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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)

This thread is intended to give our distinguished Sailnet salts a place to dispense generalized tips, viewpoints, and advice to newbies.

In other words, it's a place for sailing newbs to come and hear it straight from the source.

One of the problems with a forum is that these salts have great advice that they've probably given a hundred times buried in threads all over the place. And that advice is always extremely valuable, just hard to find. And that ain't right.

So, the assignment for our salts is this: Think about the things us newbies always seem to want to know, and put the answer in here...once and for all. Whether it's electrical, boat design/type, sailing techniques, "how do I start", heavy weather techniques, rigging, refits, diesel engines, etc. - if you've answered it a million times...quote your best answer from another thread and drop it in here. This way, us newbs can link back to the discussion in that other thread and make things a lot easier to find.

Then we all can direct newbs to this thread where they can get the condensed version of some of the best sailing knowledge around. With that they'll be able to ask much better questions back in the respective threads.

Now, for the newbs, this is not the place to ask your questions. Do that in specific threads after you've read about it here. This is just a place to come and listen to the sailors that have been where you are - have put many a mile under their keels since then - and are willing to share it all over a drink or two. So shut yer piehole, buy 'em a drink, and keep your ears open.

FOR THE REST OF US, our assignment is to dig around and try to find some of their good stuff and bring it back here to save the salts some effort and help the "library" grow. If you find one of their answers that nails a typical question...bring it to the table. Our salts just might be too humble...or do it themselves.

So...let's do this!

(PS - Since I'm a newb too, I'll be the bouncer...the guy in the tux at the right of the pic.)


Labatt - I think you would be a great one to kick us off since you've just returned from a killer cruise with your family. What are a few things you wished you'd known as you were gearing up to go?

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I would find it educational to hear from a few guys like Boasun (professional mariner), Omatako (delivery skipper) and the "out there now or recently returned" cruisers answers to the following queries:

1) What do you think are the critical skills and techniques necessary to bringing you, the crew and the boat back to shore alive?

2) What cherished tenets have undergone a revision through your career as a sailor? What's changed in your mind and why?

3) What do you believe are the most important advances in gear, electronics or techniques in your life as a sailor? What are the least important, or most "oversold"?

Thanks in advance.

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You will find that all of our sea tales do have a basis of fact in them. Listen carefully and you will find a lesson in them.
You will find that practically all old sea dogs love a nice quiet boring watch. We have had more excitment in our lives then any twelve or more landlubbers.
So we plan out all of the possible things that can go wrong and DRILL for them.
Reef practice in good weather time and again.
Fire: Train your crew in all of the various types of fire you will have on board.
Flooding: Learn to plug, wedge, and patch just about anything that is leaking. Yes! Drill for it.
Man/Crew overboard: Drill for it. Remember you are one less crew if someone goes over.
First Aid: Plan that you will be using it and learn how to cover all contigencies. Cut finger, Jellyfish stings to stroke, heart and diabities.
Broken rigging: Drill for it. How many times have you heard of people needing to be rescued because they couldn't deal with it. This includes blown out sails, parted shrouds, stays, sheets & haulyards. AND DIDN'T HAVE THE TOOLS ON BOARD. :eek:

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First thing to remember: Do not go to sea when you are hung over... Unless you love hugging the commode. :D :D :D :D :D :D
More than one boat has run into distress. Attending a going away party the night before, and leaving not in the best of health. Was the cause of one boat in particular while I was in P.V. Mexico. Luckily they got off a mayday, and was rescued, but EVERYTHING was lost.:( .....i2f

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
From "Bluewater Defined"...

Jeff clarifies the issues surrounding the widely held notion that a "heavier" boat makes a better bluewater boat...

I think that it is a huge mistake to say that "the most important feature of a ship sailing in the ocean is weight." In and of itself, weight does nothing good for a boat; In and of itself weight does not add strength, it does not add seaworthiness, it does not add carrying capacity, it does not add seaworthiness, it just adds higher stresses and makes a boat harder to handle.

While it is important to have adequate displacement to be able to carry the gear, consumables, and spares to make passages,and to have adequate structural strength and adequate ballasting to stand up to its rig, any weight beyond that is detrimental to the boats prime mission which from my perspective is to sail efficiently.

Traditionally the rule of thumb has been cited as roughly 2 1/2 to 5 long tons of displacement per person. These days that number has crept up as we have become increasing dependent on more sophisticated equipment to operate our boats. Ideally, from a motion comfort, seaworthiness and motion comfort standpoint, that weight should be spread over as long a waterline length as is practical and still achieve adequate structural and ballasting capacities.

Then it comes down to hull shape.

And a further clarification...

I think these discussions often go around in circles because of the way that we come to define them. Perhaps this will clarify my point. It takes a certain amount of displacement to support the boat and crew. If we have two boats of equal dry load (meaning empty tanks, and lockers etc) displacement, generally the boat with the longer waterline will carry a larger percentage of its weight in full load capacity. Obviously there is a limit to how long an equal weight boat becomes before the boat ceases to be structurally suitable, but withing a reasonable range the longer boat of equal length will offer a gentler motion, a more easily driven hull and so a smaller sail plan making it easier to handle, and will perform better as well.

And By the same token the cost to build and the cost to maintain is larger proportionate to displacement rather than length.

So while we may rightly say that if we compare two boats of equal length, similar hull forms, rigs, and weight distributions and ballast ratios, the heavier one would be more comfortable (up to a point), when we talk about going distance cruising, I think we need to define the displacement that we need to carry of stuff, and then look for the longest boat that can safely do that (which means a lower L/D).

Good stuff.

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You will find that all of our sea tales do have a basis of fact in them. Listen carefully and you will find a lesson in them.
You will find that practically all old sea dogs love a nice quiet boring watch. We have had more excitment in our lives then any twelve or more landlubbers.
So we plan out all of the possible things that can go wrong and DRILL for them.
Reef practice in good weather time and again.
Fire: Train your crew in all of the various types of fire you will have on board.
Flooding: Learn to plug, wedge, and patch just about anything that is leaking. Yes! Drill for it.
Man/Crew overboard: Drill for it. Remember you are one less crew if someone goes over.
First Aid: Plan that you will be using it and learn how to cover all contigencies. Cut finger, Jellyfish stings to stroke, heart and diabities.
Broken rigging: Drill for it. How many times have you heard of people needing to be rescued because they couldn't deal with it. This includes blown out sails, parted shrouds, stays, sheets & haulyards. AND DIDN'T HAVE THE TOOLS ON BOARD. :eek:
All of the above? Make a game of it. Keep it fun and you will keep the interest of your crew while they are learning. Think of it as insurance, if it is you that has fallen overboard or had a major burn or heart attack... They will have to get you back to port. You do want them to get your carcass back to port in reasonably safety:rolleyes:

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
A great lesson on sail control in heavy weather...


This is a little off the subject of heavy weather, but I have a question about boom vangs. My boat, a ''72 C&C 30 mk1 purchased last fall, does not have a boom vang. I have just started to consider one but I''m confused as to its use. For some reason I thought that using a vang to flatten the sail would power it up. In lighter winds and rolling seas (or stinkpot wakes) my boom "bounces" and this seems to reduce speed. More so with the wind behind me. Am I incorrect? I use my traveler and mainsheet to try to correct this (let the traveler out and bring the sheet in to reduce the angle of the mainsheet and put more tension on the boom).

When sailing on a beat I bring the traveler to the windward side of the boat. Is this correct?

I''m still learning and experimenting.

Hi Rob,

I apologize in advance if I am being to basic in this description for your knowledge level. The idea of ''powering up'' or ''powering down'' is a little bit counter-intuitive at first. Even many esperienced sailors do not have a clear picture of this concept. To explain; The amount of force that a sail generates is related to the shape of the sail and its angle of attack to the wind. Angle or attack, or incident angle, is the angle of the sail to the wind. A sail that is fuller (rounder) in shape generates more lift (the term lift is used because a sail is seen as a wing on edge and because, except down wind, the drive that a sail produces pulls the boat from the low pressure side of the sail rather than pushing the sail as one might otherwise assume). The flatter the sail the less lift is generated.

