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tziehm 11-24-2004 02:58 PM

What makes a good family cruiser boat?
 
Hi - I''''m not sure exactly how to phrase my question but here goes. My husband loves to sail and has had quite a few different racing boats, sizes range from 14 ft to 30 ft. I''ve gone along for the ride but am not, and don''t imagine I ever will be (though I could surprise myself someday) be a racer. We have a toddler and a baby on the way soon.

He would like to buy a racer/cruiser and is looking at a few different kinds. He''s interested in what my top priorities are for such a boat. In my head and with no real experience to guide me I think of things like:
1) easy to sail both technically and people-wise
2) comfortable to be down below
3) head with door and shower
4) two or three cabins, enough sleeping room for 6-8 people with some privacy (?)
5) outfitted kitchen, salon, etc.

Again, these are ideals. But what I''d really like to hear are some real life criteria that make a boat good for a family to spend time on. We''re basically talking, at this point, about day sails and weekend overnight type stuff . . . not sailing around the world.

So, tell me, what makes a good racer/cruiser good for a family to hang out on?

Jeff_H 11-24-2004 05:21 PM

What makes a good family cruiser boat?
 
The specifics of what makes a good family cruiser will vary with the family. When I was a kid, my family of four (my folks, a 12 year old and my 10 year old brother) cruised on a rather compact 25 footer and it worked out well in terms of seeing neat places and spending time together. There were no bells and whistles; entertainment was what ever we could do as a family either ashore or on board with quiet moments reading, sleeping and eating thrown in for punctuation. I don''t ever remembered being bored or unhappy with that.

Today, I think that people expect a lot more out of a boat, comforts that are closer to home. There is no right or wrong answers here and I am not saying one approach is better than the other. All boats are a compromise. Family cruisers bring along thier own set of compromises. Generally, these days the focus of a Family cruiser leans toward a certain amount of room to lounge and carry the kinds of ''toys'' that keep a family amused. Cockpits and main salons tend to be expansive. Often equipped with TV and DVD equipment where we might have kept bookshelves and board games. Galleys tend to be surprisingly well equipped, approaching all of the comforts of home. Sleeping areas tend to be designed look commodious within a tight space and to be comfortable on the anchor rather than under way. Tankage becomes more important as boats get bigger in size and more people are brought along for the ride. Again by way of contrast, when I was a kid water tanks were tiny and all drinking water was hand pumped and carefully used. Today almost the smallest boats have pressure water and so the water tankage has to be quite large.

Unless you are buying a long boat probably well up in the mid-30 foot range, then sailing performance will be seriously compromised by a boat capable of being cruised by 6-8 people in privacy and comfort. When it comes to sailing ability, in the best case a family cruiser is a boat that is simple and easy to handle. The term ''simple'' is a little misleading because it sometimes takes more complicated sail handling gear to make a boat simple to handle. A boat that is long for its weight will tend to be easier to handle and offer a lot more comfort and comes with the side benefit of offering better performance which means more places that you can cruise to within the comfortable sailing range of the boat.

You are basically going to be coastal cruisers so you can tolerate a wider range of build quality.

I know this is vague. Sorry,
Jeff

WHOOSH 11-25-2004 04:53 AM

What makes a good family cruiser boat?
 
T, your simple question is deceivingly difficult to answer since a portion of it lies within the nature of your family and what you are seeking from the experience of owning a boat. But there are some criteria worth mentioning that you should or at least could keep in mind as you discuss this more and shop boats to try on your ideas.

