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Old 02-04-2017, 19:17   #1
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What boat size for offshore with kids?

Whats everyones thoughts on maximum boat sizes for ocean passages with short crew an famiily onboard?

We will be buying a boat in Europe in a few months with the intention of sailing it half way around the world back to NZ with 2 of us and 3 kids (5, 7 and 9) and most likley some extra crew for the big trips.
I think we really need a minimum of about 45ft to accomodate everyone comfortably (and do schoolwork ect) but there are also plenty of 50-54fters out there that can be purchased for not a huge amount more money and are all fully setup for offshore and look to be ready to go (obviously im going to view before buying and make sure there are not too many hidden massive costs).
Money is not a huge problem for the trip, we are not wealthy at all but are selling the house and done pretty well out of it (auckland house market - over doubled our money in 5 years....) so will have a handy budget for the trip. The plan is to sell the boat after the trip to recover as much of the money as possible then settle back into shore based life or do it all over again... Boats seem to be worth a fair bit more in NZ that the med so the difference will help us alot in the end (note: its not a money making venture but more a way to have an epic gap year without it costing us everything!)
Just trying to get my head around what the best plan of attack is.

Benefits with a bigger boat is speed (shorter passages, dodging weather systems) and comfort, space, storage ect.
Downsides are initial cost, running cost and boat handling.
Im sure the wife and I can generally handle the boat OK (plenty of sailing experence between us) but extra crew would be a benefit for the longer passages as the kids actually take up a bit of time as well. Im sure the kids will be helpful at some stage but right now they are more of a hinderance...
Take out the initial cost of getting the boat ready (sails, safety gear, motor service ect) what do you think the running cost extras would be for a 50+fter against a 45fter for an 18 month passage. Remember that we will be on anchor most of the time rather than berthing (carribbean/ Pacific). Sure we will have to berth occasionally (some parts of the Med) but its a pretty small overall cost in the grand scheme of things.

I know the panama canal is quite a bit more expensive for bigger boats, haulouts will also be horrendous, any other downsides of going bigger that im missing?

The Hanse 540 looks pretty good, plenty of space, reasonbly fast and a self tacking jib so easy to sail. Or the Dufour 525 but they have a shorter mast with overlapping genoas so a bit more of a handful.
There are also plenty of hanse 531's around that look Ok for offshore but resale wouldnt be as good.
Any thoughts on these boats?

Originally we were looking at Dufour 455's but think we can stretch to something bigger and faster.

Any advice appreciated.
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Old 02-04-2017, 19:39   #2
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Re: What boat size for offshore with kids?

Well one very well known couple sailed around the world with the same sized family as you and that was a 38 footer so from there up would be a good starting point. Sounds like it's going to be a short trip so why not walk the docks at home and talk to brokers and find out what's selling in your market and go with that.
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Old 02-04-2017, 20:42   #3
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Re: What boat size for offshore with kids?

Layout is really more important than actual size. Consider where everyone will sleep. Can 2 of the kids share or will each need their own space? Also look carefully at storage and tankage.

I mention this because hull shape will make a big difference in storing things. We have a 38 foot boat, but the hull shape is relatively shallow. We would have a very hard time with 3 on board for provisions (but our water tank is huge). Calculate how much fresh water you will need for drinking water for t b e longest passage you may do. Is the tank big enough? Will the decks be wide enough for jerry cans?

Before thinking about length, get on a few boats and check it out. Look at how everything is arranged and see how deep storage is. 5 to 7 people will need a large amount of storage for provisions if you make a long passage. Some boats may not offer the storage that you need regardless of length.

Just some stuff to think about any way!
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Old 02-04-2017, 22:34   #4
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Re: What boat size for offshore with kids?

First of all welcome aboard!
I have kids. Yes, unless they really know what to do, they are worse than having ignorant adult passengers aboard. They don't always do what you tell them, and you worry about them FAR more! (or maybe MY kids are unusually disobedient??) I have sailed my little boat with my 2 kids (6 and 11) coastally only, and I have crewed and sailed big boats, many with trips with teenagers. But I have not done a trip like you are planning. I would think though that I'd look for at least two good, experienced crew, who know your kids already, willing to go the whole way (tall order, I know) in part to sail and in part to help keep an eye on the kids given how young they are. Perhaps a couple you know already (and can get along with at sea!) Imagine you or your wife becoming ill or injured. You will be tasked with sailing and caring for the kids at the same time. At the least it could be exhausting. I don't mean to sound critical or negative... it can be done safely, but I'd just be watching Murphy's Law more closely! Maybe I am just a really nervous Dad.
Oh, and I'd be shopping in the 45 foot and greater range also. You'll need the room IMO, like you say. But a bigger boat can be a handful too at times... don't try to do it on the cheap, you'll need the really good equipment on a really good boat. I'd be sure to have the best furling equipment! I have no experience with the Dufours and Hanses you mentioned, I hope some owners will chime in!
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Old 03-04-2017, 00:00   #5
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Re: What boat size for offshore with kids?

