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Old 24-04-2015, 22:43   #1
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Characteristics of Offshore Yachts

The mailman delivered my physical copy (not available in Kindle) of Desirable and Undesirable Characteristics of Offshore Yachts.

What a fascinating read. I will preface this by saying that many of the "best bluewater boat" threads end up with a ton of "it's the sailor / skill that counts". Well... hmmm...

I am only through chapter 5 but it has led me to the conclusion that nope, it is NOT primarily the sailor that determines the viability and safety of my boat out at sea - where the big winds and waves are. Some boats are inherently more seaworthy, sometimes much more seaworthy. Some just plain unseaworthy.

The book has discussed (just so far) the influences, good and bad, of racing on cruise boat design. Boat size - length, beam and weight - on stability. How and why boats capsize, and as importantly, what happens next. How and why some boats are better than others in this regard. Keel and rudder design on directional stability, steering, and what happens when gusts or large waves hit. How these issues can cause loss of control in precisely the weather where that control is critical to staying upright and afloat.

LOTS of info. The book does a good job of explaining in words as well as graphs and diagrams how all this stuff fits together. I am really just beginning the read but so far the cost has been good value.

I am certainly not saying that good seamanship isn't necessary, but that some very good seamen lost their lives on fundamentally bad boats (discussed in the Fastnet fiasco and the analysis after). And that being the best in the world would not be enough on a bad boat, but likely would on a good boat. And that the desire for the racing "look" and handling paired with the desire for creature comforts has pushed a lot of fundamentally poor choices choices into our cruisers. Sometimes potentially disastrous choices.

Having read the book, I will be in a much better position to choose among the available choices.

Highly recommended.
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Old 25-04-2015, 06:25   #2
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Re: Characteristics of Offshore Yachts

I suggest researching several conflicting resources before formulating a fixed definition of blue water. I've yet to find a completely unbiased source that everyone agrees with (notice the arguments on blue water boat threads from many experienced sailors).


No idea who this author is or what he is espousing as blue water.
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Old 25-04-2015, 06:44   #3
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Re: Characteristics of Offshore Yachts

New cars are probably safer than older cars, and a go-cart should never be driven down a highway ... but ...

You should try to apply the "argument" about boats and sailors to cars and drivers ... does it still make sense?

Doesn't to me ... I've driven old cars and new cars, and new cars are undoubtedly safer as a general rule ... but its a driver who is almost always the single biggest factor in a car accident ... not a car.

People crash cars.
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Old 25-04-2015, 06:56   #4
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Re: Characteristics of Offshore Yachts

It still takes skill and experience to chose a desirable (offshore wise) vessel vs. not so desirable. Same as chosing any other equipment on the boat itself.

I once asked a very experienced marine pro (he has 45+ years of nautical experience beginning with being a merchant marine kadet in his teens down to captaining oil tankers, ice breakers, 2 circumnavs in his 38 ft sailboat, etc, etc) - what is the best strategy to handle a violent storm. His answer was very succint - don't get into one. He said in his long career he was only afraid for his life once - when a storm which was misforcast in the Sea of Japan turned into a typhoon. He said they survived by sheer luck and stamina, although the sturdiness of the boat helped as well.
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Old 25-04-2015, 07:01   #5
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Re: Characteristics of Offshore Yachts

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Originally Posted by jannw View Post
New cars are probably safer than older cars, and a go-cart should never be driven down a highway ... but ...

You should try to apply the "argument" about boats and sailors to cars and drivers ... does it still make sense?

Doesn't to me ... I've driven old cars and new cars, and new cars are undoubtedly safer as a general rule ... but its a driver who is almost always the single biggest factor in a car accident ... not a car.

People crash cars.
I strongly disagree. Get any new car and an old 60s-70s Buick or a Ford and smash them head on and see the results. In general it's the old cars which are inherently safer. But on the new cars features like seatbelts, airbags, etc. make their flimsiness tolerable. And that's only if the drivers use them. A big "if".
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Old 25-04-2015, 07:27   #6
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Re: Characteristics of Offshore Yachts

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Originally Posted by valhalla360 View Post

I suggest researching several conflicting resources before formulating a fixed definition of blue water. I've yet to find a completely unbiased source that everyone agrees with (notice the arguments on blue water boat threads from many experienced sailors).

