First of all, this is a very interesting thread. I think that the dialogue between Stede and Gordon has put out a lot of excellent information. I apologize for not jumping in sooner but I have had a lot on my plate or have been off cruising to recover from what has been on my plate. While I don't agree with everything that Gordon has suggested, I certainly agree with the majority or else sees the basis and validity of that basis for Gordon's opinions. We all do not have to agree on all of these ideas because for many of these questions there is not just one answer. Our own priorities, experiences, tastes, fears, sailing venues budgets, finances, attention spans, etc, will shape what is the right answer to many of these questions for each of us. My points of departure with Gordon fall mostly, if not exclusively in the category of 'what is right for each of us'.
I wanted to start my discussion this topic touching on the heading of this thread " ideal live aboard cruiser". I am not sure if I am alone in this (although I think that Gordon touched in this) but I think that it is important that we distinguish between ideal 'live-aboard' and the ideal 'distance cruiser'. These can be very different boats. In the case of a simply living aboard
boat, almost any short fat boat will do. To a great extent, sailing ability and build quality by-and-large becomes secondary. Maximization of space and day-to-day functionality becomes more important. But in the case of a boat that is intended to be used for long distance voyaging a lot of other criteria become important and my comments will focus on that kind of a boat
(I apologize in advance to those of you who have seen me make this case previously) It seems like selecting the perfect boat almost always seems to begin with picking a size. I think that is a reasonable approach but I disagree with the concept
that size should be based on length. I know that it is very common for people to search for boat based solely on length and the need for specific accommodations. I really think that the displacement
of a particular boat says a lot more about its 'real' size. I strongly suggest that to pick the ideal cruising boat, to narrow the field of possible model choices that the process begins by going back to some time honored formulas. The traditional rule
of thumb said that a proper cruising boat needed a displacement
of three to five long tons of displacement per person. In recent years, Better hardware
has permitted that ideal weight to creep up a little and the current
trends in loading boats up with modern equipment
and all of the comforts of home, has pushed that range up to closer to 11,000 to 14,000 lbs. of displacement per person. I personally prefer to cruise
more simply and so chose to try to stay in the low end of more traditional weight range. With a crew of one or two people this suggested a boat with a total displacement in the 11,000 to 14,000 lb. range.
Historically, a cruising boat with a 5 to 7 ton displacement would have been 32 or so feet in length. When you look back at earlier distance cruising couples, they tended to use boats that were comparatively short when compared to the norm today. This shorter length resulted in a high length to displacement ratio (L/D) typically in a 250 to 350 range. These old style cruisers were typically pretty shallow, and carried a larger percent of their weight in their hull
and rig resulting in a lower ballast to weight ratio and consequently less stability. As a result they also tended to have less sail area and lower aspect ratio rigs in proportion to their displacement with a SA/D ratio in the range of 14 to 16 or so.
But using modern materials and a better understanding of marine
structures and hydrodynamics a 5 to 7 ton cruising boat can safely have an L/D of 160 or so and still have a higher ratio of ballast to displacement than its predecessors. This lighter L/D typically means a more easily driven hull and the greater ratio of ballast to displacement placed lower in the water can result in the ability to carry more sail. On more modern designs a SA/D ratio above 20 is not all that unusual. That combination means that the boat has enough sail area to sail at a reasonable speed in light air and a sufficiently easily driven hull to get by with less sail area in a blow.
You often hear the old saws about heavy displacement being necessary in a cruising and comments such as, "light boats don't have the capacity to carry enough gear
and supplies to really go cruising." Or "they loose their speed advantage when loaded to go cruising". These kinds of statements ignore that boats in this size range are often raced with 1,500 to 2,000 lbs. of crew weight and in distance racing
, an equal weight in racing gear
and provisions for this crew.
More to the point, there seems to be a popular notion that boats with L/D's under 240 are not suited for distance cruising or that they are too light to carry the gear that is necessary to support life offshore
. I think this comes from looking at traditional boats and how they were proportioned relative to new designs. First of all, it might help to compare two equal displacement boats say 15,000 lbs, one of an older design and one of a more modern design. The older design might have a waterline length of maybe 29 feet and a L/D around 275. If we look at a more modern design, it might actually be the same length overall as or slightly longer than the more traditional design but its waterline length would be closer to 34-35 feet giving it a L/D around 160. I think most yacht designers would tell you that the longer waterline boat of the same displacement would actually have better carrying capacity with less loss of seaworthiness and speed with added weight than the more traditional shorter length waterline boat.
