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Old 13-09-2016, 19:47   #1
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Sail vs Power for year long cruising...for newbies

Hi y'all, been reading threads on this forum for a while but this is my first time posting

So i've been planning to take a few years off work...and everything for a while now. My plan is to take a power/sail boat back and forth from maine to the bahamas for the next couple of years. Ideally i would head towards the bahamas at/near the end of hurricane season and then head back up to maine (with some stops in FL, MD, DE, NJ to visit family and friends) around May/June then repeat. From my understanding this is a common practice for some cruisers. During this time i will have a little bit of savings (most of my savings i have after paying of debt will go to buying a used boat and repairing said boat) that i'll be budgeting out for the duration, but i'll have a fixed income of roughly $1000 a month, though i have some skills to find some small work here and there, id prefer to make my plans based on what i know for certain. I'll give a little background on myself then explain the advantages/disadvantages i've researched between power and sailboats.

I’m 30 years old, single, 6’4, 250lbs and very wide in the shoulders/frame. I've always been a wanderer of sorts ...family calls me a gypsy, i've lived in over 15 states since leaving the military most of them alone (i like solitude). I prefer the minimalist approach to living, though i do enjoy the luxuries that come with our current technology infused culture, i'm not govern by it. Some of the best times in my life were when i lived in a cabin in WA for 6 months, and did gardening, fishing and hunting for food. limited electricity (solar panels) and no running water (had to carry from river then boil and purify it). However, this didn't suit my wandering desire, thus i moved. I've been very interested in living aboard a boat for a while for the shear fact that if i want to leave...i just up anchor and go….very appealing to me.

I’ve been tinkering with this idea for about a year. And decided that i'll take the plunge once i have my debt paid off. So my debt is just about paid off and i have a bit of savings to spend on a used boat and to repair it to get it sea worthy. Im looking for a power/sail boat in the 15-25k price range at a max of 40ft or under and i figured it will take about 15k to get it repaired to be sea worthy. But im very conflicted about which type of boat to get….very limited experience with boats. Sailing sound fantastic, user the wind to sail around and motor here and there when needed (mooring, and docking). Where as with a power boat i could slow troll (max speed of the hull/ type of hull displacement) up and down the coast and only really burning fuel (i’m not trying to start a discussion about limited fossil fuel..etc). Either way, i would have no set agenda nor schedule other than weather to abide by.

At the current moment i'm leaning towards powerboats, for a few reasons. they are easy to shorthand, have more space...and head-room. When i go on this trip, the boat will be my home, and being able to relax once and a while...and stand straight up would be very desireable for me( but not a deal breaker). I have a bit of knowledge about engines(mostly diesel trucks) and i think i'll be able to do a handful of the maintenance/ troubleshooting myself. I've worked with fiberglass repairs before and think i can manage small basic repairs. Im very good with electronics and wiring. But over all the main draw is i have more room for my largeness.

The downside to powerboats that i see is , gas/ diesel isn't cheap. If my plan is to go back and forth from Maine to Bahamas that about 1400nm one way (give or take a few hundred, depending on stops) so a yearly trip of about 3000nm on a powerboat running 1 of the 2 engines (alternating) at hull speed that's about 2-4nmpg (depending on weather, waves, wind, engine size etc) that's about $6000 a year in fuel alone.this is not including larger engine maintenance that i can't fix. Then there is typical boat maintenance..painting, scrubbing etc. though most of this i can handle (maybe not as well as a professional but hey it will get done). The other problem is that powerboats typically have a lot of gadgets on board that draw a lot of power, though i can remedy this by disabling those things i truly don't need or packing them up and throwing them in storage.

Then there are sailboats, being able to use the wind as my fuel would save money (upfront). The challenge of navigating with wind in different situations. Silence… no engine rumbling in the deep (unless there no wind, mooring, or docking). And just the idea of blowing through the waves in a sailboat is very ...majestic imo.

The drawbacks to a sailboat are, you're kinda SOL if you in a wind deadzone or going counter to your heading.(again i don't know too much about sailing, i've only played around a on a small dingy as a kid) Sailboats in the length im looking for are typically very cramped inside for a person of my stature (most sailboats under 40ft only have 6’3 head-room). And in comparison to to powerboats they seem to be harder to shorthand, and if any of the rigging/ sail breaks underway, it gonna be a lot harder for me to try and repair(my limited knowledge). Last but not least is the draw on sailboats with a keel will make it harder to park in shallower water / near reefs.

