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Old 17-04-2010, 21:52   #1
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How Small Is Too Small for Cruising ?

With cruising out to the Bahamas and Virgins in mind, how small is too small for a safe cruising. I read about people going out in small boats, like 24 ft., but that seems risky to me. What is the minimum size boat I should look at for a family of four going cruising?
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Old 17-04-2010, 22:04   #2
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Mark,

I think the answer is going to be less about the boat, and more about you.

My wife, our ~#80 lab, and I were perfectly content cruising our Pearson Ariel... (25'8") and look forward to heading back out. Others would have been cramped on a boat twice that size.

How do you like spending time on your current boat? Have you spent time on other similar size boats?

Many folks decide they need larger boats and wind up with sailing storage lockers filled with things they neither use nor need... others may not feel secure in a smaller boat.

The smaller boat, well found, well equipped, with a competent skipper will take you where ever you want to go... it is really up to you.

Good luck what ever you do.
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Old 17-04-2010, 22:24   #3
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If you are talking safety, then size is not main issue (although it does have input into the equation - in both directions, small and big).

If you are talking comfort, then bigger is USUALLY better.

There are many threads on CF discussing these issues and the jury remains divided.

24 ft boats have safely circumnavigated - it just depends on the boat and crew as to what is safe and what is not.

I doubt if many 24 ft boats have circumnavigated comfortably but again, this is a matter for the individual to decide as what comfortable means.
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Old 17-04-2010, 22:47   #4
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Small boats can be extremely seaworthy, but not all small boats are created equal.

Some small boats are lightly constructed and clearly not intended for sailing offshore. You can find a twenty-four footer that will do the job, but there is less to chose from. You must make sure the small boat was designed for the intended voyage. This is not the place for blind optimism about the capabilities of a particular small design. Every single component of the small yacht must be up to the task. I think it's easier to find a larger yacht for a voyage than it is to find a smaller one designed for offshore sailing.

For a family of four, the minimum size that I would consider would be 32 feet. I had a Westsail 32, and it carried four people without a problem.
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Old 18-04-2010, 01:19   #5
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Our first family boat was an Endevour 26

I was about 12.
The first easter we sailed off to a bay and stayed there for 5 days.
There was Me, Mum and Dad and my 2 older sisters.
Dad hadn't bought a dinghy yet, and we were not allowed to swim into the beach because newspapers say theres sharks in Sydney Harbor.
We had a tiny awning.
It pissed down with rain twice: first for 3 days then for 2 days. Non stop!
It was freezing cold.
The toilet was under the cushion in the fore cabin with a curtain separating it from the main saloon.
We had a metho stove but mum couldn’t light it, dad had to.
I ate all my Easter eggs on the first day and Jane, my hoarding sister, wouldn't share hers so I had 4 days without chocolate.

I had the best 5 days of my life!!!!!!
I had my own boat! And was Captain! (Dad thought he owned it, but he just paid the bills!)
I fished, I ran up and down the decks a million times, I climbed the mast (only a few feet), I did boy stuff for 5 full days!

Years later we had a family dinner and my sisters and parents were laughing about the disaster of a ruined Easter. "Which Easter was bad?" How could they be talking about my favorite Easter ever?
My eldest sister Deb never went on a family boat again in her life!


Moral of the story: Ummmm ummmmm. I dunno. 12 year old boys will love anything?
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Old 18-04-2010, 05:31   #6
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Mark, we have a Moody 31 which I consider a fairly classic layout with v berths up front, two berths in the saloon and a small double cabin in the stern. Loo on the other side and a chart table. Bavaria, Beneteau and Jeanneau still use this layout today because it works so well on this length of boat.

Our first trip away was to be a quiet weekend with just Viv and I to learn all about our new boat, only it didn't quite work like that. First my mum and dad invited themselves along and drove 300 miles to be with us. then 16 year son decided he wanted to come along too, oh and Viv decided we would also take 38kgs of labradoodle along for the fun. We managed fine for the long weekend.

Other holidays involving with both teenagers tagging along for a fortnight, and the dog, have been fine even when like Mark it pours down with rain.

So what are we saying, well you could survive on 24 feet but you get an awful lot more space with a bit extra length and a little more privacy especially for teenagers. A proper loo cubicle with a door rather than a curtain will also be high on SWMBO wish list and a full cooker with oven well worth having. Finally storage space is always short so sleeping bags and duveys live up the bow during the day along with spare sails because even with 31 feet we don't have room to squash them in anywhere else.

