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Old 17-11-2020, 15:05   #1
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At what point does a boat start to get too big? (family, kids, maintenance concerns)

We are not looking to incite internet drama. Simply asking for feedback from those who are sailing with young kids and dogs, where is the threshold or at what point does the amount of effort and time it takes to operate and maintain a boat start to become unreasonable as the length of the boat gets larger?

There seems to be a sweet-spot between the 47ft and 54ft range of boats. Lots of people sailing with kids and families on 47's through 54's. The HR49 & 54, Oyster stops at 52, Hylas 47/49/54, Amel, I am sure there are a few other non-production names we missed.

I'm not asking about cost of maintenance vs. cost of ownership/purchase, I mean actual hours and effort. At what point does a boat start to become bigger, more complicated, sophisticated and most importantly, time consuming to the point that two people (with family/kids/dogs) start to feel like the boat is a full-time job?

Asking because just like everyone else: We want the safest and most comfortable boat we can afford.

I am thinking that a 49-54 is a size where if you have the money to stay on top of everything religiously, then you shouldn't have too many surprises. Anything larger than a 55-ish boat starts to get BIG, complicated and time consuming for a couple (husband/wife) to manage. Anything smaller than a 44/45-47-ish ft boat starts to get really crowded and small. (with kids/dogs) I am not talking about boat handling, sailing or passage. I mean the time it takes to fix or maintain the physical stuff on a boat.

I understand not all boats are equal. Is what I said above a good platform or opinion to start from given the names we referenced? We each have our minds made up. I like a 54 and she likes a 55 so we have a size that we roughly agree on. Problem is the boat I like has less creature comforts (space, stuff) but is much more serviceable. The boat she likes is much more new, modern, spacious --and I'll have to tear the kitchen/boat half-apart to do an oil change or perform service.

I think that what we want cannot be had in a 54/55-ish foot boat. I think that to get what we want is going to require a 60-65 ft boat and if I had to guess, a boat that big starts to be really big and time consuming for a couple with kids to operate and maintain. That has nothing to do with money --even if you only write checks, you still have to address the maintenance and issues. If you need to do an oil change, you can write a check or DIY but if you have to tear apart the galley/kitchen sink to get at the motor, then that puts the boat (galley) offline for a period of time regardless of DIY or writing the check.

I'm really trying to keep boat models/styles/brands out of this topic. We are not looking at typical production boats but at the same time, we are trying to narrow down based on our set of criteria: draft, cabins, tanks, sailplan, center cockpit, etc. If I like a boat because it has solid lifelines throughout and she likes a boat because the lines look sexy (and she thinks the solid lifeline boat looks ugly), then happy wife, happy life: A stainless fabrication shop can extend out and make solid push/pulpit for cheap --again, happy wife, happy life. Doesn't matter the brand and I'm not looking for "I sold my XYZ brand boat that was terrible and bought an ABC boat and have never had problems".

At what point does a boat that is 3-5 feet smaller make a difference?

Thank you. Hopefully we will find a boat by end of February, 2021.

Probably the ONLY thing that we would consider in terms of size is going a little bigger so that we have the space to modify stairs to make it easier for dogs and grandparents to get in/out of the cabin.

Thanks.
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Old 17-11-2020, 15:54   #2
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Re: At what point does a boat start to get too big? (family, kids, maintenance concer

Our boat is 61'. My wife and I sail it roughly 5~10 thousand miles a year. It's not what I consider a "system rich" boat. But we do have a generator, water maker, air conditioning, solar panels, autopilot, full electronics... These same items are on smaller boats, I think we have more room to work on them.

Who designs a boat where oil changes aren't fairly easy?
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Old 17-11-2020, 17:22   #3
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Re: At what point does a boat start to get too big? (family, kids, maintenance concer

Thanks for the reply. I was looking for a reply from someone exactly like you (61ft boat).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joli View Post
Who designs a boat where oil changes aren't fairly easy?
I was being facetious. Some boats have engine room access from behind the stairs or even partially by way of under the sink/galley. Not oil change specific --just "access". We have looked at so many boats that honestly I'm starting to forget what is what. Everything is a double-edged sword. I like the idea of having access to the engine room by going down through the cockpit sole/floor so that maintenance isn't intrusive to the cabin, galley, the mess is contained, etc. That can also come back to bite me if we are motor-sailing through weather and I need to get down there when things are wet, rocking and rolling.

The oil change thing was a fictitious example. Everything is a compromise. At this point we know we want a very seaworthy boat with a shallow-ish draft, we don't really care about ICW/overhead, I like ketch rigs for options and balance but that's not a deal-breaker to me. As long as the boat is kid and dog friendly, and I can keep up with the work, it'll be fine. I'm wondering at what point does a boat start to get so big that one single person can't keep up with the work. Lots of people sail with families on 47's and 49's and many (not all) people usually have crew when they start getting up to 75-80ft.

I'm not sure how old you and your wife are. We are just having kids and starting a family so possibly one generation younger (and also probably buying a boat 10-ft smaller . When I was a kid it was stressed to learn Latin, French or Spanish in school. After that people were learning Mandarin/Chinese in schools. It's my opinion that our multi-lingual kids will need to know languages like Python and Java. Similar to how Latin can be a base or root language, I think the C programming languages are similar.

