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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
We've seen the age-old debate regarding what's REALLY a blue-water boat. And that's cool and everything - but it seems to me that there is a tangible middle ground between coastal cruising and true blue water sailing. Furthermore, in my blissful ignorance, I'd say that quite a few sailors inhabit this aether plain.

Sure you can buy a Hinckley or a Brewer or a Tayana or Cheoy Lee and take them wherever the hell you wanna. But where exactly can you take a Catalina, a Hunter, an Irwin, a Beneteau, a Jenneau, even.....yes....even.....a MacGregor (dum-dum-duuuuum).

Do you make sure you never leave sight of land in these boats? Do you keep land 50 miles away? 100 miles? Do you run from a 40 knot squall? Do you live in morbid fear of encountering a freak 50 knot storm - where you're cool with it in an S&S design from 1927? Can you "outrun" such storms in these "new fangled keel" boats - where in a full-keel Formasa you just heave to and ride it out with a Dark-n-Stormy and a tiparillo in your hand?

Giu had a good write up comparing Beneteaus/Catalinas/Hunters from a "sailability" standpoint. And CD has had some great input regarding the capabilities of various production boats. And we've seen the exhaustive list of blue water boats with great input from Cam and Jeff_H.

Furthermore, Val and others have pointed out the critical elements in any heavy weather situation is actually the skipper and crew. And this makes a heap of sense too.

So, the question I'd like to pose to the sailing world is this: From the standpoint of dealing with the outer limits of "coastal" cruising - what are the best production boats and why?
 

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Smackdaddy—

You can take any boat hundreds of miles from land, given the right weather conditions. Most storms move fast enough that unless you have sufficient warning, out running them isn't a real possibility.

Most boats, even production ones, are tougher than the deck monkeys crewing on them. Older, heavier, more seakindly designs are going to be easier on the deck monkeys than some of the newer, beamier designs.

As for what is the best production boat... it depends... What are you planning on using the boat for, and where?
 

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Take a good look at what the sailing purists call an offshore capable boat, then look at any modern catamaran or tri. I think you make an excellent point, many production costal sailors are much more capable than the sailors sailing them, regardless as to how far off shore they are. That said, many of those so called production costal cruisers have no business being away from the dock, let alone off shore,imho,
 

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That is a post to open up a smack of worms...

I'd venture to say it not so much the boat in a majority of the cases, it is the experience of the crew that handles going through it.

I know you read up on SA and the Volvo Races etc - serious fricking money on supposedly fast - ocean rated vessels. Look at the carnage they experience. One could argue that well - they are race boats but the crew onboard are 10X more experienced than the casual off-shore sailor. The combo is killer and they purposely go the margin...

It has been annotated time and time again - its not actually the boat in most cases it is the preparedness of the crew, and knowing when to back down. Your C-27 actually can make it across the gulf with no issue - as long as you pay attention to the weather windows etc. When snuff blows up behind you - its the crew / skipper - knowing what the behavior of your boat is and how she should be handled.

No such thing as a boat rated for the X versions of what mother nature throws out. When you have a scenario they waves and wind conditions promote scenarios where the wave height factor alone is 4 times your waterline length..it becomes a man over mother nature as that is all you can do..

I know you are kinda asking as you are looking to upgrade. There is no real formula to it - the only two constants are:

1: How well do you know the boat (not just handling either, where is everything, how much can she pump out if breaking waves etc.)

2: Your perseverance. A good majority of lost boats in distressful scenarios is the giving up aspect.

Sure some boats don't add up but you'll know because they are not worth sailing in 20 kt wind conditions before you set the first triple reef... all the rest - well.... you'll come to your conclusions
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Yeah Jody - the whole "can of worms" thing? Kind of my schtick. But I do think it's a good discussion. Great perspective by the way...oh, and you nailed me on the motivation BTW!

Wes - you got the point...it's really riffing off the "purist" ideal. We've talked a ton about that. But, seriously, who's a purist? I'll wager most sailors are not. They're in the middle trying to figure out where that edge is. And I'm sure there's a wealth of experience on this forum of those that have been there in a production boat.

Dog, I get your point...but rate boats, dude. That's the game.
 

