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Old 12-06-2008, 20:54   #1
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So, does size really matter??

I am very much in the research stage of learning about cruising. We have a little 15' boat that we sail around on local lakes and we love it. Until recently we thought that living on board a sailboat and the cruising lifestyle just wasn't feasible. But the more I look into it, the more I think it is WAY doable and that it would suit us right down to the ground...water...whatever.

Anywho, my first instinct was to buy as much boat as we could afford. I was looking at our 'ultimate' boat being something between 46-50 feet (we plan to buy an intermediate boat next spring in the 27 ft neighborhood). But I keep running across posts where people are saying that it is a mistake to eat up cash with a big boat and how much more expensive bigger boats are to operate.

We have awhile before this is going to be an issue, but I like to plan WAY ahead. We are going to want something that works for a couple, but is big enough to sleep, say, six comfortably (for when the kids want to come with and bring friends). I also have a fantasy percolating in the back of my head of crossing the Atlantic some day. So, we would want something capable of that kind of passage. Even if we end up deciding that would be too much for us, it would be nice having something you knew COULD do it...if we wanted to.

I have been reading about a couple who made a transatlantic crossing in a 46' Morgan, but I am also reading people saying anything over 40' is a PITA. I am sure that our skill and experience level will ultimately dictate our decision, but would like to get some opinions in the meantime. For you guys, how big is big enough?

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Old 12-06-2008, 22:04   #2
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Cracking the 40' Barrier...

The dividing line between big and small monohulls seems to be the 40' mark.

Below 40' things like sail handling and anchor can be managed by hand so a bigger boat needs more equipment and it is more expensive.

A boat over 40' goes better with an engine over 50hp which is the next grade up.

The amount of paint, repairs etc goes up exponentially from there.

I brought Boracay as a project boat and 44' is big.

The advice that I received was that the boat should be set up for two people.

I would suggest that as it sounds like there are only two of you then a boat for two would suit. It would be cheaper and easier to either squeeze the kids in, put them into a hotel or tell them to charter their own.

Unless money is no object. Then I'd buy one of those nice 37' cats.

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Old 12-06-2008, 22:12   #3
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There are so many acceptable configurations that every thing is a compromise, ie, water line length = speed, but can be compromised by hull form, a deep keel = windward ability but restricts access into shallower areas, Fractional rig = adjustability / tuning for speed, but unless you are of a fast / racer mindset a mast head rig is easier. In my experience you must look to what you want out of a yacht and where you plan to cruise, no one boat will do everything well but there are many that do most things around 80%. For me 35 to 40 feet with a water line of 30 to 33 feet + - a little is acceptable, ability to be sailed sigle handed is a must, decent size water tanks (not reliant on water maker) fuel capacity for 500 miles + -, shallow to medium draft.
etc etc. but that is me, work on what will work for you. Dont be put off by the overinflated safety industry, plan on being self sufficient. You don't need the Coast Guard riding shotgun over your shoulder if you plan to be prudent and responsible.
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Old 12-06-2008, 23:16   #4
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There is no "right" answer. There is a trade-off between room, sea-kindliness, short-handed sailability, cost, etc.

For me, the answer was 40': Big enough to live on comfortably, small enough to handle reasonably well with 2 people, off-shore capable, not too expensive for upkeep etc. Your answer may well be different; bigger or smaller.
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Old 12-06-2008, 23:24   #5
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My own (near worthless) opinion is that anyone who is coming from a house or an apartment is going to think every boat is small. You're in the stage of trying to graft your shore lifestyle onto a sailboat, and only a 45-50 footer gives you the bedroom-livingroom-kitchen sort of floorspace setup you might be used to. Instead, I think one needs to become acclimated to a different lifestyle (I'm working on that myself).

Maybe you could use a nice coastal cruiser first (I'd say a 30ish foot Catalina or Hunter is nice), since they seem to be roomier (and cheaper by tons) than a good bluewater cruiser. This'll get you used to the living space you'd likely have on a bigger Hans Christian or whatever you decide to cross the oceans in.

Of course, I didn't follow my own advice (I'm irrational when it comes to pretty boats), so take it for what it's worth.
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Old 13-06-2008, 00:29   #6
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Was just talking about this with a boat builder/designer building his own next boat a few weeks ago.

