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Old 29-04-2006, 14:22   #16
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The point I am trying to make is that when you move to the size boat we are talking about parts become more standardized and perhaps less costly.
In terms of stepping up I think getting back to your 22 ft boat is a perfect place to start. With that you can develop a sharper set of senses. You need to be able to read the wind from how it feels and what you see and anticipate where the boat needs to be. You need that tuning so you can "see the wind". That smaller boat will reflect your actions with a far shorter response time. You'll learn faster and more completely.

As you move up in size the delay from action to reaction gets longer and so you act from more of a position of "knowing" what will happen without immediate feedback. This is the experience part. From a 22 ft stepping up to a 38 ft would not be such a hard jump other than the far longer delay. You could get used to that quicker if you already had refined the experience on the 22. Jumping up beyond 40 ft starts to get more difficult no so much in the sailing once you have mastered that level on the smaller boats but perhaps more in the systems a large boat requires. The bigger lines the heavier everything. Maneuvering a boat larger than 50 ft in close marina dimensions with cross winds and currents eventually gets you to the point where crew becomes a requirement. The risk you face is too great not to.

At 100 ft with automated systems the systems engineering becomes demanding and you reach the point where operationally you can not afford to handle the boat without crew and be responsible. Recklessness leads to it's own problems as you would imagine. You'll also reach limits that will be imposed by your insurance carrier. BTW, you are the biggest target for thieves every port. Anchoring out alone may be far less safe than being in.

Your winch example is maybe as far off as anything you can imagine. You'll find winches on 100 ft boats to be no longer just electric but hydraulic and cost as much as my 33 ft boat. The cost of rigging a boat above 55 ft becomes totally custom. You'll be purchasing one off gear for every major part of the rigging. The systems to back this up will be expensive and require a lot of maintenance. There is no concept of getting bigger becoming cheaper. The bigger the boat the proportionally larger the cost plus an exponential cost when it becomes custom. Simple things like fenders are going to cost $300 each. You'll be using 1 inch dock lines. None of your running rigging is standard cordage. You'll be forced into high tech fibre lines at $5/ft and you have a lot more feet to buy as well. There won't be anything tha won't cost a whole lot more and probably require special order.

You would be better served to work the problem backwards and figure how small a boat you can handle and still carry all your stuff. How much you could give up and how little you can get by with. You don't have to be uncomfortable you just have to be accommodated. You want a boat not so large that you require a paid crew to handle it and maintain it. Though there are people that do that too but they don't care about cost at all. Just washing the deck will take you 4 times as long as on a 45 ft boat. That would be something you'll do often? That is simple compared to a lot of the rest of the chores. All boats have a lot of chores. Your automation will eventually consume all of your time.

To use your airplane example would you really want to fly a 747 around (free fuel for example) and have to deal with it at the end of the flight totally by yourself then do the the entire preflight the next day? I would say that analogy is more like what you are talking about. You might be capeable of doing it but do you really want to? How hard do you want to work at not working?

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Old 29-04-2006, 14:36   #17
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How big is too big, or how big is big enough? These are both really subjective questions and can be looked at from many situations that would dictate extremely different answers.


The number of crew, qualifications (experience), and hours at 'sea' are the principle factors (IMHO). Having 20 people aboard that don't know the difference between a shroud and a stay may pose a real problem - whereas having two people who have 'been-there-done-that' may be all that is needed.

Boat Size

Okay - this has been pretty well discussed. Comfort and performance are the two biggies here

Sailing Conditions

This is where the wheat gets separated from the chaff. If a person (or persons) can handle the boat in adverse conditions, then it isn't too big. By adverse conditions I do not mean catastrophic conditions. And, these adverse conditions would vary by use of the boat and location.

To SUM it up: If you intend to Coastal Cruise, then you might expect to have to handle 15 to 20 foot seas and 35 knots of wind with your minimum crew (what ever that might be), and be able to put the boat (and yourself) in safe condition - reefed/hove to/anchor or whatever, and do so for up to about 48 hours. If you can't do that, then you are undercrewed or overboated (is there such a word?) or a combination thereof.

