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Old 21-01-2011, 16:31   #1
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Beneteau 50

Looking at a 1997 Beneteau 50 for coastal cruising. With electric wenches , bow thruster, and a tall rig, is this manageable by a capable couple? Looking for comfort and good sailing qualities without breaking the bank. This seems a great deal, but the size of the main is a little concerning. Does anyone have experience on the B50? I appreciate your thoughts.
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Old 21-01-2011, 17:32   #2
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Originally Posted by Harbourage
Looking at a 1997 Beneteau 50 for coastal cruising. With electric wenches , bow thruster, and a tall rig, is this manageable by a capable couple? Looking for comfort and good sailing qualities without breaking the bank. This seems a great deal, but the size of the main is a little concerning. Does anyone have experience on the B50? I appreciate your thoughts.
I've sailed them it's a push for a couple.

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Old 24-01-2011, 22:06   #3
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Looking at a 1997 Beneteau 50 for coastal cruising. With electric wenches , bow thruster, and a tall rig, is this manageable by a capable couple? Looking for comfort and good sailing qualities without breaking the bank. This seems a great deal, but the size of the main is a little concerning. Does anyone have experience on the B50? I appreciate your thoughts.
Know the boat backwards. Sailed mine 12,000 NM, 3,000 Solo.
Crossed from France to Australia going west.
Could not get better value, comfort, safety and bang for bucks.
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Old 24-01-2011, 22:19   #4
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The sail area on that boat is 1,381 sq. ft. That's a lot of canvas, whether that boat was built by Beneteau or anyone else.

It's not about brand. It's about the crew.
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Old 24-01-2011, 23:46   #5
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Looking at a 1997 Beneteau 50 for coastal cruising. With electric wenches . . .
I'd like to know where that particular item of equipment was obtained . . . you would be the envy of the whole marina . . .
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Old 24-01-2011, 23:58   #6
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The sail area on that boat is 1,381 sq. ft. That's a lot of canvas, whether that boat was built by Beneteau or anyone else.

It's not about brand. It's about the crew.
My boat has got 157m2 of canvas (about 1,700 square feet). With electric wenches (err, winches) and a well-designed rig, it's not difficult to handle for a couple. The forces on the rig are greater, of course, and can be intimidating at first, but you get used to it.

Up to a certain point (of course), a bigger boat is easier to sail, in my experience. Remember the bigger canvas area is balanced by a heavier, deeper keel. A bigger boat responds more predictably and in a more deliberate manner to steering input and sail trim, and carries its speed better when tacking.

And of course a bigger boat will be more stable and seaworthy (comparing like for like of course), and a longer waterline means more speed.

Only downside to a bigger boat, in my opinion, is cost. And, of course, close quarters maneuvering and docking.

I think 50 feet is fine for a couple, personally. I have not sailed a B50, but judging by the Bendy 43's and 45's I've sailed, I bet it's a very nice sailing boat.
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Old 25-01-2011, 01:31   #7
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I have a bene 473, most of my sailing is with one other person onboard, and I have managed a few solo's. Once I had solved the problem of the batons getting hooked up in the lazyjacks it was fine, getting the main up is now no problem, its the getting it down I find more awkward, 3 sets of reefing lines to keep under control, plus the last bit of the main I find I need the boat hook to pull it down.
You'll probably find that the height of the boom can be troublesome for rigging/unrigging the sail cover, make sure you have some mast steps at the bottom of the mast.

As for mooring/unmooring, just take your time, check the wind, and stay a couple of steps ahead.
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Old 25-01-2011, 06:35   #8
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Unless sailing is just out for the day, sailing with a couple is really singlehanding. Although I mostly singlehand, sometimes my wife will go with me on a passage. The reason that we have a 33 foot boat is that 33 feet is the most that she can manage singlehanded. I don't want to be called out of the berth everytime something has to be done.
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Old 25-01-2011, 06:56   #9
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We sail a 55 Tayana cutter, mostly just the two of us. The main is not a problem providing you reef early. The only time the size of the boat is a problem is getting in and out of boat slips which we avoid by living on the hook.

However, it requires experience to be able to sail a big boat short handed when the weather turns bad because you must always be well ahead of the problem curve because of the size of the forces...Do you have the experience?

Look at the picture of my boat and imagine that 1100 sq ft genoa jammed 90% of the way out in a 40 knot rain squall at night! The night that happened to me it took 2 hours and 30 yrs of experience to solve the problem! I also had a very experienced wife at the helm who knew instinctively where to keep the boat heading in the seas to assist me as I worked.