I think that it is a mistake to home in on a particular length of boat and then try to find the roomiest or most burdensome boat of that length. It generally results in a boat that is perhaps a decent live aboard but one that gives up performance, motion comfort and ultimately seaworthiness.
Staying at a traditional weight range but lighter L/D simply results in a longer waterline boat, which is also good thing. One thing that has consistently come out of the studies of the Fastnet tragedy and the Sidney-Hobart disaster, is that there are a lot of factors that determine whether a boat is a good sea boat or not, but nothing succeeds in heavy weather
For myself, using the lower end of the classic displacement rule
of thumb, 10,000 to 16,000 lb of displacement seemed right for a couple. Using a more modern and lighter L/D near 160, I ended up with a 37 to 39 foot boat. For other reasons, I had decided that 36 to 39 feet was about the right length as well. Smaller than 36 feet it is hard to get the kind of accommodations and capacities that I wanted in lightweight boat
I want to touch on the "motion comfort index" and the "Capsize screen
ratio". Both are worse than useless. I consider them to be so misleading as to be dangerous. Neither formula contains any of the critical factors governing motion comfort or the likelihood of a capsize
. These formulas were developed when boats were a lot more similar to each other than they are today, before we really understood the factors that control either motion comfort or capsize mechanisms, and before the advent of modern IMS derived typeforms with their very high ballast stability and moderate form stability.
In terms of stability and motion comfort nothing succeeds like a low center of gravity relative to the center of buoyancy. Other factors include dampening and the inherent moment of inertia of the boat. Ideally a boat has a reasonably large roll moment of inertia that results from weight carried low such as a bulb keel
. Of course this raises the draft
issue. I think that moderate draft
is important. That said we all seem to define 'moderate draft' in our own way. To me that means 6'-6" or less on a 38 footer. To others that means 5 feet or less and still to others that means 4 feet or less. One thing is clear, as draft is reduced performance and potentially motion comfort goes down quickly. There is no instant cure for reduced draft. Bulbs and wings help some, but there is no free ride on this one. Probably the best overall alternative is a daggerboard with a bulb but these are quite rare and built right are quite expensive to engineer
Everyone seems to focus on the LPS (limit of positive stability) in a way that assumes that a boat is simply deposited upside down like a turtle being politely placed upside down on its shell. In reality, in most recorded cases there is a lot of momentum and so a boat with an LPS of 125 or 130 degrees as measured for IMS is probably fine. (IMS does not include the volume of the cabin
in the calculation which can often add as much as 20 degrees to the actual LPS. Traditional boats often had dismal angles of positive stability and old style heavy cruisers often have extremely poor angles of positive stability.
One of the most overlooked subjects in these discussions is downflooding. It is not unusual to see cruisers with the bridge deck
below the coamings, hatches to cockpit lockers that connect to the interior
of the boat, large plexiglass ports
and so on. Down flooding is more likely to kill you than the actual capsize itself and once downflooding begins it makes capsize recovery nearly imposible.
In terms of rig, I strongly prefer a fractional rigged sloop
, which I consider to be the ideal cruising rig for a boat of this size. Their proportionately smaller headsails are easier to stow, fly and tack. Because their jibs are a proportionately smaller part of the overall sail plan, fractional rigs can often have a greater wind
speed range for each headsail and get by with non-overlapping jibs. This is especially true if the standing sail plan has an SA/D in the over 20 range. This may seem like a lot but here again this is an area where I would suggest that we look at traditional craft, which typically had huge standing rigs. At some point due to racing rules rigs sizes got substantially smaller and sail plans went to genoas as a way of producing performance approaching a reasonable level. But genoas are terribly inefficient. They take a lot of energy to tack and place a real stain on the rig in order to maintain headstay tension. They came into use to beat a measurement rule that under penalized the overlapping portions of the sail. They make no sense for distance cruising. When you take into account the sail area of a typical boat with a 140% genoa
, the SA/D range is often over 20 but the boat gets little of the drive or ease of depowering of a smaller more efficiently shaped sail plan.