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Old 29-04-2006, 14:50   #18
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The more complex the systems the more maintenance / repair time you spend. I knew that going in - and have not been surprised (or disappointed). Currently my refit list starts at the windlass and ends with the autopilot ram, and covers pretty much everything in between. This on a 1992 model boat. Sound hull but tired interior and systems due for a refresh. Electric winches working but will be thoroughly checked out as well.

The out of commission list is a dynamic, living beast that makes the old shoreside "honey-do" list look like a grocery list in comparison. Plus the safety of crew/boat often depends upon what systems work, which systems have back-ups, etc. Can you sail that large boat if you lose all hydraulic power for the winches? How about without DC power? All of that becomes an issue.

Add to that the joy of finding parts - my systems are not that old, but I've found discontinued items & manufacturers no longer in business. As for electronics, assume you'll throw them all out anyway and install the ones you want. Are the old working units still OK? - Yes, but that old GPS has a daylight-unreadable LCD screen and it takes up a 10" x 12" footprint at the Navsta, etc etc.

As for the standing rig - consider that on the larger boats & rigs the forces are greater. So why take a chance on a relatively low-cost item holding up beyond a 10-year span? Lots of opinions on the longevity of the standing rig based upon how frequently the boat was used, etc. Even if the calculation were an exact science I'd opt for a new rig on a 10yr old boat before starting out. Inspections are important as you may find corrosion at even the 3yr mark if the rig was not installed correctly or used inferior materials.

You should already know that EVERYTHING costs more for a bigger boat. Start with dockage then look at everything else... more for bottom paint, more headliner material, longer hoses for whatever, bigger dock lines, more expensive anchoring gear, air draft will restrict jaunts down the ICW when the weather gets bad, draft restricts cruising grounds and marinas you can access... BUT - for me the tradeoff is worth the extra comfort.

Nothing wrong with "systems" as they truly make life more enjoyable - when they work! As long as you're OK when they don't work - and that goes double for your 1st mate - then I say go for it!

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Old 29-04-2006, 15:41   #19
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Seems to me that the comparison between planes and boats starts to break down pretty quickly and here's how: You don't change the engines on a flying airplane. That happens in the hanger and the bigger the plane, the more people around to do it.

On a cruising boat, the crew is doing maintenance every day and repairs, even to one or more basic systems, can be an expected part of the cruise.

Lots of people have found themselves doing engine overhauls, watermaker tear-downs, genset rebuilds, and repair/replacement of both standing and running rigging while on passage. While one person can handle removing the head of a 40 hp Yanmar, the head from that 300 to 500 hp Cummins will not be budged without at least two people handing the hoists and come-along.

Who's going to be on watch while you're doing this? Can you imagine trying to recover a 3500 sq. ft. head sail from the water after the halyard parted? Or, do you let that ka-billion dollar sail just disappear?

Visualize yourself trying to work at the top of a 130 ft mast in a bosun's chair, swinging thru 45 degrees of arc every few seconds. Let me tell you, it is not fun on one that is one-third that size.

You've also got the simple weight of the gear. Electric winches, hydraulics and all that make the running of it possible, but what if you need to tear it down, or take it off? God forbid that any of these 500 pound + objects get away from you. It will be very, very bad.

I don't want to tell you what you should or shouldn't do -- that's not my place. What my wife and I decided to do though, was this: when trying out different boats with thoughts of what we would eventually buy, we had a simple rule. Everything had to be of the scale and weight that my 5'4" wife could handle, by herself. That included raising the main, without needing the electric winch. That pretty much topped us out at the low 40's. Even then, she really has to grunt to get it up, and it takes her quite a bit of time, but she can do it.

Good luck to you in your search, and here's wishing you joy in whatever you decide.

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Old 29-04-2006, 18:09   #20
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I want to thank everyone for being candid about this, I have thought through alot of the thing you all point out and I agree this is on a whole nother level. As with airplanes I do think you guys hit it on the head with preflight/pretrip and service issues and Insurance, that alone may preclude operations with out a crew.