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My boat, Freedom 28 is certainly “production”, however is not as mass production, as others, mentioned here.
They have proven offshore record, and I, with my limited experience, feel quite confident that boat can take more than I can so far. However, my boat designed with long travel in mind. On another side yearly Freedom 32, which have all attributes of modern boat – fin keel, spade rudder, fun to sail, big interior, did quite a few long, cross ocean trips.
There was Catalina 27 which went around a globe, staying south of Africa. I run across an article somewhere on internet where owner described all modifications he did to the boat. List was extensive, however all things were typical – adding handholds, reinforcing here and there, etc…
 

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We've seen the age-old debate regarding what's REALLY a blue-water boat. And that's cool and everything - but it seems to me that there is a tangible middle ground between coastal cruising and true blue water sailing. Furthermore, in my blissful ignorance, I'd say that quite a few sailors inhabit this aether plain.
SM, I like :)
Perhaps it's worth mentioning that the vast majority of wreckages and carnage happen on the coast - not even along the coast but virtually on it. The boat may have played a part, but I doubt that "blue water" was the deciding factor. Crew, maybe? Maintenance, maybe? Alcohol?

The statistic that makes me smile is from this year's Vendée Globe; folks sailing single-handed around the world at infernal speeds. Some 32 skippers started, 11 finished. Along the route one found them capsized, hauled into remote islands for safety or repair, rudderless, keel-less, demasted, and with torn sails. What joy it must be!
Vendée Globe Ranking

I mention it only because it is often said that racing - as in "motor racing" - advances technology for ordinary cars. I don't see many trends in these ocean races advancing the game for the rest of us. In areas perhaps, such as electronics, but as a general direction?

This is a little sad because meanwhile, the original field of blue water cruising has been left behind. There has been so little development that you can fully understand the "old school" swearing by the old shoes - it isn't as if newer boats have made a great advance on blue water.

In fact, it is the "coastal" cruiser that has taken the greater strides: roomier, much more reliable both structurally and in equipment; easier to handle, more nimble to maneuver. It is not surprising that some want to bring those advantages with them and travel further afield - and to be honest, it works most of the time, doesn't it?
 

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^ ^ ^

Good points. The fact is that very few people do blue water sailing...it's the equivalent of crossing the Sahara on motorbike. Most (and I mean 95-99% of all recreational sailors) do coastal, and a lot of them do daysails or gunkholing. It's no wonder I bought a custom steel boat: when there's no market for ANY "bluewater capable boat", the arguments about full keels, skegs and Solent rigs becomes largely academic.

There is no upside in creating oceanic boats for daysailers, because they will inevitably be heavier (because of necessary tankage), narrower (because of outboard stowage areas and the need to have handholds within arms' reach), and will have fewer or more conservative amenities (due to repair issues, energy draws, etc.). You can make any production cruiser into a both with these attributes, but at the risk of loading it down and still having the wrong hull.

It's no wonder people are still buying 1970s plastic cruisers, Island Packets and other "old shoes", because there are very few "new shoes" that can meet that "falling off a 25 foot wave without snapping a bulkhead or killing the crew" requirement. Nor are there cruisers who expect a regular diet of that sort of weather.

Look through the pages of National Geographic and Ocean Navigator and see what the high-latitude, truly "independent of the shore" boats look like. They have different shapes, skegs, workshops, padeyes, unfashionably high lifelines or pipes, welded or through-bolted lash-down points, massive arches holding mounted reels of stern anchor rode, and down in the boat, massive tanks cross-connected with manual pumps.

None of which your average Beneteau owner wants, needs or frankly, would understand or recognize, because they are never more than a hundred miles from a marina or a SAR service.

Which is fine.

So, unless you can buy one of the semi-custom production boats that are inherently this way, like a Shannon, some Moodys, the Swans, etc., I would say that there is NO current production boat that meets bluewater capable requirements. Not among the advertisers in the sailing magazine, anyway!

That should rile a few folks...

Having said that, the closest bets probably come from small yards in South Africa and New Zealand and even in France and Germany (although not as much as even 15 years ago), where "local conditions" are frequently so rough that the boats there have to be built to resist them in a fashion not necessary in North America.
 

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SM, I like :)
I don't see many trends in these ocean races advancing the game for the rest of us. In areas perhaps, such as electronics, but as a general direction?
I don't think this is right. Roller furling and self steering certainly have made great strides, and these offshore races have had a large impact on that.