I assume that's what you meant by a 'system rich' boat (autonomous controls, computers, fancy stuff, etc.). Yes I will want a lot of that over time and I'll probably write the code myself from existing Open Source repositories (hopefully someday I can re-write it with my kids) but I don't really consider that to be a maintenance intensive aspect of a boat. Am I being ignorant in thinking that way?

I also will state for the record that it is extremely dangerous to push a button and assume a result will happen when you don't know what the result is (meaning push a button and the boat sails itself when you don't know how to sail or navigate).


What I was really getting at was the stupid stuff. One of our dogs sheds like crazy. If we buy a boat with one of those fancy pop-up TV's the only thing I can think about is dog hair and kids dropping stuff down in that hole. A maintenance disaster.

A 50ft boat only has so many compartments and bilge pumps vs. a 61 or 65ft boat. When the dog hairs start to get down into the bilge or other storage and start to clog up things like pump screens or air filters, etc. I assume that means more work on a 60+ vs. a 45-50ft boat. Does that make sense?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joli View Post
I think we have more room to work on them.
Thank you. That comment helps a lot. It feels like there is a balance where some 50-ish boats come with less creature comforts but much space to work on the boat (systems, engines, workroom space, etc.). At the same time, there are other brands of 50-ish boats that shove systems and engines into ungodly places that are miserable to work on.

It's a balance... And as usual: She likes the extra space for the creature comforts and I'm worried about having the boat torn apart to change the oil.

We are trying to narrow down our search and I think there is probably a healthy balance in some brands of boats. I'd like to identify those brands/models, I think in a 52-ish foot range, and then let her choose from the very short list of boats for what she likes or feels comfortable calling home.

Thanks again.
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Old 17-11-2020, 17:55   #4
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Re: At what point does a boat start to get too big? (family, kids, maintenance concer

I think in some respects you're thinking about these things a little bit wrong. Above a certain size and quality, cruising boats will have a mostly similar level of complexity, ie. electric/hydraulic winches, furling and bowthruster, watermaker, generator, electric or vacuflush toilets, etc.

Large boats aren't more work to maintain because of extra length or displacement (for the most part, assuming the physical structure is sound). It has more to do with systems that will fail. I doubt that what you need to worry about is one or two more bilge pumps, but rather one or two more heads. Or a galley with a dishwasher, ice maker, wine fridge, trash compactor, vs. a simpler galley setup. Having hidden pop up entertainment systems, rather than a bulkhead mounted tv.

Most of the inflation that size is going to give you is in cost. Sails, rigging, deck gear is all bigger and more expensive. But size often gives you more room to access things, making it easier for you to diy, or reducing hours for a professional.

All that being said, if they're properly set up, having a bunch of heads, a big redundant instrument package, etc. gives you backups when things inevitably do fail.

It sounds like you have a healthy budget, and are interested in high end cruising builders, so you probably don't have to worry too much about things like hull osmosis, soggy decks, or leaky tankage.

I'm guessing you are liking Amels and the admiral is looking at the new Hylas designs. I'm curious where you are located that getting marine stainless work is cheap...
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Old 17-11-2020, 18:01   #5
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Re: At what point does a boat start to get too big? (family, kids, maintenance concer

I'm in my 70s, have an 83' wood boat and liveaboard. I do most of the maintenance except the bottom. I often solo. Some years 500 hours. I don't see large size as an issue unless you dock at marinas. Then it's just about money.
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Old 17-11-2020, 18:26   #6
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Re: At what point does a boat start to get too big? (family, kids, maintenance concer

WCP I think it just comes down to money when you start getting bigger. Some of my wealthier clients on bigger boats just head to the nearest hotel while the maintenance gets done. Not that bigger issue and you can always hang around and supervise while the work gets done. As for one single person doing the work, you would have to be an exceptional all rounder to understand and maintain all the systems properly on a yacht.
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Old 18-11-2020, 10:33   #7
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Re: At what point does a boat start to get too big? (family, kids, maintenance concer

Easy. When you run out of time and/or money.
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Old 18-11-2020, 10:41   #8
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Re: At what point does a boat start to get too big? (family, kids, maintenance concer

I think you're asking the wrong question. Come at it the other way: What is the smallest boat you need that will do what you want to do? By looking at it this way you will focus on your actual needs and wants. It forces you to understand what it is your trying to achieve.
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Old 18-11-2020, 10:51   #9
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Re: At what point does a boat start to get too big? (family, kids, maintenance concer

There's a saying that cruising is "being a boat mechanic in paradise". It's true for smaller boats. Super true for big ones. "Hours and Effort" = every spare minute aboard.
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Old 18-11-2020, 10:55   #10
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Re: At what point does a boat start to get too big? (family, kids, maintenance concer

You have to not fall behind on the maintenance -- or the boat will go down hill quite quickly. Your family will lose confidence in the boat.

The maintenance is much easier if you are living on it so you can do an hour or two every day.

If you are not willing to do that then you need to hire someone to spend the same amount of time - and be willing to absorb that cost.

