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Old 19-10-2011, 22:43   #1
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Sail vs Power in the PNW

I would like to hear your thoughts on this subject given the following starting points:
The area I am concerned with is the Pacific North West around Vancouver Island. It seems that the vast majority of the time there isn't enough wind for sailing. I have heard it said that maybe 80% of the time in a sailboat you are going to run the engine around here. I have heard about a fellow that went to Alaska this year and was very disappointed because he powered his way almost the entire distance and back.
I have heard it said that wind is a real issue between Vancouver Island and the mainland (as in 'there is none in the summer').
As you might note, the key words are 'I have heard' .... I have no first hand knowledge.
I have met a number of fellows that moved from sail to power because it is easier to handle a power boat as you get on in age or if you will be short handed a lot. Combine that with no wind and I am wondering if sail is the way to go.
I used to believe that fuel costs would be a deciding factor but this aspect was thoroughly disproved by all the people I talked to this year (assuming a hull speed diesel trawler). It seems that fuel cost is less than 20% of the annual cost to have the boat sitting at the marina for you. If you take into account rigging maintenance, sail costs, lines etc ... plus the diesel when there is no wind, I wonder if there is any real difference in yearly cost between sail and power.
The power boat probably gives you twice the living area for the same length and being 'parked' and using the 'living area' is the biggest portion of enjoying life on a boat.
Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy sailing .... but anything below something like 4 knots seems more like drifting to me. It is priceless to quietly sail along with no engine noise but if you end up running the diesel because there is no wind then what is the point?

What are your thoughts .... keeping my primary cruising area in mind ?
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Old 19-10-2011, 23:11   #2
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Re: Sail vs Power in the PNW

I have a sailboat in Sidney, BC. It can be frustratingly low wind. If you have to be going 6 knots or you're not having fun, then buy a power boat.

I wouldn't dream of buying a powerboat, though. I absolutely love ghosting along at 3-5 knots through the islands in 5-10 knots of wind. It's silent and beautiful, and my heart sings. I hate it when we have to turn on the diesel to get somewhere, though sometimes we do.

There are many, many places to explore, so you don't have to be making huge miles. And you can sail all year round and there is plenty of wind in the winter! Some summers are pretty good for wind, too. Problem is, the wind is frontal, so you get rain before or after the wind. If you're prepared and it's just part of the adventure, then it can be fun, and there's a nice warm boat to dry out in after a day of thrashing around in the heavy weather.

It's up to you, but I can't imagine trading in my sailboat for a powerboat. We sail it 80-90% of the time we're on the water, and we use it year round. I think power boats are boring, frankly.

One other thing, I'd personally throw away the monetary calculations. You buy a boat with your heart. If I did the math, I wouldn't have a boat at all. What fun would that be?
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Old 20-10-2011, 00:40   #3
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Re: Sail vs Power in the PNW

So many factors.

Personally I'd buy an RV before a powerboat. I like to sail. If the only point was to get someplace I'll do it alot faster on the highway.

Sailing in the PNW can be light airs quite often. If you like to sail you need a reasonably good light air performer, pick realistic distances to travel under sail, and sometimes when you want to be somewhere in a certain amount of time you motor.

There are days that I've motored when I had plans to be somewhere when there was wind, but I see a lot of people motoring when I'm sailing.

A sailor friend bought a Bayliner 24, said it would make destinations closer. Complained none of us would go cruising with him. Well we wanted to sail, not sit in a power boat.

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Old 20-10-2011, 00:47   #4
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Re: Sail vs Power in the PNW

You're right. Not much wind around Victoria. Everyone pictured here is using their engines or just drifting.

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Old 20-10-2011, 01:03   #5
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Re: Sail vs Power in the PNW

If you want to sail faster in light air get a catamaran or tri-maran and you get more room and it will sail faster in light air and really scoot along in 20 kt's of breeze and are more stable at anchorage. I've sailed or motorsailed in the Salish Sea around the San Juan Islands and on the light air days were stll where we want to be ( on the water having fun ) even sailing slow. I have buddies with trawlers and we cruse about the same speed and they dock ok with a bow thruster sence there profile is higher off the water and catch the breeze. I guess you need to ask yourself do you just like summer boating or all seasom because winter,spring and fall sailing can be awsome in the Salish Sea.
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Old 20-10-2011, 01:34   #6
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Re: Sail vs Power in the PNW

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Originally Posted by webejammin View Post
I have buddies with trawlers and we cruse about the same speed and they dock ok with a bow thruster sence there profile is higher off the water and catch the breeze.
"Authentic" recreational trawlers don't exceed hull speed so are poor candidates for keeping up with a catamaran when there's good wind. You're probably referring to sedan cruisers that can make 12 to 24 knots.

Or are you saying you'll be happy keeping along with my 6.5-knot cruising speed?

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Old 20-10-2011, 01:43   #7
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Re: Sail vs Power in the PNW

I was speaking of motoring in our catamaran we cruse at 6 to 7.5 kt's on our 27 hp disel using about 3/4 gal an hour. Now under sail in 20 to 30 kt breezes a cat can sail from 14kt's to 20+ kt's having a blast, that's when your buddies really want to go sailing with you
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Old 20-10-2011, 01:48   #8
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Re: Sail vs Power in the PNW

Good to know we're a bit compatible 'jammin. But it sure would be handy if a buddy-boat had an ice maker (unlike me).
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Old 20-10-2011, 01:51   #9
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Re: Sail vs Power in the PNW

No ice maker just 2 small freezers and ice trays to make ice.sence we don't heal very much trays work
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Old 20-10-2011, 11:28   #10
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Re: Sail vs Power in the PNW

Hey Jd1, in reading your post it sounds like for you, boating is all about the destination and not the journey. If this is the case, then absolutely you belong on a power boat.

