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CE Category A Production Boats ARE Blue Water Boats

In case there was some ambiguity in my previous now-locked thread I thought I'd start this one with very simple clarity so that people looking to buy a cruising boat have some clear direction...

If you are looking to purchase a "blue water" boat for cruising and have heard all kinds of things on forums that seem to cast modern production boats in a negative light, you should look for the CE Category A rating to give you some guidance from professionals who actually know something.

Here it is stated very simply from the Beneteau site:

Quote:
Category A – Ocean: covers largely self-sufficient boats designed for extended voyages with winds of over Beaufort Force 8 (over 40 knots), and significant wave heights above 13 feet, but excluding abnormal conditions such as hurricanes.
I've bolded some important distinctions above...wind OVER F8 and waves ABOVE 13'. So we are talking F9-F11 conditions, excluding hurricanes (F12) and abnormal conditions (like clumsily hitting rocks, containers, and Krakens at will). And finally "extended voyages" does NOT mean "coastal cruising" as many like to disparagingly label these boats.



Now, though you'll often hear on forums that conditions like this (F10, F11, etc.) are somehow "common" and that only traditional "blue water boats" can handle these conditions with ease - if you are at all a prudent cruising skipper and pay attention to the weather, you will very, very rarely (likely never) see those conditions to begin with - at least as a sustained storm at sea.

To give you a bit more perspective on this, here is the definition of a tropical cyclone:

Quote:
Tropical Storm: A tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind speed (using the U.S. 1-minute average) ranges from 34 kt (39 mph or 63 km/hr) to 63 kt (73 mph or 118 km/hr).
Compare this with the Beaufort ratings above and think about how often you get hit by tropical-cyclone-strength conditions while cruising.

More proof of this comes from one of the most prolific sailors in the world, Hal Roth, in his seminal book "Handling Storms at Sea" (I've read it and you should too). Here it is on my bookshelf in my office alongside another great book signed by Chuck himself...



Hal has this to say about the violent storms people like to talk about on forums:

Quote:
“During the past 40 years I’ve sailed some 200,000 miles on the world’s oceans either by myself or with my wife. Yet in all these seagoing passages – some up to 52 days in length – I’ve never seen prolonged winds of hurricane strength and only one violent storm of Force 11. My point…is that violent weather is infrequent and that with care in planning bad days can be avoided or certainly minimized.”
So, in relation to "blue water" boats being able to "handle violent survival storms", there are 3 takeaways from the above:

1. The CE Category A rating implicitly covers F9-F11. And you will likely see F9 and maybe some F10 if you're out long enough. But the boat is designed and built to handle that. And Hal's book will tell you everything you need to do to stay safe if it happens.

2. According to both the Beaufort Scale and Roth himself, storms of F11 are exceedingly rare (just one in his 40 years and 200K miles of cruising). And F12 just doesn't happen unless you go looking for it.

3. Unless you're a very poor skipper, you should pretty easily be able to avoid these more extreme conditions - especially as a cruiser. You just need to practice some "care and planning".

So, don't worry about the age old "blue water" boats debates you see on forums. They are meaningless. Look for the Category CE ratings on more modern boats (the rating goes back to 1998). Then get a good survey on whatever boat you are looking at, prepare you and your boat to deal with heavy weather, and plan and pay attention to the weather as you cruise. This is what real sailors like Hal Roth do. And they tend to stay out of trouble.

So, you can listen to experienced nautical architects and engineers, and sailors with decades and hundreds of thousands of miles under their keel - or you can listen to forum posters who seem to get into trouble A LOT due to what can only be an obvious lack of "care and planning" according to Roth.

I don't think that's a difficult call to make.

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Re: CE Category A Production Boats ARE Blue Water Boats

Hal Roth had the advantage of sailing before man-made climate change caused more frequent violent storms, and before modern anchors with rope rodes along with ammunition enough for the several hand guns and assault rifles on board and carrying peat moss and poop buckets for composting heads caused such unseaworthy imbalance in control and handling of modern production boats.

Other than the above, no controversy at all...

Mark
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Re: CE Category A Production Boats ARE Blue Water Boats

I just finished reading that Hal Roth book and I noticed that paragraph also. Lots and lots of sailing, almost none of it in extreme weather.

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Re: CE Category A Production Boats ARE Blue Water Boats

The Pardeys also said the same thing, as did Beth Leonard and Evans Starzinger. And all of them sailed in more extreme places than most cruisers.

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Re: CE Category A Production Boats ARE Blue Water Boats

I will start by noting that creating threads, such as this one, that are simply rehashing topics which were beat to death on the Production Boats and their Limits thread will only result in a whole lot of deleted threads.

As someone who attended lectures and read the articles by the researchers who developed the CE Recreational Craft Directive, Directive 94/25/EC and the later update Directive 2003/44/EC as they were being developed, and as has been explained on numerous occasions. the CE directives are intended to provide a unified set of regulations that diminishes the trade barriers between the various countries of the EU. At the time that it was being developed, there were a broad range of standards within the EU for pretty much anything that you could conceive of. In adopting standard regulations the standards were not set at the levels of the most stringent regulations that existed and due to political pressures, (since all states had to sign off on the standards) were often set to match the lowest standard.

