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Old 26-01-2015, 19:56   #1
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Power or sail?

I am a mere two years from retiring (I am only 50) with a pension. We will have no bills when I retire other than insurance (car, boat, health) but my pension will only be 4k/month after income taxes.

As a youth, my family did a good amount of cruising, all in the Bahamas and east coast US / ICW. I want to return to that lifestyle of cruising and living aboard. All of my experience has been in a sailboat and frankly that's my preferred boat type but the wife has no boating experience at all outside of cruise ships. She says she is ok with a sailboat but she adds that she does like a roomy space. She also likes to reach destinations more quickly than slowly. I plan on coasting between Florida and Nova Scotia and trips across to the Bahamas.

Taking her desires into account, it sounds like a trawler is more to her liking. While I prefer sailboats (love the rolling, the silence, the listing over) I am not opposed to a powerboat and I have about 40K to spend on the purchase. With fuel prices what they are, is it feasible to even consider a trawler on a 4k/month income or should I stick with a sailboat?


Edit: I have seen ads for Mainship trawlers in the 34' - 41' range claiming only 2 gph burn at 7 knots. That sounds unrealistic to me.
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Old 26-01-2015, 20:03   #2
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Re: Power or sail?

It's really going to depend on how far you travel.


You'd probably have to do a bit of maths to work out where it is, but somewhere there's a line between where it makes economic sense to run an efficient powerboat, and where a sailboat becomes more cost effective.


Probably for a lot of people with sailboats, it would make better financial sense to have a trawler or similar.


But there's more to sailing than economics.
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Old 26-01-2015, 20:06   #3
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Re: Power or sail?

Charter a trawler and take your wife out for a week or so in the area you want to cruise in. If you get a lukewarm or negative response - do the same thing with a sailboat.


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Old 26-01-2015, 20:22   #4
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Re: Power or sail?

If you're talking about a real trawler then you know you aren't going to travel that much faster than a similar sized sailboat. You can get trawler looking boats with more power even twin engines that will semi-plane but the fuel consumption at those speeds will put a huge dent in your retirement budget.

At fuel efficient speeds any boat, power or sail, is limited to hull speed which is primarily a function of waterline length. So in very approximate terms, a 40' sailboat could motor at the same speed as a 40' trawler.

In real world terms, trawlers usually have bigger engines for the length than a sailboat and will push the upper end of the hull speed where most sailboats will be at the lower end.

So for example a 40' trawler with a 36' waterline would have a theoretical hull speed of 7.5-8 kts. Same for a sailboat of the same size. With the trawler and a larger engine you could probably do the 8 kts or even a bit more as a cruising speed, just understand that as you approach or slightly exceed hull speed every fraction of a knot costs you a LOT more fuel.

On the sailboat you would probably cruise comfortably at 7-7.5 kts.

So, over the course of a 12 hour day you might cover 95-100 miles in the trawler and 85-90 miles in the sailboat.

Fuel consumption in these examples might be 1-2 gallons/hour or 4-7 miles/gallon.

If you want speed in a 40' power boat then start thinking in gallons per mile instead of miles per gallon.
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Old 26-01-2015, 20:27   #5
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Re: Power or sail?

Yes I noticed the trawler speeds were far less than a cruiser such as a Sea Ray 340 and that's ok with me. The wife would allow for a slower cruise if she had elbow room. Our cruising plans would cover some good distances. Cape Breton Island Nova Scotia all the way to Tampa Bay so that's a lot of fuel even at 7 knots. That's what concerns me.
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Old 26-01-2015, 20:42   #6
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Re: Power or sail?

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Originally Posted by Crosis View Post
Yes I noticed the trawler speeds were far less than a cruiser such as a Sea Ray 340 and that's ok with me. The wife would allow for a slower cruise if she had elbow room. Our cruising plans would cover some good distances. Cape Breton Island Nova Scotia all the way to Tampa Bay so that's a lot of fuel even at 7 knots. That's what concerns me.
That trip, in very round numbers call it 2800 nm, about 400 gallons. That's only $1000 or so at today's fuel prices. Take your time it would only be about $100/month in fuel.