A sail generates lift perpendicular to the surface of the sail with the most lift generated at the luff of the sail and next to no lift generated at the trailing edge. As a result the accumulated forces of a sail can be thought of as having three active components; Drive- which is the component of the force that acts in the forward direction of the boat, Drag which is a component that acts to reduce drive, and Heeling Forces which operate across the boat.

In an ideal sense the goal in sailing is to maximize drive while keeping the other two components under control. For any given boat, in any given conditions, there is an ideal amount of curvature (camber) in the sail and an ideal angle of attack. In light air the goal is to produce the maximum lift that you can regardless of heel angle, etc. But in heavier conditions it is possible to produce too much lift. First of all, except for planning boats, most displacement boats can only use so much drive, i.e. enough drive to push the boat at hullspeed. Second of all with the increased lift comes increased heeling and aerodynamic drag, which may actually slow a boat down and make it less safe and comfortable to sail.

So, the one critical goal in heavier air is to flatten the shape of the sail in order to reduce lift. The other goal in heavier conditions is try to make sure that the sail has the proper incident angle. When you have the sail pulled in too far the sail produces too much heeling for the amount of drive making control and comfort less than ideal.

Which brings us to twist. If you sight up a sail you will notice that if you drew a straight horizontal line from the mast to the leech of the sail these lines would not all be parallel. Some would be seen to have at a larger angle to the centerline of the boat than others. This is called twist. When you have a lot of twist in heavy air, part of the sail is over trimmed and part of the sail is often under trimmed and the result is that the part of the sail that is over trimmed is causing the boat to heel excessively.

So talking about the how this applies to actual sail trim underway. In light air you generally can tolerate more power and more twist for a variety of reasons. To power up a sail, the halyard, outhaul, backstay adjuster, and boom vang are eased. The traveler is brought high above the centerline of the boat so that the mainsheet is pulling more horizontally rather than downward. Pulling downward tends to reduce twist and flatten the sail.

As the winds increase, the force on the sail stretches the fabric and in the absence of a boom vang pulls the boom upward, both add curvature to the sail and so provide more lift, increasing drive, drag and heeling. At some point you have too much lift and so you need to flatten the sail out. On a beat you lower the traveler to leeward and tighten the mainsheet. This reduces twist, and fullness in the sail. You also tension the halyards, outhaul, backstay adjuster, and boom vang to further reduce fullness. By the times that the boat is getting overpowered you want to have a very flat sail pointed at a very flat angle to the wind. The traveler should be all the way to leeward and the mainsheet tensioned. The jib car should be slightly aft of its normal position.

When reaching, without a vang the sail wants to get a lot of twist and to power up in the gusts. This is backward of what you really want to happen. A boom vang, by keeping the boom from rising, reduces twist and so keeps the various portions of the sail at similar angles of attach to each other. This allows you to adjust the sail so that you have just the right angle of attach up and down the sail rather than have one part over trimmed and one part too eased. As a result you have less weather helm and also heel less.

For beginners it seems as if heel equals speed. Generally, heeling does not equate to greater speed. When a boat heels it generally produces greater drag, leeway and is less comfortable to move about on. Beginners usually look at an over-trimmed sail as producing more drive because it produces more heel. In a general sense an over trimmed sail does not produce more drive (or even more lift), just a greater heeling moment due to the greater sideforce of the wind impacting the sail at a deeper angle.

It is only when all of that fails to achieve a comfortable heel and rudder angle that reducing sail area becomes necessary. To keep the terms clear, depowering is reducing the power of the sail area that you have up, and reefing is reducing the area of the sail that you have up. The terms are not interchangeable.

I hope this answers your question.

And the follow up...

In the begining I did think that more heel = more speed. Till I learned a couple of hard lessons this spring getting hammered as wind speed increased and I was not prepared. Now I reef earlier :) Am I correct to think that a boom vang will allow me a little more windspeed before having to reef?

Another question; When I am on a beat, sailing as close to the wind as I can, I bring the traveler all the way in to the windward side and tighten the mainsheet as much as I can. It seems that I lose speed but can sail closer to the wind. Also the jib luffs a little at this point no matter how much I try to bring it in. Am I gaining anything? Would it be better just to tack?

Hi Rob,

Depending on the point of sail, you are correct that a boom vang will allow you to reef at a slightly higher wind speed, but even before you have to reef, it can help reduce weather helm and heeling. This is especially true when power reeching in a range of wind angle between cracked off a beat to just below a beam reach. In that range of wind angles the boat has a tendancy to heel a lot and get unbalanced. The boom should be eased to the point that the mainsheet is no longer pulling downward at a nearly vertical angle. Without a vang you would need to have the boom in far enough that you aren''t luffing but in doing so you would have a lot of twist and the lower part of the sail would be overtrimmed. Using a vang you can remove this twist and so the sail would have a proper angle of attach up and down the sail. Without the overtrimmed lower portion of the sail the boat will be more comfortable, faster, and have less helm which at some point in the wind speed range means reefing later.

On your second question you are asking about one aspect of shifting gears. You can sail a boat so that it wants to point higher but sails slower (pinching) or you can sail lower and go faster (footing off). There are reasons to use both in specific applications but as a general rule, the fastest way up wind is neither footing nor pinching, but at a point in between. On your boat the Jib is the prime mover upwind and so if your jib is luffing even a little you are clearly pinching. You are better off easing the boom to the centerline of the boat and allowing both sails to really do their thing. In the mainsail you should have ''yarns'' at each batten tip (actually slightly above or below the batten works best) and these teletales should all be flying aft when the mainsail is trimmed correctly. In moderate to light conditions its not too bad to have the upper most batten yarn occasionally stalled and sucked into the leeward leech of the sail.

Your genoa trim is limited by the shroud attachment points and so is the limiting factor in how high you can efficiently point upwind. So to answer your question, If you are only overtrimming the mainsail for a couple boat lengths to perhaps get around an obstruction pinching probably makes sense, but if you are sailing some longer distance, trimming for a balance speed and pointing, makes better sense even if it means taking an extra tack or two.
Good luck out there.

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
How do you prepare for heavy weather?

From the great Billyruffn...

Sab 30,

You've asked three questions. I'll take them in reverse order.

Re "book learing" -- I read for 15 years or more before I bought Billy Ruff'n. You can learn a lot from "standing on the shoulders of giants". Reading will only take you so far, but it can help you prepare for passagemaking and heavy wx sailing. For example -- keeping a list of things experienced sailors do to prepare and the lessons they learned from mistakes will help you develop a "Hvy Wx To Do List" for your own boat. Procedural things, like hanking on the storm trys'l well in advance of a storm's arrival, and marina/mooring projects like designing and fabricating the means of securing your batteries, lockers and floor boards in case of a roll-over. Reading helps prevent being in a situation where "you don't know what you don't know". It can't tell you how to handle every situation, but it can help you envision what might happen on passage in a storm. From there you can start the process of preparing for it.

Re gaining "passage making experience" -- I started by crewing on OPBs (other people's boats). Once you have your own boat you do overnights and then longer passages of 2-3 days. If you learn to safely do a three day passage there's no reason to think you can't do a much longer one. A ten or even twenty day passage is in many ways just a series of overnights except you need to carry more provisions, ration your crew's energy, fix things when they break vs when you get to port, and generally have your head more out into the future -- thinking about / planning over a time horizon that you know will get you to safe harbor. The longest passage I did on OPBs was 7 days. The Hilo to BC trip you mentioned is probably twice that, but crewing on something like that will definitely help you prepare for your first offshore trip as skipper.

Re preparing for heavy weather -- there are two types of preparation that need to be considered: preparing the "physcial" stuff -- the boat, gear etc, and "psychological" preparation of skipper and crew.

