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Old 19-03-2015, 19:27   #1
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What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribbean?

My wife an I, really just me, are planning for retirement in the next 10 years or so and would like to hear cruiser feedback on what length monohull sailboat is most appropriate for sailing, and living on, from Boston to the UVI's. Assuming money is not an object, which of course it always is, how big is too big for a couple to navigate their way through retirement. We are experienced coastal sailors in our 1977 Gulfstar Custom 40, which we enjoy very much, but we will want to upgrade to something newer that is appropriately equipped with a generator, a/c, water maker, etc. We are thinking 45 feet is a good target given mooring restrictions in places like Marathon, FL where the options for larger moorings are limited. We will also likely want to be sure the mast is low enough to clear the bridges on the ICW. I'm sure there are all kinds of reasons, aside from cost, to not go bigger say to 50 or 55 feet, I just don't know what they are. Current cruiser feedback would be greatly appreciated so I can stop waisting my time searching for the wrong next boat on Yacht World.
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Old 19-03-2015, 19:35   #2
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Re: What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribb

My concern is sail handling for a retired couple in a breeze and especially if you do the thorny path from FL through the Bahamas. Light winds with electric sail handling is not much of a problem... maybe moderate... But the forces on a larger boat get up there pretty quickly.
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Old 19-03-2015, 19:52   #3
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Re: What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribb

With proper winches, blocks, etc sail handling and trimming is not an issue. My favorite example, Alain Colas singlehanded the 236' four masted schooner Club Mediterranee in the 1976 Ostar.

For me the limiting factor is when you have to remove the sails from the rig, for example a big storm is coming and you want to reduce windage on deck. When I was younger and in very good shape I owned a 65' ketch and could barely drag the main by myself. Two could barely lift it and not certain two could have bent the sail to the mast.

Based on that, my decision as the largest practical boat for my retirement was mid forties. I ended up with a 42'.

FYI, in case you didn't have this detail already, the ICW is theoretically spec'd to handle up to 65' masts. In practice there are a couple of spots where high tides, especially wind driven can reduce that a foot or two. There is also one bridge in Miami that came in a bit short.
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Old 19-03-2015, 20:11   #4
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Re: What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribb

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Originally Posted by Marblehead1 View Post
My wife an I, really just me, are planning for retirement in the next 10 years or so and would like to hear cruiser feedback on what length monohull sailboat is most appropriate for sailing, and living on, from Boston to the UVI's.
I'm sure other cruisers will present well-reasoned arguments.


I reckon the short answer is: about 3 feet (or 1 metre) longer than the boat you have at present.


It's a constant. The waters in which you sail make some difference, but not much.


In other words, it's very rare to find a cruiser saying they'd prefer a smaller boat than what they have.


And that's why Larry Pardey (and Lin) created the line 'Go small, go simple, go now'.
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Old 19-03-2015, 20:30   #5
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pirate Re: What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribb

Up until the 90's 37 was considered the best size for open water sized sea's by the salts..
Then chartering got in gear and it became 40-45ft..
these days folk feel cheap if its less than 50ft..
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Old 19-03-2015, 20:41   #6
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Re: What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribb

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Up until the 90's 37 was considered the best size for open water sized sea's by the salts..
Then chartering got in gear and it became 40-45ft..
these days folk feel cheap if its less than 50ft..
I started sailing backwards, by learning on sailing club's O'day 39s. Than my first own boat was a 27footer. Five years later I was going to move up to 30-32 footer but couldn't pass up a good deal on a 36 footer, which I now, 4-5 seasons later, feel is the perfect size for my future cruising needs. I still think that for simple day sails and just hanging out 30-32 footer would have been a better choice. I sail often on my friends' 46 footer and can't imagine myself and my non-nautical g/f on it by ourselves. Too much work IMO and even if it had all electric driven systems it would be to complicated and to expensive to maintain.
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Old 19-03-2015, 20:51   #7
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Re: What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribb

Howdy Marblehead1!

I noticed this is one of your first two posts on the forum and you are new to the forum. Welcome aboard!

I am not a current cruiser/owner, so take my comments below with a splash of warm salt water. But, I am planning on the same thing as you are, so the same issue has been on my mind.

My thoughts are that the perfect size is one that you feel you can handle in ALL likely weather and sea conditions you anticipate and in all navigation situations you anticipate (such as docking, mooring).

But this means with the crew that will likely be aboard too. So, if that is only a couple (retired) then only two people of typical retired age (65+). And that means it might just be one person on deck at a time. So, then consider the weakest of the two people and ask them if THEY feel comfortable handling the sails and helm and if they feel they can safely dock the boat etc. Now what if ONE of the two was incapacitated for some reason (illness/injury)?

Given your experience with your current 40 footer, a boat that large or somewhat larger is probably within your comfort level (for handling under motor or sailing in normal or moderate conditions) but will it be in the years to come? Will the weakest member of the crew at that time in the years to come (and that could be a man or woman) be able and comfortable to do the needed tasks? I am in my mid 50s now, and still in good health and shape. But, when I am 65 or 70, I can assume my strength will not be what it is today.