The thing that really draws me to these are the amount of space and capacities not just fancy cabins but the work spaces and excess power and water they have the ability to produce for a small party. Being able to rebuild the port gen set while on the fly is more of an option then not having a port gen at all. Main engines in bigger boats are rebuilt enroute, true but with a sail gear you still have that option as well, and frankly I have given a lot of thought to adding an electric aux drive to most any boat I get for hard crusing.

The advise to revisit small boat sailing and step up a few notches is how I plan to proceed in training and yes I do know I don't know jack about offshore sailing at this point in time. The idea of going backwards is one I have done, I keep looking at smaller and smaller boats, that keeps me really wondering. The inital cost of a boat of say 50-60' in the class I want is not that much less then a much bigger boat. While I don't drive a monster SUV or think they are needed I do look at what you get in a boatfor x number of bucks and then compare that to the big ones and shake my head. This may give you an idea why I thought the big boats may be a real value, in the RV segment you see folks with these fancy trucks that pull fifth wheel trailers, you can buy a new class 8 tractor with twice the power, better interior and built to last 4 time longer for the same price.

I am not one who buys new cars or has to have the latest or greatest, I buy very high quality and keep it for ever. My car is a 1987 and it still brings a smile to my face when it clean. I am not so concerned about wow factor as I am the durrability and sound design. I am still very early in the process of finding what I want and want is a big part of the question. I am 5'9 and my wife is 5'5 so we could live in an Ericson 27' would we want to no. I have always has a shop to tinker in and we need an office big enough for the two of us and the space to escape from one and other when we need a breather.

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Old 29-04-2006, 18:39   #21
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I think that you may find how relative room is when you sail different boats. When I sail on a friends Morgan Out Island 42 I wonder what he does with the space. Since I sail alone I intentially went for a smaller boat, but that is a personal choice. Quality is far more important at sea than size in my opinion and more recent production is not always an indicator of improved quality (except in electronics). There is a saying amoung boat builders that the fastest way to build a fifty foot boat is to build three smaller, but progressivly larger boats first. It allows learning to occur in more managable environments. Again good luck.
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Old 29-04-2006, 20:27   #22
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Capnlindy, it looks like the real answer to the question "how big is too big?" is another question: How much money do you have? You're mentioning a lot of very expensive items (100 foot boat, multiple generators, diesel/electric drive, power winches), so I assume you are pretty wealthy. Still, I've never believed in the aphorism "If you have to ask how much it costs, you can't afford it." NOBODY is rich enough to write blank checks.

Operating costs and maintenance go up dramatically with boat size. Look in to those costs, and don't buy a boat bigger than you can afford to operate.

I suggest that you see some of these boats in person before you go too far down the route of deciding what you are looking for. You may well be comparing a like-new 50 foot boat against a worn out beat up 85 foot boat, and thinking "hey the price is about the same". It is, until you count the cost of fixing the "fixer-upper". I'm not saying you can't get a good deal on a large boat, but make sure that you ARE getting a good deal.

My other advice is that my wife and I selected a target size of 40 - 45 feet for physical as well as economic reasons. There would be just the two of us on board.

40 feet was about as small as we could imagine living on. I know people live on smaller boats, but I don't know how. (Maybe they go naked and don't eat, therefore don't need to store clothing or food? ) We ended up converting the forward cabin into a storage area.

50 feet was about as big as we would want to handle with only the two of us on board. Electric winches and windlasses help, but it's still a lot to handle. For example, when the wind is blowing the boat away from the dock, you would like to pull it a little closer to get on board. When you take the sail down, it is a heavier pile of canvas for a bigger boat. When the electric winch isn't working, you still have to crank it yourself. Stuff like that.

We lowered the upper end of the range to 45 feet after considering slip availability. We found that finding slips over 45 feet is a lot more difficult in the upper Chesapeake.

