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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi everyone... 1st post here, have been reading on here for a long time. :) Wife and I and four kidos (There are nine of us in the Summer months) are looking for a live aboard cruiser for long term cruising. We are planning to spend our first few years in the Caribbean. Only experience sailing is on much smaller boat a 40' IP on San Francisco Bay several years ago. Learned to sail it reasonably well IMHO.

Now for the question... We are seriously considering an Irwin 65 for a large family boat. I have read everything on here and all the comments by Total Chaos as they are cruising one with a family. There doesn't seem to be a lot on the net about them. I have talked to a few owners so far and have been told good things. (biased opinions lol) Mostly that they are nothing like the small Irwins in build quality etc. and sail pretty well. Lots of room etc. I know there are a tremendous number of factors that go into this kind of decision, but I am just humbily looking for honest opinions. The boat I'm looking at is in nice shape and fit out impressively for cruising. I know that the forums are pretty hard on the small Irwins, but people I've talked to about them love their boats. I just can't find very much on the 65 and 68s.

Thanks
 

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.... Only experience sailing is on much smaller boat... We are seriously considering an Irwin 65 for a large family boat. ...but I am just humbily looking for honest opinions. The boat I'm looking at is in nice shape and fit out impressively for cruising....
No.
Quite simply, no.
It has nothing to do with build quality or the Irwin name or what forums have to say, it is quite simply too much boat for a very, very, novice crew. It is an absolute budget breaker, it is a boat you realistically cannot sail single handed, and even short handed is a handful, it is a boat that is three times as expensive to maintain, dock, dry dock, haul, paint, fix, and moor, than a 40' boat.

If you want a short frustrating cruise that will empty your wallet and make your spouse and kids hate you, THIS is the boat. if you want to cruise sustainably, enjoyably and less stressfully, look for a well-found boat under 45'
 

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I used to own an Irwin Citation 31 and enjoyed it but the build quality was marginal. Even giving the benefit of the doubt on build quality with the larger Irwins and setting aside the fact that the ongoing costs of mooring and maintaining a 65' boat are very high, I'd still question going this route. 65' is a lot of boat to handle. How many people will you have working the lines? Will you always have them available? How well is the boat equipped for shorthanded sailing (in-mast or in-boom furling or at least battcars)? Will your partner be able to handle it in a man overboard situation? If in doubt, you might want to try to "get by" with a 42-50' boat instead.

I've got a large family and a four-cabin Catalina 50, which works great for us from a liveability standpoint. With a bow thruster, Harken Battcars for the slab-reefing main, careful attention to reducing friction in the halyard runs, an electric furling winch, an over-rated autopilot with second station, stout windlass, etc. it's manageable by one person and easy with two. That said, It's still a handful to dock in a breeze even with two people and I'm strongly considering adding a wireless thruster/windlass control so I can use the thruster while I'm making the docklines fast to the the mid-ship cleat.

Bottom line is that it takes a lot of equipment and optimization to make a 50' boat manageable for one or two people and I'm not sure it can be done with a 65-footer. There are a number of three-cabin Catalina 42's out there that are quite liveable and if I hadn't found a "perfect deal" on the 50, that's the route I would've gone and would recommend.
 

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Now for the question... We are seriously considering an Irwin 65 for a large family boat. I have read everything on here and all the comments by Total Chaos as they are cruising one with a family. There doesn't seem to be a lot on the net about them. I have talked to a few owners so far and have been told good things. (biased opinions lol) Mostly that they are nothing like the small Irwins in build quality etc. and sail pretty well. Lots of room etc. I know there are a tremendous number of factors that go into this kind of decision, but I am just humbily looking for honest opinions. The boat I'm looking at is in nice shape and fit out impressively for cruising. I know that the forums are pretty hard on the small Irwins, but people I've talked to about them love their boats. I just can't find very much on the 65 and 68s.
If you're truly serious about buying a 65-footer, you obviously have some reasonable $$$ ready to spend. In that case I would suggest you spend part of your deposit to charter a 60-65' yacht for a week or two or three (or a month) somewhere nice for a holiday, with the entire family, and see how you go.