Likewise, I think hull shape has been impacted as well. I know you were talking about so-called "blue water," and not coastal, and arguably the changes in hull shape have impacted production boats more directly. But that said, far far more sailors sail coastal than blue water, and modern production boats are starting to look a lot like the Vendee Globe boats, or at least a lot more like them than they are more traditional and older designs.

I suspect building materials and methods have been impacted too, but I don't really have specific knowledge on that.

And Smacky, if you're planning on sailing the coasts, I think any of the recent vintage production boats will do ya. Having had both, I think a big difference between the two "types" (mass produced and more limited production/semi-custom) are how they are outfitted coming from the factory. Mass produced boats are not as well equipped coming from the dealer, and I don't mean just in terms of goodies. Handholds, extra tankage, serious equipment, better materials on ancillary items, and stuff like that. But as you've noted, plenty of mass produced boats have gone far afield. But even aside from trans-oceanics, many many of these boats have cruised the Bahamas and gone to Bermuda and back. Tons of them actually. If that's your expected use or something comparable, they're fine (properly equipped and maintained of course).
 

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I don't think this is right. Roller furling and self steering certainly have made great strides, and these offshore races have had a large impact on that.

Likewise, I think hull shape has been impacted as well.
You are right, of course, I should have been more specific. Almost every technical aspect of sailing has improved and often through testing in offshore racing. The new rigs with Spectra and Dyneema, rope shackles, the list is near endless. Sail materials are unrecognizable from 30 years ago.

Still, what I had in mind was primarily boat shape, and perhaps sail systems. The Open 60 shape is efficient and has influenced coastal sailing - but not many choose it for comfort on blue water. I am sure some ocean sailors would also like to see more of the good ol' ketch sails, with small manageable sails and quite efficient - but not for racing. And if you're looking at the real hot rods, the record-beating trimarans, they rely so much on size that if you and I bought one each, we'd pretty much congest New York Harbour. We'd spend most of our time there, because storage is so scarce that we'd be running ashore every day to buy coffee and sugar :)
 

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Bluewater boats...always, heavy, narrow, with handholds everywhere. Handholds everywhere...really? So let's look at some really nice boats, some of the "flagships" shown in the magazines....not some little dinky 30-40 footer.
Maybe 70 ft ...the interiors never show handholds...on most you can't reach the overhead. These are not blue water boats?
 

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Bluewater boats...always, heavy, narrow, with handholds everywhere. Handholds everywhere...really? So let's look at some really nice boats, some of the "flagships" shown in the magazines....not some little dinky 30-40 footer.
Maybe 70 ft ...the interiors never show handholds...on most you can't reach the overhead. These are not blue water boats?
Believe it or not, mate - they are not!
Or, they are not, until they have the necessary grips fitted. I checked out a few and rejected them when it was obvious that I'd be thrown from wall to wall.
A friend of mine did better: at the boat show, he asked about the strength of the table base; he made sure to ask again, to really commit the salesmen, then "ooops!" he pretended that a violent sea sent him flying, and the table ended up in the corner. After that, the salesman was more timid about his claims.
 

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So how about one a little bigger...may be 100 ft? The boat is wider, overhead higher, and nothing to hang on to. (Personally, I would like something to hang onto, but what I'm trying to point out is that sometimes our general concept of what is a bluewater boat is a bit limited. Surely, these multimillion dollar boats are more than coastal boats.
 

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So how about one a little bigger...may be 100 ft? The boat is wider, overhead higher, and nothing to hang on to. (Personally, I would like something to hang onto, but what I'm trying to point out is that sometimes our general concept of what is a bluewater boat is a bit limited. Surely, these multimillion dollar boats are more than coastal boats.
Yes, I know what you're driving at; one can be too bombastic. Still, even 100 ft is nothing in a real ocean, you will not be taking leisurely strolls about without holding something - and that is before a real storm arrives. I almost broke a guy's knee last year, being stupid: he was sitting on the step to the cockpit and instead of asking him to move I thought I could sneak past. A freak wave bounced me on top of him - I still recall his screams. The wind might have been, well, just beyond a strong breeze?

