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Old 21-09-2006, 20:12   #1
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Efficient Powerboats vs Efficient Sailboats (Running Cost Comparison)

Just wondering if anyone has looked hard at the cost of running a performance sailing boat [build and maitenance ] vs long,light low powered boats???
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Old 21-09-2006, 20:49   #2
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The only problem with that question is it is not specific enough. Are you talking an America Cup boat that requires crew? And are you comparing it to a Racing power boat? Or, a 32' Bayliner to a J105? Performance as in racing, or a performance cruiser? I have owned a power boat, and I can say, in comparison to the comparable sail boat I replaced it with, there is no comparison. Back when gas was cheap, every day I took the Cruisers 256 out cost at least a hundred bucks. Every day I took the Reinell 26 sloop out cost a bottle of wine, a six pack and some cold cuts. Maybey $3 in gas for the outboard for a weekend. Maintenance was about equal until I needed parts for the 351 Cleveland. Keeping in mind neither of these are "performance boats" I am not sure that is what you were after.
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Old 21-09-2006, 21:38   #3
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Fair enough, my last cat was a 10 m Simpson ground effect sailing cat that we built. While it was fantastic and we did cruise it several months at a time,in reality it was no live aboard [for us anyway] 50 l of water ,a couple of cartons of belly wash an 8ft dinghy and o/b and food for two for 2 weeks was fine, she'd still win rum in fun races up and down Queensland coast, but put a 3rd or 4th body on board [as we did when sailing to new caledonia] and she suffered .

This boat sailed quite happily at 6 knots to windward in 10 knots of breeze without the extra bodys, while most other cruisers had the motors going, unless they were large light ULDBs or big light multi's.

I'm a boatbuilder by trade and did the numbers on building a 50 ft sailing cat with 40 ft accomidation 40 hp diesels and big rotating mast, andersen winches,nice square top main,screechers etc that we,d need to maintain good sailing speeds in light air and figured we could ditch the rig and other bits, modify the underwater shapes in last 12 ft, up the diesels to 65 hp/ side, continue the cabin roof till past the back beam [plenty of shade in tropics] and have about $60,000 Aud to buy diesel. We also figured on replacing sails every six years and rigging wire every five years, so near enough to another $ 20,000... or $4000/year. Reckon we'll cruise around 10kn and 14kn on the perfect day and shouldnt suck down to much diesel.

Also we get to go out to the reef in calm weather instead of 20 knots.The ones we want to go back to and stay awhile are about 300nm offshore, carry the big dinghy [11ft with 10hp o/b] and be able to have a few extra solar panel on roof to run that big fridge and freezer I've always lusted for.[ got to have ice in the rum and coke.]

I have some pics in my photo album of where we're up to ,but there will be a low 4 person flybridge up top so we can see reef easily. A bit of wind and rain shouldnt bother us, we have good wet weather gear and am used to getting wet after 30 years of sailing.

I welcome any comments

Dave
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Old 21-09-2006, 22:05   #4
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Thank god for creature comforts I think allot of it has to do with the individual sailor. The more I have, the more I use. Kittiwake has no engine, and I am happy to sit within sight of my destination until I have wind. OTOH, if I had a motor, I would use it. I know many sailors who will motor whenever the boat speed drops below 4 kts. I am not one of them. I am patient, and very stuborn (just ask my wife). If I set out to sail somewhere I sail there. This makes it hard to find crew, and limits my day sails to those days where the wind is right, but it eliminates any operation cost. I am an experienced mechanic, but I do not trust engines,so I will go to great lengths to reduce my dependency on them. When on a power boat, where running the engine is an intrinsic part of using the boat, I will make use of all of the comforts that come along with running that engine. I believe in efficiency, so what ever fuel is being converted into energy should be producing the most energy possible from that fuel. If that is a matter of storing the energy for use later, or of driving the boat at it's top speed, I want every cent to count. This translates to a boat that can burn 10 gallons per hour, costing ten gallons per hour when I am using it. But, the stereo will be going, lots of lights, the refer etc... This efficiency is much better served on a sailboat, then on power boat. Add solar panels, and/or wind generater and the cost of efficient operation drops again. These are low or no maintenance cost components, so only the initial cost is a factor.
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Old 21-09-2006, 23:03   #5
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Mate ,I agree with a lot of what your saying........If your only going for a lap around the bouys, but in reef strewn and currenty areas, having a drift around doesnt work too well. We'll need the panels on board as we will still use this one like the last, get to a destination and sit on hook until need a change then some more miles and on the hook again. Not a stink boat boy at heart, just seems in my example the dollars stack up in the powercats favour. Also need to get further away from the madness to get a place to yourself although I'd reckon you'd have more of a problem in your neck of the woods.