This way you can have an experienced skipper on hand to show you how things work and you'll get a good feel for handling a boat that size without a large commitment up front.
 

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We seriously considered the Irwin 68' before buying a 54'. The build quality of the big Irwin's was very good, and while ours was destroyed during hurricane Katrina it had more to do with the pile of boats that fell on her than anything wrong with the boat.

As mentioned a big Irwin like this is a lot of boat to handle. For novice sailors and boat owners the real risk of doing damage to the boat or someone is just to high to recommend. I would highly recommend hiring a full time captain to sail with you for at least a year just to accelerate the learning curve of dealing with such a behemoth.
 

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Have you looked at Catamarans?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Thank you kindly for all the responses thus far. We have booked a Charter on an Irwin 65 for November this year. We have the whole boat for two weeks,16 days, with the intention of learning to sail her, that was part of the cost. We are open to hiring a captain for a while the first year if we do indeed decide to go forward. I am at least not naive to the significantly higher costs of ownership. I did talk to one owner on here who has a 65 set up with leisure furling on both main and mizzen as well as power furling on all the sails, with all the sail control led to the cockpit. We have a 40' stink pot now, lol and she is to small for us. The power boat is considerably larger at 40' than the 40' sail boat and it doesn't work well for us. The Cat is a strong possibility for us, we really like the St Francis 50 we sailed last year, (so we do have a tiny bit more experience than the Island Packet, but not much) but the upfront cost of a $700,000.00 plus put us farther out from cruising, not unrealistic though just changes the timeline a bit. Plus we love the traditional lines of a monohull, can't make a cat look beautiful like that,. IMHO. Just for the sake of helping clarify the finance aspect, we are planning for a $10-15K/ month cruising budget not $500. I really hope this doesn't come off as boastful I just want perspective on the operating costs vs. the cruising budget. We are looking to find a completely fit out boat for under $500K that will meet all our needs. I was just hopeful that the Irwin might prove a viable option for significantly less, plus we just love the way she looks and the interior layout is fantastic.
 

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Sounds like you're taking a considered approach to this. If you do go this route, make sure your autopilot is top of the line, over-rated for the displacement of your craft, and well-installed. You'll be using it a lot to "grab the wheel" while you run off to tend a line, pull in the fenders, etc, etc. I'd also advise the same for your thruster. Make sure it's powerful enough to push that bow against a stiff breeze and upgrade it if necessary. Also, in my experience with 10 to 20 year old used boats, you should plan on a first-year upgrade budget of 10% of the purchase price even if they were well maintained. For a boat this size, I'd recommend 15-20%. A lot of things that are nice-to-have in a smaller boat are have-to-haves if you'll be short-handing a 65 footer.
 

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The biggest boat we owned was a 52 for 10 years.

I don't know Irwins, but I know a little about older bigger sailboats. You could easily spend $200K+ getting a "reasonably well found" boat of this size refit for a cruise. You'll probably have a big engine and genset with lots of hours, old sails, old standing rigging, old running rigging, old pumps (lots of them, had 15 electric pumps on the 52), old heads, old stove/propane system, old air conditioners, old tanks with leaks, hoses up the.... that need replacing because they are dried out and cracked, old thru hulls, old batteries, etc. And that's just the mechanical stuff, cosmetics could include a paint job and brightwork above and below. I'm just listing the stuff that wears out. If the boat has big problem with the hull, masts, rudder, etc., it could be even more costly. You can do a lot of this yourself, but on a boat this size you'll often need help because of the scale of things.

If you are planning a big cruise, unless you really enjoy fixing stuff, do the refit first while close to civilization where there are parts and boat yards...even then you'll find lots of broken stuff to keep you busy during the cruise.

I don't want to sound discouraging. There are people who do this and it works, just go in with your eyes open, get a very experienced surveyor who knows big Irwins, go talk with sail makers, riggers, mechanics, etc, and have them show you invoices for work on similar boats. If with all that data you cannot be discouraged, then maybe your one of the rare people who can pull this off!

