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Old 22-07-2020, 10:56   #1
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What happened to the "small" "Affordable" cruisers?

So I was thinking about this the other day. Some of my older sailing friends remember a time when anything over 35' was considered a big boat and between 30' and 35' considered normal for a cruising boat, but 20'-30' boats were regularly cruised. By today's standards these (30'-35') are considered by many to be too small to cruise or cross oceans, and cruising in anything under 30' is considered nuts.

My question is what changed?

We know that boats under 40' are more than capable of circumnavigating (not necessarily comfortably) and that at one point the 26'-36' cruising boat was popular due to the number built. Clearly these boats are seaworthy, Jim Brown cruised his 31' boat "Scrimshaw" for nearly 4 decades, the Pardeys boat was 24', Matt Rutherford did the northwest passage and the horn nonstop in a 27' Albin Vega, countless others have sailed around the world in what is considered today a "Small Boat". Was it just "keeping up with the Jones's" and "I want a bigger boat syndrome" that made everyone want these 40'+ behemoths? Or was there some other more "Scientific" reason behind it?

I'm just curious what everyone thinks. I know the drive towards bigger boats has led to a corresponding increase in price for new boats and thus, a more expensive cost for entry into sailing. I understand wanting a huge boat, but what happened to the "small", capable, AFFORDABLE cruiser that was so popular in the days of yore? Surely a small, capable cruiser would be more profitable to the companies if more people could buy them. and if more people were out sailing wouldn't that be a good thing?
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Old 22-07-2020, 11:01   #2
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Re: What happened to the "small" "Affordable" cruisers?

Demand by the market for more space, storage and living.


Increase in demand for amenities like fridge, watermaker etc which require more space.


Increase use of furlers and electric winches make it easier to handle more sails (one of the reasons there are more sloops vs ketches now as well).
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Old 22-07-2020, 11:11   #3
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Re: What happened to the "small" "Affordable" cruisers?

Quote:
Or was there some other more "Scientific" reason behind it?
It's a matter of economics..........

It probably costs about the same to produce a 35' boat as a 45' boat......

The larger boat will likely have a longer mast, bigger winches, slightly more standing rigging and slightly more running rigging.

Other than that, both will have at least one head, a sink in the galley, some type of refrigeration and both will have one or two berths and a main salon.

The 45' boat will command a higher price. If you were producing them, why would you waste time on 35' boats.......
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Old 22-07-2020, 11:11   #4
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Re: What happened to the "small" "Affordable" cruisers?

Go to a boat show. They get bigger every year. The charter trade is a big factor. You can't charter a small boat.

I find I have less and less interest in looking at the boats as a result.

Why go sailing, when I can have a virtual experience in the comfort of my living room? There are fewer boats on the water... which is OK with me.
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Old 22-07-2020, 11:15   #5
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Re: What happened to the "small" "Affordable" cruisers?

Bigger boats have a better profit margin.
Boat builders are primary source of income for boating mags. As are marine equipment manufacturers such as those making EPIRBs and various COB recovery items.
Boating mags aren’t going to say small boats are unsafe, but they do say small boats are cramped and bigger boats are SO much safer.

People read boating mags monthly. They read the book by a small boat sailor once. The big boat mantra is regularly, the small boat point of view only comes up occasionally.

I think there is also a little mentality that lots of equipment and a bigger boat will compensate for minimal experience.

It’s not one big thing pushing in the direction of bigger boats, it’s a lot of little things nudging.

The Pardey’s book chapter about the Xmas 1982 debacle in Cabo San Lucas clinched for me the idea that the biggest boat I would want to double hand would be 37’.

Yes there folks with lots of experience that do difficult voyages in large boats with short crew. But they put in the time and distance to get that experience.
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Old 22-07-2020, 11:20   #6
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Re: What happened to the "small" "Affordable" cruisers?

Sailboats are like cars. Is your car a sportster, a station-wagon - oops sorry- an SUV, or a winnebago?

We're still sailing a trailerable 19' microcruiser, out of a small yacht-club. We're seeking a larger boat but until (or if) life grants us the time and budget for serious cruising, we're very happy doing a ton of daysails and the occasional long weekend with her. Or trailering up to a big cottage-lake and spending a week on a body of water that the big boats will never get to.

There's been a resurgence of interest in small camping trailers, even before the coronavirus. Perhaps there will be a new interest in trailerable cruisers as well.


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Old 22-07-2020, 11:30   #7
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Re: What happened to the "small" "Affordable" cruisers?

I'll just add this...........

My first house, built in the 50's, had three bedrooms, one bath and a kitchen the size of a postage stamp and detached single car garage.........

Probably 1100 sq ft or less.....

Today's new homes have to have at least three baths, a great room, three car garage, a kitchen with two ovens, 5000 sq ft and a homeowners association.......

Boats are not much different.
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Old 22-07-2020, 11:38   #8
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Re: What happened to the "small" "Affordable" cruisers?