Generally as others have said but adding -

Once you get above 10 or so tons if you get it wrong getting into a berth, etc it starts getting very hard to avoid dings due to the difficulty of fending off against the boat's momentum.

Also, from around 40 foot up it starts becoming impossible for one person to hold the boat against much of a wind (15-20 knots for a typical 40 foot boat) so starts becoming more of a case of being able to get your mooring lines on quick if only one or two on board or else relying on having crew.

Neither of those are a problem if one is experienced and competent. A while back was talking to a builder of superyachts contemplating as a very experienced sailor his own next boat - accomodation had to be as roomy as his big penthouse he said, so goes to show that size is manageable and not necessarily a put off .
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Old 13-06-2008, 04:25   #7
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Try this site: After 14 years of cruising, one of their "regrets" was not having a larger boat. Remeber that 95% of the time you are at anchor/mooring/marina.
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Old 13-06-2008, 04:52   #8
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It's not really so much about length as it is about weight. Once the boat weighs more then 24,000 pounds you really cannot man handle her.

To go from a 15 footer to a 50 footer is a jump, not to be mean spirited but you really have no idea how to handle something like this. Spending some time on a boat that can be manhandled (lighter then 24k) would be time well spent. IMO

Good luck,

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Old 13-06-2008, 05:20   #9
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Thanks for the responses, especially the link to longpassages. That is an interesting website with a lot of been-there-done-that info about cruising. I think AnotherT34C is dead on. I am still at the point where I am trying to mentally cram my 'three bedroom-two car-big yard-kids still living with us' life onto a sailboat. I am not quite there yet. We are going to have at least four years before we plan to buy the 'big' boat and it is more likely to be six. That gives us plenty of time to bang around in a smaller boat getting used to the lifestyle. After that, probably anything bigger is going to seem, well, BIGGER.

I also like the reminder that we are going to be moored/anchored/at a marina 95% of the time. We need to plan and think about the reality of how we will live, where we will sail most of the time, etc.
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Old 13-06-2008, 07:29   #10
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Originally Posted by isbolick View Post
my first instinct was to buy as much boat as we could afford.... But I keep running across posts where people are saying that it is a mistake to eat up cash with a big boat and how much more expensive bigger boats are to operate... how big is big enough?
I’m sure that is most folks’ instinct – it surely was mine… So, arguably size makes a difference; whether it matters is quite another issue…

I doubt there is ever going to be anything approaching universal consensus on this… a quarter century ago, the average blue-water cruiser seemed to be in the mid-30-foot range… I’d guess that the norm is now somewhere in the low-forty-foot range – at least for newer purchases… whether “average” is ideal or just, well, average… is, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder… I’m still not so sure the mid-30-foot range isn’t the sweet spot all factors (sailing, docking, livability, maintenance, etc., etc., etc…) considered.

It goes without saying (but it should be said anyway) that the maintenance and effort required to keep up a Flicka sized craft sailing will be decidedly modest compared to a 40-50 footer; but the larger boat will (presumably) offer the benefits of more sea-kindly comfort, far greater carrying-capacity, mother-in-law suites (cabins), speed and additional room for the proverbial partridge in a pear tree… and on the upper end of contemporary commodiousness, the pure deck acreage of, say, the 60-foot or so condo-cats allow one to carry all sort of folks we’d really not associate with, and actually not have to associate with them much… but, having said that and responding to the “my boats spends most of its time at anchor/dock” school of thought – how many folks buy cars for the activity they indulge in most; i.e., being garaged/parked…?

Perhaps s semi-useful non-sailing rule of thumb; the newer the boat, the larger it might be (new, in this case equating to fresh systems not needing refurbishing or heavy maintenance for the foreseeable future), but the older the boat the more modest the size should be to keep the inevitable maintenance issues recreational, and not drudgery… in the end, however, size equates almost directly to expense – size/cost comparisons being more or less displacement based, for equivalently equipped and technologically similar vessels… in my world, I started modest, ballooned to near 50 foot over twenty something years, and I’ve now gone the other direction as social security approaches… nearly all sizes of vessels will work in certain circumstances… but size no-longer titillates me like it once did – I once read that for voyaging 3000-5000 pounds of displacement per person is the minimum required, which means I’m at the bare minimum and well below what most modern voyagers would be comfortable with…
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Old 13-06-2008, 08:18   #11
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Size mattered to us.