While amazing research was performed to establish a better understanding of the science behind the regulations, the researchers expressed frustration that the regulations were watered down by representatives of various countries who threaten not to ratify aspects of the standards that were in conflict with the ways that boats were built in their countries. So at best the Recreational Standard represents the lowest standard that could get passed by 28 member states of the EU.

Even taken at face value, the CE Category A rating does not intend to say that a boat with this rating has been engineered for the wear and tear of prolonged distance voyaging. What it does do is set out minimum standards for a boat which is used to make an offshore passage and a maximum Force condition that the boat is likely to survive if handled skillfully. In Europe the 'handled skillfully' thing is taken quite seriously in that the majority of coastal EU countries require operator certifications that go well beyond our ASA and US Sailing Certifications.

At the heart of this, these discussions come down to each person's definition of 'blue water' and acceptance of risk. It is true that many long distance cruisers never experience winds and seas above force 8. But it is also true that if your definition of blue water cruising means extensive long passages, then your chances of experiencing long periods of over force 10 winds go up extensively. In my own case I have spent three days offshore battling conditions that ranged between force 7 and force 8 on a simple sail from Savannah to St. Augustine. An acquaintance who sailed a sistership to my boat from South Africa told me that despite a weather forecast to the contrary, coming up the African coast from Cape Town, he spent almost the first 10 days of his trip in 30 to 60 knot winds and seas that approached the height of his masthead at times. In "Cape Horn: One Man's Dream : One Woman's Nightmare" Reanne Hemingway-Douglass describes close to a month in heavy conditions and being pitch-poled several times.

So while many of the great distance cruisers may have avoided the worst storms, it is something of a roll of the dice whether you can count on not experiencing days and weeks in heavy conditions beyond those that the Directive 94/25/EC is intended to cover. And so it comes down to how much risk you are willing to take and what your idea of 'blue water' cruising really is.

Which gets to the silliness of the title of this thread. There was a thread not long ago that tried to define 'blue water sailing' and did not come close. So then, if we can't agree on the term 'Blue water', then what makes a boat a 'blue water cruiser' given that the definitions seem to be all over the map.

For some, its simply about standing up to a particular force conditions, or its simply being able to make passages off the continental shelves. For others its about a trans-oceanic passage.

For me, and for many, if they use the term 'blue water cruiser' at all, it means that a boat is purposefully designed and engineered to withstand the prolonged and repetitious stresses of long distance voyaging. Whether that is months of sailing in 25 knot trades, or a week or two of slating in the doldrums, or cramming into one year the number of hours sailing that would be spent in a dozen years of coastal cruising, prolonged distance cruising stresses a boat in ways that normal coastal cruisers were never engineered to be.

When I worked for a yacht designer, I did those calcs and we pumped up the numbers for boats intended for distance cruising vs coastal cruising. That was the norm back then and with more sophisticated engineering software I have to assume that still remains the norm. While Directive 94/25/EC says that a Category A boat will stand Force 8 winds and make a long distance passage, it does not and is not intended to establish engineering specifications for how long it can do it.

In the late 1990's Hunter ran a marketing campaign that said something like "Hunter goes the distance". This created quite a backlash from more traditional cruising sailors and I ended up moderating a prolonged online discussion and Q&A between Cruising World Magazine web denizens and Jim Bohart at Hunter Marine. Much of the texts of those discussions were published all over the net and I assume that they are still out there.

Jim was quite candid. Many of the non-marketing types at Hunter were not thrilled by the ad campaign either. They felt that the ads set an unrealistic expectation for what were intended primarily as coastal cruisers. Hunter endeavored to build good coastal cruisers and were one of the first companies to comply with the CE Open Ocean Category (what Cat A was called back then). But he was clear that being able to sail in the open ocean was not the same as being engineered to do prolonged offshore passage making.

He described quite honestly what happened when someone decided to take the 'goes the distance' quite seriously and ordered a boat to be used for that purpose. He described how they went through all of the components of the boat and decided which needed to be beefed up to stand up to the rigors. Extra layers of cloth were added. Backing blocks and bolts were used rather than threaded plates as was more common. Details were beefed up throughout. And yet things were failing throughout the trip. My recollection was that a further beefed up rudder was shipped to the boat at one point, and the arch attachment was repaired at another. The plan was to sail the boat around the world. I don't think that they succeeded. And that was a beefed up version.

He also talked about features that failed offshore on other models. Hunter used Beckson plastic ports back then and Jim mentioned a boat coming off a wave wrong and landing on its topsides and cabin side, blowing the Lexan portlight apart and sending flying across the cabin in a torrent of water. Amongst other heavy weather failures, he described portions of the pan with its molded in frames separating from the hull and cracking the frame after a particularly rough collision with a wave on a comparatively new boat. (This is not unique to Hunter, I also know of some Beneteaus which have done the same including one that was not far enough off the North Carolina Coast that some would even think of that as being offshore.)