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Originally Posted by Little Otter View Post

My question is what changed?
Nothing has changed. If you look at sales statistics, the vast majority of boats sold are under 40 foot long. I do not remember the exact number, but it is very very high, higher than 95%.
Now, most people are buying powerboats these days, so this has changed. This is probably because the most popular “cruising” is to the nearest sand bar on a weekend. Most of the boats at a proverbial sand bar party are definitely under 40 feet.
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Old 22-07-2020, 11:42   #9
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Re: What happened to the "small" "Affordable" cruisers?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Little Otter View Post
So I was thinking about this the other day. Some of my older sailing friends remember a time when anything over 35' was considered a big boat and between 30' and 35' considered normal for a cruising boat, but 20'-30' boats were regularly cruised. By today's standards these (30'-35') are considered by many to be too small to cruise or cross oceans, and cruising in anything under 30' is considered nuts.

My question is what changed?

We know that boats under 40' are more than capable of circumnavigating (not necessarily comfortably) and that at one point the 26'-36' cruising boat was popular due to the number built. Clearly these boats are seaworthy, Jim Brown cruised his 31' boat "Scrimshaw" for nearly 4 decades, the Pardeys boat was 24', Matt Rutherford did the northwest passage and the horn nonstop in a 27' Albin Vega, countless others have sailed around the world in what is considered today a "Small Boat". Was it just "keeping up with the Jones's" and "I want a bigger boat syndrome" that made everyone want these 40'+ behemoths? Or was there some other more "Scientific" reason behind it?

I'm just curious what everyone thinks. I know the drive towards bigger boats has led to a corresponding increase in price for new boats and thus, a more expensive cost for entry into sailing. I understand wanting a huge boat, but what happened to the "small", capable, AFFORDABLE cruiser that was so popular in the days of yore? Surely a small, capable cruiser would be more profitable to the companies if more people could buy them. and if more people were out sailing wouldn't that be a good thing?
Over the years we've known several cruisers happily sailing in smaller boats, many in the low 30' range and some in 20-30 foot range. Some were single-handers, but many were couples and occasionally couples with children.

Seaworthiness was not considered an issue. A well found small boat can do fine even in pretty bad weather, if well sailed. But the boats were sparse, as a rule, with few of the conveniences we now think of as essential. Refrigeration was rare, and only basic radio gear. Windlasses often not present, or manual. Sails were hank on. Obviously storage was limited. Dinghies often had only a tiny motor or none.

The cruisers on these boats were (are, some still exist) true sailors and adventurers and it seems to me that they always had big smiles and a friendly wave for passers by.

But the tolerance for sparse living is not frequently seen now days. People rarely have an appetite for hardship and that kind of adventure. They have a long list of what they think they must have, and they arrived at the broker's office in "his" and "hers" large SUV's. They are used to things being "nice". People looking at a boat for cruising compare it with others they've seen and they soon want and expect a little more. A little more room, a little more of the electrical conveniences, fridge, freezer, navigation equipment, radio equipment, windlass, autopilot, a little more power generation equipment, and spares of everything, more room for the "stuff' they think would be nice to have along, like a bigger dingy (RIB of course, and a motor which can plane it, and a spare motor), kayaks, dive equipment, bicycles.. You know, it goes on. Multiple cabins with doors and big heads, often with showers. When looking at boats and comparing, boy that bigger one sure seems nice...

All of this adds up to people buying bigger boats, and of course, that takes more money. But more money is common these days, and is required to cruise anyhow, berthing, sails, etc.

So what used to be common, the smaller cruising boats, are still possible, and many are still out there cruising, and cruising on outrageously small budgets. But in today's day and age, a 45' catamaran costing half a million dollars is closer to the norm than a 26 pilot cutter. And to my way of thinking, that's sad.

We've all become jaded.
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Old 22-07-2020, 11:55   #10
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Re: What happened to the "small" "Affordable" cruisers?

When I was a kid I thought my 24' was big and a 35' would be massive and certainly hard to handle. Then along came roller furling, GPS, big fat boats, cheap airfares, the "gee, it would be nice to have a shower" and no more stories of romantic adventures on the covers of Life and National Geographic magazines. And then there is the shift of just what was affordable to the middle class. Seen many new Cessnas around? The good news though, when I want to get away from it all, is that my favorite little anchorages have fewer visitors these days.
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Old 22-07-2020, 12:05   #11
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Re: What happened to the "small" "Affordable" cruisers?

I will state, without any proof or evidence whatever, that our 1981 36 foot Pearson 365 ketch is most likely a stronger boat today than many brand new boats for sale. I also suspect she will be around long after these newer boats are landfill.

I will also state they will not have more serenity than we had either!

God love the Good Old Days!
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Old 22-07-2020, 12:14   #12
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Re: What happened to the "small" "Affordable" cruisers?