We like to have that coral atoll and lagoon to ourselves for a few weeks before visitors turn up...if ever, and to have the ability to pick our neighbours if so inclined and not necesarily have to wait for a bit of breeze. Been there,done that.

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Old 22-09-2006, 10:44   #6
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I don't have a large boat, my leaky 27 Catalina, but I do know I don't even think about fuel costs. My slip is about 25 feet from the fuel dock at Sewell's Marina at Horseshoe Bay. When I walk to my boat, I routinely look at the last purchase on at the gas pump so I can laugh at the power boaters. Around $900 seems to be the "average" at the pump (Canadian gas is more expensive, but when you consider a great deal of gas comes from Canada to the US I always end up wondering why).

For me, a typical boating excursion costs about $6.00 in gas; my five gallon tank lasts a number of outings. I end up feeling sorry for the power boaters, the average schmucks like me, who have to run their boats slower (not why they originally bought them) and take them out less frequently (why own it if you can't use it).
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Old 22-09-2006, 12:31   #7
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I looked into this a couple times. I think it depends a great deal on how you will use either boat. If your cruising consists of passages where you must go and cannot wait for favorable winds, I'd say it's a toss up. Power or sail, you're motoring either way. Many coastal cruisers do just that. I see lots of boats out with sales not up, or motor sailing to rush somewhere because they are on a schedule - even in favorable conditions.

But... if you have the time on your hands sailing is far more fuel efficient. However, don't neglect to take into account how expensive sails are to replace in 5 or 10 yrs after they bag out and or wear thin. If you factor that in, an extremely efficient powerboat still might win out.

It's all about doing the numbers though. Just plug in the numbers into Excel and figure it out. I did it once. Sailboat came up better for the way I cruise.
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Old 22-09-2006, 13:01   #8
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I think it is important to factor in that some day down the road of time, you will have to replace the sail wardrobe and the rigging and some hardware. It may not cost right off the bat like filling up a fuel tank, but it will cost eventually, and all the above tend to be big ticket items. So over several years, a $10K sail wardbrobe for instance, equates to a heck of a lot of Diesel.
But it all really depends on what you are measuring. A Boat like Scotts Kitiwake is going to be far cheaper to refit than a full blown mega dollar racer using the latest greatest Titanium and and super dooper lines and Sail wardrobe.
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Old 22-09-2006, 17:10   #9
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It definetly depend what your using your boat for, I also used to laugh at the stink boat boys fuel bills and still do if $500 worth of fuel is what they need to go out for the day, but efficiecy is a good thing eg we followed the first Schionning prowler up the Queensland coast a few years back. It had 50 hp diesels x2 and was built from western red cedar and epoxy .It seemed to nanage the trip doing 10 kn and getting 1liter to the nautical mile economy. On the same 3 month trip we hardly saw any one sailing. The weather was predominately flukey 0 to 10 knots for a few days and then a week of 30 kn. If it wasnt that,In the morning you would get a couple of hours of calm and then 30 knot trades kick in. this is a normal weather patern for Q.L.D east coast and gulf areas.
Boats that cant sail to well eg average 5kn, often spend weeks in a miserable anchorage running out of supplies waiting for a break in weather pattern. When they get it its usually wring the poor motors neck to get 6kn from it having to get 50 miles down the track to the next anchorage before the 30 kn kicks in again. This cycle can obviously get a bit taxing and can assure you that most women don,t get off on it.