1. Two very young children as ''crew'' will mean someone quite often will be required to have the ''Kid Watch''. And I can speak from experience when saying it''s no fun if the same person gets this duty all the time...so for starters, you''ll want a boat that is easily handled - by either of you - and sails without fuss. This may be in conflict with your husband''s desire to have a ''racer/cruiser'' (he may have his eye on racing the boat locally) as such boats often have multiple trimming options that a simple ''family cruiser'' sloop won''t have, and such a boat may be less forgiving when trimming gets less attention by the single crew member who''s also navigating a bit, steering and trimming the sails full-time, and trying to sneak below to fetch a Coke out of the fridge. This may also argue for a boat that is smaller rather than larger. (It doesn''t speak to any specific boat choice, but I''d put an autopilot at the top of your ''extras'' list).
2. Kids love to be outside when the weather cooperates. This may mean standard add-ons for any boat (e.g. a good awning if the summer sun is intense where you live), but it also means you should look at the cockpit carefully. E.g. a mainsheet traveller bisecting & spanning the cockpit, often found on boats set up to race, is just an impediment and tripping hazard to young kids wanting to spread out their toys, watch what''s happening in the anchorage, and/or playing in the water in a partially filled cockpit well after you''ve stuffed the scuppers with corks. In short, think ''lounge'' for all of you and ''playpen'' for the kids when looking at the cockpit.
3. Kids can sleep thru nuclear war, so *needing* separate sleeping cabins may just result in a boat layout that, for its length, is broken up into more separate spaces and therefore not as visually or physically spacious and comfy. There is no such thing as privacy on a 30-40'' boat, just the illusion of it via visual privacy...nor do you really need it given your short periods aboard. Better to turn the one decent double berth cabin over to the kids and you two use the settees, which allows you to stay up later, lets them sleep in later in the morning, and gives them a large play area (the berth) with their toys nearby when it''s raining.
3. If you agree with this logic, you''ll soon discover that many comon boats on the market today (Catalina, Hunter, etc.) lack two straight settees in the main cabin that allow adults to lie comfortably and have a good snooze. Perhaps an easily converted dinette double will be an option. If you live in a region where the summer is hot & humid, you''ll question the wisdom of those ''aft cabins'', which are usually shoveled under the cockpit and are adjacent to that hot engine you used when motoring into the anchorage or dock.
4. Talk with your husband about the local area and and how that should influence your boat choice. E.g. secluded anchorages or easy access to shore, for the benefit of family cruising, might dictate a shallower draft or a boat with a centerboard (altho'' he might want ''deep'' draft for racing reasons). Think about the ideal place(s) to berth the boat in season, and whether that might limit your length or beam if you want a slip to be easily found. (We had a great family experience in a smaller marina with an active kid''s summer program only because our boat had a relatively narrow beam and so could use a slip others couldn''t consider. We didn''t look much at marina choices when making a boat choice, but it would have been wise to do so).
5. Realize that you may spend an additional 20% of the initial boat''s cost in equipping it, unless you buy used and find a good match between your needs and the previous owner''s outfitting choices. This too may suggest smaller than what you otherwise would prefer...but with weekending and short vacations as your primary family activities, a smaller boat is a reasonable choice. After all, if you have a roomy dink the family can pile into, you may be ashore exploring more and on the boat less than you think.
6. These issues don''t speak to any specific boat choice but are just examples of the kinds of things you''ll want to keep in mind as you talk over your preferences. But if sailing turns out to be, for your family, a great experience, then there''s one especially valuable thing your two kids can potentially get from the experience that''s worth keeping in mind: a love of sailing. And that is likely to happen more easily if your boat is fun to sail. So don''t overlook that quality when thinking diaper and toy storage or galley layout.

Good luck on your research. I think you''ve got some potential for conflict in your choice, between racing capability your husband might want to have and the recreational needs of the family. Don''t underestimate the value of talking this through and spending lots of time walking docks and looking at boats, as you knit together your desires into a collective view of what will be best for all of you.

Jack

Jeff_H 11-25-2004 06:03 AM

What makes a good family cruiser boat?
 
Jack,

It is really funny how we often look at the opposite side of the same coin. I see where you are coming from on most of your comments and at some level agree that all that you say makes sense. As you can imagine from reading my posts all of these years, I came to somewhat different conclusions.

Take your quote ,"you''ll want a boat that is easily handled - by either of you - and sails without fuss. This may be in conflict with your husband''s desire to have a ''racer/cruiser'' (he may have his eye on racing the boat locally) as such boats often have multiple trimming options that a simple ''family cruiser'' sloop won''t have, and such a boat may be less forgiving when trimming gets less attention by the single crew member who''s also navigating a bit, steering and trimming the sails full-time, and trying to sneak below to fetch a Coke out of the fridge."

When I read the first few words ,"you''ll want a boat that is easily handled - by either of you - and sails without fuss." I thought, ''Right on Jack'' but then I immeadiately thought that a performance oriented boat would have a better hardware and deck layout, lighter steering, etc. making it easier to short hand or for smaller people to get involved in. I thought that performance boats generally offer more performance with less effort (and less adjustment although they have the tools to obtain even higher performance when properly dialed in) and so T''s husband would enjoy sailing the boat more. I figured that there would be some compromises but all and all came up on the other side of the coin. I''m not sure that either one of us are right or wrong but I got a kick out of how different our responses were.