As I mentioned above you can learn a lot about preparing the boat from reading, and undertaking projects on the boat that get the boat ready for heavy weather long before it's experienced. Things like those mentioned above, keeping your rig and gear in top condition are good places to start. Things like rigging your storm sails and sailing with them in moderate conditions, learning to heave-to, practicing deploying your storm drogue / para-anchor, etc. -- all these things help you prepare the boat and yourself before any 'trial by fire'. While much of this type of pre-work and practice can be done in moderate conditions, I think it really helps to have actually sailed your boat in strong winds (gale force) because that's the only way you learn how the boat and gear behaves when it's under real stress. I don't advocate going out in a gale to learn how to sail in one. But if you haven't gotten the experience in other ways, forcing yourself out on a day when it's really snotty may be the only way to get the experience you seek.

I think psychological preparation for heavy weather offshore is equally important. I find that the one of the hardest parts of sailing offshore in bad conditions is knowing that it's going to last for a while and that it may get worse before it gets better. It's knowing that it's bad and you really can't control things -- you can't make it better and that you can't make it go away -- that's what can really wear you (and your crew) down. Fear is your worst enemy and at times seems to be your constant companion. How do you prepare for that?

Training helps a lot. Confidence in the boat and crew are also important, but there's probably no real substitute for doing it. The first and only time I've experienced 60-70 kts at sea was on a really big ship. The worst storm I've experienced in my boat was a 3-day, 40-50 kt gale in mid Atlantic. Neither was any fun.

First priority is always to avoid bad weather. I've avoided many more gales than I've sailed through. The rules are simple:
1.) be in he right place at the right time (i.e. stay out of the hurricane box in hurricane season);
2.) pick a favorable weather window for departing on passage. Don't be in a hurry to leave;
3.) when you're at sea and there's bad weather ahead of you, change course to avoid the worse of it, slow down or stop (heave-to) to let it pass.

If you're at sea and bad weather is going to overtake you (i.e. you can't avoid it) -- make sure you do everything you can long before it arrives. I tend to over-prepare --I'll put in one more reef than is likely to be needed 6-12 hours before I expect the wind to get strong and I'll leave it in 12 or more hours longer than is needed. If it's forecast to blow 35-40 knots from abaft the beam I'll take the main down completely and run on a reefed jib or stays'l alone. The boat slows down the motion is less violent -- the crew can get better rest... stress on boat and people is less. Storms at sea will usually go away faster if you are going slower.

To conclude a long winded post -- Reading helps, sailing offshore with experienced people helps a lot more, but in the end -- you just have to do it. If you sail a lot you'll end up sailing in bad conditions. Hopefully, you have a few 30-40 knot experiences before you have a 50 kt experience. Don't let the fear of the 50 knot experience keep you at the dock. When (if) you find the 50 kt gale, remember two things (things I told my wife when we found ours): 1. boats float if you keep the water out and that's easier when you batten down and slow down; 2. storms go away eventually -- never lose hope that 'this too, shall pass'!
PS - This is from the Seamanship/Heavy Weather Sailing thread - which is one of the best threads of all time on SN as far as I'm concerned. Lot's of salts laying down the big stuff for us newbs.

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
What makes a "blue water" boat?

Great summation...

This is the kind of a question that would require a book to answer properly, but I will take a stab at it. I apologize in advance for the length of my reply. Most of this response was written as a series of articles meant for another venue and so I am not sure that this flows all that well either, and for that I also apologize.

I think that the terms 'offshore' and 'coastal' get bandied about quite freely without any real thought about what the differences are. Even the term 'race boat' is a bit vague since all kinds of boats are raced in all kinds of differing types of competition. Race boats can therefore vary quite widely depending on the type of racing that they are intended for. I am assuming that you are not asking about small one design race boats as much as boats that at least to one extent or another can be raced or cruised in a pinch.

For the most part, race boats are optimized to perform better than the racing rating rule under which it is intended to race. This has a lot of implications. Under some rules (IMS and IRC for example) race boats are optimized to be fast and easy to handle across a wide range of conditions, producing great all around boats, but in the worst cases (International, Universal, CCA and IOR rules for example), the shape of the hulls, and design of the rig are greatly distorted to beat the shortcomings and loopholes in the rule, producing boats that become obsolete as race boats, and to a great extent as cruising boats as well, once the rule becomes history.

While the EU does have a system that certifies boats into one of 4 categories, this rating system was intended to remove trade barriers between the various EU countries. It represents the lowest common denominator between all of the regulations that pre-existed the formation of the EU. A boat that is certified as meeting the CE Small Craft Directive, in the offshore category, has met this minimum standard but it does not certify that the vessel is actually suitable for offshore use. For example the EU standards do not look at motion comfort, or the suitability of the interior layout for offshore use. Stripped out racers with minimal tankage and fragile rigs can and do obtain offshore certification. The U.S. does have the ORC, ABS, and ABYC standards which are somewhat helpful, but again does not certify that the vessel is actually suitable for offshore use

In a broad terms, a well made coastal cruiser should be more expensive than a dedicated offshore distance cruising boat, because it needs to be more complex and actually needs more sophisticated engineering and construction than most people will accept in a dedicated offshore boat. When new, the high tech materials used, and the first class hardware generally employed, make racers comparatively expensive as well. They are also expensive to maintain in full race condition since maintaining a smooth, fair bottom, good sails, running rigging. and sophisticated electronics does not come cheaply. But as they grow older and less competitive, they often become real bargains.

In a general sense, all boats are a compromise and with experience you learn which compromises make sense for your own needs and budget. Most times the difference between an optimized race boat, coastal cruiser and a dedicated offshore cruising boat is found in the collection of subtle choices that make a boat biased toward one use or the other. A well designed and constructed coastal cruiser will often make a reasonable offshore cruising boat and club level racer, while traditional dedicated offshore cruising boats usually make very poor racers or coastal cruisers.

Which brings up another key point. I would think that most knowledgeable sailors use the term 'offshore cruiser', they generally think of traditional, long waterline, full keeled or long fin keeled, heavy displacement, cutters or ketches. But in recent years there has been a whole series of 'modern offshore cruisers', which have been designed to take advantage of the research into stability, motion comfort, performance, and heavy weather sail handling that emerged as the result of the Fastnet and subsequent disasters. These boats tend to be longer for their displacement, often have fin or bulb keels, and carry a variety of contemporary rigs such as fractionally rigged sloop rigs. Depending on the specifics of the boat in question, a race boat may also make a reasonable coastal cruiser or offshore cruiser but will rarely be ideal as either and will generally take some adaptation to reach a reasonable standard for these applications.

Looking further, when I think of the distinctions between a raceboat, vs. coastal cruiser vs. a dedicated offshore boat, there are specific attributes that I would look for:

A typical well-used coastal cruiser might only sail five hundred to a thousand miles a year. Most do less. A well-used offshore cruiser may do as much as 20,000 to 30,000 miles in a single year (10,000 15,000 being more typical). Whether traditional or modern, offshore cruising boats need to be designed to stand up to the long haul. A single year of offshore cruising can literally be the equivalent the abuse encountered in 20 or 30 years of coastal cruising.

Traditional offshore cruisers come in a range of flavors. Whether fiberglass, steel, alloy or timber, traditional offshore cruisers tend to have robust hulls that are simply constructed. Hull panels tend to be very heavy, accessible and maintainable. Internal framing tends to be widely spaced or almost non-existent. Engineering tends to be simple and reliable. Materials tend to be low tech, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The down side is that a weight goes into these structures using up valuable displacement that could be used for additional carrying capacity or ballast. Some of his weight is carried high in the hull and deck structure reducing stability and increasing roll and pitch.

Modern offshore cruisers tend to use higher tech materials and structural design. Some robustness and redundancy may be given up, but often the better of these newer designs have greater strength despite their lighter weight. These newer designs often take advantage of sophisticated framing systems and purposefully selected alloys or laminates. They often benefit from careful engineering intended to improve impact resistance and longevity.

