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Old 08-04-2005, 11:53   #1
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Location: Cruising The US East Coast
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Swim Steps?

As we get closer (2 Yrs) to the day of investing in our cruising home/boat I am trying to narrow the field down by features that we want in a boat.

One of the things we liked on the last 2 charter boats was the swim step incorporated into a sugar scoop type stern. It was great for getting aboard from the dink, rinsing dishes, swimming, landing a fish, loading provisions from the dinghy, etc.

So I think I want one, BUT, how does it really work out cruising? Trouble with a wind vane? Interfere with dinghy davits? Too easy for non-invited guests to get aboard? I've even read of sea lions making them selves at home in the cockpit utilizing swim steps.

Also it seems that mostly newer fin keel/spade rudder performance cruisers have them. That may be too broad a statement, if so please say so.

Any help appreciated,

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Old 08-04-2005, 18:25   #2
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Hi John,

Personally I like the open transoms. First if their built right, they add strength to the transom.
And second they add to positive buoyancy by the over hangs.

The inconveniences are minor to me. The seals, just lay down a board with spikes. They'll only try once.
Thieves are going to get on anyway.
There are my different styles of davits.

And the other part you didn't mention was when the cockpit gets swamped in rough weather how long will it take for the water to drain out. As for a following sea, it's the breakers you have to worry about and it'll get you even in a square transom. Some have a back door that can be closed like on the Sun Odyssey.

Others may disagree......
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Old 09-04-2005, 02:59   #3
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My previous boat had a walk through transom and only once, in a following sea, did the cockpit become awash. The water left as quickly as it arrived. I would hate to have waited for cockpit drains to accomplish the same task.

We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit."
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Old 09-04-2005, 06:52   #4
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Thanks for the input.

When the times comes to choose between boats it will come down to the one that has the most features on my wish list.

This board is even more valuable to us that live too far from the sea to ask the crews of cruising boats what has worked over time for them.

With the positive answers here swim steps will stay on the list.

Thanks again,

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Old 12-04-2005, 07:18   #5
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Hi, John - hope you got the email I just sent...

I think there are some decided disadvantages of a 'sugar scoop' transom if you plan to cruise the boat (vs. daysail it) and I'd encourage you to talk to cruisers who are using such boats to hear the pro & con.

On the typical cruising boat, the crew is small and consequently self-steering becomes a critical otherwise, how will one or two people rest, eat, service the boat or download the weather and update the nav plan while also hand steering. Most crews feel an autopilot is the answer - the only answer - to this dilemma but I noticed when we stopped in the Azores two years ago that, day after day as boats cycled thru Horta and then left again, my daily count of boats with wind vanes spanned ratios between 66% and 90%...even smaller boats with fewer systems and smaller budgets. And wind vanes typically don't match up well with step-thru transoms. Mfgrs are forced to claim that you can offset their vanes because they don't want to lose out on that portion of the market...but when I talk to them privately, they don't really feel all the good about making those claims. So one dilemma is how to retain the option of a vane if initially considering boats with step-thru transoms.

Another big issue if comments on some of these BB's are any indication is the noise factor when the boat's layout puts the larger berth in the aft cabin or quarter cabin while wind driven chop works on the aft end of the boat, splashing noisily and relentlessly. With some boats, this can drive the owners right out of the cabin.

Also, there is the issue of internal volume as a boat with a conventional transom and the lazarette locker typically placed just forward of the transom will have a great amount of storage available than with a step-thru transom. Weight in the ends of the boat isn't a great idea but there are a host of bulky things that aren't terribly heavy and yet need a home; on cruising boats, this is especially true. Not only does a step-thru transom reduce the internal volume for storage (all other aspects of the design being equal) but it typically reduces the size of the locker door(s), meaning that a deflated dink can't live there even tho' that's where you might want to put it before putting out to sea.

Don't overlook the fact that there is a midway option, which you see frequently with closed transom boats: a stainless tube & wooden slatted platform, anchored on the transom just above the waterline, usually hinged so it can be raised to lie adjacent to the transom. A common addition to such a platform is a hinged, collapsable extension ladder of sorts (stocked in most marine chandelries) that allows one to reboard the platform. Access to the cockpit OVER the transom is not as convenient as with a step-thru transom, but this approach does provide some of the conveniences of an open transom and is simple and relatively inexpensive to set up.

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