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Old 18-04-2017, 12:15   #1
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Size of boat needed to handle coastal cruising safely

I am interested in taking up powered coastal cruising in New England, but I might consider going as far as the Florida Keys. Normally, I would be making trips like Boston to Martha's Vineyard or Boston to Mt. Desert Island. I would be favoring a trawler-type vessel. Safety and comfort are more important to me than speed. I am wondering how large a boat I need to do this kind of cruising safely? I understand that ocean swells can be large enough to threaten a small boat, but I don't know how far one would have to go out before "ocean swells" would begin to appear.
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Old 18-04-2017, 12:25   #2
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Re: Size of boat needed to handle coastal cruising safely

Can't say there's a specific minimum size... depends on the boat... and can depend on how much flexibility you have when it comes to waiting for weather windows...

But 25' sailboats and 27' powerboats have been all over the places you mention.

Unless you like camping, maybe any boat you'd choose to live on for that length of time could work.

Maybe start with an idea about the minimum amount of space you need/want -- stateroom? two staterooms? galley? saloon? head? two heads? etc. and then see what kind of boats that leads toward...

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Old 18-04-2017, 17:44   #3
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Re: Size of boat needed to handle coastal cruising safely

Anything bigger than 12' will work. Really depends on how far apart safe anchorages are and your ability to suffer hardship. Some people do just fine in open boats with a bit of blue tarp if it rains. If you need a head, separate sleeping quarters, before you are comfortable, you'll need something over 25'. If you can't cruise without A/C and all the amenities of a condo, you might want to look at Carnival. For the West Coast, larger would be nicer as there is often more than 24 hours between harbors, so something larger than 25' that can take serious weather would be nice.
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Old 18-04-2017, 18:03   #4
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Re: Size of boat needed to handle coastal cruising safely

You cruising solo or with a family of 6?
You young and silly, or old with comfort requirements?
Way too many variables.
Coastal cruising can be pretty rough to say the least.
You need a boat with high freeboard and a few systems to keep you going, dual batteries dual bilge pumps, etc.
I would not go in less than a 25' cabin cruiser type powerboat, but prefer my 27' Glacier Bay Cat with a cabin and enclosed head and a few other creature comforts.
Other folks of my vintage won't go in less than their 45' Express Cruiser.
Go down the ICW and go camping in an 18' if you want.
Not me, life is too short.
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Old 18-04-2017, 18:07   #5
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Re: Size of boat needed to handle coastal cruising safely

I did it in the 80's in a 30' Brewer designed yawl... a bit cramped but both safe and comfortable
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Old 18-04-2017, 18:40   #6
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Re: Size of boat needed to handle coastal cruising safely

Ocean swells start at the pier. Some boats can handle it, some can't. Some boaters can handle it, some can't. Storms can also arrive mid-way between two points at quite a distance from safety.

While size and speed of a boat may be a factor in security, more often than not they are not, or at least that size and speed are not used advantageously- and in some cases, get people into more trouble.

For example, I am notorious for leaving an anchorage five minutes too late prior to a storm front, and as a result the most severe portion of the storm inevitably hits five minutes prior to arrival at harbor. At least I have a dodger. But those go-fast boaters stay at the anchorage long after the impending storm is obvious; they typically pass me at 60mph into 40mph winds, at which time it's too late. The combined 100mph raindrops welt their skins like pellets from a gun.

A trawler is nice, but if the prevailing storms roll on the beam between two common landings, it will be highly uncomfortable. What I mean is, if your journey is six hours west to east, and half way through you get hit by a storm/ winds from the north, it is going to be very, very uncomfortable.

That said, a 32' or better 36' trawler should be a reasonable and comfortable boat. Just plan accordingly, and be prepared for bad weather because boating is not like the movies- boating in a storm is like death, it is inevitable. We try to avoid situations where the two are simultaneous.
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Old 18-04-2017, 22:38   #7
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Re: Size of boat needed to handle coastal cruising safely

I remember seeing a guy on the ICW in a canoe. His stuff was in garbage bags piled in the front. He said he started in the keys and this was in N. Carolina.

If the boat is in decent repair and you wait for weather windows, just about any boat will do.

