at risk, there is no universally right or wrong way to enjoy the water. Redundant Period
Now then, each of us may look at how someone else choses to enjoy the water and say, "Ya know, that is just plain not for me." That is legit. It is actually a healthy thing to do since you won't get sucked into doing something that is wrong for you just because someone else did it and got away with it.
But you are no more right or wrong whether you chose to buy a boat to sail around the world, or chose to buy a mass production whatever and fill her past brimming with every consumer item that the marketing world can conceive of, or you chose to buy a a replica of 'Svaap' and sail with a former cannibal in spartan conditions to places unknown, or you chose to buy a boat, sit in the cockpit, drink margaritas, watch the sunset, never leave the dock for so long that you farm baracles so successfully that the boat not longer floats on water but is supported by a mountain of barnacles. If you enjoy it and don't harm others, it is all perfectly good.
And for each of these preoccupations there are boats, which will probably properly fit the bill. And that brings me back to Goldilocks.
There is a spectrum of choices out there. There are the boats so heavy and undercanvassed that no matter what happens, they will never sail worth a darn. But dig long and hard enough, and you will find an owner of one of these oyster crushers, who can quote you chapter and verse from their own personal bible of reasons about why they own the perfect boat and go on at length about why this is the perfect boat for everyone who ever existed. "Ah! Just right"
And at the other end, are truly extreme stripped out, we are not joking, useless for anything else but racing, race boats. And there will be the owner of that vessel with his own bible of lauditory proverbs and psalms extolling the devine characteristics of why his craft is the only right vessel for all. "Ah! Just right"
But as Bob Perry, someone who has wrestled these issues to the ground on many occasions would probably agree, all boats, and I mean each and every one of them, is a compromise, and the best of them are the ones that balance those compromises in a way that the owner of said vessel is happy with thier boat. "Ah! Just right"
So for Brian, (Cruisingdad) the Catalina 400 was carved from manna handed down from on high by the great lord Gerry Butler, perfectly formed for him and his family to carry around his family and all their comforts of home. "Ah! Just right"
The Pogo, which Paulo mentioned, is perfect for those young European guys in the video, surfing at 12 knots and grinning ear to ear. "Ah! Just right"
Its not perfect for Paulo, since he would like a little more comfort, but when he finds the right mix of comfort and performance it too will be "Ah! Just right".
Outbound, loves his Outbound as the near perfect balance between performance and safe voyaging. (he's probably right) "Ah! Just right"
Wolfenzee loves his rendition of a 1930's era Atkins design. "Ah! Just right"
As do the whole, love-my-Westsail 32-and-will-fight-to-the-death-anyone-who-says-they-are-slow crowd. "Ah! Just right"
And none of these folks are wrong in terms of the boat being perfect for their needs.
And so for the record, this weekend, I ghosted for 20 miles in often well less than 4 knots of wind, gunkholed my way back into a quiet corner, spent a quiet night on the hook with the Love of My Life (my wife not the boat), and had a rip snorting beat and reach home in gusty conditions, on the most perfect boat (for me). Anything less would have screwed up a perfectly lovely weekend.... "Ah! Just right" But I would never claim that my boat is perfect for everyone.
Which is the whole point....there is no point to a thread titled like this one, in which the definitions are so subjective and the range of acceptable options defined so personally and narrowly. So while I understand why my esteemed colleague and co-moderator might start this discussion and what he hoped might evolve from the discourse, as titled, a thread like this is asking, "How long is a piece of string, and you better be able to fight to the death to justify that answer."
Jus' Say'n (even if I didn't want to)....
Hey my friend,
That is a beautiful response, but I am not sure that we are talking about the same thing.
I am not asking which boat is best or who makes the best boat. Not at all. My tastes in boats and yours are probably very different, and maybe not so much either, depending on the use. I love "race" boats, or performance cruisers as Paulo calls them. They are fun to sail and be out on. I think another poster here even commented about liking the simplicity of them. How do you disagree with that?? What I am saying is that these boats are awesome for their use, but they do not make a good cruising boat, in my opinion. It is not because they are not of a certain brand, it is because they are traditionally narrow beamed, low storage, tiny bilged, boats. It has nothing to do with their sleeping arrangements or how large their sink is or how many heads they have or dont. THose are comfort features. I am talking about their sheer ability to carry and stowe the items needed for cruising in my view of what cruising is. These boats would make great weekenders or vacation boats, but where do you put the spare water pump? The spare alternator and bilge pump? Where do you put massive amounts of tools? What about books and charts? How do you make the tiny blackwater tanks work which are fine for weekending or if you are always at a marina, but not so great when on the hook or ball. What do you do about the low water tankage? What are you going to do to keep up your power load? Where do you stowe your tender and the gas required to make it run? Where do you stowe your liferaft? Etc, etc...
So my point is that when you start adding up all the things that are 'required' to cruise (and when I say required, I mean from each person's point of view), these boats which make great weekenders and beer can racers, are shoved full of crap everywhere. Where other more cruising oriented boats can stowe all of that stuff safely and securely, you are shoving it into every crevice, filling up the shower stall, taking over the quarter berth, and strapping stuff everywhere on deck. Where a more cruiser-oriented boat can not only safely and securely stowe that stuff, but can also properly stowe things based upon weight (deep bilges are great for heavy items, and heavy items go below the waterline), the racer-cruiser has to stick them above the waterline or wherever they can stick them. SO in the end, what you have is no longer a performance boat or a racer-cruiser. Is it faster than the typical cruiser? Sure... but how much faster, and maybe more importantly, how much safer? How much stuff did you stowe above the waterline that reduces your RM? How much stuff will be flying around when the boat gets into a good storm? How much stuff did you leave off in tools or safety gear because it simply doesn't fit?
Now, as I have said all along, you can MAKE these boats work. But in the end, there are considerable tradeoffs, and the boat you are left with is nothing like the boat you thought you were going to be cruising with. The value of great storage, large tankage, deep bilges, and the accessibility to stuff is not truly appreciated until you cruise.
PS A side note, of interest maybe: Since 2000, I do not remember seeing one (not one!!) f/t cruiser in a First or a J122. I do not think there is a cruiser in Boot Key right now on one. THis doesn't mean that there are not people on them. It does not mean that I might not have missed one. But I can say with confidence that for the ones that are out there, they make up an exceedingly small part of the FT cruisers. Why is that I wonder?