Even if we could afford a bigger boat, we would not have chosen a boat much larger than we did. As it happens, we ended up with a 42 foot boat with 6 foot draft. I could wish for a shallower boat, because 6 feet constrains where we can go. You can always say "I will anchor further out and settle for a longer dinghy ride in", but sometimes even that isn't practical because "further out" is too exposed. Still, I couldn't find a boat this size that was enough less draft to be worth the other compromises.
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Old 29-04-2006, 22:03   #23
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I think we'd all agree in this day and age it's not hard to sail a 100 footer two handed - but like many of the others have said, it's a lot of boat to park up in any breeze - and its also a lot of boat when things go wrong.

It's also possibly four times the cost to maintain over say a 50 footer - which IMHO you'd might find large enough to be comfortable. The bonus is also a 50 footer can get where most 100 footers can't go...........

So I'd support the advice already given of chartering something of that size and see how you find it. There are sadly thousands of boats left worldwide by people who have the dream and start living it - only to then find when underway it is not quite as they thought it would be.

Good luck with the plan.

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Old 29-04-2006, 23:09   #24
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A couple of general responses, mostly in keeping with the other posts:

-- You are trying to extrapolate from your flying experience to a sailboat-cruising experience; the two are so dissimilar that doing so is actually misleading you rather than helping you - doubly so if as an ATP you are relying on the highly regulated, standardized infrastructure of commercial aviation
-- 'Starting small and moving up' suggestions aside, I'd recommend a parallel step: arrange via an owner who's looking for crew to help with an offshore passage and spend just a few days at sea, non-stop. It will provide a context from which you can then consider all these discussion points, which otherwise is more intellectual than experiential
-- As a general observation (you decide if this fits you; I of course don't know...), when I run into this general theme where money buys size, systems and comfort, I find someone is typically trying to buy their dream rather than earn it. IME the inverse is usually more likely: without a great deal of money, one will master the necessary skills and achieve the dream.
-- Sailing a large vessel offshore from Point A to B, one time and after it's been prepped for the journey, is probably the easiest piece of the task unless you get some nasty weather. The much more demanding challenges are to prep and then maintain the boat, over time, to make each passage possible and 'unexciting', and also to manage the boat inshore (variable conditions, rocks to hit, denser traffic, tougher nav puzzle, etc.), short-handed
-- Paul does a nice job of illustrating how the costs associated with large sailboats can become almost infinite; in addition, the more complex the boat, the more necessary it is to have access to a first-world infrastructure since you will need the technicians, supply chain and materials that only it can provide. You might be comfortable turning a lathe aboard the boat to machine a part, but a large complex boat is going to have issues well beyond on-board tools...and if it's as large as you infer, it's not possible to keep it simple.

I realize you have declined this advice once already, but I'd encourage you to reconsider it: Folks with your kind of desire and background, and who want the 'big, comfy, systems-based approach' that you are asking about, IME, end up being more satisfied with a large power cruiser. I'd encourage you to reconsider that approach by e.g. spending some time talking with a Nordhavn owner who's done some bluewater passagemaking. Ask him/her for a tour of the boat and see how you feel about what you're seeing (vs. what you imagine when thinking about sailing vs. power cruising). My hunch is that you'll find a lot more in common with that type of boating than with huffing a large sailboat around the ocean.

Good luck to you and hope you make it out on the water.

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Old 30-04-2006, 01:28   #25
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I asked for it and now I am getting it; I did say these boats were pricy and no I am not in a league with Paul Allen or even a poorly paid NBA guard. The cost of the boat is one thing, the cost to keep it another; this is where I concede on the mega boat idea. While the initial cost may not too far out of line the care and feeding of a black hole is not what I am seeking. I have a house that is worth far more then I imagined due to it being in the right place at the right time. I don’t have the resources to pour tens of thousands into any boat on a yearly basis just to maintain serviceability, let alone hundreds of thousands. Perhaps the whole idea is beyond my reach, you guy are telling me that a 40’ boat is going to be all that I could hope to keep afloat IF I didn’t have a fat trust fund or oil well in the back yard.