Whether traditional or modern, offshore cruisers need to be able the cyclical loadings that insidiously wear out a boat over long passages. Larger margins of safety are required. In offshore cruising boats more than the other types, a little weight added, an often breed a whole lot more weight. A little added weight has a way of ricocheting through the whole design cycle. A little weight added means that perhaps the sail area needs to be increased. The increased sail area means a little more ballast. The added ballast perhaps means larger keel bolts and more robust transverse frames. This additional weight and sail area means higher stress on the rigging and so perhaps heavier rigging and attachment points get added, and that means perhaps a decrease in stability or perhaps a bit more ballast. The added weight means more drag and so fuel consumption increases and perhaps so does the size of the fuel tanks. And with all that added weight the designer is then faced with an under-canvassed design or else adding a sail area and risking going though another round of weight addition. Which is why, when all is said and done, traditional offshore cruising boats tend to be so much heavier than race boats, coastal cruisers or even more modern offshore designs.

Coastal cruisers generally benefit from better performance than offshore boats and do not have as stringent a requirement for a robust structure as and offshore boat. As a result coastal cruisers greatly benefit from lighter construction using modern materials and methods. Redundancy and self-sufficiency is less of a requirement. Fully lined interiors and other conveniences are often the norm on cruisers. Even quality coastal cruisers use molded force grids or pans that are glued in rather than laid up in place. Framing is often wider spaced and less robust. Hull panels are often cored and thinner than on an offshore boat. Rarely do they receive the careful workmanship that is required for a quality race boat, or the high safety factors ideally applied to a dedicated offshore cruiser. Then again they don't need either as their use and abuse is generally much less harsh then encountered in the life cycles of either racing or offshore cruising boats.

Race boats generally benefit from the most sophisticated engineering of the three. Weight is the enemy of speed and motion comfort and so great attention is paid to reducing weight where weight can be reduced. But since breaking a boat is a very slow way around a racecourse, with some notable exceptions for specific racing classes, and racing periods, race boats are surprisingly tough. They are designed for very heavy loadings compared to coastal cruisers since racing crews will often carry on in no matter what nature throws at them, carrying far more sail than one might normally consider prudent. Their larger sail area to weight ratios, proportionately higher ballast ratios, their use of low stretch line and sails, the willingness to carry a lot of sail into higher wind ranges, and placement of the crew weight (often as much as 15% or more of the displacement of the boat) out on the rail as moveable ballst results in enormous strains compared to similar displacement offshore or coastal cruisers.

By the same token, race boats are designed with smaller safety margins so the engineering better be right. The problem with smaller safety margins is that over time race boats wear out quicker than other types of boats. Designers and owners somewhat see that as acceptable since rules also change over time making race boats more likely to become obsolete. Historically there is nothing man made (except perhaps a 15 year old computer) that is quite as obsolete as an obsolete rule beating race boat, and so historically designers are more willing to view them as disposable. At least with some of the newer rules, the boats being produced are good all around boats and quite a bit more robust and so may find a long useful life cycle.

Race boats generally use higher grade and higher tech materials. They are often the first to benefit from advances in structural design. They often have fewer openings in the hull and deck, which results in much greater stiffness and potentially less fatigue issues. Structural workmanship is often as good as it gets in the world of building yachts even if the interior finishes often seem a little crude. Race boats often gave very sophisticated internal framing systems, which take up room within the interior but make them far sturdier than their light weight would seem to imply.

All of that said, this has not always been the case, CCA era race boats often suffered from the mediocre engineering and poor laminating practices of the day, and IOR era and early IMS era boats often had fragile rigs.

On a coastal cruiser there should be good wide berths, with enough sea berths for at least half of the crew for that night run back to make work the next day. An offshore cruiser is often handled by a smaller crew and so fewer berths and fewer sea berths are necessary. The berths on an offshore boat should be narrower and have leeboards or lee cloths. On both I am looking for a well-equipped galley but the galley needs to be larger on a coastal cruiser so that there is adequate space to prepare meals for the typically larger crew or a raft-up. Refrigeration is less important on a coastal cruiser, where ice is typically readily available at the next port of call, although the case can be made for no refrigeration or icebox if you are going offshore. Race boats tend to have Spartan accommodations. Offshore oriented race boats will often have enough seaberths to sleep half the crew on either side of the boat so that the off watch crew can be tacked along with the boat. Water tanks are often reasonably sized to take care of a race boat's large crews, but fuel tankage is often a bad joke. Storage is generally huge to carry a race boat's large sail inventory, but it does not work well for carrying groceries, spares and supplies.

A comfortable cockpit for lounging is very important on a coastal cruiser. It should be larger than an offshore boat to accommodate a larger number of people which is OK since pooping is less likely to occur doing coastal work. Dedicated offshore boats generally have smaller cockpits with very large drains. The cockpits are deeper and have taller coamings to protect the crew. This makes them less comfortable for lounging and less easy to move in and out of. Ideally offshore boats have bridge decks that are higher than the lowest point of the coaming and companionway slides that can be locked in place to avoid down flooding. All of which makes moving about a bit less convenient. Race boat cockpits tend to need the wide open spaces to house the vast crowds that inhabit them on the race course. If you think of a race boat cockpit at a mark rounding, you have a helmsman, mainsail trimmer, guy trimmer, sheet trimmer, pit person, and perhaps a grinder or two. That's a whole lot of people and each need their own space to that voodoo that they do so well. Coamings and seats just get in the way. Modern racer-cruisers often have removable seats that double as cockpit lockers and which are removed for racing (along with a few hundred pounds of the 'unnecessary gear' used to deliver the boat to the race course).

-Deck hardware:
While gear for offshore boats need to be simple and very robust, coastal cruisers need to be able to quickly adapt to changing conditions. For the coastal cruiser greater purchase, lower friction hardware, easy to reach cockpit-lead control lines, all make for quicker and easier adjustments to the changes in wind speed and angle that occur with greater frequency. There is a big difference in the gear needed when, 'we'll tack tomorrow or the next day' vs. auto-tacking or short tacking up a creek.

Offshore boats need to be heavier. They carry more stuff, period. The traditional rule of thumb was that an offshore boat needs to weigh somewhere between 2 1/2 and 5 long tons per person. A coastal cruiser can get by with less weight per crew person but generally is cruised by a larger crew. The problem that I have is that most offshore sailors and many coastal cruisers seem to start out looking for a certain length boat and then screen out the boats that are lighter than the displacement that they think that they need. This results in offshore boats and some coastal cruisers that are generally comparatively heavy for their length. There is a big price paid in motion comfort, difficulty of handling, performance and seaworthiness when too much weight is crammed into a short sailing length.

I suggest that a better way to go is to start with the displacement that makes sense for your needs and then look for a longer boat with that displacement. That will generally result in a boat that is more seaworthy, easier on the crew to sail, have a more comfortable motion, have a greater carrying capacity, have more room on board, and be faster as well. Since purchase, and maintenance costs are generally proportional to the displacement of the boat the longer boat of the same displacement will often have similar maintenance costs. Since sail area is displacement and drag dependent, the longer boat of an equal displacement will often have an easier to handle sail plan as well.

-Keel and Rudder types:
I would say unequivocally that for coastal cruising a fin keel is the right way to go here. The greater speed, lesser leeway, higher stability and ability to stand to an efficient sail plan, greater maneuverability and superior windward performance of a fin keel with spade rudder (either skeg or post hung) are invaluable for coastal work. Besides fin keels/bulb keels are much easier to un-stick in a grounding. In shallower venues, a dagger board with a bulb or a keel/centerboard is also a good way to go.

There is a less obvious choice when it comes to the keel and rudder type for offshore cruising. Many people prefer long or full keels for offshore work but to a great extent this is an anachronistic thinking that emerges from recollections of early fin-keelers. Properly engineered and designed, a fin keels with a skeg hung rudder can be a much better choice for offshore work. There is the rub. Few fin keelers in the size and price range that most people purchase for offshore cruising are engineered and designed for abuses of dedicated offshore cruising. That said, popular offshore cruisers like the Pacific Seacraft, and Valiants have adapted skeg-hung spade rudders while the Island Packets have chosen to use a rudder post hung spade rudder.