If you are buying a used boat, it's much easier if you spend a bunch of money on a refit upfront replacing or rebuilding any major system that is reaching end-of-life. That will hopefully get you 5 years without major repairs. This would include:

Batteries
Standing rigging
Sails and running rigging
Engine and genset
Electronics
Dinghy and outboard
Windlass, chain and anchor
Ports, windows and hatches

It is much cheaper and more convenient to replace this stuff at a major yard all at one go rather than dealing with it one at a time during your trip.
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Old 18-11-2020, 11:34   #11
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Re: At what point does a boat start to get too big? (family, kids, maintenance concer

Hahaha, we lived on a 35' boat with our two young boys and dog,...as they grew we thought we needed a bigger boat,...they grew...we got the bigger boat, 60' cat.....wife thought they would spend time with their mates and us....hahaha, now we have the big cat, just the two of us and the dog.......we love it though
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Old 18-11-2020, 11:35   #12
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Re: At what point does a boat start to get too big? (family, kids, maintenance concer

You don't mention the age of the kids and that could make a big difference. Older teenagers may be crew, younger teenagers may be competent to steer or take a watch when someone else is awake below but not strong enough for many jobs. Prior to teenage years kids are going to add to the workload as you will need to supervise them as well as the boat! As others have said it is complexity rather than size that is likely to make the difference but on a boats above 50ft with a single mast rig changing sails becomes a 3/4 person job just because of the weight of the sails. While you can use power winches for sail trim and hoisting their are some things that still require manual handling. I would definitely suggest you look at this aspect and maybe look at ketches or schooners with a well broken up sail plan. It is much quicker and easier to drop than reef it and if you go for all powered furlers it is likely to compromise sailing performance in light to moderate conditions. This tends to be an issue on larger boats, they do have higher hull speeds but need more wind power to drive them. You really don't want a boat that needs 25kn wind to get to cruising speed! My ideal rig for this sort of size and crew would probably be a classic schooner with 2 equal sized masts, twin furling head sails on the foremast, fisherman aft of the foremast, jib and a fully battened main on the aft mast. While this will not give high pointing ability it would be very easy to control short handed with power winches and quite reasonable without as no sail will be larger than 4-500sq ft. Off the wind she should sparkle and the fisherman is a delight for close quarters or sailing up a river. Look them up and see if you have never come across one.


Here is an example
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Old 18-11-2020, 12:07   #13
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Re: At what point does a boat start to get too big? (family, kids, maintenance concer

We've asked the same question and where we've landed is selecting a boat that my husband and I could comfortably handle in all kinds of conditions.
This includes equipment working and not working (like electric winches), and if one of us gets hurt / incapacitated, can the other one manage? Sailing is a commitment that does not, in many instances, afford you to access help expeditiously.

So, in my mind it comes down getting our heads around these questions:
- what kind of sailors are we?
- what kind of sailing do we want to do (safety / size / anchoring (keel depth / access to marina / service shops)?
- how flexible is the layout to accommodate changing requirements?
- what kind of redundancies are important? and
- what happens when the kids no longer come (how long do we want to own the boat for?).
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Old 18-11-2020, 12:15   #14
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Re: At what point does a boat start to get too big? (family, kids, maintenance concer

Quote:
Originally Posted by Muaddib1116 View Post
I think in some respects you're thinking about these things a little bit wrong. Above a certain size and quality, cruising boats will have a mostly similar level of complexity, ie. electric/hydraulic winches, furling and bowthruster, watermaker, generator, electric or vacuflush toilets, etc.

Large boats aren't more work to maintain because of extra length or displacement (for the most part, assuming the physical structure is sound). It has more to do with systems that will fail. I doubt that what you need to worry about is one or two more bilge pumps, but rather one or two more heads. Or a galley with a dishwasher, ice maker, wine fridge, trash compactor, vs. a simpler galley setup. Having hidden pop up entertainment systems, rather than a bulkhead mounted tv.

Most of the inflation that size is going to give you is in cost. Sails, rigging, deck gear is all bigger and more expensive. But size often gives you more room to access things, making it easier for you to diy, or reducing hours for a professional. ...
^^^This.
Number and type of systems present vs not. Accessible vs not.
I'd just emphasize...the older the systems on the boat, the more likely you are going to need to repeair/replace them, such that accesibility would be more of a concern. Accessibility including wiring/plumbing/through-deck connections/tanks hiding behind what starts as maybe a beautiful interior that's not been touched since leaving the factory.

One intriguing subject brought up before about families aboard: do you want your families to share more space (e.g. 2 children sharing a birth) or not. Interesting arguments both ways, but something for the ~childhood development aspect to chew on.
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Old 18-11-2020, 12:15   #15
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Re: At what point does a boat start to get too big? (family, kids, maintenance concer

If talking about a sailboat, it’s not that the boat gets too big, it’s that the sails get too big! Even spread over a couple of masts the individual sails become too big to easily handle above a certain size. Adding masts makes the sails smaller, spreads the sail area over more sails, but adds complexity and costs. Depending upon age and physical ability you reach a point of diminishing returns.
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