No idea who this author is or what he is espousing as blue water.
Well, you might want to educate yourself... :-)

The book is edited by John Rousmaniere - of Fastnet '79 fame, and author of the Annapolis Book of Seamanship - and features chapters written by the following, among others:

Some guy named Olin J. Stephens, who apparently thought he knew something about the trends in yacht design over the past century, and of the elements of design that determine the stability of sailing yachts...
Rod Stephens, Jr.
Richard McCurdy
William Lapworth
Bill Shaw
Lynn Williams

These, and others, comprised the Technical Committee of the Cruising Club of America at the time of the book's writing... Between them, they had roughly 850 years of sailing experience, covered more than 750,000 miles offshore, and owned 43 different cruising/racing yachts. They have sailed a total of 147 Newport/Bermuda Races, 36 trans-Atlantics, and a dozen races to Hawaii...

I've been touting this book for years. In my opinion, even though it is now somewhat dated in certain respects, not much about the sea itself has changed in the intervening years. I think it still represents by far the single best starting point/introduction to gaining an appreciation of the basic elements of design and construction that matter when venturing offshore in a small sailing yacht...

Unfortunately, very few want to hear about the value of a feature such as wide, uncluttered side decks, in today's world... That's not the sort of result you get when boats are being designed from the inside/out, around the accommodation plan that some Marketing Guru has determined will show best at the Boat Shows, after all...

:-)
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Old 25-04-2015, 08:25   #7
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Re: Characteristics of Offshore Yachts

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I strongly disagree. Get any new car and an old 60s-70s Buick or a Ford and smash them head on and see the results. In general it's the old cars which are inherently safer. But on the new cars features like seatbelts, airbags, etc. make their flimsiness tolerable. And that's only if the drivers use them. A big "if".

http://youtu.be/joMK1WZjP7g

Perhaps you should watch that. The old cars may be heavier, but it's not just seatbelts and airbags that make the new cars safer.

Regarding the thread topic, there is a book called Singlehanded Sailing by Richard Henderson that covers a great deal of hull design and seaworthiness, as well as The Voyager's Handbook by Beth Leonard. I believe that a boat's design plays a huge part in how seaworthy it is. Of course a skilled sailor can sail many different types of boats in rough seas and call them seaworthy, but not everyone is a pro offshore sailor. For those who aren't, the boat's design plays more of a role than your actual skill. An amateur would probably be safer in a heavy displacement full keeled boat than an Open 60 raceboat, even though both are fully capable of any ocean.


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Old 25-04-2015, 08:50   #8
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Re: Characteristics of Offshore Yachts

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Of course a skilled sailor can sail many different types of boats in rough seas and call them seaworthy, but not everyone is a pro offshore sailor.
And the whole point of the Fastnet investigation is that very VERY experienced sailors died in that race in less than optimal boats, while optimal boats survived just fine.

So thinking that I am experienced and therefore safe in my seriously compromised boat is death waiting to happen.

"Characteristics of Offshore Yachts" is a very readable book, put together by men eminently qualified to do the writing. It is not a book that one will need to keep by one's side, but rather read once or twice and absorbed, and that information acted upon.

It has certainly changed my knowledge of "what why and how". I now know what to look for in hull shape, bulkhead tabbing and the like.

It was interesting... the authors discussed how designers often use glassed in tanks to reinforce and spread the hull load. The sides and walls of the tanks are often used to accept hull stress and strain, stiffen the hull, and transfer that strain along to the vertical bulkheads (and floors). Well...

How many times have we heard folks say "the tanks were leaking and I couldn't get at them so I just cut them out and replaced them with rubber bladders...."

Ooooops.....

Do we know that the tank wasn't integral to the integrity of the hull at that point in the hull? I have to say I might well have done something similar before reading that chapter.

Anyway, a good read and cheap at twice the price. BTW I bought the book used on Amazon for 1 PENNY plus shipping, $4.51.

It has opened my eyes on what I want and what I don't want.
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Old 25-04-2015, 09:01   #9
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Re: Characteristics of Offshore Yachts

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Originally Posted by Jon Eisberg View Post
Well, you might want to educate yourself... :-)

Unfortunately, very few want to hear about the value of a feature such as wide, uncluttered side decks, in today's world... That's not the sort of result you get when boats are being designed from the inside/out, around the accommodation plan that some Marketing Guru has determined will show best at the Boat Shows, after all...