Yeah kids certainly do add to the workload and the stress. We have cruised with our kids since they were babies mostly on race boats too so very few creature comforts. A newborn, 2 and 3 year old on a 28fter for 2 weeks was pretty full on. We did 2 weeks this christmas with just 100L of water (+ about 20L of water bottles) so the family is pretty good at water conservation. We would have a watermaker for this trip anyway so water tankage is not such a big issue however I would want to make sure we had plenty on board for the long passages.
Diesel consumption and tankage is usually pretty straight forward and a good boat should sail OK so not need to motor as much.
I know the trip could be done on a much smaller boat but I don't see many benefits right now. Might as well do it in comfort. I would want at least 45ft.
I'm more worried what the maximum size would be before it just starts to get too hard.
I have a few good mates who can do parts of the trip and we would likely have other family members along for many parts and they are pretty experienced as well.
Kids are happy to share cabins, they always have and share a bedroom in the house. In fact I think they would hate being separated although the older boy would probably like some space of his own at some stage.

The production boats have good resale down here as they are pretty expensive to get into NZ if you don't sail them down yourself. By the time to buy and ship to NZ with 20% duty and GST on purchase and shipping costs it works out very expensive. Our NZ fleet of boats is rapidly aging and many of them are just not economical to buy anymore.
I work very closely with the Jeanneau agents here as well as the hanse dealer and know all of the other dealers pretty well. They have all confirmed to me that there is potential to do quite well out if this as they often source second hand boats for NZ clients from Europe and ship them down. The big brands like Jeanneau, hanse, dufour, bavaria, beneteau ect are all marketed hard down here so they are the best to get. The more expensive boats like x yachts, island packets, J boats ect are not marketed much so the value is just not there.
I just like the look and style of the hanse and dufours and I think the resale value is best.
Anyway just trying to getc an idea of people experiences with big boats and the cost/headaches involved with cruising them.
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Old 03-04-2017, 00:30   #6
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Re: What boat size for offshore with kids?

We sailed our 55 to New Zealand mostly just my wife and I or just one crew for extra muscle.

With 3 kids I would go with the bigger crew and a strong crew member to help with the boat.
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Old 03-04-2017, 01:39   #7
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pirate Re: What boat size for offshore with kids?

With the Hanse check out the type of rudder construction.. one had its rudder disintegrate crossing the Atlantic recently and had to be abandoned.. as a result of the owner posting on CF requesting forum members in the Caribe to keep an eye out for it.. he hoped for a recovery.. a few of us went looking for manufacturer problems and found its not the first time and.. not the only fault with this Marque.
Suggest you go on every Marques 'Owners Site' and research them well before buying.
Europe to NZ is a bigger deal than the usual coastal cruising and basically it boils down to you cramming the average boat owners 6-10 seasons sailing into less than a year (average boat does 500-1000nm/season) if you go straight across.. folks seem to forget this simple fact.
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Old 03-04-2017, 02:55   #8
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Re: What boat size for offshore with kids?

Thanks for the feedback guys.
Yeah have been spending a bit of time reading about the hanses and the others. For the amount of them out there probably not a huge failure rate. I would probably add some more glass around the vertical front join on the rudder to be safe as it seems they can split along there.

What other hidden expenses and problems am I not thinking about with a 52fter rather than a 45fter? Are there plenty of good enough services on route to haul out a 52fter?
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Old 03-04-2017, 03:05   #9
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Re: What boat size for offshore with kids?

Id mostly be worried about how long it would take to sell the 55 once you got back.
Most cruising boats are sailed by couples, and over 50 ft is big for a couple to handle, you start becoming dependant on electric winches and mainsail furling etc.

We are about to set off on 6 months onboard with 2 kids (6 and 10), and I'd love to have 45 feet rather than our 37. But the running cost would mean we could only afford 3 months off work, rather than 6. Hence we squash into 37 ft... And I can carry the main myself, and the genoa or jib in one hand. On the 52 I used to race, it was a two man job for the main, and a big grunt for a no.1 heavy

Perhaps I'm just jealous of a 45, so 55 is beyond my dreams. But I see lots of 35 to 45 ft cruisers here in AU, but not many 55s.

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Old 03-04-2017, 03:15   #10
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East of the America's haulouts no problems.. West of the America's much more scarce..
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Old 03-04-2017, 03:23   #11
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Re: What boat size for offshore with kids?

Fair points MLOI. Resale is an issue I suppose. As you say it's a much smaller market when you get to boats of that size and most people probably want new rather than 2nd hand with big miles.
We normally all fit into smaller boats but with all the home schooling and such long passages I really want more space.
I was home schooled on a 45ft gaff rigger with my 4 brothers. It was pretty busy on board....
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Old 03-04-2017, 03:30   #12
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Re: What boat size for offshore with kids?