Of course race boats thrive on stability and low drag. For them, under most racing rules, there is only one choice, fin keels and spade rudders. Under some of the older rules, (International, Universal and CCA) race boats often had fin keels with attached rudders. This was the worst of all worlds. The boats do not track as well as a spade rudder but have all of the negatives of a keel hung rudder (greater exposure to damage being close to the depth of the keel, higher loading, less maneuverable). Newer race boats have minimal foil area and large bulb keels. This combo was chosen for greater stability and therefore sail carrying capacity as well as minimal drag. As a side benefit this keel type has been demonstrated to offer increased seaworthiness and motion comfort that results from a significantly lower center of gravity relative to the vertical center of buoyancy, better dampening, and the ability to stall at high side loadings which reduces the likelihood of being rolled in a large breaking wave. In US Naval Academy studies of groundings, bulb keels were also shown to be the easiest to extract from a grounding, which is a very good thing considering that more modern race boats generally have significantly deeper drafts.

-Ground tackle:
Good ground tackle and rode-handling gear is important for both cruising types but all-chain rodes and massive hurricane proof anchors are not generally required for coastal cruising. Race boats often lack proper anchor handling gear or in the most extreme cases, they may even lack fixed cleats to tie up with. Frankly from the racers point of view these are simply things that get in the way of that perfect hoist, douse , tack, or jibe.

At least on the US East Coast, (where I sail and so am most familiar with) light air performance and the ability to change gears is important for a coastal cruiser. It means more sailing time vs. motoring time and the ability to adjust to the 'if you don't like the weather, wait a minute' which is typical of East Coast or Great Lakes sailing. If you are going to gunkhole under sail, maneuverability is important. Windward and off wind performance is also important.

With all of that in mind, I would suggest that a fractional sloop rig with a generous standing sail plan, non- or minimally overlapping jibs, and an easy to use backstay adjuster is ideal. This combination is easy to tack and trim or change gears on. I would want two-line slab reefing for quick, reliable on the fly, reefing. I would want an easy to deploy spinnaker as well.

For offshore use, traditional cruising boats tend to have a very high drag relative to their stability and so low aspect ratio rigs are important. Depending on the size of the boat, cutter and ketch rigs are the time-tested solution. They work reasonably well as long as simplicity and performance are not important.

More modern, lower drag offshore cruisers seem to be using fractional sloop rigs with a great deal more frequency for many of the same reasons as coastal cruisers. But modern offshore cruisers can be found with the full range of rigs; masthead sloops (with and without removable jib stays), cutters, ketches, even schooners you name it.

Racers are only concerned with efficiency, the most drive for the least sail area as measured by the rule. It is this last phrase that has lead to terrible distortions to rig proportions relative to what is easy to handle or actually efficient in an absolute sense. For example, the CCA under penalized genoas and mizzens, and so yawls and huge overlapping headsails appeared. The IOR fairly measured mizzen sail area and so yawls disappeared again, but the IOR over penalized mainsails and under penalized headsails and so masthead sloops with tiny high aspect ratio mainsails and huge genoas and spinnakers became the rage. The IMS measures the impact of sails more fairly and so fractional rigs with their ease of shifting gears has become the rage.

The bad news for coastal cruisers is that the racing rig fad dujour often shows up on next year's coastal cruiser. The really bad news is that since coastal cruisers often stay in production for many years these bad fad ideas often stay in the coastal cruiser marketplace for a very long time. If you doubt that look at the IOR proportioned rig on most Catalinas.

I think that speed is especially important to coastal cruising. To me speed relates to range and range relates to more diverse opportunities. To explain, with speed comes a greater range that is comfortable to sail in a given day. In the sailing venues that I have typically sailed in, being able to sail farther in a day means a lot more places that can be reached under sail without flogging the crew or running the engine. When coastal cruising speed also relates to being able to duck in somewhere when things get dicey.

It can be argued that speed is less important to the offshore cruiser. What's an extra knot when you have an ocean to cross. On the other hand, a little more speed can allow a crafty distance cruiser to pick the wind system that he is sailing in or keep moving in a doldrum. It can mean more sailing relative to motoring and so a lower requirement for fuel, stores and water capacity. It can mean somewhat less expense for a given passage. It can mean more time in an interesting port relative to time at sea, which is an advantage to those who prefer portside to offshore, but which is a disadvantage to those for whom cruising is all about the passage making.

Of course, race boats are all about speed, speed in all conditions. The best race boats are fast in all conditions and are quick to shift gears on the fly dealing with whatever Mother Nature throws at them. I often hear how cruising boats are faster than race boats in a breeze. I just have not seen that at all. Big wind or small, most modern race boats are radically faster than their non- racing sisters from the same era. The possible exception to this would be the CCA era boats with their short waterlines, and the pre-Fastnet IOR boats with their distorted hullforms and rigs.

Good ventilation is very critical to both cruising types. Operable ports, hatches, dorades are very important. While offshore, small openings are structurally a good idea, for coastal work this is far less of an issue. Ventilation is irrelevant to most dedicated race boats, but boats intended as racer cruisers need all the ventilation they can get, if nothing else to dry out after a spinnaker that has been shrimping gets dumped down below to be packed.

-Visibility and a comfortable helm station:
Coastal boats are more likely to be hand steered in the more frequently changing conditions, and higher traffic found in coastal cruising and are more likely to have greater traffic to deal with as well. A comfortable helm position and good visibility is critical. Offshore, protection of the crew becomes more important. Racers need to see their sails, the waves, and their competition. Visibility is important, but often gets compromised by the use of deck sweeping jibs and low booms that wipe out visibility from 'the high side'.

Storage and Tankage:
There is a perception that coastal cruisers so not need storage. I disagree with that. Coastal cruisers need different kinds of storage than an offshore boat but not necessarily less storage. Good storage is needed to accommodate the larger crowds that are more likely to cruise on a short trip. Good water and holding tankage is important because people use water more liberally inshore assuming a nearby fill up, but with a larger crew this takes a toll quickly. Holding tanks are not needed offshore but they are being inspected with greater frequency in crowded harbors and there are few things worse than cruising with a full holding tank and no way to empty it. Offshore boats generally need larger fuel tanks.

Motion Comfort and Seakindliness

This is probably the most controversial of the topics. It is important to understand that when it comes to motion comfort, there is no universally right, one size fits all. Relative motion comfort derives from the amount of motion and rate of acceleration that is inherent in the design of a boat as it is actually loaded. How comfortable the motion feels results from the combination of those two factors; amount of motion and the rate of change in motion. It is very hard to design a boat that inherently has both a minimal range of motion, and which also has slow acceleration rates. It can be done, but historically it wasn't.

Complicating this discussion further, is that fact that people are affected by motion differently. In a U.S. Navy study of motion sickness, it was found that of the people who are prone to motion discomfort, roughly one third were predominantly affected by the amount of movement, but were minimally affected by the rate of change. Another third were predominantly affected by the rate of change, but were minimally affected by the amount of movement. And the remaining third were affected by both the amount and the rate of change. The ideal solution then is to find out how you personally are affected by motion and then to seek a boat with a motion consistent with your own natural preference.

There are a lot of factors that affect a boat's natural motion but the biggies are inertia, stability, buoyancy distribution, and dampening.

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More about coastal versus off-shore from Jeff

I think that too much is made of these terms offshore or coastal cruisers. While there can be major distictions between how a specific boat is intended to be used, when you talk about extended cruising in areas that are somewhat breezy in nature, then you are better off in a boat that has certain kinds of attributes, (such as robust construction, good deck hardware, good sails and reefing gear, seaberths, plenty of storage and tankage, small but operable portlights, and a comparatively small cockpit with large drains.)

If you are an experienced sailor with good boat repairing skills, you can by with a boat that compromises on some of these characteristics and can upgrade the boat to over come any serious deficiencies.

When you talk about the Carribean you are talking about a large region with a wide varieties of sailing conditions. Areas like the Vigin Islands offer a wide range of marine services within a day or so sail of anywhere. The conditions are quite breezy but rarely more than manageable and when things get dicey there are plenty of places to duck in and wait things out. Other areas of the Carribean you are several days away from safe ports of refuge and conditions can be less predictable.

