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Old 03-10-2007, 13:25   #1
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How much boat is too much?

My wife and I plan on retiring in a few years and plan to spend the rest of our (healthy) lives cruising...probably for ten years at the least since I plan on departing for prettier venues than the suburbs, in my early 50's. I have been looking around at catamarans mostly on YachtWorld.com. My affordability range is from a Lagoon 67 on down...anything larger seems like it would definitely need a full time crew. I have been a licensed merchant marine officer for over 20 years...so I am up on my technical skills yet I have absolutely no catamaran experience other than racing a Hobie 18 for a couple years about 25 years ago. I taught sailing for a local sailing school while at Cal Maritime Academy. So basically I am not a newbie to boats or ships or sailing...but I am a newbie to cruising catamarans and extended cruising just for fun.

So how big a boat is too much for a couple to cruise? I understand it's not just length but how the vessel is rigged. Cost is a concern in that I do not want to spend exorbitant sums of money to maintain and upgrade a boat. My wife and I both want the creature comforts and the speed/waterline a larger cat has to offer. I was originally thinking a boat in the upper thirties to lower forties LOA range. We went and looked at a couple in that size range and decided we wanted larger and more comfortable.

I would like to know just how large and what particular types of catamarans can a couple safely and realistically handle by themselves? What have you seen or done personally? Are my eyes larger than what common sense dictates? I really want to be realistic about this. We are friends of one couple that is cruising a 70 foot monohull all over the Pacific. He had rigged the boat for this purpose....but it's a monohull and cats are a different animal.

Without having seen any of the larger versions in person, the Lagoons, Privilege, Sunreef, Nauticats, Fountaine-Pajot, Catana and Voyages all look pretty seaworthy..at least from the pics. I'm not looking for an off brand boat which will will probably be difficult to sell when that day eventually arrives. I'm not looking for a 15 year old fixer upper either. I have spent enough of my life in boatyards...no more for me...I at least want to keep my time in boat bottom hell to a bare minimum. Don't boat yards remind you of people walking around with their pants down?

What are your opinions of cats with the helm that is located on the cabin top of the main salon? Seems like it could be pretty miserable up there at times..and isolated. Are there clear benefits to this configuration?

Are there places to haul boats with 30'+ beams other than shipyards? I don't think I have seen a 30 foot wide Travelift in my life, but perhaps they do exist?...cranes perhaps?

Any opinions on galleys in the hull vs galleys in the main salon? Somehow I can't see my wife below deck in rough seas being the galley slave. Been there...done that. It's no fun.

Is there a way of rigging up a true ARPA radar on a boats mast? Not Raytheons MARPA...is there any way to protect a 6' open array antenna on a large enough mast?..or is this a totally unrealistic idea for a sailboat?

Please, tell me your honest opinions. (I am not easily offended).

Thanks,
David
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Old 03-10-2007, 16:04   #2
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How long is a piece of string?

Bigger boats add complexity to your life. The biggest small boat you can afford and manage seems to me the better approach. Rather than the biggest boat you can handle. Handling the boat on the ocean, in close quarters with minimal clearances and maximum weather, and at the slip doing maintenance all are distinctly different requirements. Each one has tremendous requirements in time, money and or effort proportional to size. Too much boat means you are not doing what you really wanted to do in the first place are dealing with the boat more than yourself and the crew.

How much is too much for you? It's about what you want to do and where you want to go. Larger boats carry the added burden of more stuff to manage and maintain and keep an eye on. The generally accepted practice with larger boats is "paid crew".

My own estimate is you can handle a far bigger boat at sea then you think. In the slip that same boat will rob you of your time and a lot of money. In the fairway it's mostly getting enough practice while being lucky until you can become good.

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is there any way to protect a 6' open array antenna on a large enough mast?
Why? This isn't a topic we can hope to deal with here.
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Old 03-10-2007, 16:09   #3
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My boat is too big...

