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Old 12-05-2011, 19:25   #1
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What Size Sailboat Can Be Safely Operated by a Solo Sailor ?

This sailboat will also be a live aboard and the operator will be a novice. Creeping up to the 61 mark I am planning on dumping the house when I retire and picking up a sailboat to live on. On a typical sailboat what extras would need to be done to convert it to a solo operated sailboat? So much to learn, so much to learn. I think my first trip will be to the central east coast to live out a winter season on the water. NC or MD maybe just gotta get away from Fla.

Walter
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Old 12-05-2011, 19:56   #2
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Re: What size sailboat can be safely operated by a solo sailer?

Hi Walt,

It depends on how much you trust assistive equipment like electric winches and furlers to work when their failure could put you in a dire position. There are folks solo sailing very large boats solo. There are also a lot of folks who think that is foolish. Ultimately, you will have to decide. I am sure you will get a lot of advice and opinions from both sides.

Good luck and happy sailing.
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Old 12-05-2011, 20:54   #3
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Re: What size sailboat can be safely operated by a solo sailer?

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Originally Posted by aquarian View Post
It depends on how much you trust assistive equipment like electric winches and furlers to work when their failure could put you in a dire position.
That is not possible. Every electric winch that I have seen/used can also be used with a regular winch handle, which delivers as much force (2-speed electric) or more force (1-speed electric).

The only difference is that when operating electric, the winch will do the job faster than when operated manually.

to the OP: I don't recommend your plan at all. You first need to become a solo sailor, which involves more than buying the boat. Start with taking some lessons until you feel confident you can sail & moor the boat single handed. Then, when you have bought the boat, hire a hand/captain to assist you for at least the first 2 or 3 trips.

cheers,
Nick.
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Old 12-05-2011, 21:29   #4
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Re: What size sailboat can be safely operated by a solo sailer?

If you are planning to use the AICW the stick will have to be less than 60' which means the boat should not be more than 40'. How and where you use the boat is more important than buying the biggest thing you can handle.
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Old 12-05-2011, 21:34   #5
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Re: What size sailboat can be safely operated by a solo sailer?

Welcome to the forum.
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Old 12-05-2011, 21:34   #6
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Re: What size sailboat can be safely operated by a solo sailer?

Many 30 to 33 footers are easily single handed and make nice liveaboards. Many skippers can sail them in nice weather. When s**t hits the fan is when you find out if you're a solo sailor or not... And that's just the sailing part, being alone most of the time is harder than most expect. Very few can handle that much solitude...
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Old 12-05-2011, 21:48   #7
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Re: What size sailboat can be safely operated by a solo sailer?

As aquarian says, it all depends on how much you are willing to trust assistive equipement.

If you aren't planning on any serious offshore, getting a roller furler for the headsail would be fine. Offshore I am ambivilant, I would personally skip it but the admiral may have the final say. Not an issue for you.

Don't get mainsail roller furling, too many problems still. If you are going offshore I would install lazy jacks. If you are going to stay coastal a Stack pak may be preferred. Doyle originated them, a DIY kit is available thru Sailrite.

Consider adding a removable forestay, intermediate shrouds and running backs for a staysail. With a hanked on staysail, I would be more comfortable with a roller furling headsail. The staysail allows you to break up the jib area, a low cut staysail combined with a high cut moderate headsail give you almost the area of a really large genoa, but handling is a lot easier. You don't need to change sails, just drop/raise/roller furl the ones you have. In light/moderate air both are up. A bit more wind the staysail comes down. More and the staysail goes back up and the headsail is rolled/dropped. In really heavy air you would swap out the staysail for a storm staysail. Reefing of the main also occurs at various points too. In really light air both staysail and headsail are doused in favor of a drifter or chute depending on point of sail. The staysail rigging provides more support for the mast and redundancy. The forestay is also slightly inboard from the bow so marginally less bouncy in heavy air and there will be more room to work.

Down wind you want to use double jibs or an asymetrical spinnaker on a roller furler if you have the money to afford one. A symetrical chute is to much work short handed.

Leading halyards aft to the cockpit:

Main halyard almost certainly goes to the cockpit depending on how the sail is reefed and stowed, consideration has to be given to setting and dousing the lazy jacks. Reefing lines go where the halyard is.