People have cruised these areas in allkinds of boats. It can be done with some skill and some luck. That said, this all comes down to risk management. How much are you willing to risk? If you end up buying an unsuitable boat, the chances are greater that something catastrophic will happen. You are clearly on a tight budget. That catastrophy may not be that you sink your boat or loose your rig. It may simply be that you loose some part of the boat that you cannot fix with spares onboard in some remote corner of the world and cannot affort to buy the part and have it shipped to where you are and are forced to leave your boat in a hurricane zone and return to the States to refresh the kitty. While this can happen on any boat, it is less like to happen on a more robustly constructed boat and one designed for the kind of proplonged exposure to the kind of conditions encountered in these breezier corners of the world.

Given your budget, probably the best way to go may be to buy an older, tougher boat from the 1960''s or early 1970''s that someone has spent time restoring, and then spend some more time going over the boat and carefully upgrading those few items that might have been missed by the previous owner.

Theh this question and follow-up:
"I was wondering if you could recommend some shoal draft or center board or swing keel boats that you''d consider well enough built to handle that trip around the Carribean. I do have a budget of under 20-25,000 so I had been looking at production boats such as the O day''s and such. What models in the 29-31 foot range can you recommend? I know older boats were built heavier but does that also mean that its still stronger considering age and the pounding that its taken? I hear some folks here talk about how a production boat made in the 80''s doesn''t need to be as heavy as it is better enginered. I am unsure of which direction to head toward.??????"

I think there are a lot of good boats in the 20 to 25K range. I agree that many of the early fiberglass boats were quite heavy without being especially sturdy. The 1970''s was in some ways the sorst period because boats were getting lighter but engineering had not improved. By the 1980''s there was a better materials and methods as well as a better understanding of designing fiberglass structures.

Probably my favorite is the Tartan 30 from the 1970''s. These are nicely designed and reasonably constructed boats. I have posted this list before but here is my list of favorites under 25 K.

-Albin Ballad (30 feet (1973-1978) $12-20K)
These are reasonably fast and very well built and finished boats. They are not especially roomy but are good boats for short handing. They are beautiful looking boats. Most have a Volvo 10 hp diesel.

Albin Cumulus (28 feet-(early 1980''s) $15-18K)
These fractional rigged sloops would be a ideal first boat. They are reasonably fast and easy to handle. They are nicely finished and typically have diesels. The interiors on these boats are not exactly plush but is reasonable.

Alberg 30: slow, wet but rugged and cheap to buy.
Beneteau First 30 or 30E (30 feet (early 1980''s) $18-22K)
Fairly modern design that should sail reasonably well. Not the most solid boats but fine for Florida and the Bahamas. They had diesels and pretty good hardware. The 30E might be a fractional rig, I don''t recall.

-C&C Corvette (31 feet (1967- 1970) $15-22K) and -C&C Redwing (30 footer ( 1965-1970) $12K- 20K)
Attractive and reasonably venerable designs; they are not especially fast but OK for the era. The Corvettes are moderately long keel/ centerboard boats and so are great for poking around the shallower areas of the Bay. The Redwings are fin keel/spade rudder boats and in many ways are less suitable for what you want to so than the Corvette.

Cal 2-30 and Cal 2-29''s (just under 30 feet (mid 1960-early 1970''s) $10-18K)
These are reasonably built racer cruisers that have reasonable accommodations and pretty fair sailing ability. Like the Cal 25, the design is a dated and if the gear has not been updated will be less convenient than a more modern design But these boats have gone a lot of places.

Dehler 31 (31 feet (Mid to late 1980''s) under $20K to mid-20K range)
These are really neat little boats. They are reasonably fast and look easy to sail and single-hand. They are fractional rigged and have a very nice interior plan. They would one of my favorites on this list.

Dufour 2800 (28 feet (mid 1980''s) mid $20K)
These are OK boats with a big following. They are not my favorite but they would not be a bad boat if the price were right.

Irwin Competition 30 (30 feet(mid 1970''s) $12-16K)
These were well rounded little boats that sailed well and had reasonably nice interiors. There was one that dominated its class in PHRF for years. Irwin''s were not the most solidly built boats and so you are looking for a well maintained example in reasonably good shape. You may have some serious beefing up to do if you plan to do the Carribean.

MG27 (27 foot (Mid 1980''s) under $20K)
Nice little fractional rigged English boats. They seem to be well mannered and have an interior layout similar to my now sold Laser 28. They have a diesel aux. But tiny tanks that will need to get upgraded.

1970''s vintage Tartan 30''s, (30 feet( 1970''s) under $20K)
These are my favorite masthead sloops of that era. They are good all around boats. Most still atomic 4''s but you can find them with diesels.

Late 70''s/ early 80''s Hunter 30''s, (30feet (15-20K)
These are very under appreciated boats. We have had two in my family and again it is a matter of finding one that has been upgraded and is in good clean shape. My Dad raced his in PHRF and went for a couple years without finishing lower than a first or second. They are roomy and surprisingly fast.

70''s vintage Pearson 30''s (Not Flyers)
These are very venerable racer/cruisers. Of course they come in all kinds of condition from really well maintained and up graded with good racing hardware and a diesel engine to stripped and trashed. You can buy them from under $10K (but you would not want any in that price range) to something approaching $20K. You should find good boats in the high teens.

Pearson Vanguard, Triton, Wanderer and Coaster: Pretty classic old boats from the 1960''s. They were simple, heavily built and pretty cheap to buy. They are a mixed bag in that their original hardware is bound to be dated and pretty worn out. They are slow, wet and don''t have the most comfortable motions in a chop, but lots of these boats have gone to far away places. Again you really want one that has been maintained and upgraded.
Ranger 29 (29 (early 1970''s) 10-18K)
These are good sailing and nice cruising little boats. They were not the best built boats and so you should be looking for a clean and updated version. Still they offer a lot of bang for the buck.

Wylie 28 and Wylie 30 (28 and 30 respectively(late 1970''s to early 1980''s) 10-15K) These are neat little boats that sail well and are really pretty interesting. The few that I have seen have good hardware and have had simple but workable interiors. They came in fractional and masthead rig versions. There was a masthead version that did quite well on the Bay.

Then this question and follow-up:

I am trying to get the handle on what I should look for, model, weight, price, year, or what? Can anyone shine a light on my questions? You mentioned that in the 80''s the boats were better made but lighter... can you explain that?

This is a very long one.

1) "Isn''t heavier and thicker always better?"

Yes and no....There are a lot of factors that add to the weight of a boat beyond its hull. Earlier boats were heavier for a lot of reasons beyond simply having thick hulls. Simply focusing on the hull for a moment. There are really several things that determine the strength of the hull itself. In simple terms it is the strength of the unsupported hull panel (by ''panel'' I mean the area of the hull or deck between supporting structures) itself, the size of the unsupported panel, the connections to supporting structures and the strength of the supporting structures.

On its own, Fiberglass laminate does not develop much stiffness and it is very dense. If you simply try to create stiffness in fiberglass it takes a lot of thickness. Early fiberglass boat designers tried to simply use the skin for stiffness with wide spread supports from bulkheads and bunk flats. This lead to incredibly heavy boats and boats that were comparably flexible. (In early designs that were built in both wood and fiberglass, the wooden boats typically weighed the same but were stiffer, stronger, and had higher ballast ratios)

Fiberglass hates to be flexed. Fiberglass is a highly fatigue prone material and over time it looses strength through flexing cycles. A flexible boat may have plenty of reserve strength when new but over time through flexure fiberglass loses this reserve.

So back to your original question, all other things being equal a thicker panel should have more stiffness but typically these early thickened panels were just not that stiff and as a result they are prone to losing more strength over time.

2) Were those boats not made of the same polyester resin (and fiberglass) used in today''s boats?

Not Really. While the basic chemistry is the same, there is a lot that makes up polyester resin. Prior to the fuel crisis in the 1970''s polyester formulations were different and were comparatively brittle (but resistant to blisters). As a result of the fuel crisis, the resin formulations used in marine applications were altered, and they were altered again in the early 1980''s as a result of the acute blister problems caused by the 1970''s reformulation.