Although off of the subject, best wishes to all for a great Thanksgiving, but expecially to you Jack.

Jeff

WHOOSH 11-26-2004 04:13 AM

What makes a good family cruiser boat?
 
T, it may seem like Jeff and I are off on our own little gig here, but the dialogue that continues between us is in fact being driven by your question...and Jeff, I think it''s clear who''s right - it''s both of us, right there in the middle of our differing comments. <g>

''Easily handled'' is IMO (and apparently yours) an important criteria for T, and not only so she can have a break from Mothering. If sailing doesn''t involve & satisfy Mom to some extent, beyond tending to the kids, she''s gonna quickly realize that an RV, a cabin in the woods, or a summer vacation to Dizzyland in Orlando is lots more fun.

My caution is that ''easily handled'' isn''t likely to include a boat intended to be raced by a crew. I didn''t mean to suggest that fast sailing boats can''t be easily handled, altho'' I may have implied that. But IMO it''s a fair assumption that most boats viewed as ''competitive'' and which a racing sailor/husband will be attracted to will presume (in deck plan, cockpit layout, cockpit size vs. cabin size, etc.) that a crew is aboard. Sheet winches distant from the helm? Mainsail trimming options that involve extra strings? Mast rake being more a requirement than an option? A longer cockpit and fewer cabin amenities? I''m just picturing a broker or salesman hearing Hubby talk about speed and the Club’s race events, and then overlooking the fact that a boat the broker can sell as competitive will be less than ''easily handled''.

Here''s the specific frame of reference I had: the British Kiel YC, a place I''ve talked about before. The sail training they do there now uses ten Comfortina 35 sloops. They are very slick boats, quite fast according to the Yachtmasters that supervise the novice crews, and with bendy rigs. These replaced Najad 331 sloops, also fractionally rigged sloops (and before them, H-R 31 fractionally rigged sloops). I asked 3 different YM’s what their impressions were of these different boats and got the same answer each time: the Confortina’s had more speed potential and were more ‘fun’ to sail…but were clearly more work and less forgiving. Two YMs mentioned crossing the North Sea in the Najads and were very impressed…but said they would not particularly enjoy the same run in the Comfortina even tho'' she''s two feet longer. It’s that distinction I was trying to draw out for T, as I think Hubby would be inclined to see a Comfortina 35-type boat as more desirable.

Jeff, I''m not sure how or when but I''d sure like to beg a ride on your boat when we next are up on the Chesapeake. I''m sure your boat would be an eye-opening experience for me to sail; I particularly enjoyed looking at the pics of her you posted on another BB. But you''ll need to watch out: I''ll pay attention to all the trimming you do as conditions or point of sail change, and then kid you about whether the boat is easily handled. <g>

Jack

Jeff_H 11-26-2004 06:29 AM

What makes a good family cruiser boat?
 
Jack,

Guilty as charged. I must admit that I am fairly constantly adjusting. It is almost by habit that I will reach out and adjust something like the sheet tension, traveler,or the backstay. I do it almost by reflex, so I think that you would have a lot to kid me about. On the other hand, I do that on whatever boat I sail, whether it is a more traditional and perhaps more forgiving boat or not.

There is a funny story about sailing with a friend on a sail trial of an older Freedom 33 wishbone boom, cat ketch. The seller was aboard and kept talking about how the boat was so simple to sail and that you simply raised sails and sailed. We were on a beat and the boat was pointing very badly. I began moving around the boat adjusting halyard and outhaul tension and began playing with the snotter which was hard to adjust underway. (When I got back to the cockpit the owner of the boat said that he did not realize that you even could adjust the snotter.) We were now pointing and moving much better than we had been. When we cracked off I reveresed some of the adjustments to give us more reaching speed. After a while my friend finally joked, "Jeff, you can even take a simple boat and make it complicated to sail."

Jack I would really enjoy sailing with you. The offer stands that anytime that you are stateside just give me a call and we''ll go out on Synergy. I can take the ribbing.

Jeff


ghostsailors 12-30-2004 07:10 PM

What makes a good family cruiser boat?
 