Room is an issue. Typical 40' trawler will have maybe 50% more room that a typical 40' sailboat. For a fat trawler and a skinny sailboat it could be double.
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Old 26-01-2015, 21:34   #7
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Re: Power or sail?

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That trip, in very round numbers call it 2800 nm, about 400 gallons. That's only $1000 or so at today's fuel prices. Take your time it would only be about $100/month in fuel.

Room is an issue. Typical 40' trawler will have maybe 50% more room that a typical 40' sailboat. For a fat trawler and a skinny sailboat it could be double.
That sounds very reasonable
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Old 26-01-2015, 21:41   #8
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Re: Power or sail?

Why not a Motorsailer? Best of both worlds
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Old 26-01-2015, 22:19   #9
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Re: Power or sail?

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Why not a Motorsailer? Best of both worlds
Do motorsailers offer more room?
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Old 26-01-2015, 22:49   #10
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Re: Power or sail?

The weight of a boat and thus its displacement makes a lot of difference in its fuel consumption. Here is the magic secret boat builders ignore, space does not weigh anything! You can have a roomy boat that is big but isn't heavy.
Not big and full of stuff, and boats are always filled with stuff, and particularly they like to have multiple levels to pack stuff on top of stuff.

Basically a catamaran is what you want, one with a very large open bridgedeck, full of empty space, but only two small hulls in the water.
You can put sails on them, but that adds a lot of weight in both structural requirements and the mast, sails, rigging itself.
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Old 27-01-2015, 02:17   #11
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Re: Power or sail?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Crosis View Post
I am a mere two years from retiring (I am only 50) with a pension. We will have no bills when I retire other than insurance (car, boat, health) but my pension will only be 4k/month after income taxes.

As a youth, my family did a good amount of cruising, all in the Bahamas and east coast US / ICW. I want to return to that lifestyle of cruising and living aboard. All of my experience has been in a sailboat and frankly that's my preferred boat type but the wife has no boating experience at all outside of cruise ships. She says she is ok with a sailboat but she adds that she does like a roomy space. She also likes to reach destinations more quickly than slowly. I plan on coasting between Florida and Nova Scotia and trips across to the Bahamas.

Taking her desires into account, it sounds like a trawler is more to her liking. While I prefer sailboats (love the rolling, the silence, the listing over) I am not opposed to a powerboat and I have about 40K to spend on the purchase. With fuel prices what they are, is it feasible to even consider a trawler on a 4k/month income or should I stick with a sailboat?


Edit: I have seen ads for Mainship trawlers in the 34' - 41' range claiming only 2 gph burn at 7 knots. That sounds unrealistic to me.
you might be hard pressed to find one at only 40K but you really should think about a catamarran. A mid-sized cat will give your wife all the room she wants and you'll get the silence etc you enjoy. Can you cruise on a cat with on 4k per month? Use the search function and search for "cruising on 5000 per month"

The answer is yes you can.

You can also take your wife on a charter cruise inthe carribean on a cat before investing - that way you'll both find out if this is really you.
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Old 27-01-2015, 03:38   #12
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Re: Power or sail?

Sail versus power cannot be summed up in any numbers. If you love to sail, you will insist on having the ability to sail, even if it's more expensive (and on some boats, like mine, where a set of sails cost $50,000, it is more expensive to sail than motor). The experience of sailing is incomparable to anything else you can do at sea, but it costs you in terms of workload and need to have certain skills (not all that hard to acquire, though). Other benefits from sail versus power is that you have unlimited range, so can cross whatever ocean you want to, and sailboats are vastly more seaworthy than comparably sized power boats, so you have a far broader choice of where to ramble.

