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Old 10-04-2015, 22:21   #1
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How big is too big?

I am reading the "Voyagers Handbook" by Beth Leonard. She goes into detail on how to decide what is the best size boat for your budget. She portrays three types, the simplicities, the moderates and the extravagantly. (Or something close to that). We fall in between the moderates and the extravagantly. We are of the mindset of the moderates for sure, but don't mind spending money where important. We have been looking at boats in the 55 foot range that have all our wants and needs. But in reading the book I have come to realize this is going to cost us greatly over a boat five feet smaller. The moderate in me isn't sure the trade off is worth it. The extravagant in me wants it anyway. So for two people sailing alone, when does comfort get overshadowed by cost?

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Old 10-04-2015, 22:33   #2
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Re: How big is too big?

..a 40' is a good starting point for 2 peoples in long navigation... more, everything is too expensive.. less and your voyage is gonna be kind of uncomfortable under not so perfect weather... between 40 and 50 is a good balance for me...
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Old 10-04-2015, 22:42   #3
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Re: How big is too big?

That is basically what she said in her book. So maybe we need to take another look at the size factor.

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Old 10-04-2015, 23:25   #4
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Re: How big is too big?

55 ft is a big boat. Do you have experience with boats this size? Where do you plan to cruise? Do you feel comfortable singlehanding the boat when your partner/crew is disabled?
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Old 10-04-2015, 23:55   #5
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pirate Re: How big is too big?

When the ego is to big to consider/accept anything smaller..
Boats are not so much for trade or adventure anymore.. more a status symbol like being a member of a golf club once was.. few actually played the game but membership was coveted by many.
Oh.. I'm off to the yacht this w/end sounds so much classier than.. Booked in a BnB in Margate..

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Old 11-04-2015, 03:35   #6
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Re: How big is too big?

The "we" factor, as vis"I", usually increases the size some... when I was in my 30s-40s I was most days happy with 12-15 ton boats and my relationships at the time pretty much mandated it... but like a few of the more geriatric class I've downsized noticeably in both vessel size and budget over the years... whatever keeps you sailing the most, and enjoying it (using whatever criterion you used to determine "enjoyment") is the correct size... haven't read the Leonard book in years, forgot I had it, but in the end the tomes just get us in the ballpark, but the choice, like our personal circumstances, is unique to us...
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Old 11-04-2015, 04:38   #7
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Re: How big is too big?

In addition to size, I would think about simplicity. There are a lot of mechanical devices that you might need for ocean crossings or some places in the world, but not to sail in coastal North America or the Caribbean. Water makers are a good example. And Then those extra goodies require a generator, etc., etc., etc.
my wife and I have spent 3 wonderful winters in the Caribbean on an IP 420, with no generator or water maker and we find that 3 130 watt solar panels & wind generator meet our power (not hot water though) needs. We have seen so many acquaintances spend day after day at the dock fixing things, not to mention spending money. That wouldn't work though for a long crossing. So, now where will you be?

To your original question, the 420 is easily large enough for 2 & has great storage capacity. Sail plan is important too. Smaller sails are good with just two.
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Old 11-04-2015, 04:57   #8
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Re: How big is too big?

I think you will get as many opinions as there are people with this question! It depends on where you sail, how you sail, who you sail with...etc, etc.

I have no issues with system complexity. I spent most of my life maintaining European autos so most of what I find on boats is like a pleasant exercise... I would give up my radar before I would part with my watermaker!

We have a Sabre 386. It is a great boat. We chose this design as we simply got tired of motoring everywhere in our previous boat. Now we motor when we want and we sail when we want! I would personally not consider a boat that doesn't sail well...and well means being able to sail to weather when you need to!

As for my take on size, I personally draw the line at somewhere around 40 feet (maybe a few feet longer but not much...) I see people showing up in 55' boats in places we like to frequent and they are simply too big! They frequently have to head to the outer reaches of the anchorage to find space... Too, the lines are larger, sails larger, fenders larger...everything is more work. If you are crossing oceans with lots of people then big is wonderful, if like us you do the occasional Bermuda race and otherwise cruise from Long Island to Canada, 55' is just too big...
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Old 11-04-2015, 05:00   #9
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Re: How big is too big?

Near as I have been able to tell over the years of looking at boat layouts the difference between a 48' and 55' is 2 "crew" berths. So maybe that is indicating to big point.

After 46-48' extra length really goes into space for guest etc. not the owner couple
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Old 11-04-2015, 05:19   #10

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Re: How big is too big?

