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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My wife and I are looking for our first sailboat (~ 28'-30') after having several years of power boating experience in the Puget Sound area. We've had day sailing experience w/ friends, but we've never cruised in a sailboat under motor power for extended periods.

In cold, wet weather, how comfortable would my wfe be in the cabin while motoring in a newer 28-30' sailboat? She's not prone to sea sickness, but we've heard that reduced visibility in the cabin, engine fumes, etc. make it tough to stay below--but some of our sailing friends disagree. Thought I'd get a broader perspective.

We're looking closely at a 2005 28' Catalina Mk II.

Thanks, Matt
 

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Wandering Aimlessly
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I've never experienced any problems being below under power, but a good dodger and bimini can make it less necessary to have to "hide" in the cabin during wet weather.
 
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The engine on a sailing boat is inside the cabin. And sailing boats don't muck around with noise and vibration suppression like a motor boat does. Nor is the ventilation in some saloons very good so you can get the trifecta unless you pick your boat carefully.
Buying one they may try to make you make an offer without hearing the engine! So beware.

On the other hand a 30 footer will have a small engine, maybe less than 18hp. Against your motor boat that maybe puny and the noise much more acceptable.

At sea I often sleep in the aft cabin with my pillow being the engine bay hatch.. Yes its LOUD! But I do get used to it and fall into a blissful sleep. :)

So mention the downside so she is prepared. But the delight of sailing silently on a moon filled night makes up for lots of engine noise on other nights.


Mark
 

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My first keelboat that actually had an engine was powered by an old Volvo MD6 that was simply bolted into place and with bugger all soundproofing. It was all I could stand to start the damn thing and motor off the mooring or into an anchorage. Did teach me how to sail off an anchor so for that I suppose I should be grateful.

Current boat otoh is an absolute delight and while there is no getting away from the fact that engines make a certain amount of noise I can easily sleep when under way.

However, while I am only marginally prone to the dreaded Mal de Mer I don't think I'd choose to sit below under power in adverse conditions. Then again cold wet usually also means windy so unlikely to be under power.
 

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Two words: Ear plugs. I actually used to own a C28 (#100). Engine smells were almost nil, albeit, mainly in the aft “stateroom”. Noise was a combination of several factors: 1) condition of the engine mounts; 2) Insulation and gasketing around openings and 3) noise suppression around the air cleaner and crank case breather. This is what we did. 1) Our mounts were good so no changes; 2) We replaced the factory insulation with 1” noise decoupling insulation. We put it on all surfaces in the engine compartment and even a little way down “shaft alley”. Then we put hasps on all the engine hatches that didn’t have them before (the unhasped hatches would vibrate and transfer noise.) We also used thin rubber (think bicycle inner tube) to line the hatch openings; And, 3) we replaced the air cleaner with a K-N filter and sewed a foam cover. Ran the oil breather tube to a Meigs oil-air separator then plumbed it into the air cleaner. We were admittedly pretty fanatical, but it made a big difference.
 

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It's quite remarkable how much of the 'engine noise' on a boat is actually from vibrating bunkboards, locker doors, stove grills etc etc. As George mentioned, taking care of those (rather easily isolated) noises can make a huge difference, leaving behind only the mainly low frequency rumble of the engine itself and the associated running gear. In some cases the tranny may make just as much noise, though ideally it shouldn't.

The presence of actual engine fumes below is indicative of leaks in the exhaust which there shouldn't be.. a blower fan evacuating the engine space while running can help with that and the 'hot oil' smells that can emanate from some engines. It can also dissapate residual heat more quickly if let run for a few minutes after shutdown.

I think the biggest issue for below-decks travelers is the heightened risk of seasickness, even to those not normally predisposed, once the sea conditions become boisterous. The fixed reference of a distant horizon can be an important part of avoiding feeling sick.

Here in the PNW a cabin heater, a faithful blanket (;)) and our generally decent sea states should mean few issues with travelling below. However, keeping you company in the cockpit makes the whole experience better, I think, and around here a dodger is probably more than a luxury. Simply getting out of 'the wind' raises the apparent temps dramatically.
 
