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Old 02-03-2018, 12:44   #1
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Boat length NOT increasing over the decades

The answer really is 42


There is the oft-touted belief that average boat size has been increasing over the decades. I’ve read it. I’ve repeated it. It turns out it may be wrong.

Latitude 38 maintains a "West Coast Circumnavigators’ List” dating back decades. The database is available, but in raw text form. I took an initial stab at tabulating and analysing the data, but doctorcam, a SN user, took the analysis all the way (My deepest thanks to Doctorcam, whom I hope will comment on this thread).

His findings really bust this myth about boat length.

It turns out the average boat length in this group has changed little over the decades. When considering only “normal” cruisers (not RTW racers, not other odd vessels like corporate ‘tall ships’ or mega yachts), the average boat length has remained virtually identical at ~42 feet.

To be clear, the data does show a small average increase over time, but this increase is almost fully driven by a very few large vessels. When these outliers are removed (considering boats within 1 standard deviation of the mean), the length of “normal” circumnavigators from the west coast of North America has remained amazingly static.

What do people think about this result? With the constant discussion about bigger is better, and the idea that technology makes it easier for small crews to handle large boats, these results seem counter intuitive.

Are average boat sizes getting larger? This data is for circumnavigators, not coastal cruisers or 'dock queens’. But intuitively I’d assumed that if boat size is increasing, so would boats that are taken around the world. This appears NOT to be the case.
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Old 02-03-2018, 12:48   #2
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Re: Boat length NOT increasing over the decades

In my travels I would agree that it probably averages out about 42'. I think it would be more if not for the "kids" of the cruising community that are on smaller less expensive to buy boats.
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Old 02-03-2018, 12:56   #3
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pirate Re: Boat length NOT increasing over the decades

This side of the pond 36ft was considered the optimum size for long distance cruising.. but many did it in slightly smaller.
Sailing dinghies were for short hops to France..
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Old 02-03-2018, 13:02   #4
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Re: Boat length NOT increasing over the decades

If I had the data in front of me, I might try to see if anything happens when you try to normalize the LOA to crew size.
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Old 02-03-2018, 13:02   #5
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Re: Boat length NOT increasing over the decades

I don't know if bigger is better.....I know it COST more for everything!

I'm in a Morgan 38', and it seems to be a good size for two.
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Old 02-03-2018, 13:09   #6
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Re: Boat length NOT increasing over the decades

Mike when we started cruising about 35 years ago the average certainly was less than 42 feet because that was considered a large boat. Once GPS came out and the number of cruising boats really started to grow the boats did start to get bigger for sure. There were still a ton of boats around 30 feet because prior to GPS the average cruiser was my age at the time, don't hardly remember any grey hairs around either. Now of course I'm in a time warp because almost everyone is old with a few younger ones mixed in..lol. another big difference was a very large percentage of the cruisers back then were crossing oceans, these days cruisers are more like RV parks on the water with only a very few crossing oceans. So lots of changes..If you look over the last 20 years boat average sizes probably haven't grown that much. 42 feet is a good size for the average cruiser...
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Old 02-03-2018, 13:36   #7
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Re: Boat length NOT increasing over the decades

Quote:
Originally Posted by toddster8 View Post
If I had the data in front of me, I might try to see if anything happens when you try to normalize the LOA to crew size.
That would be interesting. The database is not explicit in the number of crew Tod. You could infer the number from the names listed, but too often it appears only the captain’s name is given.

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Mike when we started cruising about 35 years ago the average certainly was less than 42 feet because that was considered a large boat. Once GPS came out and the number of cruising boats really started to grow the boats did start to get bigger for sure. There were still a ton of boats around 30 feet because prior to GPS the average cruiser was my age at the time, don't hardly remember any grey hairs around either. Now of course I'm in a time warp because almost everyone is old with a few younger ones mixed in..lol. another big difference was a very large percentage of the cruisers back then were crossing oceans, these days cruisers are more like RV parks on the water with only a very few crossing oceans. So lots of changes..If you look over the last 20 years boat average sizes probably haven't grown that much. 42 feet is a good size for the average cruiser...
This is was one of the surprises that I got out of these results. I’ve always thought the average size was smaller in the past, and had increased over time. But at least for circumnavigators from the west coast, the data does not show this. It has been almost shockingly stable at around 42 feet.

