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Old 02-02-2008, 04:58   #1
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Are Motor Sailers any good?

Hey there,

I am a newbie. In searching for the boat I occasionally see "motor sailer" as the description.
1. Some things that try to be two things wind up not doing either very well.
2. Retired couples in the ICW and the Bahamas and Caribbean seem to spend a lot of time motoring and/or motor sailing. It could be if that is where we want to go we should just get a motor sailer.

What are your opinions? You guys seem to have some pretty strong opinions and you are not shy about revealing them. Let us hear what you think.

Thanks (16 months untill retirement!)
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Old 02-02-2008, 05:24   #2
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Quote:
"motor sailer"
There are two types. Some just are sail boats with an enclosed pilot house. They are popular in cold climates for the reasons you might expect. The behave just as any sailboat would and come in some pretty fancy packages too. Many of the Nordic designs are quite striking. You may not like them as much in hot climates but you don't have to give up sailing performance. Personally I always call them Pilot Houses since most all sail boats have an engine. Some listings refer to them as motor sailors.

The is another type that is actually a hybrid of sail and power though the bias tends to be toward power. The hulls are designed to power faster. They don't sail really well but power quite well. You can sail them on a reach and the size of the sails do lend them to motoring while sailing. You may save a little on fuel while motor sailing. They look a bit odd but have a lot of enclosed space relative to length. The enclosed pilot house is a usual feature too. They tend to be smaller boats since as you get larger the pilot house can be a feature on a any large boat.

I don't own one but know some that do. Some folks don't sail their boat all that much and power it a lot. Might be a good choice. In cold rough weather you might prefer the comfort. For long distance cruising you might prefer the true pilot house design and not give up sail performance. I only see them practical in smaller boats in cold climates. Pilot house designs are far more versatile and generally add a lot to the cost.

I would look at the usable space and think - it's hot and humid outside! Canvas enclosures can provide the comfort of a pilot house and have parts that detach for a breeze and still have sun protection. An enclosed sailboat cockpit can be larger than any other space on the boat.
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Old 02-02-2008, 07:50   #3
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I consider a catamaran to be the best motorsailer out there.

You have two engines, good cruising speed under power and sail, good maneuverabiliity, good stabiliity, and you can put up sails if you don't want to run the engines.

We motored about half to thirds the way across the Med becauses there wasn't any wind.

A catamaran also lets you motor for twelve hours on the starboard engine and then twelve hours on the port engine, alternating the engines forever.

A catamaran can be an awesome sailboat and a terrific motorsailer. I use my cat both ways. When I need to use the engine, I have two of them to get the job done. When there is wind, I can sail to my heart's content.

Long live motorsailers.
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Old 02-02-2008, 08:25   #4
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When we went cruising in the Bahamas/Caribbean (34' sailboat) a few years ago, we were determined to use the motor as little as possible. However, when the weather is good in this region, the wind is from the east. And you have to do considerable easting just to get from FL to the Leeward/Windward chain. We wound up doing a lot of motoring/motor sailing.

We were also surprised at the number of trawlers we saw cruising in this region. In principle a so called motor sailor should be fine. Some people would call a 41' Morgan O/I a motor sailor, and you see those boats everywhere.
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Old 02-02-2008, 10:59   #5
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Paul had a good explanation, but I would like to throw in a third one. Well maybe a 2b more than a 3. Ours is a motor sailer as well. The main difference for us is that we have a powerful 45ft sailboat, but we also have an equally poweful motorboat. A Perkins 6.354 is the powerhouse and she will run all day into heavy weather under engine power just like any single (as in one power source) diesel powered vessel will. We have a large engine room that dominats the entire underfloor area of the Pilot house. We have an outside aft cocpit area that is the main sailing control area. She can also be motor sailed as well which makes a huge saving in fuel use.
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Old 02-02-2008, 14:08   #6
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I think I might be of similar view to Alan. Any good reasonably modern lined, adequately powered cruising sail boat should motor very well, easily cruising at hull speed and also able to maintain good speed against adverse conditions. That boat can be fin keeled and spade ruddered.

In fact I would claim that a sail boat well designed with motoring ability in mind should motor as well as or better than a motor sailor and will definitely sail better. Motor sailors tend to throw sailing ability to the wind with power boat type props rather than sail boat optimised ones, less efficient lines, less efficient and more conservative sailplan, bulky wheelhouse, less mind to controlling displacement, etc and still, just like the sail boat, when under power cannot exceed hull speed.

The only advantage I see with motor sailors is a wheelhouse of some sort which definitely is a comfort compared to a wet and cold cockpit and so in the end the decision is climate driven. But even this advantage is lost against larger sailboats (say 45 foot plus) where it becomes possible to have a low profile pilothouse for a sheltered helm position.
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Old 02-02-2008, 16:30   #7
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A motor/sailer I have always admired for sailing ability, motor ability as well as strength are the Fisher pilothoused, canoe sterned, boats.
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Old 02-02-2008, 19:22   #8
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Originally Posted by MidLandOne View Post
I think I might be of similar view to Alan. Any good reasonably modern lined, adequately powered cruising sail boat should motor very well, easily cruising at hull speed and also able to maintain good speed against adverse conditions. That boat can be fin keeled and spade ruddered.