I am still of the opinion that 40+- a few feet is the right size of boat for a couple.
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Old 25-01-2011, 07:19   #10
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However, it requires experience to be able to sail a big boat short handed when the weather turns bad because you must always be well ahead of the problem curve because of the size of the forces...
My experience is different, but perhaps this is a function not of the size, but rather of the stiffness of the boat in question. But I think bigger boats tend to be stiffer inherently. Our boat, a Moody 54, is very stiff indeed, and does not really become all that scary in a sudden overpowering situation. Sudden overpowering happens to the best of us from time to time -- even the best sailor can't always anticipate a sudden gust or a sudden blow. I have had unexpected, sudden blasts of 30+ knots when sailing under all plain sail, and what happened was the rail would go down, pots would fly around in the galley, and really nothing more. Of course the forces on headsail sheets are huge in a situation like that when you have 1700 square feet of sail area, but your winches and sheets are proportionately bigger and I have not found that slacking the sheets under tension on the current boat is any more challenging than on smaller previous boats. If anything, the much bigger diameter sheet winch gives you much more control. Letting down the traveller is definitely much easier, because a boat this size has winches for the traveller control lines rather than just cam cleats like smaller boats. Likewise with the jib cars, which have remote controls and lines you can put on a winch.

Electric winches and roller furling make it quite easy to reef in such a situation. A roller furling mainsail is probably an advantage on a big boat because you can reef it with heading up. You just slack the main sheet and outhaul and start rolling it in.

I find sudden overpowering to be more and more frightening, and requiring more skill and finesse, the smaller the boat.

Tacking is also much easier on a bigger boat because you keep so much more momentum on as the head comes around. Even though we are cutter rigged and have to pull the big yankee jib around the inner forestay when tacking, we tack far better and faster than smaller boats, often losing less than a knot as we come around. I love to short-tack up the channel in Southampton Water, showing off -- everybody thinks we are a crack racing team, not suspecting how effortless tacking our boat is.

So I really think that at least up to this size, it's all only good as far as sailing is concerned.

Docking, of course, is an entirely different matter. The big disadvantage of docking a boat this size is -- as the guy who sold me the boat warned -- you cannot influence the position of the boat with the bodies of your crew. That is, you can't manhandle the boat into or out of a slip, and you can't really fend off by manual force. It is 100% up to the helmsman and the helmsman alone to get the boat into the slip (thank God for bowthrusters). What is also bad is that you can't really see the dock at all from the cockpit -- you have to guess the right distance. Yes, that part is very challenging compared to our previous boat, which was a 37 footer.
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Old 25-01-2011, 07:39   #11
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Dockhead,

I much prefer my 55 to a 35 in bad weather but when all that electric and roller furler stuff breaks or jams you need experience and technical skill to solve the problems.

Of course in 40 knots a jammed sail can be fixed by a large sharp knife but it is not the most elegant solution to the problem.

I like the Moody 54 and would be very happy to sail one anywhere. I would like to see you short tack her out of the Beaulieu River against the tide in a thick fog!!! Actually I think it would be harder with the tide, you run aground faster!


Good luck
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Old 25-01-2011, 07:49   #12
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You could always use smaller sails. If you're worried about getting pinned in a squall with your genoa unfurled, then sail with a 100% or even a 90% jib on the furler. If you're sailing in the trades this will probably be plenty of sail, anyway. As for the main, reef early and reef often.
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Old 25-01-2011, 08:58   #13
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Dockhead,

I much prefer my 55 to a 35 in bad weather but when all that electric and roller furler stuff breaks or jams you need experience and technical skill to solve the problems.

Of course in 40 knots a jammed sail can be fixed by a large sharp knife but it is not the most elegant solution to the problem.

I like the Moody 54 and would be very happy to sail one anywhere. I would like to see you short tack her out of the Beaulieu River against the tide in a thick fog!!! Actually I think it would be harder with the tide, you run aground faster!


Good luck
The Beaulieu River?! Yikes! I wouldn't go up there under sail under any circumstances -- that's a recipe for going aground. Certainly no room to tack there. The Thorne Channel leading to Southampton Water is a different story, especially at high tide where going out of the channel is not a big deal.

I've had one jam in my furling mainsail which was an ugly experience, but other than that I've never had any problems with winches or furling gear while underway in all my decades of sailing. I think a jammed furler would be worse on a smaller boat, compared to a jammed furler on a bigger boat. Might be more amenable to being fixed by brute force on a smaller boat, but I think most smaller boats will be in a more critical, dangerous state with a jammed furler, than a larger boat.

I did have one interesting accident on my boat in the fall of 2009 which kind of illustrates my point. We were out in the Solent in a terrible blow, 40's gusting to 50 knots. I was sailing upwind towards Yarmouth under deeply reefed main and deeply reefed yankee alone, and suddenly the furling line for the yankee broke and let the entire huge headsail unroll into the full force of that gale!!