Frankly, if I were planning the same with a wife who is likely much smaller and perhaps not as strong as me and if we were both in mid to late 60s or older, with a plan to live on the boat for about 10 years further (into our 70s), I would want the following to make life as easy as possible for ONE person to handle the boat and for us both to enjoy boarding, anchoring, sailing, etc.:

1. 40-45 foot mono boat (e.g. Seaward 46RK 46RK | Seaward Yachts)
or...
a 38 foot catamaran such as Lagoon 380 (owner's version)
2. Electric Windlass
3. Electric Primary Winch and Electric Winch on mast (or electric hand drill for assist)
4. Furling headsail
5. Furling staysail
6. Furling Mainsail
7. Small Electric winch on dinghy davits, lightweight dinghy and small 4hp motor
8. Swim steps on transom (sugar scoop type) for easy boarding
9. No high ladders down to saloon
10. Pilot house or deck saloon style boat.
11. Bow Thruster (If the larger boat proves hard to handle in docking.)
12. Temporary crew (*young and strong) for passages.
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Old 19-03-2015, 21:36   #8
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Re: What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribb

.I really love my Gulfstar 50. I have sailed it with just two and when I was first learning to skipper I appreciated that she was big and stable. The extra size comes in handy when you are living aboard and have tall friends.
What matters to me is how easily a boat sails and drives into the slip, and I had no trouble with the 50 ft at all.

Mine is for sail if you want to look, here is the link:
www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f152/1978-gulfstar-50-sloop-center-cockpit-141197.html
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Old 19-03-2015, 21:37   #9
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Re: What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribb

I think I'm pretty much with Steady Hand on this one as how the boat is equepted is more inportant than the size..
10 years ago when we bought ours, we were actually looking for a FIRST 38 but found a clean 42 and snached it up, and glad we did, as the 42 has about the perfect room for the two of us, small enough to get it in and around a marina in tight space but large enough that living on it full time dosent meke us feel cramped.
As I'm getting older, the idea of a boom furler is kinda sounding pleasing, and electric winches would be kinda nice also..
And I'm sure as the years climb on us, we'll opt to purchase those items that will make our cruising less uncomfortable.
Good Luck in your search...........
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Old 19-03-2015, 22:44   #10
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Re: What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribb

The perfect size? Well, that depends. If still madly in love, then a "queen size" master berth is perfect, as you'll sometimes feel frisky.

For others, a full size will suffice.

Hope that helps!
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Old 20-03-2015, 01:55   #11
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Re: What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribb

Effectively, both of you are going to be singlehanded some of the time.

How big a boat depends your wife' s ability to put in a reef with the autopilot on in the middle of the night.

So for us it is a 36' cutter with a biggish mainsail and a double halyard.

We use slab reefing, if you want to use in mast or in boom furling the size can be bigger, but then reliability is the issue.
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Old 20-03-2015, 02:45   #12
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Re: What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribb

34-38 ft does it for me. Enough space and still easy to handle.
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Old 20-03-2015, 02:48   #13
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Re: What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribb

35' Chris Craft Caribbean would be an excellent choice!
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Old 20-03-2015, 03:28   #14
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Re: What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribb

We bought our Cal 46 thirty three years ago, sailed SoCal waters until 1988, retired and sailed away, 2 years in Mexican waters, Central & South America, Caribbean, Bahamas, Chesapeake, Cuba,+. We lived aboard from 1988 to 2002. We are both seasoned sailors, healthy, active and loved it. We bought a home by Bayou Chico, Pensacola, FL so MIL could live close and we still lived aboard at our dock behind our house.

We had no problem handling our boat in any conditions. Of course we have SSB, HAM, Weather Fax and avoid real nasty weather. If you are caught in a storm offshore, you deserve it.

A lot depends on what you want the boat to do for you. In my seminars on selecting your cruising boat, I start by telling you nor to fall in love with a boat because it looks pretty, but to make a list, objectively listing what you intend to do, go, comforts desired and on.

There are many other considerations, like I am 6'3" and want adequate headroom, my wife likes to cook, so wants an adequate galley. When Mr. Bill Lapworth designed our boat, his parameters included being able to motor through known light air parts of the seas, so we have enough diesel fuel to motor over 2,000 miles. While we have not crossed oceans on our boat, (we crossed the Atlantic on a friend's boat in 1985), we have made several non-stop coastal voyages. We sailed from southeast of the Panama Canal to Mobile, Alabama averaging 6.7 knots, broad reaching only motoring in the lee of Cuba.

I can list additional options we wanted, on request. We are currently doing a refit of our boat and will be putting it on the market :-( as we are too old, with too many health issues. How many folks do you know who have had the same boat 33 years?

Tom & Bobbie Vandiver, Cal 46 "Satori"
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Old 20-03-2015, 05:49   #15
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Re: What's the perfect size sailboat for a couple to cruise from Boston to the caribb

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Originally Posted by Marblehead1 View Post
Assuming money is not an object, which of course it always is, how big is too big for a couple to navigate their way through retirement.
Given proper support systems the "too big of a boat" becomes HUGE.

To me the perfect cruising size for a couple appears to be about 46-48'. That is the point where a couple gets the most useful layout. After that the extra length goes mostly into extra space for guests. There are some models 42-45' that come pretty close, but below that you are going to have various things that you will always be wishing for.

My recommendation on the topic is to not worry about the boat size, instead decide what features you want and look for a boat that has those and is setup well for a couple.

And the question has various threads already:
Best Cruising Sailboats for Couples
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