I am not saying that I am going out to buy the biggest boat I can pay for just for bragging rights; the costs involved even on a 40’ boat if true would keep me from even thinking about this as retirement. Where dose the truth lay; is a nice well built 40’ boat going to cost 30 grand a year to keep floating is a 60’ boat a 150 thousand dollar a year leach on my wallet, could I sail 75 footer for less then a half a million? I was not born yesterday and I do believe that you all are trying to bring me back to reality but come on if these boats cost this much to maintain on a yearly basis I just can’t see much of a market for ANY boat over 30’.

Not withstanding catastrophic failures how much stuff breaks or wears out on a boat yearly. I can see rebuilding an electric motor on a winch or a hydraulic cylinder on a steering horn but junking something that can be fixed is not my idea of maintaining. A hydraulic winch that cost 50 grand is something that can taken apart and rebuilt, I can’t think of too many guys that I know with tons of money that would pay that with out looking long and hard for somebody to fix it. Most of the stuff on boats consists of bearings, seals, shafts and motors that are all serviceable or replaceable for a few dollars in most any corner of the world. Breaking a rudder or holing the boat aside the numbers don’t add up, I can see the corrosion taking its toll on things and wear on decking and lines but to say that they are consumed at these rates is mind blowing.

It sound like boats with a full time crew would likely have much better repair and maintenance history then a boat cared for by an owner? Boats and ships that are lying do rot away at a fast clip no doubt due to lack of use and cleaning to say the least but are you all saying that every boat in the sea is a pile of rust waiting to fall apart and only copious amounts of cash can keep them afloat. The idea that any boat larger then? Is going to need special technicians to do normal repairs and service and require onshore support shops for even some of the work removes any reliability that said boat could offer. The most complex systems are just parts and pieces assembled into a few castings or weldments. I deal with a company that has guarded its technology and made components unbearably hard to source outside its OE channels and there are still work around ways to obtain parts and tech data.

Many of you have pointed out the physical limits of hauling sails and such that are far more realistic and I have been listening. I am not a line backer for the Packers so I did pay attention when you all said how much can you; or more importantly your first mate do on deck. This make perfect sense and this is where we are now, I can’t say that we know what that limit may be at this point but I am getting a better sense of the situation.

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Old 30-04-2006, 05:03   #26
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We have a 47 Center Cockpit Moody that has almost all the systems of a larger boat. We do not have electric primary winches however but those are just money -- we do have very oversized mechanical ones though.

Independent of the cost of the boat you have to figure a 45-50 boat will have several maintenance cycles. Assuming the boat has either been fully restored or is new or very near new.

Ongoing regular maint -- this will average about $3,000 US/yr - this is basic bottom painting, oil changes, zincs, etc. this does not mean you will spend that every year just avg out.

Then there are the larger periodic investments [these happen every 5 yrs or so] - sails, blocks, dingy, canvas work etc. On this size boat figure everything happens in about $2,500 US increments. Again some items will be just one increment others will be two or three.

Lastly there are the big dollar items like new paint for the hull, major bottom work etc. These expenses are in the $10,000 US range or so and don't happen very often but when the do you have to be prepared.

Lastly as others have said there are physical limits what a relatively healthy middle aged person can do. With more experience you can handle a larger boat however at a certain point somewhere around 50-60 ft I personal believe you will depend so much on systems that it becomes impractical do run without crew.

Are we glad we have our 47 -- after moving on this weekend you better believe it. Do I wish I had something larger -- NO -- for the reasons said above -- this is about the max size we can handle and we have been sailing together a long time [20+ yrs].

Hope this helps
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Old 30-04-2006, 07:54   #27
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Steve --

One of the things that is sometimes overlooked about boats is that the relationship between length, weight, and expense is not 1:1. For example, a pretty average 50' sloop may displace around 30,000 pounds. A pretty average 65', around 70,000; and a 95 to 100' can easily be 200,000+. Twice the length, but 7 times the mass.

