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Old 13-04-2015, 15:09   #1
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Is a 32' Sailboat Over-sized for a Beginner?

Hey all,

I am looking into buying my first sailboat, and I plan to learn how to sail on it as well as live aboard it. I'll be sailing mostly in the Chesapeake Bay, on the East Coast of the US.

Now, I started looking first at the 22'-27' range, and found a great Catalina C-27 that I have already boarded and gotten a good look at. However, this also opened my eyes to some of the live-aboard issues such as headroom and lack of appliances (mini-fridge, stove, etc.). That said, I know I can manage living on a 27', but I am wondering if it would be better to go a few feet more for the extra living space.

I have been looking into a Hunter 31' and a Morgan 32', both of which have great kitchen space and a comfortable living area. Of course, I can imagine those 4'-5' more in length can make it a much more difficult sail for a beginner.

I definitely want to be able to sail and operate my boat solo, so what would your advice be? Should I tough it out on a 27' while I learn the craft for a year or so, or should I go ahead and try out something bigger?

Thanks for the help, guys.
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Old 13-04-2015, 15:13   #2
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Re: Is a 32' Sailboat Over-sized for a Beginner?

There is no reason why a 32' sailboat could not be single-handed. However, if you are a relatively inexperienced sailor, the learning curve will be quite steep to start off. Good luck, whatever your decision.
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Old 13-04-2015, 16:43   #3
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Re: Is a 32' Sailboat Over-sized for a Beginner?

I'd say a Laser is a better size for a beginner, but it seems like you've already got your heart set on what you want!
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Old 13-04-2015, 17:01   #4
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Re: Is a 32' Sailboat Over-sized for a Beginner?

It sort of depends on if you want to learn to sail, or want to learn to live on a boat. Those are two different things.

If you want to learn to sail, I'd go smaller, not spend all your money on it, and not fill it with all of your worldly goods.

If you're going to live on it, you'll find that you'll want to put all your stuff on it, and this will affect your desire and ability to really sail it.

Which leads us to your first lesson of boating: All boats are compromises.
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Old 13-04-2015, 17:08   #5
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Re: Is a 32' Sailboat Over-sized for a Beginner?

Read a couple of "how to sail" books. Just take it slow and easy. The first challenges will be using the auxiliary engine around the docks. Start in calm winds/currents, and don't go faster than you're willing to hit the dock. After that, avoid luffing, pay attention, and plan your jibes well.
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Old 13-04-2015, 17:10   #6
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Re: Is a 32' Sailboat Over-sized for a Beginner?

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Originally Posted by letsgetsailing3 View Post
It sort of depends on if you want to learn to sail, or want to learn to live on a boat. Those are two different things.

If you want to learn to sail, I'd go smaller, not spend all your money on it, and not fill it with all of your worldly goods.

If you're going to live on it, you'll find that you'll want to put all your stuff on it, and this will affect your desire and ability to really sail it.

Which leads us to your first lesson of boating: All boats are compromises.
I do not understand this oft repeated maxim. We sail as often with our live aboard as we did with our pocket cruiser. We only go a month without sailing if there is a project that makes sailing impractical or unsafe (ie, rebuilding exhaust manifold, taking off the lifelines to rebed the stanchions...). Heck, we thought rebuilding the anchor locker would keep us at dock, but we figured out how to seal it up and head out. And if we are stuck at dock, we put the pocket cruiser in, because we haven't sold it yet.
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Old 13-04-2015, 17:32   #7
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Re: Is a 32' Sailboat Over-sized for a Beginner?

30-32 is a great size. readily singlehanded to.
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Old 13-04-2015, 17:38   #8
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Re: Is a 32' Sailboat Over-sized for a Beginner?

I learned to sail on a 36' boat and after few months was singlehanding no problem.
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Old 13-04-2015, 18:10   #9
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Re: Is a 32' Sailboat Over-sized for a Beginner?