The real question is what level of comfort you want.
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Old 19-04-2017, 05:43   #8
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Re: Size of boat needed to handle coastal cruising safely

In this case...size dont really matter...its all about seaworthyness....many newbies associate size with safety...bad assumption.

Especially true for some large power boats which are just big boxy flat bottomed party barges...not very seaworthy. I was asked to deliver such a boat (50') from Guatemala to Panama once..inspected the boat and refused. Several other captains did the same. A few years later I saw the boat in Panama...guess they finally got someone desperate/naive enough to do the job and they had a lucky voyage.
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Old 19-04-2017, 06:20   #9
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Re: Size of boat needed to handle coastal cruising safely

What is your experience in boating? You probably don't want to learn about boating while doing the boating you describe. If you are in no hurry, can you plan to wait for favorable weather whenever and wherever you travel?

Will you be staying at marinas or anchoring? Going slow and anchoring require more supplies and facilities onboard: bigger boat. You'll see big Sea Rays and small trawlers and medium sail boats in the places you describe, they all work and all require compromises.
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Old 19-04-2017, 07:58   #10
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Re: Size of boat needed to handle coastal cruising safely

I would think a 36' or larger would be comfortable.
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Old 19-04-2017, 08:20   #11
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Re: Size of boat needed to handle coastal cruising safely

As noted, the size of the boat is not the most important issue. Paying attention to the weather, your route, potential harbors on the route and your abilities are what counts, especially checking the weather. If you go out and get caught in a Perfect Storm kind of scenario then no boat is big enough to guarantee safety.

The good news, life threatening storms don't pop up out of nowhere without warning. Forecasts are typically very good for several days out. Check the route, how far between safe ports, how long it takes to get there and see if the weather is good for that time frame.
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Old 19-04-2017, 08:48   #12
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Re: Size of boat needed to handle coastal cruising safely

34' Marine Trader Sedan :-)

There ya go, simple answer!
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Old 19-04-2017, 09:08   #13
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Re: Size of boat needed to handle coastal cruising safely

Quote:
Originally Posted by jsc7 View Post
I am interested in taking up powered coastal cruising in New England, but I might consider going as far as the Florida Keys. Normally, I would be making trips like Boston to Martha's Vineyard or Boston to Mt. Desert Island. I would be favoring a trawler-type vessel. Safety and comfort are more important to me than speed. I am wondering how large a boat I need to do this kind of cruising safely? I understand that ocean swells can be large enough to threaten a small boat, but I don't know how far one would have to go out before "ocean swells" would begin to appear.
Near shore ground swells can be just as hazardous to small craft. Don't have the illusion that because you can see land your OK.
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Old 19-04-2017, 10:29   #14
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Re: Size of boat needed to handle coastal cruising safely

Safety does not really dictate minimum boat size for safe cruising. Captain's knowledge does. Get something big enough to be comfortable and small enough to single hand. Sail her increasing long distances to acquire knowledge and experience including some foul weather sailing and anchoring. I suspect you will find something right in the 28 to 35' range.
Before going too far you might consider the implications of averaging some 50 miles a day in a boat. Cruising from the Cape to Maine or Miami is very different from driving it at 70 mph.
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Old 19-04-2017, 11:46   #15
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Re: Size of boat needed to handle coastal cruising safely

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Originally Posted by jsc7 View Post
I am interested in taking up powered coastal cruising in New England, but I might consider going as far as the Florida Keys. Normally, I would be making trips like Boston to Martha's Vineyard or Boston to Mt. Desert Island. I would be favoring a trawler-type vessel. Safety and comfort are more important to me than speed. I am wondering how large a boat I need to do this kind of cruising safely? I understand that ocean swells can be large enough to threaten a small boat, but I don't know how far one would have to go out before "ocean swells" would begin to appear.
I know the areas you mention very well. Yes, the swells can be very big, and you do not have to be far out. Boat design is more important than length. I've ridden 20-foot swells in a 16-foot Boston Whaler and 32-foot Maine lobster boats. Both are safe. Since you desire comfort over speed, I'd suggest a 32-foot (or larger) Grand Banks, or the like. Depends on what you wish to spend, new vs. used, number of people on board, etc., etc. Ps; make sure the radar works.
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