It turned out that size mattered to us when we did exactly what you are considering; except we had daughters aged 6 & 7 on board as well, for seven years. She was a 40 foot Endurance in ferro, weighing 20 tons and drawing 6’6” due to her big ship equipment, (150 foot of 1/2” chain on both bow anchors, 75 hp engine, etc. etc) and both girls had their own cabins. She was slow as old Nelly in 15 knots, but when it blew 25 and 30 we were frequently grateful we had bought the biggest we could afford. Most people get palpitations when they have to pilot into a crowded, unknown marina. I relished it, because we were always ready and prepared, and I could turn her on a sixpence anyway with her 24” x 16 prop, bow thruster and excess power.
The point about being stationary most of the time is valid, because a cruising boat is actually just a means of getting from one place to another. So when you arrive, accommodation takes over, which for us was a high consideration.
Why not charter different boats, of different sizes, you have time? You could try a 35’ bareboat and work up to a skippered or bareboat 55 footer. You will soon learn the difference, and how it affects you and your crew.
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Old 13-06-2008, 08:45   #12
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Of course size matters. But nobody can tell you what size boat is right for you. It depends on your budget, lifestyle and resourcefulness. No matter what size you get you'll often wished it were bigger and occasionally wish it were smaller. I cruised for years in a 36 then got a 39. This seems to suit me fine but I envy the storage of a 42. Nevertheless we make do. Everyone does including those cruising in under 30 foot boats.
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Old 13-06-2008, 10:50   #13
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Rick, I understand your point. But part of planning is establishing what kind of budget we will need, figuring out how we will need to alter our lifestyle and deciding how resourceful we are willing and able to be. If 48' is ideal, I need to do a WHOLE different set of plans than I will need to do for 36'. I might need to be more resourceful because I might have to buy older and do more refitting/fixing, that sort of thing. I guess I am just trying to feel out what sorts of experiences people are having on various sized boats. I am checking out multi and monohulls. The plan (which I am sure will alter a hundred times before it is all said and done) is to spend some time chartering once we are more secure with our sailing chops. That should help give us an idea of what we like.

Jolly Roger, what a wonderful experience for your girls. We are waiting for our kids to graduate before we set off. My son will graduate next year, but our daughter won't be out of school for another six years. Besides, financially it makes more sense for us to wait awhile.

Larry, I think you are right on with the car analogy. I was thinking about it this morning after I wrote that reply and realized that right now all we know is that we love sailing. We have no frame of reference for the big boat or the exotic location. It is the wind and the water and the feeling of being...self reliant?...that we like. So, something that is fun to sail is going to be important.
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Old 13-06-2008, 10:54   #14
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Small & large


I would suggest you think about HOW you plan to sail. Are you going to spend that 95% of time in an anchorage or marina? Or are you going to be a voyager, and make a LOT of passages?

A smaller boat provides more options in marinas and anchorages.

We like to spend a lot of time exploring where we are, so small has worked for us. Like it says on our WEB page:

Our boat is our bedroom, the world has become our living room.

Greg & Jill
On a Nor'Sea 27 since 1996... and still VERY happy.
Our boat is our bedroom, the world has become our living room.

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Old 13-06-2008, 11:09   #15
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I am thinking we are not going to sit around too much. We like exploring and we like to sail. This might be sacrilege on this part of the board, but we are also checking out multihulls. I like the idea of the space and the stability. I wonder if the sailing is going to be compromised on a cat? One of the things we love about our little boat is that you can really FEEL the wind. I ride dressage and it reminds me a lot of riding. Feeling the changes that need to be made and feeling like the horse (boat) is an extension of your body. I have read that cats have a different feel from a monohull and that you can't feel the wind as well. But, then again, I imagine the feel of a 48' monohull is going to be a helluva sight different from our little lake boat.

It is all just a lot to ponder.

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