Somewhere, there is a video online of a tourist ship, many hundred tons, hundreds of passengers, caught in bad weather along the coast. The bar is smashed, the lounges are cleared and all passengers are sent to their cabins because they cannot keep still in the open areas. Crew are leaping from the one fixed point to the next.

I think you'll find that the multimillion dollar yachts you mention are in fact crewed from one cruise area to the next, with the actual owners rarely boarding except when in port or cruising in nice, smooth waters.
 

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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
Okay - so we've seemingly settled back into the "blue water" debate...hull design, hand holds, spade rudders, hoping for a "freak" wave to "throw" you onto a nice looking crew wench, having to throw down $7.5M for a 100' yacht at a boat show because you broke the table pretending to be in a storm....that kind of thing.

But the focus here is the question of how far would you guys push a production boat - and which of those will handle it well. For example, Daniel mentions that scads of sailors take production boats down to Bermuda/Bahamas/etc.

So maybe another way to frame this question is...where does "blue water" start? Is it 10 miles off shore? 100 miles? Is it being farther than a half-day sail from land? What if your route requires a 4+ day passage in open water? And which production boats start falling out of favor as these numbers go up?

Daniel - how far would you push your Bene? What's the edge for you? Os?

(PS - Os, what do you sail? I can't tell from the pic. BTW - sweet avatar dude. Looks like Kermit has just spotted a waterfall.)
 

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Okay - so we've seemingly settled back into the "blue water" debate...
Daniel - how far would you push your Bene? What's the edge for you? Os?

(PS - Os, what do you sail? I can't tell from the pic. BTW - sweet avatar dude. Looks like Kermit has just spotted a waterfall.)
Apologies, Smack! I am on the same tack as you; production boats can be stretched. It was just the handholds that got me, not the narrow boat etc.

Uhmmm, my boat.. can't you see from the avatar it is a 3x3 raft?
I am a little embarassed to say otherwise, especially after the debate above.
 

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Daniel - how far would you push your Bene? What's the edge for you?
I'll answer it this way, and I'm not sure what else to say. Our intended use for the boat is: (1) mostly coastal cruising/weekending/summer vacations; (2) limited racing; (3) cruising the Bahamas and similar at some point (possibly the Carib); and (4) trips to Bermuda every few years with our rally.

If I did not believe it could handle that billet, we would not have bought the boat. Now, whether it will ACTUALLY handle that billet is yet to be determined. :eek:

Also, note that a friend, Franc Carreras of SeaKnots, has a 2008 Beneteau 43. He sailed it from NY to Florida in January (that's right, JANUARY!), then over to the Bahamas, through the chain, down to the Caribbean, and he's hooking up with ARC Europe to do a trans-Atlantic to Spain. He has done just about the entirety of the trip from Florida with only he and his wife as crew. He hasn't made it across the Atlantic yet, but he certainly made it down the Thorny Path to the Caribbean, and the boat's still floating. Note also that usually the single largest brand to participate in the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) is Beneteau. Not that many Hunters or Catalinas, but I suspect that's mostly becaue the ARC starts in Europe and comes to the Carib, and there just are not as many Hunters/Catalinas in Europe as there are on this side of the Pond. I raise this not to "brag" about Beneteaus or anything like that, but to show that the boats can do more than what most people will ask of them.

In sum, if you are like 95% of the sailors out there, the production boats will handle what you plan to do, IMHO. That's not to say they are for everyone. There certainly are nicer boats out there, that have more character, different sailing qualities, better build construction, better at weathering long-term use and abuse, and the list goes on and on. But your question is how far can you push a production boat, and I believe the answer is: A fair bit farther than the actual use 95% of the sailors will put them to.

If you are looking to buy one, you like it, it's in your price range, and it's in good shape, then buy it. On the flip side, if you just can't get past having to tell people you have a BeneHuntaLina, then don't buy it. This activity is for fun, and if you find that you need to apologize for what you sail, then it's a whole lot less fun, and you should sail a different boat. No point in spending a ton of money on a toy that for which you feel you need to apologize right from the start.
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
Now THAT'S a good summation! Thanks Daniel! And I totally agree on the whole "apologizing for your boat" thing. It's a crock. This is one of the main reasons I'm exploring this question. Personally, I like the production boats. And I think they've been maligned beyond what really makes sense. Sure, there's a level of truth in the criticism - but it's not an all-or-nothing debate.