If i was a millionaire or something i would just get a cat sailboat like a leo+rob with an autohelm and be done, alas, i'm not. I know some people just motor around on their sailboats and never really use the sails, nice idea, but the fuel storage on these boats makes that pretty impractical for my overall desire. And also i want to be able to do some longer trips through the night. Where as if i go pretty slow 5-7 knots in a powerboat, i've read that people can get 1000+nm out of their tank (depending on size and engine etc) and about $1500 to fill the tank.

Before i commit to anything i plan on taking classes in sailing / marine diesel repair, and getting all the paperwork of licence and insurance squared away. As far as monthly expenses, im just gonna have the In-reach to send messages and updated information, ill just free wifi when i go on land to check emails, send messages and upload videos.

In short i just have a feeling that this is what i need to do, if i fail no biggy, dust myself off and move on. I feel like i need to live for myself before i get forced to settle down....

So my questions are:
With my projected plan above, would a power/sailboat be possible on said fixed income?
What type of power/sailboat would be good for this undertaking?
What type of powerboat/ engine do you have and what's your nmpg? And fuel tank size & cost to fill?
What are the typical costs with mooring / gunkholing or off the hook?
What type of sailboat would be good for this undertaking?
What type of sailboat do you have? What are some maintenance that i would need to learn about before taking off?
What toys / gadgets would be good for solo journey(IE: solar panels, autohelm etc.)?
What other concerns should i be contemplating and planning for?
***general question***if you're off the hook and take your dingy inland to get supplies, how do you secure it and where?

I forgot half of the questions i had cause when i submitted this the first time, it logged me out and i lost everything i typed
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Old 13-09-2016, 20:51   #2
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Re: sail vs power for year long cruising...for newbies

Quote:
Originally Posted by modifier0 View Post
So my questions are:
1] With my projected plan above, would a power/sailboat be possible on said fixed income?
2] What type of power/sailboat would be good for this undertaking?
3] What type of powerboat/ engine do you have and what's your nmpg? And fuel tank size & cost to fill?
4] What are the typical costs with mooring / gunkholing or off the hook?
5] What type of sailboat would be good for this undertaking?
6] What type of sailboat do you have? What are some maintenance that i would need to learn about before taking off?
7] What toys / gadgets would be good for solo journey(IE: solar panels, autohelm etc.)?
8] What other concerns should i be contemplating and planning for?
9] ***general question***if you're off the hook and take your dingy inland to get supplies, how do you secure it and where?

10] I forgot half of the questions i had cause when i submitted this the first time, it logged me out and i lost everything i typed
1) Either is possible, on your income but sail is more likely to succeed on your income, fuel costs are tough to beat. With a sailboat, even if you never raise the sails and just motor, you get 2.3 to 3 times better fuel economy. 4 to 5 times better if you throttle back to 1.0xsqrt(LWL) instead of pushing to hull speed. Going up and down the ICW you can expect to motor 2/3 - 3/4 of the time. In the Caribbean, 90-95% of the time you will sail. In a storm at sea I would rather be in a good 20' sailboat than a good 35' powerboat. Storm resistance is so much better in a sailboat.
2) Good power boat would be about 30-35', fiberglass hull, single engine. Diesel for preference because you get 50% or more better mileage but at that length and price point don't know if you can get it. Figure 3-5mpg.
Good sailboat would be similar length, fiberglass, single engine. Diesel for preference but less of an issue because less dependent on engine. Figure 7-12mpg.
3)Tank size is going to depend on the particular boat, what came stock and what previous owners have changed. Cost to fill is going to depend on tank size and current fuel prices. Figure fuel prices to remain stable for 18-24mo and then rise.
4) Don't know the east coast very well but a lot of the ICW has good anchoring areas spaced about a day's motoring apart. Once you get into FL the local municipalities have a tendency to try to get folks to not anchor, spoils their views of the water. In the Caribbean it varies. Try Noonsite for more info.
5) Max reasonable draft for the Carribean is about 6'. Some people are happy there with 7', but most people seem to feel inhibited when draft is over 6'.
The only boat that comes to mind right off the bat with headroom and draft is COLUMBIA 34 MK II sailboat specifications and details on sailboatdata.com. 7' and change headroom under the bubble, over 6' elsewhere. There were some with shoal draft and centerboards. Currently none are listed on yachtworld but watch for a while and seen what comes up.

