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Old 08-08-2005, 15:19   #1
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Question Singlehanders: When does boat size become a handful?

I'm out looking for my first monohull boat that I will want to singlehand from time to time - maybe often. I have been boating for years with skiboats, power cruisers and sailing skiffs/hobies, but not on a monohull sailboat big enough for cruising.

My dilemma is no doubt quite common - it needs to be large enough and comfy inside to keep the woman happy (and me), but small enough to singlehand if she decides cruising is not for her. Budget is also quite a consideration so I am looking at around 34-36 feet, 20-30 years old. As I get seasick in the bathtub, I will be looking for at least medium displacement. This will be my learning boat, starting with day cruises, and migrating to a 3 month coastal cruise in a year or two. After working out what's good and bad I'll probably trade up in 2-3 years (thinking of a CAT) before heading off for bluer waters.

The way I see it (from my reading but no real practical experience), is that any reasonable sized boat can be singlehanded if set up for it, until something goes wrong.

My question is not so much about what boat to buy, or what style to look for, but more about what things might go wrong when singlehanding that I would wish I had gone for a smaller boat. Is a 36 footer too big?


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Old 08-08-2005, 15:26   #2
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Hi wanderlust
good to have you here
its got as much to do with how the boat is set up as any thing else

have alook here
http://cruisersforum.com/showthread....&threadid=1941
and you will have more info to go on
then keep asking questions

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Old 08-08-2005, 16:42   #3
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Thanks Paul, for the response and the welcome,

I had read that thread, and there are some great ideas on things to look for and plan to set up. I do plan to set up my purchase appropriately but my question is more about the difficulties that would be worse on a larger boat, particularly when things go wrong.

An example I can think of is if your anchor winch fails or jams. On a small boat it might be tough getting the anchor up by hand while the boat starts drifting towards some unfriendly looking rocks. But what about the extra weight of a bigger anchor and heavier chain to support the extra displacement and windage. More effort, more time.

Or another: If you're trying to reef the main or furl a headsail and something jams, does a much larger sail area make it almost impossible to solve or just a bit more difficult?


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Old 08-08-2005, 17:49   #4
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Steve:
I think you've got a pretty good handle on the situation.
Everything aboard increases exponentially (or worse) with size. Add 20% sail area, and the forces increase by at least 44%.
Conventional wisdom limits most short-handers to under 40 LOA, depending upon specifics. Id suggest 36' as a reasonable maximum, for most single-handers, under most specifics.
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Old 08-08-2005, 18:41   #5
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you may have possibly seen my view on size in other posts where i decided less was more. if you find a 30 footer that gives you what you need, why buy more ? i watched a beautiful sabre 38 totally destroy her bow rail this weekend trying to make a tight turn in a crowded harbor. pilings can be so unforgiving. for what you know you will be doing with the boat, not the "someday" thing, you could have great fun with less work by keeping the size down. capt. lar
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Old 08-08-2005, 19:20   #6
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To me the question of a size that si comfortable to single-hand comes down to size as measured by displacement and not by length. The traditional recommendations on displacement were roughly 2.5 to 5 long tons per person, which would suggest a displacement in the range of 5500 to 11000 lbs for a single-hander, with the low end having minimal creature comforts and capacities for distance cruising and the upper end historically being the practical upper limit for a single-hander. Modern deck hardware and electronics has clearly stretched that upper limit far beyond 11,000 lbs but when things go wrong the heavier the boat the harder it is to deal with and the strength required climbs exponentially.

In terms of length, most other things being close to equal, the longer the the boat for a given displacement the greater its carrying capacity, seaworthiness, motion comfort and speed. Maintenance costs are going to be proportionate to displacement as well. In other words, all things being roughly equal a 38 foot 10,500 lb boat is a better single-hander than a 32 foot 10,500 lb boat.

I think that it is a mistake to think that 'moderate displacement' will buy you a more comfortable motion. I have a bigger problem with motion sickness on boats that are heavy for thier weight than I do on boats longer boats of the same displacement. The shorter boats will generally have a more rolly and quicker motion, expecially in a chop than the longer boat of equal displacement.

How much displacement is right for you is a very personal thing. The answer is heavily dependent on your own physical condition, prefered sailing style and prefered sailing venue. I have been on a lot of boats over the years and done a lot of single-handing. For me I felt that 11,000-12000 lbs was practical limit at which I felt comfortable. I found that I could single-hand bigger boats but it was a lot more work than I wanted to do.

I also strongly recommend a fractional rig for single- or short- handed sailing, primarily because of the easier to handle headasils, smaller headsail inventory and ability to 'shift gears' on the fly in changeable weather. I strongly recommend against in mast furling having read too many accounts of jambing problems in the conditions when you need to reef the most.

I hope this is helpful,
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Jeff
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Old 08-08-2005, 20:35   #7
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interesting comment on "in-mast" furling. i, too, look at it as one of those things that is really great when working and a trip to hell when it fails. i have been reading about the next generation of stow booms - same opinion dr. j ? capt. lar
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Old 08-08-2005, 21:30   #8
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I like in-boom furling a little better than in mast furling:
- the boat can be set up with emergency reef points,
-If it jambs HIHO you are not sending someone up the mast, and
-the sail can always be dropped to the deck in an emergency.

