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Right now we are training on a Lightning and love it. However for bigger seas like in the Great Lakes{ 3- 4 ft waves], where the Lightning might pound ...I am looking for something my boys and I will feel confident in, yet not be oversized. Is it about the length..like 19 vs 26... or hull shape...? is there a defining length that makes a difference?
 

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Do you want to keep it on a trailer? That is a cheapest and most practical option. What price range do you have in mind? I would say 19 to 22 feet is plenty. I sail trailerable boats all the time. Here is a very nice Chrysler 22 near you for under a grand. All you would need is a small engine (5 HP at the most). 22ft 1977 Chrysler with Trailer | eBay
 

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Right now we are training on a Lightning and love it. However for bigger seas like in the Great Lakes{ 3- 4 ft waves], where the Lightning might pound ...I am looking for something my boys and I will feel confident in, yet not be oversized. Is it about the length..like 19 vs 26... or hull shape...? is there a defining length that makes a difference?
north sea 27
 

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Keep in mind mustangchef that most boats people will recommend for use on the Great Lakes will be keel boats - that cannot plane. A keel boat will be a different level of excitement than your Lightning - mostly slower but more stable.
I've read that breaking waves of 1/2 the length of your boat can capsize your boat, any boat. Using that as a vague rule of thumb you should be able to sail your Lightning on a GL with seas < 10'. I think I would use a lower threshold, more like 3'.
If you really want a boat you and your boys can do overnights on then a keel boat makes sense. Otherwise you should be able to use the Lightning on Lake Michagan when the swaves are flatter.
 

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Yes, first question is: Daysailing or overnighting/weekending? or more?

For daysailing I'd look into something like a Holder 20, Ultimate 20, boats of that stripe.. If you're considering moving up to overnighting etc, then boats like the S2 7.9, a trailerable lift keel with good performance, or other current mainstream models Catalina 22/25, Hunter 23/26, etc are likely available, but would probably be more cruising than performance oriented.

So first lay out your usage intentions.. ;)
 
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Sea Sprite 23 #110 (20)
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great lakes are some of the most unforgiving pieces of water out there. The Combination of really deep water, narrow passages, and a bottom that rises quickly near shore sets up some steep high frequency waves.

Waves that can break the back of a lakes boat.

That said, as long as you do not go out in storms that sink the big ships, anything with a rounded hull will not pound so much as your planning hull Lightning.
 

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If you want the smallest boat that can handle heavy weather look into the Montgomery 15 & 17. They're small, lightweight, and trailerable but heavily constructed and can handle almost any weather. The downside is they're not cheap, you can buy an average built 25 footer for less.

In general, a rounded bottom and a heavy ballast will avoid pounding in waves.... length isn't as important.
 

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I assume you are looking at a daysailer, but that's not clear. If so, as has been stated, a keel boat in the range of 20 foot or so would provide a more comfortable ride in bigger seas. If some cruising is on the horizon, then the choices change a bit.
 

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I'd stick with the Lightning and try it our on the lakes for a while before jumping off the dock into a different boat. It may pound in some situations, but when it's blowing hard enough to create 4' waves, you're going to be heeled over enough so the chine will be cutting the water and softening the drop into the water. Quick adjustments to the tiller can also help smooth any boat's passage through big waves. Learning to do this on a Lightning might be easier than on a less responsive boat. The other thing is that the boats are built to take a pounding, and can be a total blast to sail when it pipes up. Practicing in lighter conditions and building up to the heavy-duty ones is obviously a good idea. If you're heading out in 30 knots of breeze, you might want to hoist a reefed main. IIRC you've already practiced capsizing?
 
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