In fact I would claim that a sail boat well designed with motoring ability in mind should motor as well as or better than a motor sailor and will definitely sail better. Motor sailors tend to throw sailing ability to the wind with power boat type props rather than sail boat optimised ones, less efficient lines, less efficient and more conservative sailplan, bulky wheelhouse, less mind to controlling displacement, etc and still, just like the sail boat, when under power cannot exceed hull speed.
In general a sailing designed hull won't motor as well as a true motor sailor. The reason being is that there won't be enough bouancy in the stern, which will bog down under reasonable engine power, making them less efficient than when under sail. If you look at the lines for the harltey tahitian range you will notice how they run out quite flat at the stern, more like a displacement launch, than most yachts, giving them the necessary bouancy in the stern to handle more engine horsepower efficiently.

I would agree with earlier statements that motor sailors are usually better at one or the other but not both. The Tahitian series of designs is some what of an anomaly in that they are as Alan describes, good powerfull sailing yachts AND good motor launch's, not to mention being good at motor sailing too.
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Old 02-02-2008, 20:02   #9
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As a cruising live aboard exploring through various island groups, the reality is that you will often need to go to windward in inclement weather.

Having a pilothouse situated forward with good ergonomics for lookout, navigation and control, makes those times a non-event.
My van Helleman Design at 65ft has that plus all the attributes Alan describes and with a powerful prop can motor sail quietly (900 to 1000RPM) to windward at 7 knots in a sloppy sea. With the Profurl system she is easily sailed by one or two and to me the big advantages of choosing a Motorsailor, is that the engine room is not an afterthought. Much easier to inspect and maintain the equipment, when you have room to work.
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Old 03-02-2008, 07:18   #10
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shucker 40 great motor sailor, I did the great circle rout starting from tx to the keys then up to the great lakes back down to the gulf and back to the keys out of 13000 miles I would say I motor sailed all but about 4000 miles I did this on my pearson 35 I would say there is alot to be said for motor sailors the shuck seems to be a good one for that.
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Old 03-02-2008, 10:10   #11
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Now to add to all this, there is a design that really could be called a True motor sailor...perhaps. That is a powered vessel that is designed to primarily be powered, but has a "riding sail" for either/and stability and extra power for fuel saving. These boats can not sail. The sail area is simply not large enough to be of any major use. However, while under power, the addition of the sail can help reduce fuel consumption. While explaining this, I have in my mind a commercial vessel that travels from high up the North Island down the west coast and to Nelson I think on regular schedules. I watch a NZ TV doco about her. That sort of boat is really what I would call a true Motor sailer.
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Old 03-02-2008, 13:19   #12
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Yes, I think there is room for a lot of confusion over what people apply the term "motor sailor" to. I usually use the term only for "traditional" motor sailors which are primarily intended to motor and the sails are an auxiliary.

There is a tendency, especially here in NZ where "traditional" type motor sailors are rarer than hen's teeth, to call any sail boat that is adequately powered and has some form of sheltered helm position a "motor sailor" (I have often wondered if using an autopilot remote inside a sail boat would suddenly convert it into a "motor sailor" ).

Celestialsailor has mentioned the Fisher motor sailors and they are what I too regard as motor sailors. The many yachts, especially larger ones, with pilothouses or low deck saloons (I mentioned 45 foot plus where the boat has enough freeboard for the pilothouse or deck saloon to be low profile) with sheltered helm positions I regard as plain old sailboats - they are primarily designed to sail, in enviable comfort , not motor.

A manufacturer that makes a good distinction in its range between "traditional motor sailors" and pilothouse type sail boats, in my view, is Nauticat at Nauticat Yachts Oy.

Getting to boats such as Alans, although I am not very familiar with the design (but have seen them often enough and have studied Alan's photos) I, personally, would not call them motor sailors (although that family often is so called in NZ). I tend to think of them as pilothouse type sailboats and as I understand it they both sail (Alans does not appear to have an especially conservative sail plan) and motor tolerably well - which was the point of my previous post in that it is possible to create such sail boats and many builders such as Nauticat now do. But the concept is not new with professional yards as, for example, on the USA scene Able Marine - what happened to them? - in the 1980's produced very nice pilothouse sail boats which I think it would be sacrilege to refer to as "motor sailors".

As stuartcnz says many adequately powered sail boats will squat their sterns when motoring (our own included) but in my view that does not detract from the fact that they can motor well - in fact in our own case where the boat in the static state trims bow down slightly from the design waterline, the squat when motoring means it is only slightly stern down from the design WL. In the end it hardly matters in anything other than flat water.
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Old 03-02-2008, 16:48   #13
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Now to add to all this, there is a design that really could be called a True motor sailor...perhaps. That is a powered vessel that is designed to primarily be powered, but has a "riding sail" for either/and stability and extra power for fuel saving. These boats can not sail. The sail area is simply not large enough to be of any major use. However, while under power, the addition of the sail can help reduce fuel consumption. While explaining this, I have in my mind a commercial vessel that travels from high up the North Island down the west coast and to Nelson I think on regular schedules. I watch a NZ TV doco about her. That sort of boat is really what I would call a true Motor sailer.
have you ever been on a shucker 40?
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Old 03-02-2008, 16:52   #14
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This is an interesting thread; enjoyable and educational.

For those interested in motorsailers, you may want to follow the selection and construction of Bob Bitchin's new 52' Shannon in Latitudes & Attitudes hardcopy or online magazine.
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Old 03-02-2008, 21:57   #15
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Is that the one they just sold or is this the new one?? I avidley followed the old one and was shocked to go from one month of "we're finished and we're off sailing" to the next month "the boat's sold!" I couldn't work out what happend and what I missed. I went back through three issue's to see if I had missed reading one. I looked at dates to see if I had missed a delivery. I scratched my head and then read the story of what happend. Wow, talk about wirlwind decisions. Intersting though, I had thought many times when reading what they were doing, that the cost of that thing must be sky high. They certainly didn't hold back on the wizzbang features.
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