If you give up on the 6'4" head room and cut back to 6'1' or so then a whole range of other options open up, many with centerboards that would open up more anchoring opportunities.
6) I have a 20' sailboat with an outboard currently so there's no comparison. You would want to learn some basic sewing to repair sails, you already know a little about glassing. Basic engine repair, both for the mothership's motor and for the dinghy's outboard. I would go with a very small hard dinghy and a small 5hp outboard.
7) Not toys would be solar panels, PWM charge controller, oversized autopilot, or regular autopilot for lightwind sailing or motoring with vanegear selfsteering for normal or heavy sailing conditions. Get regular golfcart deep cycle batteries for you electrical storage (up front and secondary costs of Gel and AGM make them uneconomical). Always have oars on the dinghy even if you are just motoring 100m to shore.
8) ?
9) Securing the dinghy depends on where you go. Certainly padlock the motor to the dinghy with a cable around a major structural element. Most places overseas there is less worry of theft than in the US. The cruiser grapevine should warn you what areas to worry about. Even if you like being solo, get to know the cruisers around you. Most are a wealth of info and help if you need it.
10) I tend highlight and copy my typing periodically on this site for that reason if I am doing a long post.

Oh yeah. If you get a sail boat, try to avoid wheel steering, just one more thing to break and/or maintain and it's harder to arrange autopilot or vanegear.
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Old 14-09-2016, 04:39   #3
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Re: sail vs power for year long cruising...for newbies

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, modifier.
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Old 14-09-2016, 05:17   #4
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Re: sail vs power for year long cruising...for newbies

I will address one particular aspect of your question. It is one we get here pretty frequently. That is, power or sail. I will give you my standard answer to this question...

If you are undecided between power and sail, go with power.

Sailing is a passion. If you don't have the passion, you will very soon tire of all of the extra work that is involved in sailing. No offense to the powerboaters here, because I love (and have owned) powerboats also--in fact, I'm a fan of pretty much anything that floats and can get me out on the water. But powerboats are just easier. They don't require as much skill, training, or effort.

For that reason you should only get a sailboat if you really have the DESIRE to sail. Absent that, your boat will end up being one of those dock queens that sits much and gets used little.

If you can't decide between power and sail, go with power every time.
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Old 14-09-2016, 06:18   #5
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Re: Sail vs Power for year long cruising...for newbies

My opinion is power, since I believe you will spend most of your time in the ICW and under power, no matter what type of boat your in.
However even motoring the motion of a sailboat in any kind of seaway is more comfortable to me.
I'd say if the majority of the time would be spent in the Caribbean, then go sail, if it's the ICW, go with a Trawler type boat, small single Diesel, not a planing hull with twin DD's
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Old 14-09-2016, 06:24   #6
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Re: Sail vs Power for year long cruising...for newbies

ModifierO, I need to respond here because cruising from Maine to the Bahamas has been my typical cruising pattern for years.

I agree with some of the conflicting thoughts above. Sailing is best for those with a passion for sailing; and yet, a sailboat under power will often be cheaper by mpg than a powerboat. Notice that I said "often cheaper". There are long distance power cruisers that are designed with small efficient diesels. My Daughter and her family are living on a Gulfstar 36 with a pair of 90 hp Perkins diesels that does extremely well.

We spend as much as three to four months cruising one way between Maine and the Bahamas enjoying many stops. We find anchoring out convenient. Even in Florida, we find easy peaceful anchoring available within distances of no more that forty miles spans. We also enjoy marinas on occasion, but we shop for less expensive rates.
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Old 14-09-2016, 06:32   #7
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Re: Sail vs Power for year long cruising...for newbies

Sail is fine but make sure the engine is in good operating condition because I'll give you 10-1 odds you do better than 95% of your miles under power. A sailboat under power will typically beat out a power boat for efficiency but a lot of that is you don't have a big enough engine to burn the extra fuel. The power boater has to resist pushing the throttle forward and burning the extra fuel to go faster.


Sail tends to dominate on long oceanic voyages. On shorter coastal hops, more often than not the wind isn't conducive to sailing and you wind up motoring. It's only the true purist sailors and those that can't afford fuel that sail all the time on coastal trips. Since you asked, I assume you aren't a purist sailor and can afford the fuel.
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Old 14-09-2016, 06:43   #8
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Re: Sail vs Power for year long cruising...for newbies

This is my first sailboat, and I thought I would be sailing a lot and I do. But I don't often get to travel sailing.
If I am just day sailing and can go wherever the wind takes me, then I almost always sail.
But if I need to leave on a specific day and go to a specific other place, I almost always end up motoring, sometimes I get to motorsail.
The problem is you have to have the correct amount of wind, coming from roughly the correct direction, on the day you intend to leave, and all three things don't often occur.
I am now looking forward to the day after Retirement when I can plan the departure date around the wind.
So it seems that if your going to try to get places sailing, you just have to accept that you will arrive, when you arrive.
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Old 14-09-2016, 07:30   #9
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Re: Sail vs Power for year long cruising...for newbies

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Originally Posted by a64pilot View Post
SNIP

But if I need to leave on a specific day and go to a specific other place, I almost always end up motoring, sometimes I get to motorsail.