If you're not interested in sailing, then by all means go with power, a displacement hull trawler or better yet, a power cat.

If you do want to sail (and if you don't have experience, you might want to get some before making this decisions), but you are worried about pleasing your wife, then look at catamarans, as Carsten suggested.

$4k a month is a decent budget for most cruisers; see the various threads on this in the Dollars and Cents forum. As a rough guide, you can usually cruise ok on a similar amount of money you are used to living on on land, provided the boat is in decent shape and doesn't require constant repairs (more constant than usual, let's say), and provided you anchor out and don't stay constantly in marinas.

$40k, however, is not enough capital to start with except for the extremely economical. With this amount of money, you can buy and equip only one of the cheapest and oldest boats around. Keep in mind that the acquisition cost of the boat is only the start -- depending on what kind of cruising you intend to do, you will usually spend at least $20k -- $30k and up to unlimited getting the boat up to condition and properly equipped. So if you're really serious about cruising, you might want to consider ditching your land life altogether and selling your house in order to have decent starting capital. $100k gets you a fairly modest monohull sailboat (and probably not a decent catamaran or trawler), and you will want something on top of that for repairs, upgrades, and equipment, plus you will want to have a "cruising kitty" or decent fund of cash to fall back on. It can be done on a shoestring, but it is far more pleasant if you can scrape together at least a couple hundred k before you start out. Many people use house equity for this.

Good luck and let us know how it goes.
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Old 27-01-2015, 06:08   #13
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Re: Power or sail?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Crosis View Post
I am a mere two years from retiring (I am only 50) with a pension. We will have no bills when I retire other than insurance (car, boat, health) but my pension will only be 4k/month after income taxes.

As a youth, my family did a good amount of cruising, all in the Bahamas and east coast US / ICW. I want to return to that lifestyle of cruising and living aboard. All of my experience has been in a sailboat and frankly that's my preferred boat type but the wife has no boating experience at all outside of cruise ships. She says she is ok with a sailboat but she adds that she does like a roomy space. She also likes to reach destinations more quickly than slowly. I plan on coasting between Florida and Nova Scotia and trips across to the Bahamas.

Taking her desires into account, it sounds like a trawler is more to her liking. While I prefer sailboats (love the rolling, the silence, the listing over) I am not opposed to a powerboat and I have about 40K to spend on the purchase. With fuel prices what they are, is it feasible to even consider a trawler on a 4k/month income or should I stick with a sailboat?


Edit: I have seen ads for Mainship trawlers in the 34' - 41' range claiming only 2 gph burn at 7 knots. That sounds unrealistic to me.
My 28 (or 31) foot trawler burns 1.9 GPH at 7 knots. That's based on several hundred hours, not just one tank so it's pretty accurate. It matches well with other Camano owner's experiences. The key to fuel efficiency is going slow. As you leave displacement speed and move towards semi planning, you begin to push a lot of water out of the way and economy goes way down, real fast. We went on a 2K mile cruise last spring/summer and spent $2K on fuel. Fuel is cheaper now but I expect it will go back up.

Realistically, with my trawler it takes a day to go the distance I could drive in one hour. If your wife wants to get to destinations quickly, you might be better off buying an RV (just kidding).

If you ask around, especially among older folks, I think you'll find a lot more have switched from a sailboat to a trawler than the other way around. It's a lot less physical effort and easier and safer as you get older.

Take your wife to the larger boat shows and let her examine both types and see what she thinks. If she is not happy with the boat you choose it will most likely be back on the market soon.


edit: Someone made a good point about not being able to find a good boat for $40K. What you get for $40K will likely need a lot of repairs and upgrades. Instead of retiring in two years, why not work a couple more and save as much as possible towards a $100K boat? Personally, I put off retirement as long as I could stand it to put myself in a better financial situation.
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Old 27-01-2015, 07:11   #14
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Re: Power or sail?