I'll be honest and say that my boat, a 44' steel Roberts Offshore is too big.

Why?

Well, to start with it is very difficult to dock in anything other than light winds. Almost impossible single handed.

I thought that my wife might join me but she is very reluctant, and even if she did I don't think that she would be much help.

In terms of cost I'm looking at $25k pa, and that is doing all the work myself.

Upkeep is pretty well a full time job.

Marinas don't like big boats.

What should I have done? Probably chartered a lot more...
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Old 03-10-2007, 17:22   #4
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My opinion.

1/ You definitely want a cat - You want comfortable (flat) cruising with visibility out the windows.
2/ You want to think "single handed" not crew of two.
3/ Twin screws set apart will help in docking
4/ Big enough to have "your own" space at times.
5/ Galley up for socializing purposes
6/ 38-42 feet max - IMO
7/ Get as much power as you can - the dirty secret is that people motor more than they admit. You may as well not struggle against tides and seas.

There are several threads going on "the perfect cat." Try reading the one about the perfect cat under $200k - there is a recent post from a delivery captain that I have saved as it has first hand experience on a lot of boats.

As far as radar goes, I put that in the rigging and set up category. Save pennies from your purchase to set the boat up the way you want. Go to some boat shows and see some of these cats. Or pick a very popular cat place - Florida - and arrange two weeks with a broker to view some different boats.

Get a really excellent dinghy - I think with a big cat you can be more self sufficient, stay on the hook more and not deal with marina berthing too much. But you will want to come to shore in style without swamping. There are a couple of marathon threads on dinks as well.

To go with this make sure that the dink raising and lowering system is as painless as possible and that the sugar scoop steps are wide and comfortable enough to easily get in and out of the dink. As you get older you will want things simpler and simpler.

The helm station should be as protected as you can get it while trading off visibility. It will never be perfect. That's probably the only argument for going bigger as you can get dual helm stations. Docking on the opposite side of the helm must take some practice.

As far as sailing? Many people can sail. Few people can sail well. You want to be able to get the sails up and down single handed without too much drama. Then make a set and relax.

That's why I think your idea to get into the 50s and 60s on LOA is not a great idea. You said you think low 40s is too small but for a couple it really is quite good. You'll have 2 hulls and at least 3 double berths. A nice salon and galley up.

I have friends in their 60's with a 51 foot ketch rig. They rarely sail. Sail handling is getting to be a real chore for them. If they set everything it's 5 sails to haul and set and let's not even talk about tacking. They motor/sail a lot.

Good luck in your decision.
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Old 03-10-2007, 18:07   #5
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Ex Calif has it pegged imho. 38 to 42 ft.
That's still a lot of boat unless you want to play the "Mine's bigger than yours" game.

Steve B.
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Old 03-10-2007, 18:59   #6
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Originally Posted by Boracay View Post
Marinas don't like big boats.
I would have to disagree with that. Take a look at Marina Del Rey in Cal. and several others. They are tearing out the smaller slips to put in bigger ones.

And the new one here in Everett is for 35' and up. The bigger boats bring in more touri$t money, as well.

But as for size, it's been noted here (this site) that 14,000 # of displacement per able person is about max for the average person. As an able/experienced seaman like yourself one could probably exceed that a bit. But then strenght and health will have a bearing on that too.

I'd agree, Ex-calif has perdy much covered it.................................._/)
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Old 03-10-2007, 19:40   #7
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Cost of upkeep on a boat is proportinal to the square of the length! Decide on how small aboat you can be comfortable on, not how big a boat you can afford.
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Old 03-10-2007, 20:03   #8
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I have a similar mind set to you. After learning to handle ships, boats under 100' seem pretty small. I'm a lifelong sailor and current powerboat owner, so my experience with 60+ foot sailboats is rather limited. My impression, for what its worth, is that you can get systems on larger boats that make it easier to operate. Joystick control has made it to the recreational powerboat world. Anyone know if that is available for sailboats yet? How extensively are 50-60' cats fitted out with automated line handling? In short, it is technically possible to have a fairly large sailboat that is easy for a couple or a single to sail. I think the difficulty comes in close quarters maneuvering and docking, abnormal conditions like unexpected heavy weather, ports you can physically enter, and of course, keeping the beast clean.