Assuming the headsail is roller furled then cockpit is fine for the halyard.

Halyard for hanked on staysail should stay on the mast.

If you are using a roller furling chute, the spin halyard in the cockpit is fine. If you don't have the money for that and are using drifter then you want the spinnaker halyard on the mast.

Pole lifts, forguys and preventers should go to the cockpit.

Electrical windlass:
For a larger boat (over 35' or so) an electrical windlass really needs to have an effective manual backup with better than 12-1 mechanical advantage. If the windlass only has the mechanical advantage inherent to the length of the lever used for manual operation you need to have a chest high lever, not the waist high one that comes standard for horizontal axis windlasses. Even then you may not be getting much more than 10-1 advantage. For vertical axis windlasses, if there is no gearing to increase advantage the manual option will be a joke, you can't operate a really long winch handle effectively from the operating positions you might take. In general the smaller the boat the less mechanical advantage you can get away with for the manual backup. What ever you get electric or manual install chain stoppers for any rode with significant length of chain (say more than twice the length of the boat) and install 2 to 4 oversized cleats on the bow. The chain stoppers do 2 things, they releive the load from the windlass which is only designed for weighing loads, not anchoring loads, and they allow you to use a block and tackly anchored at the mast to pull the chain in if the windlass goes kaput.

In really heavy weather, underway or at anchor, a larger boat is much harder for a single person to handle. In one of the Pardey books they discussed the 1982 Cabo San Lucas debacle where 28 of 45 anchored boats were driven ashore. One of the observations was that boats over 36' with only a couple on board mostly couldn't cope well. Smaller boats did better short handed.

If you are going to do some coastal cruising a boat up to 40' might be workable. If you want to go offshore, even to the caribbeam I would suggest a boat 32-34'. If you are comfortable living small places you could get down to 27 or 28' but it would involve creative stowage for any long passages.

Consider berthing. You may be solo now but you may pick up crew along the way. You want at least one good berth for each offwatch crew, and a place to sit for the on-watch that doesn't disturb sleepers. Better is one good berth per crew plus a good seat because in a bouncy anchorage you will both be in the main cabin and wanting to sleep. An excellent would be a pilot berth, very good would be a quarter berth, good would be a settee that has to be converted every night. Berths in an aft cabin would also be good, the motion at the end of the boat could keep it from being very good. A dinette that takes more work and equipment to convert than a settee would likely be mediocre. The v-berth will be unusable underway or in a bouncy anchorage.

If you are going to go cruising, don't get a boat with a dinette with cool radiused corners, look great, but unless the radius's can be removed they kill your neck. On a pure liveaboard, they are fine.

Personally I like quarter berths, they offer a marginally more private space, use the minimum of space in the main cabin and if you have 2 you can sleep in the leeward one without have to set lee clothes.

CAL 34 Sailboat details on sailboatdata.com
RANGER 33 Sailboat details on sailboatdata.com
CASCADE 29 Sailboat details on sailboatdata.com

The best laid out boat in the low 30's I have seen is the
ALAJUELA 33 Sailboat details on sailboatdata.com

Luck.
A
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Old 13-05-2011, 14:31   #8
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Re: What Size Sailboat Can Be Safely Operated by a Solo Sailor ?

I'm happy solo with my 40' in 'normal/fair' conditions.
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Old 13-05-2011, 14:44   #9
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Re: What Size Sailboat Can Be Safely Operated by a Solo Sailor ?

Routing downhalls and halyards/winches to the cockpit makes short-handed sailing safer and more convenient. Same with the reefing system.
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Old 13-05-2011, 14:59   #10
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pirate Re: What Size Sailboat Can Be Safely Operated by a Solo Sailor ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Waltermorl View Post
This sailboat will also be a live aboard and the operator will be a novice. Creeping up to the 61 mark I am planning on dumping the house when I retire and picking up a sailboat to live on. On a typical sailboat what extras would need to be done to convert it to a solo operated sailboat? So much to learn, so much to learn. I think my first trip will be to the central east coast to live out a winter season on the water. NC or MD maybe just gotta get away from Fla.