Of course if your lucky enough to have a boat that can sail at 6kn in 10 kn of breeze this is not so much of an issue, but of course you can,t carry the gear eg 500l of water , 10ft tinny , lead weights for diving,tanks and compressors a months worth of food and lets not forget the multiple cartons of beer and the big refrigeration needed to keep it all cold.
You probably can if you have a forty foot sailing cat on fifty plus ft hulls, but then can the two of you handle the sails without taking on extra crew all the time? And this still doesnt help in the weeks of no wind at all,sure you've got those forty hp diesels X 2 and they'll get you along around 9kn pushing a rig through the air. The expense of this rig and sails on this style of boat buys heaps of fuel and having spoken to lots of cruisers on this style of boat the maintenance on this sort of thing spread over the life of sails, wire etc gets back to around the same cost of running a fuel efficient power boat like the one at the start of the article,and what we're building [read 6 posts up and pics in gallery]

I agree if you only go out on weekends this is not the boat for you, but if going the full live aboard option,and keeping the girl of your life happy , and if you don't intend to sit in marinas week after week and want to get out to that tropical paridise a couple of hundred miles of shore in calm weather a fuel efficient power cat might just be for you.
You'll never buy one of these off the shelf, you'll have to think outside the square and do one yourself.

Dave
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Old 22-09-2006, 20:21   #10
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Starting with the sails. A suit of cruising sails for my 40 footer was quoted ranging from $5000-$7500. The average sail, barring any extreme situations, should last for a circumnavigation. Say, 30000 miles. An engine for the same boat costs between $8500 and $10000. Normal service life assuming there are no catastrophic failures, would be about 5000 hours. At 10 kts, that is about 50000 miles. That shows about a 15% advantage to engines over sails. Until you factor in maintenance. At $25 US for an oil and filter change every 50 hours, there goes the advantage. If you go 100 hours between oil changes, you are just about at break even. Fuel costs are simply over and above, and with most aux diesels burning around a gallon an hour, vs. power boat engines burning more along the lines of 5-10 gallons per hour (rough translation sail boat=5mpg, power boat=1-2mpg) again, there is a major advantage to sail over power.
The final advantage is the pride factor. I will not go so far as to say it does not take skill to drive a power boat from A-B, but to get from A-B using only the wind and sea to drive you adds certain bragging rights. Compare the expressions of your neighboring boats when you enter an anchorage on a power boat, vs sailing in and onto the hook.
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Old 22-09-2006, 23:28   #11
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I have the "sail boaters needs more skills" argument with my BC Ferries officer friend all the time; BC Ferry guys are basically just big power boaters. I explain to him that going under the Lions gate bridge, for example, against the current can be quite interesting on a sail boat with its engine on (you aren't allowed to sail under the Lions Gate bridge) doing maybe one knot an hour from the effects of the current. Where's the challenge in a power boat capable of 20 or 30 knots.

Also 99% of boats stolen are power boaters so how hard can skippering a power boat be when those losers thief's can run them. No one steals sail boats because you need skill to run them.

I don't think the cost debate isn't really worth it, most of us know now that gas has gone up, some are switching to sail boats, or newbies are looking more seriously at sail than power now. The percentage of sail boats being sold is going up after a few years of reducing numbers. I just bought my sail boat last year and fuel is why I went sail, realizing that gas will only continue to go up ( the problem isn't a fuel shortage - Canada has enough fuel to fill the United States and Canada's needs for almost a century - Alberta Oil fields and tar sand fuel - but the Chinese who have an ownership ratio of 8 to 1000 citizens, in Canada and the States its approximately one to one ratio of vehicles to citizens).

As for the price of sails, many boats in the 37 foot and under, only have two sails, maybe three if they carry a storm jib, if not a jib probably a spinnaker; the two being the main and the Genoa in the furler.

As for motors, how many horsepower does a 40 foot sailboat carry versus how many horsepower on a 40 power boat. Look at the size of a fuel tank in your typical sail boat of 40 feet versus the size of the fuel tank in a 40 foot power boat. The Pardeys sailed around the world a number of times without a motor on their sailboat; how many power boats can make that claim.

