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Old 27-03-2010, 19:10   #1
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Cruising Without a Motor...

Obviously many generations have sailed all over the world without motors. This thread is just for fun to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of cruising without a motor in today's world.


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Old 27-03-2010, 19:26   #2
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Motorless sailing

I have considered motorless cruising from time to time. I daysailed my Balboa 22 with just an electric motor, which was about as useful as a good pair of sweeps or sculling oar.

One time I was exiting the locks at Ballard and my shear pin broke in my prop, and I sailed from there to Tramp Harbor, about 10nm without a motor. It took a long time in the Islander Bahama 24, about 18 hours, not a fast boat in light air.

Another time I was about 2nm from Oak Harbor when my motor died about 1 hour before sunset. I ended up sailing towards the harbor, and not wanting to chance an entrance into a strange harbor in darkness, I anchored overnight.

Not having an oar aboard (just bought the boat) I lashed a bilge board to a boat hook, and rowed the boat ashore. It took about 6 hours to get there, lots of sea chanteys and taking shifts rowing.

Unfortunately I keep my boat in Lake Union, which means I have to go through locks quite often. This pretty much necessitates a motor.

If I didn't keep my boat on the lake I might give it a try. The Pardeys did it, but they had a hard time getting through the Panama Canal.

You can row a 26' boat at about 2 knots pretty easy, you will definitely stay in shape!

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Old 27-03-2010, 20:04   #3
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You'll buy a lot less fuel...saves money.

Energy management is a problem: electricity. But not a big one. Wind and solar work.

Our engine ate her main bearings last year. I wasn't about to let that slow down the party. Kept on moving like nothing happened. The one thing I really can't stand is light wind and a rolly sea. Sails slatting.

If you get rid of the engine you will have a great big storage area...
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Old 28-03-2010, 05:40   #4
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I would. If I had to.

- more space for water, stuff,
- less maintenance,
- cheaper.

- not being able to get into some spots,
- not being able to dodge.

So, I would yet I do not.

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Old 28-03-2010, 09:20   #5
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In Brittany, marinas are so tight and crowded and the tidal stream is often so strong that it isn't possible to do without an engine. But I consider making a sculling oar. It would have to be about 14 feet in length, in 2 parts. Then, I think of making a "yuloh" (Chinese angled sculling oar), because it is more powerful.

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Old 28-03-2010, 09:38   #6
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For a very small boat, maybe. For a big boat, no. For the reasons stated. Also depends on what kind of cruising. Long distance, long term, third world, I absolutely want an engine.

Without a motor there are just some places you cannot go and that rare occasion when you need to get out of the way now and there is no wind. Plus there are plenty of times when a motor makes the difference between anchored in the harbor or sailing back and forth offshore all night.

Yes you would have more room, but you would also have more room, lower costs and less maintenance in your house without indoor bathrooms, heat and AC system and all those appliances in the kitchen.
The water is always bluer on the other side of the ocean.
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Old 28-03-2010, 17:08   #7
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Be prepared to frequently buy another boat

In the 70's , I met three sailors who were doing circumnavigations in craft without engines (a converted life boat, a tri & a small mono). Between them, by the time they reached Australia) they had used up five boats. Four by being swept onto coral reefs in the Pacific including the Great Barrier Reef and the life boat guy was wrecked at the bottom of the cliffs that stretch for hundreds of miles on the west coast of Australia after sailing from Sri Lanka. This guy took 2 days to climb to the top of the cliff and found himself in desert country, hundreds of miles from the nearest habitation. He nearly starved to death before meeting a prospecting team.

Certainly being engineless adds to the adventure. However I would rather take my adventure in smaller more digestible bites. Makes for good stories, however.
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Old 28-03-2010, 18:13   #8
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Allen Farrell cruised the waters of BC for an lot of years. He built his own sailboats and sialed them in waters that are fraught with currents and shoals. No engines, no electronics just him and his wife and the knowledge to support his lifestyle. He built quite a variety of boats and at one point sailed one to Fiji but always returned to BC. Get there when you get there. Timing being the jurisdiction of the sea and sky rather then the sailor. I'll keep my engine but hope to always remember Farrell and Slocum and those of a foregone time that knew a different way when deciding if I need to run it. From Tree to Sea: Boat Builders of the Sunshine Coast
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Old 28-03-2010, 19:11   #9
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I did the last two weeks of a Bahamas cruise motorless after my inboard bit the dust and I had no dinghy motor.