My first boat was a Morgan 32. Simple,stable and very easy to single hand. The one thing about them is that the prop shaft is slightly off center. This is to allow you to pull the shaft without dropping the rudder. It also means that in reverse the prop walk is ferocious. The trick is to walk the boat out of the slip as far as you can before hitting reverse.

Otherwise it was a joy to sail. When I bought it the broker said that the Catalina 27 was a great boat for weekend racing but there wasn't enough storage space for cruising. So the finalists for me were the M32 or a Pearson 303. I chose the Morgan because it was a little stiffer and in better shape than the Pearsons that were available.

Either way you will find boats the that size easy to single hand. You will need an autopilot to handle the helm for tacking/gybing or in my case while going forward to reef or change headsails.

Good luck and have fun.

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Old 13-04-2015, 18:41   #10
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Re: Is a 32' Sailboat Over-sized for a Beginner?

Either take some classes or find someone to sail with you till you get some experience. 32' feet is doable with a little coaching.


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Old 13-04-2015, 18:51   #11
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Re: Is a 32' Sailboat Over-sized for a Beginner?

My first boat was a 44' yawl.
Steep learning curve and I bought too big, but it sure sailed nice.
I recommend a 30' Catalina for a beginnera and experienced sailors.
In fact I may look for one myself next time around.
Decent quality, good support, about the right size for coastal cruising for a single guy or a couple..
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Old 13-04-2015, 19:52   #12
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Re: Is a 32' Sailboat Over-sized for a Beginner?

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I do not understand this oft repeated maxim. We sail as often with our live aboard as we did with our pocket cruiser.

Your mileage may vary. Don't know why this would be hard to understand.

Part of what you do with a home is put your stuff in it, and most people have to spend some time stashing their stuff in order to go sailing. Particularly if they're going to REALLY sail it.

I used to race boats, so for me, sailing a boat to it's capability is more than just pulling up the sails and moving the boat, but from the comments here, I do believe a lot of people don't see a difference.

It's not a matter if you CAN do it, but a matter of which is better. I'd recommend learning on a smaller boat, and moving up as one learns a bit and has more money stashed away or learns what they like.
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Old 13-04-2015, 20:19   #13
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Re: Is a 32' Sailboat Over-sized for a Beginner?

Split the difference and get a 30'. 30' is the perfect size cruising boat. Big enough to stretch out in and have some basic amenities, small enough to dock, sail and anchor single handed.

The Hunter 31 would be fine as they are simple, relatively light and spacious. I'm not a hunter basher, but I really don't feel you get the best bang for your buck with a used hunter. However, if you're buying new, it would be a decent option.

In Chesapeake Bay you might be able to get your hands on an older Canadian built Grampian 26 or 30. Now they give you spacious, easy sailing, strongly built boats for next to nothing. They are certainly dated though.

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Old 13-04-2015, 22:38   #14
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Re: Is a 32' Sailboat Over-sized for a Beginner?

I have been I the same boat. We had a c27 and I loved sailing that boat. It tracked like a dream and was easy to single hand. We needed more space for summer cottage (boat) with the family and we then got an ericson 32. Huge improvement down below. The boat sails great. Much faster then the catalina. But harder to single hand. Harder to get out the slip without crew. Always some price to pay... If you want value and interior space vs length (remember every foot is charged for everything from slips to bottom painting) you might want to look at a catalina 30. Huge space below and you're only paying for 30 feet. They are also plenty fast.


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Old 13-04-2015, 22:45   #15
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Re: Is a 32' Sailboat Over-sized for a Beginner?

27' and under will always feel like you're camping. Which is not bad if that's your thing or if it's all you can afford. If you can stretch your budget to a 28-33' you get a whole new level of space and possibilities. Some 20-30' boats feel as big as 31-32' and some 30' feel like they're 27-28'. Depends on many factors and your sailing area as some are better suited for deep water with their 6' keels and others let you gunkhole with their shallow draft or swing keels. Figure out realistically your cruising/sailing range and go from there, not the other way around. Otherwise you may end up with a nice boat which is not suitable for your sailing needs.
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