Hi tziehm,

I probably won''t have the answer to your question. We liveaboard our Formosa 51'' with 2 small kids (ages 2 and 4). When we bought our boat, we were looking for a home. Some things that come to mind for me would be the amount of deck space for the kids to be able to run and play. That is one of the things I love the best about our boat. There aren''t many things on deck that the kids can trip on. We have netting on the life lines around the boat and that really helps with piece of mind. I agree with Jack about having a boat that is easy to manage because one of you will always be on kid duty, most likely. Our kids have their own room with bunks, but they would be so happy to crash anywhere on the boat if need be. Kids are so adaptable. Before we bought our Formosa, we had a Sun 27'' that was extremely comfortable. The table lifted up and attached to the wall, so there would have been a little extra room for kids to play. My suggestion would be to go to a boat show and check out the different boats. I think that everyone is going to have different ideas of what the best options would be. You need to find something that is going to suit you. Good luck in your search!

Angela
S/V Ghost
Seattle, WA
www.ghostsailors.com

p32 01-10-2005 09:57 AM

What makes a good family cruiser boat?
 
I would recommend taking ghostsailors suggestion (boat show), but take it to the next level. Charter a couple different kinds of boats. Use the charter as both a vacation and an evaluation. A week long charter is not going to provide adequate evaluation in terms of time or use that a potential live-aboard/world cruiser might require. But for the use you''ve described it may be just the ticket to give some more realistic use-case experience than a boat show or test sail scenario.

Brian

PCP 01-11-2005 05:08 AM

What makes a good family cruiser boat?
 
Interesting thread.

I have some experience, since in summer my family and I live and cruise for 1 month and a half in our boat.

Let me summ up what has been said and it seems more important to me:

"The specifics of what makes a good family cruiser will vary with the family."

"Today, I think that people expect a lot more out of a boat, comforts that are closer to home."

"Generally, these days the focus of a Family cruiser leans toward a certain amount of room to lounge and carry the kinds of ''toys'' that keep a family amused."

"Galleys tend to be surprisingly well equipped, approaching all of the comforts of home."

"Today almost the smallest boats have pressure water and so the water tankage has to be quite large."

" Two very young children as ''crew'' will mean someone quite often will be required to have the ''Kid Watch''....so for starters, you''ll want a boat that is easily handled - by either of you - and sails without fuss. This may be in conflict with your husband''s desire to have a ''racer/cruiser'' "

"This may also argue for a boat that is smaller rather than larger. (It doesn''t speak to any specific boat choice, but I''d put an autopilot at the top of your ''extras'' list".

".....you should look at the cockpit carefully. E.g. a mainsheet traveller bisecting & spanning the cockpit, often found on boats set up to race, is just an impediment and tripping hazard to young kids wanting to spread out their toys."

"Talk with your husband about the local area and and how that should influence your boat choice. E.g. secluded anchorages or easy access to shore, for the benefit of family cruising, might dictate a shallower draft"...

"But if sailing turns out to be, for your family, a great experience, then there''s one especially valuable thing your two kids can potentially get from the experience that''s worth keeping in mind: a love of sailing. And that is likely to happen more easily if your boat is fun to sail. "

"My suggestion would be to go to a boat show and check out the different boats. I think that everyone is going to have different ideas of what the best options would be. You need to find something that is going to suit you."

"Charter a couple different kinds of boats. Use the charter as both a vacation and an evaluation."


Those are, in my opinion, good advises.

I would say that to maximize the single handling of the boat (even by someone that is not experienced) the boat should have the sheet winches at easy reach from the helm and if possible a self tacking head sail.

I think that for very small children center cockpit designs have a security advantage, being easier to maintain the children in the boundaries of the cockpit. This type of boat offers also a traveller situated behind the cockpit, offering a clear and safe cockpit area and good control of the boom, being at reach to the helmsman.

All this put together (including the above quotations ) if it falls inside the budget, I would say that the new Najad 38 or the new Halberg-Rassy 37 are obvious choices as (small) family boats. They are both good and fast boats.

There are two others center cockpit, not so well known and not so expensive that will fit this parameters, the C-yacht 10.4 (and 11.0) and the Sunbeam 37.

I like particularly the C-Yachts. The 10.4 costs around 160 K euros and the 11.0 around 200K.

Regards

Paulo

BarryL 01-12-2005 05:27 AM

What makes a good family cruiser boat?
 
Hello,

I have come into this discussion late, but I may have some useful comments.