Depends on how the boat is set up. Our Oyster is 54ft, and is just perfect for the two of us. I wouldn't change anything except to someday maybe get a catamaran in the 50-60ft range. I also single hand the boat half of the time. I know of at least a dozen couples who sail Oysters in the 60ft range without difficulty because the boats are set up properly for just two people. Beyond 60ft, you're only getting crews quarters and the need to have others aboard to help out.

Discovery yachts, Island Packet, Hallberg Rassy are other brands which excell at being set up for a cruising couple.
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Old 11-04-2015, 05:31   #11
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Re: How big is too big?


We cruise a 55 extensively, having graduated from a 41, 36, and a 44. All 3 of these boats saw at least 10,000 miles, and we've done about 8k on the 55, so a pretty good sample pool.

First, I think that the length/cost ratio is not a fixed number. I basically have all the same gear on this boat as I did on the 44 footer, and she doesn't cost any more to maintain with regard to systems. Really, the only big jump in cost has been on the sails/sailhandling /rigging side. Everything else is really just the same. However, we only have a single electric winch on the boat, and that's fine, but we're pretty young and strong too, and if I have this boat in my late 50's/60's, she will sprout more electrics.

Of course, if you decide on the 55, you will have more room, and thus more temptation to load it up will all the gear you can think of, and then the length/cost theory does come into play.

For our part, we wanted a big boat for speed first and foremost. I still work part of the year, and we wanted a very fast passagemaker to expand our range with my limited time off.

We don't use all the living space, but on the occasions what we do have guests, we really appreciate that we don't have to all live in a pile like we did on the smaller boats.

90% of our sailing is done with just us two, which leads me to point 2...

Boats in the 50'+ range are pretty unforgiving. The loads get awfully big, so your experience matters. If you don't already have quite a bit of time offshore on larger boats, you might find the big beast to be a bit daunting when it gets to blowing hard. If you find that you're intimidated by the boat, it does take away from the enjoyment of sailing her. We do find that we have to be pretty conservative to keep the drama to a minimum.

So, in summary, I don't think that the bigger boat necessarily has to cost more to maintain or outfit on the systems side, but you will need to be careful not to go overboard on loading her up with equipment. Really, you just don't need all that much gear.

One more thought. Above 50', it does get a little harder to find a slip.

Happy hunting. TJ
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Old 11-04-2015, 05:45   #12
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Re: How big is too big?

In our kind of boat, more length mostly just starts adding more staterooms.

Or at a certain point, layout could perhaps improve. For example, our current master stateroom is in the bow... and a full-beam master located amidships, with a single guest stateroom in the bow would be an improvement. For us.

In the meantime, I'd trade a washer/dryer for our existing second stateroom -- a good excuse to refuse overnight guests -- but otherwise going only slightly bigger wouldn't buy us much.

Guess I'm saying length, by itself, wouldn't answer the question, for us.

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Old 11-04-2015, 06:11   #13

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Re: How big is too big?

One more point:

When my wife and I are on the boat for 5-6 months at a time, we don't want to feel like we're camping... we want all the conveniences of home. A 54ft boat has the volume to accommodate two watermakers, a generator, microwave oven, washing machine, two mountain bikes, RIB with a 15hp outboard, large refrigerator and oversized freezer, icemaker, two paddleboards, double sized master stateroom bed with headroom all around it, so no ducking or climbing into shelves to get into bed, two heads and separate shower, scuba gear and compressor, etc.

Most of these items won't even fit on a boat under 45ft.
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Old 11-04-2015, 06:29   #14
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Re: How big is too big?

Our is a 42, and seems fine for us, enough room to do what we want without getting into each others hair. But I could see a few more feet as everything aboard has its own place and we're limmited in what we carry.

Oddly enough, we had run into another couple in the North West a few years ago that had been cruising for years on a 27 foot boat. When asked if they were cramped on the 27, their reply was that the boat was their bedroom, and the world was their living room. it worked for them.....
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Old 11-04-2015, 07:54   #15
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Re: How big is too big?

Lots of good opinions for you here. Two questions to ask yourselves: how much time do you want to spend maintaining equipment, and where will you be cruising? Stay in the North Atlantic and you probably don't need a water maker. Stay in tropical climes and you won't need heat. Limit your electrical usage and you won't need a gen set. The less stuff you have, the less space you need, and the less time you spend maintaining.
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