:-)
Did you know that some hull shapes, if rolled 180 degrees (upside down), will just immediately roll back upright. Others will have to wait for a "righting wave" to get them back on their feet. They will essentially never "self right".

The book uses the example of a hull shaped like a round log (which doesn't exist of course, but some hulls are close enough to act like that). Put a weighted keel on it and flip the keel straight up in the air. It will just immediately roll over keel down.

Take a flat board and do the same. Now the inverted (keel up) board will just float happily along with the keel sticking up.

Modern hulls are occasionally designed such that the bottoms are essentially flat and wide. A plank. If they do flip over they are not going to right themselves without external help.

Think of the catamaran, where this is the simple truth of the hull. Flip it over and it will NEVER right itself.

Understand this makes me a better judge of what I personally want in my hull.

This of course is just one part of the picture, but an important one none the less.
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Old 25-04-2015, 09:04   #10
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Re: Characteristics of Offshore Yachts

Definitely. Certain design aspects of offshore boats are either simple physics or common sense.


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Old 25-04-2015, 09:24   #11
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Re: Characteristics of Offshore Yachts

Without referring to any particular expert cited, the USE of the vessel is a primary consideration. Whatever floats that satisfies is usually an adequate option. Sailing around the world involves "one step at a time" without being in a hurry. If you're in a hurry, take a plane. I 'sailed' around the world in a light jet, 4 hours at a time, never in weather. It only took 7 days, including diplomatic necessities and sight-seeing. The only problems involved sustenance. Never undertake a voyage for a term longer than your needs supplied (You can't cure stupid.). Have a plan, execute the plan > military method.
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Old 25-04-2015, 09:37   #12
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Re: Characteristics of Offshore Yachts

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Originally Posted by Island Time O25 View Post
I strongly disagree. Get any new car and an old 60s-70s Buick or a Ford and smash them head on and see the results. In general it's the old cars which are inherently safer. But on the new cars features like seatbelts, airbags, etc. make their flimsiness tolerable. And that's only if the drivers use them. A big "if".
Also have to disagree. I would define safety in a car as survivability of the passengers in a collision AND a reduced likelihood of collision (due to better braking and maneuverability). I think most would agree to this definition. Then newer cars beat out the 60-70 era cars hands down in all regards.

There might be a slight advantage to a large, heavy 60s car going against a truck or large SUV vs a smaller modern car. But if you compare similar sized modern vs older cars I see no advantage at all.
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Old 25-04-2015, 09:41   #13
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Re: Characteristics of Offshore Yachts

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Did you know that some hull shapes, if rolled 180 degrees (upside down), will just immediately roll back upright. Others will have to wait for a "righting wave" to get them back on their feet. They will essentially never "self right".

The book uses the example of a hull shaped like a round log (which doesn't exist of course, but some hulls are close enough to act like that). Put a weighted keel on it and flip the keel straight up in the air. It will just immediately roll over keel down.

Take a flat board and do the same. Now the inverted (keel up) board will just float happily along with the keel sticking up.

Modern hulls are occasionally designed such that the bottoms are essentially flat and wide. A plank. If they do flip over they are not going to right themselves without external help.

Think of the catamaran, where this is the simple truth of the hull. Flip it over and it will NEVER right itself.

Understand this makes me a better judge of what I personally want in my hull.

This of course is just one part of the picture, but an important one none the less.
Contessa 32 Assent in Fastnet 79 skippered by 23 year old Alan Ker:

The story of Alan Ker - Yachting World

The Contessa 32 is used many times to illustrate what a seaworthy boat should be:

CONTESSA 32 sailboat specifications and details on sailboatdata.com
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Old 25-04-2015, 09:44   #14
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Re: Characteristics of Offshore Yachts

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Old 25-04-2015, 10:22   #15
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Re: Characteristics of Offshore Yachts

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Without referring to any particular expert cited, the USE of the vessel is a primary consideration. Whatever floats that satisfies is usually an adequate option.
Well... I'd prefer that my hull was not floating contentedly keel to the moon.
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