Beyond that, there is the way that resins were handled. In the 1960''s mixing proportioning, temperature control and even apply resins was pretty haphazard. Various additives were pretty casually added to the resins, such as extenders, bulking agents and accelerators. Each of these offered some cost advantage, but did nothing for strength.

Probably the worst offenders were accelerators, which increases the brittleness of the resin and weakens it over time. The idea behind accelerators is that tooling for boats (moulds) are expensive. The quicker you can pop out a hull the more frequently you can use a mold. In the 1960''s fiberglass normally took a period weeks to reach a state of cure (i.e. reach something approaching full strength) that it was acceptable to remove the hull and not risk distortion. If you simply over catalyze the resin it will cure more quickly but it will also go off too quickly to have a useful pot life. So in the 1960s accelerators were used to allow a reasonable pot life but speed up the cure time.

The other component in the laminate is the actual reinforcing fabrics. In its infancy, fiberglass fibers were quite short, brittle and needed to be handled very carefully to avoid damage to the individual fibers. In production facilities in the 1960''s this was simply not well known and so fabrics were cut and folded into tight little bundles. In a plant you would see small stacks of these tightly folded and carefully labeled fiberglass fabric bundles around the perimeter of a boat being laminated.

Then there was the cloths themselves. Woven fiberglass is comparatively stretchy and weak because in the weaving process the geometry results in fibers that are folded over each other and need to elongate in order to really absorb a big load. Fiberglass fabrics also take the greatest stress in the direction that the fibers are oriented. In the 1960''s there was no effort to minimize the use of materials that reduced the strength of the fiberglass fibers because of the way that the fabric was woven and there was little or no effort to orient the fibers to the direction of maximum stress.

Then there is the ratio of fiberglass and resin. Except in compression, resin is a very weak material. Resin is very poor in tension, can''t stand elongation and is not too good in sheer. Resin is only there to glue the fibers together and to keep the fibers in column so that the laminate does not fail. The ideal fiberglass resin has no more resin than is absolutely necessary to hold the fibers together and not a tiny bit more.

This was known in the early days of fiberglass boats but resin and labor was cheap so it was easier to just pour a little more in and avoid dry spots. When I have cored older boats I have generally been amazed how much resin compared to cloth I have found, certainly compared to later boats.

Lastly, comes the controversial issue of coring. Solid glass is heavy. No two ways about it. So it is hard to achieve much bending strength or stiffness without incurring a major weight problem in a comparably small boat. (It is the same problem with steel construction.) If you try to keep weight down you end up with a boat that flexes a lot and flexing causes fatigue that greatly weakens the laminate.

And before you say, "So just build it heavier". (As I am sure a lot of people are tired of hearing me say) Weight does nothing good for a boat. In and of itself it does not add strength or room, or comfortable motion, but it sure adds additional stresses to every working part of the boat, and it certainly slows a boat down.

Coring allows the depth of the section to increase and significantly strengthens and stiffens the section, reducing flexing and fatigue. While the outer skin is thinner and easier to pierce than a thicker uncored hull, the combination of outer skin, and core work together where the core acts as a crush zone absorbing energy and distributing it to a wider area. Even with the outer skin breached there is a relatively high likelihood that the inner skin will be intact and after the thicker laminate of the same weight has been broached. Where coring does not do as well in is situations where the boat is subject to long term abrasion and in situations where a boat spends a lot of time bouncing off a dock.

3. What things do I look for as far as strength?

Up to now we have focused on the strength of the fiberglass materials themselves. But boats behave as a system. As I said early on there are a number of factors that determine the actual strength of the boat. We''ve discussed the strength of the hull panel itself but in many ways its the size of the unsupported panel, the connections to supporting structures and the strength of the supporting structures that really determine more about the strength of the boat.

You generally just don''t hear of sail boats that are sailing along and a section of hull falls apart. What you do hear about are hardspot failures, hull/ deck joint failures and failures of the framing systems.

Framing systems are a key part of the strength of a boat. A section of fiberglass laminate that might be extremely strong and stiff when spanning say 12 to 16 inches is really in trouble when trying to span 24 to 30 inches. One of the key elements in evaluating how strong a boat is the frequency of framing. Bulkheads, bunk and shelf flats, engine beds, athwartship frames, and longitudinal stringers all reduce panel size and, in doing so, distribute loads and help limit the size of a tear in or flexure of the skin.

But the connection between the framing system and the skin is a really important component of the system as well. The joint between the skin and framing members (either tabbing or flanges) need to be wide enough to provide a good contact area for adhesion and to prevent a concentrated load on the skin where our old adversary ''Fatigue'' can go to town.

Beyond that the framing members themselves need to be sturdy enough to take the loads being superimposed on them. So to answer your question, if I walked on a boat that knew nothing about, the way I would judge the strength of the boat would be to look for small panel sizes, wide tabbing and structural flanges and framing that looks appropriately sized for the job.

I would also look at high stress areas. Hull/deck joints should have wide contact areas. Mast steps and rudderposts should have large longitudinal and athwartship, knees, frames or bulkheads. Keels should have closely spaced, well glassed-in, athwartship frames (called floor frames) that minimally start at the forward edge of the keel and stop one frame aft of the end of the keel. There should be well glassed in longitudinal (which is often formed by the face of the berths) that occurs over these athwartship frames and act to distribute loads and these should occur reasonably close to the centerline of the boat (within a few feet).

Rigging loads should be tied into longitudinal and athwartship frames, bulkheads or knees.

4. You mentioned that in the 80''s the boats were better made but lighter... can you explain that?

In the 1980''s, better boat builders began to use better resins and use them properly, handle fabrics better, and use fibers oriented to better stress mapping. Over resin rich laminates became rarer. Framing systems became more sophisticated. (The largest panel on my 1983 38 footer is about 14 by 22 inches. My 1960s era C&C 22 had panels 2 feet by 6 feet in size.)

5. I wonder why is it going beyond the design limits of a coastal cruiser to sail from Florida to the Bahamas? The same is true for most of the Caribbean? However, to make my point... wouldn''t almost any production boat 30-34 feet long be safe enough to make those trips?

This is about risk management. In good weather and with a little luck you''d be amazed how minimal a boat can make the kinds of passages that you are talking about. But if your luck runs out, and you get hammered, things happen. Boats will flex bulkheads and stringers loose. At which point, rigging loads are no longer acting on a glassed in bulkhead, which pries the deck up. Perhaps a portlight cracks from being torqued and pretty soon you have something that looks like a boat, but which no longer is a boat. (I have repaired a boat that just what I described happened to and it happened off of Ft. Lauderdale.)

6. I am trying to get the handle on what I should look for, model, weight, price, year, or what?

There is no simple answer here. The real answer (with all due respect) comes from experience. It comes from being able to get aboard a boat and look for those subtle clues that tell you how strong a particular boat is and how hard it has been used and how well it has been maintained. It comes from really researching a boat.

(In my own case. when I was narrowing my search for the boat that I recently bought, I talked via email to people in South Africa, the Caribbean and in New Zealand, who had sailed on sisterships in a wide range of conditions. I spoke to Bruce Farr''s office (the design firm). I spoke to people who had sailed on the boat years before. I went through the boat with a fine tooth comb and then had a surveyor do the same thing to keep me honest with myself. Only then was I ready to buy a boat in confidence that the boat would do what I needed it to.)

You have very ambitious goals and not much money. People have given you good advice but you want to understand why you were getting that advice. That''s good. But you have a long way to go (and I don''t mean that as a put down). My best recommendation is that you allow yourself the time to look at a lot of boats, talk to a lot of people, get out on the water when ever you can and you will be able sort all this out and learn as you go.

7. Can anyone shine a light on my questions?

Yes, You can! We''re here to help but this is your puzzle. Even if we could, and even if we did, give you all the answers, you couldn''t learn enough or enjoy the ride as much, if all you had to do was dial into a bulletin board and just like turning over a magic 8 ball, the exact right answer to your question came your way.

Hang in there!
Epic stuff that!

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
All about a compass - by a very cool dude...Omatako

Responding to a post by another salt - Valiente...