SNIP
Earlier someone said if you are asking the question power or sail the answer is power.

While I understand this school of thought I would point out the real question is do you need to leave on a specific day and go to a specific place. Not to mention that even with a power boat the passage across the Gulf Stream from Florida to the Bahamas (at least in season) often requires delays waiting for a weather window.

Bottom line is unless you have a passion for sailing (something that is not likely since you are asking about a power boat) you should go with power. The only other advice I would give is it is much easier to drive a power boat with twin engines than with a single engine if you are docking or are in tight quarters.
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Old 14-09-2016, 07:38   #10
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Re: Sail vs Power for year long cruising...for newbies

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Earlier someone said if you are asking the question power or sail the answer is power.

While I understand this school of thought I would point out the real question is do you need to leave on a specific day and go to a specific place. Not to mention that even with a power boat the passage across the Gulf Stream from Florida to the Bahamas (at least in season) often requires delays waiting for a weather window.
Running the ICW it's a myth that you can wait for the perfect weather window. I mean sure you can do it but if you start around NYC, you might make it to the southern end of the Chesapeake by early winter.

Bottom line is unless you have a passion for sailing (something that is not likely since you are asking about a power boat) you should go with power. The only other advice I would give is it is much easier to drive a power boat with twin engines than with a single engine if you are docking or are in tight quarters.
It's really not that hard to dock a single engine boat and if you are concerned get a boat with a bow thruster and that will largely make up the difference. (this assumes you don't get a boat that is poorly designed and can't maneuver worth a darn which is not synonymous with single engine).
Waiting for the weather to get comfortable safe conditions is reasonable. Waiting for the weather to get perfect sailing conditions is like finding a unicorn.
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Old 14-09-2016, 07:43   #11
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Re: Sail vs Power for year long cruising...for newbies

Tom all I was saying is now your far more dependent on weather with a sailboat if you plan on sailing than you are with power, and being as how I have to be back at work on Monday, I end up running the Yanmar far more than I would like.
Hopefully when I no longer have to be back at work, then I can just wait until the wind is right.
Doing that flying thing, I am always constrained by weather, the joke in flying is "Time to spare? Go by air!" Cause for example only fools intentionally fly into Thunderstorms
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Old 14-09-2016, 09:22   #12
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Re: Sail vs Power for year long cruising...for newbies

Power
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Old 14-09-2016, 09:25   #13
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Re: Sail vs Power for year long cruising...for newbies

Thnaks Adelie, GordMay, denverd0n, a64pilot, Hudson Force, valhalla360 and tomfl, for your responses.

in regards to using a sailboat and just motoring most of the time, or at least down to the bahamas, whats an avg range (going slow) with lets say a catalina 30? whats the cost to refill?

and from what i understand trailing a sailboat is harder then a powerboat, from what ive read most people have to get a company to professional tow it, while with a powerboat i would be able to tow it myself (i have a few diesel trucks.. 7.3 Excursion, 6.2 2500 RAM) is this accurate?
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Old 14-09-2016, 09:29   #14
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Re: Sail vs Power for year long cruising...for newbies

o i forgot to reply regarding my time frame...the truth is i dont have a time frame to do anything. my only rough time frame is heading down to the Bahamas near the end of Nov, but even then, thats just a general gauge, i will be in no rush to get down there and in no rush to get back.
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Old 14-09-2016, 09:39   #15
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Re: Sail vs Power for year long cruising...for newbies

My best guess is anything big enough to live on comfortably, your not towing behind a Pickup, mostly cause your unlikely to have the trailer anyway, more than the truck isn't capable.
Range is dependent on how much fuel you carry, now I'm not trying to be an ass here, but many if not almost all cruising sailboats will carry extra fuel and not rely on just what is in the tank, I carry 57 gls in my tank, and another 50 on deck.
I burn 1 gallon an hour at 6.5 kts, so on a windlass, current less passage I have a theoretical motor only range of 1020 miles.
Sailboats are very much designed to require as little force as possible to move them through the water, great pains are gone through to achieve this and sacrifices made, otherwise it would be a Pig under sail. That is why they are so efficient under power.
A power boat can sacrifice some drag to gain other objectives and just install a slightly larger motor.
But really, unless you travel a LOT, I think you will find that fuel is the cheapest of your expenses.

I have a 38' 25,000 lb sailboat for comparisons sake, I think but do not know that a smaller, lighter sailboat will burn even less fuel, and a similar sized single engine Trawler, not much more
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