Thanks for all the great replies so far guys. I definitely want to hear everyone else's thoughts too. I fully admit that while I didn't start that way, at one point I was one of the "gotta have a bigger boat with all the fancy gadgets" people. But with age and experience (I guess I can say that at 28 lol) has come the realization that even with all the modern amenities, it can be a challenge to safely singlehand anything above about 35' in rough weather, and that even with 2 people you are basically singlehanding a large amount of the time. All this has led me back around to see the practicality, and dare I say romance of smaller boats. I'd rather actually go cruising than just dream about cruising, and as such I am now looking for a 30'-36' boat or maybe even building one, I just want to go on adventures and get to go sailing while i'm at it.
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Old 22-07-2020, 12:26   #13
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Re: What happened to the "small" "Affordable" cruisers?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Little Otter View Post
All this has led me back around to see the practicality, and dare I say romance of smaller boats. I'd rather actually go cruising than just dream about cruising, and as such I am now looking for a 30'-36' boat or maybe even building one, I just want to go on adventures and get to go sailing while i'm at it.
You are not immune either ... why is it that you want a big 36ft boat? as you pointed out that there are still people sailing and having adventures with <30ft boats ... join us!
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Old 22-07-2020, 12:29   #14
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Re: What happened to the "small" "Affordable" cruisers?

No, no don’t build unless that’s a goal in and of itself.
Start building and it’ll be another 10yr before you go. Unlikely to save you much money either.
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Old 22-07-2020, 12:33   #15
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Re: What happened to the "small" "Affordable" cruisers?

Oh my god
Otter, look at that boat
Its so big
She looks like one of those production boats
Who understands those production boats
They only sail her because she is like like a floating condo
I mean her stern, length and beam
It's just so big
I can't believe it's so proud
It's just out there
I mean, it's gross
Look, she's just so HUGE

*rap*
I like big boats and I can not lie
You other sailors can't deny
That when a boat sails in with an itty bitty bow
And a round thing in your face
You get sprung
Wanna pull up tough
Cuz you notice that boat is stuffed
Deep in the beam she's wearing
I'm hooked and I can't stop staring
Oh, baby I wanna get with ya
And take your picture
My yachties tried to warn me
But that stern you got
Make Me so horney
Ooh, rump of smooth hull
You say you wanna get in my slip
Well use me, use me, cuz you aint that average cruisy

I've seen them sailin
To hell with a trimin
She's Sweat, Wet, got it goin like a turbo vette

I'm tired of CF and magazines
Saying narrow sterns are the thing
Take the average sailor and ask him that
She gotta pack much in back

So Fellas (yeah) Fellas(yeah)
Has your boat got the butt (hell yeah)
Well sail it, sail it, sail it, sail it, sail that healthy butt

Baby got back

I like'em round and big
And when I'm throwin a gig
I just can't help myself
I'm actin like an animal
Now here's my scandal

I wanna get you home
And UH, double up UH UH
I aint talkin bout This Old Boat
Cuz wooden parts were made for toys
I want em real thick and juicy
So find that juicy double
SB1's in trouble
Beggin for a piece of that bubble
So I'm lookin' at sailin’ videos
Knockin those Hunters sailin like hoes
You can have them J-boats
I'll keep my boat like Flo Jo
A word to the thick soul boats
I wanna get with ya
I won't cus or hit ya
But I gotta be straight when I say I wanna --
Til the break of dawn
Baby Got it sailin on
Alot of sailors won't like this song
Cuz them punks lie to hit it and quit it
But I'd rather sail and play
Cuz I'm long and I'm strong
And I'm down to get the wind on

So ladies (yeah), Ladies (yeah)
Do you wanna roll in my boat (yeah)
Then turn around
Check it out
Even Swan boys got to shout
Baby got back

Yeah baby
When it comes to boats
Cruiser Forum ain't got nothin to do with my selection
11’ beam and 5’ draft
Only if she's 22’

So your boat throws a single spreader
Playin narrow boat lists by boat writers
But they ain't got any sail power to drive the bun
My anaconda don't want none unless you've got buns hun
You can do cutters or ketches, but please don't lose that butt
Some sailors wanna play that hard role
And tell you that the stern beam and length ain't gold
So they toss it and leave it
And I pull up quick to retrieve it
So CF says you're fat
Well I ain't down with that
Cuz your volume is large and your curves are kickin
And I'm thinkin bout stickin

To the short narrow beam boats in the magazines
You be missin the cruiser thing
Give me a Hunter I can't resist her
Narrow berths and small cockpits did miss her
Some knucklehead tried to dis
Cuz his boat was on someone's list
He had game but he chose to hit 'em
And pulled up quick to get with 'em
So sailors if the butt is round
And you wanna triple X throw down
Dial 1-900-SAILBOY and kick them nasty thoughts
Baby got back
Baby got back
Big in tha middle and she got much back x4
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