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Originally Posted by B00B00 View Post
Thanks for the feedback guys.
Yeah have been spending a bit of time reading about the hanses and the others. For the amount of them out there probably not a huge failure rate. I would probably add some more glass around the vertical front join on the rudder to be safe as it seems they can split along there.

What other hidden expenses and problems am I not thinking about with a 52fter rather than a 45fter? Are there plenty of good enough services on route to haul out a 52fter?
Why would you? Seriously if it needs strengthening, other people read the reports on the Hanse as well and will be reluctant to purchase based on the possibility of an issue.

Better to find a boat that does not have a known 'safety concern'.

Does it make a Hanse a bad boat? Certainly not! However you want a painless return on your money.....

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Old 03-04-2017, 03:49   #13
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Re: What boat size for offshore with kids?

It's a pretty easy job for price of mind.
Who knows what you might hit or get caught on the rudder during the trip.
Probably just a couple of layers of 100mm glass down the front edge staggered either side then a quick skim with bog and repaint. Would only do it if I had to do the antifoul or another job underneath.
I just did exactly that on my Jeanneau Sunfast 3600 after we hit a log and split one of the rudders. I got a new one but fixed it up as a spare for the Round North Island race. Was surprised how it held together at the time even with a sizable Crack. It was about 500mm long and at the top of the rudder was opened up by about 6mm. Held for about 100nm of racing and 50nm delivery home.
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Old 03-04-2017, 04:59   #14
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Re: What boat size for offshore with kids?

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Originally Posted by Sea Dreaming View Post
Layout is really more important than actual size.>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Before thinking about length, get on a few boats and check it out. Look at how everything is arranged and see how deep storage is. 5 to 7 people will need a large amount of storage for provisions if you make a long passage. Some boats may not offer the storage that you need regardless of length.

Just some stuff to think about any way!
Good points. You may want to read Nigel Calder's Cruisers Handbook. He discusses all these "issues" in great detail.
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Old 03-04-2017, 07:55   #15
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Re: What boat size for offshore with kids?

Lots of good points already made. I would add that when I bought a Jeanneau SunFast 43 in the Med with the intention of slowly making way back to Oz, I specifically narrowed it down to the 43 size, or slightly longer version, because it would "manageable" by two people. Ok so manageable is case by case and different for everyone. My theory was that with the slightly taller mast, deeper bulb keel and larger rudder then *** with reduced sail *** it would be easier to sail once the wind kicks in. That logic has turned to be correct. Of course, in theory any sail boat with less canvas up in a blow should be easier to sail. But the question is how does it really sail? You have to take the out, tweak the controls and find out. Some sail/rig/hull combos are not much fun once there is real wind and swell, there is not enough drive in the rig, you can't put up more cloth or you heel excessively and you go nowhere fast, or you are out of control. Also the other criteria I had was I wanted to be able to get from point A to B at a reasonable pace. So that balance has worked out for me. Other points to consider in the equation is sail plan. We ended up with a range of kites (symmetric and asyo) with socks to make it easier on the crew. The high cut clew #2 and #3 headsails helps for visibility while beating and tight reaching and depowers the sail, #4 with battens has saved us a few times beating when the motor would have been very unpleasant, and 3rd reef point in the main is a must. The 3 spreader rig with adjustable backstay and oversize vang is also a plus as the wind increases, can flatten the sails quickly and drop the main down the traveller. I also like the traveller at the back of the boom, even if it makes the 3 course dinners in port awkward, the improvement in sail plan is worth it. Ok so these controls are more for the racing end, that is where I have come from. The point is: used correctly on a reduced sail plan in windy conditions, I have found the boat a dream to handle compared to others. Yes you are off the pace for a Sydney Hobart but it is still reasonable and I guess safer given that the controls/tackle are specified for more sail area. I would add that our first trip through the Adriatic our 3 kids were 2, 5 and 8. In 3 months of sailing the wind was like a dream most of the time, one or two "bora" towards the end but we were safely tucked away in port. We didn't really get tested until crossing the Aegean. Netting on the life lines essential, makes life easier for sail handling too, and the kids could all swim. Have since done multiple Greece/Turkey trips, next trip is to leave the Med or at least get over to Spain, kids are now 8, 11 and 15 and cherish their memories. Plenty of comments already on CF re kids on long trips. My 2 cents, we learnt to have breaks for "on-land" trips, have party time on the boat, have water toys and find lots of amazing swimming spots, time for computer games UGG yes, kindle is great for reading, the 43 is big enough for each kid to have their own space and still small enough to handle effectively wrt sail area, sail plan and manouvering/steering for the 2 adults. As the kids got older they did more, but most important they all have specific job during the key times of berthing, anchoring, setting/lowering sails, get used to the routine. Also, we have added dinghy davit arch with solar panels, good for practicality, effect yet to be tested in a blow. The cruiser/racer config 43 boat size has worked for me.
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