For a second I thought -- I am screwed, what to do? In a smaller boat, I would have been knocked down before I had a chance to take any action. But my boat complained but stood up, rail in the water of course, but stood up. I didn't blow the sheet, which would have flogged the yankee to death; I slacked it and immediately headed off downwind, then slacked it some more.

Heading downwind the boat was stable even while grossly overpowered. Stable enough that I could get a crewman clipped on and crawling up the foredeck to bend another line onto the stub of the furling line. Like that we managed to get the yankee furled without further drama, and motored home.

I think that in a smaller boat we would have been knocked down and that it would have been a disaster.
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Old 25-01-2011, 09:40   #14
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Interesting that both fellows advocating the safety of 50'+ boats have cutter rigs. There clearly seems to be a point where a sloop gets to have too much sail area to be handled by a couple.

Our rig is a masthead sloop with a total sail area of 1,000 sq feet, with in-mast furling. In the summer, where we'll see 25 knots on a typical day, we take down the 110% jib and put up an 85%. We generally keep that sail on from June through September. At that point we don't need electric primaries, making do with a single electric winch for the halyards.

While I agree that a larger boat is a safer boat in most conditions, I still think that 1,381 square feet of sail--given a sloop rig--is a lot to handle short-handed. How many people do we all know who bought a boat so big that it scares them to death, and they subsequently never take it out?

It's all relative. When I moved up from a 30' sloop to a 37-footer, the new boat intimidated me for a full year. But when I moved from 41' to 46', I didn't miss a heartbeat. The larger boat didn't present any significantly new challenges, and ended up being easier to sail in almost every way, except that it was now a long jump down to a dock. Yikes.

Although my wife and I have a lot of miles under the keel, we've decided that 46' will be our maximum limit. We could probably handle a larger boat at present, but we want to be able to cruise this boat ten years from now when I retire. What I don't want to do, most of all, is get into my late 60s and decide that I need to switch over to the dark side and get a trawler just because we can't handle the canvas anymore.

Is that crazy?
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Old 25-01-2011, 10:07   #15
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Interesting that both fellows advocating the safety of 50'+ boats have cutter rigs. There clearly seems to be a point where a sloop gets to have too much sail area to be handled by a couple.

Our rig is a masthead sloop with a total sail area of 1,000 sq feet, with in-mast furling. In the summer, where we'll see 25 knots on a typical day, we take down the 110% jib and put up an 85%. We generally keep that sail on from June through September. At that point we don't need electric primaries, making do with a single electric winch for the halyards.

While I agree that a larger boat is a safer boat in most conditions, I still think that 1,381 square feet of sail--given a sloop rig--is a lot to handle short-handed. How many people do we all know who bought a boat so big that it scares them to death, and they subsequently never take it out?

It's all relative. When I moved up from a 30' sloop to a 37-footer, the new boat intimidated me for a full year. But when I moved from 41' to 46', I didn't miss a heartbeat. The larger boat didn't present any significantly new challenges, and ended up being easier to sail in almost every way, except that it was now a long jump down to a dock. Yikes.

Although my wife and I have a lot of miles under the keel, we've decided that 46' will be our maximum limit. We could probably handle a larger boat at present, but we want to be able to cruise this boat ten years from now when I retire. What I don't want to do, most of all, is get into my late 60s and decide that I need to switch over to the dark side and get a trawler just because we can't handle the canvas anymore.

Is that crazy?
Don't overestimate a cutter rig in this regard. Our boats aren't really cutters anyway -- they are sloops with staysails and yankee-cut headsails. The yankee jibs on our cutters are overlapping and much the same as your genoa except that they have high-cut clews (which make them easier to trim and easier to tack -- the staysail sweeps the leftover air off the deck). They are about the same area and not really easier to handle than your genoa, and are somewhat harder to tack since you have to pull the clew through the slot between the forestay and the inner forestay.

Big advantage of a cutter rig for safety is that the staysail is a fantastic, built-in, always-ready storm jib. On many cutter-rigged boats, the staysail is self-tacking, too, which is a fantastic workload reducer in heavy weather. I think on most cutter-rigged boats the staysail is made from extra-heavy canvas to make it good as a storm jib.

In heavy weather I reef the main down to the first spreaders, furl away the yankee, roll out the staysail, and set up both running backstays bar-tight. In that configuration I need 30+ knots of wind to drive the boat, but in that configuration no amount of wind, even 50+ knots, will make the boat hard-pressed or even heel much. The whole rig is self-tacking so all I have to do is send everyone below, clip on to my cockpit padeyes, cling to the wheel with white knuckles, and steer.


My boat only intimidates me when docking (!) and I'm sure you would be absolutely fine in a bigger boat, too. I went from 37' to 54' (with lots of bareboat charters in 43 to 45 foot boats) and other than the docking -- which at first, admittedly, was a brown-shorts experience -- it was no big deal.
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