For single-handing the greater ease of tacking a non-overlapping headsail can't be beat. Another advantage of a fractional rig is that the simple application of backstay tension can induce controlled mast
bend, which depowers both sails
at once, which often balances the helm
and thereby reduce the need to reef as quickly. Fractional rigged boats also can be generally sailed under their mainsails alone making a very handy rig for short-tacking your way in a confined area or dealing with a sudden increase in wind
speed. (Sailing under genoa
alone often produced poor pointing ability and dangerous lee helm
in a gust.) The use of non-overlapping jibs mean that you can generally use the furler
to roll in a small amount of sail and have a decent shaped storm jib
sized sail. With the ease of modern two line slab reefing, in heavier conditions you can easily reef down to a very snug, depowered, and balanced masthead rig. I would want everything lead back to the cockpit. I suggest taking advantage of the advances in hardware
such as adjust on the fly jib sheet leads.
I strongly prefer a deck
with moment capable jack post and a moment connection at the deck. These are pretty rare as well but allow the strength advantages of a keel stepped mast and the wide practical advantages of a deck stepped mast such as the ability to jetison a bent spar before it beats your boat to death.
I strongly prefer in cockpit travelers and tiller steering
coupled with a below deck autopilot
In terms of the interior
I would want full sized berths for a reasonable number of people. Berths that are comfortable underway as well as at a boat show
. Comfortable seating for the entire crew and a few visitors more. For living aboard
I do not like having to count on things that are set up and taken down every day. Therefore I like a dinette table, but it also needs to be solidly constructed so that you can lean against it or be thrown against it without tearing it out of the deck
Obviously it is important to have a galley
that works underway as well as in port. To me that means adequate counter space that can be used without moving everything off of the ice box lid and with high enough fiddles that you can set things down with some degree of safety
. A fully equipped galley
should be located near the companionway
where it is within easy reach of the cockpit and dinette. Its position near the center of buoyancy means a galley with the least amount of motion. A top loaded icebox
. Frankly the one item that seems to be the most problematic on boats is refrigeration
so I am not sure that I would have refrigeration
. As a vegetarian this could work for me.
Without refrigeration your battery
banks and fuel
tankage can be substantially smaller. I have mixed emotions about water makers. On one hand they reduce the amount of water tankage that is required but then you need to carry more diesel
to have the power to operate them. They also only work in some areas of the world where the water is clean enough. In any event I would want minimally 30-40 gallons of water per person, and 40 hours or roughly 300 miles of fuel
tankage. Lots of secure but comparatively accessible storage
Obviously solidly attached, easy to grip and frequently placed handholds are important. If you are going offshore
, narrow passages so that you can maintain good footing is important. For living aboard a shower
set up so that you don't hose down the entire head
is a nice thing to have. I would convert the hanging locker to a rack to store rubber maid type bins with spare parts
, gear and stores.
for ground tackle is essential. There seems to be an feeling that an electric windlass
is a must. I don't believe that myself. Depending on the boat and the physical condition of the person, I think that a manual windlass
or even no windlass
can work quite well. On my 38 footer I use a chain hook and a dacron line lead to a deck winch
to break out the hook when it is seriously planted.
I would love to have moveable water ballast for the offshore legs. My current
boat has the water tanks
set up so that roughly 40 gals of water can be shifted from side to side.
I prefer a composite hull with a closely spaced frame system, and water tight bulkheads forward. I do not believe that hull liners are appropriate on offshore cruisers. I prefer vinylester resin and a minimum of non-directional materials in the laminate. Although compartively rare I prefer a boat with kevlar laminate in the bow and bilge
And here is the rub, it is next to impossible to find all of that in a boat in our price range. I had a budget
of $60k when I bought my boat. That was all I had to buy, outfit and get the boat back to my dock
. Given my goals a lot of what I looked at were either old IOR boats (not very suitable for what is being proposed) and a limited number of performance cruising boats from the early 1980's. One thing that I discovered is that the New Zealanders produced a lot of cruising designs that were quite advanced for thier day and I focused in on a Farr design that had an excellent offshore cruising and racing record
. I also came across a 'White' design that was a wonderful boat and a 'Ross' that looked pretty good as well. I had considered refitting raceboats like this Farr one ton which can be purchased cheaply: http://www.yachtworld.com/listing/yw...USD&units=Feet
Another choice in this vein are the J-34c and J-35c which were performance cruisers. Dehler made some very nice boats that would serve as a good platform as well.
I guess that I could go on for a lot longer but this seems long enough for right now.