To make approximate costing, you have to include the rigging on a sailboat as well.
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Old 23-09-2006, 05:29   #12
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come on guys,lets compare apples to apples.
The last cruise laminate mainsail on my 30 ft cat cost $5500 ,the working jib was $2800 the lightweight mylar heady was $1800 the high cut blade was $1500 the kite with squeezer sock was $3800. That adds up to $15,400Aud. Now thats a whole lot different to the $7500 that your quoting Kai Nui, and my prices are 1995 prices. Sure I could have gone Dacron, but with the amount of sailing miles I do they would have been bagged out and needed a re-cut after 6 months. As it was when we sold the boat after six years, the main ,working jib and lightweight heady were breaking down badly and needed replacing. Fair enough we use bugger all fuel in this time, but we did replace all the wires once and the forstay twice. Thats fine, we used the boat heaps and certainly got our moneys worth in fun and memories, and I have no regrets, but it seems that YOUR NOT READING WHAT I'M WRITING. I'm not talking about 30 knotters, Im not talking about something that drinks fuel faster than I can pump it.Im talking about boats the size of a house [but not a house boat ] that can do 10kn using one litre per nautical mile .

Im comparing them to Sailing boats that would offer a similiar level of comfort, not Lynne and Larry Pardys boat that while it works for them, does'nt have refrigeration,engines,proper Queen size berth, if not King. It doesn't have a dinghy big enough to keep drunken men in and crocadiles out,while keeping your laundry and groceries dry as you get the 3 miles back to your boat. That style of cruising is great for some but we've been there,done that on my first two mono's and my first cat ,we dont have anything to prove by going back to it again. Where not rich , my wife works as a public servant while I build the boat, but we don't have a life and feed every available cent into this project,so we won't have a fancy fitout, but we will have space,waterlinelength,queensize beds ,plenty of refrigeration and plenty of shade... essential if living aboard [in my opinion]

So come on guys all sailing boats don't cost the same to run,just like all stink boats don't cost the same to run, and I'm sure there are some power boat skippers out there as smart as us yachtie guys.

Keep writing

Dave
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Old 23-09-2006, 06:13   #13
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In “ Voyaging Under Power”*, author Robert Beebe maintained that the costs of long-distance voyaging were roughly equivalent for a sailboat and a “passagemaker” power-boat.
Steve Dashew seems to agree with Beebe about costs. He claims his cruising under power, with his new boat is cheaper than his previous sailing boat of similar size (Beowolf).

<quote>
”... After 8000 miles
Now that we've brought our "Unsailboat" from New Zealand to California we've had a chance to evaluate how it meets our needs. There are lots of details on what we've learned throughout this website. The bottom line is that this boat is much easier to cruise than any of our sailing designs, handles heavy weather better, and is a far more comfortable means of crossing oceans. And the operational costs on a per mile basis are a fraction of what we're used to with sail. The two of us are now totally spoiled ...”
<end quote>
http://www.setsail.com/dashew/do_paradigm.html

* Voyaging Under Power ~ By Robert P Beebe
http://shop.mcgraw-hill.com/cgi-bin/...0&adkey=W02003
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Old 23-09-2006, 06:22   #14
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Thanks for that Gord, I've read that site before and refere to it regularly for confirmation that I'm not the only idiot with these unspeakable thoughts. Its a scary path to travel, but someones got to do it,and it seems I'm not alone.

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Old 23-09-2006, 06:27   #15
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I remember 1973 only too well, that's why

I favor sail over power. It wasn't about cost then, it was about availability. I believe that power is certainly as cheap / expensive as a new more modern sailing cruising boat. There may be up's and down's in the cost of fuel but one day I might be banned from filling up on odd or even days or limited in the amount I can fill.

Ergo, I have sailboat. It's a cruising cat that sails well and coincidentally motors pretty well (and efficiently). The good/bad news is that I do 'need' fuel for heat and lights but it's a whole lot less than what I could/do use for propulsion.

PS. I'm just as comfy on this cat as I'd be on an powerboat so I haven't 'lost' anything.

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