Light weight boats tend to have short/deep keels, flat sections, no bilge
, spade rudder
, exposed props, etc. All fine things for going fast in ideal conditions.
Unfortunately, going fast is not the cruisers primary concern. A cruiser is more concerned with getting there in reasonable shape, despite the weather
. The flat bottomed boats have no bilge
sump. Even very small amounts of water will get rolled up the sides of the boat so almost everything in the boat is at risk of being soaked. That's not a recipe for a happy passage
, safe storing of food
, tools, etc, and longevity of any salt
susceptible gear like electronics
Another problem with flat bottoms is they often tend to pound going to weather. I know, cruisers don't go to weather but when they have to, they often do it for days on end. When we had to go on the wind for 5 days to lay the Marquesas
, I was very thankful that our fat boat didn't pound. Can't imagine the effect of 120 hours of a constant pile driving against the hull on my nerves, let alone the structural integrity of the boat.
I was even more thankful for the easy motion of our fatty after those 5 days. The slack bilges don't make for an initially stiff boat but they did make for an easy predictable motion that didn't toss us and our gear all over the boat. The deep keels, especially those with a bulb of some sort, wide beam and flat bottom make for a very abrupt motion. The righting forces multiply at very shallow angles of hear trying to force the boat upright. That is in contrast to a slack bilged boat where the forces ramp
up slowly and are felt more gradually. This greatly reduces the abruptness of motion and lessens crew fatigue. Both types of boats will probably get there, one will have a worn out frazzled crew, the other will be ready to take on the mangos.
The issue of speed is an interesting one. In our W32, our worst days run was 11nm, mostly current
, in the ITC when their just wasn't any wind. Our best was 177nm on a 6 day run into Hawaii
when we covered 900 miles in six days. Our daily average for more than 10,000 miles was 118nm, through the water, with virtually no engine
time. When we sold the boat after 10 years, engine
hours were just above 500 with most of that for battery charging
. Not a bad average for a fat, heavy, square brick. We made a number of passages at the same time as a variety of different boats, mono, multihull
, ex and current racer
, etc. We consistantly got their as quickly and often sooner despite giving away as much as 10' of water line length, number of crew, etc. We even smoked a 1 ton class WORLD CHAMPION on a reach. Would we win an around the buoys inshore race
, no way, even with a tremendous handicap. Would we be wallowing at sea on a long ocean passage
while a lightweight flew to the destination
, probably not, either.
We made those fast passages with a boat that was significantly down on her lines, something like 7 inches. We carried everything we needed for repairs
, additional fuel
, water, kerosene, and all our personal stuff, two dinghys, life raft, a years worth of food
and consumables,etc, etc. When we finally moved off the boat after 5 years, the first house we rented didn't have storage
to hold all our gear off the boat.
Somehow, I don't think an 8,000 pound lightweight would have been able to carry all our stuff, probably more than 1/2 it's weight, and been anything but a wallowing tub. Wetted surface, the primary reason for lighter boats better performance in light air, goes up drastically as you sink them deeper and deeper into the water. Our boat seemed to sail better and better as we loaded more stuff aboard.
Structural strength is another issue with fin keel
boats. Moore 30's have been raced all over the Pacific and are a perenial favorite in the single
handed races to Hawaii
. Recently a Moore 30 set the around the Big Island record
(they were the first to try it) so can't comment on their speed. Saw the boat hauled after completing the journey and talked with the owner. He was trying to figure out how keep the keel
from falling off. The keel had begun to separate from the boat and they were only able to finish the record
attempt, not become a rescue
, thanks to the heroic effort of two bilge pumps. From what I"ve heard most of the lightweights have had keel attachment problems when driven hard. I know the 2 Hobie 33's that sail out of here have keel attachment issues when subjected to the short steep seas of our channels.
Even if the sea doesn't pound your lightweight to death, a grounding quite possibly will. There are only two kinds of sailors, those that have run aground many times and those that will run aground many times. The moment forces on the hull/keel attachment on a short keel are concentrated over a very small section of the hull. The longer the keel, the lower the stesses on the hull when subjected to a grounding. The forces are extreme in a short keel in a grounding and have to be very thoroughly engineered, built with the strongest materials, careful craftmanship, and integrity of the builder
. Anyone along the line makes a slight goof and thousands of pounds of lead head
for the bottom. That's not to say that full keel boats are the only way to go, just that very short keels are absolutely stupid for a cruising boat. BTW, it's not the sudden stop that usually causes the problem but the up and down pounding caused by the surf. As an example, a W32 tried to enter a west coast
harbor on the wrong side of the jetty during a storm. The boat pounded in the surf for a couple of days, was filled with sand, driven ashore and left high and dry. Other than the water damage to the mechanicals, etc, and sand getting into everything, the only physical damage to the boat was caused by trying to tow the boat off the beach with a bull dozer in the salvage
operation. Contrast that with a moderate displacement
boat with a not so short fin keel that tried the same trick and ended up breaking up as the keel got driven up through the hull.
I like full keel heavy boats for their structural strength no matter what I or the ocean throw at it. The rudders are solidly attached to the keel where they have a much better chance of hanging in there. The length of the keel makes for a much stronger overall boat without resorting to extremely expensive engineering and material measures. Last but not least, long keel boats typically don't pick up on every crab pot, lobstrer trap, stray fishing
net and anything else lurking to grab hold of your boat.
Lighter is fine for dinghy racing
, doesn't necessarily work all that well in the real world of ocean sailing.