Your run from Florida to the Bahamas is probably the equivalent to our X channel run to the French Coast or Channel Islands. With 31 feet We do a quick check on the weather and if its okay we just go.

If you are not sure what length to buy, then do charter a yacht for a weeks holiday with the family. You will have a great time and learn so much more about how much space you need and remove the risk of buying the wrong size. This is exactly what we did.

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Old 18-04-2010, 06:42   #7
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I read about people going out in small boats, like 24 ft., but that seems risky to me...
Fair question and you’ve already gotten excellent advice; however, I think it is worth stressing that (within limits) the smaller the boat the more important the skill of the crew is as far as ensuring seaworthiness – unlike the stereotype, our chunky little B24 rarely wets the deck below 20-25kts of wind unless she’s mishandled, but… Space-wise, there is no fighting the notion that a bigger boat supplies more… Nonetheless, if you’re the type who has backpacked (or similar) and been “contentedly” stuck in your hooch for a few drizzly days without going stir-crazy or getting claustrophobic, then you may be quite comfortable in a reality-sized vessel, because they trounce tents ten to one… and once you’re out on the deck in the sun, everyone gets the same sized ocean…
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Old 18-04-2010, 07:03   #8
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I took a 26-foot Westerly Centaur over to the Bahamas several times for trips of 2 months or more and felt it was quite capable. I think it would have been quite cramped for a family of 4, even if the kids are small. Storing provisions for 4 would also have been an issue. With more people on a smaller boat, you will have to take on water and provisions more often.

I've did one short cruise of 5 days with 4 people in a Catalina 22. It was very tight and I'd never agree to do that again.

There are many capable small boats. It's mostly a matter of the lifestyle and comfort you are willing to endure to go cruising.
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Old 18-04-2010, 09:29   #9
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Length is less important than interior volume when it comes to comfort. A Bristol Channel Cutter at 28.5 ft. is a much bigger boat than (for example) a Cape Dory 30.
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Old 18-04-2010, 11:26   #10
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For extended cruising boat size is related to safety mostly in terms of carrying capacity. Cruisers carry a lot of stuff. In general, its easier to dangerously overload a 27' boat than a 35' boat. OTOH, most cruising boats wind up being overloaded regardless of size.

In non-safety terms, and as others have said, boat size is mostly about comfort. With 4 people, sleeping accomodations are an issue. Four people can do just fine on a 27 footer for a weekend or maybe a week. But for extended cruising, cat walking around supplies and crawling into tunnel-like quarter berths takes some of the fun out of it.

Also, there is a big difference between sailing from south Florida to the Bahamas and sailing to the Virgins. Just about any good condition cruiser class sailboat can safely cruise the Bahamas. It isn't just that all manner of small craft can do it - it's that all manner of small craft, in fact, do it all the time.

The conventional route to the Virgins is a day sail from Florida to the Bahamas, then island hop southeast to Turks and Caicos, then sail southeast to PR or DR, then east along the PR coast. The trip from Provo, T&C to Luperon, DR took us 23 hours across the Bahamas Channel and into the Mona in a 34' boat. There are many small boats that I would feel comfortable in while island hopping around the Bahamas, but I would not want to spend 24 hours in them in open seas.
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Old 19-04-2010, 07:15   #11
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Thanks everyone for the responses. Based on the information, 32 ft. would be the minimum, so I think I should be looking at 34 or 36 for the new boat.

Good Sailing everyone!!
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Old 20-04-2010, 14:11   #12
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Don't forget the Southern Cross 31

About $ 24,000

If your kids are small it will suffice...

INDY
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Old 20-04-2010, 14:30   #13
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Thanks everyone for the responses. Based on the information, 32 ft. would be the minimum, so I think I should be looking at 34 or 36 for the new boat.

Good Sailing everyone!!
Randoneur, have heard that word sence my ultra cycling days and Paris/Breast/Paris..
Glad you're thinking of a boat in the larger range.. Not knocking a small boat, but the smaller the boat is, the slower it sails and the longer you spend on a passage and are subjected to anything that passes your way, including bad weather..
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Old 20-04-2010, 14:30   #14
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Don't forget the Southern Cross 31

About $ 24,000

If your kids are small it will suffice...

INDY
Or an Allied Seawind II 32, which has more interior volume than alot of 35 footers.
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Old 20-04-2010, 15:23   #15
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Thanks, 31 or 32 with a good interior volume and layout may be as good or better.
I'm looking at different boats for layout, etc. I'll look into both the Allied and the Souther Cross too.

What about cutter vs. sloop?? Does a cutter have the advantage over a sloop??
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