I don't know that this is so, but I think that if you're looking for some sort of index upon which to estimate relative maintenance cost, displacement will be a better one than length.

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Old 30-04-2006, 17:02   #28
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Hi Steve:

You are correct that most items on a sailboat are repairable given the proper tools and equipment. The question is where are you going to be when the part breaks down. Lets say that you were in Mexico. You might be able to get overnight service but many people can tell you of horror stories trying to get parts to major ports like PV, Cabo, or Manzanillo. What if a critical item broke down in Turtle Bay or some other location that might only have weekly air transport. Take that a step further what if you were in Hiva Oa in the Marquesas. Could be weeks before you could get a part. Europe alot easier.

My experience on boats is from 8' El Toro's to one regatta on an 80' Maxi. The Maxi had a full time crew of three that were constantly rebuilding systems. Mind you this was in the 80's and the systems weren't as advanced as they are now. But when you talk about all the systems being redundant you are looking at maintenance tasks being a sisaphisian challenge. Start at the pointy end and fix everything on the way to the stern and then start over. Yes these three guys were busy fixing this and that but this was a stripped down racer. No a/c. No heat. no windlass. And the systems weren't redundant. It took three people to move the number one genoa. two for a spinnaker. five to hoist the main. It can be done shorthanded but the boat has to be set up for it and the crew has to have alot of experience.

I sailed from Tahiti to Australia on a Swan 65. 3 or 4 electrical systems: 12v elec. 36v elec. 120 v generator and 120v shore power. one gremlin in each system can take a four days to track. I was on the boat for 3 months and it was seldom that all the systems were working even with a full crew.

When we had to change the mainsail in 40 knots comming into NZ it sucked. But there were 8 of us to work the boat and a cook making us coffee. We got it done and then the watch changed so 6 of us got rest. Double handed you won't have that luxury.

In one of Beth Leonard's book she has a calc on how much time is required to maintain a boat. Do you want to cruise around the world in a sailboat and be a mechanic or do you want to explore the world and occasionally work on the boat. My idea of cruising is the latter.
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Old 30-04-2006, 17:31   #29
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Anyone ever notice that the things that break, and the biggest discussions are for the systems that are specific to comfort and convenience? There are lot's of 65' boats out there that, under sail, even in rough conditions, are easily handled by a short handed crew. Sails blow out, and lines foul, but these are not the issues that seem to be considered when choosing a cruising vessel. Items like horsepower, and engine longevity, GPH of the water maker, Reliability of the genset. These are the things that are discussed until every possibility is explored.
The simple fact is, when choosing a cruising boat, go sailing on as many in your desired size range as possible, spend as many nights aboard as possible, and decide based on this information what boat you want to cruise. The other stuff can be added. Any system can be added to any boat. If you want to cruise on a 100' schooner with oil lamps and no engine, that is when the question can really be asked. "How big is too big?" A 27' Catalina can be equipped with a 40gph water maker, a 5KW genset, Boom furling sails, electric winches etc. etc., but it will still be a 27' boat. The cost of maintanance will also increase far more with the systems than it will with the size or displacement of the boat. Slips for boats over 65', in some places are actually easier to find. I was looking at a 65' boat about 12 years ago. I searched all over California's central coast and bay area. What I found was an abundance of slips, and often short waiting lists (compared to 12 years for a 30' slip). The explanation from the marina's I talked to was that 65' slips were in much lower demand. How the boat feels under sail to you, and how comfortable you are handling the sails should be of far more importance than if that particular design has electric winches.
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Old 30-04-2006, 17:34   #30
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Not to start a rock fight but it's "sisyphusian" as in Sisyphus. ;^)

That was a great reference, Charlie. I agree with you that complexity has its consequences. I think you can mitigate it by the choice of subsystems -- but you really have to know your systems and their interfaces.

I think that the more "integrated" the systems, the more vulnerable you are. Example: All systems controled by a single computer server system. One glitch in the system and you're out of operation.

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