I think for many of us, it's the journey we're after, and the destination is the added bonus. There's just something about gliding accross the sea silently, powered only by Mother Nature, that draws us to sailing. If you don't feel that same calling, then by all means fire up them twin deisels and get that trawler moving!
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Old 20-10-2011, 11:43   #11
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Re: Sail vs Power in the PNW

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Originally Posted by wristwister View Post
Hey Jd1, in reading your post it sounds like for you, boating is all about the destination and not the journey. If this is the case, then absolutely you belong on a power boat.
Actually no, that is not the case. I am just trying to figure out if a sailboat makes sense in an area where wind is a somewhat rare commodity. Drifting at one or two knots has it's appeal but doesn't it wear thin for you after several hours ?
I am trying to approach this with some measure of logic and common sense - maybe that is the wrong thing to do?
I guess the other part that I am trying to figure out is how often (percentage wise) everybody else uses their engine.
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Old 20-10-2011, 12:00   #12
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Re: Sail vs Power in the PNW

It's a complicated subject in someways. I often find that people don't sail in a head wind in the gulf islands but I do. The channels and passages are narrow so it's a fair amount of work. When the wind is behind you, as you go by various passes and channels, you often have to gibe and maybe wait out some light or confused winds. On the windier days it's a lot of fun and hard work. Again, I like this. Georgia Strait has stronger and more consistent winds but they are usually going up or down the Strait so depending on where you are going and how flexible you are it may means planning a route that gives you a good anchorage for the night over what might be the shortest.

I found little wind in Desolation Sound but see a lot of wind warnings for Johnstone. The inside passage is reputed to have little wind but around Vancouver Island, reading the marine reports shows a lot of wind. The issue there may be waiting for weather windows when it is safe. I don't know, I haven't done it yet but all that I've read suggests that even in summer you need to look for the weather windows to make your next hop so I guess, depending on your schedule, that may mean motoring.
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Old 20-10-2011, 12:07   #13
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Re: Sail vs Power in the PNW

I don't live in the PNW, but here on Lake Superior we also tend to have mostly light airs during prime sailing season. This means we see a lot of motor boats with sticks.

Sometimes there are good reasons to motor, but too often it is driven by having a schedule, and by simple impatience. Many of my sailing friends insist on maintaining 4-5 knots no matter what. For me, ghosting along at even 1 knot is better than 6 under power IF circumstances allow. So we do our best to create those circumstances when cruising.

If the wind dies completely, I have a meal, read a book, or get to that boat project I've been ignoring. Boredom is never an issue on a cruising sailboat -- there's always something to do

If you are a person who needs to live by a schedule (and many of us do), then a power boat is probably best for the PNW. If you can live with having no where to go, and have plenty of time to get there, then go sail.
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Old 20-10-2011, 12:12   #14
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Re: Sail vs Power in the PNW

There is no formula that will give you the answer to your question. It depends entirely on your own preferences and how you use your boat.

If your goal is to get to Alaska every summer, via the Inside Passage, as fast as possible, you'll probably want a power boat.

If you enjoy sailing, you might decide that having a sailboat is your best choice, regardless of where, when, and how often you use your boat.

Some people think a two-hour passage is long and boring. Others enjoy all-day and longer, overnight passages. Which type of person are you? Do you even know that answer yet?

If your goal is short weekend trips during the summer, any boat will work. If your goal is to travel hundreds or thousands of miles, you'll want a boat, either power or sail, that can support your goals.

I'm a sailor. I'm used to the idea that, in the PNW, sometimes I use the sails and sometimes I use the engine. Typically I'll use a combination...some time sailing and some motoring...every day. The percentage varies depending on weather conditions, my destination, and how important it is to reach the destination. In the PNW, if you sail you'll learn to use the currents to your advantage and you won't plan any trip without first checking the current tables.

So far, we've taken our 35-foot sailboat to the Queen Charlotte Islands, around Vancouver Island three times, and to Hawaii and back once, plus numerous trips to Desolation Sound and the Broughton Islands. On each trip, we had some great sailing, some motoring. Sometimes we were cold and wet, sometimes warm or hot, sometimes in full foulies, sometimes in shorts.

All I'm saying is that no one can advise you as to what the correct choice of boat type or size is for you. You'll have to get out there in a boat and see if that boat is right for you. If it's not, change boats.

As far as relative costs go, again it depends on what you want to do. If you want to have a large living space and want to move from marina to marina relatively fast, plan to spend a lot on fuel. If economy is important to you, a smaller, slower boat, whether power or sail, will make an enormous difference in fuel costs. Sails and rigging can be expensive, but if you sail only in summers in the PNW, your rig and sails will last for decades. If you sail further and harder, replacement costs will rise.
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Old 20-10-2011, 12:15   #15
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Re: Sail vs Power in the PNW

[QUOTE=Mike OReilly;800479]I don't live in the PNW, but here on Lake Superior we also tend to have mostly light airs during prime sailing season. This means we see a lot of motor boats with sticks.

What season is prime sailing season ? Like the summer doldrums?
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