My 2C, for what you stated your needs were, I think your better off in a Trawler. I say this for a couple of reasons.
1. Seems vast majority of the time you want to be in the ICW, and there isn't all that much sailing there and you seek shelter in major storms as opposed to riding them out, so ultimate seaworthiness isn't as important.
2. Cats are wonderful things, but they seem to bring a higher price as they are more desirable, so a 40K Cat may need a lot of work, if such a thing even exists.
3. everywhere you describe going there is some skinny water there, pay attention to draft.
4. For the $, gonna be real hard to get the room and spaciousness of a good trawler in anything else
5. My opinion, for a person not used to boating, a Trawler is closer to Apartment living or other land based living than a Sailboat. A lot have home type appliances in them like house refrigerators, dishwasher etc. Less culture shock.

But unless you can pour money down the drain in fuel, most any boat you'll look at in the size range you can afford, your a 7 kt boat, Cat, Trawler or sailboat, plus in no wake zones and traffic, your slow too, even if you have a planing boat, so why have a fast boat that cost an arm and a leg to feed and maintain? No if your an offshore fishing type, that is completely different.

Fuel burn for my IP 38 when motoring at 7kts is 1 gallon an hour or 7 MPG of course, which to me is phenomenal. To put that in perspective my last boat was a single engine outboard 21' Center Console. Best it could do was at 20 kts, the little fishing boat burned 8.5 GPH, which is 2.35 MPG. And that is a tiny little fishing boat. Scale that up to a boat you could live on, and the fuel burn is scary.
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Old 27-01-2015, 07:39   #15
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Re: Power or sail?

I don't think $40K for a power boat that you want to spend lots of time on is reasonable, and even at prices slightly higher than that I'd expect need for lots of work to get the boat livable and even more if it needs a major refit. There may be some, though. You might looks specifically at a 34' Mainship (I, II, or III; these from the late '70s through late '80s) just to get an idea of a boat you can compare others against, a starting point, if you will. (We had one, great boat, I can speak to it...)

You might also shop on yachtworld.com to get a picture of the marketplace, and you might also do some research on trawlerforum. com (sister site).

Just as an example, you might want decent, maybe even relatively modern, electronics including radar to take the boat offshore as to the Bahamas. That in turn could mean a $10-20K electronics suite, depending on extent and who does the install and so forth. You wouldn't have to spend that much, of course, especially if you do the install yourself, so it's just meant as an example of the way boats can entice money out of your wallet...

A single-diesel powerboat of the currently-so-called-"trawler" persuasion can be pretty roomy compared to sailboats of the same length, relatively less expensive compared to boats with twin diesels) and it can be relatively easy to maintain the engine if you have decent all-round access. A good towing plan is usually much less expensive than another diesel, assuming you manage your distance from the tow operators.

Fuel is generally not the major portion of the budget, assuming "trawler" style boat. (In fact, even with our large twin diesels, fuel is not our largest budget item.) You can still manage the issue, though. Cruising at 1.34*blah-blah-blah (theoretical max displacement hull speed) might get you 8.5 kts (just an example; depends on boat length) all day every day, but cruising at 1.00*blah-blah-blah could cut your fuel consumption in half (just a guess) and you might still make 7.5 kts all day every day (another "just an example").

Ref the idea of getting there faster... some "trawlers" will let you up the ante a bit, get up in the 15-16 kt range occasionally (spending more fuel) and that's usually used to manage your situation relative to weather or sea states. OTOH, 7.5 kts all day every day is often indeed "faster" than sail if wind is not cooperating.

Some other advantages we find is that -- aside from general maintenance and service, which should normally be propulsion-agnostic -- we don't have to do much physical labor to make the boat go (no winches and halyards and so forth), we don't have so many obstacles on deck to trip over (no winches, shroud or stay chainplates, etc.), and the boat doesn't usually heel for hours at a time (assuming weather is cooperating -- but that also should be contrasted against the potential for roll).

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