Your observation about the larger percentage of cruisers crossing oceans in the past vs today is fascinating. I suspect you’re right, but I’d love to see hard numbers on it. If it is the case, why do you think that is?
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Old 02-03-2018, 13:37   #8
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Re: Boat length NOT increasing over the decades

Interesting data, Mike, but I agree that circumnavigators don't represent the full cruising community very well in person or in boat choice, They are a different lot for sure.

For another anecdotal view, when we left SF in 1986 in our then 36 foot boat and traveled to Mexico, French Polynesia and Hawaii, we were often the largest boat in an anchorage. Ny the time we sold her in Oz in 2005, we were often the smallest. This is hardly a rigorous analysis, but surely suggests that boat sizes have increased in the general cruising community,

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Old 02-03-2018, 13:41   #9
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pirate Re: Boat length NOT increasing over the decades

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike OReilly View Post
That would be interesting. The database is not explicit in the number of crew Tod. You could infer the number from the names listed, but too often it appears only the captain’s name is given.



This is was one of the surprises that I got out of these results. I’ve always thought the average size was smaller in the past, and had increased over time. But at least for circumnavigators from the west coast, the data does not show this. It has been almost shockingly stable at around 42 feet.

Your observation about the larger percentage of cruisers crossing oceans in the past vs today is fascinating. I suspect you’re right, but I’d love to see hard numbers on it. If it is the case, why do you think that is?
We were not programed by Health and Safety rules.. we climbed trees.. biked everywhere.. walked to school on our own.. went hiking and camped out.. all as kids.
Today that's as rare as hens teeth.. fear has been instilled into the majority.
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Old 02-03-2018, 13:46   #10
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Re: Boat length NOT increasing over the decades

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Originally Posted by Jim Cate View Post
Interesting data, Mike, but I agree that circumnavigators don't represent the full cruising community very well in person or in boat choice, They are a different lot for sure.

For another anecdotal view, when we left SF in 1986 in our then 36 foot boat and traveled to Mexico, French Polynesia and Hawaii, we were often the largest boat in an anchorage. Ny the time we sold her in Oz in 2005, we were often the smallest. This is hardly a rigorous analysis, but surely suggests that boat sizes have increased in the general cruising community,
Fully agree Jim. This is specifically North American west coast circumnavigators. I would love to get my hands on credible datasets looking at average boat length of all boats. If anyone knows of such a dataset, please do let me know.

Still, assuming overall boat size has increased, then why has this not shown up in the circumnavigating group? Is it b/c 42 feet is the best size for small-crew circumnavigation? Perhaps... But another possibility is that average boat size has not increased anywhere. I find this latter option counter-intuitive, but that’s why these findings are so interesting (to me anyway).
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Old 02-03-2018, 13:49   #11
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Re: Boat length NOT increasing over the decades

Our boat hasn't gotten any longer....
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Old 02-03-2018, 14:05   #12
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Re: Boat length NOT increasing over the decades

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We were not programed by Health and Safety rules.. we climbed trees.. biked everywhere.. walked to school on our own.. went hiking and camped out.. all as kids.
Today that's as rare as hens teeth.. fear has been instilled into the majority.
Yes, could be.

Could also be that today the base needs are now much higher. People now might “need" more electronics, more safety gear, more work-saving tools (luxuries).

It could also have to do with economics and the ability to take the time off work.

Probably a combination of a lot of factors...
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Old 02-03-2018, 14:06   #13
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Re: Boat length NOT increasing over the decades

Mike, a look at what the boat manufacturers are offering may give you some thought. Not many boats in the 30 foot range on offer these days, at least according to other posters here on CF. I've not done the research myself, but apparently not many buyers for new smaller yachts. Over time, this will affect the average size of cruising boats.

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Old 02-03-2018, 14:09   #14
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Re: Boat length NOT increasing over the decades

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Mike, a look at what the boat manufacturers are offering may give you some thought. Not many boats in the 30 foot range on offer these days, at least according to other posters here on CF. I've not done the research myself, but apparently not many buyers for new smaller yachts. Over time, this will affect the average size of cruising boats.

Jim
I would love to get my hands on that data Jim. I’ve poked around the interwebs but haven’t found anything. Surely some sales and marketing folks have these collective numbers for new boat sales. Anyone know???
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Old 02-03-2018, 14:17   #15
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pirate Re: Boat length NOT increasing over the decades

Beneteau start at 20ft, 25ft, 31.5 etc etc... if they weren't selling they'd not be building.. but then its a different scene in the EU.
Imagine other EU builders are the same.


http://www.beneteau.com/en/first/first-25
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