I have a KMV AC105 fluxgate, a Raymarine chartplotter and a Ritchie Globemaster. Realistically, it is the fluxgate that is most accurate compass. I would consider a satellite compass for the reasons given above, and because I have a steel boat and it might be quite difficult to have the Ritchie "reswung" for the Southern Hemisphere. It's perfect at the moment in all directions (10.5 degree W variation), but I might not notice fluctuations in other parts of the world.

I freely admit a satellite compas is more than most need, as the error in a compass bearing over a short distance is rarely an issue. An error on a 1,000 mile passage can be dangerous, and more information is good.
He throws this down...

The variation is dictated by your geographical location and is accounted for when doing stuff like calculating CTS. Deviation is dependant on the magnetism built into the boat and doesn't change unless something in the boat changes. So a change in geographical location will not require the compass to be re-swung no matter which hemisphere you're in.

What can change from N to S is that the card in the compass has a tiny little weight on the underside that keeps the card level. When you change from one hemisphere to another, it is POSSIBLE that the card will lie at a strange angle brought about by large changes in magnetic variation from one hemisphere to another but the headings will not change in terms of deviation.

If the compass is a good quality one, then this problem shouldn't manifest itself (mine didn't from US to NZ). I had a bulkhead compass (Suunto, so not junk) years ago on which the card was at a daft angle and the compass repairers didn't want to try and fix it - don't know why. I eventually threw it out.

Oh and I know that the fluxgate in my autopilot can be calibrated to match the deviation in the steering compass. Don't know if your fluxgate can or not but worth bearing in mind in case someone has fiddled with it.
Omatako has tons of other stuff - so stay tuned.

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How do you prepare for heavy weather?

Another great post by Omatako:

It is my considered opinion that nothing can prepare you for the first time you're in full charge of your own boat and you come up on deck in a shrieking 60 knot wind and see breaking 30 foot waves stretching from horizon to horizon.

Baptism by fire is the only way you'll experience this because no sucker is going to take you out in such conditions for a mentoring session and when you get into such conditions, you'll learn real fast the first time or you'll not get the opportunity again.

I had sailed for many years before I experienced the described conditions and when I did, it scared the [email protected] out of me but I managed and I survived and next time I won't be as scared and I'll manage better. I sincerely hope the next time takes as long to come around as the first one did.

One absolute constant in ocean sailing - when you're out there, you deal with whatever gets chucked at you and interestingly, most of us survive. Learn whatever you can from the books that are available because it'll all help but the final lesson is a practicle one that can only be gained from your own experience.

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The costs of owning a boat...

Good info from CD..

I can understand why others here would warn you away from a Hinkley as a first boat. I will dissagree. If the boat touches you, go for it. They are well built and will hold their value well (as will the boats I mention). I just do not consider learning to sail to be that big of a deal. Motoring is the hard part, but you will figure it out. Gell coat is not that expensive to repair (I just got a bill for $350 last weekend and I have been boating for 15 years). Get the boat that touches you the first time and if you like the name and reputation of the Hinckley, go for it. You won't be ashamed of the boat and she will keep you safe as long as you don't do something stupid. Keep her at a good yard where you can either have your maintenace done or be supervised as you learn it yourself. Good yards/marinas are expensive so don't go cheap.

Sahara may be able to give you a better idea on costs of the Hinckley, but our costs at 40/42 feet run about $7,500 annually not counting any major purchases. When we move her to Florida, those costs will increase $5100 to about $12,600. If you are going to take out a loan, you will need to add that into the cost of the boat too. Our boat is new, though, so we may not have the maintenance issues you have. Our neighbors who have a Panda, Mason, and Taswell (and dad on his Tayana 42) do most of their own maintenance and varnish and I would suspect you might enjoy doing it too. I think those of you that own those types of boats would get some enjoyment from doing it.

And just one other point, my mom and dad, at 59 yo, bought their first boat in their lives: A Tanaya 42. Certainly that would not be considered the easiest boat to learn on either. But they love her and would not trade her for the world. I suspect if you get that Hinckley, you will feel the same. Just look at the other boats I will mention as they may touch you too. They are comparable in price and luxury.

Here are some of the boats we looked at that were sail boats and maybe similar to your boat at least in comfort and appeal:

The Mason 44.

1990 Mason Sail Boat For Sale -

Classy boat. I love them and always have. Lots of teak and very comfortable inside. They were made in Taiwan (Ta Shing IIRC), considered the best yard in Taiwan. PAE, who built/import these, also makes the Nordhavn which is argueably the worlds best trawler. These boats are top notch. I estimate you could get a late 1980's in the mid to low $200's.

Taswell 43

1989 Ta Shing Taswell Sail Boat For Sale -

I love these boats. They are very luxurious. They are very comfortable inside. They will take you anywhere. They are also built at Ta Shing. Super boat. These boats are custom so make sure you check access to systems to make sure that the owners did not do anything stupid. I have been on a 43 and a 49 and have been nothing but impressed. If I were to buy one, I would probably opt for the 49 as I like the space better, but the 43 is a great boat too. The 49 may be more than you want to spend, but I suspect the 43 to be comparable in price to a Hinckley.

I never checked out a Hinckley. I looked at them online and never could see it working for us. We have two boys and plan on cruising, so the layout and space below was imperative. It had nothing to do with the absolute quality and reputation of the boats. Of all things, we actually made offers on a Nordhavn and two Kadey-Krogens. I know this is Sailnet, but depending on what type of sailing and cruising experience you have and plan on doing, it may at least be worth considering. It doesn't cost to look (well, yes it does but the cost of flying around the country is half the fun).

Just a lot of random thoughts. Hope it helps. All the best,

- CD
Does anyone know of another good summation of ongoing costs for owning? This seems to be a frequent question.

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What kind of boat should I buy?

Another great one from davidpm...

Welcome aboard Alan. I think I know exactly how you feel. I was in the same place 30 years ago and still remember the indecision and frustration.

You asked a lot of good questions in a forum filled with people with thousands of years total experience. Unfortunately however a good answer for you to each question is going to be based on what kind of sailor you are and what kind of person you are.
Since you are not a sailor and we know almost nothing about you, all the answers you get are going to be based on just guesses regarding you.

So I'm going to attempt to give you some general guidance that you can apply to your own situation.
I'm going to make one assumption. That assumption is that you do not have a trust fund that you can tap for a few 10's of thousands whenever you want to and are looking to achieve your dream for the least money. If you do have access to a lot of cash please mention it as the recommendations may change.

Rather than focusing on what kind of boat to buy, full keel, coastal, blue water, standing headroom etc. focus on becoming a sailor. Do not spend a dime extra that doesn't move you toward that goal.
You may not have to buy a boat to become a sailor. Clubs, other peoples boats, work at a boat yard etc may get you on the water for the next six months.
If you do have to buy a boat the only goal is to get a boat that will get you on the water as much as possible. A club 420, laser, small day sailor anything sail-able. If you get something that needs work you will be working on a boat instead of becoming a sailor. A big boat for 10 to 20k will take up a lot of time not sailing.

If you work at it hard for two years you will have spent almost no money and then you will be a sailor.
The little boat you can sell for what you paid for it.

You have a huge learning curve to be a safe, happy competent ocean sailor.
You can with luck and hard work accomplish anything.
The problem with ocean cruising is that the chances of someone making all the hundreds of decisions correctly that there life depends on then make the hundreds of decisions correctly to make if affordable and the hundreds of decisions correctly to make it fun takes more luck than most people have.
If you focus on becoming a sailor first, make the personnel contacts, learn about yourself in the context of sailing I believe your journey will be more fun, safer and you are much more likely to achieve your dream.

You are welcome to call If you just want to talk as I have some personal experience in exactly this subject.

One of my favorite sailing stories the idea that all sailors start out with a big full bag of luck and an empty bag of experience. The goal is to fill up the bag of experience be for the bag of luck is empty.

In short the reason why this is so hard for you is because "you don't know nutten". Do what you need to do to get some water under you keel and you have an easier time.
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