Neither makes much sense to me on boats under 50 or so feet. The problem with both is creep. In other words, when an in-mast furler sail is partially reefed in high winds, the leech of the sail slowly creeps towards the foot. (On an in boom furler the leech creeps towards the clew but to a lesser degree) This results in a sail with a huge amount of belly, just what you don't want in high winds. It increases leech tension resulting a lot of wear and tear as well as a hooked inward leech. It also bunches up the sail so that it is more likely to jamb.

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Old 08-08-2005, 21:59   #9
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Size based on experience

The info presented above is excellent, but I would like to provide a different point of view for thought.

A freind of ours here in the Caribe, Norm on Pawnee, is a single hander. For kicks last summer he sailed to Baltic sea and back here to Venezuela. After a hual and some work he sailed of towards Brazil. He orginally sailed his boat from Austrailia

Norm is an older gentleman, is a single hander and rarely takes on crew he likes to passagemake, this is not floating condo.

By the way his boat is 75 feet long.

The point is there can be limits to size, but experience and knowledge will allow someone to setup a boat and safely sail it around the world.


We are cat sailors and Makai is our first cruising cat. (years as a leaner owner though). If are planning to cruise on one sometime in the future start bumming rides today. Mono hulls are great to learn and sail on but cats, sail, tack, and handle completely different than leaners.

Even though I had 30 years of sailing experince there was a learning curve, not hard but new thought processes that had to be dealt with. Such as, Makai points 35 degrees apparent on the winds and will still make good speed, but come off a few degrees and get a huge increase in speed and still get there even faster. Things like this make learning fun but they are new and differnt methods.
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Old 09-08-2005, 00:12   #10
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In mast furling problems.

I have read a lot of comments concerning problems associated with in mast furling, but have never met a sailor who has has the described problems. I have the feeling that a few sailors had problems early in the development of the system and that has grown exponentially into a percieived crisis. I have in mast furling and like it very much. It has made sailing much easier. No more slab reefing, jammed halyards (I have cut several), Dutchman problems, lazy jacks, sail folding and covering. Haul on the inhaul line and the sail is reefed or stowed with a few pulls on the line. Nothing could be easier.
I am sure that eventually, I will experience some difficulty with the system, but not as many problems as I have encountered with the other methods.
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Old 09-08-2005, 00:18   #11
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Re: Singlehanders: When does boat size become a handful?

Quote:
Wanderlust once whispered in the wind:

My question is not so much about what boat to buy, or what style to look for, but more about what things might go wrong when singlehanding that I would wish I had gone for a smaller boat. Is a 36 footer too big?


Steve [/B]
Steve,

Once you get over 30 ft most boats have the same systems. Larger boats have more and maybe are a bit more complicated but it's just more of the same once you master this.

The main thing I would worry about is sail handling. The larger the sails, the more work it's going to be. For example I once sailed a 30' Nonsuch and it was more work than my 36' boat. It was harder to hoist the sail and more difficult to reef but it went like stink downwind.

I have come to appreciate furling mains although a few years ago I would have said you were crazy to even think of one. Having recently sailed eight months on my new boat with a furling main I am now a convert. Of course it took some getting used to but it sure makes life easier.

Another good feature is having all lines led to the cockpit. Single line reefing is amazing. It's a joy not to have to go to the mast to reef . It's also a lot safer.

I don't think a 36' boat's too big. Just take it slowly, practise reefing until you can do it with your eyes closed. Practise furling the genoa when it's blowing a bit. Make sure the winches are a good size. Practise is what does it, size matters but perhaps not that much :-)
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Old 09-08-2005, 00:22   #12
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in mast furling

Jentine,

We have the same boat and the same in mast furling. I think it's excellent and one advantage you didn't mention is at the end of the sail you don't have to put the sail cover on! :-)
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Old 09-08-2005, 01:55   #13
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i am sure todays engineering has solved many of the weaknesses in the initial systems. i guess a reasonable question to ask those that have newer furlers is can you / do you undertake preventative maintenance to avoid failure and jambing. with the old furlers, main or genoa, units were sealed with limited access and so expensive to service we waited for a failure, usually occuring in high wind when loads max the equipment. capt. lar
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Old 09-08-2005, 02:50   #14
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capt lar,

As I said I've only used mine for eight months. I do have friends that have had the same system for three years and have had no problems. We cruise from Oct/Nov to May/June so the sails do get a workout. There is a sequence you must follow - loose the vang, loose the mainsheet, keep tension on the furling line when letting out the sail, keep tension on the outhaul when furling. Head up if it's blowing, not necessary if it's light. Keep the track the car runs along clean. Lubricate ( I use McLube ) once in a while. Hose down the furling mechanism every so often.

The sail is battenless with a hollow leech and loose foot. Sails very well with a little wind.
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Old 09-08-2005, 05:25   #15
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Halyard tension

Maintaining halyard tension at the proper load is very important. Too little tension and the sail bunches; too much tension and the sail is very difficult to unfurl. As with all systems, proper technique is a must. Lowering a conventional main in a stiff breeze without coming into the wind is an invitation to disaster. As you wouldn't consider that manoeuver, you also would not attempt to furl a roller sail under the same conditions.
With roller furling main and jib and all lines led back to the cockpit, I feel very comfortable single handing my boat which is 39'. With the same configuration, I would feel as comfortable single handing a much larger boat, but to what end. I need only so much space and storage.
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