My family and I started sailing in the summer of 2003. There are five of us, my wife and I, and three kids. The kids were 2, 4, and 7 when we first started sailing. The original plan was for a cheap small daysailer. We decided on an older Catalina 22, which was great for the first year. By the end of the year I was totally hooked on sailing and I wanted a bigger boat, something large enough to spend a weekend on, but still small enough to be easily sailed and, more than anything, affordable to purchase and maintain.

We started 2004 with the Catalina. At the end of June we sold it and bought a Newport 28. We did spend a few nights aboard and I want to do more in 2005.

Anyway, here are my specific comemnts regarding a boat suitable for family cruising:

1. The boat must be easy to sail single handed. With the age of your kids, one of you will most likely be watching the kids, and the other will be sailing the boat. You will need a good, reliable, easy to use autopilot. In addition to things like sheet winches at hand, etc, make sure that the boat has a well designed, easy to use, reefing system. Think about this scenerio:

You are sailing in a nice breeze, everyone is happy, you are loving the sailing life. Then the breeze and the waves start to pick up. The boat heels more and starts bouncing off the waves. The kids start getting scared, nervous, and unhappy. You start getting scared, nervous, and unhappy too. One of you (probably you) needs to tend to the kids. The other one must handle the boat, which is in need of a reef.

Being able to quickly and easily reduce sail makes the difference between everyone calming down and enjoying the sail and having people on edge, uncomfortable, and unhappy. And believe me, if the kids are not happy, no one will be happy!

2. Kids are not as well balanced or as agile, as adults. Make sure that the cockpit is open and easy to move around. While the traveler mounted in the cockpit is great for racing, it will really make moving around it difficult. Look for a boat with the traveler mounted on top of the cabin or at the end of the boom leading to the stern, like on the S2 9.2A. I was cloe to buying an Oday 30 until I realized that the main sheet, located right in front of the companionway, would be very difficult for my kids to pass each time they wanted to go below.

3. A stiffer boat will be more comfortable than a tender boat.

4. Look for a boat with an easy to use swim platform. My boat does not have one and I regret it. To get back into my boat you need to climb up a ladder, then climb over the pushpit. Not easy for a 4 year old! My next boat will have a walk through transom and swim platform (with shower).

5. Personally, the galley is not at all important. With the type of sailing I do (mostly day sails, the occasional weekend trip) no one wants to have to cook and clean up on the boat. For day sails we bring a cooler with prepared food. For weekends we will have a meal or two on the boat and the rest off the boat. As long as I can grill some dogs and burgers, and keep milk cold, my galley needs are met. I don''t see baking bread on the boat in my future!

6. Hot and cold pressure water (and a shower) is important. After a day of fun in sun, swimming, being slathered in sunblock, it''s nice to be able to clean the kids off. As you know, they are not fans of cold water rinses. And boiling water in a kettle gets old fast.

7. An open layout down below is also important. The table on my boat folds up against the bulkhead. I didn''t know it at the time, but that''s a great idea. It allows the kids to spead out on the sette, or the cabin sole and play. I don''t have to worry about them climbing on the table, the table falling down, etc. The table can also fold in half so it can be open, but still allow easy access to the head, V berth, etc.

8. I don''t know what sleeping arrangements are best, but everyone needs a bunk. I put one kid (the youngest) in the v berth, so he can fall asleep first, without interruptions. My wife and I sleep on a sette, it pulls out to a double. One kid sleeps in the rear quarterberth. It''s tight and hot but she doesn''t know any better. My oldest sleeps on the other sette. Forget about privacy!

9. For entertainment we bring books, toys, radio, etc. We have dedicated toys for the boat. We try to change them often so the kids don''t get tired of them and they look forward to playing with them. My kids tend to get seasick if they stay below when we are sailing, so mostly they play in the cockpit. At night we use a computer w/DVD drive to watch movies.

I guess that''s about it. I think you need a boat in the 27-34 range. You didn''t list your budget, so I won''t make any specific recommendations. We looked at Catalina 27 (nice, but too small for 5, would be OK for 4), Catalina 30 (perfect for us), Hunter 31 (I don''t trust the quality of 1980''s Hunters). Irwin 31 (all had leaks), O''day 28 and 30 (traveler location), S2 (nice but on the expensive side), Newport 28 and 30, and a few others.

If I were buying a new boat I would get a little bigger one, something 32-34, but that starts getting large for single handing (not to mention expensive).

Good luck,
Barry


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