My suggestion is to charter a 40 some-odd foot cat and see how it goes. You'll be able to focus in on what is really important to you. Before you start a serious conversation on a cruising boat, you should get some experince that will give you a more relevant frame of reference. I still find it a little unnerving pulling into a harbor with 15' under the boat!

Brett
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Old 03-10-2007, 21:14   #9
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"How much boat is too much?" In my humble opinion (IMHO). Anything over 36 feet LOD and anything with two or more hulls. I recommend fiberglass, diesel engine (just one). One head and an aft cockpit. I like a cutter rig. So there, I've given my opinion and now need to make a comment about advice. Charter what you are thinking of buying and get a feel for it whether big cat, big monohull or little whatever.

Did you ever meet my friend Kim from the Cal Maritime Academy? He retired a few years ago as a Matson Skipper. Great guy.

Kind Regards,

JohnL
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Old 03-10-2007, 21:57   #10
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Our Privilege 39 catamaran is about the biggest size boat that I want to handle with only my wife and myself on board. With the two engines, we can dock and anchor without difficulty, and when sailing offshore, I can singlehand without a problem. It's at the upper limit of what I am comfortable with, and I am grateful that it isn't any larger.

I've thought about catamaran size a great deal, and for me it came down to whether I was really interested in having a boat that I could singlehand to the far corners of planet earth, or whether I was really interested in a floating home that never ventured outback and beyond.

When I'm at the dock in the USA, I wish my boat home was larger - more space would be nice. But when I am sailing offshore, anchoring in squalls, and weathering gales, I am glad that my cat is only 39 feet long.

I also am at the upper limit as to the amount of boat that I can maintain by myself. If it was any bigger, I would have to hire people to do the work for me.

Sailing and maintaining a big cat around the world without a crew is a full time job and is real work. Try it some time. You might need to return to a shoreside existence for a well deserved rest.
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Old 04-10-2007, 00:37   #11
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So how big a boat is too much for a couple to cruise? I understand it's not just length but how the vessel is rigged.
It's the weight and size of the gear, sails, and sailing loads. It's how big a sail you want to handle when things go wrong.

You're used to commercial ships where power everything is the rule. It's 3 am and it's time to raise the mainsail because you've been motoring and the wind has come up. That's the biggest workout on a catamaran. 67' Lagoons need a big electric winch I suspect.

If you get a cat big enough to need electric winches, WHEN they fail, then your backup is muscle power. I prefer a boat that I can use my muscles without resorting to electric winches.

Quote:
Originally Posted by David M View Post
Cost is a concern in that I do not want to spend exorbitant sums of money to maintain and upgrade a boat. My wife and I both want the creature comforts and the speed/waterline a larger cat has to offer. I was originally thinking a boat in the upper thirties to lower forties LOA range. We went and looked at a couple in that size range and decided we wanted larger and more comfortable.
Regarding maintenance: bottom paint, new gear (for when old gear fails), sails, etc. are all exponentially related to boat length, roughly square or cubed. So buy the smallest boat you will be happy with.

If you have lived in a spacious house, a 40' cat might seem small. However if you have lived in a 30' mono or a 1 bedroom apartment, they seem pretty big to me. It's a bit of an adjustment in mindset as to what is big enough. Don't forget that while cruising you will be living outside a lot, and cats have a lot of outside.

Given your financial situation, charter a 40' cat in the BVI's or similar for a week or so. See how much room you really need. I know of lots of sailors living on 36'-44' cats and nobody wants bigger boats.