Walter
I'd recommend Oriental, NC and the anchorage at Taylors Creek, Beaufort, NC....
My biggest bestest tip regarding single handing is... if your a worrier...
DON'T DO IT..
it'll cost you a fortune in early warning devices and back ups for back ups...
On the other hand if you enjoy solitude, can improvise and make do.. and are gadgetly challenged... you'll do just fine.
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Old 13-05-2011, 15:00   #11
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Re: What Size Sailboat Can Be Safely Operated by a Solo Sailor ?

learned to sail on a 36' (had never been on a sailboat before that) spent 3 months of weekend sailing after that on 33' boats (got a club membership) bought a 39' boat and sailed it 2 seasons, now have a 44' overall boat

don't need a lot of time sailing to handle a "bigger" boat, it may take a while to winch up the main, so what, take your time and if you get tired take a break it's not a race!

for solo sailing the best thing by far is a good autopilot!!!!!
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Old 13-05-2011, 15:01   #12
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Re: What Size Sailboat Can Be Safely Operated by a Solo Sailor ?

I single handed a heavily built catamaran- Island Packet, for most of a year at the age of 63. The catamaran was a big plus for me- stable, comfortable, twin screw motoring, etc.

I only did a couple of offshore overnight passages- Marco Island to Key West and Cape May to Sandy Hook. And FWIW those are the only ones you really need to do on the east coast, and there are ways to avoid those.

I agree with everything Adelie said. I was glad that the PO had dumped the boom furling main and replaced it with a simple slab reefing system with lazy jacks.
The cat let me get up to the mast by climbing up the companion way, so I never had to go to the rail. But I used a harness and jacklines anyway. I had to go forward of the mast once or twice in semi heavy weather- 25-30 kts and having a wide, flat platform to work from was comforting.

Any size boat can work, but most single handers are sailing 30-36' monohulls or my 35' cat.

David
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Old 13-05-2011, 15:06   #13
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Re: What Size Sailboat Can Be Safely Operated by a Solo Sailor ?

I too will be going the solo route BUT after i've done quite a bit more sailing. While my motoryacht was on the market, i've been doing quite a bit of tuition and taking any chance to crew with others going sailing from my home port.

In the search for my ideal liveabourd / solo cruiser I considered that 40ft was plenty, (although I am looking at one boat that is 47ft) but over 60 ft?? Seems huge and risky to me. Out in the big blue, a 60ft boat will be almost as easy as a 40ft and no doubt a bit more stable, however, as has been said, berthing will be VERY tricky on your own. Not all slips have helpfull staff or passers by to grab a line and even if they do, you have an extra 20 feet to run to get to the other end for the next line.
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Old 13-05-2011, 15:15   #14
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Re: What Size Sailboat Can Be Safely Operated by a Solo Sailor ?

re: "What Size Sailboat Can Be Safely Operated by a Solo Sailor"

I think this is the wrong question. If you put lots of time on the water - chartering, being a guest on OPBs, doing some ocean racing, you will know the answer *for yourself*. There is plenty of good advice being offered, especially about the difficulties with solitude and the advantages of "small"; but your question is one only you can answer, and with more time on the water you will have it.
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Old 13-05-2011, 19:28   #15
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Re: What Size Sailboat Can Be Safely Operated by a Solo Sailor ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by simonmd View Post
In the search for my ideal liveabourd / solo cruiser I considered that 40ft was plenty, (although I am looking at one boat that is 47ft) but over 60 ft?? Seems huge and risky to me. Out in the big blue, a 60ft boat will be almost as easy as a 40ft and no doubt a bit more stable, however, as has been said, berthing will be VERY tricky on your own. Not all slips have helpfull staff or passers by to grab a line and even if they do, you have an extra 20 feet to run to get to the other end for the next line.
The steering wheel of a big boat requires 1 hand to operate it just like on a small boat. The big boat is easier to manoeuvre. What is riskier now? When I moor Jedi with her 64', single prop and no bow thruster, I only need a single mid-ships line to shore to completely control the boat, something that becomes more difficult as the boat becomes smaller.

When you see a boat having trouble mooring, you can bet it's a small boat. So, once again I disagree that a bigger boat is tougher to handle. This is often a fable put forward by those who can't afford bigger boats and need arguments to explain why smaller is better.

ciao!
Nick.
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