I hope we can keep it cool as I think this is an important thread, especially for some of the newer sailors that come to this forum with ideas about what boat they should buy, or god forbid – build.
I want to see if we can perform a little Wikipedia style Disambiguation
for the concept
of “Bluewater Capable”.
It seems that really there are several concepts being bundled together under this one term and I see these two concepts intermingled: Craftmanship and Ruggedness. If we break this down it might explain why there are such vastly different opinions.
Craftmanship: How well a boat is built. There is a huge difference in craftsmanship between an Oyster
and a Bavaria
Ruggedness: How strong a boat is built. At one end of the scale would be an Island Packet
, the other a Macgregor
While both the extremes of ruggedness and craftsmanship definitely play a role in a vessels capability most boats that any rationale person would consider bluewater capable fall somewhere in the middle region of these categories and therefore the categories themselves are not indicators of bluewater capability - Even though many people in this thread and others are using them as such defining aspects of a “Bluewater Capable” boat!
Take the Volvo
boats – they are designed for purpose and one could actually argue still that they are not bluewater capable if you take the ruggedness aspect too far. They are designed for 1 RTW at race
pace – only. They are weight optimized for that as any extra build specs would be unnecessary weight for their purpose. If I told you a production boat could only make it around once and then would be unsuitable as a cruising vessel would you call it bluewater capable? I doubt it, but would anyone argue that the Volvos are not Bluewater capable even though they are designed only just so?
The same holds true for the concept
of the older heavier boats built prior to Naval Architect’s and Engineer’s full understanding of the capabilities of fiberglass
hulls. But think, if you only need 1” of bulletproof glass to stop a bullet - is a 2” thick window better? No, it is just thicker. It may make you feel safer but the other window is designed and engineered for the job – it is fit for purpose.
Do the modern production boats fall apart more quickly? In many cases - Yes. Does that mean they are not fit for purpose, No. Would I rather hit a log or container in a full keel
boat or a Fin keel
w/ Skeg – obviously a full keel - I have hit a sumberged metal 50gal drum in a 50' cat at 8kts and ghosted into a log larger than the boat in a wooden full keel boat doing 2kts. Neither experience was enjoyable - but boath boats and crews survived unscathed.
Like in the other threads where there is a school
that wants to make purchase
or design decision solely on the worst case scenarios – you cant make a boat decision only for this scenario – there are many more situations that are life threatening that one can encounter besides this. You are far more likely to hurt yourself, by a thousand or a million fold, falling off your boat in the marina and smashing your head
on the dock
than you are going to be injured or killed by lightening, storm, or submerged object.
There are many aspects of ruggedness and craftsmanship that are confused with bluewater capability. There are also many aspects of historic design limitations based on incomplete knowledge of material strengths and incomplete knowledge of hydro-dynamics that are confused with being superior design – there is and always will be a bit of the traditionalist and luddite in the sailing community. I suffer from it myself – I refused to buy a modern aluminium boat because the ones built by the French 30 years ago are thicker and stronger, even if needlessly so. But I also did it cause it was cheaper. Do I walk up to an Ovni
owner and tell him his boat is not fit for purpose? No. Ok maybe a little, I am a boat owner after all we cant help it. Doesn’t mean I am right.
The bottom line is that most hulls produced nowadays for the purpose of coastal cruising are also fit for purpose as bluewater vessels. Do some take more modifications in rigging
and systems to be suitable – yes. Older vessels were designed the way they were due to design and material knowledge of the day – not because the industry has lost
the magic of their elders or because there is some conspiracy.
The last thing that I will keep banging the drum about is the the fact that the skipper and crew play the single
largest role for bluewater capability. When saying this obviously I am not endorsing boats that arent fit for purpose. Yes a good crew and skipper can sail a bathtub across the pacific - but that is an extreme example and not relevant to the discussion at hand. When we say that capability is more a definition of skipper and crew we are talking about the middle road in terms of boats and design. A bullet proof idealized bluewater capable boat with a foolish skipper and crew will likely survive a storm but the soft fleshy bits inside will not - the boat is still obviously bluewater capable.
Last thing and then I will stop typing - no novice
sailor in combination with any boat of any design would be considered bluewater capable, even if they are succesful at crossing an ocean. It is the combination of the boat and organics that create the concept of Bluewater Capable - and most boats meet thier end of the equation.