John, Jeff & the Group:
I sure wish the recent discussion you two are sharing on how a boat is equipped, energy budgets, and how it sails had a higher visibility in the long-term, long-distance cruising venue than it does. Simply put, it''s just very common to find overloaded boats in today''s anchorages, and I''m convinced that in most cases the owners/crews really don''t have any concrete notion of how their boat''s sailing qualities have been incrementally effected. And the issue isn''t just ''weight'', either. The windage inherent in a dodger, bimini, weather cloths, easy-drop mainsail cover, radar arch, solar panels and jug farm(s) looks to my eye like it not only spoils the inherent aesthetic appeal a boat may have (''tho many cruising boats seem to be built ugly) but this windage must surely retard sailing ability to windward significantly. (Jeff, have you ever seen any empirical data on this in your design work? It would be interesting to know if it were quantifiable in some way). I have noticed this incremental degradation in performance becomes noticable when Ma & Pa Kettle return from their Caribbean Thing, offload the boat to the point where it''s ready to be sold, and then they do a sea trail with a prospective buyer or daysail her for fun. Oh Lordy, are they surprised...
That SSCA Panel I was on this year, if I didn''t mention it before, was a real eye opener: 6 panel members representing 5 boats, all of whom had crossed at least one ocean and been out for some years now. The average boat, WHOOSH excluded, was 45'' LOA, between 16-20 tons (yet in each case, only 2 crew), ''needed'' 250-300 amp/hrs/day in DC consumption, had every system known to the CW advertising staff, had 2 dinks and 2 outboards (''one might break, you know...'') and of course every conceivable kind of canvas. Most had generators. As the panel began, I hadn''t thought of Patricia and I as the ''minimalists'' in the group; after all, we make big/clear/hard ice cubes, get real-time wx info and do email onboard, use lots of electronic thingies and have what we consider all the comforts of home. Hah! When I mentioned we used 70-80 amp/hrs/day and haven''t so far needed a water maker, eyes rolled and we might as well have been Lyn & Larry Pardey.
John''s caution about selecting a boat that''s not going to be *too* overburdened by a given crew, given each crew''s own tastes in systems and personal effects, is right on...but there are several reasons why I don''t think it occurs often. First, folks start out with little experience and so can''t imagine the loading issue being as significant as it is. Second, systems (and also sheer boat junque) are acquired incrementally, without a thought about their collective impact. Third, boats are viewed as RVs these days, with the entitlement notion that a boat really should provide all the comforts of a condo simply because it can. Fourth, I wonder how many of us actually like and seek out good sailing, when our motivations are often in other areas. And I suspect the biggest reason is represented in the old saying ''The best boat to go cruising in is the one you have'' and so folks make do with what they have, and just ''load her up''.
I remember when we were in the shopping mode that led us to WHOOSH (a Pearson 424 ketch), I used Dave Gerr''s Nature of Boats and estimated the #/inch immersion measurement for her - it was roughly 1 ton, which I liked. Even so, one of our winter projects while in our berth is to - once again - pull every single thing out of every locker and see what we can whittle down or eliminate altogether. (It felt very silly to be out sailing this past summer with a dehumidifer bubble-wrapped and tied down in the forward cabin). When flying home for the holidays, our bags were loaded with only one change of clothes but we sure had a lot of boat ''stuff'' in there. Without consistent effort, the weight just keeps getting added...much like what happens to all of us around the holidays. <g>