Quote:
What are your opinions of cats with the helm that is located on the cabin top of the main salon? Seems like it could be pretty miserable up there at times..and isolated. Are there clear benefits to this configuration?
They are stupid IMO. They raise the CG of the boat, of the mainsail, and exist to satisfy charter guests (keeping the sailors away from the non-sailors)

Quote:
Are there places to haul boats with 30'+ beams other than shipyards? I don't think I have seen a 30 foot wide Travelift in my life, but perhaps they do exist?...cranes perhaps?
30' beam is REALLY limiting. I have 23' beam on our cat and there is ONE yacht yard in Vancouver, BC (not a small city) that can haul it. They charge accordingly. Cranes are an option. You need a 100 ton Travelift to get 26' beam and 200 ton for 30' beam. These are not commong.

Quote:
Any opinions on galleys in the hull vs galleys in the main salon? Somehow I can't see my wife below deck in rough seas being the galley slave. Been there...done that. It's no fun.
Below decks with a view ain't bad. There is less motion than on the bridgedeck, and the dishes are out of sight of guests. Ventilation, socializing, and a quick snack for on watch crew is better for a galley up design. It's a personal preference.

Quote:
Is there a way of rigging up a true ARPA radar on a boats mast? Not Raytheons MARPA...is there any way to protect a 6' open array antenna on a large enough mast?..or is this a totally unrealistic idea for a sailboat?
Not totally unrealistic, but maybe better placed on a big pole aft on the stern. The problem with MARPA on little boats is the boat heading moves a lot and unless you have a good compass system, it loses targets. EBL's still work you know
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Old 04-10-2007, 01:31   #12
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Hi I went through this and decided on 38 mono. The reason is that With two up .............it can be handled solo.....think about it. What happens if you have to have two to sail and somthing happens to either of you. What if you want to move the boat solo. Costs may or may not be a concern but bigger means very much bigger costs. Bigger, anchors, fittings, sails, fuel bills, loads and forces. Boracays boat and mine are very similar in construction and design, (his 44 offshore, mine 38 offshore) but there is a huge variation in weight and costs. If he like me is intending on cruising as a couple with occasional extras then the extra space may not make up for the hassles. I am used to sailing a very narrow 30 footer so perhaps I have an unreasonable attitude to what constitutes a comfortable size. In my situation ,for me to go extended cruising means I have to be frugal and very independant. I dont earn enough dollars per hour to balance time against larger boat.("That big house with the large lawn looks fantastic, but you have to spend your whole time on the mower!!) It is horses for courses, finances, experience, how much time you want to spend actualy sailing. As noted bigger boats tend to put their sails up later when in clear water and take them down sooner. And if going short distances dont use them at all. Diesel is going to become more expensive along with just about everything else except water side realestate !!
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Old 04-10-2007, 07:16   #13
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Good question. If a large boat were selected that is 'small' enough only because certain systems have been installed, I'd be real concerned about the impact when one of those systems fails. Everyday I read of a cruise that has been put on hold because some system has failed far out in paradise. Even if you have the skills for repair, parts can be a bitch to get.

good luck with your plans
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Old 04-10-2007, 09:43   #14
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Thank you everyone for all your great answers about what size is realistic for a couple. It's nice to hear from people who have real life experience on cruising catamarans. As a few of you suggested, I will go charter some cats to see for myself just what seems right for my wife and I. I will probably go to some of the larger boat shows on the East coast as well.

It's going to be fun going "boat shopping" in this way. What a great excuse eh?

Again, thanks for all the great responses everyone. It's given me a lot to think about.
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Old 04-10-2007, 17:36   #15
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One other thing...

What are you sailing now?

For many, moving up in boat size incrementally is a good way to "feel" your way into the right size boat for you. Small boats react more quickly (generalization), so moving up (or down) in steps let's you experience how that change occurs. If you can do this via a series of charters it'll be even more visible to you, and a lot less expensive than broker fees.
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