Me? There's no way in hell I'd follow Childress' lead and take my C27 around the world. No freakin' way. I don't think I'd feel too comfortable taking it beyond a day's sail out to be honest (it's age notwithstanding, but just its size and configuration). But I'm not too interested either in buying a full-keel tank and continually putting up with slow, cumbersome sailing for that very small chance of getting caught in a nasty storm*. All that for being able to simply say I have a "blue water boat"? No thanks.

I appreciate you taking the time to expound a bit. It's definitely helpful.

So - with the feedback from Daniel and Giu - the Benes seem to be the leading contender in the production boat smackdown. Fast and tough and reliable enough for hops across the pond. That's sayin' something.

Any Irwin/Hunter/Catalina/O'Day/etc. owners out there with similar viewpoints?

(*Disclaimer - this is the opinion of a loud-mouthed newbie that has only sailed 3 boats in his celebrated 10 month sailing career on a lake, Catalina, Hunter and O'day. So this is all purely based on what said sailor has read and heard from other sailors. At the same time, said sailor is fully confident in his capabilities as a sailor to sink ANY boat out there - blue water or no.)
 

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Now THAT'S a good summation! Thanks Daniel! And I totally agree on the whole "apologizing for your boat" thing.
Smack, I saw this and wondered if "apologise" was a misinterpretation of my "embarassed to say" - so just in case: after arguing how well almost any boat could do, I wasn't going to fezz up and admit that mine is "blue water", only three years old and hardly inexpensive. That was what I was shy about, in case someone thought rambling about handholds was snobbery :eek: :eek:

So OK, mine is an Ovni 395, with a lot of go-anywhere gear. Also, I go anywhere, have lived in it for a year traveling around (not just now), will cross north past the Polar Circle this summer, then straight south through Europe, and hopefully around New Year my address should be the Americas. The longest/furthest I have been without dropping anchor so far is 10 days at sea. It is not a snobbish boat, but much thought went into safety, self-sufficiency and such. There is a distant photo in my profile.
And, to be sure, it wouldn't worry me to try in a much less dedicated boat. In any case, Smackdaddy, I am as capable as you at sinking any boat, anywhere - guaranteed.
:) :)
 

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The bene is no better than a Catalina - the Catalina no better than the Bene. I think there are some models of both that are distasteful. I like the older Catalinas and Benes better than some of the new ones - but that is just my personal opinion. But for anyone that has not seen some pics of Dan's boat... you cannot tell me that is not a sweet ride (even without the BBQ's). Why wouldn't you take that boat anywhere within reason?? Same can be said of many/most production boats over 38 feet or so. I would feel comfortable taking my boat to most distant locations... but again I have been making and have made many modifications. From solar panels and arch to revamped electricl system, and many other changes, this ain't your typical out of the box C400!



That being said, you can take most production boats anywhere. I guess you could take one straight out of the box and circle the world, but it would take more seamanship and more luck than you might need for a Valiant of similar size. In order to reduce the need for luck and/or seamanship skills, you can start making changes to the boat like better portholes, handholds, lifelines, tankage, cabinets, tankage, cabinets for storage, positive latching floorboards, tankage, tabbed bulkheads or reinforced bulkheads, cabinets, etc (and not to forget to add tankage). By the time you have made all these changes, it might have been cheaper to just buy a traditional bluewater boat! Maybe not. But there are also many positives of production boats... cost not necessarily one of them.

However, if I was certain of making far destinations beyond a 5 day weather window, I really would start looking at boats outside of the typical production line. I personally draw the line at 5 days because beyond that, it is very difficult (if not alltogether impossible) to guess the weather. At 5 days, you also start really pushing into the tankage limit on most production boats without modification (again, my personal limit WITHOUT modification). But I stress that unless you are certain to make those jumps, I probably would not do it. I would buy the boat that is comfortable on the hook (as a live aboard) first and foremost. That is where 99% of your time is spent.

I believe that most production boats of a reasonable size will, with some amount of luck and good seamanship, go to distant ports. The questin typically is not whether the boat can get you there, it is whether the captain can. It is hard to appreciate this statement until you have weathered your first good blow beyond the reach of a VHF and you really are on your own.

- CD
 
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