Good luck!
 

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I'm a strong believer in more than one person knowing how to handle the boat. When you go down, will your wife be comfortable at the helm of a 65 foot boat? At least to the point where she can anchor so you aren't a moving target for rescuers and get out of the way of boat traffic if needed and not make things worse with the boat while doing it?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
The mechanical was all refit in 07/08, Perkins has 400 hours, generator will be renewed with an new 20K Northern Lights, All rigging replaced in 07, new airconditioning units in 07, new ports, bowmar hatches, and boom furling main. Sails are all new in 08 and have seen zero use since new. There is to much to list on the mechanical refit suficive to say that the mechanical refit was comprehensive in 2007/08. The deck need painted, hull is excellent. There is cosmetic work that should be done, but nothing urgent. I will get a survey, maybe two. Nothing is set in stone yet, just trying to get every bit of feedback I can. The autopilot is an old Robertson unit, the Bow thruster is brand new Hydraulic. hmmm. Other considerations??
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I'm a strong believer in more than one person knowing how to handle the boat. When you go down, will your wife be comfortable at the helm of a 65 foot boat? At least to the point where she can anchor so you aren't a moving target for rescuers and get out of the way of boat traffic if needed and not make things worse with the boat while doing it?
Ha my wife is fearless, maybe to much so.. LOL. She handles our 40' now at least as well as I do. If I can do it, she can... maybe I have that backwards if she can do it maybe I can.
 

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The mechanical was all refit in 07/08, Perkins has 400 hours, generator will be renewed with an new 20K Northern Lights, All rigging replaced in 07, new airconditioning units in 07, new ports, bowmar hatches, and boom furling main. Sails are all new in 08 and have seen zero use since new. There is to much to list on the mechanical refit suficive to say that the mechanical refit was comprehensive in 2007/08. The deck need painted, hull is excellent. There is cosmetic work that should be done, but nothing urgent. I will get a survey, maybe two. Nothing is set in stone yet, just trying to get every bit of feedback I can. The autopilot is an old Robertson unit, the Bow thruster is brand new Hydraulic. hmmm. Other considerations??
Good stuff...your eyes are wide open and there's been considerable refit already... this just might work:)
 

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The Irwin 65 is a great boat, we love ours... PM me and I can give you my contact info, be happy to give you all the information I have. I have a lot of detailed info on our refit and I can point out some problem areas. The mast step is Iron I would make sure the step is in sound shape, ours had to be replaced which mean unstepping the mast, chain plates will need replaced if they haven't already been done. My wife and I sail ours with our teenage boys as crew, they can sail her without our help. She's a big girl, but we love her and I don't think my wife would consider anything smaller at this point. :) Best of luck.

-J
 

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The old auto pilot sticks in my craw, and we had a complete backup unit installed. It only really saved our bacon once, but it was nice to know it was there. We were always short handed sailing with only 5 on board and three sailors.

Otherwise what you are describing looks like a very well kitted out boat with little I might do... The 20kw generator however sounds a little over the top. As I remember we ran the whole boat on a 8kw, and the system loads were pretty much the same. But then I was 12 when we looked at the 68' so I may be remembering it wrong.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Thanks TC, I don't have enough posts on here yet to send PMs, but you can PM your info, I'd love to chat with you.

I was planning on installing a 20K Northern lights, maybe the 16.5K unit instead after talking with a couple owners about what they use. Both of those owners were charter operators and one had a 20k and and 8K. The boats all orginally came with 12.5K Kohlers. I think the loads could be reasonably high with five air conditioning units running, plus other demands. I am sure the 16.5 would be more than adeqate, but then the price difference between the two is supprisingly very little.

The winches are all barient and the four primarys are all electric, apparhently all new parts are available for them from a supplier in Austraillia. The Electric motors have all been replaced with new, and all the winches serviced.

The steering system is confounding to me as it is both cable and hydraulic depending on which way a lever is flipped at the helm. I have never seen anything quite like it. I was told that the system was installed in Austraillia a great expense. Has anyone heard of a steering system like this before?
 
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