So it comes down to whether you personally like the odds; whether you personally believe that you are comfortable with the odds taking your chances that you are as good and/or as lucky at missing heavier than cat 8 storms as the Pardeys and Hal Roth, whether you feel the odds are in your favor taking a boat offshore for prolonged periods of time that was designed to meet the absolute lowest trade standard that 28 EU member nations were willing to agree on, and/or whether your personal definition of 'Blue water' sailing is such that it somehow improves the odds of not exceeding these minimal standards.

In the end, you personally may decide that a CE Recreational Craft Directive Category A is sufficient for you to call that boat a 'blue water boat', But from a yacht design and engineering standpoint, a Cat A rating that does not equate to making the boat particularly well suited to stand up to the rigors of voyaging prolonged distances for prolonged periods of time.


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Last edited by Jeff_H; 11-07-2017 at 07:50 PM.
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Re: CE Category A Production Boats ARE Blue Water Boats

Aw gee smackie. Give it up. It’s gotten old.
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Re: CE Category A Production Boats ARE Blue Water Boats

Jeff, I spent way too much time this afternoon trying to untangle the CE Recreational Craft Directive without much success. The document itself doesn’t speak to any of the specifics of the various categories, but merely references a series of ISO standards. Are the various categories buried in each of the ISO standards referenced in the directive? Why don’t they publish something like a “compliance matrix” that shows what standard(s) the various categories meet? Perhaps an expert like yourself could present some concrete information instead of the anecdotes and editorial opinions that usually prevail in discussions of this sort. Does a Beckson port disqualifies a boat from being “ocean capable”? (weren’t they pretty common amongst multiple builders back in the day?) How about the Lewmar Ocean Series? Do they make the grade? I know that the directive is supposed to cover things like scantlings, opening sizes, and stability indices. But yet I find very little relevant documentation. Perhaps we can drive the discussion in that direction and make it more meaningful.

p.s. my stability index formula is “broken” on my Excel spreadsheet of indices. Can you provide me with the correct formula?

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Re: CE Category A Production Boats ARE Blue Water Boats

When you know the string is infinite, what is the reason to chase the end?
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Re: CE Category A Production Boats ARE Blue Water Boats

I've learned over the years not to argue or worry about what others sail, not to worry about someone's experience or decisions. Mostly good things happen and people enjoy themselves, sometimes bad things happen, boats break, boats sink, boats flip over and uncharted rocks appear. But today we have modern communications and GoFundMe sites so it's all good.
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Re: CE Category A Production Boats ARE Blue Water Boats

Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeB View Post
Jeff, I spent way too much time this afternoon trying to untangle the CE Recreational Craft Directive without much success. The document itself doesn’t speak to any of the specifics of the various categories, but merely references a series of ISO standards. Are the various categories buried in each of the ISO standards referenced in the directive? Why don’t they publish something like a “compliance matrix” that shows what standard(s) the various categories meet? Perhaps an expert like yourself could present some concrete information instead of the anecdotes and editorial opinions that usually prevail in discussions of this sort. Does a Beckson port disqualifies a boat from being “ocean capable”? (weren’t they pretty common amongst multiple builders back in the day?) How about the Lewmar Ocean Series? Do they make the grade? I know that the directive is supposed to cover things like scantlings, opening sizes, and stability indices. But yet I find very little relevant documentation. Perhaps we can drive the discussion in that direction and make it more meaningful.

p.s. my stability index formula is “broken” on my Excel spreadsheet of indices. Can you provide me with the correct formula?
George

The last time that I looked at this, the way that the category designations worked is that the standards were broken down into a range of individual modules dealing with issues like stability, scantlings, down-flooding, inspections during construction, required equipment and so on. (Individual items related to the equipment categories have their own CE standards, so something like port lights would have a set of standards as well.)

Each of the categories have acceptable ranges for each of the modules. The original set up was that a boat had to exceed the required scoring in each component of each module for the category it was rated. That was later shifted to combining components and modules into a system that resulted in a minimum accumulated score on the idea that certain things could be below the standard but might be offset by other factors.

For example, a boat might be lacking in stability to achieve an open ocean rating but if it could be prevented from down-flooding at a larger heel angle, it would still could pass as open ocean (That was the reason that there was a period when boats stopped having operable ports and suddenly cabin top hatches were the rage, it was the reason that cabin and freeboard volume suddenly increased since that raised he score on ultimate stability even if it reduced useful stability).

Because of the granular nature of the modules, there is no way to simply have a matrix and look at a boat on that matrix. Its more about looking at the individual component regulations and each of the module, doing the calcs and seeing where the boat ends up.

But that was not the point of my post. The point is that the CE directive never was a consumer protection regulation intended to assure a boat buyer that a boat is capable of a specific type of voyage. Instead it was intended to lower trade barriers between countries which had differing regulations.

Jeff


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