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Old 10-03-2007, 06:22   #1
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When Smaller is Better

Quite frequently we toss around the arguments for small boats vs large boats. It's an endless discussion, for sure. It's a question that can only be resolved at a personal level.

I'd like to add another dimension, so to speak, to the arguments for "smaller is better."

Last summer one of my projects was to fix my ST6000 autohelm. I had narrowed the problem down to the brushes in the linear drive unit, but I couldn't go any further until I figured out how to get my 6'2", 200 lb frame down into the engine compartment to disconnect the drive from the steering quadrant. I'm fortunate to have good access through the cockpit, but I just couldn't get my body into the space. Imagine the frustration of being able to look squarely at the task, yet feeling helpless in the face of the spatial challenge.

Enter Marion. We met 27 years ago as radar techs in the Air Force. We have a long history of troubleshooting and repairing problems together. Marion, however, has the distinct advantage of a 5'2" body that can easily fit into the space above the transmission.

I put the project on hold until I could coax Marion up from Connecticut for a weekend of "sailing." Little did she know what I had in mind.

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As it always goes, nothing is easy. Marion "rolled up her sleeves" and easily slid down into the engine compartment. My role was reduced to passing tools from above. The first tug on the cotter pin holding the arm of the drive to the quadrant left Marion holding the rusted remains of the end of the pin, with the other half stuck firmly in the shaft.

What should have been a project that took less than 30 minutes ended up taking 4 hours. Marion diligently worked away in the constrained space surrounding the rudder shaft. I passed tools and encouragement until the drive was finally removed, brushes freed and cleaned, problem fixed.

The moral of the story - size matters . "Smaller" has distinct advantages.

BTW, we never did get to go sailing that weekend. Constrained by time, Marion had to leave to drive back to Connecticut as soon as we were finished testing out the autohelm repair with a "drive" around the bay. I owe her.
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Old 10-03-2007, 08:10   #2
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Not often to I get to correct people,so here goes.Kevin,you actually owe Marion BIG TIME.Mudnut.
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Old 10-03-2007, 08:12   #3
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PS,Marion didn't have any sleaves in the pics Kevin.Mudnut.
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Old 10-03-2007, 09:18   #4
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Kevin :

As you say, there are arguments for "bigger is better", however, in the last few years I've come around to the thought that 42-44ft is about right.

I've come to this conclusion as a result of the restraints that travelling the east coast ICW places on mast height & keel depth, in addition to the greater ease that a smaller boat can be handled single handed.

If cost were not a factor, these three things would still be governing our decision when we decide to get our next (last) boat...which looks like it will be a Beneteau 423.

Mind you, parking a B423 among the zillion $$ yachts in Ft Lauderdale may give someone cause to think about a bigger boat, but I'd say that passing across the Little Harbor sandbar at high tide with a 5ft keel to drop anchor in front of Pete's Pub makes the B423 an ideal boat.

So I guess I'll just avoid going to hob-knob with the folks at the polo match so that my ego can remain intact.

Cheers, Paul.
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Old 10-03-2007, 13:13   #5
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To support the smaller is better argument:

I just spent $300 on new line for my main sheet. Standard stuff, but 5/8". Ouch.

Was wishing for a smaller boat at that moment.
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Old 10-03-2007, 15:12   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mudnut
Not often to I get to correct people,so here goes.Kevin,you actually owe Marion BIG TIME.Mudnut.
Without a doubt. I owe her BIG TIME! After 27 years of friendship, we've scratched each other's backs often.

Now, let's see, what's next on the list of projects in confined spaces . . .?
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Old 10-03-2007, 15:39   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by expatbysea
To support the smaller is better argument:

I just spent $300 on new line for my main sheet. Standard stuff, but 5/8". Ouch.

Was wishing for a smaller boat at that moment.
$300 for a new mainsheet? That's gotta hurt, although I do remember a steep price tag for the mainsheet on a much smaller boat, my 20' Nacra 6.0na. With an 8:1 purchase, it uses a lotta line. The controls for the main alone on that boat look like a West Marine hardware display. 16:1 downhaul. 8:1 main with Harken carbo blocks. Harken traveler on the rear beam. Harken traveler on the clew. Mast rotator. And that's not to mention the jib . . . or the asymetric. Lines, lines everywhere.

The boat weighs 425 pounds. Hmmm. I wonder what it all adds up to on a per pound basis?
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Old 10-03-2007, 15:50   #8
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Sometimes it's not even size that matters. There are / have been times when I can see the thing I want to work on... I might be even able to touch it... but I can't get a tool on it.. or with the right leverage or angle of attack.. that is unless I dismantle a whole bunch of stuff to get at the part I am trying to work on.

More often than not because there are so many systems running through small spaces you come up against this problem... which can be as frustrating as not being able to see the slot in a screw!

But it IS rather poor design when you can't physically get to service and critical system. When you put you systems together... you should keep this in mind.

Our autopilot is relatively inaccessible for working on under normal conditions with the cockpit lazerettes filled up with gear. To get down at it for serious service you need to empty the lazarettes... and underway this would be somewhat of a bummer.. but doable as I have done in the middle of the ocean when one nut came off and the ram disconnected from the link arm. Of course it was night, I was alone and was heeled over on a beamer.

