Blue water characteristics
I've sailed a coastal cruiser for 10 years. SERENA is a NorthStar 38' built in 1972 and designed by S&S. I've seen other threads on this design, (also branded Hughes 38) and have come away with confusion on her blue water seaworthiness. Cap'n Fatty of CW fame has sailed his NorthStar around the globe more than once. But through communications with him, I've learned he's done some modifications to stiffen Wild Card.
So rather than try to answer if my NorthStar is a Bluewater boat or not, I'd like some input on general features and characteristics to seek and to avoid in a boat when planning open ocean passages.
Granted, there's much more to the task than the choice in boat. But I'm on a 5 year plan.
All replies are welcome and appreciated.
Wow. Very big question with a ton of variables. I would recommend a few books to absorb.
First off, consider the possible: If you want to beef up a Hughes 38 to offshore standards, read this:
Secondly, while the Hughes 38 is "coastal", it's also designed by S&S, meaning it's got a reasonable pedigree.
Thirdly, Cap'n Fatty would seem to be a very good sailor. A very good sailor can get the most out of a boat, without pushing it so hard that important things (or crew) break. You may wish to copy not only his boat improvement projects, but his career. When we here of Catalinas and Hunters circling the globe, we have to look at the qualities of the skipper first, because I don't care what your opinion is, these boats weren't created to cross the open ocean, and while they might do so from time to time, it would have to be in the care of a skipper who had a lot of experience and even more prudence.
Stronger-built, or perhaps purpose-built, bluewater cruisers provide a cushion of structural integrity and design elements that insulate the less-experienced skipper from bad decisions.
I have found Ferenc Mate's books, and this book:
helpful in allowing me to visualize the stresses and knocks heavy weather can impose on a boat. I bought my cruiser on the basis that it will forgive my tactical errors to a point.
Attributes to seek is too broad and contentious a topic.
Attributes to avoid? Insufficient tankage, lack of spares, too wide cabin, insufficient handholds, grab bars, pad eyes, undersized rigging, unreinforced sails, undersized ground tackle, lack of variety in ground tackle, lack of properly sized rode, insufficient stowage that is insufficiently secured, redundancy in pumps (manual and electric), windlass (manual and electric), beefy battery and charging systems, clearly marked everything (I just bought a Dymo label maker and have been labelling everything I've disconnected on my diesel prior to overhauling), robust but compact refrigeration (keep it full, but don't count on it for all your food), radar, robust fuel filtering, SSB/satellite phone, separate GPS/chartplotter, tinned wires...man, I could type all night.
Ask people who have COME BACK what works and what doesn't, and what turns out to be a very good idea, and what failed on Day Three.
I've raced against Hughes 38s, as there are a few of them here in Toronto, on my Viking 33. They seem sturdy enough, if a little plodding, but plodding, in a blue water context, has something to recommend it.
Valiente's answer is a good one. There is some divergence of opinion on some matters but there is a wealth of material available in books and on the net.
Might I suggest that you would learn and profit more by researching and coming to an understanding of the whys and wherefores yourself rather than relying on others to distill it or offer a personal view.
It is important to understand that the Hughes Northstar 38 began life as an early IOR rule beater. This brought a whole range of seakeeping, rig proportion and motion attributes that in my opinion made them far from ideal offshore or short-handed cruisers. These were particularly good boats for their time, but this was a time when the racing rule produced boats that were not very well rounded and were not good offshore boats.
In a general sense, Hughes build quality was very good. (I owned a 1973 Hughes Northstar 500 QT.) Hughes was known for the quality of their glass work (Hughes built the hulls and decks for the nearly identical Hinckley 38 from that era), but designed as a race boat, these boats did not have the engineering safety margins that you would expect in a purpose built offshore cruiser.
Another issue with these boats was carrying capacity. Early IOR boats, had notoriously small capacity to tolerate excess weight before performance and seaworthiness was compromised. Increasing tankage or rigging size would be a big mistake if you planned to go offshore with these boats.
The fact that Fatty was able to heavily modify his boat attests to his luck and his skill as a boat rebuilder and a sailor, and not to the inherent quality of this design.
I tend to agree with Jeff's post, and want to emphasize particulalry his last statement about Fatty. I recall from reading quite a few of his articles (Fatty's) a recurring theme to the effect that his boat was not particulalry suited for what he was doing, but it was the boat he had and he simply made due. Not all of us could pull off what Fatty has done and frankly, if you're in the fortunate position to make another boat choice, why would you try to?
We had a similar discussion a few weeks ago about attributes of blue-water/off-shore capable boats. You might want to peruse it if you haven't already (here: http://www.sailnet.com/forums/sailboat-design-construction/38002-coastal-v-bluewater-cruiser-your-thoughts.html ), then come back here with more questions if you have them.
The basics are simple. Assuming a mono hull for offshore use
heavy: 20k+lbs for comfort!!! & sailing upwind
Full keel: Good tracking/easy for autopilot to control/easy grounding
Long water line: This results in speed. Weight is irrelevant to speed in cruising context
Center cockpit results in: Big engine room, dry high cockpit, huge aft stateroom.
If you go offshore, remember it is tough on you and your gear. Expect lots of gear to die.
For the cost of a round trip ticket to Horta in the Azores you could get a closeup look at a lot of boats that have had to sail at least 1,000 miles of open Atlantic to get there. (It's also a very nice place to visit, so you can't lose.)
I haven't done a statistical analysis of the boats there (although I think Jimmy Cornell and, earlier, Eric Hiscock have done something of the kind) but I have walked the docks a lot on my three trips there. There is probably an example of every sort of sailboat that will confirm ones prejudices about what makes a good offshore boat--from small catamarans to beefy motorsailers to 19th century gaffers.
If there is one characteristic that seems proponderant (though by no means universal) it is displacement. There are light displacement boats to be sure, but they tend to be larger boats so their actual displacement (rather than than their displacement as a percentage of their length) is still fairly high. In boats less than 40', heavy displacement seems to be favored.
The category that seems to be under represented is the otherwise ubiquitous 35-40' production sloop from Beneteau, Hunter, Jeanneau, etc. This could be for a number of reasons: they are fairly recent so fairly expensive; they are not optimized for ocean sailing--but then neither are a lot of other boats there; they are new and so distrusted by sailors who are by nature a conservative lot; or their formula of maximum internal volume, high initial stability and small underwater lateral plane is not favored by ocean sailors.
Maybe someone should hire the folks at MidAtlantic Yacht Services in Horta to conduct a survey of the boat types over the course of a couple of years to see where the ocean cruisers are putting their money. Although the result might not be a useful analysis but more like a laundry list of sailors' opinions and prejudices.
Fuller disclosure department: my own boat (see photo below at Gibraltar) was not designed as a dedicated offshore cruiser nor bought by me for that purpose. It seemed to me then (and still does seem to me) to be a versatile boat for offshore and coastal cruising and even some friendly racing. And I like the way it looks. How you quantify that in a survey, I don't know.
Nottoway - the spam filter is stopping you from posting your picture until you have had ten posts. Use flickr or photobucket to store it and publish the http. (but with some spaces to be removed by us).
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