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I drove a Mainship 34 for a while, big Cummins diesel , worse than any sailboat I've ever been on. So kind of depends on the powerboat, but a sailboat rides better anyway. We used to say " a sailboat will pitch and roll but it won't yaw like a PB "
 

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I concur with the noises and rattles. We hava an "automobile" style heater core with water hoses from the engine... works just like your car. When we're motoring under way, the heater can be turned on, put the soft cover over the hatchway and it gets nice and cozy down there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks everyone for these replies. Sounds like the experience is pretty variable, depending on person and boat. I hadn't thought about engine noise. I'll definitely send my wife down below during the sea trial to check this out, and I'll report back.

Matt
 

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If you install a red dot cabin heater (hot coolant powered from your engine) your wife will be toasty warm while you brave the elements. A great addition for times you have to motor in the sometimes wet and chilly PNW.

Red Dot Heaters | Fisheries Supply
 
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Also have her look out port lights while underway. Current boats sometimes have lights in hull. Only vision is water rushing by. Like looking out side windows in a fast car pukeogenic for some. Some have raised saloons so can see horizon from down below- non pukeogenic.
 

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The question I have is: why would she wish to be below in the first place? I find that we only go below, while underway, to rustle up some food or drink, or visit the head or something else that is necessary. Granted, on passages, that is different, but for day sail or daytime passages, especially in your Puget Sound area, there is more interesting stuff going on at cockpit-level. Some comfy pillows against the coach house will help if she wants to read a good book while underway. Bear in mind, also, that a sailboat responds differently to waves than a motor boat, which affects motion inside the saloon.
 

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When I converted to electric propulsion in 2008 a lot of those problems went away. Especially noise and vibration. I can motor for hours and it is almost as quiet as sailing. No fumes and bilge is always clean. I would not recommend pulling out a good running diesel but, something you might want to consider in the future. When I had a diesel noise fatigue was an issue with extended motoring. Though laying down in the forward bunk helped and a quick nap always seemed to help refresh both the crew and I. I think you will find that you will naturally spend much of your time in the cockpit of a sailboat rather than down below anyway.
 

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there should never be engine fumes inside your cabin. If present there is a serious problem. Sometimes back winding, down wind occurs and fumes go into cabin, so take a slight heading change to reduce this. I saw back wind knock out several people with monoxide.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Flandria: I'm only talking about extended motoring situations, not day events. For example, after being in the San Juans, at 6 knots/hr, we'd have a 6-7 hr trip from Anacortes back to our home port, Everett.

Question for you: when you say "a sailboat responds differently to waves than a motor boat, which affects motion inside the saloon", how would you describe that difference exactly?

Thanks, Matt
 

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For example, after being in the San Juans, at 6 knots/hr, we'd have a 6-7 hr trip from Anacortes back to our home port, Everett.
Vocabulary is important. kts/hr is a generally meaningless unit (it is a measure of acceleration, which is almost certainly not what you mean). Look it up yourself and you will remember it.
 

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Hi, Matts...

6 or 7 hrs motoring, while not ideal, may be the ugly necessity. I still maintain that in many conditions it will be better to be in the cockpit than below... If not, well, that may raise other questions as to why the saloon is the preferred hide-out...

As to the behaviour of a sailboat under power, vs a motorboat, I know there is a difference but am not really capable of giving you a cogent answer. It has to do with the design of the hull, the presence of a keel and other factors. Perhaps someone else will pick up on this and inform me, as well.

All the best.
 

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The sailboat's rig and ballast keel provide inertia that prevents immediate response to the surface of a wave.. so a sailboat will ride with a smoother, dampened motion compared to a typical motorboat.

Better still, if you're motoring with a mainsail hoisted, the dampening effect is increased as the sail area resists the rolling motion imparted by the wave. This can work in light wind situations with residual slop/chop. You do want to avoid 'flogging' the main constantly if the course is primarily upwind - but one would hope you'd choose to sail instead, then the combined balanced forces of the rig, sails and ballast really settle the boat down relative to a powerboat's motion.

You may have seen trawlers with vestigal sails mounted on their short mast & booms.. these are intended to be set in a cross sea to limit the 'roll' in a similar fashion. A sideways breeze stiffens things up further still as the pressure on the sail resists a roll to windward.

Others can get more technical! ;)
 
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