I got the boat going down wind without the main, to flatten it out and then empied the locker and saw the unattached ram and had to locate the missing nut and reassemble it. A bod dodgey with the link arm moving about. But once I got the bolt through, tightening the nut was relatively easy (more locktite this time)... then back all the gear went and on to Bermuda. It was not the easiest repair at sea at night, but it was doable... I sure wasn't going to sail without an autopilot singlehanded for the distance involved.

Small spaces big problems.

Jef
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Old 13-03-2007, 11:29   #9
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Old 13-03-2007, 15:15   #10
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Hi Kevin,

Looks like Marion is built perfectly for handling close quarter problems, PLUS she is a good technition. Women like that don't come into one's life often.

I also have a small boat and I'm 6'2" tall. Fortunately, the headroom in my vessel is 76 inches. I can squeeze into my engine compartment since I'm only carrying 180 pounds to my lanky height. None the less, I'm always trying to move my legs into those tight places. I'm great at getting into those places but have a hard time coming out of them!

I used to sail a lot on Lake Champlain back in the late 80's to early 90's when I lived in the small town of Whiting, Vermont. Kept my Ranger 33 (TANTRUM) on Otter Creek near Vergennes and Basin Harbor. I lived on the lake one summer on the Ranger. It is a beautiful place to sail and worth it to any cruiser looking for great places to go in the summer since it is navigable from the south and the north.

If Marion ever moves to Maine, I'll call her for some help!

HERON
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Old 13-03-2007, 18:56   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Heron
Hi Kevin,

Looks like Marion is built perfectly for handling close quarter problems, PLUS she is a good technition. Women like that don't come into one's life often.
No, they don't.
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Originally Posted by Heron
I used to sail a lot on Lake Champlain back in the late 80's to early 90's when I lived in the small town of Whiting, Vermont. Kept my Ranger 33 (TANTRUM) on Otter Creek near Vergennes and Basin Harbor. I lived on the lake one summer on the Ranger. It is a beautiful place to sail and worth it to any cruiser looking for great places to go in the summer since it is navigable from the south and the north.
That section of the lake is my favorite, with the Split Rock to Barn Rock shoreline now entirely preserved under NY DEC. I have a lot of friends who keep their boats in Kingsland Bay and I often sail down for a weekend getaway. It's all great cruising on New England's "west coast."
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If Marion ever moves to Maine, I'll call her for some help!
Well, as a matter of fact, she's moving to Vermont, having recently purchased 45 acres of land in mid-state (Tunbridge).
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Old 13-03-2007, 19:23   #12
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Tunbridge is on the other side of the State but Vermont is a small.

My wife and I got married in Kingsland Bay standing on the foredeck of our Ranger. We used the State Park there for the reception. We had a great time and have dropped our hook often in Kingsland Bay, Converse Bay, Barn Rock. Until you have seen this magnificent lake, you really can't appreciate it. It feels like a fiord with the Adirondack mountains to the west and the Green Mountains to the east.

Someday, when we can live and cruise full time, we will spend another summer up there.

Thanks for bringing out some great memories and I hope ice goes out early! Enjoy that great Pacific Seacraft 34. It looks more like the successor to my Westsail 32.

HERON
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Old 14-03-2007, 13:48   #13
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Tunbridge is on the other side of the State but Vermont is a small.
Having grown up on the Connecticut River (Vermont's east side), and now living on Lake Champlain (Vermont's west side), everything in between is "mid-state."

Quote:
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My wife and I got married in Kingsland Bay standing on the foredeck of our Ranger. We used the State Park there for the reception.
I know three couples who have wed there. Great spot. At one wedding, we rowed the bride in to the ceremony in a six-oared Cornish pilot gig. It was quite a sight with her in that dress at the bow and six rather salty looking dudes pulling 14 ft long oars on that classic wooden boat.
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Until you have seen this magnificent lake, you really can't appreciate it. It feels like a fiord with the Adirondack mountains to the west and the Green Mountains to the east.
I can't agree more. So often, I find myself looking around in amazement, exclaiming, "Wow, I live here!"
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Old 15-03-2007, 12:28   #14
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In these dicusions I rarely see if someone does have the money to buy a big boat but buys a small boat.

You can go cruising in a small boat, It is just easier to go in protect areas that for days crossing oceans.

But ------ you can go.

If I had to buy a 40+ foot boat I would not go.

Go small or not at all.
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Old 15-03-2007, 12:51   #15
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In these dicusions I rarely see if someone does have the money to buy a big boat but buys a small boat.
Good point. One has to wonder if the natural tendancy is to buy as big as one can afford, and whether or not those of us with smaller boats are singing their praises as a form of rationalization.

I'd like to think not. Every time I pull in or out of a crowded dock, slip into a quiet anchorage with my 4'1" draft, hoist the main, trim the sheets, haul the anchor, or pull out my wallet, I take notice of how much easier my life is with a 34' boat.

Everything is relative, though. "Back in the day," I used to cruise on a 19' catboat and even used to sleep on the tramp aboard my 20' beachcat, so 34' today seems positively palatial.
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