On a 26-foot pocket cruiser, it was easier than I thought.

However, even on a boat that small, getting the anchor up in 20 or more knots of wind was very challenging. I even bent the flukes on my danforth one day. I found sculling or rowing was not practical in that boat with any current or wind.

Obviously, I couldn't get anywhere in calms, and saw some limitations in where I could go, but even without an engine in the Abacos, I got into the Hog Cays, Allan's-Penssacola, and the St. Lucie Inlet (Florida). One big problem I had was energy. My solar cells kept up with lights, etc with no problem, but I could only run the autopilot in sunny conditions. This is of course, all a matter of amp production.

I re-powered that boat with 9.8 outboard which took me back to the Bahamas several times and for not much money opened up many opportunities compared to going engineless.

I have read many accounts of larger boats going engineless, but they are often sailing with the trade winds and spending their time in big, easy to access harbors.

I agree, it all depends on your goals, attitude, cruising area and other such factors.
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Old 28-03-2010, 19:14   #10
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I would only go without a motor on a small yacht under thirty feet. The lack of a motor would greatly restrict where I went. For example, I don't think I would do the Tuamotos in French Polynesia without an engine. Atolls with many coral heads are bad places to be without an engine. If you have infinite patience, good seamanship, and lots of luck, you can make it without an engine.

I enjoyed having two engines on Exit Only. There is no excuse for getting in trouble with two engines.

If I was singlehanding, I might consider sailing without an engine on a small yacht. If I made a mistake, I wouldn't be putting other crew members at risk.
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Old 28-03-2010, 19:17   #11
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You are right. Many generations have sailed the world without motors. But if they could have had them, I'm betting they would have. Nonetheless, the idea of doing without is..... noble? I dunno.

People used to go to the dentist before there was novacain too.

There is that saying about women that comes to mind here.
"Women. Can't live with them, can't kill them." oh, sorry. "can't live without them".

We'd all like to dump them but like an anchor, they are viewed as safety equipment these days.

I know you started this thread "just for fun". Being a So Cal boy myself, I say go discover what the local islands have to offer "just for fun". You'll be glad for what you learn and enjoy doing it.

Having said that, I often think it would be nice to have an outboard instead of the throbbing diesel.
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Old 28-03-2010, 19:19   #12
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One of those other factors being whether the boat and equipment were designed for it or not. Motors have been part of boating for an infitisimal part of its history.
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Old 28-03-2010, 23:37   #13
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I've been pondering engines lately. A second hand diesel engine from a newish car is cheap, powerful and economical. They area also much more compact than marine diesels.
I'd even consider petrol on my cat as fuel and engine bays drain to sea, not into the hull.
Sailing does have limitations, motoring opens up so many locations and situations and provides an alternate power source for movement and electricity. Certainly a petrol driven genny providing mains power for domestic appliances makes things 'wife' friendly.
Modern submerged electric motors can be run from portables gennies quite easily and at much lower cost than installing prop tubes and inboard engines. It's an option for knackered engines or smaller boats.
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Old 30-03-2010, 13:03   #14
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I just got a 3 horsepower electric motor for $100, and I can go nearly 3 knots! At 1 knot it doesnt even drain the battery since the solar panels make enough power for this speed.

If your entire deck were covered with solar panels, and everything were high efficiency, it should be possible to maintain hull speed with sunshine.

I think it would be cool to have flaps on the sides of the boat with springs to take advantage of swell power.

In any case, its probably better to just use sail power only. It forces me to be more in tune with the tides.
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Old 27-04-2010, 06:49   #15
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I say if sailing engineless is a passion then go for it. There have been plenty of examples of cruisers sailing safely around the word so of course it is possible. There are lots of things that each of us do that others think are a crazy waste of time. But when immersed in our own passions there is no wasted time.

For me that is what sailing engineless is about. I just love to sail. I love it better in perfect wind, and who likes rowing, but I am always getting new experiences and chances to learn.

I really enjoyed Ari's views on engineless sailing on his blog. A pretty good read for anyone thinking of sailing without an engine

The Adventures of Sailing Vessel Macha: Wooden Boat Forum: Sailing with No Engine?


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no motor

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